About Us

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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, December 27, 2009

Journal - December 21 -27

Our sweet little Christmas tree with Guatemalan ornaments

21 December 2009…..Monday
Today Dick went to the office. Our desks and computers were not even accessible. That is fine. I enjoyed my day at home. I am getting low on hot cocoa mix, so I made a double batch. I made spiced pecans to take Christmas Eve when we go to the Torres’. I made refrigerator cookie dough so I can bake cookies to take to the CCM (MTC) Christmas night. I worked on my Shutterfly photo book and got it up to date. I read from the final chapters of Helaman in my Spanish Book of Mormon. This evening Dick took a plate of goodies to the desk in the lobby for the workers at the apartment. Tonight was Family Home Evening across the hall at the Tomkinsons. We played name that tune with Christmas carols, heard a sweet story, and then Gert shared some Christmas traditions of when he was a boy in Germany before the start of World War II. Dick and Bill took Gert home.

22 December 2009…..Tuesday
I had a Skype call this morning from Myrna. She showed me what she had made for Kristy for Christmas. It made me shed tears. She took a large frame and on one side she put a picture of Kristy with Mother (Kristy’s great-great grandmother). The other side has roses. Kristy and her “nana great” were very close. She will treasure this special gift forever.

After not making it out of the fifties the last two days we finally broke into the seventies, barely. I guess it was cold yesterday. The front page of today’s paper has a picture of a volcano in the San Marcos area that actually has a couple of inches of snow, which almost never happens. Dick went to the office and was able to use a computer in the conference room. I stayed home again and had Reynaldo send the December Loan Report form to my laptop computer. Then he sent the daily report to Dick. Dick printed it and brought it home and I was able to enter the current information onto the form and then email it back to the office.

I think it is about time for the sugar overdose to come to an end. Besides what I have made, others are doing the same thing and we are spreading the joy and the calories to everyone here. After I wrote those two sentences, Rexene gave us cinnamon rolls. Dick went to Clarke’s tonight to watch the BYU football game.

23 December 2009…..Wednesday
There is still no progress on our office and everything has been sitting in limbo since Saturday. Nevertheless, Dick went to the office. He has had no new applications this week. He did have a couple of exception letters to take care of. Guatemala/Central America pretty much closes down during the week before and after Christmas.

I made cookies today. This afternoon Rexene and I put pictures in frames. Each family in our branch will have a framed picture of their own family. Most have probably never had a family photo. It is a gift from Blackburns, Tilleys, and us. Dick came home from the office with ten pieces of mail. We so appreciate getting cards, letters and pictures from family and friends. We also have numerous emails with pictures and letters and beautiful Christmas greetings attached. We enjoy every greeting that has come our way this Christmas time.

I found a Christmas movie in English on TV this afternoon and Dick and I watched “Silver Bells.” Can’t believe it was a Christmas movie I have never seen. As I was cooking some sausage and eggs for dinner Rexene announced that we had carolers. It was the Alvarez family.
Patty is the first PEF specialist that we met when we first came here. She also volunteers at the office. Her husband is Palmita Stake (our stake) president. Their 16 year old son was with them and their teen age daughter who played the violin as they sang “The First Noel”. Their two older sons are both serving missions. They brought tears as we listened to them. They are one of the great stalwart families here in the church. About 6:30 Jim announced that it was movie night at Tomkinsons. Wayne had rented “Star Trek.” So, once again I trekked across the hall with a pillow and my fleece throw.

24 December 2009…..Thursday
CHRISTMAS EVE! I made cranberry salad, angel pudding, Jamaica to drink, scones and honey butter for tomorrow. Dick went to Paiz for a few items. At 5 pm Blackburns and we gathered at the Tilleys for hoagie sandwiches. We talked about our Christmas Eve traditions when our kids were growing up. We gave our three closest neighbors pens for Christmas. Special pens with a laser light and a flash drive. It is a different Christmas here in the mission field and it marks how quickly time passes.

We came back to our apartment and observed our own Christmas Eve. Santa stopped at our apartment to see if I had been a good girl this Christmas.
Then before 11 pm we drove a few blocks to President and Sister Torres (Guatemala City North Mission) apartment. They invited us missionaries and President and Sister Alvarado (Guatemala City South Mission) who live in the apartment across the hall from them. We had a traditional Mexican Christmas dinner. The Torres were both born in California of Mexican descent. Their family sent her the masa and the corn husks that she would need to make her Mexican tamales. We were the happy recipients of a wonderful meal. We also had Mexican hot chocolate. We watched many fireworks from the dining room window as we ate. Then the adventure began…..our trek to the roof. They don’t have a roof like ours with easy access to lawn chairs and a serving area. Their apartment guard had to lead us with flashlights up some cement steps to a half door that we then had to crawl under to get to the roof on the 15th floor. There were pipes and rebar in many areas so we had to walk with caution, but the fireworks were phenomenal. We saw thousands of fireworks. It got very intense at one point and I wondered if it was midnight. It was 11:55 pm. Then at midnight there was such a cacophony that we couldn’t even hear each other talk. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fireworks were lit off while we spent about thirty minutes walking around the roof to see the fireworks in all directions. It was like the 4th of July at the Jet Hawk stadium in Lancaster times 1000. None of these were organized displays, just residents setting off fireworks. By 12:15 am it had quieted a lot and the streets were a smoky haze. We took our treacherous little trip, backing out through the half door on our knees and back down the stairs to Torres’ apartment. One thing I Iearned tonight. Elder Tilley taught me how to distinguish the gun shots from the firecrackers.

The Taylors have three granddaughters and a friend visiting. Three are in high school. They raised money to come here and donate their funds to service projects. Their grandparents have kept them very busy the last five days. Tonight they entertained us before we left the Torres’. Two of them played a duet of “Sleigh Ride” on the piano. They did a wonderful job with all the rhythms and syncopation. Then they all sang “Angels We Have Heard on High.” They are beautiful girls and very talented. We pulled in the garage at 1 am.

25 December 2009…..Friday
Christmas Day 2009 will be a memorable Christmas Day for me. After too few hours of sleep we were up, ready for the day. Our neighbors came for hot cocoa and buttermilk scones.

Rexene brought a platter of sausage and bacon. Suzanne brought their holiday tradition of citrus fruit cocktail (sections of orange and grapefruit with maraschino cherries added). I was able to get everything pretty much cleaned up before we walked half a block to an orphanage. We spent Christmas morning with about 70 orphans, all five years old and younger. This is a government run orphanage so they didn’t need the help with food, diapers, and formula like the orphanage we served at last year. As soon as we walked in one little boy latched onto me. Literally. He threw his arms around my legs and when I kneeled beside him he threw his arms around my neck.
I couldn’t sit with him. He would cry, “mama, mama, mama.” I had to stand. So I spent the next hour with him, and a few others. Dick sat on a bench with three or four small ones around him. When they wanted his attention they said, “papa, papa, papa.”

They were pretty happy. They all got small cars to use on some “city mats” that the missionaries in Central Mission had made as a service project. They could run their little cars on the streets. We had four young missionaries helping, two elders and two sisters. There were also several American families who live nearby. The children got a lot of attention. Then Santa came. My little sidekick wasn’t very interested until he saw that the other children were getting gift bags with candy, crayons, play dough, and more little cars. I took him to Santa and took a picture after he got his bag. Then he was back with me. We blew bubbles for awhile and then he went over by one of Taylors granddaughters and forgot all about me. I went upstairs to where the babies were. Two rooms with twelve infants in each room. I picked up a fussy baby girl of about two months. She was very small. As I talked to her she would smile. So precious. Many of these babies are simply left at the front gate. All the children aren’t true “orphans.” They are there because parents don’t have the means to take care of them. I watched the two women taking care of the infants as I sat in a rocking chair with my baby. They would change a diaper, then pick up the baby and give him or her a kiss before laying him back in the bassinet. The babies seemed to be well stimulated and quite content. One precious little boy has a cleft palate. Tomkinsons will arrange for one of the humanitarian groups to do surgery the next time they come to Guatemala. Needless to say, the tears were abundant with all of us as we left those babies. When I went back downstairs they were bringing in the rest of them to their individual room and crib for naps. I took some of the little ones. We put them in their bed and used a wipee to clean sticky faces and hands. Some were content and some were crying because they didn’t want to leave the fun activities for a nap. And so, I will always remember Christmas morning, 2009, holding little ones without parents or homes, and giving thanks that my precious grandchildren and great-grandchildren have homes of love, peace and security. We don’t realize how blessed we are until we see those who would give anything to have what we have.

Dick and I were the last to walk back home.

