Since we last posted our blog we have basically continued to do the now normal things for us - that is apart from the different or unusual things that have happened. It is sometimes difficult to determine what to write about because what might be exciting or interesting to us could be boring to others without the same context, or vice versa in which what we find fairly mundane might still be of interest to those not living with us in this part of the world. We apologise for either of these.
Last weekend we spent about 12 hours each day at the Missionary Training Centre watching broadcasted live sessions of General Conference that is held in Salt Lake City every six months, where our church leaders teach, inspire, testify, and encourage us as we strive to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a group we were very excited by the announcement that a new temple is going to be built in Quito, Ecuador (part of our Area), as well as second temple in the city of Lima. Currently there are 150 temples operating around the world. Lima will be the only other city outside of Salt Lake City to have more than one temple. This reflects the size of the Church in Lima, and Perú more generally. There are over 50 stakes in Lima alone (there are only three in Adelaide) and more than 570,000 members in Perú.
This last week saw Craig working harder than he has recently. As the mission presidents become more aware of the resource he is to them it seems that they are asking him to counsel with more missionaries from around the area. There have been regular steady days. Last Monday was particularly long and complicated with various interesting issues mixed with the joy of hearing how some of the missionaries have improved greatly and are serving successfully. However some continue to struggle with the demands of the stress of missionary life impacting on their depression or anxiety. In some cases it is not possible for them to improve sufficiently whilst still immersed in the demanding missionary lifestyle. Some of these return home early for extra mental health treatment in the supportive environment of their family and friends. A small group of these need to be accompanied home with the help and support to make sure they return safely.
After our whirlwind trip to Buenos Aires two weeks ago it was Craig’s turn to go by himself. Early Tuesday morning he flew from Lima to Cali on the Pacific coast of Colombia. The next morning he accompanied a young elder (male missionary) home to Los Angeles, although the flight went via Miami on the opposite side of the USA. In fact the flight to Miami was only four hours flying, but took six hours from Miami to Los Angeles. They nearly missed the connection in Miami because of the need to go through immigration, then wait for luggage to go through customs and reboard a domestic flight.
Once in LA airport Craig handed over his charge to loving parents and family and with a shake of the hand and a pat on the back wished the young man the best for the future. Craig then went out the domestic terminal and walked to the international terminal where he went back through and waited six hours for his nine hour flight back to Lima. It was strange hearing some Australian accents, and seeing the Qantas and Virgin gates with flights heading back home. But, he simply walked past them with barely a glance and made it back to Lima by Thursday lunch time. There was time forshower before attending a regular monthly meeting with the member of the area presidency responsible for missionary health.
Yesterday, nominally our Preparation Day (day off), we went with three other couples to a nice beach south of Lima. There is a lovely bay where we could walk in the sand whilst watching the surf come in. There are a few differences though from the world renowned Australian beaches. The sand is really grey-brown dirt, but it is soft and washes off easily. The sea gulls are the same colour. There are “no swimming” signs which people treat the same as traffic signs. But we enjoyed a few hours walking on the beach, watching hundreds of tiny sand crabs scurrying by, admiring the flocks of birds flying in formation then dipping into the water to feed, smelling and feeling a gentle sea breeze, and enjoying the generally cooler weather we have had in the last few days. It was certainly something to help lift the soul a bit after a difficult week.