Thursday, April 16, 2015

Trip to Guatemala


We were priviledged to go to Guatemala City to attend the temple with a group of members from the Cayo District in Belize.  The members had rented a bus to take them but it was full.  We decided to drive our mission truck there with the Rinderknechts, another senior couple, and follow the bus to the city.  It was a very special trip for the Rinderknechts because two families were going to be sealed.  The Rinderknechts had worked to reactivate one of the families and were involved with the teaching and conversion of the other.  They had also taught them the temple preparation classes.  We were really excited to go because we have not been able to go to the temple since we've been here.  

There are certain requirements for taking a vehicle across the border and into the country.  We had obtained the documents from a lawyer and were all ready to go.  Our plan was to take the truck across the border on Monday, March 30, and park it at the missionary's house in Melchor, Guatemala which is the town just over the border from Benque Viejo, Belize because we knew it would take some time for all the paperwork.  The bus was going to leave at 6:00 am on Tuesday so we knew we wouldn't have enough time to do it in the morning.   So Monday afternoon we headed to the border with the Rinderknechts to get everything done.  

Well, our simple plan ended up being not so simple.  We walked through the border from Belize to Melchor and presented our paperwork for the truck.  The agent looked at it and almost immediately handed it back.  He informed us that the name on the authorization papers was misspelled, they had put a 'q' instead of a 'g' in our name.  Obviously it was a typo but he wouldn't budge.  We were pretty upset.  

Then Elder Rinderknecht remembered that he had papers for his truck since he has to drive to Melchor for church occasionally.  His truck was parked with ours on the Belize side.  Elder Tague and Elder Rinderknecht walked back through the border offices to Belize to get his papers.  When they returned, the agent again handed them back almost immediately saying that they were expired.  There is no expiration date on the papers or any indication that there is a time limit but he insisted that they were not valid.  Again, we were at a loss.  It was like this guy had a personal vendetta against us driving any car over.

Sister Rinderknecht was especially devastated since they had worked with these families so much and were very close to them and their children.  Then Elder Tague remembered that one of the brothers at the central office had told him about a really nice bus that goes from Melchor to Guatemala City.  We asked another agent where the bus station was.  It was just over the river so we set out to see if we could take a bus.  We discovered that there is a premium bus that goes from Melchor to Guatemala City that travels overnight.  The bus was really nice looking and we decided to take it.  There were exactly 4 tickets left.  We snatched them up.  

It was about 3:30 and the bus left at 8:30.  We had enough time to go back to the Rinderknechts house in San Iganacio, pick up our luggage, eat dinner and get back to the border.  It worked out pretty well.  We parked our truck at their house and all took a taxi back to the border.  The bus is really plush in the premium section.  It's a double-decker bus with the premium seats on the bottom and the regular seats on top.  The seats reclined almost flat, were very cushioned and each seat had privacy curtains around it.  We had brought pillows and blankets so we were set for a comfortable ride.  It is a 10 hour drive but we slept most of the way.

      Sister Rinderknecht and I in front of the bus with our luggage.  All of us settled in for the ride.

We arrived in Guatemala City at 6:30 and took two taxis to the temple because they were kind of small cars and we couldn't fit all of us and our luggage into one.  

                                               The Guatemala City Temple

The temple president, President Burk and his wife had invited us to stay with them at their home which is down the street from the temple.  We took our luggage and walked down to the house where we were able to rest, take a shower and get ready for the day.

                                             President Burk's house and courtyard.

The Distribution Center is across the street from the temple and the MTC (CCM in Spanish) is just around the corner and down the street.  We were able to go the the CCM and buy some really neat things from a family that goes there once a week to provide special souvenirs and essentials for the missionaries.  While we were there, we found three missionaries that were preparing to come to our mission.  We were so excited to meet them and encouraged them to study their Spanish really well and hoepfully we will see them in Belize sometime.

                           The family that makes all the things they sell for the missionaries


                                Some skirts and scripture covers that they make to sell.

                                            Sister Aillery, Elder Maliga, and Elder Gifford

The bus with the Cayo members arived Tuesday evening.  The next day was the big day for the families.  It was such a spiritual high for all of us.  Of course, when the children were brought into the sealing room there wasn't a dry eye.  That is one of the most special experiences you can have and to have two of them one right after the other was amazing.


