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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 5, 2008

Week of September 23rd - Oct 5th, 2008

29 September 2008…..Monday

It is raining again this evening. One of our umbrellas is thrashed. We will look for bigger umbrellas because the regular ones are just not sturdy enough for this heavy duty rain. We don’t always need an umbrella because we park in underground garages at home and at the office. When we got to the office this morning Dick went upstairsto talk to the computer specialist again about getting internet and cable in our apartment. He made a phone call while Dick was there and we had a call 30 minutes later saying that they would be at our apartment. We came home, paid our money, and they said they will be here tomorrow to hook it all up. It is $15 a month for cable and $50 a month for internet. The young salesman who came to sign us up is a member of the church. After he left we went to the cleaners and took Dick’s white shirts to be laundered. YAY!!!! I won’t miss all the ironing, although Dick got out the ironing board and iron on Saturday and ironed his handkerchiefs. I trained my boys how to iron but somewhere along the line I never trained Dick. It is a generational thing.
We got back to the office in time for lunch so we pulled out the sandwiches I had made this morning. Then we went to see the mission doctor down the hall. He is Kim Taylor, an ophthalmologist from SLC. He and Carolyn have been on their mission about five months. He called SLC to have our prescriptions refilled. He requested a one year supply for us. We got our files up to date about our visit to Utatlan Stake yesterday and I worked some more on my translating project.
Rexene was telling me about a mother calling the brethren in Salt Lake because of her great worry for her missionary son. At the conclusion of the conversation she was told that every 15 minutes there is a prayer offered in one of the temples around the world for blessings upon the missionaries, all 53,000 of us. With 128 operating temples it is easy to realize how there would be a constant flow of prayers for the missionaries and also for the youth of the Church. That brings me great comfort. When we were watching the RS Women’s Broadcast on Saturday and I heard the opening prayer for blessings upon the missionaries around the world, it really struck me, “that is me they are praying for.” Over one million missionaries have served since the Church was organized in 1830. It is great to be part of such a grand army.
Tonight was FHE at the home of Bro. and Sis. Justice who own a school here in Guate. The distance from our apartment to theirs is less than a mile….just directly west of us. However, we rode with Bawden’s because we had never been to Justice’s before. First, we went to pick up three senior sister missionaries. We only had to go about two miles as the crow flies, but crows don’t have to travel the roads in Guatemala City. It was raining. We left here at 6:30 pm. The traffic on the Boulevard of the Americas was thick and creeping. You can never go from here to there because all major roadways are one way and there are very few turn arounds to cross the center parkway and head the other direction. You always have to go out of your way no matter where you are going. We went through one intersection near the Marriott Hotel that was incredible. Dean calls it the worst traffic in the world, and he would probably know. Everyone seems to be in a lane they don’t want to be in and so they are all scrunching over to other lanes. And of course, the horns are honking. The goal is to stay in front of the numerous buses. You don’t want to get caught behind them, mainly because you don’t want to breathe in what they are spewing out in their exhaust…..huge black clouds of pollution. The sisters were waiting in front of their apartment building with the Taylors who had gone there to pick up three other sisters. They jumped in the car quickly. Going back the other direction was much better. The trip took us an hour. The Justices had a sister come from the Family History Center to teach about New Family Search. I am already registered on it because California has had it for some time. Utah didn’t have it before our missionary friends left home. Elder Clarke made special request for the senior missionaries here in Guatemala to be able to use it. It isn’t available for members in an area until their temple is completely on line to use it. The view from the Justice’s apartment is fantastic. I watched a plane take off from the airport. There is nothing to obstruct the view of it rolling down the runway. If I lived in that apartment I would spend all my time at the window waiting to see planes land and take-off.

