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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, 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.

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