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Guatemala City, Guatemala
We have been called as missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve with the Perpetual Education Fund in the Central America Area. We are living in Guatemala City, Guatemala and we work at the area office. Our assignment is to visit with the Stake PEF Specialists in all seven countries, to train and assist them in this inspired program.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week of October 13th- 19th, 2008

13 October 2008…..Monday

It was a busy but a good day. I emailed all twenty stake PEF specialists in Guatemala City. Amazingly, I had replies from three of them almost immediately. It is something we will be doing monthly (I will email and Dick will call on the phone) to find out what activities they had during the month and what they are planning for the next month. Our monthly PEF Committee Meeting was at 1 pm. I was on the agenda to say the closing prayer and I think some in there were surprised that I said it in Spanish. The goal of the tutoring program for senior missionaries was to help us do some things well….like prayer, bearing testimony, and meeting people. I still struggle with meeting people because I have a hard time understanding what they are saying to me. But, smiles and hugs work wonders.
We came home a little early to get everything ready for Family Home Evening. We had 18 here and every one fit in very well into our one bedroom apartment. We asked everyone to come prepared to talk about General Conference. It was a wonderful evening. After almost everyone shared their feelings and thoughts, Elder Clarke, our Area Seventy President, then talked about his experiences at Conference and the instructions from the brethren. He talked about the importance of teaching the principle of tithing to the members of the Church….. He reminded us that Zion is a place with no poor amongst us and the importance of lifting up the poverty stricken. I have never seen so many poor people as I have seen in areas of Guatemala. The whole purpose of the PEF program is to lift those in poverty and make them self-sufficient. He reminded us to read Mosiah 18: 8-10 and remember those covenants that we made at the time of baptism to bear one another’s burdens, to comfort one another, and mourn with those that mourn….and to always stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and it is restored today!
We capped the evening with refreshments and I fried scones and served them with honey butter, (of course) and strawberry jam. They were a hit and we used every last one. Actually, we put the last five on a plate with the remaining honey butter and Dick took them down to the lobby for the night security at the desk. All the missionaries in this building are always taking homemade goodies to the desk, to the two men in the parking garage, or to the 24 hour security guards at the front steps of the apartment. A hint to remember: I cannot find buttermilk here so I went on the internet and looked at substitutions. One suggestion was 2/3 cups plain yogurt to 1/3 cup milk. I did that and made enough to equal a quart. It had the consistency of buttermilk and almost smelled like buttermilk. It worked great in my recipe. “They” say that the yeast here isn’t very good. Rexene next door brought a big package of yeast from Costco with her to Guatemala and so I used it.

14 October 2008…..Tuesday

Today we went to the office and the first thing we did was submit an email to Reynaldo about yesterdays Committee Meeting. There were about a dozen people requesting exemptions from the general rules of those considered for PEF loans and each of us on the committee are asked for a positive or negative opinion on each one. We found out that Elder Clarke’s secretary was a stake specialist for Las Victorias Stake. Dick went upstairs to meet her and then she came down to our office so we could talk to her. Hermana (Sister) Alvarado travels a lot with her job at the office, plus she is in the Relief Society Presidency of her ward. She needs some support from her stake for her to fully operate as specialist. First, there is no high councilor assigned to PEF. The wards have not called any ward specialists. We plan to meet with her and them to get things progressing.
At noon we left for the Church Employment Center which helps anyone, member or not, with job hunting. The director is Elvis Gomez. When we were being trained in SLC they told us that Elvis was alive….he directs the Employment Center in Guatemala. He is my favorite Guatemalan. Whenever young missionaries from Central America are returning home, they go to the Guatemala MTC first for a couple of days. They are taken to the Employment Center where all the preparation classes for PEF are taught. We had lunch with them and then attended the training that went on this afternoon. There were 9 men and 6 women who will receive two days of instructions in the program to give them a head start on their plans to start the education process. Many in this area of the world think they don’t need education or that they can make enough money to live on without being educated. But, like every place else, they can’t progress very much and it isn’t easy. Guatemala lost 50,000 construction jobs this year. That is really going to hit this country hard. The world is changing and those who prepare will not have the worries that unpreparedness brings. Elder and Sister Boman, a senior missionary couple serving a proselytizing mission in Peten , Guatemala, are there every three weeks to help with missionaries arrival, departure and things in between. It is an 8 hour drive for them. We will start doing it every other time so they only have to come every six weeks.
When we were singing the opening hymn I was so struck by the vigor of the singing….off key, in many cases, but with such enthusiasm. My one thought as I looked at the faces of these young people….they are the armies of Helaman. I love reading the Book of Mormon and I see these local faces in my imagination as I read the records of the children of Lehi. This group of missionaries served in various countries but all of them are from Guatemala.
A note: as we hear about some of the deprived areas of Guatemala like Polochic where there is no running water, no electricity, nothing of convenience except cell phones (they have to run to the top of the hill to use them). It is such a deprived area that many missionaries don’t do well there. The missionaries who do well there??? The American missionary who is an Eagle Scout. They all love it. Once they get out into those areas they want to stay and finish their missions there.

15 October 2008…..Wednesday

What a good day! We didn’t go into the office today but directly to the Employment Center for the second day of PEF training for missionaries returning from their missions. We had lunch there. Sister Boman reminds me so much of my sister-in-law, Joan. She is tall, blonde and even says things like Joan. We got along great. We learned what our routine will be when we go to do the assignment in three weeks.

