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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.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Week of Janurary 26th-Feb 1st 2009

26 January 2009…..Monday
More family birthdays: yesterday Dennis turned 42 and Paul celebrated 44 years. Today Trevor is 4. A great thing happened to me in Relief Society yesterday. It is a small branch and there were only six of us in the room. The teacher asked a question of each sister in the room. It wasn’t until she got to Rexene that I knew what the question was by the way Rexene answered. The teacher asked what prayer meant to each of us. So I replied: “Para mí, oración es mi tiempo privado con mi Padre.” (For me, prayer is my private time with my Father). It wasn’t a great break through but it was another step for me with Spanish.
We got mail! A handwritten letter from Algene Graff, Dick’s cousin. That provided enough entertainment for the week. It was a busy day at the office. Transferring pictures from my laptop and working on the Area History was a challenge. I had one picture that was upside down. It took a lot of trial and error to get it right. Another picture appeared in triplicate. Hopefully, they will stay corrected and not play any more tricks on me. Dick worked on arrangements for some of our travel coming up in February.
Tilleys suggested Pollo Campero for lunch and we piled in our car and went to eat. Back at the office was more of the same. We found out that we would be needed tomorrow with the returning missionaries. We had been told last week that there would be no class this week. So, we had some packing to do. I downloaded 5 records from Census Indexing so I could work off-line since I don’t have internet connection until we get back home on Thursday.
Family Home Evening was at the Bawdens. They presented a lesson from a Conference talk by Richard G. Scott, “Full Conversion Brings Happiness.” Dean talked about the last verses of Doctrine and Covenants 4 being a flow chart…..as we work on one characteristic it strengthens us in learning the next, and so on. I appreciate his wisdom. In an earlier discussion some weeks back he referred to the same scriptures and talked about temperance meaning, “don’t provoke or be provoked.” That has really stuck with me. He equated all of the steps to being necessary for a true celestial marriage. Bill Blackburn has been a tax man in Hawaii for the last 20 years. He took a few minutes to talk to us about filing our U.S. taxes. His knowledge with what missionaries can claim is very beneficial to us. We had our smallest group ever but it was very nice.

27 January 2009…..Tuesday
This morning we went straight to the Casa de Huéspedes. We had 8 missionaries on our list, but only 7 arrived from the airport. Two had already had the TAL (Tallers de Autosuficiencia Laboral) in their mission and had a certificate of completion. They were picked up from the Casa and taken to meet parents and their stake president for release. That left 5 who needed the class….4 elders and 1 hermana. We were all transported to the Employment Center for the TAL. We started with lunch, which was Dominoes pizza. Patty Cárdenas teaches all day the first day. The instructions get a little long for these returning missionaries. They were out of bed very early this morning in Honduras and Nicaragua to make their flight to El Salvador and then on to Guatemala City. At 5 pm they were fed sandwiches, then back to the classroom. At 7 pm a Wendy’s dinner was brought in. That perked-up these tired young missionaries, and these old missionaries, too. Usually the meals are catered, but they didn’t know there would be a class till yesterday so we all had short notice.
My many hours were spent in the classroom with them and my computer. I did over 100 names on Census Indexing, offline. I read scriptures. I did four Spanish grammar lessons. I got a lot accomplished. We got back to the Casa and went to our rooms. Our usual room upstairs is being remodeled and it needs it. So, we are on the main floor. There are many families here from Nicaragua tonight with many little children. This is a busy place which means the temple is busy.
There are 3 bunk beds in our room so we each got a bottom bunk. The Casa provides sheets and one thin blanket. We bring our own towels. The shower was wonderful with good pressure and hot water.

28 January 2009…..Wednesday

We were up at 5:30 am. The night went fine. I took my Ambien and never heard all the noise in the halls. I wasn’t cold with my thin blanket but I would have been more comfortable with another thin one on me. We will bring blankets next time, but that will be the middle of March and the hot time of the year, so we probably won’t need another one. Hopefully, our usual room will be ready for us because it has a comfortable Queen size bed.
We were in the lobby and ready to be picked up by 7 am. We had two elders not there yet, but one came soon. The last one was still shaving. So we were 20 minutes late leaving. This young elder has “George Clooney” eyes. (I like George’s eyes, not his politics). This elder is olive complexioned, black brows and lashes, black hair, and the most incredible green/gray eyes. When we got to the Employment Center breakfast was waiting. It was McDonalds. These kids were happy about that because those who served in Honduras said there were only a couple of McDonalds in the whole country. I really liked the traditional Guatemalan breakfast we had, though you can also order the traditional American fare here. We had scrambled eggs, sausage patty, refried black beans with a slice of cheese on it, two small corn tortillas, fried plantains with sour cream, and orange juice to drink.
Jorge Flores, Institute teacher, began the day’s lesson and Patty took over mid-morning for the rest of the day.

