Monday, December 30, 2013

Trip to Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa

     Today, instead of having Family Home Evening together, the missionaries and the Temple President and first counselor decided to take a road trip to visit Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa.  It is about 2 hours from the temple and we were going to see the two museums and Monument 21 or The Seven Tribes Stone (Jacob 1:13).  We drove in the President's van and the Temple van.
Los Murri's, Los Thompson's, Los Harris's, Los Burk's, Los Roberts's, Los Svenson's, Los Olson's

The President's van                                                                                        The Temple Van

     Just before we left, we found out about the volcanic eruption in San Miguel, El Salvador.  Thank Heavens all the 56 missionaries were able to be evacuated to the Temple and as far as we know, no one has been injured.  However, as we drove about an hour from the city, we saw this volcano and as we watched it, suddenly there was a stream of smoke coming out of the top.  It made us a little uneasy.  We heard a huge boom and felt the ground shake as it released more steam and gases.  We are very glad that we live an hour away.  They say that this has been going on for quite sometime and the locals don't seem concerned.

Impressive and a little unnerving at the same time. 

      We watched these men harvesting the sugar cane.  They cut down the cane with machetes and put them into piles to be picked up later with trucks.
When we came home, the field was completely done.  It is amazing how fast they can harvest the cane by hand!

     The village of Santa Lucia is famous for the archeology digs that have taken place and continue today.  The Germans came and made a deal with the government that they would do some research here in return for some of the artifacts.  A lot of the real good pieces are still in Germany today.  However, the Monument 21 or the Seven Tribes Stone was too big for anyone to take away.  We first visited the Cotzumalguapa museum.  The area around the museum was very quaint .

our guide in the museum

This home was right next door to the museum.  All the houses have outside sinks to wash their dishes and clothes in and they all had a Christmas tree at the front door with a nativity.
In the back of the house, they were raising iguanas.  They say they taste real good, but we don't think we want to try it.
The church in the center of town was very quaint and we were able to go inside.  The Priest only comes to town once a month and visits other small towns the other Sundays. 
As you can see, it is very small but our guide was so happy to show it to us.  The town is very proud of their little church. We are still in search of Monument 21 so on we went to the second museum, which was located at the site of an old sugar cane factory.  They had quite a few rock carvings and statues from the digs around this area.
A member owns a bakery in town so we had to stop off for some donuts to give us energy for the trip.  They cost 5 quetzals each, or about $.64. 
Our guide
This is located on privately owned property
 Time for another group shot.

     It is now time for lunch.  President Burk has arranged for us to go to the church and a member who does catering for a living is fixing us lunch.  It is nice to be able to support the local members and not just go to a restaurant.  We ate cordon chicken, brocolie, mashed potatoes, with jamica juice to drink. Everything was very tasty.  The dessert was platenoes in mole sauce, YUK.  But we had some donuts left over so most of us ate them instead.  I don't think anyone liked the dessert.
      And finally it is time to get to our destination.  This stone is about 11X13 and is right in the middle of a sugar cane field.  Whenever any General Authority of the church visits this part of the country, they always ask to visit this stone.  It is said to represent the seven tribes from the Book of Mormon, see Jacob 1:13.  It was very impressive and we are glad that we were able to visit it also.
 It is very hot in this part of Guatemala, and very humid.  We were finally warm!  This felt like El Salvador.
     We had a wonderful trip and were glad to be able to visit part of this country.  Our fellow missionaries are very nice and are making us feel very welcome.  We got to serve in the Temple only three days because of Christmas and will only have three days this week as well.  By Saturday we could almost get around the Temple without getting lost.  This temple doesn't have enough local workers to keep it going.  Without the missionaries, it would be very tough to keep it open every day.  We worked on the morning shift this week, arriving at the temple about 6:45 and leaving about 1:30.  The afternoon shift begins at 3:00 and ends around 9:30.  Of course this all depends on how many patrons we have in the temple.  Saturday is another story.  We arrived at the temple at 4:30 AM and finished around 1:00.  The afternoon shift comes at 11:30 and leaves around 8:00.  Saturday was very, very busy and we really enjoyed serving.  We got to visit with 3 people from El Salvador who came here to bring grandchildren to the CCM.  The Martinez's served in the temple with us.  Saturday evening, Hector Santos and his wife came with pupusas from his mom, Olimpia.  What a treat to visit with our friends.  We are so happy to be here.  You are all in our prayers daily.  We wish you all a very Happy New Year.  May you be blessed with those righteous desires of your hearts this new year.  With all our love, Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma, Lon and Nancy

