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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, April 6, 2009

Week of March 30th to April 5th 2009

30 March 2009…..Monday
The weather is in the eighties and the nights are high fifties and we are definitely warming up.
Sunday evening Tilleys were at our door with freshly, homemade pepperoni/cheese bread. It was absolutely delicious. We each had a half an avocado and the bread and it was a wonderful Sunday evening dinner. We talked to Alison and Kristen.
Today went well at the office. We enjoy the interaction with others there. Tonight was FHE, hosted by the Taylors but held at the Hermanas apartment across the hall from us because it is bigger.
Bishop Naves spoke to us about Antigua and Easter celebrations here in Guatemala. He owns a tour business and he will be taking us to Antigua on Good Friday so we can see the Easter activities going on there. We really enjoyed his presentation because it will help us understand all that we witness next week in Antigua. I also found out that the huge trees with purple blossoms are jacarandas.
Dick went with Jim after FHE to take Gert home (our Austrian friend). It is about a 45 minute round trip to his humble little place.

31 March 2009…..Tuesday

This morning we were up and out of the apartment about 7 am and headed south to the Pacific Ocean, to Puerto Quetzal. We had an email from Dixon and Algene Graff (Dick’s cousin) two weeks ago. They were taking a group of people on a cruise through the Panama Canal and would be making a day stop at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. They wanted to know if we could meet them and join the group for the day. We were going to meet them at the dock at 9 am when they would be meeting their tour bus. We were there in plenty of time but we couldn’t get to the dock, nor could we see it. We could see the cruise ship from that spot but never saw it again as the foliage and buildings blocked our view everywhere else. The guards at the gates would only let cargo through and said we needed to go back down the road to a bridge and go west. We did that and ended driving through the market streets of a little tourist town. We came to a dead end and someone there said we had to go back farther east. So we did that. No luck. Dick pulled into an area where trucks were taking cargo and talked to some guys. They gave him more directions. By 9:30 we figured that the St. George Graffs were already on their tour bus and long gone. We didn’t accomplish our mission, but we had a good time trying. Down there at sea level there is a lot of sugar cane growing. It was very hazy. Part of the haze is smoke from burning old cane fields. The scenery was pretty with palm trees but I took no pictures because of the haze. I did get a picture of a volcano on the way.

We drove back to the city (about an hour and a half) and went to the office. Sergio had been involved in some other things and did not send the loan report till 2 pm. I worked on the report for thirty minutes and then we left with Taylors. They are always trying to get reading glasses brought to Guatemala from the states. A woman from Colorado, who lives part of the year in Antigua, brought glasses down because her mother-in-law is a friend of Carolyn’s. We went with them to Antigua to get the glasses. Antigua is always teeming with tourists. Directions to get the glasses were not too bad. They had to call twice to get help with where to go. Her home is in a gated area with a lot of security. It is just a couple of years old. It is built typically Guatemalan. The front has a gate flush with the walls and when they open a courtyard is revealed with gorgeous flowers, a fountain, and a three sided porch with open rooms to the courtyard. Beautiful. After picking up 70 glasses that will be given out at special clinics we went to Tartins for dinner. We climbed up a metal spiral staircase. The open patio looks over some ruins. It was windy and cool so we ate inside. The meal was good. The company was better. We enjoyed talking and visiting. We stopped at the office on the way back to get our car and we were home before 7:30 pm. It was a long day but it felt more like a play day. We are tired but grateful for our experiences.

1 April 2009…..Wednesday

April already! Where does the time go? All the loan information from yesterday was available for me to log in this afternoon. It took about 2 hours. I also emailed all of our specialists for their March report. Dick has been a big help to Reynaldo as he works on loan applications and exceptions. One application on his computer today was from a 25 year old stake president.
Something very sad happened three weeks ago. Two teenage boys in one of the city stakes had gone to seminary. Afterwards one called his mother and said he and his friend weren’t going to school but were going with a friend, a fourteen year old girl. The next phone call was to a taxi driver the boys knew, saying they needed help. The girl had been shot in the leg and they were trying to stop the bleeding. They identified who was shooting at them, two guys they knew. When they were finally found all three were dead. We heard about it when their bishop came to the office. Ward members are told not to go and comfort the family as they fear their house is being watched to see who comes and goes. The last we heard, the police were told the identity of the assailants. At this point no arrests have been made. It is likely that nothing will be done. The police don’t have a very good reputation. You can’t count on their help and too often they are part of the problem.