At one point we could see that Hermana Najera, our only female missionary, was not feeling well. Dick asked her if she wanted a blessing. These four young men joined Dick and one of them anointed her head and Elder Miranda then blessed her. It was a great opportunity for these young men to exercise their priesthood on this final day of their mission. I hope they remember that their mission may be over, but the power and authority of the priesthood will always stay with them as long as they are worthy.
At 12:30 pm a pasta restaurant delivered individual containers of spaghetti, buttered bread and sodas. I am always too full to eat much of the next meal when we are here at the Employment Center. Besides the meals, Patty hands out hard candies when someone gives a good answer. Watching these missionaries who are going home has reminded me of Dean Bawden’s (retired orthodontist) definition of a “greenie”…..you’re a greenie until your first tube of toothpaste is gone.
At the end of class Dick passed out hymn books and we all sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It was a rousing rendition. This group was not off key like a lot of groups are. And they sang FAST. I could hardly spit out the Spanish….I don’t think I can even read that fast. But the hymn says to sing with energy and we did. After class there were Guatemalan style hamburgers (definitely not In-N-Out) for everyone. Dick and I were too full from the earlier meal to eat again at 3:30pm. At 4 pm we all got on the shuttle back to the Casa.
Dick waited at the Casa with three elders who were not quite ready to walk over to the temple so I left with two, Elder Miranda and Sister Najera. The temple is just past the Shell Station so it is about a two minute walk. As we and others were walking past the Shell there was a clanking of metal and a car came into the station and up over some curbing into a planter and stopped……about 15 feet to our right. A car changing lanes had bumped this car and it lost control. Elder Miranda ran over and opened the passenger door to see if the driver was ok. It was a woman in her forties. She was shook up but she got out of the car. One of the temple employees came running over to help. The other driver never stopped, just kept going. When others were there to help and things seemed ok, Elder Miranda re-joined us and the three of us went to the temple. Dick and the others came about ten minutes later.
I was very calm through the whole accident thing. Not even a pounding heart. But, I know that one second difference here or there could have had terrible results. I felt that the young missionaries and I were surrounded with protection. I know as I pray for protection for our loved ones that there is help from above.
We had a full session at the temple and all of our young missionaries left with their parents so there was no need for us to stay another night. We packed up our things at the Casa and were home in 15 minutes. I got online and submitted the 250 names to Census Indexing that I completed offline the last two days.

29 January 2009…..Thursday
Back at the office this morning it seemed like we hadn’t even been gone for two days. The Blackburns came down to our office with their schedule for the next two months and so Dick will be calling the Area Seventies to arrange for us to have a separate meeting for PEF at the same time. I typed up a travel information sheet for Reynaldo to present to Elder Clarke. We will be traveling with Blackburns to Retalhuleu and Quetzaltenango next Friday and come back on Monday. We have reserved one of the fleet cars at the office. There is someone in the office that makes all hotel and plane reservations for travel which makes it a lot easier for us. There are certain hotels that the Church uses and they all have decent accommodations.
We have a young man at the office named Lester. Today was his 18th birthday. He is a volunteer in the Call Center.

He comes from a very poor family. Reynaldo says that he doesn’t feel “worthy” to enter a nice restaurant. He is going to use the Fund and do a year of college before he goes on a mission. He is a whiz at the computer and that is what he will study. He is a fine example of someone raised in poverty who will have the skill necessary to provide for his own family some day. Reynaldo, Claudia, Kelvin, Dick and I took Lester to lunch at Sarita’s. It was a very good meal.

I had fajitas. The guacamole was excellent and so was the beef, red peppers and onions. There were fresh, hot corn tortillas, and there were four tortillas, rolled like a tacquito but no filling inside. They were fried and they tasted very good dipped in salsa and guacamole. When we went back to the office they cut a beautiful blueberry cake. I’ve eaten more cake the last five months than I have in the last five years.
We got home from the office about 5 pm. I changed and we helped Hermana Jones move a few things. She is leaving her apartment on the fourth floor and moving across the hall from us. Sister Thibault will move in with her Saturday and Sister Barney will move in when Sister Rodgriguez goes home in two weeks.