Our "Home Sweet Home".....Victoria Suites
I took a 2 hour nap. He went to the office to print something in Spanish that he needs for tonight. He and Jim went and picked up Gert and at 3 pm we had dinner at the Tilleys. We are grateful for our friends who are family to us here. We Skyped with Mark, Scott and Myrna before leaving for the CCM and our evening Christmas celebration. Later we talked with Jill and Kristen..

Our Christmas Night was spent at the CCM (MTC). There are seventy missionaries there. No Americans until January. All of the seventy will be leaving next Tuesday for their assignments in the various Central American countries. First the bell choir performed and it was lovely. Then Dick acted as master of ceremonies for the rest of the program. Taylor’s granddaughters performed at the piano and vocally. Then we “old” missionaries joined with them and we sang in English, “Joy to the World” and “Little Drummer Boy.” Then the young missionaries sang for us. They sang a favorite Christmas song from their country. Some songs were from the hymn book. Others were native to their country. There was one young man from Honduras who sang a solo. Other varying sizes of groups from Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and the largest group from Guatemala. We were thoroughly entertained. After the closing prayer they went into the hall and Santa was there. They ignored all the goodies we had brought until they had each sat on Santa’s lap, received a little gift bag and had their picture taken with Santa. It is always a treat to be in their presence. President and Sister Christensen will be going home in three weeks when the new CCM president and wife arrive from the states.

Elder and Sister Graff with President and Sister Christensen
One of the young missionaries we met tonight is Elder Rabinales. He is the oldest son of the couple who were killed in the plane crash two weeks before we came to Guatemala. The other two children are living in Salt Lake with family friends. Thus concludes the events of our Christmas activities. Experiences we will always remember and I’m sure next year we will think back with wonderful memories of spending Christmas in the mission field.

26 December 2009…..Saturday
No alarm today. We slept until we felt like getting up. Late morning we left with Tilleys to go to the Oklund Mall. Blackburns met us there. It is a big upscale mall with many American brand stores that are too expensive for me in the states. We went to the movies and saw “Avatar,” strictly for the special effects. We went to the VIP section. It cost 75Q or about $8. We had reserved seats….leather recliners. By pushing a button on our chair a waiter came and took our order of popcorn and sodas. We just relaxed and ate and I wished I had my fleece throw because the air conditioning was very cold. Afterwards we went to a music store and bought a CD by Il Divo. It is beautiful in Italian. I was hoping it was the same CD we heard at the restaurant in Antigua a week ago, but it’s not. I still want to find the CD we heard there with the song “The Wind Beneath my Wings” in Italian.

We went to Tilleys at 5 pm and combined our leftovers for an easy meal with Blackburns. Then we played dominoes. Back home we finally connected with Jeff in Mission Viejo and Alison and Paul in Pennsylvania. We tried Cyndy in Florida and Dennis in Washington with no results.

27 December 2009…..Sunday
It was a foggy morning when we woke up but gave way to sun before we left for Church. Afterwards we handed out the family photos we had framed. I rode home with Tilleys as Dick had one more family to visit that he hasn’t been able to find before and there is no phone number for many of the people in the branch. When I got home I fried the rest of the scone dough and took them to Tomkinsons, Tilleys and Blackburns.

I love my new Il Divo CD. Then it occurred to me that it might be the same group we had heard in the restaurant in Antigua. So, I googled them and found the song I was hoping for, “Por Ti Seré.” It is “You Lift Me Up” which I thought was entitled “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Well, I spent an hour listening to them on You Tube and their sound is incredible, far superior to our little CD player. I think the very best of music would be Il Divo singing the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, my favorite modern day composer. As words from “Phantom of the Opera” says: “music makes my spirit soar.”

This evening we are having a fireside presented by President Mask, temple president. He has studied some of the lesser known artifacts and he is going to tell us about a particular area and then next Saturday will take us to see a stone that is in the middle of a cane field.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Journal - Week of December 14 - 20

14 December 2009…..Monday
Dick left for the office at 7 am. Today was the deadline for getting applications to Salt Lake before 9 am. It was a huge relief for him. Other applications are coming in but there won’t be another PEF approval meeting in SLC till January, and with school starting in January the big rush will slow down.

I went to the office with Tilleys at 8:30 am. I sent the last of the PEF Priesthood Reports to all the Seventy in Central America. Then I was able to do some updating of my Belize participants and start the December loan report. At 2:30 pm Dick was ready to come home. He had some phone calls to make so we came home so he could take care of some personal business. Family Home Evening was at the Andersons. We sang a few Christmas songs and then watched a movie, “The Nativity Story.” It was an excellent movie and we all enjoyed it. It was a harsh time in Bible lands two thousand years ago. I loved the portrayals of Mary and Joseph. For refreshments, Neil had made filled raisin cookies just like Mother used to make many years ago.

15 December 2009…..Tuesday
Today is Myrna’s 30th birthday. We hit the jackpot at the office! Eleven pieces of mail, including a beautiful frame-able Christmas card from the First Presidency. I have enough loan work to keep me busy for a couple of days. Dick left at noon to go buy some goodies for the Young Men meeting tonight. I stayed at the office.

This evening while Dick was at YM I made truffles and dipped Craisins and raisins in chocolate.

16 December 2009…..Wednesday
Last night, before dark, Dick and Jim were driving to their YM meeting. On Reforma Blvd. they saw a motorcycle and a van off to the side of the road with somebody lying underneath. They figured an investigation was going on because of an accident. Well, today the story was in the newspaper. A young man went to a street side vendor to buy a calling card (you can buy anything on the street from vendors). When the vendor saw the money he shot, killed and robbed the young man and took off on a motorcycle. The father of the young man was in the van and took off after the shooter. He ran him down with the van, took the gun away from him, and shot and killed him. So now, two young men are dead and the father is in jail. Such is the street justice in Guatemala. Sometimes it is the only justice. Sad.

At noon Tilleys were heading to Price Smart so we went along. I’m glad I had stockpiled four of the large bags of chocolate chips because, like last year just before Christmas, there were no chocolate chips on the shelves at Price Smart. We had Costco dogs and fries, came home and unloaded groceries and the guys went back to the office. I made peanut clusters. I have used three of my large bags of chocolate chips this week and I think I am finished with candy making.

We had a wonderful dinner at Durans. He is the DTA (director of temporal affairs) for all of Central America. They invited the area presidency and all of us senior missionaries who work at the office. We had an appetizer type meal, which is my favorite kind. Dick and Bill, former Argentine missionaries, raved over the empañadas. Then they brought out “costumes” for us all to re-enact the nativity story. Everyone had a part to play and a robe or head piece…..except for me. I was the photographer to record the event. Elder Clarke read from the scriptures. Elder and Sister Fallabella were Joseph and Mary. Dick was one of the shepherds.
The Curtisses were sheep. Sister Martino was the angel. True to form, Carolyn and Rexene wanted to be one of the wise men since they had never played that part before. It was very much like watching our kids and their cousins many years ago and more recently, our grandchildren, performing on the stage of Alison’s stairs in Saugus, CA. Like those other times, there was humor and laughs, yet a reverence for the event and gratitude for the gift of our Savior. Afterwards we sang Christmas hymns. I enjoyed that a lot because this year I have not been singing the hymns because I have been playing them on the teclado. Plus, this was a time we could sing in English.

17 December 2009…..Thursday
I took peanut clusters to the office today for anyone who came into our area. I took small plates of other candies to Reynaldo, Claudia and Curtisses. It is quiet at the office. Many people take their vacations at this time of year. I worked on the loan report and then went in the conference room and helped put together gift baskets for the needy. Dick went with Elder Curtiss to deliver blankets donated by Church Humanitarian Services. Some are going to one of the stakes and were left at the office. Most are going to prisoners and so Dick and John delivered them to the man who will get them where they need to be.

Dick brought me home in the afternoon so I could practice the tecaldo for awhile. I heard Skype ringing. It was Janea, Trevor, and Shaylee. Shaylee sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Itsy, Bitsy, Spider.” Pretty cute and smart for our two year old great-granddaughter!

Shortly after 5 pm we left with Blackburns to go to choir practice in La Sabana at the home of the Carrias family. Our fifteen minute drive on Sundays was over an hour and a half in the usual evening traffic. As we parked inside the back gate and were walking into the house we could hear the choir of thirteen people singing. It was a rag-tag little choir with no clear melody. We got the teclado set up and Dick, Bill and Adele joined the choir. They sang their first song, “Away in a Manger,” and I applauded. It is such a pleasure for us to be able to help them in their efforts. They sing with joy, as we all do, when we sing these beautiful Christmas hymns. Travel back home was fifteen minutes with no traffic.

