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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, March 29, 2009

Week of March 23rd to March 29th 2009

23 March 2009…..Monday
We always love seeing our family on Skype. Last night Myrna and her little girls called us. Mark’s family also called. Aimee wanted to tell us something. So she repeated the first and the fourth Articles of Faith. I am amazed that a five year old has memorized two of them or would even want to.
At the office today I spent almost 5 hours working on the loan entry information. I got very excited when I printed the Belize payments. There was only one payment made in the last five days and there was no record of who made the payment. All I knew was it was made on March 16 in the amount of $30 (Belizean dollars). I went back to my email and found Felipe’s email from the 16th. He said he would make a $30 payment that afternoon after school. I was thrilled to see it get credited to his account after I showed the email to Claudia. We are hoping that he will make another $10 payment and that will make his loan current. Two Belizean dollars equal one US dollar, so his monthly payment is just $5 US.
At 4 pm we went to the North Mission office and picked up Hermana Jones so she wouldn’t have to walk home. Then we worked on our props for FHE. Tilleys and Graffs did a fashion show with Dick and Jim as models. I wrote words to a song that all nine of us senior sister missionaries sang. The melody is “Sisters, Sisters” from “White Christmas.” The words are:

Sisters, sisters,
There were never such devoted sisters,
Left our families and homes far behind,
We’re here to let our light so shine,

Caring, sharing,
Follow all the rules in what we’re wearing,
Serving on a mission is the best, yes sir!
We’re here to keep our eye on her! ( we all pointed at Sister Thibalt)

All kinds of weather we stick together,
The same in the rain and sun,
Nine different faces, but in all places,
We think and we act as one.

Those who’ve seen us,
Know that not a thing can come between us.
Serving is a blessing we would not change nor forget.
The Lord helps us sisters
Who follow his teachings, give service,
To love Guatemala and people we would not have met.

What a great evening we had. We were all entertaining and entertained. We had popcorn to eat or throw during the performances. Refreshments were banana splits. Yummy! I have finished my antibiotics and have felt better the last two days.

24 March 2009…..Tuesday

Today is Zack’s sixteenth birthday, the first of three grandchildren who will be 16 this year. The day at the office went well. I finished working on the Area History for PEF for 2008. I printed it and took it up to Bonnie King so she could put it in with the other history accounts. I still have to get 2009 up to date and it should be easier to keep it current.
We left the office a little earlier than usual and went to the cleaners and to Paiz. After bringing groceries home we picked up Kathy Jones. She was walking home from the North Mission office and we picked her up at St. Martin’s bread store. Rexene met us in the hallway with 4 freshly made peanut butter cookies. They were a great appetizer. Kathy bought each of us an apple pastry and they were a delicious dessert.
On the 14th of March they had the ground breaking for the Quetzaltenango Temple. What a blessing that will be for the people in the west areas of Guatemala. It takes just about 2 years to finish a temple.

25 March 2009…..Wednesday

The morning at the office started out with no internet. Tilleys came down to our office and invited us to go to Hyper Paiz (Super Walmart). It was almost a 30 minute drive. I walked around looking for some brands I haven’t been able to find at Paiz. I wasn’t very successful. I found two blouses by Lemon Grass. I had bought several Lemon Grass blouses last summer at Gottschalk. There was a hand written sign above the rack of blouses that said, “Lemon Grass……199Q.” There was a small yellow sticker on the rack itself that said the same thing. That’s about $30. So I picked out two. We went to check out and the blouses scanned at 264Q each. We told the cashier that they were 199. She called a supervisor to come help. I ended up taking the supervisor over to the clothing section and the hand written sign was not there. In the ten minutes since I had picked out the blouses, the sign was gone. The little yellow sticker was still there. They kept to the higher price so I didn’t buy them. There have been other such occurrences before. One price for Guatemalans and another for the Americans.
We went home and put our few items away and went back to the office. The internet was working and we were busy the rest of the day.

