Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Conference in Cayo District, Belize

Another week plus has gone by and we have been very busy.  Our temple has been filled with people every day this past week.  What a choice blessing for us.  We, as a presidency, are using our days off to drive Hermana Gardner to and from the hospital each day.  Elder Gardner has been kept in a deep sleep for 10 days.  The swelling finally started to go down but he was not allowed to wake up until Sunday the 22nd.  However he did not react at all until Tuesday afternoon.  On Tuesday afternoon, he opened his eyes for about 5 minutes, moved both arms and legs, and seemed to try to talk, but still has an oxygen mask on so he couldn't really speak.  We were so hopeful that on Wednesday he would be responsive but he is not yet.  Today, Thursday, President Thompson went in to see Elder Gardner and he was wide awake and seemed to be very responsive to his presence.  He still is on the oxygen mask but his eyes followed him and seemed to be alert.  The doctors are very pleased and surprised with his improvements.  Small improvements but day to day improvements. 
     It was our turn to drive Hermana Gardner on Tuesday the 17th.  When President Thompson was trying to park the van in the hospital parking lot, which is a cracker box, he scraped the fender on a brick wall.
 He felt so bad that he had put the first scratch on the President's van.  The President picked up Hermana Gardner that evening and the next morning President Thompson didn't feel quite so bad when he saw that his scratches were less than President Burk's.
President Roberts only has about 7 weeks left and he is determined to go home without adding any scratches.  The left side and the right side of the van is covered, we told him that he can scratch the front next. 
     On Friday the 20th, we left our apartment at 4:30am to head for the airport.  We flew from Guatemala City to San Salvador, El Salvador, a 50 minute flight.  We met President and Hermana Hintze in the airport in El Salvador.
  President Hintze is the mission president for the San Salvador West-Belize Mission.  We are heading to Belize for their District Conference.  It is interesting that Belize is in the El Salvador Mission and in the Guatemala City Temple District.  There is no direct flight to Belize from Guatemala.  The four of us then flew into Belize City.  We have been invited to speak at the Cayo District Conference.  Belize has two districts, Cayo and Belize City.  Our temple paid for our flights and the San Salvador West-Belize Mission paid for our rooms and food.  It was a one hour flight to Belize City.  We arrived at about 10am.
     This is the Belize City Airport.  We were met by the young Elders who brought a van for us to use.  President Hintze then drove us on to the Cayo District, about an hour and a half away.
     This country is so different than either El Salvador or Guatemala.  The water table is very high so the houses are built on stilts so that they won't be flooded during the rainy seasons.  The houses are not built touching each other.  They actually have yards and space between each.  Here are a few examples that we saw as we traveled to Cayo District.
           The car is parked under the house.

 Some of the houses are high enough that the cars are parked under the house.  There are lots of swampy areas.  The Minninites and the Amish have huge communities here and have beautiful farms.  Their signature art is anything made from mahogany wood.  No chain stores are permitted in the country.  There are no Burger Kings, no Taco Bells, no Walmarts.  The national language is English.  They use Belizian money which is at a ratio of 2 to 1with the American dollar.
     We arrive at our hotel only to find out that our rooms are not ready and we have to spend our first night in the home of the hotel owners.  It is about 10 minutes away.

