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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, December 27, 2009

Journal - December 21 -27

Our sweet little Christmas tree with Guatemalan ornaments

21 December 2009…..Monday
Today Dick went to the office. Our desks and computers were not even accessible. That is fine. I enjoyed my day at home. I am getting low on hot cocoa mix, so I made a double batch. I made spiced pecans to take Christmas Eve when we go to the Torres’. I made refrigerator cookie dough so I can bake cookies to take to the CCM (MTC) Christmas night. I worked on my Shutterfly photo book and got it up to date. I read from the final chapters of Helaman in my Spanish Book of Mormon. This evening Dick took a plate of goodies to the desk in the lobby for the workers at the apartment. Tonight was Family Home Evening across the hall at the Tomkinsons. We played name that tune with Christmas carols, heard a sweet story, and then Gert shared some Christmas traditions of when he was a boy in Germany before the start of World War II. Dick and Bill took Gert home.

22 December 2009…..Tuesday
I had a Skype call this morning from Myrna. She showed me what she had made for Kristy for Christmas. It made me shed tears. She took a large frame and on one side she put a picture of Kristy with Mother (Kristy’s great-great grandmother). The other side has roses. Kristy and her “nana great” were very close. She will treasure this special gift forever.

After not making it out of the fifties the last two days we finally broke into the seventies, barely. I guess it was cold yesterday. The front page of today’s paper has a picture of a volcano in the San Marcos area that actually has a couple of inches of snow, which almost never happens. Dick went to the office and was able to use a computer in the conference room. I stayed home again and had Reynaldo send the December Loan Report form to my laptop computer. Then he sent the daily report to Dick. Dick printed it and brought it home and I was able to enter the current information onto the form and then email it back to the office.

I think it is about time for the sugar overdose to come to an end. Besides what I have made, others are doing the same thing and we are spreading the joy and the calories to everyone here. After I wrote those two sentences, Rexene gave us cinnamon rolls. Dick went to Clarke’s tonight to watch the BYU football game.

23 December 2009…..Wednesday
There is still no progress on our office and everything has been sitting in limbo since Saturday. Nevertheless, Dick went to the office. He has had no new applications this week. He did have a couple of exception letters to take care of. Guatemala/Central America pretty much closes down during the week before and after Christmas.

I made cookies today. This afternoon Rexene and I put pictures in frames. Each family in our branch will have a framed picture of their own family. Most have probably never had a family photo. It is a gift from Blackburns, Tilleys, and us. Dick came home from the office with ten pieces of mail. We so appreciate getting cards, letters and pictures from family and friends. We also have numerous emails with pictures and letters and beautiful Christmas greetings attached. We enjoy every greeting that has come our way this Christmas time.

I found a Christmas movie in English on TV this afternoon and Dick and I watched “Silver Bells.” Can’t believe it was a Christmas movie I have never seen. As I was cooking some sausage and eggs for dinner Rexene announced that we had carolers. It was the Alvarez family.
Patty is the first PEF specialist that we met when we first came here. She also volunteers at the office. Her husband is Palmita Stake (our stake) president. Their 16 year old son was with them and their teen age daughter who played the violin as they sang “The First Noel”. Their two older sons are both serving missions. They brought tears as we listened to them. They are one of the great stalwart families here in the church. About 6:30 Jim announced that it was movie night at Tomkinsons. Wayne had rented “Star Trek.” So, once again I trekked across the hall with a pillow and my fleece throw.

24 December 2009…..Thursday
CHRISTMAS EVE! I made cranberry salad, angel pudding, Jamaica to drink, scones and honey butter for tomorrow. Dick went to Paiz for a few items. At 5 pm Blackburns and we gathered at the Tilleys for hoagie sandwiches. We talked about our Christmas Eve traditions when our kids were growing up. We gave our three closest neighbors pens for Christmas. Special pens with a laser light and a flash drive. It is a different Christmas here in the mission field and it marks how quickly time passes.

