Hermana Wood's Missionary Adventures in the "Capital of the Peruvian Amazon"


Monday, December 28, 2015

True Spirit of the Season

hey everyone, merry late christmas!! for unknown reasons, we weren't allowed a p-day last monday, so here we are on december 28th. :) i miss you all and hope you had a great christmas!!

a random nativity in IQUITOS

the upstairs room where i now live! :)

so, i got transferred!!! i'm in the city of iquitos, zone "28 de julio," with hermana arteaga, who was my old neighbor in pucallpa!! she is the best, and i am so happy!! she's my other half - the latina me!!!! we are always laughing, and honestly, it feels weird to laugh so much - IT'S SO GREAT!!! she's awesome, but we sort of have no investigators right now, haha (we're working on it).

me and hermana arteaga :)

all the sisters in my zone

my desk and christmas wall :)

 our room - so small we can't use a jump rope!

apparently christmas is sort of an unknown holiday here. when we wished people a happy christmas on the 25th, everyone was like "oh yeah!!" so funny. on christmas eve, we went caroling in a couple of plazas (in the pouring rain - that's christmas in the amazon).

when it rains it pours!

we found a llama while we were caroling!

and on christmas day, we got to make french toast with buttermilk syrup and watch "the polar express!" it's even epic in spanish. also, we got to skype with our families!! we had to go back out to work at 6pm, but i listened to christmas music like a mad woman whenever we were at home!!!!

 making breakfast at the mission offices

my christmas morning breakfast :)

my christmas dinner :)

also, the week of christmas, we had a small devotional in president gómez's house (aka "the mansion"), which was cool. they surprised us with a video made from pictures that our families had e-mailed to the mission home, we were given books of mormon and some treats, and we ate lunch - it was all super fancy.

but, i learned to feel the true spirit of the season in other ways on this mission, since there were very few familiar indicators that it was christmas. i really tried to focus in on the spirit of christ, which made me super joyful, and i was then able to share that joy with these people i've come to love. :)

the piano in our sacrament meeting room says est. 1823,
and it's busted. so, of course, i tried fixing it. :)

all is well here, and im happy. thank you SO MUCH for your love and prayers!!!! have a happy new year!! :)

hermana wood

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"Best Christmas Gift Ever"

 We missed having Hermana Wood at our table!

 But, it was such a blessing to Skype with her on Christmas Day!

 Mimi and Papa were here to share...

...the "best Christmas gift ever!"

Monday, December 14, 2015

Happiness Is a Choice!

the LAST week of the cambio [transfer period]!!!! it's here!!! we get phone calls tonight, so i'll be letting you all know about transfers and such next monday. :)

this is our recent convert silveria's store
and this is us with her grandkids :)

this is our relief society president agripina's store!!

also, my amazing sister leader, hermana jackson, died [mission jargon for "went home"] this week - may she rest in peace. if you're reading this, jackson, merry christmas. :) her last word to me - the last piece of advice i got - was "SURVIVE!!" so, that's what i'll do. :)

pure cacao - not sure exactly what it is, but it's super good
and costs about one american dollar! similar to chocolate?

okay, so i still have SOME (just kidding, a TON of) slip-ups in spanish. some days i can talk fine, and other days it's like my mouth wasn't made for this language. one day this week, we were in a lesson with madeleine (a less active member) teaching the word of wisdom, and i was trying to tell her we can't consume addictive substances, "sustancias." but, i accidentally said "sustantivos." so now, no one in that house will be consuming addictive VOWELS. :)

i left a christmas surprise for our neighbor hermanas...