 It reminded us of a house that could be rented out for family reunions.
 We were in the upstairs rooms.  There were 4 bedrooms with baths.  We could have stayed here the whole time and been very comfortable.  But President Hintze wanted us to be closer to the restaurant and the church.
                                    Our bedroom
 Bathroom, no hot water again in the sink but the shower was great.
 The front room downstairs.  President Thompson going over thought for his talks.
 The front porch as you enter the home.
 The front room again.
 The stairs leading up to our rooms.
We had time to relax while poor President Hintze attended an afternoon meeting.  He then came and picked us up for the Friday evening fireside.
    The fireside was from 6-8 and President Thompson and I were the only speakers.  The chapel was full and they taped and transmitted the fireside to two other buildings so we don't know how many were in attendance.  We gave these talks in English.  We hadn't given a talk in English for over a year and it really seemed strange. 
    Saturday morning, President Hintze and President Thompson were each privileged to visit 5 different homes of members.  President Thompson says that this was the highlight of the whole conference.  We moved into our hotel this afternoon. 
                         The front view
                          The back view
 The pool
 The restaurant had both outside tables as well as tables inside.  The food was very good however by the time we left on Monday morning, we were real tired of eating out and looked forward to home cooking.
 The resort's claim to fame is that Queen Elizabeth II slept here.
                     pictures of the Queen
                    Tourists checking in.
 This beautiful stairway was in the foyer.  It leads to one room, the one that Queen Elizabeth II stayed in and is used mainly by couples who rent the motel for their weddings.
 Our room was very nice.  While President Hintze again attended another meeting, we relaxed and got our thoughts together for the next two meetings that we had to speak at.
   At four, Lon attended the General Priesthood Meeting and spoke, in both Spanish and English.  They didn't have a translator there so he just gave his talk in both.  I attended the Stake Relief Society Presidency's meeting and gave my remarks in Spanish.  Then at 6 we both spoke in the Adult Session of Conference.  This was again broadcast into two other buildings and we spoke in English again.  The people are so loving and kind.  We felt at home.  After the meeting, we went to dinner with the Hintze's and the Mendenhall's.  Elder Mendenhall is the counselor to President Hintze and lives and serves in the Cayo District, taking care of things there, and his other counselor lives and serves in the Belize District.
Los Thompsons, Los Hintzes, Los Mendenhalls   It was really interesting to listen to the experiences of the Mendenhalls, who speak very little Spanish, but who have served with love and patience and are very sad to only have about 3 months left of their mission.
 The Stake Center for the Cayo District
 This is the English group leaving after their 9:00am meeting
 The chapel just before the people came for the 9:00 am meeting.
     Sunday morning the sessions are not broadcast to the other buildings so we had two sessions, the first from 9-11am in English and the second from 12-2pm in Spanish.  So we used the same talk for both meetings today.
                     The English Group
The Spanish group.  We were told that there were about 255 in the English session and 265 in the Spanish session.  Wow, what a wonderful day.  The hard part was knowing when to speak English and when to use Spanish.  You never knew if the people you talked to spoke one or the other.  This district is trying to come to the temple the last week of March.  We will be so excited to see them again.  They really have a tough time getting to the temple. First they have to have their Visa's so they can leave their country and enter Guatemala, which costs money, and then they need to pay for the bus to get them there.  It is about a 16 hour bus ride to the temple.  They will stay in the temple housing for 3 nights and spend 2 days in the temple.  We are so thankful that we had the opportunity to visit the Cayo District and have a deeper love and appreciation for the sacrifices that these people make to come to the temple.
 After the final Sunday session, President Hintze again had other interviews and meetings so we walked back to the Resort.  On our way, we were surprised to see a single wide mobile home. 
 We figure it was about a 1967 or 68 and blocked in a very different manner than we blocked them.  It was being lived in too.  Our Resort had a natural reserve for iguana's in the back yard.  We were eating breakfast when we spied the tail of one.
 They blend in so well with the tree that it was hard to spot them.  He finally turned around and we got a good front view.
 We left the resort at 8:30am on Monday morning and drove to Belize City to catch our plane.  We were surprised to discover that we were booked in first class going home.  Wow!!! Real dishes for our meal and snacks on the two flights to Guatemala.  President Burk picked us up at the airport and we arrived home about 4:30pm.  What a whirlwind of a weekend.  We gave 5 talks, met some wonderful people, saw a new country, and have a new perspective on the life of a mission president.  President Hintze's schedule made us tired just watching him.  He is a great man and the missionaries under him really love and admire he and his wife.  We enjoyed being with them and being taught by them.  We are also glad to be home.  We opened the temple on Tuesday Morning and felt like we had jet lag.  It has taken a couple of days to get rested and laundry caught up. 
    Well, enough for this blog.  What a wonderful experience we have had.  Life is great.  We are trying to enjoy every moment that we have left here.  We pray that you are enjoying life and that you are well.  We send our love to all.  Dad and Mom, Grandma and Grandpa, Lon and Nancy