We came back to our apartment and observed our own Christmas Eve. Santa stopped at our apartment to see if I had been a good girl this Christmas.
Then before 11 pm we drove a few blocks to President and Sister Torres (Guatemala City North Mission) apartment. They invited us missionaries and President and Sister Alvarado (Guatemala City South Mission) who live in the apartment across the hall from them. We had a traditional Mexican Christmas dinner. The Torres were both born in California of Mexican descent. Their family sent her the masa and the corn husks that she would need to make her Mexican tamales. We were the happy recipients of a wonderful meal. We also had Mexican hot chocolate. We watched many fireworks from the dining room window as we ate. Then the adventure began…..our trek to the roof. They don’t have a roof like ours with easy access to lawn chairs and a serving area. Their apartment guard had to lead us with flashlights up some cement steps to a half door that we then had to crawl under to get to the roof on the 15th floor. There were pipes and rebar in many areas so we had to walk with caution, but the fireworks were phenomenal. We saw thousands of fireworks. It got very intense at one point and I wondered if it was midnight. It was 11:55 pm. Then at midnight there was such a cacophony that we couldn’t even hear each other talk. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fireworks were lit off while we spent about thirty minutes walking around the roof to see the fireworks in all directions. It was like the 4th of July at the Jet Hawk stadium in Lancaster times 1000. None of these were organized displays, just residents setting off fireworks. By 12:15 am it had quieted a lot and the streets were a smoky haze. We took our treacherous little trip, backing out through the half door on our knees and back down the stairs to Torres’ apartment. One thing I Iearned tonight. Elder Tilley taught me how to distinguish the gun shots from the firecrackers.

The Taylors have three granddaughters and a friend visiting. Three are in high school. They raised money to come here and donate their funds to service projects. Their grandparents have kept them very busy the last five days. Tonight they entertained us before we left the Torres’. Two of them played a duet of “Sleigh Ride” on the piano. They did a wonderful job with all the rhythms and syncopation. Then they all sang “Angels We Have Heard on High.” They are beautiful girls and very talented. We pulled in the garage at 1 am.

25 December 2009…..Friday
Christmas Day 2009 will be a memorable Christmas Day for me. After too few hours of sleep we were up, ready for the day. Our neighbors came for hot cocoa and buttermilk scones.

Rexene brought a platter of sausage and bacon. Suzanne brought their holiday tradition of citrus fruit cocktail (sections of orange and grapefruit with maraschino cherries added). I was able to get everything pretty much cleaned up before we walked half a block to an orphanage. We spent Christmas morning with about 70 orphans, all five years old and younger. This is a government run orphanage so they didn’t need the help with food, diapers, and formula like the orphanage we served at last year. As soon as we walked in one little boy latched onto me. Literally. He threw his arms around my legs and when I kneeled beside him he threw his arms around my neck.
I couldn’t sit with him. He would cry, “mama, mama, mama.” I had to stand. So I spent the next hour with him, and a few others. Dick sat on a bench with three or four small ones around him. When they wanted his attention they said, “papa, papa, papa.”

They were pretty happy. They all got small cars to use on some “city mats” that the missionaries in Central Mission had made as a service project. They could run their little cars on the streets. We had four young missionaries helping, two elders and two sisters. There were also several American families who live nearby. The children got a lot of attention. Then Santa came. My little sidekick wasn’t very interested until he saw that the other children were getting gift bags with candy, crayons, play dough, and more little cars. I took him to Santa and took a picture after he got his bag. Then he was back with me. We blew bubbles for awhile and then he went over by one of Taylors granddaughters and forgot all about me. I went upstairs to where the babies were. Two rooms with twelve infants in each room. I picked up a fussy baby girl of about two months. She was very small. As I talked to her she would smile. So precious. Many of these babies are simply left at the front gate. All the children aren’t true “orphans.” They are there because parents don’t have the means to take care of them. I watched the two women taking care of the infants as I sat in a rocking chair with my baby. They would change a diaper, then pick up the baby and give him or her a kiss before laying him back in the bassinet. The babies seemed to be well stimulated and quite content. One precious little boy has a cleft palate. Tomkinsons will arrange for one of the humanitarian groups to do surgery the next time they come to Guatemala. Needless to say, the tears were abundant with all of us as we left those babies. When I went back downstairs they were bringing in the rest of them to their individual room and crib for naps. I took some of the little ones. We put them in their bed and used a wipee to clean sticky faces and hands. Some were content and some were crying because they didn’t want to leave the fun activities for a nap. And so, I will always remember Christmas morning, 2009, holding little ones without parents or homes, and giving thanks that my precious grandchildren and great-grandchildren have homes of love, peace and security. We don’t realize how blessed we are until we see those who would give anything to have what we have.

