Tag Archives: Guatemala

Faith and Sawdust Carpets in the Streets

Much of the commercial and governmental activity of Guatemala has been shut down during Easter Week—Semana Santa, or Holy Week, as it’s called here. I could wish that we were so diligent in the United States about celebrating the importance of sacred things.

Guat28Mr13_284FFour of us LDS missionaries—two couples—went on Thursday to watch as hundreds of volunteers laid out carpets of colored sawdust on one of the principal downtown streets. They carefully painted pictures in sawdust honoring the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and depicting themes of their Roman Catholic faith.  I suppose there are atheists and humanist here who may say this sort of activity is foolish. I know there are people who call themselves Christian who speak in critical and mocking terms of activities like this. I am not one of them.

As we walked among the hundreds of volunteers on Sixth Avenue in the heart of the city, I struck up conversations with some of them. They were family oriented people, there to help their children participate, and to express their own faith.

I express my faith differently, and if we had talked about doctrine, there would undoubtedly have been points of disagreement. But I had to admire the devotion and dedication that went into their way of paying homage to the Savior. Whether or not I agreed with the themes expressed in those sawdust pictures, it was heartening to see so many people readily identifying themselves with Christian faith, and doing something to show it. I would much prefer to live in a community where faith is openly expressed than one where it cannot be freely acknowledged—even where the faith tradition is not mine.

Government and, to a large extent, commerce close down Wednesday though Friday of Semana Santa. City governments cooperate by blocking streets where the sawdust carpets are to be made. Volunteer municipal workers haul bags of sawdust in city trucks.

Guatemalan Scouts—boys and girls—mix together in these activities. Many young people are enthusiastically involved. Is it more social than religious? Undoubtedly there is a social element in much religious participation; maybe we get involved in religious activities because our friends do. But I’d like to think that a majority of those people got involved as a way of expressing their faith in God.

Guat28Mr13_283fOne man I met, a well-known television journalist, is an evangelical Christian married to a faithful Roman Catholic. He was there supporting his wife and children in the activity. Has their marriage been difficult, I asked, because of their religious differences? They thought it would be at first, he answered, but things haven’t turned out that way. They don’t have conflict because their family is built on love.

Perhaps we who are members of the family of God should try harder to make our relationships work the same way.

After all, when my evangelical friend, his wife, and I go to our churches this Easter Sunday, we are all going to be worshiping the Jesus who brought about the Atonement for us because he died for our sins and was resurrected so that we all may live again.

 

 

 

Heaven to Hell in 72 Hours

Oakland mall Dc1912

Oakland Mall

We spent Wednesday evening at the nicest mall we’ve seen anywhere in the world. There are touches of luxury everywhere, beginning with the red or green lights above the underground parking spaces to show empty stalls.

Name a brand of expensive wristwatch or sportswear and you can probably find it here. Models in off-the- shoulder mini-dresses distribute samples of expensive perfumes or gourmet chocolate. People who are used to shopping at Saks 5th Avenue or on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills could feel at home in this place. It is a palace of conspicuous consumption.

In the movie theater, there are plush recliner seats similar to those in first class on an airliner. The popcorn is cheaper than in theaters at home—but we order from our seats, and it is delivered by a dark-suited waiter.

If your life were dedicated to acquiring things or treating yourself to pleasant experiences, it would be easy to think that heaven ought to be like this.

In contrast, on Saturday, Sister S. and I had the privilege of joining a group of evangelical Christians as they distributed clothing, blankets, children’s toys, and food to people who live in the Guatemala City landfill, a ravine below the city cemetery.

Guat landfill_445b

Guatemala City landfill

Each day these people dig through heaps of garbage to eke out their subsistence by salvaging repairable or recyclable items from the trash. The largest flock of buzzards I have ever seen circles overhead like seagulls over a hoard of picnickers at the beach. The scene reminds me of one of Dante’s circles of hell—but it is all too real, all too concrete. No words or photos can capture the unrelenting stench of decay or the feel of grit in your teeth from the fine dust that swirls in the winds of this ravine.

Some 1,500 people lined up to receive gifts and a light lunch of a roll, a Guatemalan tamale wrapped in a banana leaf, and a glass of punch.

The visitors who brought the gifts were mostly Guatemalans, but they also included a visiting family from Iowa and a handful of LDS senior missionaries from all over the United States, with visiting family members in tow. Gifts were donated by both businesses and individuals; several hundred of the blankets were provided by LDS missionaries.