      The Sanchez family: Ostin in his father, Ronnie's arms, Dorita, Secilli, Lorian, Sister and Elder              

                The Quiroz family: Myron, Belamino, Kathryn, Sister and Elder Rinderkinecht
                                                               Jahim, and Alanis

We spent Wednesday and Thursday at the temple and basked in the beauty and tranquility there.
On Thursday night we moved across town to stay with some of the senior couples serving in the Guatemala City area.  Most of them live in the same apartment building or others close by so they are very interactive and always doing things together.  It was fun meeting so many other senior missionaries and getting to know them.

They had arranged a trip for a group of them to go to Antigua,Guatemala to see the celebrations and pageantry  for Semana Santa (Holy Week).  It was Good Friday and there were probably thousands of people there.  Similar celebrations are held in much of Central America but Antigua is very famous for theirs.  The city is thronging with people from all over the world.  I heard languages from all over Europe as well as the distinctive English of Australia, England, and the US.

The tradition is to create elaborate "alfombras" (carpets) on the streets with brightly colored sawdust, flowers, vegetables, and any other material that will make their designs.  These are incredible, taking hours to create only to have them completely demolished when the parade walks over them with the enormous floats depicting the Savior carrying the cross and Mary, his mother.

                                                         Some of the alfombras

                                            This one deserves a place by itself.

There are hundreds of people dressed in costumes of the period walking in the parade before the floats. They have a group of men on horseback representing the Romans and some were in chariots.  They wear purple robes with white headresses and the streets are festooned with purple banners.



The float with Jesus is carried on the shoulders of a huge number of men.  It is very heavy and they walk carrying it for miles.  The float for Mary is not as big but it is carried by at least 50 women.  There are men with incense walking in front of the float for Mary and they make everything smoky.  There is a band of drums and horns that followed behind the float for Jesus.


     There was a carnival atmosphere all around with venders of every kind showing their wares.

                      It is a great tradition that whole families participate in.  I loved the children!
                      Three children are enthralled as they watch from the safe perch of their window.
                      A little boy proudly marches in his costume.  A grandfather and his two grandsons
                      march together.  A young girl marches in her black mourning clothes with the 
                      Mary float.  You can see the alfombra has been destroyed in the street beside

   The Mayan women wear their traditional colorfully woven skirts and elaborately embroidered blouses.

This was an amazing experience. After our day of enjoying the traditions of the Guatemalan people, we spent Saturday and Sunday enjoying the messages from our leaders in General conference.  It was a full week with lasting memories and new friends.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Busy in Belize


We have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to post anything so I'm going to try to catch up.  One of our young men from the Belize City branch finally received his visa to go the Dominican Republic to enter the MTC there to begin his mission.  He has actually been serving here in Belize for almost 2 months while he waited.  He was in the west of the country serving with the missionaries in San Ignacio.  We went to the airport with him and his family.  The branch president, President Woods, went, too.  Elder Mis was very excited to finally be getting on his way to his assigned mission.


                          Elder Tague, Elder Mis, and Sister Tague at the Belize airport.


President Woods, Elder Mis's little brother, Sister Mis, Elder Mis, Elder Mis's step father, and Elder. Mis's sister.

We have another young man from Dangriga who is also waiting for his visa to leave for his mission.  He has been called to the Paraguay Mission but his MTC is in Argentina.  He has to get 2 visas, one for each country, and that is taking even longer than expected.  He is currently serving with our missionaries in Orange Walk Town.  

We have had a fun excursion with the missionaries.  We took the Corozal Zone to the Cerros Mayos ruins across the Corozal Bay.  We took a boat ride across the bay which was really fun. The site was very interesting.  The feeling that Elder Tague and I had there was different from the others that we have experienced.  Only one small building has been excavated and part of another larger one.  The rest remain large hills and mounds that you walk through.  They surround you and you just feel their presence.  It felt like if you looked just the right way, you might see one of the ancient inhabitants out of the corner of your eye.  

The trail that you take through the ruins is very aptly named "Mosquito Trail".  You literally almost breathe mosquitos, there are so many.  We were slathered in insect repellent but we had a really good time. 

                                           Elder and Sister Tague on the boat

                                                     Arriving at the site.

                                         The one excavation that was completed. 
The Corozal Zone left to right: Elder Santillan, behind him, Elder Aguilar, behind him, Elder Haynie, seated, Elder Paulson, behind him, Elder Castro, behind him, Sister Call, Sister McCulloch, Sister Wood, Sister Ferreras, Elder Grigg, Sister Hunter, Sister Patterson.

               The backside of the tallest mound which is partly excavated on the other side.
                                                A panoramic view of the area
                                                   And another panorama.