Dick and I were the last to walk back home.

Our "Home Sweet Home".....Victoria Suites
I took a 2 hour nap. He went to the office to print something in Spanish that he needs for tonight. He and Jim went and picked up Gert and at 3 pm we had dinner at the Tilleys. We are grateful for our friends who are family to us here. We Skyped with Mark, Scott and Myrna before leaving for the CCM and our evening Christmas celebration. Later we talked with Jill and Kristen..

Our Christmas Night was spent at the CCM (MTC). There are seventy missionaries there. No Americans until January. All of the seventy will be leaving next Tuesday for their assignments in the various Central American countries. First the bell choir performed and it was lovely. Then Dick acted as master of ceremonies for the rest of the program. Taylor’s granddaughters performed at the piano and vocally. Then we “old” missionaries joined with them and we sang in English, “Joy to the World” and “Little Drummer Boy.” Then the young missionaries sang for us. They sang a favorite Christmas song from their country. Some songs were from the hymn book. Others were native to their country. There was one young man from Honduras who sang a solo. Other varying sizes of groups from Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and the largest group from Guatemala. We were thoroughly entertained. After the closing prayer they went into the hall and Santa was there. They ignored all the goodies we had brought until they had each sat on Santa’s lap, received a little gift bag and had their picture taken with Santa. It is always a treat to be in their presence. President and Sister Christensen will be going home in three weeks when the new CCM president and wife arrive from the states.

Elder and Sister Graff with President and Sister Christensen
One of the young missionaries we met tonight is Elder Rabinales. He is the oldest son of the couple who were killed in the plane crash two weeks before we came to Guatemala. The other two children are living in Salt Lake with family friends. Thus concludes the events of our Christmas activities. Experiences we will always remember and I’m sure next year we will think back with wonderful memories of spending Christmas in the mission field.

26 December 2009…..Saturday
No alarm today. We slept until we felt like getting up. Late morning we left with Tilleys to go to the Oklund Mall. Blackburns met us there. It is a big upscale mall with many American brand stores that are too expensive for me in the states. We went to the movies and saw “Avatar,” strictly for the special effects. We went to the VIP section. It cost 75Q or about $8. We had reserved seats….leather recliners. By pushing a button on our chair a waiter came and took our order of popcorn and sodas. We just relaxed and ate and I wished I had my fleece throw because the air conditioning was very cold. Afterwards we went to a music store and bought a CD by Il Divo. It is beautiful in Italian. I was hoping it was the same CD we heard at the restaurant in Antigua a week ago, but it’s not. I still want to find the CD we heard there with the song “The Wind Beneath my Wings” in Italian.

We went to Tilleys at 5 pm and combined our leftovers for an easy meal with Blackburns. Then we played dominoes. Back home we finally connected with Jeff in Mission Viejo and Alison and Paul in Pennsylvania. We tried Cyndy in Florida and Dennis in Washington with no results.

27 December 2009…..Sunday
It was a foggy morning when we woke up but gave way to sun before we left for Church. Afterwards we handed out the family photos we had framed. I rode home with Tilleys as Dick had one more family to visit that he hasn’t been able to find before and there is no phone number for many of the people in the branch. When I got home I fried the rest of the scone dough and took them to Tomkinsons, Tilleys and Blackburns.

I love my new Il Divo CD. Then it occurred to me that it might be the same group we had heard in the restaurant in Antigua. So, I googled them and found the song I was hoping for, “Por Ti Seré.” It is “You Lift Me Up” which I thought was entitled “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Well, I spent an hour listening to them on You Tube and their sound is incredible, far superior to our little CD player. I think the very best of music would be Il Divo singing the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, my favorite modern day composer. As words from “Phantom of the Opera” says: “music makes my spirit soar.”

This evening we are having a fireside presented by President Mask, temple president. He has studied some of the lesser known artifacts and he is going to tell us about a particular area and then next Saturday will take us to see a stone that is in the middle of a cane field.

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