...and made this little compilation for hermana willes :)

later that same day, we were teaching the pinchi sisters. they are supe close and so cute - if i wasn't a missionary, i'd hang out with them!! their names are andrea and mirian (latter is a less active member). so, the lesson somehow got turned into a family home evening (FHE), and we started talking about the atonement. it was one of the few times i was able to speak really well - no pauses or anything. i testified of christ and the power of his atonement, and i don't remember the specifics of what i said, but the spirit was really strong. then we got to watch the "ha nacido un salvador" video the church made, because andrea's phone had internet. :) it gives me goosebumps every time!!

basically, the whole lesson i could feel christ's love for all four of us and the power of his sacrifice. being a missionary is so cool! i get to testify of christ every single day!! before i came and even when i was in the CCM, i didn't know how i felt about that life [being a full-time missionary]; would i still be myself when i got back or would it make me weird or what? but after being here for four and a half months, i can say i'm still myself!! in fact, i'm being transformed into a better version of myself! amber wood 2.0!! it's all working together for my good. also, andrea told me she understood me and my spanish perfectly. :)

everyone has these nativities in their houses!
it's a big deal!

so, yesterday may or may not have been my last sunday in ucayali!!! i handed out all the HLJ ["haz lo justo," or "choose the right" (CTR)] rings mom sent. they all went to laly's nieces and nephews (among them are mateo and edilberto, who we baptized). as soon as i gave one out, the rest of the kids ran over and i had ten little fingers held up to me, waiting for a ring. they were all SO happy!! four of them came back and asked where i bought them, and i said they were from the U.S. they all looked at their rings in unison and said "ooohhh!!" it made me so happy to make them happy. :) shout out to mom for being a star!!!

also, laly gave me a bit of advice. in passing between church meetings, she said "hey, you seem so serious lately! be happy!!" i smiled and said "okay," but 100% of me wanted to explain that it's really hard to be happy when i've been living with a difficult companion for 4.5 months!!! as i thought about it, i realized that's no excuse to not be happy. happiness is a choice!! then i thought "well shoot, maybe i didn't learn my lesson this cambio, maybe i wasn't happy enough. oh no, i messed up - what have i been doing?!" but then, i reflected on it some more, and i realized i've been doing the best i could with the circumstance i was given. i did what i could, and i'm working to be better every day. still, i definitely applied laly's advice immediately; i'm truly trying to be myself and be happy no matter what's happening around me.

last night we had the most rockin' "noche de hogar" (FHE) ever. my companion surprised me with a message on enduring to the end that i just had to go with, but when it was my turn to talk, the words just flowed. i shared the scripture in the "doctrine and covenants" about enduring well [D&C 121:8] and testified about the power of the atonement, and that we were all there as a ward to help and support each other. it was super cool. the gift of tongues is real!!!

so, as we were wrapping up i was thinking the closing song's got to be stellar - what if this is my last noche de hogar here?? the song was "the spirit of god," which is sung at every meeting ever in south america. so there i was, singing this song for the 2,308th time, and i looked around at everyone and just felt so happy. i felt so peaceful and grateful to have been in this area, and i started tearing up a bit. i love this ward and truly hope i don't leave!!!

my mantra this week has been psalm 118:17: "i shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the lord." i will survive!!! and all you other missionaries out there will, too. :) shout out to you for being strong! love you all!!

hermana wood

Answers to questions from Hermana Wood's dad:
1. Do Peruvians have a hard time saying Wood? Brazilians do. They usually say "Voodgee."
2. Are you 'totes' Spanish Queen? 'Probs' you are. How is your español coming?
3. When we talk to you on Christmas, will it be by telephone or Skype?
4. How is your health? Have you gotten sick?

1. yeah, people struggle with it, haha. i mostly get "wow," or "woo." i've also heard "wook." :)
2. totes the illest spanish speaker ever. it's pretty good, sometimes i just don't want to speak it, haha, because my mouth like gets stuck on the r's. but, i'm getting better at rolling them.
3. i'm going to be calling you on the phone this coming monday between 10 and 11am - they just told me!! the call will be "five minutes" (ha). we'll coordinate everything then!!
4. i havent gotten sick!! in your father's blessing (which mom transcribed and sent me), you promised i wouldn't, and i haven't :) yet. sometimes my comp gives me a stress headache, but that's about it.

christmastime is hard without family; we're told it's a time to be with family - to enjoy each other and grow closer - and here [as missionaries], we don't have that. but, it just puts the focus so much more on the savior and his birth, which is truly the meaning of christmas - and hey, i still get to write you guys every week!! know that i think about you often, and i pray for you a lot, daddy. i love you so much and want to thank you for everything you did and are still doing to keep me out here!! thank you for your love, support, and prayers. love you!!