30 September 2008…..Tuesday

We didn’t go in to the office this morning because we were waiting for our internet and cable to be hooked up. Hours later, at 2:30 pm the plumber came and replaced the faucet in the bathroom to eliminate the leak under the sink. While he was still here the cable guys came. It is wonderful to have the internet here at my fingertips. Having cable is something I didn’t plan on but all the senior couples have it. They told us in the MTC that we need to be aware of what is going on in the world. It is a security issue. We have BYU TV but it is in Spanish. That will make Conference a little difficult to understand this weekend (we will use internet) but I will love Christmas time with all of the beautiful choir music. I have my favorite TV station….Fox News. It was good to see a little bit of Brit Hume, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Dick gets sports. The thing is we don’t want any of that to detract from what we are here to do. While I am cooking dinner I can hear some news but afterwards I have journal writing, Spanish study, and we have scripture time. Dick reads the local newspaper every evening for his Spanish study and now he can watch some sports in Spanish while I do my MTC Spanish study program. His is not a learning project but a refining project…..or maybe a resurrection project of his 50 year old Spanish.

1 October 2008…..Wednesday

I managed to keep busy today at the office. Sometimes we feel like we are searching for things to do. I began by spending almost two hours putting together over a hundred pages of printed information of all the districts, stakes, wards, and branches here in Central America with their addresses. I say addresses, but actually, most of it is directions to help find the buildings. Some say, “behind the Shell Station.” (There are Shell Stations everywhere!!) Another said, “next to the cemetery.” It is a real challenge to find the buildings and most of us senior missionaries have to visit the buildings for various training, etc. that we do with our calling. I finished my translation project for the PEF flyers. I really enjoyed doing it. I began the communication process for Belize and the few PEF participants there.
Our first two nights here in the country we stayed with Bawdens. They had Skype on their computer which allowed them to see and talk to their children and grandchildren. It is free between computers. I asked Mark about it last night and the next email that came back he said he had signed up and installed it on his computer. He sent the website and we got it installed, too. This evening as I was going through emails, up popped a Skype screen and I clicked the phone icon and there was Mark. We saw and talked to Aimee and Emily and we got to see Cady walk. I must admit it brought tears….but just briefly. She is our youngest grandchild but just knowing there is technology to allow me to see her, and all of my family, is a joy. I don’t have to miss out on her big blue eyes and curly blonde hair. Aimee said, “Nana, we live in Arizona and you live in California.” California sounds a long ways away to me now.

2 October 2008…..Thursday

About 10:30 am we left the office and went to Price Smart (our Costco). We bought a membership for Q298. We took our time and checked out the whole store. We loaded the back of our Corolla station wagon and brought it home, grabbed a bite of lunch, then headed back to the office. We bought spray for “cucarachas.” I sprayed around the stove and dishwasher. In fact we had to turn on the exhaust fan so we didn’t asphyxiate ourselves. A little later I went into the kitchen and I am happy to report…..MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I found a cockroach about an inch long moving around in our stainless steel sink. I grabbed a Prego jar that I had washed and saved and scooped it into it and put the lid on. While we were eating dinner I looked into the kitchen and saw a big cockroach climbing the cabinets. I ran and got the broom in the laundry area of the bathroom and was able to sweep it down to the floor. After a struggle I finally got it into the jar with his buddy. Now we have two to take down to Nancy, the apartment manager. I really don’t think she believed me when I told her about them.
While I was waiting for the kitchen to air out I checked my email and Skype popped up. It was Bethany, Emma, Matt and Ben. Hannah was at achievement days and Scott came home while we were chatting. It is so amazing to see my grandchildren. The Graff blue eyes really come through. I can hardly wait to see how well the brown eyes come through.