Guat landfill_460bThe group brought along a generator, portable sound system, and keyboard. A talented musician spent the hours in the landfill singing Christian pop music, trying to spread a bit of the word about Jesus. At the edge of the crowd, a man in tattered clothing and what might have been dreadlocks (or maybe only matted hair) danced along.

My wife and I went home to enjoy long showers—and felt a little guilty just for having the privilege.

We have to admire people so dedicated to helping the least fortunate among us. Members of the Guatemalan group sponsoring the activity, la Asociación del Cinco, have pledged to donate five percent of their income to helping the poor.

But what is the best way for us to help people so poor?

Discussions about the problem too often are polarized. On one side are those who say, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. Let them do the same. That way they’ll appreciate what they get.” Others may answer, “These people are so far down they’ll never get out of their hole, and society owes it to them to help. We’ve got to take from those who have in order to give to those who have not.”

What’s the right answer? I don’t know. But surely there has to be some viable middle ground.

Those who work most closely with people at this level of poverty say the answer isn’t simply to give them money. It’s spent too fast, with no lasting result.

Education may well be the answer—in the long run. There’s a public school perched on the edge of the ravine that serves the children of the area. By law children and teens are no longer allowed to work in the landfill with their parents; they should be in school. La Asociación del Cinco also has a school to help some of the children eight to 12 years old.

Human nature being what it is, there are undoubtedly some at the dump who would not take advantage of an offer of help if it required long-term commitment. But could there not be some system worked out to help those willing to train for viable jobs? Perhaps instead of paying back the aid they receive, they could pay it forward, helping finance retraining for others. It seems like an idea worth a try. I for one would support it.

In the meantime, those who are sacrificing every day to help people trapped in poverty—people condemned to live in the dump—have all my respect.

Guat landfill_1681b

 
Food for the hungry.

Feliz Navidad from Guatemala

Card 2

They are simple clay figurines, hand-painted by a Guatemalan artisan, and in their simplicity they remind me of our Savior’s humble origins on this earth. As you read this Christmas message, please forgive the deficiencies of my verse and think of His power to save.

In Humility He Came

The most amazing thing
About our Savior’s birth
Is the perfect humility
In which He came to earth.

He came, the Great Creator,
The world’s anointed Savior,
To live as we must live–
No life of mortal favor.

No one can feel the cost
Of His saving sacrifice;
Through faith we just begin to know
The perfect love of Christ.

When He came that first time,
No glory would attend,
But when He comes again,
Every knee will bend.

O let that day be now!
O, Father, grant this favor—
Let Him reign on earth,
Beloved, Blessed Savior!

Por Raquel, y Rudy, y otros amigos. Estas figurillas de barro, pintados a mano por un artista de Guatemala, me recuerdan de las origenes humildes de Jesucristo en la tierra. Al leer este mensaje de navidad, por favor, perdonen las debilidades de mis palabras y piensen en Su poder de salvar.

En Humildad Llegó

En humildad perfecta
El Salvador nació.
En establo llegó a tierra,
En un pesebre durmió.

Vino la primera vez
Sin majestad del cielo.
El día que regrese
Se quitará el velo.

¡Que venga ya el día!
Cantémosle loor.
¡Que reine en la tierra
Nuestro amado Salvador!

Manger Dc0612 369b

The Land of Eternal Spring

Rose Dc0612 381BGuatemalans call their country the Land of Eternal Spring because the climate is like that—at least in Guatemala City.

It would be unusual for the temperature to rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 60 and hover there for very long. Guatemalan residential buildings don’t have central heating, and few would have air conditioning. Chilly at night? Put on a light blanket. Is it stuffy or warm inside? Crank open the louvered windows, as we have for the past several days. (That way you can hear the heavy duty fireworks better in the early morning when someone sets them off to say Happy Birthday to a friend. Rise and shine!)Gaut Dc1212_01b

One of the blessings of the land of eternal spring is beautiful greenery and flowers all year. images can show the beauty better than I can describe it.

Guat Dc0112_1456s

How to Give the Shoeshine Boy a Future

A poor barrio in Guatemala City.

A poor barrio in Guatemala City.

Twelve-year-old Nicolás spends his days on the street shining shoes. Does he ever go to school? No, he replies; he has graduated from sixth grade. He answers very shyly as he goes about his work, first cleaning the shoes with his rag, applying the black polish with his fingers, then buffing the shoes to a shine. His income helps support his family, he says.

