Monday, October 28, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Friends/A Day of Miracles

Here are the Brinton's (Diana & Ron) who came from Canada and will be going home this Saturday (Nov. 2nd) after serving here for 18 months. She is from Peru originally, but her parents moved to Canada so their family could have a better life. They have eight children and he was a printer. We took a little taxi trip with them to see the house her parents lived in when they also served in the Guatemala Temple 21 years ago... It is on the property of one of our women coordinators who volunteers in the temple one day a week... She knew the parents and leased this little cottage to them for a time. When the CCM was built, they were the first senior couple to live at the CCM and were in room 304 on the 3rd floor. Diana wanted to wait a year, but her husband insisted that they were supposed to come when they did. The week before they left, her dad died and in settling his affairs, they found a diary of their parents' mission they didn't know about! She tucked it in her suitcase at the last minute! When they arrived, they were put in... Guess what room...? #304!
She read her dad's journal and realized they were in the same apartment her parents were in! She got to read all about their mission and how much they loved it here. She told me that she could often feel their presence in the temple while she was working. In September, when they moved all the senior couple out of the CCM, the Brinton's were the last couple to leave, bringing these events full circle! They are wonderful people who helped us so much when we first came with our Spanish and we will miss them a lot, but they are excited to get home and be parents and grandparents again. She is barely 5 feet tall and he didn't know Spanish when he came here! We will miss them!
Here is a little video from "Miracle Thursday" (Oct. 17th)  My good friend and boss, Grace Larsen sent me an email at the end of September to let me know she would be on a Book of Mormon tour of Mexico/Guatemala in October. She gave me the phone number of her hotel and said to call her when she was here. They would only have one day in Guatemala City. The hotel wasn't close enough to walk to, but I hoped we could contact each other. We gave her the temple phone number, telling her to ask for me. I told the secretaries that she didn't speak Spanish, but would be calling and to come get me if she called. I didn't think we would see each other, but prayed that we could at least contact each other by phone.

I called the hotel on the morning of the 17th (we were on afternoons that day) but she wasn't there, so I thought I had missed her. There was a singing group from Draper, Utah coming to the temple in the morning that day, (Pitchers' were on A.M. shift) and singing at the CCM at noon. Pitchers' asked us to go listen and film them. We had planned to go about noon, but left at 11:30 to take care of some business at the CCM. When we walked by the temple we saw two nice buses parked in front and a lot of people milling around the grounds, so we thought it was the Draper singers and decided to go mingle with them... Hey, anyone from Utah/US is a big event! 
While walking I hear someone call my name 2-3 times... I turn around and there is Grace Larsen sitting on a bench at the temple! The Draper singers were there, but so were the two tour buses with Grace's group... Had we walked by later, we would have missed them! We couldn't stop hugging each other, and of course crying. I prayed for a telephone contact, but what I really wanted was to SEE her in person and Heavenly Father knew that! They went on a tour of the CCM, so I walked around with her and we talked for about an hour. Then they left, so we stayed for the concert at the CCM.

It is a singing group made up of people all across the Wasatch Front and they travel and do missionary work through music. Three people looked familiar, and I recognized one man named Heninger who used to come in the office from Layton. His wife is the leader and music arranger for the group, she looked familiar, too. We went up to talk to them afterwards and told them we were from Layton. He recognized us and hugged us. She said, "Do you know Don Evans?" We of course said yes, he was a dear friend of ours. She took a little note out of her purse and said it was from Don. He added a PS to the letter that said, if you happen to see our friends, the Barlow's, give them our love! OK... Miracle #2. What are the chances we would run into them?! Another lady who sang with the group saw our name tags and said, "My maiden name is Barlow." She looked familiar, too. She was a teacher in Davis Schools who used to come in the Layton office! Wow!... Miracle #3!  So we went to work our shift at the temple and when we came out at 9:30 pm, there were 3-4 missionaries walking around the grounds. We started talking to a native girl:
She asked us, "Where we were from?"
We said, "Near Salt Lake City."
She said, "I served part of my mission at Temple Square."
Then she said, "What city?"
We said, "Layton."
She said "No way, I served in the Spanish Branch in Layton Stake! Do you know President Bitton?" We said, "Yes, he is our neighbor!"
She had just come home from her mission and was doing some training... We think she is going to teach at the CCM. Her name was Sister Arias. Wow! The timing was all PERFECT for this day of miracles and it was a little divine signature for us that Heavenly Father knows us, knows our hearts, and knows where we are!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A New Keyboard

Here is the keyboard I was able to purchase from the Distribution Center for the Vista Hermosa Ward Young Women... Thanks to a very generous donation from a very loved family member! It has given the girls an opportunity to play, sing. and lead. The girl playing is one of Elder Duncan's twins and the girl behind the striped bag is Elder Ochoa's daughter, he spoke in the October conference. She said their family didn't know he was speaking until they saw him on TV. Muchas gracias!