3 October 2008…..Friday

We kept busy at the office today. I prepared folders for seven different stakes with the info we need for getting appointments. We are concentrating on those in Guatemala City. There are 19 stakes here. At noon Dick went out the front door of the office and bought our lunch from the sister who cooks for the office. We had pork, a warm potato salad and her wonderful corn tortillas. The tortillas here are thicker than what we have in the U.S.
We had half a dozen brethren in the office today that had been here for Church Education Training. These men are employees of the Church and I always enjoy seeing how the Church blesses the temporal life of members with jobs. These are university graduates who teach in the Seminary and Institute Program. The ones we met were from Peru. In the afternoon I got a reply from one of my emails to Belize. It was a great email from Felipe. I asked him to tell me a little about himself. He served a mission in Costa Rica from 2004-2006. He is going to school for medical assisting. He is one of 12 children. All of his family are members of the Church except his father and one brother. He told me of his interests. He is not working, just going to school, but I had reminded him that he needs to honor his commitment to repay his loan as he is several months behind. His monthly payment is 10 Belize dollars. Everything he repays now goes directly to the principal. Six months after he graduates his monthly payment will go up and he will be charged 3% interest. As they told us in SLC, it is not about the money. It is to build honor and integrity in their life, to help them become leaders in the Church and in their community. I updated his file by copying and pasting his rather lengthy email to the record of each monthly contact he has had over the course of his loan.
Later when I was checking two other loans, for a brother and sister, I found that they had each made a payment. Those in SLC in charge of the accounting process had updated the record. So I emailed each of them to thank them for the payment and tell them what a great job they are doing. The brother has graduated and he pays more than is due so he is ahead of the game. I feel like I have a vested interest in these young people from Belize. I now have five because three of them have graduated and paid off their loans. And to think, the Call Centers contact over 1600 students every month and many of them get two phone calls if they need more encouragement. I, of course, prefer emails to phone calls. In South Africa almost all of their contacts are done with texting. It works wonderfully there. It seems no matter how poor the people are most have a cell phone. Such is life in the 21st Century.
Today we discovered more joys of car ownership. It cost over $100 to register our car. The first insurance company turned us down because of Dick’s age. He is the old guy amongst our group of missionaries (by a few months). Jorge has found an insurance company to insure us. He is a Church employee who is responsible for the fleet of mission cars.
We stopped at the cleaners after leaving the office and picked up Dick’s white shirts and left another batch for them to do. It is always good to get home. I walked softly and checked for more cockroaches. There were none. Dick took the jar with my collection of two down to Nancy, the manager. She promised they would come Monday and pull out the appliances and spray.
Some things we have discovered on Guatemalan TV: Sponge Bob in Spanish (there are a number of cartoon channels); Latin American Idol; Jay Leno; last night there were 11 channels with the vice presidential debate. I thought Sarah Palin was great. I liked Biden better with the channels that were in Spanish. Actually, I watched about 20 minutes of it and my stomach was beginning to knot and I came in to the computer to study Spanish so the peace could return to my life. We sent an application by pouch mail today to get our absentee ballots sent here to the office so we can cast our ballot next month.

4 October 2008…..Saturday

What a great P Day we have had. Dick cleaned the tub/shower this morning. I got laundry done and the rest of the apartment cleaned and was ready to sit at the computer and watch the morning session of Conference together. I love modern technology! I loved what President Uchtdorff said about faith, hope and charity: “….the things we hope for lead us to faith. The things we hope in lead us to charity.”
At the conclusion I went in the kitchen and baked my Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bars. They are always better the second day and I will take them tomorrow to Break the Fast since I am on the list to bring a dessert. It was my first major undertaking at baking from scratch since coming to Guatemala. I had a bowl of bleach water to rinse my hands in. I am a slow, cautious cook now because of the water and keeping my utensils and counters disinfected. I have never been slow in the kitchen before. I have always worked like my dear mother-in-law, Mildred Graff….. fast! That is also where I learned to cook far more than we usually need. And, if a little bit of an ingredient is good, then a lot has to be better.
We enjoyed the afternoon session of Conference. Wish we could have been there. Hearing the choir of Primary children brought tears as I looked at them and pictured my grandchildren singing. Elder Holland is always a favorite of mine. As he spoke of angels in the scriptures he reminded us that angels are still sent to help us…..seen and unseen angels, mortal and immortal angels. We all have mortal angels in our life that serve God’s purposes as they serve us. With all that is happening in this world and in our country, he said that this isn’t a day of fear and trembling. God will not leave us alone.
Elder Bednar talked to us about meaningful prayer. Our morning prayer is a time to counsel with the Lord in all our doings. It is the time to spiritually create our day. We need to seek understanding, help and direction. We need to show remorse for our weaknesses and plead for greater strength. We must commit to follow the Savior. Our evening prayer is a continuation of our morning prayer, a time to report back, repent, and recognize ways to do better. He spoke of praying at times with only words of gratitude and giving thanks. One concluding thought was prayer becomes more meaningful when we pray earnestly for others.
After a little soup and crackers for dinner, Dick left with some of the other brethren to go to a nearby chapel for the satellite broadcast of the Priesthood session. I was actually alone for almost three hours. That has happened in a very long time.

