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.