Inflation has affected everything since I served as a missionary in Guatemala many years ago, including the cost of a shoeshine. Now the price is up to three Quetzales—about 39 cents. But I suppose anything Nicolás can contribute will help.

Someday when he is too old and too big to live on a shoeshine boy’s income, he will undoubtedly need to find work as a laborer. He will be competing with a lot of other men who are in the same situation.

Twenty-two-year old Estéban will be on his way home to Costa Rica tomorrow with the prospect of a good job. It will probably allow him to marry his girlfriend next year and start a family.

What’s the difference between being a shoeshine boy at 12 and the opportunity for a job that allows someone to advance and support a family? In the case of Nicolás and Estéban, the difference is the opportunity for education.

We’ve learned a lot about education in Guatemala this week.

On Monday night, we learned about an educational program that provides scholarships for children in primary schools who keep their grades and accomplishments at certain levels. The money, from generous donors, allows the children to continue in school when their families otherwise might not be able to afford it. The program encourages children to go on beyond primary school. The schools get better students, and the students get a better chance at a good start in life.

There is free public education here, in primary schools only, but many parents in the big cities struggle to send their children to private schools because public schools have so little and some schools can be dangerous. On Tuesday, we talked with a young friend who is the father of twin baby girls; he and his wife are already wondering how they will provide a way for their daughters to attend private school because, he says, gangs recruit children in the public schools, and some who have refused to join a gang have been killed. So he and his wife are already trying to find a source of income to pay for private school tuition, the uniforms, the school supplies, the activity fees for things like sports, even the school-color socks that students must wear.

Wednesday we met Estéban. He was able to qualify for an educational institution that offers vocational training beyond high school. The Funval school is also supported by generous donors. It has cooperative arrangements with a number of important companies in eight countries of Central and South America, and those companies are eager to take all the graduates the school can supply. They have positions waiting in technical or service areas, and they like the values and the work ethic of the Funval graduates they hire.

The school espouses 10 core values that would be a credit to any institution—honesty, responsibility, discipline, hard work, and others you would want to see if you were a prospective employer. Students must study and learn in English so they can offer prospective employers the opportunity to hire bilingual employees.

Estéban’s school was founded by Latter-day Saints to help young Latter-day Saints get a start in a career. The students will be glad to share their testimonies of Jesus Christ if you ask them. But the LDS Church is not alone in its commitment to high values, and this school´s values should be congenial to any upstanding citizen, no matter his or her religious faith. The school’s purpose is to help young people become productive, contributing citizens who can support a family. No religion has a corner on that idea.

In this particular educational situation, everyone wins—the donors, the students, the companies that hire them.

Every so often you see a good idea that works as well as this one and you have to ask: Why aren’t there more educational programs like this?

 

Road Survival II: New Lessons

Midday traffic on Calle Roosevelt.

This weekend we had our first solo experiences in a car in Guatemala. We had some interesting new lessons in surviving traffic and in finding our way home after getting lost.

Lesson 1: Google maps can’t be trusted—but it may not be Google’s fault. Using a Google map to try to find someone’s home, we ended up miles short. But here’s the problem: Guatemalan cities are divided into zones, and each zone has its own street numbers, so it’s theoretically possible to find the same street coordinates more than once in a large city. We think that’s why the map we used on Saturday was wrong. After driving around the Kaminal Juyu ruins a couple of times trying to find the right route to our destination, we backtracked, stopped at a McDonald’s to regroup, and ended up deciding we would try again another day. We had to drive up Calle Roosevelt to turn around, and finding ourselves approaching Walmart, we decided to stop and shop. (Fresh fish, eyeliner, and motorcycles all under the same roof.) Sister S. found a great little dollar store (“Everything 9 Quetzales”) next to Walmart—a bonus—so the day was not a loss.

Lesson 2, from Sunday’s travel on the peripheral freeway around the city: Freeway exits are not well marked. There’s usually one sign, giving you about 15 seconds’ warning, and that sign might be blocked by overhanging foliage.

Lesson 3: If you miss the exit or take a wrong turn, you might have to drive a long ways to find a place to turn around—maybe halfway to San Pedro Sacatepequez.

Lesson 4, learned in returning from across town after dark: big trucks and buses traveling slowly in the right-hand lane may not necessarily have functioning taillights.

With the girlfriend riding sidesaddle.

Lesson 5 (related to Lesson 4): Watch out for motorcycle riders carrying a girlfriend on the back of a small bike capable of handling just one rider safely.  You even have to watch out for bicycle riders on the main boulevards, and maybe even the guy pushing his fruit and vegetable cart home.