18 December 2009…..Friday
This morning at 8:30 am all of us went downstairs to greet the workers and the guard here at the apartment building. We sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Bill was dressed in his new Santa suit. Last year he rented one for two days. This year he has had about ten days worth of Santa requests so he decided to have a suit made for him. He had gift bags for each of them containing money that we all contribute as a Christmas “bonus” for them, for all the service they give to us.

Soon after, we sent with Tilleys, Tomkinsons and their friends who are here visiting. They are with the American Embassy in Honduras. We went to Antigua. First we went to the wood factory. Then we went to the museum that we had visited a few weeks ago. Everyone loved it. I bought some refrigerator magnets from some children at the museum.
The guide told us that he is a recovering drug addict and he gives all the credit to Jesus Christ. Dick gave him a Book of Mormon and told him it is another testament of Jesus Christ that tells of the people here in Meso-America. He told Dick that next time we visit the museum they will talk about the book. Then we went to the market. I bought two pillow covers and a few shawls. Next we went to the Jade Factory/Museum. Our guide, Rafael Martinez, was excellent. In his presentation for the eight of us he mentioned the Book of Mormon, the tree of life and Lehi’s dream, questioned if Sariah wore jade jewelry, spoke of the Waters of Mormon, the city of Nephi and King Noah and Abinadi. He even spoke of the Olmecs being the Jaredites. Of course, with three couples wearing missionary name tags, he knew exactly who we were and our beliefs. He stated that he was not LDS and then asked if we had any questions. Dick responded, “Why aren’t you LDS.” He responded, “not yet.” It is a smart marketing ploy by the jade factory to talk of the Book of Mormon when they know we are members because they sell plenty of Uchi’s in jade that is the glyph for “and it came to pass.” They also have Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life in jade. Hopefully, someday his intellectual knowledge of the writings of the Book of Mormon will turn to belief. He has a Book of Mormon that he has actually studied to know all that he talks about.

Tomkinsons and their friends left for home because they had guests coming for dinner. We went to Ni Fu – Ni Fa, an Argentine restaurant in Antigua. It was a delicious meal in a lovely garden setting.

The music playing in the background was so beautiful that now I need to discover the CD and the Spanish singer who was singing, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” After we got home we delivered plates of dipped chocolate goodies to our neighbors.

19 December 2009…..Saturday
It is busy outside. The window washers are here washing the outside of all the apartment windows. While I cleaned, Dick went to the cleaners to get his suit. He stopped by the office and there were guys there working on our office. We and the Curtiss’ will be switching office space with the call center. It will provide a less congested working space for us and put the call center next to Claudia and Reynaldo. We are looking forward to the change and it looks like it will be sooner than we thought.

At noon we drove to Friends, the restaurant that is kid friendly and plays music videos from the 50’s and more recent decades. Reynaldo, his wife Elijahana, and his children, Monica and Diego met us there. Claudia arrived next with her son, Diego. This was our Christmas gift to them. It is a fun place to be for the kids and their parents. Monica is 3. She carried in gifts for me and Dick, delivered them to each of us and gave us a beso (kiss) on the cheek. Dick received two ties. They gave me two scarves, one red and one lime colored, for the cool weather. I love them! We spent two hours together and it was just like being with our grandkids. It was very good for us.

We left the apartment at 5:30 pm to ride with the Blackburns to La Sabana and get things set up for the branch party at 6 pm. The drive took the normal 15 minutes. Nothing like the trip to choir practice on Thursday night. Tilleys started taking family group pictures. Most of these people have never had a photo of their family. We will get them printed and we already have frames. They will be a gift for the branch families from us three senior couples. Our Christmas program was lovely. The two rooms that serve as our chapel were packed to capacity. There were more people than I have ever seen there. Adele had planned a program. Each auxiliary were assigned a Christmas hymn to sing. I accompanied. It was most enjoyable. Adele and I sang a duet of “Away in a Manger.” Rexene accompanied us on the teclado. We sang in English so they got to hear our version of the song. They had a catered meal outside afterwards. There was plenty of good food for this congregation of saints who don’t have a lot. And then, the big surprise! Santa came.

Bill is putting his Santa suit to good use. All the children got a picture taken with him and then a small gift. I was very touched when the first little boy, Tito, received a small ball, walked a few steps away, then turned around and went back and hugged Santa and said “gracias.” The next little boy did the same thing. After all the children were through there was a line of teenagers. Of course, our two young missionaries took a seat on Santa’s knees for a picture. The batteries were dead in Elder Simons camera, so I took the batteries out of my camera to put in his. It was more important that this young missionary get the pictures he wanted. The whole experience was just a joyful time.

20 December 2009…..Sunday
Today I was very grateful for the scarves that Reynaldo and family gave me. It was chilly and drizzly. At 1 pm it was only 59 degrees with a light rain and it never got any warmer. This morning was our special Christmas program in church. When we got there, fifteen minutes early, the choir was seated in the front where some chairs had been set up. Dick joined them. There were a few times of rearranging the order of songs, but it went very well with the music and the youth assigned to tell about events from the scriptures.

Primary had the biggest attendance I have seen in the last year…..17 children. There is always someone waiting to carry my teclado or table out to the car afterwards, be it 78 year old Brother Rodriguez or the Mena’s twelve year old son. It struck me last night that in seven months there will be a lot of tears when we leave these beautiful people. It is such a blessing to be part of their life at this time. I rode home with Blackburns and Dick went home teaching afterward.

I actually crawled in bed this afternoon and slept for an hour and it was perfect sleeping weather. I have used my little heater today to take off the chill. This evening is movie night at the Tomkinsons. We will watch “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Journal - Week of December 7 - 13

7 December 2009…...Monday
Its beginning to sound and smell like Christmas! That means fireworks and the smell of smoke from the fireworks. They started a few days ago and will go on till after the first of the year. It is especially bad tonight because today is “el dia de Diablo”…..the day of the devil. They “kill” the devil on this day. The shops on the street have been full of devil piñatas, some with two heads. I don´t know if they beat them up with sticks or blow them up with fireworks. Probably both.

I am tired tonight. We got up at 5 am in order to leave for the office at 6:30. Every Monday morning there is a devotional at the office for all employees. This morning we were invited to participate. I played prelude music and the opening song on a piano!!! It is so much better than a teclado (keyboard). Dick gave a short talk. Seriously, he did keep it to less than ten minutes. He got several compliments about how good his Spanish is. That made him feel good. Even though he has been speaking Spanish for over 50 years there is always more to learn and implement. I finally got the PEF Priesthood Report and that occupied my whole day until we came home nine hours later. We did have a lunch break. It was Claudia’s birthday so we went out to lunch with a group to Applebee’s.

Tonight I am packing a suitcase as we have a group of missionaries coming home to Guatemala tomorrow and we will spend two days with them while they have PEF/Employment training.

8 December 2009….Tuesday
Today is Cyndy’s 53rd birthday and it is also 97 years since Daddy was born in Fountain Green, UT. Dennis is having shoulder surgery this afternoon and we pray it works better for him this time than his last surgery on the same shoulder. Dick went to the cleaners and then to the office for a little while. He came home before 9 am and we left for the Plaza Hotel a few miles from home. The Casa de Huéspedes is full of temple patrons so we and our returning missionaries will be housed at the hotel while they have their training at the Employment Resource Center. We have stayed there twice before with the groups, but this time we have a room in another building. It is a better room with a much bigger bathroom. This hotel is old, the tile is faded and cracked and it needs updating, but it is clean. We have ten missionaries, nine elders and one sister. Some arrived by plane and some by bus, but they were all late. We didn’t leave the hotel for the Employment Center till 12:45 pm. As soon as our song, scripture and prayer was finished we went down the hall to the restaurant for lunch.

Brother and Sister Lopez are volunteers twice a week at the Employment Service Center. He is a former mission president to Quetzaltenango Mission. They are sitting in on the classes with the missionaries tis time and in the future they will also spend the two days with the missionaries, alternating with us. Instead of doing it every three weeks we will now do it every six weeks and they will take the alternate times.

I was able to be on the internet all afternoon and I finished the Shutterfly photo book for Preston and Bonnie King, Area Executive Secretary. They are returning home to Missouri on Saturday. Then I heard a very familiar voice ….our across the hall neighbor, Wayne. He and Suzanne had come to see one of the missionaries, Hermana Hernandez. She served in Honduras where they spent the first nine months of their mission. Dick and I skipped the tamales at 5 pm. (Guatemalan tamales are NOT Mexican tamales!! The masa is about an inch thick all the way around the trace of meat). Seven pizzas were delivered at 6:30 pm and after we all ate we boarded the large van to take us back to the hotel.