Here's another shot of the opening song the first Sunday we used the keyboard. We sing in Spanish, so the native Guatemalans can enjoy it, too. Many of the girls are bilingual!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Barlow's Buscana Casa

These are some more pictures of flowers and other cool things we get to see.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

For the Beauty of the Earth

Here are some pictures of the beautiful flowers we see when we are walking around Guatemala... It really IS the land of eternal spring! Our friends, the Pitchers' are sometimes with us and shared this photo stream. They love flowers. Notice the little "broom/brush" man who we see on our walks sometimes... He carries his wares with him and is so cheerful. The lady with Elaine (Pitcher) is in typical native dress.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Some New Friends

This is our little friend and his dad that we always see when we are walking... They are everywhere, too. This is his only child and he is so proud of him. His wife is from the US, we haven't met her yet because she works. The lady is a friend of the family. The other day, he left the boy with us while he went into a store to get change, he really trusts us! Elizero has the cutest outgoing personality and always shakes all our hands when he greets us.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Touching Story

Here is a really wonderful story to add to the Conference addresses. Please remember, God loves each of us, even though we are far away. The gospel is true world-wide!

Our and Heavenly Fathers Adrift Children
Missionary Moment: A Miraculous Missionary Transfer
By Mark Albright (Member of The LDS Church )

Dear Brother Albright,
As the mission president of the Fresno California Mission, my wife and I enjoyed many special experiences. We have been home now for almost two years. I wanted to share with your readers a wonderful miracle that we witnessed in California involving missionary transfers. This special experience clearly illustrates that the Lord is in charge of these wonderful  missionaries, including when and where they are assigned to labor.
Elder Peter Taufu* was from Tonga. He had been raised in the church in Tonga and his missionary assignment to the Fresno Mission was his first time in America. As I looked at the large transfer board in my office, showing each missionary's photo and other pertinent information to start planning for our next transfer, I prayed for the necessary inspiration to know where to place the over 180 missionaries under my stewardship. I worried and prayed about each transfer assignment. Like mission presidents everywhere, I carefully contemplated where each missionary should work, who their companion should be, the ward they would be working in, their health, their leadership assignments, whether they could be on a bike or in a car, etc.
The countless factors that are considered before each transfer, when multiplied by the almost 200 missionaries and their individual needs and talents, can sometimes be overwhelming. But I also realized that the most important factor to consider during the lengthy transfer planning process (which occurs every 6 weeks) is the whisperings of the Spirit. God knows where each missionary is needed more than the mission president. I eventually felt impressed to assign Elder Taufu to labor in the City of Patterson, California, a town of about 20,000 residents in Central California. Located about an hour south of Stockton along Route 5, it is known as the Apricot Capitol of the World.
Unbeknownst to me, Elder Taufu's sister, Leloni, some ten years earlier in Tonga, had fallen in love with a young Catholic man, married him, and moved to America. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that many Tongan families at the time did not have a computer or cell phone, the family eventually lost contact with their daughter, and had no idea where in America she was living.
Leloni was now pregnant and expecting a child in several weeks. The married couple's discussion turned to religion. They started to argue about which Christian religion their new child should attend--the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church. The husband then made a rather startling promise. He said to his wife: "If your brother knocks on my door, then I'll join the Mormon Church, and we'll raise our baby to be LDS!" Smugly confident that the argument was now finally over, he quickly dropped the issue. A day or two later, Elder Peter Taufu and his companion, Elder Adams, were knocking on doors in the City of Patterson. The door opened and there stood Elder Taufu’s older sister Leloni, who he had not seen in almost ten years. She looked at him carefully for a moment. She recognized something familiar in his face. She had seen this person somewhere before! She then quickly glanced down at his name tag to confirm what she already suspected--this handsome young missionary was her younger brother! Joy filled her countenance and she immediately rushed out to give her little brother a big bear hug!
Elder Adams didn't know what to do and just watched this joyful reunion, not knowing whether to run or laugh. The two missionaries were quickly invited inside and told of the promise Leloni's husband had made earlier in the week about joining the LDS Church.
Arrangements were soon made to teach her husband the restored gospel, and the discussions were taught and accepted. True to his word, as soon as he felt the Spirit confirm the truthfulness of the
gospel message, Leloni's husband was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church.
This miraculous and happy story does not end there. His conversion was heartfelt and sincere. He did not convert solely due to his earlier promise about their unborn baby. After a year of faithful church attendance, this wonderful couple, together with their new baby, was sealed together as an eternal family in the Oakland, California Temple. I called the Missionary Department in Salt Lake City to obtain permission for Elder Peter Taufu to attend the Oakland Temple ceremony (the temple was located outside of our mission boundaries) and witness this special and sacred family event.
This special conversion was made possible by the Lord inspiring and directing the calling of Peter first to America, then to the Fresno, California Mission, and then to the City of Patterson. The missionaries were then inspired as to which neighborhood to visit. Such is the importance of serving a full-time mission and following the Spirit in all that we do and say. As we are taught in Alma 16:16, The Lord did pour out his Spirit to prepare the minds of the children of men, to prepare their hearts to receive the Word which should be taught among them that they might not be hardened against the word, that they might not be unbelieving. It was abundantly evident to our entire mission that the Lord has poured out his spirit on this sweet family and softened their hearts to prepare them to hear the gospel.
The statistical possibilities of this divine rendezvous occurring in Patterson are amazing. As I roughly calculated the numbers, even assuming the family knew their daughter was living somewhere in America, the odds were still well over 1 in 300,000,000 that Peter would be assigned from Tonga to  the very town and street where his missing sister was living. It was also a tender mercy that the elders knocked on Leloni’s door when she was at home, and immediately following her husbands promise about joining the LDS church if Peter knocked on their door! This true experience has, as Elder Gerald Lund calls it, God's divine signature written upon it, for this mission call and transfer were both clearly orchestrated in heaven, not by man. We shared this story with each arriving group of new missionaries, asdivine evidence that God knows each missionary and that their assignments were divinely inspired by a Prophet of God.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our New Apartment!