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fuego blew up, Gardner fell down

Well, I steered you wrong last week.  I told you that it appeared that Volcano Fuego was blowing off more steam, when in reality he blew up!!
We don't watch the news so when we were told that Volcano Fuego had erupted, we went to the internet and read about it and saw the photos.  I tried to down load a couple more, but could not get them so you will have to go to the internet and see them for yourselves.  The hot lava didn't do too much damage, but the hot ash destroyed all the coffee plants that were just in bloom.  The small (small for here) towns close to the volcano had to close schools and have their water supplies tested for contamination.  We are about 40 miles away from the Volcano but had the ash falling here.  They say that the volcano expelled ash columns up to 5 thousand 500 meters above sea level during the last hours of the eruptions, which lasted for 22 hours

.  It closed the airport here because of the ash.  One of the main water cisterns here in the city was opened for some repairs when the ash fell.  It contaminated the water and half of the city was without water for 3 days.  Needless to say, the Temple was pretty empty all week. 
    On Sunday evening, about 4:30, we received a call saying that Elder Gardner was on the floor, come help.  We ran to the Gardner's apartment across the street and found him laying on the tile floor bleeding from the back of his head.  He had just regained consciousness and started to throw up.  Elder Gardner is over 6 feet tall so he hit real hard when his head hit the floor. 
 President Burk doesn't trust the ambulances here so we loaded him up in the car and off to the hospital.  We were praying for a report of a concussion but that was not to be.
Elder Gardner had a stroke and blacked out while standing up.  He hit his head so hard that it fractured his skull and bounced  his brain around so he has hemorrhages both at the back of his skull and in the front.  The swelling and bleeding were so bad that the doctors here and in SLC decided that he needed surgery immediately to relieve the pressure.  They went in and cut away part of his skull and will freeze it and fly it to the US to be freeze dried so that hopefully when the swelling goes down they can reattach it.  They have no facilities to do the freeze drying here.  He had a 4 hour surgery on Sunday night and Monday morning there was still some bleeding so he had another 4 hour surgery.
     The hospital called and needed 10 pints of blood and platelets so the missionaries loaded up around 9 PM and headed to the hospital to donate.  Well, here anyone older than 60 is not allowed to donate and you have to be at least 110 pounds.  Poor Hermana Tanner failed on both those counts.

                        Arriving at the hospital lab
Elder y Hna Wilson, Hna Tanner, Elder Allred, Pdte Thompson, Elder Brubaker, Pdte Roberts y Elder Rosado.
We found out just how unhealthy the rest of the missionaries are, from diabetes, hepititus, cancer recovery drugs and other medications that prevent giving blood.  We were so thrilled when the young missionaries at the CCM volunteered to come on Sunday night to give blood and on Monday morning the employees at the Temple all came.
     We know that Elder Gardner's mission here in the Guatemala City Temple is finished.  We are praying that his mission on this earth is not finished and that he will recover enough soon to be able to fly home to finish his recovery surrounded by his family.  It will be a long recovery we are told.  For now, it will be day to day. 
    This life is very unpredictable so please enjoy every moment and be sure to tell your loved ones daily that you love them and that they are special to you.  We love each of you so much.  We are thankful to be able to serve here and know that you are praying for our safety.  We in turn are always praying for you and look forward to seeing you in a very short time.  Life is wonderful, enjoy every moment.  We send our love Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma, Lon and Nancy 

Monday, February 9, 2015

You've got mail---NOT!

