Guatemala City Temple

Guatemala City Temple
Here is where we will be working until Nov. 2018


Dear Readers,

We hope as you read this blog of our mission to the Guatemala City Temple in Guatemala you will feel the joy and happiness we are experiencing by being in the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We hope you can experience some of what we feel.

John and Christine

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Monday, October 27, 2014

October 20th through October 26th

 October 20th through October 26th: Monday, we went downtown and I got my blood checked and mom got a haircut.  We did a little shopping. 
One of these days I will put all of the pictures of the doors of Oaxaca on one post.  I just keep taking some as we walk around.
One of the many stalls selling things for the day of the dead.
There are many little shops downtown that specialize in grinding up fresh cocoa bean.  The chocolate smell in the air is very strong.
They have a long history with chocolate, the drink of the Gods.

We finished off the day with dinner at President Atkinson’s house with a new sister missionary from Mexico City.  She arrived on Monday.  One of her sons and her brother and sister-in-law traveled with her.  Her brother is the temple president of the Mexico City temple.  It is closed for remodeling and will open sometime late 3rd quarter next year.  The four of them and the four of us had a very nice dinner and evening.  Tuesday, of course, we had presidency meeting and then afterwards we all ate together at Pres. Atkinson’s home again with the new missionary and her family. 

Lunch at the Atkinson's home.  L to R Sister Gonzales, Sister Pena, Pres. Pena, me, mom, Pres. Atkinson, Sister Atkinson, Pres. Serrano, Sister Serrano, Sister Zarco, the new missionary, Pres. Gonzales her brother.  Her son took the picture.

Thursday evening I went with Pres. Atkinson to the airport and picked up a new missionary couple, Ross and Bobette Ray, from the states.  They are from Fredonia, Arizona.  They are a very nice couple and they served in the Mexico City temple about a year ago.  They will be a great addition to the temple, not to mention that they like to play cards!  They are now our next door neighbors.  After our shift Friday morning, I took the Rays to the mission office to start the paperwork for their visas.  Then Mom and I took them grocery shopping and then a quick trip downtown to look around and then I cooked dinner for them and the Atkinsons. 

They really go all out for the day of the dead.  It is the same day as Halloween in the states.  This is Sister Ray on the left, not in the middle.
Mom and a new friend.  His sign says, "happy dead people" or happy the dead.
This is an artist who makes masks out of old pieces of wood.

The next morning, the Rays went right to work, arriving at the temple by 5:30am, Saturday morning.  We had a very busy day at the temple with 7 buses arriving.  After working from 5:00am till 1:00pm, Pres. Pena asked me to come back at 3:00pm to seal a family of 5 children.  What an honor and special privilege to officiate as the sealer of this family.  There were lots of tears shed and it was a real highlight of the week.

This is the cute family that I got to seal.

Sunday we left for church at 7:30am and when we got to the building no one was there.  Finally, someone let us in and we sat down in the chapel for the 8:00am meeting.  Church meetings often start late and people straggle in, but at 8:10, no one had showed up. So I walked around the building and found the man that had let us in and asked if there was a sacrament meeting at 8:00am. He said, "Yes, but that it is only 7:10am."  Daylight savings had come and we didn’t realize it and we had not changed our clocks.  We had a very nice hour to study in the chapel.  After church, I cooked dinner for the Rays and the Atkinsons.  Then I went to the temple to prepare the agenda for the Coordinators meeting.  Mom also had a meeting with the secretaries.  We talked to some of the kids and fell asleep very tired.  I did however wake up at 3:45 and looking at the clock next to the bed (that I hadn’t changed the time on yet), I thought it was 4:45 am and so I got up.  Mom got up about an hour later.  Our body clocks haven't adjusted.
I have had a couple of questions from a good friend we knew in China, who is not LDS, about what we do in the temple and what is a sealing. 