On  Friday, September 19th, we had another important visitor who came for a multi-zone conference.  The second counselor in the Area Presidency, Elder Alonso, came to teach us.  He is amazing!  We met in the west of the country in San Ignacio, Cayo District.  It was quite a logistical feat to get all the missionaries from our northern areas out to Cayo on time.  Elder Tague and I each drove a car up to Corozal to bring all of the missionaries from Corozal and Orange Walk.  Elder Tague drove the mission van which seats 12 and I drove the pickup which seats 5.  Four of the sisters rode with me and the remaining four sisters and six elders rode with Elder Tague.  We drove up the night before and stayed in a hotel in Corozal so that we could start picking up the missionaries at 4:30 on Friday morning.  Then we drove to Orange Walk which is 45 minutes down the road.  It is another 3 hours from there to San Ignacio and we needed to be there at 8:30. We made it on time.  We had time to eat the breakfast that was provided and then we all assembled for a spiritual feast at the conference.  

Elder Alonso has been given a spiritual gift of being able to see the light of Christ or lack of it in people's eyes.  Before the meeting began, we were all asked to come up one by one and shake his hand.  He looked into every person's eyes carefully as we shook hands with him and introduced ourselves.  Afterwards, when we were all seated again, he told us why he asked us to come up and shake his hand.  It was humbling.

He spoke of how we represent Jesus Christ and invite people to come unto him.  He asked us to truly examine our lives and examples.  How do our actions reflect upon Jesus Christ?  Do we always remember Him?  What place does Jesus have in our lives?  We had a lot to ponder after this conference.


The first row from l to r:  Elder and Sister Tague, Elder and Sister Mendenhall, Brother Alden,     Sister and President Alonso, President Hintze, Sister and Elder Rinderknecht.

Clockwise from top right:  Sister Patterson and Sister Hunter; Sister Gramajo receiving here English proficiency certificate from President Hintze; Sister Wood, Sister Ferreras, Sister Smith, Sister Gramajo, Sister Tague in the truck; Sister Montes, Sister Olalere, Sister Smith, and. Sister Call.

After the conference, they brought in lunch for everybody and then we all piled into the cars again and started the long drive back to Orange Walk and Corozal.  We arrived at our hotel that night around 8:30, tired but happy.  We drove back to Belize City Saturday morning.  It was a wonderful couple of days.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

VIP Visit

We had the wonderful opportunity to meet and receive counsel from our Area president, Kevin R. Duncan, and his wife and the second counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, Devin G. Durrant, and his wife.  President Hintze and his wife were there, as well.  Some may remember that President Durrant was an All-American basketball player for BYU in 1984 and was drafted to play for the Indiana Pacers and also played for the Phoenix Suns. He is 6ft. 7in. tall.  As you can see from the picture above, we were dwarfed by him.  

What a spiritual treat it was to be taught by these two great men and their wives.  We had a fireside on Wednesday night for everyone in Belize.  The branches in the outermost areas rented buses and brought the members from all over.  There were over 460 people in attendance at the meeting.  The Belize City building was full to overflowing. 

They conducted a very different type of fireside than I have ever been part of.  It was an amazing meeting, totally led by the Spirit.  President Duncan talked to President Hintze on the plane coming over from El Salvador and told him that they were going to change things up a bit.  They had been traveling around Central America visiting the stakes for about 2 weeks.  President Duncan told President Hintze that they were going to teach by the spirit and he would let President Hintze and his wife know what to do during the meeting.  So President Hintze didn't know what to expect.

President Duncan let President Durrant start off with his wife.  They had a white board up in front and portable microphones that some elders would take to people in the congregation who wanted to ask a question or comment.  Then they began teaching from the scriptures.  They were demonstrating the way all teaching should be done, in the Lord's way.  It was really powerful.  Everyone in the room was involved.  It wasn't just a sit down and listen to a speaker kind of meeting.  So many people were touched by the message and felt that their own questions were answered in that meeting.  The members that attended told us that they were truly inspired that night.  All the presidents and their wives participated as they were moved to make comments.  It was very spontaneous and Spirit driven.  We all left uplifted.

                                         President Durrant talking with attendees
The next morning was a special meeting for all the missionaries in Belize.  Before the actual meeting, all the missionariy comapnionships had companionship study and planning sessions like they have every morning.  President Duncan wanted to observe how they were doing with their daily planning.  They all scattered to every nook and cranny in the church building to find a place to plan.  