9 December 2009…..Wednesday
We left the hotel at 7 am for the Employment Center. After our short devotional we went to the restaurant for the usual “tipico” breakfast. Dick bought doughnuts for the missionaries afterwards. I read scriptures in Spanish for an hour and a half and then I was able to get connected to the internet. Lunch was Milanese, rice, tortillas, and cucumber salad. Dick bought ice cream bars for everyone. At 3:30 pm class was completed, we took our usual group photo, then left for the temple.
Logistics are much more difficult staying in a hotel than when we stay at the Casa which is across the street from the temple. Sister Hernandez had family outside the Distribution Center and I loved watching the joyous reunion. (She will be 29 tomorrow and is such a classy lady). There was her mother, sister, brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, nieces and nephews and they didn’t want to let go of her. Dick arranged for President Torres to meet two of our young men, Elder Cuz and Elder Rax, at the temple for their interview and release. Both live up in the Polochic which is a district and not a stake, so the mission president must do the release. After the temple session Dick saw Elder Cuz in the dressing room. He had on his suit but he was holding his missionary name tag and the tears were running down his cheek. He told me later “es muy difícil.” (it’s very difficult) I understand the feelings. Removing the name tag after our release will be muy difícil. His family traveled many hours on a bus with other members to attend the temple. He was able to attend his sister’s wedding this evening. She had a long flowing veil, white blouse (huipil) and the tipico colorful skirt. He and the other elder will stay with their families tonight and travel home on the bus tomorrow. Polochic is an area of no electricity or running water. It is a difficult life and until these two served missions, it was the only life they knew. Now they have experienced electricity and bathrooms and all the amenities. These are the true Mayan and they have close families. Some want education and a better life than extreme poverty. Others go home and settle back in and never advance.

Brother and Sister Lopez attended the temple with the group. Then I figured out why they looked so familiar to me. They are ordinance workers that I have seen before at the temple. They officiated our session. Dick and I were testigos. (witnesses) After the temple we all traveled back to the hotel so they could get their luggage and the rest of the families could pick them up. We had eight elders with us and they started singing with gusto, in Spanish, of course: “Called to Serve,” “God Be With You,” and “Oh, Come all ye Faithful.” Then they sang the words that I love so much from Primary….”we are as the armies of Helaman. We have been taught in our youth. And, we will be the Lord’s missionaries to bring the world His truth.” I felt great gozo (joy) as they sang. I told them they were MY army of Helaman. Hearing those words sung by missionaries of Lamanite descent in Guatemala is as good as it gets!! It was a gift to me. I didn’t need English to understand the conviction in their hearts and voices as they sang.

After parents picked up missionaries and luggage, Dick took Elder Cuz and Elder Rax back to the Casa with their luggage so they could be with their parents. He also took two other missionaries with him who will spend one more night with us. They all stopped at McDonalds for dinner.

10 December 2009…Thursday
Our last two missionaries left with their families this morning. We headed for home. We had some breakfast and unpacked the suitcase, then headed to the office. At 11:30 am we left with Tilleys for the Christmas Devotional. The office always rents a bus to take employees, volunteers, and missionaries to the Montufar chapel as there is little parking space. The Devotional was held in the chapel. A family that we have seen perform before presented beautiful Christmas music. They sing and play the piano, violin and flute. They had an accompanying video presentation. Elder Martino talked. I understood more of his talk than I have ever understood with anyone else. Then we went to the bodega which doubles as an indoor parking facility on Sundays.
It was beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations plus tables to seat over a hundred. We were fed a meal

and totally entertained. There was karaoke and we were surprised at the very good singers who work at the office. There was a line of piñatas….two Santas, two Mrs. Santas, and two snowmen.

Everyone who had a birthday in December got a cake at their table and got a stick to beat the candy out of the piñatas. Today was Elder Clarke’s birthday and he was up there with a stick like the others. We watched a short video of all the major Church events that happened in Central America during the year. At the conclusion they let loose red and green balloons from the ceiling.

Tilleys took Dick back to the office and brought me home. Tuesday morning Dick had 10 PEF applications on his computer. After two days away he had 98 waiting for him. It was 7:15 pm tonight before he arrived home from the office.

11 December 2009…..Friday
Dick was at the office very early. Two of the young men volunteers typed and printed all of the exception letters that he had written out. There were not enough hours in the day for him to do it all. I went at our usual time with Blackburns. It was a full busy day. I finally got the letters to accompany the Priesthood report and I sent them to all the stake presidents in Central America and all the stake specialists, plus the bishops/branch presidents in Guatemala. I also have been asked to add another group so I sent the reports for each unit in each country to the PEF call center directors. I will finish it all up on Monday when Reynaldo has a different version of the report for me to send to each of the area Seventy.

We came home from the office just about 6 pm and soon thereafter we had cheesecake with the group at Tilleys. Preston and Bonnie fly home to Missouri tomorrow. She is so excited and so teary. I can imagine exactly how it will feel in 7 ½ months.

Carolyn Taylor came to my desk today with a note to us from Doug and Sally Pulsipher. She had met them somewhere in Central America but she couldn’t remember where or how long ago they gave her the note. We finally decided it must have been a couple of weeks ago in El Salvador when there was a dental brigade of dentists from the U.S. Nevertheless, it was exciting to see Sally’s signature.

12 December 2009…..Saturday
Dick left at 6:30 am to help take the Kings and their luggage to the airport. We all have Corolla station wagons so two cars are needed. He then went to the office to work on applications. They are all due in Salt Lake by Monday so they can be presented at the Wednesday approval meeting, the last of the 2009 approvals.

We went to the Central Market today with Tilleys. We picked up Dick at the office first. I bought thirteen of the beaded Christmas balls for our tree. Every Christmas when I hang them on our tree they will bring back wonderful memories of Guatemala. I also bought two runners, in gold, green and burgundy, for our kitchen table at home. We dropped Dick off at the office on the way home. I got busy and made fudge, truffle filling, and pralines. They turned out well. The almond crunch was a failure again this year. Don’t know if it the sugar or the butter but something prevents it from turning out the way I want it to. Dick worked four hours more before coming home. Then he took me for a haircut at a nearby salon. I desperately needed a “professional” cut. One thing I have to say about the beauty salons in Guatemala: they have the most comfortable shampoo sinks I have ever felt on my neck.

13 December 2009…..Sunday
When we got out of the car at church this morning, there was a lot of smoke in the area. Probably just outdoor cooking fires, but it was hard on our eyes and nose. It dissipated very soon. I have a busy week ahead of me with the keyboard and a lot of practicing. I found out today that there is choir practice on Thursday and they want me to play for them. I had no idea they even had a choir. Saturday is the ward Christmas dinner/party and Adele has planned a program, so she gave me a list of all the songs that will be sung by the Primary, YW, YM, RS and Priesthood. Then Sunday the ward choir will be presenting their program during Sacrament Meeting.

About 2:30 pm Dick headed to the office to see how many more applications he has to submit to SLC tomorrow morning. He promised to be home before dark.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Journal - November 30 - December 6

30 November 2009…..Monday
It was a good day to finish up the month at the office. At noon Taylors invited us to go to lunch with them and Karchners. We went to Las Cebollinas. I tried their jalapeño nachos and they were okay but no place compares with Hudson’s nachos. Karchners are welfare missionaries who will be leaving on Thursday. They are here for a water project. Then they go to Peru for a few weeks, then home till their expertise is needed again. We had a very interesting conversation. We found out that he served his mission in Argentina in the sixties. As he and Dick were talking about the places they served, he mentioned the English couple, the Carrolls. We both nearly fell over. He knew the whole family as he was the missionary serving there when the Carrolls were introduced to the church. We told him they stayed at our house in La Verne when Doreen married Germán in 1972. He told us he and Sister Karchner attended the wedding in the Los Angeles Temple. So, the four of us were at the wedding and then we hosted a small reception at our home. He told us the Carroll family immigrated to the states. We lost touch with them thirty years ago. Santiago and Shirley are living in the Layton area. Elder Karchner will contact their son so we can have an email address for them. We always marvel at the “small world” but it is totally amazing that he would mention the “English couple, the Carrolls” knowing that Dick would not have known them when he was in Argentina because they weren’t members then.

I rode home in the afternoon with Blackburns to make carbonara for the farewell dinner tonight at the Clarke’s patio. I went to the dinner with Blackburns because Dick was still in meetings at the office. He showed up at the Clarke’s as dinner was beginning and he brought the Elder and Sister Dunford with him. The farewell dinner is for Elder and Sister King, area executive secretary, and the Walkers who have been here with the American Embassy. It was an amazing evening on the patio. At this time of year it can be very chilly and breezy. Tonight was calm and I didn’t even need a sweater. Our group from Victoria Suites (our apartment building) sang at the conclusion of the dinner. It was a song we wrote together last week. The melody was “We Three Kings.” The words are:

"These two Kings are flying afar. Walkers have to drive in a car.
Fields and mountains, Waters of Mormon, Tikal and Antigua.
Land of wonder, land of light, lava flowing bright at night.
We will miss you, vaya con Dios, amigos, adios."

