7 December 2009…...Monday
Its beginning to sound and smell like Christmas! That means fireworks and the smell of smoke from the fireworks. They started a few days ago and will go on till after the first of the year. It is especially bad tonight because today is “el dia de Diablo”…..the day of the devil. They “kill” the devil on this day. The shops on the street have been full of devil piñatas, some with two heads. I don´t know if they beat them up with sticks or blow them up with fireworks. Probably both.
I am tired tonight. We got up at 5 am in order to leave for the office at 6:30. Every Monday morning there is a devotional at the office for all employees. This morning we were invited to participate. I played prelude music and the opening song on a piano!!! It is so much better than a teclado (keyboard). Dick gave a short talk. Seriously, he did keep it to less than ten minutes. He got several compliments about how good his Spanish is. That made him feel good. Even though he has been speaking Spanish for over 50 years there is always more to learn and implement. I finally got the PEF Priesthood Report and that occupied my whole day until we came home nine hours later. We did have a lunch break. It was Claudia’s birthday so we went out to lunch with a group to Applebee’s.
Tonight I am packing a suitcase as we have a group of missionaries coming home to Guatemala tomorrow and we will spend two days with them while they have PEF/Employment training.
8 December 2009….Tuesday
Today is Cyndy’s 53rd birthday and it is also 97 years since Daddy was born in Fountain Green, UT. Dennis is having shoulder surgery this afternoon and we pray it works better for him this time than his last surgery on the same shoulder. Dick went to the cleaners and then to the office for a little while. He came home before 9 am and we left for the Plaza Hotel a few miles from home. The Casa de Huéspedes is full of temple patrons so we and our returning missionaries will be housed at the hotel while they have their training at the Employment Resource Center. We have stayed there twice before with the groups, but this time we have a room in another building. It is a better room with a much bigger bathroom. This hotel is old, the tile is faded and cracked and it needs updating, but it is clean. We have ten missionaries, nine elders and one sister. Some arrived by plane and some by bus, but they were all late. We didn’t leave the hotel for the Employment Center till 12:45 pm. As soon as our song, scripture and prayer was finished we went down the hall to the restaurant for lunch.
Brother and Sister Lopez are volunteers twice a week at the Employment Service Center. He is a former mission president to Quetzaltenango Mission. They are sitting in on the classes with the missionaries tis time and in the future they will also spend the two days with the missionaries, alternating with us. Instead of doing it every three weeks we will now do it every six weeks and they will take the alternate times.
I was able to be on the internet all afternoon and I finished the Shutterfly photo book for Preston and Bonnie King, Area Executive Secretary. They are returning home to Missouri on Saturday. Then I heard a very familiar voice ….our across the hall neighbor, Wayne. He and Suzanne had come to see one of the missionaries, Hermana Hernandez. She served in Honduras where they spent the first nine months of their mission. Dick and I skipped the tamales at 5 pm. (Guatemalan tamales are NOT Mexican tamales!! The masa is about an inch thick all the way around the trace of meat). Seven pizzas were delivered at 6:30 pm and after we all ate we boarded the large van to take us back to the hotel.
9 December 2009…..Wednesday
We left the hotel at 7 am for the Employment Center. After our short devotional we went to the restaurant for the usual “tipico” breakfast. Dick bought doughnuts for the missionaries afterwards. I read scriptures in Spanish for an hour and a half and then I was able to get connected to the internet. Lunch was Milanese, rice, tortillas, and cucumber salad. Dick bought ice cream bars for everyone. At 3:30 pm class was completed, we took our usual group photo, then left for the temple.
Logistics are much more difficult staying in a hotel than when we stay at the Casa which is across the street from the temple. Sister Hernandez had family outside the Distribution Center and I loved watching the joyous reunion. (She will be 29 tomorrow and is such a classy lady). There was her mother, sister, brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, nieces and nephews and they didn’t want to let go of her. Dick arranged for President Torres to meet two of our young men, Elder Cuz and Elder Rax, at the temple for their interview and release. Both live up in the Polochic which is a district and not a stake, so the mission president must do the release. After the temple session Dick saw Elder Cuz in the dressing room. He had on his suit but he was holding his missionary name tag and the tears were running down his cheek. He told me later “es muy difícil.” (it’s very difficult) I understand the feelings. Removing the name tag after our release will be muy difícil. His family traveled many hours on a bus with other members to attend the temple. He was able to attend his sister’s wedding this evening. She had a long flowing veil, white blouse (huipil) and the tipico colorful skirt. He and the other elder will stay with their families tonight and travel home on the bus tomorrow. Polochic is an area of no electricity or running water. It is a difficult life and until these two served missions, it was the only life they knew. Now they have experienced electricity and bathrooms and all the amenities. These are the true Mayan and they have close families. Some want education and a better life than extreme poverty. Others go home and settle back in and never advance.