As temple missionaries we officiate in helping members of the church receive the ordinances necessary to live with our Father in Heaven after this life.  We believe that baptism is an essential ordinance, but it is the first step.  In the temple, we are taught about the purpose of life and we make other covenants with God.  We believe that families can be "sealed" together by a priesthood ordinance in the temple and can then be together for eternity.   This is what I am referring to when I mention "a sealing" in my blog.  We believe in universal salvation--that everyone should and will have the opportunity to accept Christ and his gospel and that everyone who has ever lived or will live on the earth will be resurrected.  We believe that when we die, our spirit continues to live and interact with others.  In this spirit world, everyone will hear about Christ and his atonement and have the opportunity to accept or reject it and the ordinances that we, as proxies, perform for them in the temple. Since baptism requires a physical body and is an ordinance of the earth, we perform a proxy baptism for our ancestors. This is called baptism for the dead.  First Corinthians Chapter 15 Verse 29, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" All members of the church are encouraged to bring the names of their ancestors to the temple for baptism and to receive the other ordinances. This is why genealogy is so important to Mormons and Family Search, a church funded organization that is free to anyone, preserves historical records from all over the world.

  To answer your question about how all of the people who come in buses find out about the temple here in Oaxaca, I will need to explain temple districts.  The entire world is divided into temple districts.  The temple district for Oaxaca includes most of the state of Oaxaca and a couple of cities just north of the state of Oaxaca.  But because the temple in Mexico City is closed for renovations, all of the people who live in the Mexico City Temple District are reassigned to other temples, until the Mexico City temple is finished and rededicated. So we have 38 additional stakes assigned to our temple. A stake is similar to a Catholic Diocese, about 3000 members. Each stake is led by a stake president.  Each stake has certain days they can come to the temple.  I have the responsibility to talk to the stake presidents and find out how many buses they are going to bring to the temple and then deciding if we have room for other groups who want to come.  

If any of you have further questions about the purpose of temples and what we do as temple workers, I am including a couple of links to that I think will help explain.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 13th through October 19th

October 13th through October 19th:  Monday, I spent most of the day cooking Chinese food for a presidency dinner at our house.  I cooked 5 different dishes.  The favorite was Spicy Chicken with Broccoli in Peanut Sauce.  We had the three members of the presidency and their wives over for dinner.   Half way through the meal,  Sister Madsen knocked on the door with some crepes and we invited them to join us.  They had just gotten home and luckily hadn’t had dinner.  Or course, we had enough food for an entire zone of missionaries, not just the Pres. and his wife. 

Dinner L to R Sister Serrano, Pres. Serrano, Pres. Atkinson, Sister Atkinson, me, Sister Pena, and Pres. Pena

Tuesday, I sent out a letter to all the Bishops, Stake Presidents and Area Seventies thanking them for all the calls requesting visits to the temple and telling them we were now full for the rest of the year.  I hope I have not over booked.  Some weeks we have upwards of 19 buses coming.  Past experience tells us this will end up a few less, but it is still a lot of buses.  This coming week for example, we have 14 coming.  There is such a special Spirit in the temple when it is full and the energy is palpable.  The rest of the week was kind of slow.  We had cancellations on Thursday and Friday, but still mom worked 12 ½ hours Friday.  One of the secretaries didn't show up for her shift.  I went home about 3:00pm and cooked dinner and about 6:00pm Pres. Atkinson knocked on the door and told me I was needed back over at the temple to help someone in English.  I took mom some dinner and we got home at 8:30pm.  Saturday, 4 buses arrived at 6:00am and we had a great morning.  I got everyone in the temple and then I was able to do sealing sessions until the next group arrived at 10:00am.  After they got in, I continued with more sealings.  We went to Walmart in the afternoon and bought a big pumpkin.   We have been looking for canned pumpkin for months and we decided that if we were going to have pumpkin pie and pumpkin chocolate chips cookies, we had better make our own puree.  We baked the pumpkin and then pureed 22 cups of pumpkin filling.  We froze most of it but on Sunday mom made a batch of cookies and cupcakes.  Yum! 

Making pumpkin puree.  It was a lot of work.

Sunday, we went back to El Bosque ward and spoke in sacrament meeting.  It was fun to talk, teach and testify of the truthfulness of the doctrine of the temple.  Mom’s Spanish continues to improve and is really getting good.  She only has a few notes and just talks. 

This lady has only been a member for 6 months and she spoke with us in sacrament meeting.

We get three new missionaries this week, a couple from the states and a sister from Mexico City.  We are having a lot of rain and there is an advisory from the state department saying that there is a tropical storm in the pacific and we could get between 6 and 12 inches of rain.  It rained all day Saturday and on and off Sunday.  Still we are not complaining the weather here is beautiful.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October 6th through October 12th:

October 6th through October 12th:  Monday we had another mini paseo (drive).  We went with the Penas and the Perezs (Laura y Luis) to Dainzu and Teotitlan de Valle.  Dainzu has some ruins that are about 45 minutes east of Oaxaca.  They are not as famous as some of the other sites we have visited, but they were interesting and there were many figures of ballplayers carved into flat rocks that might have decorated the main pyramid. 