2 April 2009…..Thursday

The office seems a little quieter today. There are 90 employees and missionaries who work in the building. Sometimes our area gets so busy with phone calls and visitors that it is hard to concentrate. We are where the action is because we are about 25 feet from the mailboxes and the reception area. We found out yesterday that the office will be closed next week from Wednesday to Friday for Holy Week. We already have plans for a couple of those days.
Today Gregorio, our shoe shine boy, came back. We haven’t seen him since before Christmas. We have been worried about him. He has been in Quiche with his family. He told an interesting story. His little brother, Victor, 7 years old, had fallen asleep on a bus and when the whole family got off, Victor was accidently left behind. Victor was taken to some governmental department for human rights. They determined that the family must have abandoned him. To get him back the family had to pay 25000Q, about $3200. It sounds like extortion to me. That is an exorbitant amount for a family who lives in poverty. So, Gregorio is doing his share of earning money by shining shoes.
We left the office about 2 pm. I still hadn’t received my loan statement for April 1st and Dick had finished his applications. We went to the cleaners and GNC. Dick nearly had a heart attack at the cost of multi-vitamins and glucosamine/chondroitin….$150. I haven’t been able to find them at Price Smart. (Guatemala is not a cheap place to live. Our electricity bill is around $100, sometimes more, sometimes less. A good thing we don’t need air conditioning or heating in the apartment. We run the dishwasher about twice a week. We do 5 or 6 small loads of wash in our stackable washer/dryer). Then we walked across the parking lot to Paiz to pay the cable/internet bill and buy a few groceries. When we got home Blackburns called and invited us up for dinner at 5:30 pm. Tilleys went, too. It was a good meal and good company.

3 April 2009…..Friday

It was a great day! We went into the office about an hour earlier today since we were going to leave by 10:30 am to go to the temple. I was hoping to have the April 1st loan report ready to log in but it wasn’t ready yet. We rode to the temple with Tilleys and Taylors met us there. I always love the peace I feel in any temple, but especially here in Guatemala.
After the temple we went to Zurich Chocolateria for lunch. I love the cold chocolate milk and quiche. We bought some Easter chocolates for Reynaldo and Claudia. Then we walked over to San Martin bread store. We bought some pineapple pastries, 2 croissants and some cookies. We went back to the office and delivered the Easter chocolates. Next week there will be a lot of people gone from the office because of Holy Week. I checked my email and there was no loan information for me to do so we came on home. Dick and Jim took off for Cemaco to buy some screening mesh and duct tape. A few of our friends have had problems with mosquitoes, but we haven’t. They got the screen so the two guys can screen the louvered areas of our windows and also the sister’s apartment. The windows will likely be open till the end of October so it will be nice to know that no insects can get in. While they were gone Rexene made caramel popcorn….I furnished Karo syrup and sliced almonds. Then we went across the hall and visited while Darlene colored Sister Baldwin’s hair. As Jim says, “this missionary work is tough!”
Tonight was domino night at the Tilleys. We took our table over and there were ten of us playing and munching.

4 April 2009…..Saturday

This was a special day, one I always look forward to, General Conference in Salt Lake City. We couldn’t be there to attend the Conference Center, but what a blessing to have the internet. We are so far away in another country but we can watch all the proceedings. There are over 225,000 members of the Church in Guatemala and 600,000 in all of Central America. Many of them have BYU TV, as do we, but that is broadcast in Spanish and we want to watch in English. We put our computer on the dining room table and hooked it to the projector we brought home from the office, then we used a wall to project it on and we had a picture about five feet across. We sustained a new apostle today, Elder Neil Andersen. The brethren always speak about current and important things in our life. Robert D. Hales spoke about provident living and avoiding debt. That is a not a new subject. I have heard it my whole life. But now, in these trying economic times, we see the wisdom of avoiding debt. He said two things we need to tell ourselves….”We can’t afford it” or “We can afford it but we don’t need it.” President Eyring talked about adversity. We all have some. No one is exempt. Adversity can be a great teacher if we can figure out what we are supposed to learn from the adversity in our lives. I always enjoy Elder Russell M. Ballard. He spoke of the cycles in civilization and we see it clearly today. Prosperity to pride to ignoring the commandments and then destruction. We see our own civilization at this point that has cheapened life and aborts babies. Rampant immoral behavior, pornography, and those who cheat and rob to get gain, plus those who think nothing of blowing up buildings and killing thousands. It is the typical story in the Book of Mormon and those same cycles have always destroyed civilizations. We do need to stand up and bear witness of what is true.

