Today’s guest post comes from Emily Johnson, who is currently figuring out life in the Southern Hemisphere as an English teacher in northern Peru. She completed her graduate studies at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah with a Master of Professional Communication degree. Johnson also is a contributing writer for Deseret News and Mormon Times. Johnson also is an award-winning artist, photographer, and scrapbooker. Samples of her work can be found at http://goldstarcreative.weebly.com. Besides Johnson’s “Fumbles in Faith” blog, she maintains a humorous blog about her life in Peru at www.peruvianpony.blogspot.com. Hailing originally from Arizona, this desert native is not missing the typical Utah winter this year.
If someone would have told me this time last year that I would be bearing my testimony in Spanish in a ward in Peru, I would laughed out loud like Sariah from the Old Testament. Yet, at approximately 9:45 am this morning, I was doing exactly that.
For the last four months, I have lived in Piura, Peru as a college English teacher and I have been attending the Los Angamos ward in the Miraflores stake. While I do not speak or understand Spanish fluently, I do understand the Spirit and am grateful for my church membership as I’ve lived in Peru.
I have always enjoyed testimony meetings as a chance to reflect on my own thoughts and I have enjoyed sharing my testimony when the Spirit directs me to do so. I had the opportunity to share my testimony at an investigator’s meeting here in Piura but never in church.
My first fast Sunday in the ward was in August. I prepared a lengthy testimony and planned to share my testimony then, after only being in Piura for about 2 weeks. However, when it came down to it, I was too nervous and scared.
September, October, and November now seem to have flown by, but during those months, the days seemed endless sometimes. For one reason or another, I missed those Fast Sundays – either I was sick, or traveling. So today was the day I was going to bear my testimony.
For the past week, I’d been practicing orally what I wanted to say. On a few nights, I was alone on the running track around the university’s soccer field, so I had the perfect opportunity to practice out loud as I jogged or walked around the track in the cool, quiet evenings.
Last night, I wrote down what I had been practicing so I could have the words to rehearse and take a mental picture in my mind. I rehearsed again this morning before church. I felt that I should verify how to say “oraciones” or prayers. I am glad I did, because I was pronouncing it wrong. I realized during the first part of the Sacrament meeting that I didn’t know if the Google translation was exactly correct. My mind started to race with worried thoughts. Maybe I should have someone review my notes before I went up.
How did I exactly say “true?” Google said it was “cierto” but isn’t verdad more correct? How did I really say “oraciones” again?
When the bishop turned over the time to the congregation for testimonies, my heart practically leaped out of my chest. I knew I had to go up, but the traditional testimony game began, even here in Piura.
Who was going to go up first? Do I play leapfrog by going up to the first pew and wait, or do I walk all the way down the aisle directly to the podium? If I wait on the pew, I can collect my thoughts, but if I go straight to the podium, I have to dive right in. I rationalized waiting after each person went up to the stand. My heart and soul were on fire; my heart was beating so fast I felt like a hummingbird.
Before I knew it, I stood up, walked down the side aisle and found myself at the pulpit staring at the full congregation. How did the distance from the back of the chapel to the pulpit instantly double in length?
I do enjoy public speaking. I even enjoy giving talks in church, yet I was literally shaking like a windblown tree. I was so nervous when I began and somehow I stumbled through my Spanish testimony. While I was able to make eye contact with the congregation, I wasn’t exactly as smooth as butter.
At one point, I totally forgot the word I wanted to use, and the bishop helped me. I wanted to say “mi encantada el tiemplo,” and I forgot “encantada.” It means I love the temple. At the end, I did have to refer to my notes. I know that testimonies are supposed to be spontaneous, but I think the Lord understands that I needed a little help.
After I was finished and walked towards my seat, my friend Jorge gave me a big thumbs up. I felt so relieved and glad that I did something that I didn’t think I could really do but thanks to the Lord, I was able to share my feelings about the gospel in a foreign language in a foreign country.
So what was my testimony in Spanish? Here is roughly what I said in English.
My testimony is simple in Spanish. Many thanks for your help, support and friendship. I am very blessed. I believe in Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Ghost. Jesus is my savior. The Father hears and answers my prayers. I feel the Holy Ghost here with you in the Los Angamos ward. I don’t understand much Spanish but I understand the Spirit. I have faith in the gospel. The church is true. I love the temple. I like to read the scriptures. The church is true no matter where you are in the world.