26 March 2009…..Thursday

We saw the McGarys last night on Skype. Actually, we see them pretty often. With Jill taking care of our bills and Robert doing our taxes, we communicate whenever one of us has a question. We actually had our windows open last night. It still is down into the low fifties at night but the days are in the eighties. I’m not wearing my sweaters though I take one to the office, just in case the air conditioner is on. I love having the loans to do every day. It takes me an hour or two now that we are approaching the end of the month. I feel so invested in these young people, even though I don’t know them. Some are getting their loans caught up. Many are just faithfully making their $5 monthly payment. This is such a wonderful program and the hand of the Lord is in it.
We left the office at 12:30 pm with Taylors. We went to San Martin restaurant and had lunch and bought a few pastries. Then we went to the temple. Once again, Dick and I were witness couple. I am so grateful for the peace that I find in the temple. Afterwards we walked across the street to the Distribution Center. We bought 12 Primary Song Books to take to La Rama Branch the next time we go.
We got back to the office about 4:30 pm. Lester was working in the Call Center and he came to our office and helped Dick get the new Power Point presentation onto our laptop. He has to ride two buses to get home so Dick told him we wanted to take him home. Well, we drove hither and yon, through a variety of areas that we probably shouldn’t be in. He had us let him out in a bus area and he would walk from there. We are told he lives in very poor circumstances so he probably didn’t want us to see where he lived. I was wondering how long we would be lost trying to find our way back to familiar areas, but one turn and we could see the huge 7UP sign that is across the street from the huge Coke sign. Then we knew right where we were and we were home in about 10 minutes.
Mail today! We got a St. Patrick’s Day card from Cyndy and Jacob sent us a picture and a thank you note for his birthday gift card.

27 March 2009…..Friday

Another work week is coming to an end…except ours. We will leave tomorrow for Quiche to participate in a district conference. I was able to work on my Area History and completed the first two months of 2009. I hope to proof read them next week and get them printed.
We left our car at the office and drove home a fleet car for our trip….a Nissan that will handle rough roads better than our little Corolla. I did some laundry and some cleaning and packing. We have had a howling wind today….memories of home.

28 March 29, 2009…..Saturday

At 9:30 am we were on the road with Jim driving, heading to Quiche. The trip went well. Much of the road is “under construction.” They are still working on it and still clearing rocks from the mudslides six months ago during rainy season. The areas that are done are very nice concrete highways. The countryside is very dry. We were in the area last October with Bawdens and it was very green, but the rains were pretty much gone by November. Now, in April and May we are going into the hot season, with rains coming in June through October. The last time we went to Quiche we counted 51 tumulos (speed bumps). The only reason we counted them is because Dean said there are about 50 tumulos before we get to Quiche. As we entered the city we went over the 51st. This time we were amazed at the lack of tumulos. Some of the winding roads through little villages have had resurfaced roads and by the time we got to Quiche we had counted 13 tumulos. What a pleasant surprise.
As soon as we drove into Quiche we found the church right alongside the road. Then we drove on through town and found a Pollo Campero so we could have lunch. Pretty soon we saw President and Sister Baldwin walk into the restaurant. President’s counselors in the mission presidency were already there having lunch with their wives and children. They are all from Guatemala City.
Sister Baldwin told us about a soda that is bottled in Quiche that the missionaries all love, a cream soda. So, Tilleys and us walked across the street to a little “tienda” (store). We bought some cream soda. We were all full from lunch but we opened one cold bottle and we passed it around so we could sample it. I guess that is a mark of a true friendship, as all four of us shared one bottle. I actually liked it. I have never particularly cared for cream soda but all of our boys love it. Too bad I can’t ship some of this home to them.
We went back to the church. President Baldwin started his meetings at 2 pm. We set up our projector and computer in the chapel to make sure all was in order, then moved it off to the side so the 3 pm meeting could be held there. While the chapel was not in use I got out my hymn book and played a few hymns on the piano. I miss my piano. Dick attended the next priesthood leadership meeting. Jim worked on security issues on his computer, and Rexene and I attended a meeting on food storage. There were about 15 women in attendance and they taught them about storing food in Mylar bags and they had a sealer there and showed them how to use it. They also talked about using plastic soda bottles to store beans and rice, etc. One of my first projects once we get settled at home will be to rebuild our year’s supply of food and water.

