Currently, only men are allowed out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Women on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and then, only one person from a family at a time. Sunday no one is allowed outside. There is a 4:00 AM – 6:00 PM curfew.
Masks are required outside your homes. Only government registered taxis, with special yellow license plates, and city buses are permitted on the roads. No personal cars or Uber, Lyft, etc. Police and military stop every vehicle, except city buses, to ask for the required documentation to be on the roads, from the driver and their passengers are questioned. Peru is doing its best to get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope their efforts, extremely strict, will bear fruit. If not, the people of this wonderful country will suffer terribly. At 8:00 PM each night, these wonderful people step onto their balconies and patios or come to an open window and clap for a full minute to show appreciation to those first responders and caregivers, and to encourage each other to have faith and patience (a nightly ritual my husband really enjoyed participating in).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was finally able to evacuate all missionaries countrywide, along with the US missionary couples and employees with their families serving in the South America Northwest Area Office. It was a herculean effort for both the United States government and church leaders.
Five months earlier
November 16, 2019, my husband and I arrived in Lima, Peru to begin serving eighteen months in the Lima North Mission. The year before, when my husband’s brother and wife, President Meredith and Sister Corinne Packard, were called to preside there, they asked if we would be available to serve as a senior couple with them. We were already preparing to put our papers in so we jumped at the chance! Can you even imagine how wonderful it would be to serve a full-time mission with family members?
FYI: Mission Presidents are invited to “recruit” their own senior couples due to the drastic shortage of couples applying to serve on their own. GET OUT THERE, SENIORS! You won’t regret your decision or sacrifice. Now, back to our story…
We quickly settled into our apartment and responsibilities and loved serving the wonderful missionaries, the warm Peruvian people, and our brother and sister-in-law. The next eighteen months were going to be great!
Sunday, March 15, Peru’s President, Martin Vizcarra, issued the initial 14-day, stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus. Though only a few cases had been identified, the government came down fast and firm. It would allow for people to leave their homes only for food, medical needs, banking, and to get gas beginning at 8:00 AM the next morning. President Packard had been making plans to have all the missionary companionships buy 14 days of emergency food later that coming week. Now, we had only Monday to get things ready. We needed miracles and miracles came.
Miracle #1 –
Early Monday morning, Meredith and Corinne picked us up at our apartment. We needed to get to the Mission Office about 45 minutes away to purchase the 40 liters of water per missionary, get emergency medical items assembled into kits, and food things all organized and somehow get shipped out for each of the almost 80 apartments before the next day. They brought both of their cars so we would have the room we needed to haul purchases.
Chad and I had to each drive a car because their six-month American license driving period had expired and they hadn’t been able to complete the Peruvian license process yet. So, with all the extra police and military on the roads they didn’t want to take the chance at not having valid licenses if stopped. (Sidebar: I don’t know how to drive in Spanish! Haha! That did not help with the already high-stress levels!) Luckily, neither Chad or I had any problems with being stopped and checked! The government seemed to be giving everyone that day to prepare, though the police and military were out in force.
Miracle #2 –
Each missionary’s debit card was given a large, additional amount of money on Friday to purchase a specific list of food items for the emergency kits. We had no idea if it would be credited by early Monday morning. Sunday night they were instructed to go out first thing the next morning and buy all the necessary items. Thankfully the money was in their accounts, no one had any problem finding what they needed, and did not encounter any problems with others. Later that afternoon there were some problems at the stores from understandably anxious folks. We were glad they had all been obedient and gone out very early.
The Mission supplied them with large plastic bins to put supplies in and the water they needed. Also, thankfully, our wonderful driver, Jefferson, agreed to go out to make the deliveries for us. We all prayed that those at any checkpoints would allow him through due to the items he was delivering, though his van did not have the required yellow plate. Those driving without the correct plates or special papers would lose their driver’s licenses. He made it to each zone leader’s apartment without incident where he left the items to be picked up by each companionship the next day.
Miracle #3 –
In December 2019, the Mission had a good amount of budget that had not yet been used. President and Sister Packard decided to purchase a microwave, toaster, and blender for each apartment. (Remember, we have about 80 apartments.) We truly believe they were inspired. Each apartment typically has only a small refrigerator and a hot plate. The new appliances were delivered in February. Having all those kitchen appliances was a blessing for the missionaries who would soon be needing to cook – I mean really cook, for themselves.
Miracle #4 –
Our missionaries have lunch each day in member’s homes. The area legal department got permission for them to still go out for these appointments since it was for a “food” purpose. The members just needed to send them an invitation via email that they could show anyone who stopped them on their way. As the restrictions got tighter and no two people could be out together this still worked because since they each had different last names, they qualified as one from a family.
Miracle #5 –
The country’s borders were closed immediately with the March 15th announcement. No flights, trains, buses, or boats either in or out. That was fine at first, but once the Church decided to bring all the American and Canadian missionaries home from South America shortly after that, it was a problem. Again, the US government and the Church worked tirelessly to get the Peruvian government to allow special repatriation flights in and out, but with little progress. Then, finally some movement.
All the missionaries had been registered on the American Embassy’s list to leave the country. The first flight of Americans left on March 24th. We were notified the evening of the 27th to be to the Embassy at 7:30 AM the next morning, the 28th, for transport to a Peruvian military airbase and a 1:00 PM flight to Miami. Upon arrival in Miami, the Church put us up in a hotel for the night and then flew us home the next day. After just five months we were back in Dallas and removing our black missionary badges.
For now, we’ll wait to see what happens to our assignments, like the tens of thousands of other missionaries brought home early from around the world. With renters in our house, we will rotate between our six children’s homes until we receive further direction from the Missionary Department in Salt Lake City. Our desire is to go back and finish our term of service in Lima, but we leave it in the Lord’s hands. We saw Him work miracles for us and all our missionaries there during this experience. Our trust in Him and those He has called to preside over this work is sure. This is no surprise to the Lord. It is His work. We are His missionaries. He has a plan.
So, until He reveals to us what those plans are I’ll be jumping back into my LDSWS Admin position and continuing to share my testimony not just with those in Lima, Peru, but with thousands around the world.