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas in Guatemala

     Because we didn't arrive here until the 21st of December, 2013, we didn't expect to have much of a Christmas this first year.  This would be the first time in probably our entire married life that we did not participate in a Christmas program.  Our ward did a nice one on the 22nd but we did not have the opportunity to sing with them.  However, the other missionaries and the Temple Presidency had other plans for us.  On December 23rd, we met in the home of President and Sister Burk for a dinner with the English missionaries and the mission nurse and her husband and the President and his wife of the Mission Training Center.

Back row: Elder and Sister Pitcher (just made the secretary to the Area President, Elder Amado)
First Counselor in the Temple President and Sister Harris, Elder and Sister Burbidge  Mission nurse and her husband, President and Sister Nicolaysen CCM President, Elder and Sister Barlow(red head), Elder and Sister Roberts, Elder and Sister Svenson
Middle row: Sister Dick (a widow serving and living with a Latin companion), Elder and Sister Murri, President and Sister Burk.  Front row: Los Thompsons and Elder and Sister Olson.
     We had a wonderful dinner of ham and scalloped potatoes and all the trimmings.  After we ate, we assembled Christmas stockings for the missionaries at the CCM (MTC).  There were only 11 young men and one young woman in the CCM at this time, about 40 new ones arrived on Friday after Christmas.  Our Sister Dick has been spending her nights with the young woman so she isn't alone in the CCM. 
      On December the 24th, we were feeling real sad that we had nothing to give to the other missionaries as they each kept bringing over a gift to us.  We were assigned to bring rolls to our dinner that evening with the young Elders so we made a big batch of whole wheat rolls and took hot rolls to each of the other Senior Missionaries as they came out of the oven.  It felt good to be able to give something back to those wonderful people who have made us feel so welcome and needed. 

     That evening, Elder Thompson and I went to the apartment of President and Sister Harris to have dinner with two missionaires, Elder North who has been in the CCM only 2 weeks and is from Utah, and Elder Oliviera who is from Brazil and speaks Portugese and is learning Spanish.  The CCM provided a lasagna, made with ham that resembled bologna (not real good), and sugar cookies.  We provided the salad, veg, rolls, and anything else we wanted for the meal.  All of the other missionaries were paired up and had the same meal with 2 or more of the young Elders. After dinner, we had a Family Home Evening and presented the Elders with their stockings.  We visited about family traditions and just tried to help the young Elders not miss their families and to not be alone for Christmas Eve.  They had a devotional at a broadcast from SLC so it was not a late night. 

 Elder and Sister Thompson at the Harris apt         Elder North and Elder Oliviera

     When we were at the store on the 24th to pick up some rugs for our bathroom, the tile floors are just too cold for bare feet, Elder Thompson suggested that we buy a Christmas tree as they were 40% off and we would be here next Christmas.  I was so surprised that he would suggest it, but thrilled.  We bought our Charlie Brown tree with lights and decorations for less than $15.00, and no, this tree will not be up all year.  It doesn't have a pot to go in so it will come down on the 1st.

     Christmas morning was very calm and special as we read the Christmas story in Luke and remembered our Savior and His birth and life and all that He has done for us.  We were able to Skype Mindi, Ginger, and Tracy and visit with all of their families during the day.  We missed Shayla and her family but know that they were enjoying Christmas with all the kids this year. 

     We enjoyed a meal of chicken on Christmas, only because I didn't get the turkey breast bought and thawed out in time.  We did have a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Saturday after our early morning shift (4:30am to 1:00pm).  We had planned on watching "Christmas for a Dollar" on Christmas night.  However, we could not get the TV to cooperate and could not get it to play a DVD.  After Elder Pitcher messed with it on Thursday, we have to change some cables each time we want to watch a DVD but at least now we can and we finally got to watch it on Saturday evening. Now our Christmas was complete and we are getting ready to celebrate the New Year. 

     The fireworks and firecrackers went off for three days and nights as the Guatemalan's celebrated Christmas. 