We received a letter in the mail telling us that we have a package down town at the central post office.  We knew of no package that anyone had sent and had decided that we would not go down to get it, but curiousity got in the way.  To pick up a package at the central post office, you have to hire a taxi to take you down, have a copy of your passport to leave with them, find out how much it will cost for the package and go next door to pay for it and bring back the receipt showing that you have paid for it and then you will receive the package, usually after hours of standing in line twice.  We had no shift on Thursday the 5th so we hired Andres to take us down town. 
    We were shocked when we made the trip in just 30 minutes.  There was no traffic to speak of.  When we quizzed Andres about why, he told us that the gangs had upped their extortion payment for both the taxi's and the buses.  A driver of a bus had been killed on Monday and another this very morning because they had refused to pay the new fee.  A taxi company had refused to pay and the gangs threatened to kill a driver a day until the fees were paid.  They had killed two already.  People were just staying home for now.  We truly live in the middle of the "Gadianton" robbers.  These gangs have free reign to do whatever they want.  Every little shop owner, taxi driver, bus driver, even some neighborhoods have to pay an extortion fee to live and work.  It is very easy to see why so many try to leave here and go to the States for a better life.
   We arrived at the building that houses the central post office.  I didn't get a good picture from the car window but it is a beautiful building.  The inside has been kept up beautifully.
 The front door.
                                            There are lots of city offices in the building.
                                                            The center plaza
 The doorway to the central post office
Usually the line is clear out the door but because of the buses not running we were able to get right in and there were only about 16 people there waiting for their turn.  After only an hour we were on our way home again.  The package we were to pick up, we had picked up last April.  We have no idea why we were sent a letter that we had a package, and neither did the postal worker.  We took a trip down town for nothing, well, not for nothing, it cost Q200 or $26.00 for the taxi.  This  is Andres, the taxi driver that we always use.  He thought that this painting was great with the faces as the body of the bird.
   We have changed our schedules at the temple for Saturdays.  The Presidency usually only has one couple on shift from 4-12 and another couple on shift from 12-8.  We have three shifts every Saturday for the regular obreros. The presidency is in charge of three preparation meetings, all the interviews and instructions for new workers and for first time patrons.  Saturdays are such big days and usually we just can't be everywhere that we need to be.  So, we have changed our day to: one couple of the presidency from 4-11, the next arrives from 8:30-2:30 and the third from 1:30 to 8:00.  This gives us two members of the presidency on shift during the busiest times of the day.  The mid-shift presidency takes care of all the preparation meetings and that really helps to free up the others for the other assignments that we have.  It means that none of us have a Saturday off now, but it sure is working better to meet the needs of the patrons at the temple.  Saturday the 7th we had the mid shift and I was able to leave about 3:00 but President Thompson didn't get home till 4:00. 
     We walked into our ward Sacrament meeting on Sunday and were thrilled to see a face that we recognized from El Salvador.  Our new missionary assigned to our ward is none other than Hermana Bonilla.
 Hermana Bonilla is the youngest daughter of the Bonilla family who came to the temple every week.  She did baptisms because she was too young to participate in the sessions.  Her mother passed away with cancer and her father, brother, sister, and sister-in-law were always in the last session of the day.  Hermana Bonilla has been out for 4 months now and says that she is loving the work. 
    Sunday afternoon our bright sunshine suddenly turned dull and yellowish.  We were told that Volcano Fuego was spitting out ash and the wind was just right to blow it right at us.  As we walked on Monday morning, we could see the results on any car that had been on the street over night.
 There was a film of ash on everything.
     The skies are clear and bright again this morning.  Fuego must have calmed down again. 
   We hope that you have all had a wonderful week.  We start a week and then before we know it, it is over.  Time is just going so fast for us.  We love it when the temple it filled and we are busy.  But we also love it when just a few are there because of the spirit that each brings with them.  We are trying to just enjoy each moment.  Life is wonderful.  We are happy and pray that you are happy and enjoying life as well.  We send our love to all, Lon and Nancy, Grandma and Grandpa, Dad and Mom