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, June 7, 2009

Week of June 1st to June 7th 2009

1 June 2009…..Monday
This morning we took Sister Jones to the North Mission office. She mentioned that President Torres was flying north for a funeral. Wilfred Obando, a member of the San Benito District presidency, was speaking at the district conference yesterday and collapsed and died at the pulpit. We met him when President Torres brought all of the district presidencies together in Guatemala City and we were able to present PEF to them. Brother Obando was using the Fund. He was married with one child and he was only 25 years old. So sad.
The office was quiet today. Reynaldo is accompanying Elder Cook and others on their tour of Central America, as are the Tilleys. Bawdens are still in Panama with the US Navy hospital ship. I finished my May PEF entry for the Area History with pictures, and took it up to Bonnie to be put in the binder. It is the first of the month so we composed a new letter and I emailed it to all the specialists, reminding them that we need their report of last month’s activities. I didn’t get the loan report for the last four days of May until just before we left, so I got it printed and will work on it tomorrow while we are with returning missionaries at the Employment Center.
Keny Juarez came by the office and brought two more nacimientos (nativity sets). We ordered two more that she will bring in September. We now own five and we will take one home to each of our children.
Dick brought me home at 3:30 pm and I did laundry and started packing our things for the next few days. He went to the dermatologist to have some areas in his hair checked. The doctor told him it might be psoriasis and prescribed a morning cream, a shampoo and a night treatment. While chatting with neighbors in the hallway I found out that there was a shooting a block away where we turn off of Las Americas to our street. The taxi driver bringing Sister Thibault and Sister Barney home heard the gunshots. They asked why someone would be shot and killed and his reply was, “because this is Guatemala.”
Jill called. She had gone to see Mother today. Mother had done quite well on Saturday but Sunday was not a good day. Jill said after she had been there awhile Mother perked up and was eating some lunch so she had Jacob, Tyler and Nathan come in. The report is that my grandsons made their Nana Great smile. She knew them. She remembered that Nathan’s middle name is Andrew and she told him that he is named after her dad. It is amazing how the mind works. Basic things can be forgotten but somewhere in the hidden reaches there is memory of a great grandson’s middle name.



2 June 2009…..Tuesday

Today is Randy’s funeral and my thoughts are with Raelene, Blaine and their families. I wish I could be there with them at this time.
Dick went to the cleaners this morning to pick up his shirts. He will need a long sleeved shirt for the temple tomorrow afternoon. Paiz is right next door so he went in and got apples, bananas, small packages of Oreos and juice boxes. When the missionaries fly back to Guatemala and finally get to the Casa about 10 am they are starving. We left home about 9:15 am. I had one disappointment when we got to the Casa. We did not get the bigger room with the queen beds because somewhere along the line the Casa did not know we were all coming. So, we got a room with bunk beds, but the good thing is, there are new thick mattresses on the beds. Tonight we will find out how good they are. We expected 7 but we had 11 missionaries arrive. One sister served in Bolivia. The rest served in Honduras.
At noon we arrived at the Employment Center. One sister returning to Palmita Stake (our stake) speaks perfect English. She said her stake president, President Alvarez writes to all the missionaries every week. He has one son out now and one leaving in two weeks. We ate a lunch of chicken, mashed potatoes, and greens and cucumber salad. Plus, lemonade. With all the food they serve us here every time we come, we are never served desserts.
Missionaries love the food