This is the front of our Fort Knox apartment, gate and guard included! We are across the street from all the other senior missionaries.

This is the walkway just inside the gate. Eternal Spring... You betcha! Actually, May through October is the rainy season and winter here. I don't know how that works because we are above the equator... But it's winter!

This is the front entryway into the four casitas... Notice the iron gate and locked front door? Dad christened the step by falling down on his way to the temple in his suit! That's like his forth fall! We must be getting old, but he jumped up like Chevy Chase, "I'm okay!!"

This is the hallway, with an empty apartment on the left. A couple, the Thompson's, is coming and have just finished serving in El Salvador. They know Spanish and have worked in the temple before. The Murri's apartment is the one straight ahead, and ours is on the right.

These are the stairs leading up to President Harris' apartment. It is the whole floor above us. They even shipped a nice treadmill from home, so they could have it here.

This is the backyard, but we can't access it from our apartment. Wait until you see what we have!

This is our little "patio" which is totally open at the top with wrought iron bars and barbed wire. We have some plants and are going to find two patio chairs, so we can sit out there when it's not raining.

This is the view from the kitchen. I took a Carl Block print off the wall at our old apartment, now I need to get the temple engineers to hang it! It's really pretty.

This is our dining and kitchen area. I bought the table runner and Pitchers' brought us the flowers for a house warming gift.

This is our kitchen... Totally nice granite counters and tile everywhere. They do tile work everywhere here.

This is our laundry and storage room, which everyone is jealous of. I told them I have my Master's Degree in laundry, so that is why I got it!!! Actually, every apartment has a nice feature about it that is unique to that space.

Here is a "selfie" of our bathroom. Notice the tile walls, shower, and tile floor?

This is inside of the shower, which is long and nice. We sometimes have hot water, unlike our lukewarm water at our other place. No complaints here!

This is a skylight in our bathroom, which has no windows. It is fabulous!

This is our bedroom with our king size bed... I know! Some of the missionaries were a little jealous. We didn't ask for it, the engineers brought it. I told them, Gary is the biggest guy in the temple and he needs it... Settle down! Notice my $13.00 Toms on the bed?!

This is our bedroom window. It looks out onto out little patio. Our front room windows do the same.

This is our housewarming present that the Pitchers' brought us from their trip to El Salvador. I am going to hang it on our patio.