Gearing up for SOY and Christmas

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December means getting ready for Christmas and getting ready for SOY (Strength of Youth--called EFY in the U.S.). We are very busy. Our little tree is up once again for our second Christmas in Belize.

One of our favorite ornaments made be our grandchildren, Ella and Jane

Elder Pattee with President Urvina from San Pedro Branch

Brother Vasquez, who is over Seminary and Institute for Belize, came to give our teachers some training.  He is very capable, but doesn't speak English very well, since he is from Guatemala. He gave the training in Spanish, so it had to be translated. Communication is often a big challenge here. We had a lunch of rice and beans and fish after. 

Cucumber Beach at Old Belize
Some of our youth went swimming on Saturday.  They loved the tall slide. 

Kasheifa and baby Kya enjoyed the sand.

We visited Marisol at her home last week. She brought Nathan to church to be blessed on fast Sunday.  She will be getting married sometime in the near future. 

Brother Saunders got baptized several weeks ago and soon received the priestnood. Saturday he baptized his wife. 

Elders Sutton and Robinales brought the Cocom Family to Home Evening last week.  The father, Efrain, was the guide that took Jon and Erika and us cave tubing last month.  It was good to meet his nice family.  Sister Pattee gave the lesson "Making Choices", and then we enjoyed playing a game. 

This week Elder and SisterPattee had the interesting assignment of going to the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan.  (Embassies don't allow cameras, so I just took this photo of the city entrance.)  President Cordon asked us to go and represent the Church in Belize.  We met with OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council.), which is a part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.  It exists to help keep U.S. citizens that are living in Belize safe.  They make us aware of hurricane alerts, and other safety threats. 

We were informed that crime is becoming a bigger issue.  An increase in home invasions and gang murders seem to be the biggest problems.  We talked about ways to keep safe.  One example is that if someone should get a new computer or flat-screened TV, don't put the box out in the trash for all to see.  Also be prepared to give up your wallet, if necessary.   Overall, we should strive to be aware of our surroundings at all times. 

Drugs and drug running are problems too.  Drugs find their way up from South America, then, are channeled through Belize to Mexico.  It is our opinion that poverty often breeds crime.  More education and job opportunities are needed.  Fifty percent of the population of Belize is under the age of 20.     

Of course most places are dealing with vandalism these days.  Here Elder Pattee and the property owner next door to our local chapel check out a fence-cutting incident.

Ironically at home evening last night, the zone leaders brought the Makin family over for home evening.  The father is one of the police chiefs for the entire country of belize.  We talked a little about crime in Belize.

Then we talked about family Christmas traditions, watched the 20 minute DVD "Joy to the World".  We liked the way it focused on Christ's birth, and also the importance of families.  We hope this family will continue with the missionary lessons.  They could be a great strength to the Church here.

Sister Pattee is wearing a long-sleeved blouse, which is unusual.  Even in December short sleeves feel good, as daytime temperatures are usually about 80 degrees.   On a cold night it might get down to 65. 

We visited member Katherine Smith and her children.  After a little Christmas message, we left a nativity picture and treats.  We also visited an investigator named Joan and her family with the zone leaders. 

Some of the Cinderella young women are practicing a dance for the SOY variety show.  Youth from twelve branches will be involved.  Each branch will present a talent number. 

We are facing many challenges as we are about to begin Soy.  It will start Monday, December 19 at Camp Camalote, a little over an hour west of Belize City.  It will run through the entire week.  Several key young adults have dropped out last minute mostly due to issues dealing with their jobs.  We are scrambling to cover all the bases. 

Tuesday evening, some of the Relief Society sisters watched the DVD "Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square" featuring Sissel.  It was very good.  Sister Pattee wished she would have had a DVD of Natalie Cole or David Archeletta featured with the Choir.  Church members here are mostly either Creole or Latino. 

Christmas luncheons and dinners are always fun during this season of the year.  This one was given by the the Belize District Presidency for the Branch Presidents and their wives. 

As we give gifts this year, we hope we will all remember that our Heavenly Father gave us the greatest Christmas gift of all--the gift of his son, Jesus Christ. 