Kings fly out of Guatemala City on the 12th. Walkers are driving their car from Guatemala City to Washington D.C. They will spend the next year learning Hebrew for their assignment in 2011 in Israel.

1 December 2009…..Tuesday
Last night after the dinner Dick told me we were going to Antigua today, all day. All seven of the directors of the PEF call centers in Central America are here for three days of training/motivation. Today is to be a fun day and Reynaldo wanted us to go. We met the group at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 7 am. Then we went to the office for a few minutes before piling into two vans. It is so good to see Elder and Sister Cerros again. When we were with them for five days in El Salvador last February they were serving as full time missionaries, living at home, working with CES/PEF. They completed two years of service and are now serving another two years from home. This time they are running the call center in El Salvador, responsible for monthly contacts to all the participants in that country.

First we went to Antigua but we did different things than we senior missionaries usually do. We did go to a jade jewelry factory/store for a tour and to see how the stone is made into jewelry. But, it was not the usual place we go too. I have always thought of jade as being green. But, there is black jade, varying shades of green, blue jade, lavender jade and pink jade. The pink veins are running out and will likely not be available in a few years. Also, the lavender is rare. We walked around a little bit and then got back in the vans. It was reassuring to see that we senior missionaries are not the only ones who get lost driving the streets of Antigua. Reynaldo and Claudia were each driving one of the vans and they made wrong turns and had to ask directions several times.

We went to Museo Casa del Tejido, a small museum that has an “exhibition and sale of Mayan dresses and exclusive handicrafts.”
Reynaldo stood by me and translated all the information and detail about the different textiles.
She has been working on this for 27 days
The more handwork on a piece, the more the cost. Each region or village will have their own characteristic colors/patterns. If a piece is reversible with the same pattern on both sides, it is from San Antonio. I bought a beautiful table runner for my dining room table at home. It was made in Chichicastenango. I have looked for a year to find something I really liked and today I found it! I also bought a three beaded Christmas ornaments….Santa Clause and two stars.
Mauritza from Costa Rica decided we all needed to put on hats
We got back in the vans and started driving. When I left home this morning I had no idea what we were doing other than going to Antigua. So, I was along for the ride and was pleasantly surprised all day. We headed south toward Escuintla. I began to suspect our destination and I was happy to see that we were entering La Reunion, a resort. Some weeks ago Elder Neil Anderson was here to speak to all the mission presidents in Central America. They all gathered at La Reunion. The Taylors and Kings were also there because of their specific assignments here. They raved about this beautiful place. We drove through this beautiful acreage for over five minutes before arriving at the main building. It is all new. Membership is $30,000 and to join one must have three existing members must sponsor them. It’s a lot of money by U.S. standards but extremely expensive by Guatemala standards. Many of the rooms are individual buildings with a golf cart and small pool per room! It sits in the midst of a beautiful golf course. We had an excellent lunch that had been pre-ordered by Reynaldo. We started with a beautiful bowl with a stuffed mushroom. Then the waiter came in with small “teapots” and poured a pureed spinach soup into the bowl. Next was a steak which was tender and good, served with a salad and a bundle of sweet potato fries wrapped together with a piece of green onion. The dessert plate had a fresh strawberry, small spun sugar cup holding banana flan, and a small dense chocolate cake with fudge sauce. I had a pineapple licuado to drink. It was all very elegant and very delicious.

We sat on the terrace overlooking the golf course and visited and walked around and took pictures. It was overcast with clouds that resulted in a few light showers. At 3 pm we went into a small conference room and had an excellent meeting. Adilis Oliva taught a motivational lesson. Even though it was all in Spanish I found myself understanding a lot of the message. I could feel what she was teaching. We had a project to see how well we worked together. We formed two groups and were each given a roll of masking tape and a bunch of straws and told we had five minutes to build a tower. Ours wasn’t the tallest but our group reinforced as we built and at the end ours would stand alone. The other tower would not. It was a great lesson and we had a lot of fun with it. Adilis teaches psychology at San Carlos University and volunteers a lot with PEF. At 6 pm we headed back to Guatemala City. When we got back to the city the day was not over. It was almost 8 pm and time for dinner. We went to Friends, a restaurant near the office.

It was fun. They had music videos, played by a deejay. When Elvis Presley started singing Reynaldo told me to get up and dance. No, missionaries don’t do that, but my feet sure wanted me to. Most of the group would sing along with all the American songs. It was a fun place to go.

Claudia had the radio on all day as we traveled. Coming home tonight I heard my favorite Christmas song from the time I was five years old….”Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” For the first time ever I heard it in Spanish.

2 December 2009…..Wednesday
Dick left early to be at the office for the first meeting with the call center directors at 7 am. I went to the office with Tilleys a little later. I finished the November loan report. The group was leaving for lunch so we went with them. We went to Saul Café which is a restaurant at a men’s clothing store. We had soup, salad and crepes. We got back to the office in time to close up my computer and turn off the desk top and I left with Rexene and Adele. We were picked up by Jennifer Johnson, Suzanne, Sister Clarke and Sister Martino. We went over to Equity School, a private school which is owned by the Justices. We planned to help them put together 225 gift baskets for the needy. When we got there they were all done. They weren’t just baskets…..they were wash tub size containers all wrapped in plastic with a paper attached that said the name of the family and the name and ages of the children. Each contained packages of rice, corn, sugar, beans and other staples including incaparina (the high protein milk substitute for the malnourished). Also, clothing for each child plus a gift for each child, fleece blankets, diapers, etc. It is a huge project that the school children (all grades) participate in donating and packaging. We were given a tour of the school and we enjoyed this wonderful opportunity to see what Brother and Sister Justice have created and run for over twenty years. Many of the children are here with families from America or other countries. They speak only English at school.

After our tour our foursome from Victoria Suites decided to walk home. It was a warm day and lovely out. We had to do the ultimate, something I never thought I would do……cross Las Americas Blvd. on foot. We were only a couple of blocks from our apartment and the traffic is lighter at the end before it narrows to a smaller street. We dashed across the southbound side to the center parkway and then again on the northbound side. We were all exhilarated to say we survived this dangerous activity but the traffic was quite light and we didn’t step out till we had plenty of space. I was able to go to the candle store that is there and buy a pound of paraffin for dipping my Christmas chocolates. Dick didn’t get home till about 6 pm and we went to Tilleys for a bite to eat.

3 December 2009…..Thursday
Dick left very early this morning for the office. He was in meetings with the call center directors, off and on, all day. I had a couple of hours to finish reading the book of Alma in Spanish. I practiced the hymns for Sunday and practiced all the Christmas hymns and songs in the Children’s Songbook. He came back for me at 11:30 am and we went to the office. We all piled into the vans and went to Wendy’s for lunch. When we were walking out of Wendy’s Dick hit a bad spot in the curb and went down on his seat. He got right up and said he was ok. Which he was. I gave him some Advil later in the day but all is well. All the sidewalks here have missing chunks and raised spots from tree roots, etc. None of them are smooth and even. Then we went back to the office for more meetings.

Today was the conclusion of the three day seminar. We have been part of video conferences before with all the directors but this is the first time to meet most of them. Elder and Sister Cerros from El Salvador are full time missionaries. The others are all volunteers. A call center director is not an employee of the church nor is it a church calling. These wonderful people give freely of their time and energy: Mauritza Soto from Costa Rica, Eleana Valladares from Honduras, Nora Aviles from Nicaragua and Eda Altamirano is from Panamá and the wife of an area Seventy. She gave us a Christmas ornament of a Panamá hat. I will always think of her when I hang it on our tree. Of course, we also had our own call center director here in Guatemala City, Ingrid Barrera, and I take care of Belize.

About 5 pm we got back into the vans to go to Reynaldo´s home for dinner. We rode with Claudia and she had to make two stops. First, we went to her home and she picked up her seven year old son, Diego. Then we had to go to zone 1, the old downtown area, to get some gifts they had ordered for the group. We pulled into a small parking lot and waited while Claudia and Ingrid went into the store. Mauritza sang Spanish songs with Diego and taught him a song in French, which he is learning in school. We sang Christmas songs in English to him. After 45 minutes of waiting Claudia came and got us and said they were still waiting for the gifts to be delivered to the store. We went inside and we all sat and waited for over an hour before the delivery came. It is not rare to wait in Guatemala. It seems to be part of the culture. An appointment is a nice time to show up but people think nothing of being an hour or two late. We had a drive of about twenty minutes to get to Reynaldo’s. Sister Cerros was in the kitchen frying popusas, the best I have tasted. They are a Salvadoran staple.

