Thursday, June 19, 2014

Church Growth in Central America

We did a FHE two weeks ago on the growth of the church here in Central America, which I thought might be interesting for the blog. However, I don't have pictures or a PowerPoint presentation to go with it! President Cook visited the area a few months ago and some of the information comes from him, via Brother Pitcher, who is the executive secretary to the are presidency.

"Central America is a strong area of the world that is growing in convert baptisms and activity of the members and remarkable things are happening here! The whole area is a great example of the hastening of the work."     -Elder Quentin L. Cook

President Carlos Amado, the area president, will soon be released because he turns 70 in September. He has spent 1/4 of a century faithfully serving as a 70. He was the first General Authority from Central America and a native of Guatemala, called in 1989. The people love and respect him here very much, and when he attends our ward, he shakes hands and greets everyone from the back to the front. It's no coincidence that Amado means "well loved"! The Central American area includes Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala. Families face great challenges providing for their families here, but spiritually, they re magnificent! There is continuous improvement. There are six temples in the region, The Guatemala being the first built in 1985 and Central American members LOVE their temples as follows: Guatemala and Quetzaltenango (Xela) in Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, and Honduras.

Many times on Saturday, there are people waiting at 4:30am when the workers arrive and they have traveled many hours on a bus to get there, a great personal sacrifice! When Brother Pitcher served his mission here in the 60's, there were no temples, stakes, or chapels... Chapels were only rented for branches. The mission was only two countries, Guatemala and El Salvador. In 2014, there are six temples, 105 stakes, 44 districts, 17 missions, and 22,500 baptisms in Central America. That is the second highest, Africa being the first! 3,100 missionaries are serving here, 2/3 of which are Latinos. When Brother Pitcher served in Santa Ana (El Salvador) there were no chapels. They visited there last week and said in a one hour drive, they counted eight chapels in the city and five more out of the city.

We heard and interesting story last week about a Protestant Minister who left his parish of about 30 people. He told them he didn't feel like he was teaching the right things anymore. Fast forward... He met the missionaries, took the lessons, joined the church, went back to his followers, and told them the story of his conversion. Long story short... They all were baptized last year and in September or October, they are coming as a group to go through the temple together! We hope we are still here when they come! We have indigenous groups come all the time and this month it was a sweet group from Polochic area in the mountains, in their colorful native dress. We have 22 first timers, and many little children and babies who were sealed to their parents. What a wonderful sight to see! There are 23 different dialects spoken here in Guatemala and their's is called Ke'Chi. I learned some phrases, so I could greet them in their own language!

"Ma sa la chol" means, "how are you?" but what they are really asking is, "what is the flavor of your heart?" They answer with "sa" which means, "my heart is calm." "Bantiosh" mean, "thank you."

I have seen and written the language and there are lots of x's, which makes a shhhh sound, but I don't recognize many of the words. We had a few people who could speak Ke'Chi and Spanish, so they acted as our interpreters. They stayed all week in patron housing and came back every day, so we got to know them pretty well. There are some people from Rexburg, Idaho who accompanied them and we learned that one lady who was a former missionary to that area donated $10,000.00 for them to be able to come and stay a week! That's an amazing sacrifice. We didn't get any pictures of them because they weren't outside when we were.

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