This was written on Feb 17thImage
Hola, familia y todos…

So I left myself with a bit more time this week. Now, in a bit of a departure from my usual opening, we start with a dramatic story-type thing:
(Just kidding, it won´t be that dramatic. I was going to put it in italics, but I changed my mind.) So 18 months or so ago, when I first arrived here in Peru, I remember having a conversation with Elder Flores about cell phones, and he said there had been rumors that district leaders would get them…for about the past 2 years. Since then, rumors have constantly flown, but nothing has come of them. Until now. This week when the assistants and President came (more on that below), they confirmed something I´d been hearing recently…that cell phones were to arrive very, very soon. And this Saturday, right after our stake baptism (more on that below too) and right before the stake activity (more on…oh, you know the drill), guess what the zone leaders handed out to everyone?
That´s right. The Misión Perú Arequipa is now cell phone-ified.
Each companionship, in addition to the home phones we already had, and the cell phones the zone leaders, office elders, and assistants already had, has a cell phone to use. So first off, it´s much, much more convenient…they´re equipped with RPM (Red Privado Movistar), which basically means we can call any other phone with that plan for free, unlimitedly. Since here phones of pretty much any kind are prepaid (we have to deal with credit, which was a huge, huge pain every time I had to call for numbers on Sundays, and our credit ran out, or we had to call investigators or members and we couldn´t), this is a major blessing, at least where our fellow missionaries are concerned. Now we can just call each other whenever we need to…no need to either be in our room or carry around a bulky home phone. And…good heck, it´s so weird having a cell phone again after a year and a half after not having one. I keep taking it out just to look at it, haha. They´re pretty basic Nokia ones, but nice. Very functional. Like we need a fancy one when we´re missionaries, anyway.
So if you have any more questions about that exciting piece of news (I doubt you do because I just spent 3 very overly excited paragraphs explaining it), let me know. I promise I´m not going too crazy here. I didn´t even say anything about it when I called for numbers last night using our CELL PHONES (OK, so I totally commented about it to each area I was calling…). Yeah, we´re all like kids at Christmas. Anyways…there were other cool things that happened this week. We shall now speak of them. 🙂
  • We went to the beach again on Monday. I don´t have any new pictures because when I took my camera out of my pocket…it wasn´t there! OK, kidding, kidding, kidding. No, the lens was having issues, so I took it to get fixed (another elder in the zone recommended a place he knew), and it´s all good now. Anyways, it was a nice little time in the beach once again, this time with just our zone. We did races, a few elders dug a hole until they found water, we made a brief but awkward attempt at beach volleyball, etc. You know, normal Ilo things. 🙂
  • So I didn´t make a note of the things I wanted to talk about, so I hope I cover everything. (Also so this email isn´t only me raving over our new cell phones… :)) What else…we had interviews this week with Presidente Zobrist. They were quite a nice experience. So now we have 4 assistants to the president…and guess who got called back to the office? Elder Valerio, who enjoyed 4 weeks as zone leader, then somewhat inexplicably was reinstated as assistant. He and Elder Armijo are apparently designated as the traveling assistants (there´s 2 more that are assigned more to the office, in Arequipa), and thus they were the ones to visit for interviews. It was so surreal, but awesome, having two of my MTC companions, now as assistants, and I, reunited. Again. We took pictures (I had my camera with me, but it was in need of fixing at the time), and I´ll have to bother Elder Valerio and/or Elder Armijo to send it (they promised, but I think they forgot), since the second one in particular was absolutely priceless. 🙂 And dang it, they´re both ending next transfer, for school reasons. We better be getting together after all this…anyways, so I got to talk with them quite a bit, and also, my interview with Presidente was very good. He asked if my companion´s ready to train (I told him Elder Hidalgo is quite solid, was trained exceptionally well, and he could do a great job), we had a brief talk about not being “trunky” (his thoughts on the matter: “There´s no time for being ´trunky`!”), though it didn´t help when he looked up my past areas on his laptop and we reviewed them one by one…oh, and from that, I found out that Elder Murdock is now going to be the mission financial secretary. First he gives me a grandson, now he´s in the office…don´t tell my other two sons, but he´s probably my star offspring here. It´s only a matter of time before he becomes zone leader or assistant or something of the sort. Haha, this is pretty much all him…I just kind of guided him along. I feel sometimes like he trained me more than I trained him. 🙂 So yeah, that was kind of a pleasant surprise, and also I finally made a suggestion I´d been wanting to make to Presidente…that since he knows Gladys Knight (he worked with her and her choir for years), he should bring her down here for a fireside or something like that. He said he had mentioned the idea to her before, and he´d talk to her about it again…and if not, that he´d let me know when one of her next firesides was in the U.S. And he´d hook me up with backstage passes…OK, that last part, no, but the rest, yes. 🙂
