May 31, 2011 - A Visit to Guatemala and Other Things

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Here in the San Salvador El SalvadorWest/Belize Mission we have unusual mission boundaries. Most of our mission is in El Salvador, but it also includes all of Belize, and a tiny bit of Guatemala, called Melchor.   These days few missions are in 3 different countries.  The reason Melchor is included is because it is just over the western border of Belize.  The Sandbergs live close to the border, so the little Melchor Branch is part of their stewardship.  We had never had the opportunity to visit Melchor until this past weekend. 
The reason Belize is included in one of the El Salvador missions is because Guatemala and Honduras airline flights, in and out of Belize, all go through El Salvador.  From Belize one cannot get a direct flight to either Guatemala or Honduras. 

President and Sister Lopez came to Belize this week to do missionary training and to attend the Cayo District conference.  Of course we attended the missionary training in Belize City, and we also were invited to go up Cayo.
During our missionary training, 11 elders and sisters found out they will be transferred to El Salvador in little over one week.  It was quite a surprise to most of them, as they had thought they would be finishing up their missions here.  Those asked to stand will be leaving.

We get a new mission president July 1.  President Lopez is trying to make everything go as smoothly as possible for him.  By making these changes now, President Cardon will not have to make Belize transfer changes until October. 

President and Sister Lopez gave a fireside in Melchor Friday evening.  Here we are at the Guatemala border.  Elder Sandberg told Sister Pattee that we would have to be fumigated before going across.  She thought he meant each one of us would have to be sprayed down and was relieved to find out that only the van had to be fumigated.  We had a good laugh over that.  (All of us except the driver got out while the van was driven through the sprayer.)
Melchor Branch meets in a rented building.  It used to be a school.  Sister Pattee is standing with the Cayo District president's wife, Sister Lopez.  (Both our mission president and the Cayo District president have the last name of "Lopez".  Sometimes it can be confusing.)

Sister Rodes played the keyboard for the fireside.  There are few people, including missionaries, that know how to play the the keyboard or piano here.  All rented buildings have only keyboards.  Chapels have pianos. 

Two of the cute children attending the fireside

This was President and Sister Lopez's last trip to this part of their missionfield.  Everyone loves the Lopezes.  They will be missed. 

Young mother and baby at fireside

Sandwiches and punch were served outside in the courtyard afterward. 

We stayed at the San Ignacio Inn while in the Cayo District.  Saturday morning Elder Pattee and Sister Pattee had time to swim in this nice pool. 

But the best part of our stay was that Elder Pattee talked with the desk clerk when she got off work on Friday.  They had a nice discussion about her life (she is from Cuba), and he ended up giving her a copy of the Book of Mormon on Saturday.  She seemed very happy to receive it, and we think she may be willing to listen to the missionaries.

Saturday morning we attended the baptism of Vanessa (in white) at the San Ignacio Chapel.  Baptisms happen often in our mission, but in Belize, church attendance does not seem to increase.

Brother Medina has a wonderful woodshop business.  He is well known for his excellent craftmanship and does finishing work and creates fine furniture of his own design.  Some of his work is sent all over the world.  Here he is standing in front of a door that he made at his home.

All the district and branch presidencies and their wives were invited to lunch on the Medina's large veranda on Saturday, just before our district conference meetings began. 

We were served the typical Belizean meal of rice and beans.  The rice and beans are cooked together in coconut milk.  We also had a delicious green salad, which is not typical.  Notice the green leaves.  They are called Chayo.  They grow on a tree (or bush) and are delicious. 

During the sisters' training session these lovely women sang a special number.  They all made sets of earrings that were very similar to wear for the occasion.   

Some of the sisters at our training meeting

Later we divided into departments for specialized training for relief society, young women, and primary.  We soon discovered that the district primary president wasn't there.  It turned out that she had a severe migraine headache and was unable to attend.  She had called the district president, but somehow the women leaders did not get the message.  Sister Pattee suddenly found herself doing the training for the primary leaders.  

Attendance was good at both the English and Spanish Sunday sessions of Cayo District conference.

Elder Pattee was one of the speakers at the English session.  During both of the Sunday morning meetings a young 12-year-old boy played a solo on a recorder (plastic flute).  He really brought the Spirit, as he played a medley of "I Am A Child of God", "Families Can Be Together Forever", and "Nearer My God to Thee". 

After the Sunday meetings were over, six of us us went to the Sandberg's for lunch and visiting.

L. to R.:  Elder and Sister Sandberg, President and Sister Lopez standing outside the Sandbergs house.

Then the Lopezes and Pattees made the 2-hour trip back to Belize City.  Just as we arrived, we were notified by the young Elders of a baptismal service that was about to begin.  We quickly drove to the church and ended our busy week attending another baptism--this time in the Cinderella Branch.

 Ilder (center), his family, Elder Palmer, Elder Perez, and President and Sister Lopez

The downside of the weekend was that Elder Don Clarke (Area President) had planned to attend the Cayo District conference.  Unfortunately, there have been several murders on the Guatemala border during the past couple of weeks.  He was advised not to attend, as he would have had to drive through part of the dangerous area.  (He lives in Guatemala City.)  We were all disappointed in his change of schedule.

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