More from this week's message to Hermana Wood's mom:
YOU ARE SO THE BEST, THANK YOU!!!! The "favorite things" pictures were exactly what i needed!!!!!! also, i opened my food package - i couldn't wait!!! the other one i peaked in, but still haven't opened. it's killing me - it stares me in the face every day. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE DRESS, it's adorable!!!!! i'm going to wear it for christmas. :) and, i got the crescent ridge 6th ward letter!!! DYING TO OPEN EVERYTHING. i love you so much, and i'll talk to you on monday!!! be prepared for the transfer news. :) merry christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Timing Is Everything

hey, everyone!! let me fill you in on this week. :)

first of all, i bought almond milk, nectarines, mozzarella cheese, and granola to replenish my snack supply - there is NO junk food in my apartment!!!!!

peruvian watermelons taste like pure summertime
...in december. it's awesome.

also this week, we challenged the couple we've been teaching, roger and leidi, to set a marriage date!!! [couples who are living together must be married before they can be baptized.] they accepted and are so amazing. we had to turn around and go back because i'd left my umbrella, and we saw them hugging in the doorway. they were so happy to be taking this important step!! but these people. they won't come to church!!!! so we still have a long way to go, but i know we can help them see the value of baptism and (eventually) being sealed in the temple as an eternal family.

this monster was outside one of our less actives' houses

and the saddest thing EVER happened: a series of events led us to yurico's old house (she's the one who's had four different baptism dates), and she happened to be there. she'd been avoiding us all week after not coming to church (again), and the last we heard was that she was super excited about her baptism date. but, she saw us and said "i know i've been avoiding you guys this week and i'm sorry, but i'm not going to be able to meet with you anymore. i don't want to lie to god...or to you - i'm just not ready." i was devastated. she was SO CLOSE!!!! she was reading and praying and everything. we bore our testimonies to her that we knew the church was true and that we were there to help her, but yurico had already made up her mind. so i said (and these words killed me) "we always pass by your house, and you can always come back to church on sundays...is there anything else at all we can do for you?" and she said "no." we each gave her a hug, and i realized that might be the last time i ever see her, so i held on extra tight.

and we had to walk on huaral street - the worst ever when it rains.
but, it was fun. :)

so, i learned this week that everything has its timing (and timing is everything). i take comfort in the fact that someday yurico is going to commit to baptism - because she knows the church is true! she KNOWS. now just isn't her time (which is heartbreaking), but we're trusting her to the Lord.

my christmas lights are finally up!!!! 

on a lighter note, we played "big booty" at district meeting to help teach the latinos numbers in english!!!! it was hilarious, and we had so much fun!!! also, yisseña tried to give me chocolate covered crackers on sunday, and i was like "YISSEÑA, I'M FASTING." (she always gives me these crackers - she knows my weakness!) anyway, she got super serious and real close to my face and said "...then save them for LATER." i don't know why, but it was the funniest thing ever and i was dying! i love our members. :)

remember how much i love all of you!

hermana wood

More from this week's message to Hermana Wood's mom:
hi, mommy. :) yes i got to watch the first presidency christmas devotional, and it FINALLY felt like christmastime!! to sing those songs in english and see salt lake looking so gorgeous, as always - ahhh! :) and, i'd love copies of those talks!! uchtdorf's was incredible. it made me cry when he talked about the man in the wheelchair. so humbling!! it made me want to never complain again!!! it also gave me a lot of comfort to know that we were all singing the last verse of "silent night" together at the end, all across the world. :)

