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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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Week of November 24th to Nov 30th 2008

24 November 2008…..Monday
Last night Dick used Skype and called Dick Peel. They enjoyed a good conversation. It is so good to keep contact with our good friends. These two have 60+ years of friendship.
We had our monthly Perpetual Education Fund Committee Meeting. We were connected via video with the CES director in Santa Ana, El Salvador and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Elder Clarke always presides at these meetings, and he is a very “take charge” kind of guy. Someday I hope to understand more of what is being said but I do understand parts of it. Our morning was spent updating a couple of reports with the info we gleaned from our Sunday meeting with the specialists.
On the way home we stopped at Paiz for groceries. We got home at 5:30 pm. I changed into my sweats and put groceries away. We used the refried black beans I had made the day before and made burritos with flour tortillas. Before we were through eating Dick mentioned Family Home Evening. I had completely forgotten that it was Monday evening. So I changed back into appropriate clothes and hurried and cleaned the kitchen. We went with Tilleys to the apartment of Sister Barney and Sister Rodriguez. They live a few miles away in another apartment building. The traffic was a little intense and it took us over 30 minutes to get there. We had an excellent lesson based on Elder Bednar’s talk in October Conference about prayer. We focused on praying with gratitude.
Today is Cameron’s 10th birthday.

25 November 2008…..Tuesday
Yesterday Elder Clarke requested the names and stakes of the specialists who are doing a really great job in their calling so he could send them a note and thank them for the work they do. I typed it all up and Dick took it up to his office. We had six specialists, three men and three women, whom we were very impressed with. We told a little about what each of them are doing in their stake. Although I don’t understand a lot of what Dick and the specialist is talking about, I feel a great spirit with them and I really do feel the intents of their heart. It allows me to listen in a way that I might not do if I understood every word.
Some of us missionaries are making Christmas cards to give to one of the mission presidents. He will give them to some of his young missionaries who won’t receive anything from home for Christmas. The hard part is when there is an American companion who gets a lot of stuff from home. But, I would think most American parents sending things to their missionary son/daughter would also send something for his/her companion. There are so many ways to serve here.

26 November 2008…..Wednesday

This is a strange day before Thanksgiving. I was at the office and not home cooking a feast. We were kept busy at the office but I had some time to do some census indexing. Our car has had some brake noises since we got it and Dick was finally able to convince Jorge (church employee responsible for the vehicles) that it is a problem and we shouldn’t have to pay for it because it was an existing condition. So, the car was being repaired and we hitched a ride home with Tilleys. We went to Price Smart for a few items and then stopped at the market…..not a grocery store but the “market,” lots of individual booths. Rexene wanted to buy a variety of fruit and veggies to use as table decorations for Thanksgiving dinner. So she and I shopped and the guys waited in the car. The Bawdens had told me the smells could be over whelming but I didn’t notice anything unusual. I think early in the day they have a lot of raw meat.
We bought filet mignon at Price Smart so we had steak and baked potato for dinner. It sure didn’t taste like a filet…..actually, the flavor wasn’t bad but it was a little tough. Everyone tells us that you can’t buy a tender piece of beef here. Nevertheless, Dick enjoyed it. I baked pecan pies and they turned out looking good. The proof will be in the eating.

27 November 2008…..Thursday….THANKSGIVING
Dick rode to the office with Jim today. Rexene and I stayed in our apartments and cooked. I made pumpkin crisp, my cranberry/jello layered salad, and pumpkin muffins. I had a fun time trying to communicate with the guys who work around the apartments. Mario came up and painted our bathroom. A few weeks ago they repaired the leak we had from the apartment above, and today they worked on covering the mold on the ceiling. Window washers finished up on the job they started a couple of days ago so now the outside of our windows are clean. We all have huge windows in our apartments. Dick got our car back so he was on his own driving back home shortly after noon. I’m sure he relished being in the car alone.
Reynaldo, PEF Area Director, our boss, became a father again today. They had a baby son, Diego Alejandro Nuñez. What a blessed little baby to be born to this little family. They have a little girl, Monica, who just turned 2 last week.
Thanksgiving dinner was on a beautiful, large covered patio at the apartment building of Elder and Sister Clarke. Elder and Sister Christensen, first counselor to Elder Clarke, also live there. It was originally scheduled for 6 pm but it has been so cold lately that it was changed to 3 pm. Actually, the weather the last few days has been much more pleasant. It was 75 degrees when we left for the 5 minute drive. The food was just like at home. Sister Clarke made delicious yams with a pecan topping, just like we always have. Carolyn Taylor put chorizo in her stuffing because Dick had told her we always put Italian sausage in ours. After dinner was not much like our usual Thanksgiving. No talking at the table for an hour, no football and no naps for the men. We all picked up our things and headed back to our homes. Probably all of us are calling kids tonight. The best part, I only had to pick up my own serving dishes with minor leftovers to put away. The worst part…no leftovers to feed us for the next week.

We were able to contact six of our kids to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for Skype! We saw Mark, Maren and the girls and Rico, the dog. Mike, Diane and Jesse were there and we talked with them. We saw Megan and Alie and then talked to Alison. We chatted with Kristen and Madi. Jeff just got hooked up with Skype so we saw him, Dana, Jessi and Cameron, plus Kaitlin was home for the holiday from Provo, and we also saw Dixie, the dog. Jon and Marilyn were there and it was good to see and talk to them. We talked by phone to Cyndy and then Dennis. Our family covers all the time zones.