5 October 2008…..Sunday

We haven’t seen any rain for a couple of days, just overcast skies, which holds in all the pollution. Friday it thundered at the office but no rain. The streets were dry. But, when we got home there were puddles and wet streets all over….just a mile from the office. The sun managed to break through just after noon today. Once again we enjoyed sitting in our chairs by the computer and enjoying the morning session of General Conference. It was pretty iffy in the beginning. Our newly installed internet would not connect…it only said local. Our computer managed to connect to Linksys which was the system we were able to get onto occasionally before we had internet up and running in our apartment. Once again, we were grateful for it because we were able to watch Conference. Elder Eyring talked about UNITY, how important it is in our families and how important it is to the Church and us members worldwide. He said his mother always said: “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” I had to laugh. That was exactly what Mother always said to her children. I’m sure there are still times when she feels like saying that to us, when we slip and say something that is not so kind. Elder Ballard’s talk is one I want to print and read again soon. President Monson talked about CHANGE. He said to find joy in the journey, now! As he spoke of days with fingerprints, toys all over, and stacks of laundry, I felt teary. I miss those days when my children were all in the home. My comfort and my peace was when everyone was at home. All was well in my world, even though there may have been chaos with a houseful of children. Now they are each in varying stages of raising families and all I can say to them is that the time passes too quickly. Cherish this time, a time of influence upon your children. Teach them and love them. As I write my journal it is for my edification and enjoyment, but is also written to my children and grandchildren. With our blog, I invite family and friends to see a glimpse of who I am……I feel exposed, but I do so willingly because I trust those who have been invited to read our blog. I want to share with them what I think, what I feel, and what I know to be true.
Our internet was working well when we turned on the afternoon session. I loved Elder Packer’s talk about the history of the early members of the Church, including all of my great-grandparents and their families. They were the victims of mobs and driven out of every place they tried to settle. Missouri had a particular grudge against them because the Church was against slavery. Even after they settled in Utah an army was sent to “quell” a non-existent uprising of the Mormons. Government turned a blind eye toward what was going on. Yet, the people of the Church always loved their country. They were anchored to revelation that foretold of the great struggle to win our independence and of the great men who would rise to the occasion. They never sought revenge for the deaths, destruction and mayhem that was wreaked on them and their families and friends. They recognized that corrupt people were to blame, not the country, itself. Many tests lie ahead. We must be faithful and true.
Elder Cook spoke about an incident many years ago when his three year old told his mother, “Hope you know, we had a hard time.” It really is reminiscent of some of my prayers. I really do have to tell our Heavenly Father, even though he already knows, that sometimes, life is hard.
Break the fast was at the home of President and Sister Baldwin, president of the Guatemala City Central Mission. The gathering consists of us missionaries, the three local mission presidents, the MTC president, and employees of the Church that are living here (a lawyer and an accountant). The Robertsons (accountant) have five children aged 4-15. The Presidency of the Area is in Salt Lake and will be back during the week. President Clarke offered the closing prayer in Saturday’s afternoon session of Conference.

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