Then we had the meeting with all the presidents and their wives.  It was also a spiritual feast.  They presented what they call the "Willing and Brief" presentation.  That is to just ask someone if they would be "willing to hear a brief presentation about"... you fill in the blank with something you may have been discussing like families or Jesus Christ and his mission on earth.  It's easy to do and all of us have been able to ask that very question.  It is not threatening and leaves it open for the person to say yes or no without feeling pressured.  It's a great tool.  If the person says yes, you get their contact information and, if you're not a missionary, you give it to the missionaries.  They take it from there.                                                             

After the meeting with the missionaries we had arranged for a catered dinner for everyone.  It was delicious! 


                                                     Then we had time for pictures.

 In the back row we have Gary and me, President Duncan and his wife, President Hintze and his wife, and President Durrant and his wife.  These are the missionaries in the Corozal Zone. Front row left to right: Elders Grigg, Haynie, Paulson, Castro, Santillan, and Aguilar, Second row left to right:  Sisters, Wood, Smith, Gramajo, Patterson, Hunter, McCullouch, and Call.


                                                      This is the Belize City Zone
 Front l to r:  Elders Kilifi, Goodman, Mikkelsen, Gonzalez, and Parkes  2nd row l to r: Elders Martineau, Mapusua, Fridal, Jones, Kapisi, Schappell, and Lee.  Behind l to r:  Elder Fonoimoana, Elder Coates, Elder Tague (Elder Mapusua is so big he almost completely hides Gary), Me, President Duncan, his wife, Sister Hintze, President Hintze, President Durrant and his wife.


                                        Then we took a picture of all the sisters. 
First row l to r: Sisters Hope, Wood, Smith, Nelson, Gramajo, and Keys.  Second row l to r: Sisters Montes,Slater, Rodriguez, Jensen, Olalere, just behind Sister Olalere is Sister DeLeon, Perez, Hunter, Patterson, behind Sister Hunter are Sisters Call and McCullough. Third row l to r: Me, Sister Rinderknecht, Sister Mendenhall, Sister Duncan, Sister Hintze, and Sister Durrant.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Activities in Belize

We have had some really fun activities with the youth and primary in our district recently. On August 1 & 2, the youth traveled to Corozal for a 2-day campout in a ranch outside of Corozal.  There were about 50 youth participating.  After they set up all the tents and had lunch, they played games and had relay races.  

The first one was played in couples.  One person would hold his or her arms like a basketball hoop and the other would try to throw a ball through it.  Then they would have to take 4 steps ahead and do it again.  When they finished the next couple would start until the whole team finished.  It was pretty chaotic. 


They had something that I have never seen before. It was like a giant exercise elastic stretch band.  Four people would get inside and then one person would run to the opposite side.  Each would take turns or go all at once. It was pretty wild.  They would get all tangled up and finally either stop or fall over.  The pictures I have below are with President Woods, the Belize City branch president and some of the boys.  President Woods is the one with the baseball cap.


That evening, President Hintze and his wife gave a fireside for the group.  It was really good, encouraging them to be good examples and share the gospel.  
                                                               Sister Hintze

                                                            President Hintze

                                                       The group gathering

The next day they had a devotional after breakfast and then started tearing down the camp.  It was really hot and humid and the kids were pretty thirsty so someone went to get them some water since they had already gone through all the water that was brought due to the extreme heat.  But all went well and they were very cheerful and busy. 


                           Faces of our Belize City Branch and Cinderella Branch Youth


              Finally, it was time for everyone to load up the bus and go home.  It was a very successful youth camp and they are all looking forward to next year.


On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, we went to Orange Walk where they were having a branch water festival for the Primary.  It was a perfect day, not too hot, a little overcast but just right for some water fun.  

They set up an obstacle course with several events.  They started out running thorugh tires, then crawling between two long pieces of plastic, next running along a narrow board that was slippery and wet, and finally diving onto a plastic sheet like a slip-and-slide that was being constantly watered with a hose and sliding to the end.  They were being timed and the fastest time won.  These are some pictures of the Sisters running the course.
                                               Sister Wood makes it through the tires.

                                          Sister Huff emerges from the long plastic tunnel.

                                                  Sister Huff races across the board.

                                                      Sister Wood slides to the end.
They had a White piece of plastic stretched between two poles and the kids had a water balloon volleyball game .  There was a cute swimming pool for the little ones.

This activity was a huge success and there were several investigator families attendingso a lot of fellowshipping was going on.  There are some more activities planned for the near future.