Plus we had flour tortillas to fill with scrambled eggs, beans, tomatoes, avocado, crema and a thin sauce for it all. All of us were given gifts: a picture of the group, a motivational book, leather business card holders, and a pen with a laser light for pointing at the screen when we are doing trainings. The pen also has a built in flash drive. Pretty nifty! Claudia brought us back to the office to get our car and we got home after ten.

4 December 2009…..Friday
Things are back to normal at the office today with the end of the seminar for call center directors. We got mail! Belated birthday cards and pictures from Jeff and Dana. Those around us in the office have been ooohing and aaahing over the pictures of Jessica and Ava…..a gorgeous high school senior and a beautiful baby about to have her first birthday.

We went to the Employment Service Center for a Christmas devotional at noon. They invited all their volunteers and the volunteers for the Bishop’s Storehouse. Elvis’ fourteen year old son, Diego (very popular name here) was at the office because he is on a break from school. He likes to practice his English with me. I gave him my camera so he could take pictures of the event.

Then we downloaded them onto his dad’s computer. We were fed beef, mashed potatoes, a salad, roll, and cake. We were all given a gift basket of goodies (individual packets of crackers, cookies, pop corn, candy, juices, chips, etc.). We will give ours to someone in our branch. Then they had a drawing for a free breakfast at San Carlos Hotel. I was the winner of the desayuno (breakfast). By then it was 3 pm so Dick brought me home and then went back to the office to work on the never-ending stream of PEF applications.

Our apartment smelled so good when we got here. Rexene was making all the gingerbread for the houses we will help the sisters make at our Relief Society meeting tomorrow afternoon and she was using our oven and Tomkinson’s oven. Sister Carrias and her teenage daughter were here helping.

Tonight was movie night at Tomkinsons. We watched “White Christmas,” the perfect movie to get the holiday season going. I miss the days of the wonderful G rated musicals.

5 December 2009…..Saturday
Dick was up and gone early to work on applications at the office. I whipped our apartment into shape. I sorted through some things and ended up looking through all the mail we have received from family and friends since we came here. I was astonished to count over 80 cards/letters plus innumerable pictures. Cyndy has sent us one of her lovely handmade cards for every month we have been here.

As I was playing the keyboard this afternoon I thought of the many times at home I sat down at the piano to play and when I was through I would find that Mother had come into the living room to sit down and listen. Sometimes I heard her come in but most of the time she was so quiet that I didn’t know she was there. When I was a young teenager and taking piano lessons she would tell me many times that I didn’t have to dry the dishes….just go in and play the piano. She and Daddy went to Santa Maria once in the late eighties to hear me play in the May Concert for Hancock College. It was a performance by the advanced piano class. I was advanced compared to most of the class, but far from advanced compared to the young Japanese woman who was incredible. I wish I could play as well now as I did then. I played Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It would take many, many, many hours of intense practicing to be able to play it the way I did then.

Dick and Jim left shortly after noon to go to a civil wedding and reception for Francisco and his bride. They will be sealed in the temple this evening. Rexene, Adele and I left an hour later to go to our Relief Society meeting to teach the sisters how to make gingerbread houses. Our church building had a water main break so we met at the Carrias home. It was a combined activity with the Young Women. There were about 15 gingerbread houses made and decorated to the hilt with tons of different candies. The activity was a total success.

It is cool in the apartment this evening and time to close a few windows which have been open for a few weeks. Maybe the weather is truly cooling down, finally.

6 December 2009….Sunday
Today Alie is 8 years old and will soon be baptized. My music playing went well at Church and it was fun to start playing Christmas music. This evening is break-the-fast. It will be held at Clarke’s apartment and Sister Clarke and Sister Martino are furnishing the makings for ham sandwiches. The rest of us are taking appetizers and desserts so I made two pounds of spiced pecans, a recipe from Eleanor Anderson in Santa Maria. These tasty pecans have been a Christmas tradition for us for about 25 years. After dinner we will watch the Christmas Devotional by the First Presidency.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Journal - Week of November 23 - 29


23 November 2009…..Monday
I worked on the loan report today and got it current. When Dick got to a good stopping point he suggested we go to Paiz. I haven’t been in the store for a number of weeks. Dick has gone at times to get milk or a few items but there were some things I needed to get for Thanksgiving dinner. We came home and unloaded the groceries into the apartment grocery cart that is so handy to put in the elevator and bring into our apartment to unload. Dick went back to the office. We found out after he got back home that Tilleys were on the road home from Las Colinas camp where EFY is being held. We told them dinner would be ready when they got here. I made cornbread, Sandi’s rice cooked in coconut milk, and then I fried popcorn shrimp. We ate about 7 pm. It was good to visit and hear about their busy seven days as security for two film crews from Salt Lake.

Last week Rexene asked one of the 13 Guzman children what was different at home since Alejandra went on her mission. The reply was, “there are not as many people in the bed.”

24 November 2009…..Tuesday

Today Cameron is 11. Jeff’s family is traveling in New York so it will be a memorable birthday for Cameron. At the office today we had two Skype calls from Elder and Sister Dunford in Belize. She had some PEF funding questions for Dick. They are flying to Guatemala tomorrow and we will pick them up at the airport.

Before Dick and Jim left for their Young Men’s meeting Rexene came to the door with some pizza from Pizza Hut. She knew Dick wouldn’t take the time to eat before leaving at 5 pm. The activity for their evening with the boys was making “no bake cookies” and then eating them. Tilleys had a baby granddaughter born this afternoon. It’s hard for grandmas to be so far away when little ones arrive. I got tired of trying to get my hair a little longer so I pulled out the scissors and cut my bangs and the sides, then Rexene came over and trimmed the back.

25 November 2009…..Wednesday
We left at our usual time this morning but drove to the airport. We waited, standing outside for almost an hour and a half, for Elder and Sister Dunford to arrive. They had a direct flight from Belize. They were the only passengers on a plane that would seat about 100. When they questioned if the flight would be cancelled they were told that they had to get the plane back to Guatemala anyway. It was good to see them again. We took them to the office and they got to see where we work. They will spend a day or two with us at the office before they fly back to Belize. Sister Clarke came and picked them up. They were neighbors of the Clarkes when they all lived in Virginia.

When my office work was done Dick brought me home and then went back to the office. The day before Thanksgiving used to be a huge cooking day for me. Today I started about 2 pm and made pie crusts that I will fill with lemon tomorrow. Then I made pecan pies. They look great. I am concerned about the interior. My little oven can be cantankerous. I made pumpkin crisp and put it in the fridge. I will bake it tomorrow.

26 November 2009…..Thursday
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! Dick left for the office at 7 am. I was in the kitchen all morning. I made the lemon pie filling, two cherry pies, and baked the pumpkin crisp. I had the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Jeff‘s family is staying in a hotel overlooking the parade before they head to Alison’s in PA for Thanksgiving dinner.

At 1:10 pm I had everything out of the oven. I was reading the Book of Mormon, Alma 60, in Spanish. Then the room started rocking and rolling. The Christmas tree was moving and the drinking water was sloshing around in the bottle. Just when I thought the quake was over there was a jolt and harder shaking. It just seemed fitting as I read the words about what was happening here in 62 B.C. This chapter is also a warning for 2009 A.D. We found out later it was a 5.9 quake off the coastline at the border of Guatemala and El Salvador. Dick rocked and rolled with the quake at the office. He completed the 17 applications on his computer this morning and took the exceptions upstairs for Elder Clarke to sign. When he got back to his computer there were 70 more applications waiting for him. There will probably be more when he turns on his computer tomorrow morning.

At 2:15 pm Dick went to the Casa de Huespedes and picked up the Dunfords. Jim went with him so he could ride back to dinner with President and Sister Mask, the new temple president, and show them the way to the Clarkes. Rexene drove me and the food over to the Clarke’s. We had an enjoyable dinner at 3 pm on the Clarke’s patio……turkey with all the trimmings.
There were ample desserts. After we got back from dinner we went across the hall to the Tomkinsons and played dominoes. Suzanne gave me and Rexene a gift to open. It was the new Christmas CD by Hilary Weeks. It was autographed. When we questioned how she got them autographed she told us that Hilary is her cousin.

We had Skype calls from Alison and Jeff’s families who are all together in Pennsylvania. Mark’s family Skyped us and then Scott’s family was on Skype. We called Kristen, Cyndy, and Jill. We had no success in talking with Dennis and family.

