Mom, Thanks Again

Agua volcano, from Guatemala City, November 3, 2012.

Dear Mom,

I’m back in Guatemala again. I wish you could see me now.

You came here once and enjoyed this place, when you picked me up at the end of my mission in 1966. Because you liked working with people, you enjoyed the people here.

I’m trying to enjoy them too. I think I’ve grown up a lot since my first time here. I enjoy people more, even when they don’t see things my way in discussions about religion and faith. There are so many good people here, all of them sons and daughters of God.

I wish I could tell you thanks again for what you did when you supported me as a missionary. Do we ever really understand when we’re young—15, or 18, or 20—what our parents are doing for us? I see now that it must have been tougher for you, a widow and a single mother, than  I understood at the time. It was years later when I learned that you devoted a third of your income each month to supporting me as a missionary. It was years before I knew that we had been living below the official poverty line for President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. Heavenly Father blessed us so much that we never knew we could officially be considered poor.

Mom, when I wrote you every week, I used to tell you about what I had been doing. I tried to make my time effective. I wanted to do what Heavenly Father wanted me to do, and I tried to respect your sacrifice in supporting me.

Shopping in the central market.

I’m still trying to do the same thing. I’m grateful that my companion of 44 years is here to help me. We’re feeling our way in a new situation. For me, it’s the way it was when I served out in that small Guatemalan town in the fall of 1965, far from official direction. We’re close to official direction now, but in a way no one knows exactly what we’re doing because it hasn’t been done here before. In a way, we’re breaking new ground.

We want to do as a team what our Heavenly Father wants us to do, and we both want to respect the sacrifices that have been made—by ourselves and by others—to allow us to be here. Sunday, November 4, marks exactly 48 years since I arrived in Guatemala the first time to serve as a missionary, and I believe—I hope—that I understand better now what a privilege it is to be here.

Mom, if I could write you a weekly letter, I would tell you I’m still trying to do my best.

I wish you could see me now.

But perhaps you can.

House in Guatemala City where I lived in the spring of 1965.The front patio was open then, with no steel gate, and the street was not paved.

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