This beautiful picture was taken by the Bawdens, with permission from this little girl's mother. They had it enlarged and framed. They had it hanging in their apartment. Now it hangs in the dental clinic.
9 November 2009…..Monday
I often look at my blog and wonder just how un-exciting it is for my family and friends to read my writings. It was a hard decision to finally go ahead and put my journal on a blog. I did it for several reasons. First of all, it is my own personal journal and a chronicling of the events of our mission. It is for ME, as my journal of the last 35 years has always been. Secondly, it is a way to keep loved ones informed about the things we are doing. I would never put all this information into a weekly email to our family. I am grateful for family and friends who actually read the blog and have an interest in what we are doing. It is all about things, even mundane things that I want to remember in years to come. I do have a “personal and private” journal and a “medical journal” that aren’t for sharing on the internet. Anyway, it is an interesting exercise to open up some of my thoughts and feelings for the world to view.
This morning Dick went to the office early. He came home for me a little later and dropped me off at Price Smart and then went and picked up Elder and Sister Brady, temple missionaries. With no car and only Monday free for shopping they are happy to get a ride from us. He took them to Puerta del Sol first, then Office Depot and then to Price Smart. I was ready to check out so then Dick took me and our groceries home. He went back to Price Smart to pick up Bradys and their groceries and took them home. Then back home to pick me up and we went to the office. All four of us plus all of the groceries will not fit in our Corolla.
I had hopes of getting the loan report started for November but the form Claudia sent to me was not in sequential order. They were divided by country, though. There are about 3500 loans for Central America and when the numbers are not in order it is impossible to find them.
Tonight Family Home Evening was held at Elder and Sister Clarke’s. Elder Costa, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, was our speaker. He and his wife have been here, along with Elder Neil Andersen, for a mission president’s conference for all the mission presidents in Central America. They have spoken to missionaries, Church employees and various other groups. We were honored to spend an hour with them in the Clarke’s living room. Elder Costa invited us to ask questions and so our entire time was spent with a questions and answer period. He told us that President Monson is doing very well but Sister Monson fell a week ago and broke her hip and her shoulder. We need to increase our prayers in her behalf. He talked about the increase of baptisms in North America and how productive the missionaries are there. He told of experiences he had when he was the area president of Columbia. He talked of the church in India and in China. China’s members are basically those who have lived in the states, Canada or other places. They embrace the gospel, then go back to China and share it with their friends. The Lord is moving in a marvelous way to bring the world His truth. We are blessed and honored to be part of it as the Perpetual Education Fund is a support for the growth of the young members of the church who need help with their education.
Tonight we met President and Sister Mask, the new temple president. He was area president in the Caribbean and has served in other assignments in Latin America. He was released at October Conference as a member of the Seventy. It was pretty awesome looking around the room. We were surrounded by general authorities of the church. Our entire area presidency was there plus the Costas. All of us senior missionaries are blessed to be part of this work of the latter days, no matter where we serve or what our specific calling is. We are surrounded with people who devote their time and finances and make daily sacrifices to be here at this time.
10 November 2009…..Tuesday
Just what I wanted! A day with plenty to do at the office. I seem to have two extremes….more than I can get done in a day and then days when there is little to do. I spent the day working on emailing the Priesthood Report to the stake specialists in Central America, and then dividing up the report by Guatemalan wards/branches. That is a slow process.
The time for Young Men has been moved up an hour to 6 pm. Dick and Jim left before five and stopped to get pizza to take to the boys. They take the Mena boy home afterwards because his parents don’t want their children out after dark because it is too dangerous. He lives in a gated community not far from our meeting house. Several other boys go home to dirt floors. Dick thinks they are all great young men. I enjoy watching the young men on Sunday as they fulfill their priesthood roles to bless and to pass the sacrament. Young men and young women regularly give talks or pray. Two of the Guzman boys are so cute with their one year old brother. I watch the baby want to be put down where he can stand against a chair and support himself. I have to wonder what it is like to have a crawling baby when the floors of the home are dirt. The children are always clean and in clean clothes. I don’t know how they do it.