27 November 2009…..Friday
Today is 75 years since Mother and Daddy got married on November 27, 1934. Today is a joyful time on the other side of the veil since they are now together again. Jill and family drove over to the cemetery and put flowers on the gravesite and then sent us pictures. It was a tender experience for her. Dick went to the office before 7 am. I had my usual day after Thanksgiving breakfast of a thin slice of cherry pie and a thin slice of pecan pie.

Tilleys took me with them before 10 am and we drove to the office to pick up Dick and meet Blackburns and Taylors. We drove out to Antigua to the Jade Factory and bought two Utchi’s, the glyph that says “and it came to pass.” Then we drove through the narrow streets to the adjoining town of Jocotenango to the wood factory. I bought a few more pieces of wood fruit and a butterfly shaped puzzle box. Then we drove to Chimaltenango and had lunch at Burger King. A short distance up the road is the Las Colinas camp that the church owns. This whole week they have been holding EFY (Especially for Youth). I think there have been 8 different locations this year that are out of the U.S. for the first time ever. This is the only one to be held in Latin America. There were several people there from Honduras and El Salvador to see how it is done and they plan on holding EFY in those countries. This year only 5 Guatemalan stakes were invited to attend…just over 600 young people. Next year there will be two separate EFY’s held here for 12 different stakes. (There are 39 stakes in Guatemala.) Elder Cordon, one of the Area Seventy, went to Provo with a few others earlier this year for training. One of the Provo staff has been here for the week. It has been a huge success. We walked around and then sat and watched all 600 youth and their counselors (our local young adults) form a giant e-f-y and then they were all photographed from ladder sections tied to a tree….. at least 30 feet off the ground.

The grounds of the camp are extensive and beautiful. The sun was warm, the air was cool and windy. The biggest problem at EFY is the cold nights.

The hour drive back to the office to pick up our cars was heavy traffic. After we got in our car and headed south there were very few cars on the road. I think they were lighting the tree at the Obelisco so all the people were headed there by the office for the festivities. Later, Blackburns, Taylors, Tilleys, Johnsons, Tomkinsons and their friends from AZ came over and we ate leftover pie. Tomkinsons friends are going home tomorrow. They were here for a week. He is Wayne’s partner in their dental practice in Casa Grande so they were helping them with some of the first patients at the dental clinic. The clinic is only for full time missionaries, those preparing for missions, and for the orphans of Guatemala. It is free of charge. Today was a very good day and so uplifting to be around the young people and see the blessing of EFY infuse the lives of the young people in Guatemala.

28 November 2009…...Saturday
Today was also a good day. Dick went to the office early to whittle down the stack of waiting applications on the internet. He needs to get them all finished and sent to SLC for approval next week at their meeting. I did my Saturday cleaning/laundry routine. At noon I left with Tilleys and others to go to Mexico Lindo for a late celebration of Rexene’s birthday. Dick met us there. He was very happy about all that he has accomplished this week. Our meal was very good. After we got home we went to Taylors. First we practiced a song that we wrote as a group as we were sitting in the cold wind at EFY. We will sing it Monday night at the farewell dinner for Elder and Sister King and for the Walkers who have been here a few years with the American Embassy. It is written to the tune of “We Three Kings.” Then we talked about Christmas plans like dinner on Christmas Eve, breakfast at our apartment Christmas morning, a visit to an orphanage in the afternoon, ending with the CCM (MTC) on Christmas Night to present a program to all the young missionaries waiting to go out to their assignments. The guys left at 4 pm to go to the Clarke’s apartment to watch the BYU/University of Utah game. The majority of the senior missionaries graduated from BYU or the U. So it is somewhat of a rivalry.

29 November 2009…..Sunday
Today was our Primary program and it was an absolute success. For sharing time we took the children outside and they were treated to gorgeous chocolate cupcakes that Rexene had made plus drinks and snacks.

Then we played a beanbag game about the prophets. For the last 15 minutes we went back inside for a coloring activity. I rode home with Tilleys while Dick stayed for a meeting with the Young Mens president.

The month is drawing to an end. We can’t imagine where the time goes. Life is good in the mission field. All of us seniors serve in different areas of expertise but we all have one thing in common…..strong and abiding testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and faith in the great plan of salvation. I can’t imagine serving anywhere else or at any other time or we would not know these wonderful people who are so much a part of our life. This time of thanksgiving is not just a day, or a month, but a lifetime of gratitude to our loving Heavenly Father for blessings to innumerable to count.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Journal - Week of November 16 - 22

16 November 2009…..Monday
Today Dick is 73 years old. Before we left for the office Jim greeted him with a big bowl of lemon pudding that he had made. We kept busy at the office this morning in preparation for our afternoon meeting. Tilleys called and suggested lunch, somewhere close so we could be back in an hour. So we left with them, and Taylors and Tomkinsons met us….at McDonalds. Just what every 73 year old wants….birthday lunch at McDonalds! Tilleys paid for our lunch. It was great. Fresh hot fries…can’t go wrong there. At the end of lunch Jim went up to the counter and bought a hot pie for Dick. Then we sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

We got back to the office in time to pick up our things and head for PEF Committee Meeting. It was a longer than usual meeting…..over an hour and a half. But, it was cold, as usual. The air conditioning always leaves me cold in the conference room on the fifth floor.

Tonight was Family Home Evening at the King’s. Elder Clarke and Elder Martino presented their insights from attending General Conference. I hope I can capture the spirit that I felt and put it into my journal.
While at Conference all the members of the Seventy met with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Also, the General Presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary were involved with their words to the Seventy. First of all, Elder Clarke conveyed to us the words of President Monson: extend a great appreciation to us for all that we do and appreciation for our children. The brethren are very well aware that all of us who serve leave children and grandchildren behind. The prophetic priority that was conveyed in their meetings is “rescuing the one.” We were encouraged to make the prophet’s priority our own, just as Lehi’s dream was his own, given of the Lord. But Nephi made it his own by seeking the answers and then the vision was given to him, also. “Miracles are happening in the land of Lehi.” Those words were given to all the Seventy who serve throughout the world, not just to those who serve in this area of the world.

Elder Packer said: “no matter how good you are to your wife, you are not good enough.” “We are heading for interesting, trying, and difficult times.” But, reminded us that “the best is yet to come.”
Sister Beck said: “anything against family is anti-Christ.” Sister Beck is a standard bearer of truth!
Comments from others: “Do what you’re supposed to do. You will be blessed.” “We don’t need so many instructions. Follow the spirit.” “People have the power to solve their own problems, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” “Joy in the work.” And another reminder of what we ask ourselves before making any purchase, “Can we afford it?” Not only does unnecessary spending take away our future purchasing power, it takes away our peace of mind.

The feeling in the room tonight was, for me, the spirit confirming to me the truth of the words of those who are called to lead this church. Secondly, I know God knows me and loves me. He knows I am in Guatemala and that I am striving to be his obedient daughter. It is a blessing to associate, on a regular basis, with members of the Seventy. Elder Clarke and Elder Martino also expressed that they are in awe of the senior missionaries. It is the Seventy and their wives and the senior missionaries, who are called to go throughout the world to serve. Elder Martino stressed that the Seventy go because they are called. Senior missionaries, though they are “called,” also volunteer. And so, it was a wonderful evening of feelings that I want to keep close to my heart.

17 November 2009…..Tuesday
Today Bailey would have been 14 years old. Instead, Father in Heaven had other plans and she only stayed here on earth for a few short days. And then, fifteen months later He took her daddy. God does “work in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”

It is a blustery day with wind and leaves blowing. Dick went to the office to take care of a few things and then came back for me and we drove to the Casa de Huèspedes. We had seven missionaries arrive from their missions in Honduras, six elders and one sister. She is tiny. I feel so tall, all five foot two of me!

We all went to the Employment Center and after our song, scripture and prayer we walked over to the restaurant. I had milanesa, rice, soup, and tomato salad. I gave up on trying to cut and chew the milanesa after a few bites. The salad was tomato wedges and a few thin strips of celery in a dressing. The soup was chicken stock but I didn’t detect anything else in it, not even flavor. One taste sufficed.

When class started Patty was not there. Instead classes were taught by a brother who has been a bishop in one of the local stakes. He will be going to Panama in a few months to be the director of the new employment center there. This was his first TAL class to teach. I studied Spanish on my computer, read the Book of Mormon in Spanish and English, and after 3 pm I was able to go into an office and hook up to the internet. Tamales were served about 5 pm. Dick and I skipped that meal. Pizza was delivered at 6:30 pm. We left for the Casa at 7 pm. The rooms of the Casa are full with some good people from Nicaragua. Tonight we talked to one young man and his novia (girl friend). He speaks good English. He is excited about his call to Argentina Cordoba Mission. Yesterday he was endowed in the temple and he was so full of joy.