and yes, i'm so happy i'm not taking finals, haha. i'm studying just as hard here, though. so basically...doing the same thing. just with no exams. :) also, this week i had a work visit with hermana jackson (her last one, she goes home on WEDNESDAY!), and after we taught our first lesson she put her hand on my shoulder and said "sister, i am so impressed!!" she says i've improved a ton since our last work visit a couple of months ago, and she was just beaming at me! it was only because i took her challenge to "self train" (to compensate for what i hadn't been taught). but, i was so shocked to hear that - i was like "really??" :) i guess looking back, i have come a long way. so that made me feel super happy. :)

also, i got a priesthood blessing last night. i know i only have one more week in this cambio [transfer period], but i feel like it's going to be hard. so, i had gutierrez (our district leader) give me a blessing and two other elders joined in, as well. he blessed me to be able to feel god's love, told me i was strong, and said i'd do many marvelous things on my mission. i was like, "i will?" super cool. the power of the priesthood is so real - even before he started talking, just having those three pairs of hands on my head was an incredible experience!!!

Monday, November 30, 2015


hey, everyone! how are you all?? i miss you like crazy. :)

this week i bought christmas lights!!! i haven't put them up yet, but i decorated with the snowflakes mom sent, printed out christmas pictures to hang, and set up the mini christmas tree that was in my package from home. my house is adorable. :) also, 25 days until christmas!!!!

so, we had a lesson with the couple we've been teaching (roger and leidi), and we talked about their recent experience attending church. roger said he thought the sacrament was going to be "pizza" and was surprised when it was just bread!!!! i was dying. :) they're the cutest couple ever!! i guess they've had some problems with trust in their relationship, but they told us they'd been praying as a couple and that it'd helped so much!! but then...they didn't come to church this past sunday, and now they're kind of avoiding us. bummer! but, we're still going to follow up with them!!!

i had my first baptism last week - sort of. :) it was a primary boy [already attends church] named mateo who didn't get baptized when he was 8 for some reason. now he's 9, and his aunt laly wanted us to baptize him. we had to teach him all the lessons and everything but don't really think of him as being "our" convert (because it was just protocol that we were involved). still, it was fun! mateo was baptized with another primary girl and his best friend!! so, triple baptism - all kids!!! it was very cute.

my mateo :)

oh, another interesting story. we contacted these ladies (a mother and daughter) sitting outside their house - the mom was super old, and she was like "mormons!!! yes?" and then she started to say her husband was baptized by my companion and i. we were like "no....?" so, she went inside and brought out a liahona magazine and pictures of her husband in baptismal clothes standing with two sister missionaries (a tall gringa and a short latina) - not us. ;) then later, we talked to her husband - he's like 80+ years old and had no idea what we were talking about when we asked him why he stopped going to church. he was like "uno solo dios!" etc., "there's only one god and we all worship him - i go to ALL the churches!" mucha just looked at me and was like "cayó," he's "fallen" (mentally). dang!

sometimes we run into monos :)

also, apparently thanksgiving was last week, right? i kind of forgot about it, haha! for thanksgiving dinner, i had scrambled eggs and half a cooked banana. give thanks!!!! it was actually really good. :) and, i hit four months [in the mission field] last week!!!! (still a baby.)

my thanksgiving decor!!

in other news, i cut like 5 or 6 inches off my hair - actually, hermana briggs did it!! she had never cut hair before, so it was a little risky. but i think she did a fabulous job. :)

and, in other OTHER news, we had an earthquake!!! we were in our pensionista's house, and there were three quakes in all. isabel (our pensionista) was pretty scared! when the strongest one hit, she was holding onto the walls saying "gracias gracias gracias, señor...padre!!" i didn't think it was too bad, haha. but, apparently they felt the quake in iquitos and lima, too!

hermana willes and i get at least one ice cream cone every week :)

so, all in all, this week was good. :) did i mention that (in addition to ice cream) i ate cake on three separate occasions? also, i'm learning so much on this mission! i haven't been out for very long, but the growth i've experienced could've only come through being in the exact situation i'm in. i've tried to be "grateful in my circumstances" as elder uchtdorf advises, and it's working well - i highly recommend it. :) love you all!