Pati started the class and Dick left the room with an elder who is not feeling well. He was having back problems. Two of the young missionaries gave him a blessing. Pati turned the class over to Sarah and Katherine, our interns from BYU. They taught for almost 2 hours. They are darling, great teachers, with excellent Spanish. Katherine is only 20. I passed around the “Ensign” with Jessica’s picture. Elvis said, “she is very beautiful.” Katherine knew one of the other girls in the picture. I see these women of great confidence and ability and think what a blessing it is that all of our young women are given many opportunities to learn and serve while they are in their teens. It is the Lord’s plan as our young people are prepared to be missionaries, teachers, parents, and in all ways go out into the world and be of service.
A man who was here in the employment service center today called me by name and introduced me to a young woman who was born in Downey, California. She moved back to Guatemala when she was 3. Her U.S. citizenship might be very valuable to her someday. He told Dick he had been at a meeting where Dick spoke many months ago, and he would never forget his smile. When he gets up to talk at a meeting he is so distinguished with his white hair and dark suit. He almost commands
attention. He certainly commands mine!
While I was working on the loan report so I could send it back to the office, Dick caught my attention at the door. He was on his cell phone with Jill. We went back to another office and there we got the news that Mother is in the last stages of cancer. The doctor even told Linda to call a mortuary and let them know it is imminent. I am so far away. I think Mother and I both planned on her being there when I got home. I couldn’t have told her goodbye those many months ago if I hadn’t expected her to wait for me to get home. The last thing I want is for her to linger in pain and suffering. It is time for her to go be with Daddy.
I was able to take my computer back to a small office about 4 pm and Elvis hooked it up to the internet. I needed to email my loan report for the rest of May back to Claudia at the office. Then I sat at my computer in case I got a Skype call. Dana emailed and said Jeff was on his way to see Mother and he would call us. We left the Employment Center at 7 pm to go back to the Casa. Dick’s cell phone rang ten minutes later. I answered and I knew it was Jeff but I could not hear. We were in a noisy vehicle, surrounded by eleven missionaries. I told him to call back in ten minutes when we would be back at the Casa. He did, and it was good to hear his voice. He and Steve had already given Mother a blessing to release her to return home to our Heavenly Father. I am sure Daddy is just waiting for the word to take her home. Jeff handed the phone to Linda and we were able to talk. My emotions are compounded by the distance and by my desire to be there. Jeff put the phone to Mother’s ear so I could talk to her. She remained in a deep sleep, but I like to think that maybe she did hear my voice. We have already received permission from Salt Lake and the missionary department, via Elder Clarke, to go home for a few days for her funeral.
We were in bed before 9 pm and sleep was welcome.


3 June 2009…..Wednesday

We were out the door this morning at 6:45 am and the van to take us to the Employment Center was there waiting for us. It took a good 15 minutes for all the missionaries to gather. Some of their former companions work at the CCM and they are always mingling in the shared small parking lot, hugging and talking. I had my computer connected to the internet by 7:30 am, beginning another day of waiting for information about Mother. I had emails from Jill and Cyndy.
Dick called Hermana Jones to see how her doctor appointment went. She has not felt well for quite some time. She was diagnosed with Typhoid Fever and is leaving now for the hospital. She needs a four or five day rest! Sister Thibault was also admitted to the hospital for Typhoid Fever. Sister Jones had not arrived at the severe stage like Marilyn Bawden and Sister Torres by the time they got medical care, but Sister Thibault was even more severe. Then Dick’s cell phone rang. It was Jill. I was prepared for the worst. Instead I was told that when Linda got there this morning Mother was sitting up, drinking an Ensure. When the nurse took her blood pressure Mother told her she was going to break her arm. She hates her blood pressure taken. As I am typing this I thought of those who have “false labor” and take a few trips to the hospital before the baby is finally ready to be born. I wonder if on the other side of the veil they are going through the same thing. They think she is ready to go be with them, then she stays here a little longer. This business of birth and death is tricky and the Lord is in charge.
Some thoughts of the day: A young man of 30 who was here at the Employment Center asked if he could practice English with me. We carried on a conversation for about 20 minutes. He showed me his English workbook. I showed him my Spanish manual. He has family living in Salt Lake and in Tampa, FL. He is studying communication at the university. His name is Dario. One of our young missionaries is wearing 3 pins. Dick asked what they were for. He said his district in Honduras had 90 baptisms one month so he got a pin for every thirty baptisms. Dick asked if the converts were still active. He replied that seven are preparing for missions and three families are coming to Guatemala City to the temple soon.
At 3:15 pm Dick and I walked over to the South Mission Office with Sister Cermeño. Since she lives in a district she was released by President Alvarado, who is responsible for that district. Luckily, I had an umbrella, but we needed an ark. It poured! We only had to walk a block. President Alvarado spent 45 minutes interviewing her. Therefore, the rest of the group loaded in the van at 4 pm and went to the Casa and Elvis picked up the three of us and drove us. We arrived 60 seconds before the rest of the group. President Torres was waiting at the Casa to interview and release one of our elders. Then we traipsed over to the temple.