Dick got mail this morning when he went to the office….birthday cards, Thanksgiving cards, and pictures from Jacob and Zack, Megan, Joey and Alie. We love pictures!

18 November 2009…..Wednesday
It is a cool, blustery day again today. Actually, it is beyond blustery. The wind was howling today. I thought I was back in Lancaster. I am glad we had a couple of extra blankets in our room for sleeping last night. They are thin so two felt good in our bunk beds. When we got on the bus this morning I saw that Sister Gallardo, one of our missionaries, was cold. She has been serving in Honduras where it is warm year round. I went back to our room and got the extra sweater I had brought, so she is wearing it today.

After song, scripture, and prayer we went to the restaurant for breakfast at 7:30 …..scrambled eggs, black beans, a slice of cheese, platanos, rolls and melon juice (the tipico breakfast, and I cleaned my plate). Brother Rodriguez, an Institute director ate with us and then taught the first two hours this morning. I was able to get internet access at 9 am. The usual employee and volunteers were not there to take up the desk space. Lunch was back at the restaurant….hamburger patties were very tender, rice, cucumber and tomato salad and corn tortillas. Dick bought the missionaries their choice of ice cream or donut. I remembered how many times I have said I wouldn’t have that particular ice cream again. I finally refused it. After I finished eating I looked at the silverware and remembered Dick had a spoon to return. Last month when we were at the restaurant he put the silverware in his shirt pocket while he carried his plate. When we got back to the Casa he found the spoon still in his pocket. So I went back down the hall to get the spoon out of his briefcase. That is not the first time he absconded with silverware. Over forty years ago, after eating Thanksgiving dinner at Mother and Daddy’s, we got home and he had a piece of silverware still in his pocket. You would think after all these years that I would have a huge collection of mismatched silverware, but, we have dutifully returned it each time.

McDonald’s delivered McFlurries a little after 3 pm. The missionaries finished up their paperwork, we took our group picture which involves half a dozen cameras….ours and some of them always have cameras.
Our bus was waiting for us and surprisingly, the wind was gone and it was gorgeous. Some of our groups are very quiet, contemplating the end of their missions. This group talked and laughed for the whole 15 minute trip back to the Casa. We walked over to the temple about thirty minutes later.
Hermana Gallardo discovered she had forgotten her recommend so she and I hurried back to the Casa to get it. As we were walking back to the temple we passed two of the elders coming back because one of them had forgotten his recommend. The session started practically on time. It was full with the nine of us and about twenty of the Nicaraguan saints.

After the temple session is always a special time. When I got out to the lobby there were about ten people waiting for missionaries. The anticipation was energizing. I relate totally to what they were feeling as they waited to see their child/grandchild/brother, etc. I love to watch the reunions. Hermana Gallardo’s family wasn’t inside or outside so I walked with her over to the Casa and they were there waiting for her. My best Spanish always comes out when I am talking to families. One little boy waiting for his uncle told me he was five. He was with his grandma. I told him I had thirty nietos (grandchildren) and his eyes got huge. He and his baby sister were adorable. We have two elders remaining with us tonight. They are from San Marcos in the western highlands and their families will be here tomorrow. Dick took them to McDonald’s for dinner a little after eight. There is no McDonalds in San Marcos.

Dick has been worried about one of the missionaries since spending some time talking with him yesterday. He is 25. His mother left when he was about ten and went to the U.S. where she married a Mexican. He doesn’t know where his father is. He was raised by an uncle and aunt. The aunt died just before he left on his mission. The uncle has sold the house and the young man doesn’t know where he will live. Elvis worked with him while we were at the Employment Center to help him find a job and told him to call him on Monday. A friend, an older man, picked him up and told us he and his bishop will take care of him. These kids hug us when they leave, just like they have been with us for weeks or months…not just 2 days. Attachments form and then we don’t see them again. There is one sister who was with us a couple of months ago who works at the office and a young man from earlier this year who works at the CCM, so we see them occasionally, but they are exceptions. Truly, this assignment is the most tiring thing we do but our favorite thing to do. All of the senior missionaries believe that the best part of the mission is when we have interaction with young missionaries. That is why I am convinced that working in a mission office with the daily contact has to be one of the best mission calls. I truly love the people and I love this beautiful country.

19 November 2009…..Thursday
We were in no hurry to go anyplace this morning. One of our elders was picked up by family about 9 am and the last one didn’t leave till shortly after 10 am. While we were waiting for their families to come I walked over to the temple because I had not put names on the prayer roll last night with all the rush to get the missionaries out to their families. When I got inside a young man called me by name. I asked him his name and he said, “Lopez. Don’t you remember me?” I told him I remember his face but not his name. He was one of our returning missionaries eight months ago. He had married yesterday, civilly, as the country requires. They had a reception last night in Quetzaltenango, where they live, then at 1 am both families left to come to the temple, over a three hour drive. They were sealed this morning. I went back to get Dick and my camera and we were in time to see the bride come out of the temple. While he served his mission in Nicaragua, she also served a mission in Ecuador. He was happy to tell us he was going to school.

On the way home we went to Cemaco over by the temple. We have been invited to a birthday party Saturday morning for Reynaldo’s children, both of whom have birthdays in the coming week. It was fun to shop for a gift for the two little ones. We also bought a Christmas tree. Nothing like the one we have at home, but I love it. It was less than $10 and my accumulated ornaments look good on it. I also got some Christmas placemats and two mugs with ceramic spoons. We stopped at San Martín’s, hoping to get some strudel but the strudel was in the oven. We bought what looked like cinnamon rolls. But what we thought was a lot of cinnamon seemed to be chocolate cake crumbs rolled up with the dough just like cinnamon rolls. Dick went to the office early afternoon and I unpacked, did laundry, and decorated our little tree. This is the earliest I have ever decorated for Christmas. After dinner I made muffins with cranberries, nuts, and chocolate chips and Dick delivered them to the neighbors.

20 November 2009…..Friday
This morning we took muffins and hot cocoa mix (recipe from Alton Brown) to the office. Everyone from the guard at the door, the receptionist, our co-workers and two of the office cleaning staff had goodies. Elder Clarke had a muffin and then teasingly chastised me for bringing goodies for Reynaldo. We had cute Santa containers on our desk full of goodies from Claudia and Reynaldo. I had plenty of work to keep me busy today.

This afternoon one of the men in the office came to show us his three month old grandson. What a cute baby! I do fight the tears. Reynaldo saw the tears and told me I could come spend a week at his house and take care of Diego night and day.

21 November 2009…..Saturday
Today Matthew is 6 years old! We haven’t seen him since he was 4 1/2! We couldn’t spend his birthday with him but we did go to a birthday party this morning. Reynaldo’s children have birthdays a few days apart so they had a party for Monica who is 3 and Diego who is 1.
The invitation said 9:30 am and we were there on the dot, even though we had never been in the area where they live. Reynaldo gave us good directions. They live in a gated area of individual houses with a small park at the end of the one street. It was cool outside but I had a sweater on and when I wanted to warm up I stood in the sun, briefly. Reynaldo’s parents had taken a ten hour bus ride from Honduras to be there. His in-laws are both deceased. Claudia’s seven year old son, Diego, was there with his grandma and aunt because Claudia has college classes on Saturday.

She has a degree already but is working on additional courses to improve her skills. At 10:40 am people began arriving. Reynaldo says that is the way Guatemalans are, and we have certainly noticed that many times. He says they planned accordingly so everyone was there when lunch was served a little before noon. They had a bounce house and two piñatas……a pink castle and a red car. Even Dick took a swing….the final swing that emptied the castle piñata. Elvis, from the Employment Center, and his wife brought their youngest child, Sebastian.

I took scores of pictures of these beautiful Guatemalan children. Actually, Reynaldo’s children are Hondurans.

Saturday traffic was very heavy and it took us much longer to get home than it did to go. Dick had cleaned the shower this morning so I used the red oil on the shower tile. Dick went with Bill to the office to make copies for Primary tomorrow. Then later Bill had to go to the office and Paiz so Dick went with him again.

22 November 2009…..Sunday
We had a rousing opening song in Sacrament Meeting: “Shall the Youth of Zion Falter.” I would never choose to play that song. The left hand is a struggle for me. Our branch members sing the melody the way they think it goes with no attention to the accompaniment. Nobody seems to care but me, so I guess it is okay. We had a practice today for the Primary program next Sunday. The small part each child has requires a lot of assistance from the Primary leaders and teachers. The children do pretty well with the songs. No matter what, the adults will enjoy watching the children.

I had a nap this afternoon. I dreamed about music. Of course it was, “Shall the Youth of Zion Falter.” After I woke up I lay there thinking and trying to remember the English words of the song. Alas, there are huge blanks in my English memory for many of the hymns.