Rexene with sister in native dressing

At 5pm was the adult session of district conference. Dick had 30 minutes for PEF. We showed the video that we both love so much as an introductory explanation. They all know about the Fund but no one has ever used it in the district. There are no wards and stakes there so there is no stake specialist working with it and promoting it. We hope to have more time with them in the future. President Baldwin has invited us to attend all 6 district conferences in his mission area to promote the Fund. This is a great step for us. We have almost covered all the specialists in Guatemala…..that is 36 of 39 stakes. That’s not bad for 6 ½ months in the country.
The Baldwin’s inadvertently locked their keys in their car and he called his assistants at 2 pm to bring the keys to Quiche from Guatemala City. They made it about 6 pm. After the meeting we and the young assistants followed the Baldwin’s back to Chichicastenango, about 30 minutes, to the Hotel Santo Tomas. We would never have found it without following them.

We had dinner at 8:30 pm in the dining room of the hotel…..the Baldwins, his counselors and wives, his executive secretary, the young elders and the four of us. I enjoyed talking to the elders, the assistants to the president. One is from Montana, like the Tilleys, and one from Logan, UT. I told him we had friends that moved to Logan, the Tippetts. Well, of course he knew the Tippets. He had helped build an addition on their home. He talked about Whitney. Whitney was a preschooler when we first met the Tippets in Palmdale. I miss the Tippetts a lot, especially the morning walks I had with Diane after we moved to Quartz Hill.
Those who helped us with our luggage and the waiters in the dining room were all dressed in indigenous clothing. They said it was not Mayan but native to Chichicastenango itself. They were a very accommodating staff.

29 March 2009…..Sunday
The hotel is lovely. Everything is centered on a courtyard full of plants and open sky above. I expected the weather to be much cooler but it was very pleasant. This morning the Tilleys and us enjoyed breakfast. We ordered hot chocolate but forgot to specify “con leche”…with milk. We were brought the hot chocolate made with agua (water). It’s not nearly as satisfying. We walked around the courtyard, taking pictures of the parrots on their perches. There had to be at least a dozen.

The sky was very overcast. There was a lot of smoke in the air. We were in the highlands and an area with a lot of indigenous people. There are always a lot of wood fires for cooking in such areas. Plus, this is the season of the year that the cane fields are burned and that always affects the air for great distances.
Instead of driving back north to Quiche for the Sunday meeting of district meeting, which is an hour round trip, we headed south west. We couldn’t attend Church in Chichi because their meeting today was in Quiche. By the time we got down to Patzicia where we knew where a church building was we were too late for their second sacrament meeting at 10 am. By the time we were back in the city we had missed their meetings so we just came on home. We were grateful to have attended district conference meetings yesterday.
It is always good to be home. Our trip went very well, and of course, we enjoyed the time we spent with the Tilleys. They didn’t have to make this trip, but they did it for us. It is not wise for any of us to travel alone, plus the driving can be treacherous in some areas. We came to Guatemala 6 days apart and they are the only other couple here for 2 years, so we will be here together till the last week of our mission. I know the Lord placed us here together for a reason and they are a great blessing for us.
One thing came to me with great clarity today, as I was thinking about the financial crisis in our own country. If Dick had not retired last year, he might still be working and we would not be on a mission. With the loss of so much money in our investments, we would never have been able to use it to buy-back his years in teaching that allowed him to retire with 30 years. Surely, the Lord has a hand in all things and we count our many blessings.
As we have spent time with two of the local mission presidents we are totally amazed at all they do. The Baldwins have 180 young missionaries to look after, plus all the travel and meetings and interviews for missionaries. I get exhausted watching them. He is 49, just two years older than our first born, so we are old enough to be his parents. He is literally “stake president” of each of the six districts in his mission, so he has interviews, organizes district meetings, and does a lot of traveling for all that. It makes are contribution seem puny in comparison. These are people who leave home and family behind for three years to donate their time and energies to spreading the gospel. They are from Arizona.
When we got home and turned on the computer we had a note from Alison that Warren Bendixen (her father-in-law) had died. His health has been very poor the last few years. We had a subsequent email telling us that today Zack was ordained a priest and that Paul was sustained as second counselor in the bishopric. This has been an eventful few days in the life of the Bendixen Family.

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