11 November 2009…..Wednesday
We parents are all alike. I remember worries I had about our sons in the mission field, especially during the Falkland War when Jeff was in Argentina. We went six weeks without a letter back in 1982. Two of the church employees at the office have a son serving as a missionary in the states. Both are in New York City South. Monday came and went and neither of them had an email from their son. René has questioned us about what the reason could be, like preparation day being changed. I know he is worried.
Plenty of work again today. I finished the Priesthood Report and emails to all the bishops in Guatemala. I finally was able to start the November loan report. There is plenty more waiting to be done tomorrow.
This evening we all went to Taylor’s apartment and settled up on our humanitarian project at Lake Atitlan. We took the amount spent and then split it six ways so we would all pay an equal amount for the project. Then we discussed cable/internet and electric bills that come after we go home from our mission because right now we are trying to clear up some bills that came for Alberts and Bawdens. We hope to avoid the hassle for others in the future.
Today is Veteran’s Day and I have deep gratitude for those who have served in the past and who serve now. They have sacrificed greatly to keep us safe and free. I had cousins serve in World Ward II. Josh served in the Air Force pre-9/11 and Brian serves in the Air Force today and has been deployed several times. I am very proud of my son-in-law and my grandson-in-law for their commitment and love for their country. They are PATRIOTS. Might we all be counted in that same category!
12 November 2009…..Thursday
This morning I was able to work on the specialist report that needs to be done before PEF Committee Meeting on Monday. Dick still has a few more specialists to contact. Those who don’t respond to the monthly email get a phone call from him. I worked on the report of our activities for the past month and I include pictures with that. I was able to work on the loan report by noon. Tilleys, Curtiss’ and we went to Wendy’s for a bite of lunch. We are enjoying our new association with Curtiss’ who spend the day just a few feet away.
Dick volunteered to take Reynaldo to the airport for a flight to Honduras for PEF business. He brought me home first. I cooked bacon for dinner. American bacon. We stopped buying the kind that was available here but Price Smart had this new brand I had never seen before and we like it.
Today an email was sent out at the office to see if there were any physical needs in each department that “Administración de Propiedades” could take care of. A little while later another email appeared again with a note from Elder Tilley requesting an ice cream machine on Elder Graff’s desk.
13 November 2009…..Friday
Today is Marian’s 27th birthday. It was good to get all the loan payments current, finally. Of course, they won’t be current on Monday so I will have more to do. As I enter the date the loan was paid and the amount, it is always striking to me what that monthly $5 payment is equivalent to in the other countries monetary system. El Salvador uses the American dollar so the minimum payment is $5. (Of course, a number of them pay more than the minimum, and if they have graduated then their payment is higher, plus they start paying a low interest at that time). Panama’s money is one to one with the U.S. so they pay 5 of their currency. Belize is two Belizean dollars to one U.S. so they pay 10. Honduras pays 70, Nicaragua pays 80, and Costa Rica pays 1500 to equal the $5. One Costa Rican paid 15,000 which is ten times the amount due. How do they carry 15,000 of their currency to the bank….in a paper sack?
Dick brought me home about 2:30 pm and then returned to the office. I opened some large cans of black beans and mashed them and cooked them down for refried beans. They were very nicely seasoned so all I added was some bacon grease for additional flavor. I mixed up some Jamaica to drink which is made from Hibiscus and I cut up a watermelon. When Tomkinsons got home from the temple we all went to their apartment for a taco bar. They had the Tafts, father and son, with them. The Tafts are here for a couple of days from Salt Lake City to install the five dental chairs at the clinic and complete the setting up process. They have volunteered their time and their work to put these finishing touches on the clinic.
14 November 2009…..Saturday
This morning we did the essentials and then some of us met in the garage for a drive over to see the dental clinic.