30 January 2009…..Friday
A huge accomplishment today! Dick got his power point presentation ready for next weekend. Our young friend, Lester, helped him a few times. The younger generations have such a natural ability with computers. I spent most of the day working on the 2008 history of PEF. Reynaldo showed me one little trick yesterday to put pictures on the page and it has helped me a lot.
We stopped at Paiz on the way home and bought milk and cereal. It was a real treat to walk in our door and see our lovely new furniture. The Tilleys and us are paying $300 a month, in addition to our rent, to rent all the furnishings in the apartment. Everyone else has “mission” furniture and so they don’t have to pay the extra. All of the furniture in Sister Jones one bedroom apartment upstairs is mission furniture, but she is moving tomorrow to the 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom apartment across the hall from us. Two other sisters will join her. The furniture there is not church property. So, we inherited the couch and two chairs, the coffee table and three end tables from her old apartment. They are bigger and nicer than our furniture. The young elders helped Sister Jones today and they carried the furniture down the stairs and put it in our apartment.
Dick invited Sister Jones to go out to dinner with us tonight. A little after 5 pm we left with Tilley’s and picked her up at the North Mission office. We went to Sarita’s where we had gone yesterday for lunch. A few minutes after we got home Bill Blackburn was at our door with warm avocado bread that Adele had made. It is like banana bread but better. The perks of apartment living!
For thirty years I did not “drink” my calories, except for milk or juice on occasion. Being in Guatemala is a whole different story for me. In the beginning when I was so cautious with the food and skittish with the water, I decided that juice would give me added nutrients and the calories wouldn’t hurt because my skirts were huge on me. Then I got hooked on the licuados de leche….fruit nectars mixed with milk till frothy. I especially love pineapple (piña) licuados and I even make them at home. I also love jimaca (made from hibiscus) and tamirind (I forget exactly what it is) juices. I order one of them every time we go out.

31 January 2009…..Saturday
This morning we went to the Distribution Center across the street from the temple and bought scriptures to take to La Sabana Branch tomorrow. In Sunday School last week I was sitting next to a tiny old lady who didn’t have scriptures. She needs scriptures. Even if she doesn’t know how to read she needs to have her own scriptures to hold and feel. Dick talked to the branch president and asked how many members don’t have scriptures. He said about a dozen. We are happy to be able to give them to the branch president so he can give them out.
While we were at the Distribution Center there were five young men near the checkout stand. One asked Dick where he was from. He replied, “Estados Unidos.” Then he asked which state, “California.” The young man said he served in San Fernando Mission. Dick told him that was our mission and we were from Lancaster. He replied that he served in Palmdale. Dick told him he had been bishop of Amargosa YSA Ward. By then they were speaking English. He asked which missionaries had served in our ward and I replied, “Elder Dixon and Elder Hoyos.” He knew them both. I told him I would email Elder Hoyos today and let him know that Roberto Antonio Martinez Cruz from El Salvador said hello. Small world again. He is using PEF for schooling as were three of his friends. The other young man is leaving on a mission. They carried our box of books out to the car for us.
We drove down the street to the Cemaco and bought a nice fan that we will be needing in a few weeks. Then we drove back over the hill to the mall and got our hair cut. All traces of perm are gone and this is a different me. My apartment friends tell me they love my hair. Kelsey, my cosmetologist granddaughter, will be proud of me for hanging in there and not giving in to a perm. We got home and did a lot of socializing. Sister Thibault, mental health missionary and widow from Baltimore, moved in with Sister Jones across the hall. She is a hoot! Dick and Jim did a few little things for them. Dick even bought a plug at Cemaco because he had noticed one of their lamps needed a new plug. He got it repaired and took it back over this evening. Now he is over there because they had no hot water. We have tankless water heaters here. Theirs had not been turned on. I told them he was good with widows…..he had Mother and Kristen to take care of. Tonight we had goodies brought in by the Hermanas across the hall and banana nut bread by the Taylors.

1 February 2009…..Sunday
January flew by and now we are beginning a new month. Dick began this Sabbath Day by nicking his upper lip at the base of his nose while shaving. It bled for over three hours and would not stop. We couldn’t go to the 9 am meeting. We drove over by the temple to see if we could at least attend sacrament meeting but that didn’t work. Of all the chapels here in the city, only a couple have more than one ward meeting in them so there are very few 1 PM meetings and none in our area.
Fast Sunday, or any time we fast, is always a special day. My concern the last few months was for the jobs that support our family members. Mark had a scare this week with others at work being laid off. He, too, was called into the “office” but he was told he was staying. They are keeping just 6 employees. We are so grateful. Break the fast was at President and Sister Baldwin’s home.

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