After all the training was done we were all given sandwiches. The missionaries were being taken to the temple to do a session. Some of their parents would be coming to pick them up at 7 pm at the temple. Some had buses to take in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. One young man and one young woman were from Polochic, the area with no running water, electricity, or other conveniences. They have served 18 months or 2 years and now they return to what we would consider as a primitive existence. We hugged and took pictures and enjoyed a brief visit.
On our drive home (3 or 4 miles) we stopped at the pharmacy to have one of Dick’s prescriptions refilled. All he did was show the pharmacist the empty container. They were out of it but they said maybe another of their nearby pharmacies might have it, so he called and they said it would be there, soon. We walked into the little store next door that is like a 7-11. Dick bought a newspaper and I got a couple of yogurt. When we came out of the store there was a motorcycle in front of the pharmacy, and sure enough, his prescription was there and ready to be picked up. Tilleys came over and visited for awhile when we got home. They had just returned from a two day trip to do security at 7 chapels to the south.
My stomach has been uncomfortable that last couple of days. Pepto Bismol is my new best friend. I definitely feel better this evening.

16 October 2008…..Thursday

It is cool this evening….only 63 degrees when we came home from the office at 4 pm. Our high was 70 degrees. It is the coolest it has been since we arrived. It felt good to put on my sweats that I bought at Price Smart. It was a very busy day today. We got materials together for training new specialists. I worked on a report for SLC. I went on the PEF loan site and found the loan status of all the participants in Belize, Panama and Costa Rica and entered it on the web page. I did entries for 196 loans. I did a call to Belize to one of my contacts and talked to her husband. She isn’t in school right now because she is expecting a baby girl in November. At 2:40 pm we swayed back and forth on the second floor and acknowledged that we had experienced our first earthquake in Guatemala. It is nothing new for us Californians.
Today, Madisen and Kourtney turned 12 years old. Púchica! That is my new Spanish lingo…it means Wow!

17 October 2008…..Friday

I had a “friend” in the kitchen window when I went in the kitchen this morning……another big cockroach. I knocked him down and he fell on his back. I retrieved him and put him in a plastic grocery bag and Dick took him out to the trash. Dumping trash is pretty simple. Just a few feet from our door is a small door and it is a trash chute, sort of like the laundry chute we had in Santa Maria. I think it’s pretty clever. We don’t have to carry it down and besides, there is no place to put a trash bin in the parking garage. It tightly holds about 12 cars and that is it.
We actually closed all the windows last night. Today we had a high of 68 degrees. We were really believing that everyday reached the seventies, but I guess not. This feels like a summer day in Santa Maria. It has been overcast and drizzly all day. Dick kept busy with phone calls to get reports from specialists in the city. I entered the information into the computer reports that we use here and that SLC uses. I made another call to Belize with no results. We left the office before 3 pm and went to Wendy’s for a late lunch and then came home. I actually lay on the couch for two hours and watched the BYU channel. Tail bone problems makes sitting all day at a desk/computer pretty uncomfortable.

18 October 2008…..Saturday

It felt good to wake up when the body was ready and not with an alarm. Got the apartment cleaned and accomplished some laundry. Marilyn Bawden gave me a small crock pot to use since she had two. I put a very small roast in it today. Taylors came by about 2 pm and invited us to go to the Popol Vuh museum with them at Galileo Marroquin University. It is about five miles away. When we got there we found out that the museum closes at 1 pm on Saturday. We walked around the grounds and it was lovely. We saw a lot of Boston ferns, day lilies, trumpet plants and many other plants that we could not identify. There were walking paths and we weren’t even disappointed that we couldn’t go in the museum. It was the most serene place we have been since coming to Guatemala, except for the temple. We were away from all the traffic and the constant commotion of people. It was wonderful.
We came home and got dinner on and I made brownies. Dick was on the computer and there was a Skype call from Kristen. It was so good to see and talk to Kristen and Kourtney. I love Skype. The connection is so good and we can watch the children grow while we are so far away from all of them.
Tilleys came over and brought peanut butter popcorn and I cut the brownies and we ate our way through dominoes….Mexican Train and Chicken Foot. We love our association with the other senior couples.

19 October 2008…..Sunday

It is a Sunday afternoon and we have returned safely from Church. Church started at 8 am and so we left home at 7 am. Today Dick drove and Jim was the navigator. It took us an hour and twenty minutes to get there. Coming home took a little longer. Once again, a street sign is a rarity. We never have an address of where the chapels are located because there are no addresses. We have directions from someone at the office but they are usually just general directions to get to an area of the city. A wrong turn cannot be immediately corrected because of the one way streets. Today we knew we were on the right street only because we could see the steeple of the chapel. Adding rain to the mix didn’t help any. Every week it is the same story. If GPS ever comes to Guatemala it will be amazing.
Because we missed the first twenty minutes of Sacrament Meeting we also attended the Sacrament Meeting for Minerva Ward so we could partake of the sacrament. Seminary students were called on to bear their testimony, then their teacher spoke. She had 23 youth in her Seminary class.
The other constant in our lives is the people we meet each Sunday. We women get many, many hugs. The people love to see senior missionaries in their midst. The specialist we had contacted during the week wasn’t at church because she was sick. Dick went in the bishop’s office and called her. He had some training materials for her so he sent all of it home with her teen age son.
One of the first men we talked to today asked if we were from Utah. Dick said, “No, California.” He said he used to live in Pomona and that his brother has been there 30 years. So, Dick told him he was born there. Today we had a keyboard to accompany the singing. I think the reason we rarely see one is that not many Guatemalans can play the piano. Today a young American Missionary played. We love to talk to the American boys. This one was worth the whole trip. He is Elder Galovick of Spanish Fork. I first asked if he knew the Catmulls, but he didn’t. Then I asked if he knew Elder Brandon Dixon from Spanish Fork who served in California San Fernando. He replied that he was one of his best friends. Elder Dixon was one of our favorites. Two small world stories today.
I made a corn and black bean salad to take next door for dinner. Tilleys have invited us, the Kings, and President and Sister Torres, president of Guatemala City North Mission.

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