     To get to church, we walk through the temple grounds and through the building that houses the nursery for children who are coming to be sealed to their parents in the temple.  We walk down a flight of stairs and out into the parking lot of the church.  It is not like any of the churches in El Salvador.  Instead of a U shape, it is a L shape and very small.  One of the members of our new ward is Elder Amado, of the first quorum of the Seventy and the Area President.  It is fun to have him there as they usually ask him to share a few words at the end of each Sacrament meeting. 
walking through the temple grounds
The front of the church
The temple spires behind the church
The door into the nursery building
The door we come out of and down the
walk to the chapel
The houses right next to the chapel
      We are told that this is a very rich neighborhood, and so the ward is small because the people don't think that they need their Savior in their lives.  We have a set of young Sister Missionaries in the ward.  With the holidays, it is hard to really know how many are in the ward, but the building is so small, it can't be very many.  We are excited to get to know more of our ward family.  We do have quite a few Americans from the Embassy in this ward as in El Salvador. 

      Enough for today.  We only wish that we could let you feel the love of the people here for their Savior.  This temple is 29 years old, but is reverenced and taken care of with such love that it looks new.  The wood is polished and everything is clean and in order.  We are thrilled to be here and be able to serve our Father in Heaven's children here in Guatemala.  Have a wonderful week. Be careful as you celebrate the New Year and may God bless you with those righteous desires of your hearts.  We love you Dad and Mom, Lon and Nancy, Grandpa and Grandma, and of course, our other title, Elder and Sister Thompson.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Our apartment in Guatemala

     Until September of this year, the Senior Missionaries either lived in the CCM (Mission Training Center) or in apartments.  The apartments had two couples in each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, one kitchen with two frigs.  The church owned 4 houses that were used for visiting patrons of the temple.  They remodeled these and have made our current apartments out of them.  The Temple President lives in one of the houses and our house was made into 4 apartments. 
     I am standing in front of our house, the other doors are for the garage which is full of extra furniture. 
     We have to use a key to get into this door.  It has a buzzer and if someone wants to visit us, they ring the buzzer and we can see who is at the door from our apartment and we can open the door or not.  We have temple guards watching to make sure we are safe.
If you walk across the street from our front door, you can see the temple.  That is how close we are.
       You enter the first door and this is our front walk.  You go through this gate and door and the hall leads to three of the apartments.  Ours is on the left.  There is also an apartment upstairs where the 2nd counselor lives, President Harris.  The Murri's live straight ahead and the Barlow's on the right.
     Lon thinks that our apartment resembles a single wide.  We have the utility, then the kitchen. Then down the hall to the living room, the bathroom, and the bedroom.  Between the kitchen and the living room we have a private patio and out the bedroom door we have a common yard that all 4 of the couples have access to out a door in their apartment.  The building next door is the Distribution Center and cafeteria and they use the common yard as well. 

     Each apartment is completely different than the others because they used what space they had to create the 4 apartments.  The Temple President's house, President Burk, is exactly the same size as our house, only it is his alone.  We had our Christmas dinner there and it is beautiful.  We haven't seen the ones across the street where the other 4 couples live yet.  But we are told that they are completely different then ours.  The other counselor lives where President Mask used to live, just down the street. 
     We are the first ones in this apartment and have been busy unpacking everything, dishes, utensils, linen, etc, and buying the items that we need.  We spent yesterday shopping at Price Smart (Costco) and Walmart.  Today we walked to the stores that are near by to see what we have close.  We can walk to about three different small malls.  One of the stores reminded us of Super Selectos.  We have been amazed at the variety of items offered here.  They have a much bigger selection than in El Salvador.  They even have whole wheat flour on the shelves!!  I make whole wheat rolls today. 
     We are going to be very comfortable here.  We have our very own washer and dryer!  Our apartments have no furnace or air conditioners.  The weather here is supposed to resemble spring all year round.  The mornings have been cool enough that we want a sweater on, but as soon as the sun is high in the sky, it is just right.  It is less humid than El Salvador so far but the rainy season has just ended here.  Well, I've rambled on enough for now. 
     Merry Christmas to all.  We are so thankful that our Father in Heaven sent His Son to the earth.  We are thankful for His example and for His love for us.  We send our love to all.