hermana wood

Monday, November 23, 2015

Saratov Approach...and the Jungle Mafia?

hey, guys! this was the longest, most insane week ever. so, pretty typical!

last monday we watched the "saratov approach," and it was fabulous. :) it made me feel really epic to be a missionary, hostage or not. if you haven't seen it, go watch it and be inspired!

we found some awesome new people to teach this week - a couple of young families! first, there's roger and leidi, they're 19 and 18 (and have a baby). we met roger a while ago when his wife was in lima, so we were going to wait to teach him until leidi got back (she was only supposed to be gone a couple of days). but then, she didn't return for like a month!! we kept going back, week after week, and she was never there - it was sad, because he seemed interested (and we weren't finding a lot of interested people, haha). anyway, we were going to try to visit them one night, and i thought "she's not going to be there...why even try?" but then, i was like "hey, no! esperanza [hope]! i think she IS going to be there! today's the day!" and...she was home!!! god rewards us for being positive. :)

also, we had SEVEN investigators in the capilla [chapel] this week!!!! after almost an entire cambio [6-week period] of having NO ONE come, we had seven and I couldn’t believe it! roger and leidi came and a few other awesome people - and then halfway through sacrament meeting LUZ showed up! we were like "WHAT." she was supposed to have been in lima, but now she's back and we're hoping to get her progressing again! we're being so blessed! anyway, my comp and i did divisions that morning to be able to go pick everyone up from their houses (that's the reason they all came), so we were all over the place. my comp got to church five minutes late, so i was running around trying to make sure the investigators met people (deyvis got to meet the bishop!) and also that they had someone to sit with. then a counselor in the bishopric asked me to play the hymns for the meeting - i was like (oh gosh) "sure!" :)

what i've started doing this week and last is trying to find happiness in little things to stay positive, then writing them down in my agenda as i see them. for example, last week i saw a sunflower patch, and the gringa (randy) in our ward gave me a spoonful of skippy super chunky peanut butter, etc. - there's so much to be happy about! and what i've been doing for a couple of months now is writing down five good things that happened every day in a journal i have. it really makes me reflect on my day, and even if i thought it was the worst ever, i can always squeeze out five good things that happened! even if it's the fact that i'm still alive and breathing. which is usually the fifth thing. ha!

to carson:
listen to "i'll be home for christmas" and think of me...for next year :)

we contacted this one house last week, and we were like "hey buenos dias," and this family was like "come in, come in!" no one does that here - it was so weird! and we had just watched the "saratov approach," right, so i thought i was going to be kidnapped by the russian mafia. or the jungle mafia? but we were okay, and they're a super cool family! the mom was crying in the lesson when we were teaching about the gospel blessing families. they're really sweet!

the things these people do with their motokars...

anyway, i love you all! :) try to find the five good things in your day this week - i promise they'll be there!!! be good!

hermana wood

Answers to questions from Hermana Wood's dad:
1. Do they make fresh-squeezed juices there? In Brazil, we always had fresh limonada, which was made from green limes.
2. What kind of fruit do they have? We saw a lot of papaya, huge mangoes, and gigantic avocados.
3. Do you wear sunblock to keep from getting sunburned? 
4. Do you dream in Spanish? 
5. What are the subjects of your dreams? I remember it took me a year before most of my dreams were about being a missionary, rather than about life at home. 
6. Do you ever wake up from a deep sleep in which you were dreaming of being at home and find yourself disoriented and surprised to see where you are? I remember that happened to me several times in my first area.