The spire of the temple behind the CCM and Casa de Huespedes

It was the biggest session I have been in here in Guatemala. The session was forty minutes late starting, but this is the land of mañana. There were 30 of us and it was tight. There was a couple being sealed and several missionaries about to go out in the mission field. It is always a place of peace. Truly a sanctuary. It is always a joy to watch the missionaries find their parents inside or outside the temple. We had 5 elders for one more night and they will be picked up in the morning by families.

the five remaining missionaries and pizza

We all went to the kitchen at the Casa and had cold pizza and warm soda. An interesting thing here. The soda is never cold, just room temperature.

Elder and Sister Graff at the Casa

While we were having pizza Jill called Dick’s cell phone. They feel that Mother is slipping away. She is on a morphine drip so she is not in pain.


4 June 2009…..Thursday
We slept through the night with no phone call. I always feel isolated without internet. I woke to intestinal problems so stayed in our room. Dick went out and got the five missionaries off with parents, even taking the last two to McDonald’s for breakfast. I read more than half of 2 Nephi including all the Isaiah portions in Spanish.
We were on the road for home by 10 am. I didn’t forget anything this time. I was anxious to get home and check my email. I unpacked. Dick went to Meykos to get his prescriptions the dermatologist prescribed. We have been in some beautiful apartments in this city, mostly 10 or more stories up, occupied by the area presidencies and church employees. They have gorgeous views. I am so grateful for the view out our second story windows.

The view is peaceful to me and sustains me. The tall jacaranda trees no longer have purple blossoms but they are so green with the almost daily rain. Our windows look to the south and I think there is far less pollution since the major part of the city lies north. The black smoke spewing from all the buses causes all of us to hold our breath when we are near them.
Darlene Barney came over and cut my hair this evening. We had one huge clap of thunder, a little rain, then it ended as abruptly as it began. I checked my email about every ten minutes, waiting to hear about Mother. Jill was able to talk to Steve and the report is: same as yesterday, no change but the fever is gone. I wish I could be there at this time but as a missionary I will need to wait until she is through with this earthly struggle.


5 June 2009…..Friday

I got very little done at the office today. When we got there Alberts and Bawdens were consulting about the dental clinic. By the time I got my desk top and laptop going I had a call from Telma. Elder Clarke wanted to see me, so I climbed the stairs to the fifth floor. (Climbing stairs is great exercise, plus, two weeks ago the Blackburns were in the elevator for 30 minutes before the repair guys got it running again). Elder Clarke still wants to pursue a photo album for the Christensens. While he and I were talking about it he called Julio Alvarado, over public relations, to come into his office. Julio had done a couple of pages on his own. The background is wonderful and I remarked that Shutterfly would not have anything nearly as appropriate. He had done a map of Guatemala, Tikal, and Guatemalan textiles. They can have it printed and ready in 3 days. They know that the quality will not be as good as what we could do online, but it will be very centered on Guatemala and Central America.
As soon as I walked into our office Dick told me we were going with Bawdens and Taylors to see the progress on the dental clinic. We drove down to the old area of GC. There is an orphanage there with a vacant building that is being remodeled by Elder Albert into the clinic. It will be staffed by senior missionaries who are dentists in the coming years. The church is covering the fees of the building and Elder Bawden is trying to get the rest of the equipment donated. Sister Albert is very artistic. She is making a mural for one wall out of tiles. It depicts the founder of the clinic, children, the resident dog and the resident, but very beautiful, rooster. Seeing her work made me think of Steve and his Egyptian creations.
All four couples went to lunch at Tacotean. I would have preferred the San Martin nearby. We got back to the office about 1:30 pm. I had to wait for Claudia to get back from lunch to email the June loan payment form so I could begin my loan report. I got it and then forwarded it to my laptop. I got the reports for the first three days of the month from Sergio and printed them. I ended up bringing them home to work on here.
We hurried home. I am glued to my computer waiting for any word about Mother. I got the computer running and Dick took shirts to the cleaners. The shirts will be available tomorrow in case we have to pack a suitcase. Jill called on Skype. She had been able to talk to Linda and Mother’s blood pressure is low and she has very shallow breathing. She will not awake. She will stay in this condition until she finally passes on. That will be a sweet relief for her little body, for Linda who is keeping constant vigil, and for me who wishes I were there to tell her a final goodbye.
Sister Barney called. She was at the hospital visiting Sister Jones and Sister Thibault. Today is Kathy’s 60th birthday….she is one of “the girls.” She will be coming home tomorrow. Sarah is not doing well. We drove over and picked up Darlene, came back to the apartment, and she took our car to go to Paiz. She brought us each a cupcake so we could celebrate Kathy’s birthday.