28 November 2008…..Friday
We enjoyed a pleasant day. I took pumpkin muffins to the office to share with the ones working in our area, the receptionist at the front, and the guard who stands there every day in the lobby. Tilleys invited us to go with them at 10:30 so we went to Chimaltenango, about an hour drive, to the National (Guatemala) Girls Camp for the Church. Having been a YW president at the ward and the stake level, I wanted to see this grand operation. Since Alison and Kristen are now YW presidents and Jill has been in the past, I want to tell them to count their blessings when they plan girl’s camp. In Santa Maria we would have about 125 girls go to stake camp. The camp we saw today had 6,000 YW... plus their YW leaders, plus about 350 priesthood leaders. It was a serene, peaceful place to be. It was so beautiful. It just felt well organized. There were hundreds of tents in different areas. The food was brought in already prepared (catered). The Church bought the property about four years ago. There is a tall cement wall built all around it. I forget how many acres (100’s) that it is. One man of the priesthood assigned there saw my name and said he had a missionary companion from Las Vegas named Graff. I told him Dick had cousins in Las Vegas so it was probably a son/grandson of one of them. A tall blonde Gringo hurried over to shake our hands/hug us. She is 20 years old from Idaho, going to BYU Idaho. She is here for a year teaching English on a special program. She is the YW president in her ward and thrilled to be at camp with her young women. When the bishop gave her the calling she was still 19 and she told him that she just got her YW medallion 6 months earlier. I am totally amazed at the young people who come to a foreign country and do the things they do. I took the picture of a young woman, probably 12, swinging on an inner tube hanging from a tree. She was having such a good time and she looked and acted like Kourtney. She got a kick seeing the picture on my camera.

After stopping at Pollo Campero (Guatemalan version of Kentucky Fried Chicken) for lunch we went back to the office and spent a couple of hours finishing up the day’s work. Tilleys came over this evening and brought their dominoes and we ate pumpkin crisp.
There are so many young leaders in this country. We were talking to René Oliva today. He is our boss’s boss and responsible for the welfare programs as a church employee. He was called to be a stake president when he was 29 and served for 9 years. When he was 38 they moved their family to Honduras for 3 years when he was called to be mission president. He was released in 2001. His son has been called to serve his mission in New York City South. They will be leaving in two weeks to take him to the MTC in Provo. He is a cardiologist but forced into early retirement by heart problems. Very ironic.

29 November 2008…..Saturday
The apartment got cleaned and the laundry got done and we were off to Hyper Paiz (Super Walmart) with Tilleys. I bought two cardigan sweaters, a black and a beige. They are heavier and warmer than anything else I have. Don’t need them today as it is much warmer than it has been the last couple of weeks. I won’t need them next week because we will be in Belize from December 4 through the 9th. It is warm there. I also got two lightweight pullover tops…one orange and one olive green. They will add some variety to my mostly blue wardrobe. We got Dick a sweatshirt and a hat for the fishing trip on Monday. We bought two Christmas table runners and a few other Christmas items. I guess it is time to get into the spirit of things. Part of me misses all my Santas, nativity sets, and my tree with my special ornaments. Most of me is thrilled that I won’t have to put it all away this year.
On the way home we passed by the Pop’s (ice cream store) that is our most familiar landmark for finding our way when we have been lost. To honor the fact that we weren’t lost, we stopped for a treat. That meant a milkshake for me. We also saw a Chili’s restaurant today.

30 November 30…..Sunday
We left with Tilleys this morning at 7 am, on our way to find the Villa Nueva Stake center. This is the first time that we have gone south from our apartment since being in Guatemala. We crossed Las Americas Blvd., headed south, and saw typical sights for this country…..narrow streets with small, old businesses along the side. The next block would be nicely paved four lane roads and a new McDonalds, Cemaco department store, Pizza Hut, etc. There is so much of the old and the new in the same area. We found the church without a problem, thanks to a great map drawn by a young man that works in the garage at the office. The chapel is very fortified behind wrought iron and razor wire, as are most of the chapels we have seen in Guatemala. It is a large, beautiful building. We were there by 7:30 am and meetings for the El Frutal First Ward started at 8 am. The wrought iron gates were locked and no cars were parked in the lot. We drove around to the back where there was another gate. After about two minutes Jim said he wasn’t comfortable in that area, so we drove around and waited in the front. A young couple with a one year old arrived on a motorcycle. An older gentleman walked. At ten till eight a car came with a family and he opened the gate….the bishop. More people began arriving and Church started on time and even had a great pianist. I love to sing with a piano. All the hymns were Christmas carols. After the sacrament a lot of people walked in. The chapel was packed, mostly young families with a lot of babies and little children. I’m sure Dick and I were the oldest people there. We feel very tall in Guatemala, too. There were over 60 people in the Gospel Doctrine Class.
The stake PEF specialists are a married couple, Hermano and Hermana Moran. They are very new to their calling so we were able to provide them with a lot of information. We love meeting all of these special people. Once again we were able to arrive safely home without becoming lost. As Tilleys were doing their security check they were told that on one side of the chapel are the police and the other direction are the narcotics dealers. Jim is a retired DEA agent so I am grateful for his promptings to move to the safer area while we waited for the gate to be opened.
This coming week will be busy. Tomorrow Dick and a group of missionaries, along with Elder Clarke, are driving to the Pacific Ocean and going out on boats to fish. It didn’t sound exciting to me but it was a no brainer decision for me to stay home when we found out it would be $350 for the day. The other thing happening in the coming week is that Thursday the 4th of December, Tilleys and we are going to Belize. We will be back on the 9th. They will be doing security checks on the church buildings in Belize and we will be doing a PEF fireside on Sunday and meeting with others about getting PEF fully established there. We are taking the PEF flyers and information to them that I translated into English when we first came to Guatemala. Belize speaks English and they like the American dollar. It is very unlikely that I will be sending out my journal till later next week when we return home.

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