January 4, 2016

Dear Friends and Family,


Feliz Año Nuevo all the way from Piura, Peru. Here in Peru, the new years are celebrated a little bit differently. Of course everyone’s got their fireworks and family parties but they also have this tradition called burning “muñecos”. A muñeco is basically a scarecrow. What they do is take a bunch of hay and stuff it inside old clothing to make a person. Usually they will style the face after a member of the family or someone famous or whatever. Then at midnight, once the new year rolls around, they drench the muñecos with gasoline and set them on fire. The funniest part is what they do 1 hour before midnight, where everyone hops on their moto taxi and parade their muñeco around the town for everyone to see. Its like a parade. I saw a bunch of muñecos burning in the streets once midnight came about. Proselyting the next day was less than entertaining because there was nobody around to talk too (the first of January is new years recovery day of course), just piles of ashes everywhere.

 My companion and I managed to get a good sight of the action from the roof of our apartment, but for the most part, New Years was just a normal day for us. This past week we suffered some setbacks that really brought me to the edge. We had 4 investigators with baptismal dates lined up for this month and 3 of the 4 were to be baptized on the 23rd. But to able to complete this goal, 2 of the investigators we had needed to attend church last Sunday, or their baptismal date would fall through. Despite our best efforts, both investigators just slipped through our fingers and now neither can be baptized on the dates we set for them.

 The most frustrating part of it all was just how quickly and unexpectedly things fell apart. For one reason or another, everything was working against us this past weekend and due to circumstances that we couldn’t possibly control, we lost two potential baptisms. It will take much work to get them back on track and ensure that they still have the vision and desire necessary to make these covenants. I couldn’t help thinking this past week if all this was my fault. If I had been more diligent, or prayed harder, or did a fast, all this could be avoided. Recently we had interviews with the Mission President, and he invited us to read over Alma 24 and ponder the significance of the story.

 Alma 24 is one of my favorites. The story of the Anti Nephi Lehites who renounced their weapons of rebellion, buried them in the earth, and vowed to never again take up arms. Even though it cost many their lives, they were all faithful to this promise. President Rasmussen asked each of us as missionaries if we had all done what they did, or rather, “bury our weapons”, or perhaps we still had a few lying around. When I came to reflect over what happened this past Sunday with our investigators, all I could think about was what my Mission President taught me. Maybe I still had a few weapons lying around, some old habits or old ways that I still have yet to bury. It was a hard conclusion to come to, but I know now what I must do to be able to have success in this work.

 I have many high hopes for 2016, and I hope this year can start off with a few baptisms to get the motivation going. I will let you all know how it turns out.

 Elder Justin Cruz


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