6 June 2009…..Saturday
This will be one of those dates that I will always remember. Mother died this morning at 3:30 am. I am sad but I am also very grateful that she has left her mortal body for now. I can just imagine the grand reunion that is going on right now with Daddy, Grandpa and Grandma Jensen, and other loved ones. We, meanwhile, are left with memories and we will find much joy in the coming days talking about our memories as we all gather for her funeral.
Today was a day of many things to do. There were many, many emails flying back and forth with our family as travel plans were being made. Linda called and we discussed funeral plans. After I cancelled plans to teach Carolyn how to do Shutterfly, our news circulated. Blackburns came down to see what we need. They will take us to the airport tomorrow. Carolyn checked on us, the Bawdens came down for awhile and offered to take us to the airport. Darlene borrowed the car to pick up Kathy Jones who was released from the hospital and is doing well. We will leave our car keys with Darlene so she can use the car while we are away. Tilleys called. They were on the hospital ship passing through the Panama Canal as we spoke. I spent a long time trying to get the right flight arrangements and getting the AV credit union to accept it because the reservations were being made in Guatemala. They know we are here but they are very alert to possible fraud.
I did laundry and worked on packing suitcases, including my new wooden fruit, and the nativity sets. We are taking a package of the Blackburns to mail when we get to the states. Dick called Elder Clarke to tell him that Mother had passed away and we would be back on June 15th. He is in El Salvador and will report it to the missionary department in SLC on Monday. Dick went to the office and took care of a few things. He called Reynaldo who is in Honduras to tell him. He cancelled our 6 am appointment to speak in a bishop’s meeting in El Molino Stake tomorrow. I worked on my loan report that I brought home and got it sent via email to Reynaldo and Claudia.
We had Skype calls from Alison. She and Paul are coming. Scott’s family called us twice. This was a very important day because Emma was baptized in Provo. Dick wasn’t here to talk to them so they called back later this evening. We called Kristen. She pulled some of our things out of the Rubbermaid container at her house and will bring them to us when she goes to California. My journal became the last thing to do as I finished up the packing. Hopefully, tomorrow while we are in airports and traveling I will have time to contemplate and think on what has come to pass in the loss of Mother.


7 June 2009…..Sunday
I awoke this morning to a typical Guatemalan morning here in our area. The first thing that aroused me was the crowing of “the” rooster shortly after 5 am. I don’t know where he is, probably not very nearby. We are surrounded by upscale homes and high rise condominiums. I think his crowing must echo off the buildings in the area. Every morning when I hear him it is easy to imagine what Guatemala City must have been like during Book of Mormon times. There is stillness and then his sound is almost haunting…and mournful. It doesn’t sound like the typical rooster’s good morning call. As the day gets lighter he stops and when he stops the birds start in. They are nearby. They are glad for the new day. At 6:45 this morning there was a loud cacophony of fireworks set off in the street to the east of us. There is a white canopy in the yard behind us and there must be a birthday or even a wedding being held there today. Hearing fireworks in Guatemala is a very common place occurrence. All the noise set off the dogs. Thank goodness the two dogs behind us do not bark, but the others in the surrounding areas do. It is a little after 8 am now and the other common sound every morning is the cars starting in the garage below us. Today everyone is heading out to their different branches to attend Church. I will miss the sounds and my friends.
I don’t think I could have gone home for Mother’s funeral if it had happened six months ago. I knew then that if I went home it would be very hard to come back, but of course, I would have. Now I have “matured” as a missionary and I can go home and I know by this time next week I will be ready to come back home to Guatemala and our little apartment. There will be a lot of work to get caught up when we come home. And, this is home, it has been for nine months.
We will leave for the airport soon. We fly out at 11:41 am, on to Houston, then land in Ontario at 7:51 pm and be picked up by Jill’s family.

1 comment:

The Struthers Clan said...

Elder & Hermana Graff,
I heard about the passing of your mother and was sorry to hear of this. So grateful for the knowledge we have of the plan of salvation. I enjoyed your post this week very much and hope that the typhoid fever stays away from any more sweet missionaries. Hope you enjoyed your visit with the family, I know they enjoyed you.