1. all we drink is fresh-made juice! everyone has a blender, haha, so we literally watch them make it for us - papaya, pineapple, apple juices, and more. it's so cool, and i'm definitely going to miss it! 
2. papaya, granadilla (LOOK IT UP, IT'S ALIEN), every fruit you could find in the U.S. (including "cuties," which are saving my life), grapes, strawberries, mangoes - all the basics! and yes, giant avocados!
3. i wear sunscreen every single day, but my tanlines are wicked strong. i have "toms" tanlines on my feet, haha, and i'm turning blaaaack - the sisters have commented on it. so i don't burn, but it seems like sunscreen does very little. i'm going to come back looking like the dark, crinkly old ladies here. jk, hopefully not. :)
4. the dreams here are INSANE. so vivid!! i don't dream in spanish, but i've had a couple of dreams where i run away from my comp. ;) and this week i had one where i came home just for christmas and then i was going to have to come back. and i could not shake it after i woke up!!! i was getting ready for the day like "i can't believe i went home...what have i done, i can't believe i went home!"...they feel so real!
5. (ha, see answer 4)
6. (ha, see answer 4)

our fearless ward mission leader dreams before correlation meeting ;)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Very Grateful to Be Alive!

hey, everyone! another insane week, but i am alive and god loves me. :)

we were almost in a hit-and-run accident this week - so really, very grateful to be alive!!! we were walking to correlation meeting with our ward mission leader when we realized we'd forgotten a paper we needed. so, we had to go back to the apartment - which meant we needed to cross the street. if we hadn't forgotten that paper and crossed the street at the exact time we did, we would've been hit by the toyota that came speeding through (without stopping) and/or the motokar it sent flying to the precise spot we had just been walking on the other side!

we were both okay!!! but, someone else was pinned (and knocked unconscious) under the motokar, and it was really traumatic to see. my companion had a legit panic attack (she was sobbing, and i was just holding her), and we ended up having the zone leaders over later that night to give her a blessing (they ALSO gave us a bag of mini reeses - aka manna from heaven). we're so blessed and protected as missionaries!!! and, i think the accident was bonding for my companion and i. part of the reason for this third cambio may be that i need to be here to help hermana mucha. it was a scary experience, but i feel fine - and, we'll make it!!!

anyway, this week we had zone conference with president [gómez] which was pretty sweet - we had pancakes with chocolate sauce! :) we also set a baptism date - then had it cancelled a few days later, after our investigator didn't come to church (again). we've been working with this girl, yurico, for months, and this was her THIRD fecha [date] - it was really depressing when it fell through. we're probably going to have to stop teaching her soon. :(

but, we contacted a motokarista a week or two ago, and he has already come to church TWICE and now has a book of mormon!! and he is progressing!!! that is so rare here - we invite every motokar driver, but few come. so, we're very happy!!! hoping he'll commit to baptism soon!!!

i was with hermana vasques (jackson's newbie)
for my three-month mark in the field.
we celebrated hardcore! :)

we found an amazing door!
we also found out it's a tinted, mirrored window.
and the people inside were watching us take this picture. ha!

that's all for this week - i love you all! :) thank you for writing me and sending me things. you're all the GREATEST!!

hermana wood

More from this week's message to Hermana Wood's brother:
this week i almost got attacked by a cockroach. i was watching it during a lesson (because it was so close to me), and i took my eyes off it for a second - and IT WAS GONE! then i looked to my left, AND IT WAS ON THE BENCH NEXT TO ME - walking slowly towards me!!! i stood up in the middle of the lesson, and my comp had to switch me spots. ha. LOVE YOU.

Answers to questions from Hermana Wood's dad:
1. Tell us about a time you laughed this week.
2. Do you like you camera? Is it working well for you?
3. Do you wish you had an SD card reader, so you could take the SD card out of your camera, put it in the card reader, and plug it into the computer?
4. How are you going to spend your Christmas money?

1. we were chatting with the gringos while we were waiting for a blitz to start, and our zone leader was telling us how his companion has started throwing english in with his spanish, like "vamos a recogerle a las nueve, esta good?" i laughed 'til my stomach hurt!!
2. i love my camera! i can take pictures in the rain and it's the greatest. :)
3. i use my camera cord and it works well! a card reader might be nice if my cord breaks. but also, i heard of a couple missionaries that sent videos between the states and south america on an SD card! like a video log, but even cooler!!
4. i have no idea! maybe on food? huh, good question. i hadn't thought about it, yet!!! i'm so excited, though!!

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