We thought those in the grip of winter in the US would enjoy seeing the view from our office window. These beautiful blue trees are blooming in great profusion throughout the city.
The following is a partial photographic record of enjoyable events during the month of February. As usual, the photos give a distorted view of what a typical day in our mission life would be, but readers could take only so many photos of us busy at the computer or attending meetings. The next photo is of Virginia at an old sugar refinery and home owned by the well-to-do non-LDS brother of one of our senior missionaries, who generously offered to let the senior missionaries have a Valentine's Day barbecue and social at his estate about an hour south of Guatemala City on February 12. I had pictures of the meal, the dancing afterwards, and the marimba band they had hired for our entertainment, but all but the following photo got accidentally lost when I unsuccessfully tried to send them wirelessly from my Blackberry to my computer and deleted them before confirming that they had arrived.
Above: Virginia at Valentine's Day party at estate in Palin
We recently found a place to purchase wheat--a very large operation covering much of a city block. We bought 5 bags of 100 pounds each, sold one bag to another couple, and gave away about 150 lbs to branch members last Saturday at a Relief Society activity where they learned to seal items for food storage in mylar bags, and where we gave a lesson and handouts and demonstrations on how to use wheat (which is virtually unknown here, except for using flour purchased in the store). We made pancakes and gave them a taste of a ground pork and wheat berry concoction I invented (with onions, tomatoes, celery, pepper, seasonings, and a touch of jalapeño). Most pretended they liked it.
We've also had three baptisms in our branch since the first of the year. Here is the first.
Here is the third, whose baptism occurred last Saturday just before our wheat activity.
Last Monday evening's senior couples' family home evening included a mariachi band the hosts hired for our entertainment. It brought back some great memories of our three years in Mexico.
This week we have had the privilege of helping host Matt Heiss, who works for the Church Historical Department in Salt Lake City and who is here for a seminar with country historians from throughout Central America tomorrow and Saturday. We got to take him to lunch on Tuesday at the restaurant in the artisan's market near the airport and talked this lady into letting us take her picture while weaving.
Yesterday Matt (Brother Heiss) had a free day, and in the afternoon we took him to Antigua for lunch and to see the sites. He also happens to be one of my former institute students from Fremont, California, from about 35 years ago. Here he and Virginia stand in front of the La Merced chapel in Antigua.
Virginia and Matt in the ruins of the main cathedral, destroyed in the earthquake of 1773.
Today we took Matt to see the Church's new welfare center in what used to be the institute of religion building, where I had my office during our mission of 2004-2006. This was our first look at it since remodeling was completed in January. It is marvelously transformed--and all for the better, as the building was always under utilized. The following photos will show some of the highlights of the new operation, which combines a bishop's storehouse with the employment center, the Perpetual Educational Fund offices, the PEF call center, the humanitarian welfare offices, and a remaining corner used by the institute of religion. It was a beehive of activity. As we were leaving, a group of returning missionaries entered to begin a two day course on employment and goal setting they all receive before returning to their homes.
The reception area, with a sign featuring the various aspects of Church welfare.
The kitchen area, where a senior sister missionary is preparing to teach a group how to make empanadas as a way of supplementing their income.
The checkout counter at the bishop's storehouse section.
Beans with the Church label at the bishop's storehouse
Empanada recipe with suggestions on how to market them
Section of bishop's storehouse where they pack grains and other foods purchased in bulk into smaller bags for distribution.
Second level, with employment offices on the right and PEF offices on the left, with space in the middle for students or job seekers to fill out applications, etc. Classes can also be held here.
PEF offices on the left
Available job listing
Employment office where those needing work can look at available jobs online and fill out applications.
PEF call center where volunteers call Perpetual Education Fund participants to monitor their progress and provide support and sometimes remind them that payments are due!
Photos of volunteers from PEF call centers throughout Central America
Display in the reception area with quotation from D&C 49:24--"and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose."
Offices of director and assistant
Shot of table in reception area. Six tables have literature about the various facets of Church welfare. Recipients of assistance attend a class each time they visit dedicated to some aspect of self-reliance.
Another shot of the reception area