Brother and Sister Lopez attended the temple with the group. Then I figured out why they looked so familiar to me. They are ordinance workers that I have seen before at the temple. They officiated our session. Dick and I were testigos. (witnesses) After the temple we all traveled back to the hotel so they could get their luggage and the rest of the families could pick them up. We had eight elders with us and they started singing with gusto, in Spanish, of course: “Called to Serve,” “God Be With You,” and “Oh, Come all ye Faithful.” Then they sang the words that I love so much from Primary….”we are as the armies of Helaman. We have been taught in our youth. And, we will be the Lord’s missionaries to bring the world His truth.” I felt great gozo (joy) as they sang. I told them they were MY army of Helaman. Hearing those words sung by missionaries of Lamanite descent in Guatemala is as good as it gets!! It was a gift to me. I didn’t need English to understand the conviction in their hearts and voices as they sang.
After parents picked up missionaries and luggage, Dick took Elder Cuz and Elder Rax back to the Casa with their luggage so they could be with their parents. He also took two other missionaries with him who will spend one more night with us. They all stopped at McDonalds for dinner.
10 December 2009…Thursday
Our last two missionaries left with their families this morning. We headed for home. We had some breakfast and unpacked the suitcase, then headed to the office. At 11:30 am we left with Tilleys for the Christmas Devotional. The office always rents a bus to take employees, volunteers, and missionaries to the Montufar chapel as there is little parking space. The Devotional was held in the chapel. A family that we have seen perform before presented beautiful Christmas music. They sing and play the piano, violin and flute. They had an accompanying video presentation. Elder Martino talked. I understood more of his talk than I have ever understood with anyone else. Then we went to the bodega which doubles as an indoor parking facility on Sundays.
It was beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations plus tables to seat over a hundred. We were fed a meal
and totally entertained. There was karaoke and we were surprised at the very good singers who work at the office. There was a line of piñatas….two Santas, two Mrs. Santas, and two snowmen.
Everyone who had a birthday in December got a cake at their table and got a stick to beat the candy out of the piñatas. Today was Elder Clarke’s birthday and he was up there with a stick like the others. We watched a short video of all the major Church events that happened in Central America during the year. At the conclusion they let loose red and green balloons from the ceiling.
Tilleys took Dick back to the office and brought me home. Tuesday morning Dick had 10 PEF applications on his computer. After two days away he had 98 waiting for him. It was 7:15 pm tonight before he arrived home from the office.
11 December 2009…..Friday
Dick was at the office very early. Two of the young men volunteers typed and printed all of the exception letters that he had written out. There were not enough hours in the day for him to do it all. I went at our usual time with Blackburns. It was a full busy day. I finally got the letters to accompany the Priesthood report and I sent them to all the stake presidents in Central America and all the stake specialists, plus the bishops/branch presidents in Guatemala. I also have been asked to add another group so I sent the reports for each unit in each country to the PEF call center directors. I will finish it all up on Monday when Reynaldo has a different version of the report for me to send to each of the area Seventy.
We came home from the office just about 6 pm and soon thereafter we had cheesecake with the group at Tilleys. Preston and Bonnie fly home to Missouri tomorrow. She is so excited and so teary. I can imagine exactly how it will feel in 7 ½ months.
Carolyn Taylor came to my desk today with a note to us from Doug and Sally Pulsipher. She had met them somewhere in Central America but she couldn’t remember where or how long ago they gave her the note. We finally decided it must have been a couple of weeks ago in El Salvador when there was a dental brigade of dentists from the U.S. Nevertheless, it was exciting to see Sally’s signature.
12 December 2009…..Saturday
Dick left at 6:30 am to help take the Kings and their luggage to the airport. We all have Corolla station wagons so two cars are needed. He then went to the office to work on applications. They are all due in Salt Lake by Monday so they can be presented at the Wednesday approval meeting, the last of the 2009 approvals.
We went to the Central Market today with Tilleys. We picked up Dick at the office first. I bought thirteen of the beaded Christmas balls for our tree. Every Christmas when I hang them on our tree they will bring back wonderful memories of Guatemala. I also bought two runners, in gold, green and burgundy, for our kitchen table at home. We dropped Dick off at the office on the way home. I got busy and made fudge, truffle filling, and pralines. They turned out well. The almond crunch was a failure again this year. Don’t know if it the sugar or the butter but something prevents it from turning out the way I want it to. Dick worked four hours more before coming home. Then he took me for a haircut at a nearby salon. I desperately needed a “professional” cut. One thing I have to say about the beauty salons in Guatemala: they have the most comfortable shampoo sinks I have ever felt on my neck.
13 December 2009…..Sunday
When we got out of the car at church this morning, there was a lot of smoke in the area. Probably just outdoor cooking fires, but it was hard on our eyes and nose. It dissipated very soon. I have a busy week ahead of me with the keyboard and a lot of practicing. I found out today that there is choir practice on Thursday and they want me to play for them. I had no idea they even had a choir. Saturday is the ward Christmas dinner/party and Adele has planned a program, so she gave me a list of all the songs that will be sung by the Primary, YW, YM, RS and Priesthood. Then Sunday the ward choir will be presenting their program during Sacrament Meeting.
About 2:30 pm Dick headed to the office to see how many more applications he has to submit to SLC tomorrow morning. He promised to be home before dark.
- 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.