Lesson 6: If there’s no parking space on the street where you want to go, you can make one by parking in the traffic lane. People will just have to go around.

Lesson 7: If a bus is parked on the right hand side of the road, be wary because passengers getting off have a distressing habit of dashing out from in front of it to cross the street. They’re always sure they can make it before you get there. But I’m not always sure—especially when they see you, hesitate, and then run. Pedestrians who play chicken with oncoming traffic are prime factors in the stress of driving here.

And, finally, a bonus lesson: Be careful how you open the car door in the church parking lot. If you simply unlock it with the key, without first pushing the button to turn off the alarm, the alarm will sound—and good luck figuring out which button turns it off.

 

 

Rules of the Road Here? Survive!!

 

Three lanes merging at Calle Roosevelt and Avenida de las Americas.

Welcome to the world’s largest dodge car ride, also known as Guatemala City. Be sure to keep your seatbelt fastened at all times and both hands on the wheel—except when you need to cover your eyes.

Screaming in terror is bad form. Muttering and fuming at other drivers under your breath is pretty much par for the curse.

Driving here is not tough just because it’s not the U.S. It’s actually not unlike driving in Manhattan or downtown Chicago. (Have you ever watched three lines of taxis jockeying their way around Columbus Circle at midmorning?) It’s just that you need the reflexes of a race car driver for the speed at which it happens here. It’s like moving up a couple of levels on your Grand Prix video game.

Ready for just a small taste? Slip behind the wheel for the short run from the apartment to the office. Buckle up!

First we have to cross northbound lanes of Avenida de las Americas. Careful—don’t pull out in front of that bus! He’s back a ways, but we don’t know if he’s got brakes.

OK, now to cross the southbound lanes. Wait . . . inch out . . . wait . . . stop! The guy who sneaked up on the shoulder next to you is blocking the view. Let him go first.

Now—hit it! Go!

Great—you’re across.

Slow down! Who knows whether that line of guys walking in the street up ahead will move aside. And traffic on the cross street has a stop sign, but remember, in this city, that’s only a suggestion.

OK, now right on Hincapíe to go up past the airport. Wait . . . wait . . . motorcycle . . . bus . . . go!

Stop! That bus parked just around the corner, in the middle of the lane, discharging and picking up passengers.

Hang back when he starts up again, so you don’t get lost in the black cloud of diesel exhaust.

This is where old school buses from the U.S. come to die. Sometimes they get painted bright new colors. They run till they drop. Sometimes things like brakes, shocks, and clutches get repaired. Sometimes they don’t. One of the rear dual tires might be down to nothing more than cord on the tread, but that’s OK; that’s why there are two of them.

Now that we’re moving again, put the pedal down and pass this bus. Don’t worry about the guy hanging out the back door. He’s got one foot inside and one hand holding onto something, so he’s fine. But go wide of the guy hanging onto the side. He’s got the little gas cap door open and one foot on top of the gas cap, and he’s got an arm hooked around a window frame. (Maybe he didn’t want to pay the fare.) He’ll probably be able to hang on all right—but go wide anyway.

Ease up slowly behind the mom and dad on the motorcycle ahead with the two toddlers in between them. Nobody’s wearing a helmet.

Crosswalk? Where? And no one stops for pedestrians anyway.

Now under the arch of the old aqueduct and around the corner onto Roosevelt, then–BRAKE! Wow, it really raises the old adrenaline level when they wait until the last second and then dash across in front of the car like that, doesn’t it!

Big bus stop right here. Have to fit in between them as they pull out to cross three lanes of merging traffic. Looks like the guy on the left has already been bashed once; better let him go first, then . . . now! Go!

Don’t worry about the Pizza Hut guy on the motorcycle zipping between you and the cars in the next lane. He’s got at least two feet all to himself. But he’ll need to move before we get to our turn coming up on the right. If you have to, inch over that way. He’ll get the hint.

Oh, wow! He just zipped past our front bumper, four feet away, and into that slot between the taxi and the delivery truck on the left. I didn’t think even a motorcycle could fit through there.

Well, problem solved. Now turn right on the street where the office is located. They filled the potholes a couple of days ago, so you shouldn’t bottom out here anymore.

OK, down into the underground, and then back the car into one of these parking spaces. No problem; you’ve got at least a foot between you and the next car.

Now you can relax and take your hands off the wheel.

