14 December 2009…..Monday
Dick left for the office at 7 am. Today was the deadline for getting applications to Salt Lake before 9 am. It was a huge relief for him. Other applications are coming in but there won’t be another PEF approval meeting in SLC till January, and with school starting in January the big rush will slow down.
I went to the office with Tilleys at 8:30 am. I sent the last of the PEF Priesthood Reports to all the Seventy in Central America. Then I was able to do some updating of my Belize participants and start the December loan report. At 2:30 pm Dick was ready to come home. He had some phone calls to make so we came home so he could take care of some personal business. Family Home Evening was at the Andersons. We sang a few Christmas songs and then watched a movie, “The Nativity Story.” It was an excellent movie and we all enjoyed it. It was a harsh time in Bible lands two thousand years ago. I loved the portrayals of Mary and Joseph. For refreshments, Neil had made filled raisin cookies just like Mother used to make many years ago.
15 December 2009…..Tuesday
Today is Myrna’s 30th birthday. We hit the jackpot at the office! Eleven pieces of mail, including a beautiful frame-able Christmas card from the First Presidency. I have enough loan work to keep me busy for a couple of days. Dick left at noon to go buy some goodies for the Young Men meeting tonight. I stayed at the office.
This evening while Dick was at YM I made truffles and dipped Craisins and raisins in chocolate.
16 December 2009…..Wednesday
Last night, before dark, Dick and Jim were driving to their YM meeting. On Reforma Blvd. they saw a motorcycle and a van off to the side of the road with somebody lying underneath. They figured an investigation was going on because of an accident. Well, today the story was in the newspaper. A young man went to a street side vendor to buy a calling card (you can buy anything on the street from vendors). When the vendor saw the money he shot, killed and robbed the young man and took off on a motorcycle. The father of the young man was in the van and took off after the shooter. He ran him down with the van, took the gun away from him, and shot and killed him. So now, two young men are dead and the father is in jail. Such is the street justice in Guatemala. Sometimes it is the only justice. Sad.
At noon Tilleys were heading to Price Smart so we went along. I’m glad I had stockpiled four of the large bags of chocolate chips because, like last year just before Christmas, there were no chocolate chips on the shelves at Price Smart. We had Costco dogs and fries, came home and unloaded groceries and the guys went back to the office. I made peanut clusters. I have used three of my large bags of chocolate chips this week and I think I am finished with candy making.
We had a wonderful dinner at Durans. He is the DTA (director of temporal affairs) for all of Central America. They invited the area presidency and all of us senior missionaries who work at the office. We had an appetizer type meal, which is my favorite kind. Dick and Bill, former Argentine missionaries, raved over the empañadas. Then they brought out “costumes” for us all to re-enact the nativity story. Everyone had a part to play and a robe or head piece…..except for me. I was the photographer to record the event. Elder Clarke read from the scriptures. Elder and Sister Fallabella were Joseph and Mary. Dick was one of the shepherds.
The Curtisses were sheep. Sister Martino was the angel. True to form, Carolyn and Rexene wanted to be one of the wise men since they had never played that part before. It was very much like watching our kids and their cousins many years ago and more recently, our grandchildren, performing on the stage of Alison’s stairs in Saugus, CA. Like those other times, there was humor and laughs, yet a reverence for the event and gratitude for the gift of our Savior. Afterwards we sang Christmas hymns. I enjoyed that a lot because this year I have not been singing the hymns because I have been playing them on the teclado. Plus, this was a time we could sing in English.
17 December 2009…..Thursday
I took peanut clusters to the office today for anyone who came into our area. I took small plates of other candies to Reynaldo, Claudia and Curtisses. It is quiet at the office. Many people take their vacations at this time of year. I worked on the loan report and then went in the conference room and helped put together gift baskets for the needy. Dick went with Elder Curtiss to deliver blankets donated by Church Humanitarian Services. Some are going to one of the stakes and were left at the office. Most are going to prisoners and so Dick and John delivered them to the man who will get them where they need to be.
Dick brought me home in the afternoon so I could practice the tecaldo for awhile. I heard Skype ringing. It was Janea, Trevor, and Shaylee. Shaylee sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Itsy, Bitsy, Spider.” Pretty cute and smart for our two year old great-granddaughter!
Shortly after 5 pm we left with Blackburns to go to choir practice in La Sabana at the home of the Carrias family. Our fifteen minute drive on Sundays was over an hour and a half in the usual evening traffic. As we parked inside the back gate and were walking into the house we could hear the choir of thirteen people singing. It was a rag-tag little choir with no clear melody. We got the teclado set up and Dick, Bill and Adele joined the choir. They sang their first song, “Away in a Manger,” and I applauded. It is such a pleasure for us to be able to help them in their efforts. They sing with joy, as we all do, when we sing these beautiful Christmas hymns. Travel back home was fifteen minutes with no traffic.
18 December 2009…..Friday
This morning at 8:30 am all of us went downstairs to greet the workers and the guard here at the apartment building. We sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Bill was dressed in his new Santa suit. Last year he rented one for two days. This year he has had about ten days worth of Santa requests so he decided to have a suit made for him. He had gift bags for each of them containing money that we all contribute as a Christmas “bonus” for them, for all the service they give to us.