In between sessions of Conference, Dick and Jim were in the hallway cutting the mesh screening so they can hang it over the louvered windows in the coming week.
Dick and the other men went out to dinner and then to Montufar Ward chapel where the priesthood session was broadcast in English. I enjoyed a quiet evening at home. All of us women had planned on going out to dinner but decided we would rather stay home in our own apartments and do our own thing.
We did have a jarring experience today. In fact, several times. Just a few minutes before 2 pm we felt an earthquake. Just about 3 pm we felt a jolting earthquake that was stronger and longer than the first. One of the pictures we have hanging was banging against the wall. Twenty minutes later there was another good jolt that got pictures banging again. We felt 3 or 4 aftershocks. I thought I was back in California there for awhile. We had another aftershock about 5 pm. It was pretty mild, but I did notice the water in our water dispenser going back and forth. I sure hope the quakes are over. Carolyn, from Utah, had never felt an earthquake and she is 71.
As I was watching and listening to Conference I was thinking about a few things. One was about those who have lived with our family over the years. We had Ilene Tsinnijinnie and Rosie Bedonie, Navajos from Arizona. Ilene attended her sophomore year while we were in LaVerne. Rosie was there the next year and attended her junior and senior year. Rosie died in an accident in 1988. Her baby died after heart surgery a few months later. The father of her baby committed suicide the following year after having lost Rosie and the baby. In 1995 we had the blessing of serving as proxies for Rosie and her husband, and Mark served as proxy for the baby as we did the temple work for them in the LA temple and had them sealed for eternity as a family. Beth Rowbotham lived with us in Santa Maria as she and Jill were trying to save money to move into their own apartment. Later, Kristen’s friend, Mary moved in with us for a year. She stayed with us a few months after Kristen got married. But, most importantly, Cyndy started the cycle of young women living with us. She came in 1974 when she was 17. We were “Mom and Dad” from the beginning. Our kids adored her and she was great with them. How such a simple decision of providing a home for her for a few months has changed our lives! She was sealed to us about 16 years ago. She made us grandparents and great-grandparents before our time but Dustin, Donovan, Myrna and Marian and their families have enriched our lives.

5 April 2009…..Sunday

Today’s sessions of General Conference were wonderful. This morning was an uplifting and spiritual experience, listening to our leaders. President Uchtdorf’s words prompt me to nourish my faith. (Another earthquake as I type this but not as stirring as yesterdays). Elder Holland will always be a favorite because of the interaction I have had with him on 5 different occasions, 3 times in Lancaster and twice in Utah. He spoke profoundly about our Savior and his supreme sacrifice. He bears great witness of Jesus Christ which strengthens my own testimony. As President Monson spoke I was anticipating his words about the conditions in our country and the world at this time. He told us not to dwell only on those things that are wrong but to focus on our blessings as members of the Church. We may have joy and be of good cheer. The Lord will stand by us. He is a prophet of optimism. The gospel will comfort and sustain us. “Our future is as bright as our faith.”

In between sessions we went to the sister’s apartment along with Tilleys and Blackburns, and enjoyed sandwiches, fruit and cookies.
In the afternoon session Elder Dallin H. Oaks talked of sacrifice. (Rexene’s brother is married to his daughter so the Tilleys know him personally). Elder Bednar spoke of the temple and I loved his closing words, “to let the fire of the temple covenant burn a place in my heart.” President Monson gave a few closing remarks: live closer to the Lord; pray always; be careful….the adversary would have us; be particularly careful with the internet for along with the good, there is much evil that can destroy us; be strong; be clean; go to the temple often. I am so grateful for a living prophet and apostles. I am grateful to live in these last days. I am grateful for the wise use of the internet and for the ability to watch General Conference as it happens.
I bought plantains the other day so for dinner I peeled the ripest, cut it in half and sliced it and cooked the slices in a little oil. The plantain softens as it caramelizes and is quite sweet and tasty. Dick even ate it. It made a nice accompaniment to our meal.
Today is Nathan’s 9th birthday.

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