Your, ah . . . your hand seems to have ripped the seat a bit there where you’re gripping it. But don’t worry about that; we can fix it. And your heart rate will probably be back to normal before it’s time to drive home for lunch.

 

Can I Do Better This Time?

Lake Amatitlan

Once before I passed this way as a teacher, trying to help others learn of Jesus Christ. I had the enthusiasm and energy of youth. I had surety—confidence not yet tempered by experience and maturity.

I wish I had known then what almost 50 years of experience and testing have taught. I could have been much more effective at sharing, not simply instructing.

In youth I came here knowing that I had truth to teach and that it would better the lives of all who would listen. How confidently I taught it to people older than I, who had faced much more of trial in life! Still, it was truth, and it blessed many lives.

Now I have truth to share, reinforced by experience and trial of my own. And I have learned that sharing has as much to do with listening as it does with proffering knowledge.

Many of the people I will meet may have much to share with me about being a true disciple of the Master.

As I pass this way again, I hope to:

• Listen more. Let me learn of their needs, their trials, their hopes, and their triumphs.

• Care more. May I learn more of true empathy. If I feel more of their fears or pain, perhaps I will know better how to help them.

• Give more. Let me give more of love and strength and experience, not knowledge alone.

There is an older man who comes to meetings whose hands are scrape-the-skin-off rough and calloused—the hands of a long-time laborer. He smells of the wood fires that many people here use for cooking in the home. His clothes are worn, but neat and clean. His scriptures are worn and well-used. He says little in meetings. When he prays, it is with great reverence and respect. He is quick to express thanks for the blessings of God.

Undoubtedly, I have had much more education, and much wider experience in the world. But I have a feeling there is much to learn from people like him. Maybe there would be a lot to learn about teaching—and sharing.

I have lived nearly seven decades now, and still I have so much to learn about being a follower of Jesus Christ.

 

In the Shadow of the Volcano

It was a sunny Sunday morning, and the cone of the volcano stood out clearly against the blue sky, with a layer of white clouds above it. This was a photograph that could not be ignored.

By the time we came out of church three hours later, clouds had lowered and darkened behind the volcano and a faint plume of black smoke was rising from the cone once more.

It was a reminder that the Volcán de Fuego is by no means dormant.

Is this startling? Not exactly. Does it mean the volcano is unpredictable? Exactly.

Does this worry me? Well . . . it’s not exactly news. And if we needed a reminder that there is always the potential for natural disaster in this area, the earthquake that happened while I was writing this will do nicely. There was another aftershock just a few minutes ago as I sat at the keyboard.

In the spring of 1966 when I was living in Guatemala City, we could stand on the flat roof of our house at night and see lava flowing down the side of the volcano. Many residents of this city have lived within sight of an active volcano all their lives.

It would be easy for others to take note from a distance, especially in light of recent events, and feel gratitude that they do not live with disaster poised on the horizon.

But it may not be very wise to feel complacent because of distance. We all live in the shadow of the volcano, wherever we are. We can’t see the telltale smoke or feel the occasional tremor in the earth, yet we live with the potential for disaster lurking on our horizon.

I’m not thinking only of the earthquake that comes without warning or the tornado that drops suddenly out of a darkening sky. I’m thinking of the times we live in, when hatred, bloodshed, or psychological catastrophe can boil up out of the simmering kettle of moral decay. One day we may feel life is going well and the next we might be dealing with unforeseen personal tragedy.

Do we have the emotional emergency kit to cope with what might come?

The most critical component in that kit will be our faith. Nothing else will be so important in dealing with disaster. But the kit will also need to include generous supplies of emotional stability and self-reliance.

Sunday morning on the street in front of our meetinghouse.

You don’t see people in Guatemala City looking over their shoulders every morning to check on the volcano. (“Will this be the day it blows?”) When the earthquake ended today, most people simply went right back to work—although some who had lived through the devastating 1976 temblor stood in the street for a while before they dared to come back into the building.

Maybe it’s easy to tell yourself that these things happen occasionally, you can’t do anything about them, so life just goes on. It’s certainly easier to believe that from 100 miles away than it would be in San Marcos, where walls fell today, people died, and thousands are still without power. And as for those personal, very emotional tragedies, we really can’t anticipate those either, can we? We can only try our best to handle them when they come.