  • So more about the other things I said I was going to tell you more about…we had a “tarde blanca,” a stake/zone-wide baptismal service, on Saturday. It wasn´t as big as we had planned it to be…only 4 people got baptized. But…4 people! They were all very happy, all of us as missionaries were very happy, etc. I was going to baptize one of the hermanas´ investigators that I had interviewed, but she didn´t end up showing up. Sad day. But it was still a great service. There was a special number by a father and daughter (coincidentally, the same girl we went to the call opening for when I first got here), a guitar-voice duet of “How Great Shall Be Your Joy” (that song by either Michael McLean or Janice Kapp Perry, I can´t remember which, that we used to listen to on a tape every Sunday) in Spanish, and it was very lovely. The second special number was by three elders (two gringos and that awesome elder from El Salvador I told you about) singing “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” from 17 Miracles, which I still haven´t seen, dang it. Anyways, we had the original arrangement (long story, I explained it to Mom), I played piano, there was a part that was kind of hard to play but it turned out fine, an elder from Chile in our zone rocked it on the violin, and it was quite nice. I would send you all the video, but it´s kind of 400 MB or so over the limit of files you can send, so never mind. Talk to me in 3 months. 🙂
  • I am, however, attaching a photo of almost all our zone (2 elders are missing, they were somewhere else talking to someone) with a girl that looks almost exactly like an investigator in “The District 2” videos named Alydia. If you don´t know what I´m talking about, talk to a recently returned missionary, or Ariel, you might have heard of them, they´re great videos. I think you can find them for watching online on I highly recommend them, though also I´ll probably buy them to bring home and watch with you guys. Anyways…yeah. That´s why there´s a random member with us in the picture.
  • Dang it, I´m getting short on time…what else…so yesterday I played piano in sacrament meeting, because the boy that usually plays wasn´t there. The new piano still greatly excites me.
  • Oh! We´ve started weekly music and English classes with the 4 elders in the ward that also goes to our chapel. They´ve gone well so far.
  • We were going to visit an investigator on Thursday, and a less-active member came up to us, told us about himself and that he hadn´t been to Church in quite a while, and if we could visit him and his family (they´re all members) and help them out with that. It was a pretty cool experience. We have an appointment with them tomorrow, and we´ll see how it goes.
  • So Friday, due to interviews, we had district meeting instead of on Tuesday. I made a fuss about Arizona´s 102nd birthday, because I can (I drew an Arizona with a smiley face on the board and ¡102!), and also since it was Valentine´s Day, I decided to teach about charity and love. As part of it, I had everyone stand up, and each member of the district said what they loved about that person. (I stole this idea from my awesome last district leader, Elder Wells.) Everyone was embarrassed. But it was really cool…everyone also had very nice things to say.
  • Also, we are learning Quechua each week in district meeting…an hermana in the district is from Ayacucho, a part of Peru where they speak Quechua. Everyone is more excited to learn it than they are to learn English, haha.
  • Oh, stake activity. So each month, on Saturdays we go to visit less-active members in a different ward/branch in the stake. Not too many members come, but enough. All of us missionaries are there to help, and it´s always a nice experience. Last month was our branch, this month is the ward that goes to our chapel, and next month, we don´t know yet which ward it will be.

I´m probably forgetting something, but I got quite a lot out, so this should do for now. I love you all so much, as always, and I hope that things are going wonderfully for each and every one of you. Never fear to send me an email…I´ll always do my absolute best to respond.

With ALL my love,
Elder Randall
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