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Blessings November 30, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving week in Guatemala. Our dear friends, Dic and Jennifer Johnson, invited us to stay with them in Guatemala City. They have been living there for 3years or so doing legal work for the Church. They are both fluent in Spanish and and know a good deal about the country. (Dic served a mission there years ago as a young elder.)

We were able to attend the Guatemala Temple with them Tuesday afternoon. It was wonderful to be in that beautiful and peaceful place. Notice the huge hydrynga blooms behind us.

On Thanksgiving Day we returned to the temple to attend a session with 53 saints from Belize that had arrived by bus (a 12 hour ride) to attend the temple. We felt fortunate to have been able to fly.  Several members were there for the first time. It was a very special experience to be in the temple with them. 

Gautemala is noted for its many volcanoes. Some of them are active. This photo was taken from the terrance of Santa Domingo, where we stopped for a delicious gourmet lunch on our way to the city of Antigua. 

Santa Domingo has rolling acreages of beautifully kept lawns and gardens featuring all kinds of works of art.  Notice the mosaic crocodiles in this photo.

Jennifer knew just where to take us. We saw many old buildings and went shopping at the handicraft market. The city of  Antigua has been around since the days of the Spaniards.  Among other things, Antigua is famous for its parades at Easter time.

Thanksgiving Dinner was a grand experience. 84 people were in attendance--mostly members of the Church from North America. The Area First Presidency were there. You can see both the counselors in this photo.  Elder Martino is standing at the front, and Elder Amado is at the right. Sitting at the front is President Falabella. 
We had a traditional Thanksgiving feast with turkey, dressing, and all the usual trimmings, including pumpkin pie-- plus sauerkraut, and a big box of See's Chocolates. 

The next day we had the privilege of traveling to Quetzaltenango, which is 3 or 4 hours north of Guatemala City, with the Johnsons. A new temple was just completed, and we got to go to the open house.

The Quetzaltenango Temple sets on a hill overlooking the city. 

Of course we couldn't take photos of the inside of the temple, so we took photos of some of the people we saw outside on the temple grounds. The women here are wearing clothing much like they wear each day.

These children were not used to having their photos taken, so they were a bit leery of us. 

This youth group enjoyed having their photo taken.

A scarf helps this big sister carry her little sibling.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Elder Lorenzo, one of our favorite missionaries that we worked with in Belize City. He has now returned home to Guatemala and was helping out at the open house.  It was nice to visit with him.

Here Sister Pattee stands by a tuktuk. They are commonly seen and used in Guatemala, mostly for taxi service.

  At market it was fun to see the way the women carry loads on their heads---

And on their backs.

On the way home we drove to Lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.  It is surrounded by volcanoes.

As a change of pace, on Saturday we went shopping and to a movie at a beautiful modern mall called Oakland. It was all decorated for Christmas. Children enjoy riding the train in the background on the middle level.   

Another unusual feature of the mall is a double-decker carousel.  .

  We attended Church at this chapel on Sunday.  It is the first chapel built in Guatemala City. Now there are many chapels.There are about 40 stakes and 200 wards and branches in Guatemala.

Jennifer cooked us a wonderful Sunday meal. The Wallaces and the Arnolds joined us for dinner. They are both senior missionary couples that we had met before.  Elder and sister Wallace are auditors for the Church, and Elder and Sister Arnold work with the Perpetual Education Fund.  Most of the programs of the Church for Central America are run through Guatemala City. 

It was a great blessing for us to visit Guatemala. We enjoyed our trip immensely. What a beautiful place!  We appreciate our hosts' hospitality and all their efforts in making it such a memorable experience. Thanks, Johnsons! 

When we returned home, we had a belated Thanksgiving Dinner with our missionaries.  A man currently investigating the Church is an award-winning chef.  He catered it for us.  Sister Pattee spoke to the missionaries about the origins of Thanksgiving Day, and Elder Pattee talked about the importance of graditude.  Then each missionary wrote a "Thank You" letter to his or her parents.  The missionaries always enjoy being together.  They are a great blessing in our lives.

Of course we count our family, friends, and the gospel among our greatest blessings.  Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are!