You could easily develop a degree of fatalism about physical disasters when you look at the potential around the globe and realize it’s impossible to avoid peril completely, no matter where you live. The area where I grew up in South Texas occasionally is a target for killer hurricanes. Our home in Salt Lake City sits not far from the Wasatch Fault, and “they” sometimes say that “the Big One” is overdue.

Fatalism is not helpful, and it will certainly be of little comfort when “they” turn out to be right.

With the earthquake this week, we have an object lesson proving that physical disaster can happen in this area at any time.

I’m not going to spend my time here on constant volcano watch, or constantly checking out all the most solid doorways just in case. But it seems like a good idea to keep some food, water, and a few emergency supplies on hand, and to know possible escape routes. As for the other kind of disaster—the very personal, emotional kind—I’m working on those supplies of faith, stability, and self-reliance in my emergency kit.

Guatemala Revisited

Guatemala City looking west, early morning

For weeks I’ve been speculating about what Guatemala would be like when I visited it again. Would it be more progressive? Would the downturn in the world’s economy over the past few years have hurt the country badly? Would so many of the members of my church still be struggling economically? Would it look and feel like the same country?

Now that I am here, I find that much of my speculation was right—and it was wrong.

I first came here almost exactly 48 years ago—November 4, 1964. I spent two years as a missionary in Central America, and 12 months of that time in Guatemala City. I have returned twice for 10-day visits, in 1985 and 2000, so I was aware of some of the changes that have taken place. But I wondered how the country had fared over the past decade-plus.

So, does it look and feel like the same country? Yes—the geography, the climate, the culture all still feel familiar. And no—there is something about the people that is different, for the better.

By early morning light, green, forested hills still surround the city, and I can still feel that this is the “land of eternal spring,” where the temperature is almost always pleasant and it’s possible to live without central heating or air conditioning.

But the vista of those hills is punctuated now by many glass, steel, and brick high-rises, and streets that once seemed broad avenues are choked with rush-hour traffic. The city has undoubtedly more than quadrupled in population since that period when I lived here. While many families did not have a telephone in the home back then, I read recently that Guatemala has more cell phones than people, meaning that many Guatemaltecos have more than one phone. When you walk through a shopping mall here, that’s easy to believe. Many teens have gtheir own phones. Guatemalans eat at McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King. Pizza Hut delivery motorcycles zip through traffic. They have Walmart; Paiz grocery stores associated with Walmart;Office Depot; and the Guatemalan equivalent of Costco. (Membership here was cheaper than in Salt Lake City.) In exclusive stores and malls, people can buy the latest fashions not only from North America, but also from Brazil and Europe.

I can feel a change in the people. More of them are well educated, the middle class seems much larger, and they have higher expectations.

This holds true for the members of my church as well. Last night we went to a meeting in a big new building in a poorer area of town. Some 200 teens and their leaders were in attendance. They represented several LDS stakes, meaning that they and their families would add up to thousands of members. I admit I shed a tear or two as I looked around me and thought about the meaning of what I was seeing. When I was a missionary in 1964-66, I worked in this area of the city. One small, struggling branch covered the whole northeastern part of town, and its meetinghouse, like almost all the others in the country, was a rented home adapted for use as a church. Sunday attendance of adults, children, visitors, and members might have reached 200 on a good day.

Perhaps the best measure of church growth in the country is seen in a video Sister Searle and I watched a couple of days ago. It was a recording of the cultural celebration that took place the night before the recent dedication of the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple. Hundreds of youth from the western part of Guatemala danced folk numbers, sang, and performed in a tribute to their largely Mayan heritage. The production was a well-choreographed, well-rehearsed, well-executed show that was the equal of anything that could be offered anywhere else in the Church. The young people obviously enjoyed themselves. One young woman who sang should be recording CDs commercially.

As we watched, the impression came: “You were part of this.” I thought: “No, surely not I. Others I knew, yes. But I never had the opportunity to serve in this area.” But the impression persisted: “You and all of the missionaries who served with you were part of making this possible.” If so, it is an honor to be included.

Children waiting for parents outside the Guatemala City Temple.

After the end of my mission in 1966, there was an opportunity to tour some of the famous ruins of Central America and Mexico on my way home. At Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, I stretched my legs after a long day of travel by climbing up one of the pyramids as fast as I could. I was wearing a Guatemalan typical shirt that surely marked me as a tourist, but as I reached the top, a young Mexican I had passed called out behind me: “Gana Guatemala!” (“Guatemala wins!”)

Guatemala is winning because of the growth of the Church in this country, and I am grateful to have another opportunity to help.