Soon after, we sent with Tilleys, Tomkinsons and their friends who are here visiting. They are with the American Embassy in Honduras. We went to Antigua. First we went to the wood factory. Then we went to the museum that we had visited a few weeks ago. Everyone loved it. I bought some refrigerator magnets from some children at the museum.
The guide told us that he is a recovering drug addict and he gives all the credit to Jesus Christ. Dick gave him a Book of Mormon and told him it is another testament of Jesus Christ that tells of the people here in Meso-America. He told Dick that next time we visit the museum they will talk about the book. Then we went to the market. I bought two pillow covers and a few shawls. Next we went to the Jade Factory/Museum. Our guide, Rafael Martinez, was excellent. In his presentation for the eight of us he mentioned the Book of Mormon, the tree of life and Lehi’s dream, questioned if Sariah wore jade jewelry, spoke of the Waters of Mormon, the city of Nephi and King Noah and Abinadi. He even spoke of the Olmecs being the Jaredites. Of course, with three couples wearing missionary name tags, he knew exactly who we were and our beliefs. He stated that he was not LDS and then asked if we had any questions. Dick responded, “Why aren’t you LDS.” He responded, “not yet.” It is a smart marketing ploy by the jade factory to talk of the Book of Mormon when they know we are members because they sell plenty of Uchi’s in jade that is the glyph for “and it came to pass.” They also have Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life in jade. Hopefully, someday his intellectual knowledge of the writings of the Book of Mormon will turn to belief. He has a Book of Mormon that he has actually studied to know all that he talks about.
Tomkinsons and their friends left for home because they had guests coming for dinner. We went to Ni Fu – Ni Fa, an Argentine restaurant in Antigua. It was a delicious meal in a lovely garden setting.
The music playing in the background was so beautiful that now I need to discover the CD and the Spanish singer who was singing, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” After we got home we delivered plates of dipped chocolate goodies to our neighbors.
19 December 2009…..Saturday
It is busy outside. The window washers are here washing the outside of all the apartment windows. While I cleaned, Dick went to the cleaners to get his suit. He stopped by the office and there were guys there working on our office. We and the Curtiss’ will be switching office space with the call center. It will provide a less congested working space for us and put the call center next to Claudia and Reynaldo. We are looking forward to the change and it looks like it will be sooner than we thought.
At noon we drove to Friends, the restaurant that is kid friendly and plays music videos from the 50’s and more recent decades. Reynaldo, his wife Elijahana, and his children, Monica and Diego met us there. Claudia arrived next with her son, Diego. This was our Christmas gift to them. It is a fun place to be for the kids and their parents. Monica is 3. She carried in gifts for me and Dick, delivered them to each of us and gave us a beso (kiss) on the cheek. Dick received two ties. They gave me two scarves, one red and one lime colored, for the cool weather. I love them! We spent two hours together and it was just like being with our grandkids. It was very good for us.
We left the apartment at 5:30 pm to ride with the Blackburns to La Sabana and get things set up for the branch party at 6 pm. The drive took the normal 15 minutes. Nothing like the trip to choir practice on Thursday night. Tilleys started taking family group pictures. Most of these people have never had a photo of their family. We will get them printed and we already have frames. They will be a gift for the branch families from us three senior couples. Our Christmas program was lovely. The two rooms that serve as our chapel were packed to capacity. There were more people than I have ever seen there. Adele had planned a program. Each auxiliary were assigned a Christmas hymn to sing. I accompanied. It was most enjoyable. Adele and I sang a duet of “Away in a Manger.” Rexene accompanied us on the teclado. We sang in English so they got to hear our version of the song. They had a catered meal outside afterwards. There was plenty of good food for this congregation of saints who don’t have a lot. And then, the big surprise! Santa came.
Bill is putting his Santa suit to good use. All the children got a picture taken with him and then a small gift. I was very touched when the first little boy, Tito, received a small ball, walked a few steps away, then turned around and went back and hugged Santa and said “gracias.” The next little boy did the same thing. After all the children were through there was a line of teenagers. Of course, our two young missionaries took a seat on Santa’s knees for a picture. The batteries were dead in Elder Simons camera, so I took the batteries out of my camera to put in his. It was more important that this young missionary get the pictures he wanted. The whole experience was just a joyful time.
20 December 2009…..Sunday
Today I was very grateful for the scarves that Reynaldo and family gave me. It was chilly and drizzly. At 1 pm it was only 59 degrees with a light rain and it never got any warmer. This morning was our special Christmas program in church. When we got there, fifteen minutes early, the choir was seated in the front where some chairs had been set up. Dick joined them. There were a few times of rearranging the order of songs, but it went very well with the music and the youth assigned to tell about events from the scriptures.
Primary had the biggest attendance I have seen in the last year…..17 children. There is always someone waiting to carry my teclado or table out to the car afterwards, be it 78 year old Brother Rodriguez or the Mena’s twelve year old son. It struck me last night that in seven months there will be a lot of tears when we leave these beautiful people. It is such a blessing to be part of their life at this time. I rode home with Blackburns and Dick went home teaching afterward.
I actually crawled in bed this afternoon and slept for an hour and it was perfect sleeping weather. I have used my little heater today to take off the chill. This evening is movie night at the Tomkinsons. We will watch “Miracle on 34th Street.”
- 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.