It looks wonderful with all the chairs in place and the new equipment ready to go.
Then we and Tilleys headed out on the road to El Salvador to go to the Price Smart out there and see if they had any products that we couldn’t find at the store closer to us. We stopped at TGIF Fridays and I had ribs and they were delicious. Then on to Price Smart a short distance away. Didn’t find anything out of the ordinary but we explored anyway. We probably could have had lunch there….just like at home, they were passing out food samples in the aisles.
When we got home Rexene and I went into Suzanne’s apartment and we talked about Thanksgiving plans. Then I started my pie crusts for Dick’s birthday so they came over to watch the magic of the pie crust made out of oil. Dick and Jim left for a stake meeting and so I spent the evening getting caught up on things.
15 November 2009…..Sunday
I got up a little earlier and made the lemon filling for the pies. I cooked and cooked and the filling never thickened, even with way over a cup of corn starch. So, I set that aside, got out another pan, and started over. This time it worked like a charm. In 48 years of making lemon pies I have never had that problem. Cooking here in Guatemala is not like cooking at home. Many ingredients are just different. Sugar is not as sweet and is coarse. Brown sugar cannot be packed down. Butter is tasty and I love it as a spread but it is iffy when baking or making candy.
Today was stake conference, a satellite broadcast from Salt Lake City. Most of us attended out at Don Justo Ward building. A few of us went into another room where it would be broadcast in English. I am so grateful that I got to hear it in English. This is only the third time in 15 months that I have heard church in English. It was broadcast to 93 chapels…..the 39 stakes in Guatemala plus the 20 districts in Guatemala and the 2 districts in Belize. There are over 220,000 members of the church here in Guatemala. The closing speaker was Elder Boyd K. Packer. He has a long history of visits to Guatemala starting when missionary work was first opened up here over fifty years ago. He came to dedicate many chapels in the early seventies. Some of the highlights from his talk:
The Book of Mormon is your book.
He sees in Guatemala the fulfillment of Book of Mormon prophecies.
Missionaries will be blessed and watched over in Guatemala.
Live the gospel, follow the counsel, and you will be all right.
He left an apostolic blessing on the people…. for parents and grandparents…he invoked the blessing that they can feed and clothe their children and that all will be well.
I am so grateful we went into the English room or I would have missed so much of the detail.
As I was greeting young missionaries I asked the question that I always ask…”Where are you from?” I noticed one name tag said “Elder Mabey.” He said he was from Southern California. When I questioned further, he said, “the Riverside area.” As I suspected when I saw his name, his grandparents were in Beaumont Ward, Mother and Daddy’s ward when they lived in Calimesa. Brother Mabey was their home teacher and they talked about the Mabeys a lot.
After conference we went to Elder and Sister Curtiss’ for lunch. Oh my goodness! It was some meal. They fed 19 of us and wouldn’t let any of us bring anything. They both cook and she has done a lot of cooking over the years. We had two different kinds of salads….nothing ordinary. We had pork with three different sauces, a chicken dish, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. Hot rolls, of course. There were three desserts that they served on dinner sized plates so we could try them all. The caramel pecan cheesecake with a sauce (1 cup cream, 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup sweetened condensed milk) was extraordinary and rivaled the chocolate tart, my personal favorite. It had a crumb crust with a hint of cinnamon, then toasted nuts and orange rind, than a layer of chocolate, decadent and exquisite.
Since tomorrow is Dick’s birthday and we have Family Home Evening, we had our neighbors over tonight for lemon pie. I think we have all had enough dessert for one day. Fifty years ago I made Dick a birthday cake for his 23rd birthday. Tomorrow he will be 73!
We have a wonderful Thanksgiving sign on our door made by the grandchildren of Neil and Kathy Anderson, Megan, 5 ½ and Mia, 3 ½. The family is here visiting for two weeks. These darling little girls brought tears to my eyes. I miss my grandchildren!
- Elder y Hermana Graff
- 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.