This is the name of the ruins, notice the explanation is written in Zapotec.
Our guide explaining the carvings of the ball players.  This one has a small ball in his right hand.
Great view of the valley and the ruins.
Climbing down in the ruins.
Partly reconstructed courtyards, platforms and stairways.
Mom down in the ball court.
This is a jaguar carved into the lentil that sits above the entrance into one of tombs.
View of the ball court.  What looks like stairs or stadium seats was really covered with stucco to bounce the ball off.
Notice the unexcavated mounds in the background.
The ruins are always interesting and are fun to climb in and on.
Two tombs were found in these ruins.

Then we went to Teotitlan, which is famous for weaving wool rugs.  Mom was sure she would find a rug she would want to buy, but alas we didn’t find the right one.  It is only a short distance from Dainzu, so we are sure we will be going back again and again.  I ate some corn tamales from the street. 

Outside the 17th century church at Teotitlan.
President and Sister Pena, Mom and Laura and Luiz Perez.
This church at Teotitlan was built on the original Zapotec temple foundation. The Spanish would tear down the Indian temples and replace them with their own.
Ceiling paintings in the church.

The Dominican friars allowed these Zapotec stones to be incorporated in the church.  Of course, they did destroy the temple to build the church.
Zapotec stonework in the walls of the convent attached to the church in Teotitlan.
Zapotec stone fretwork similar to the Greca remains at Mitla.
Zapotec stone head.
Mom and the Penas in the bell tower at Teotitlan.
A great view of the town square from the bell tower at Teotitlan.
This women is showing us some of the natural dyes that they use in their weaving. This is a rich crimson dye made from a beetle. The people produced this dye before the conquest and the Spanish exported it during the 17th and 18th century to Europe. 
One of the famous weavers in Teotitlan.
This lovely lady brought some yummy corn tamales to sell at the market square in Teotitlan.

We then stopped in Tule on the way back to show Penas the huge tree there and we wanted to eat lunch.  We had been gone most of the day and it was after 3:00pm, so we ate in the local market.  Mom and I had a tlayuda, a big tortilla spread with black beans and topped with tomatoes, avocados and melted cheese.  They call it a Oaxacan pizza. 

This woman is fanning the flame where she will cook our tlayuda (Oaxaca pizza). 

Tuesday, was a long day (about 10 hours), but I got a lot of work done and feel a little bit caught up.  Wednesday we worked both the morning and the evening.  Thursday we only had one bus come and they stayed over and were in the temple Friday also.  They called me about 4:30pm and said that they didn’t have any workers and they needed me to come over and officiate the session.  What a blessing, it was one of the most Spiritual experiences I have had.  I felt overcome with the Spirit and had a difficult time offering the prayer.  Friday, while I was walking over to the temple, Pres. Atkinson called me and thanked me for going back over the night before and officiating that session.  He said that a number of people had come up to him after the session and had told him that they had never felt what they had felt in that session.  It is comforting to know that I was not the only one who had felt something really special.  There were a few times that I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I was just standing officiating and listening to the words of the endowment.  Saturday was something extraordinary. We knew we had 8 buses coming and we were going to be very busy.  We had called one of the stakes and had asked them to come early at 5:00am so we could get them an extra session.  I arrived at 10 minutes to 5:00 and the first bus was arriving from Salina Cruz.  When I talked to the leader of the group and asked him when his other bus would arrive, he said, “There are two more buses coming and another small group from another area coming in a 15 passenger van”.  That was my worst nightmare.  We were already over capacity and now more people than we had been told were coming.  I had not been sleeping well for a couple of days, worrying about how we were going to handle all the people that would be coming.  I had gotten out of bed at 2:30am, because I couldn’t sleep and had been praying for days that we would be blessed to somehow get through Saturday.  Before we got the 6:30am session going, another 3 buses showed up from Pachuca Sur.  I got all 3 buses from Salina Cruz in the temple and started organizing the people from Pachuca Sur.  They were all in the temple except the youth for the baptistery by 8:30am.  We had two endowment sessions going (about 100 people), 2 sealing sessions (about 40 people), about 7 individual to receive their own endowment with their escorts (14 individuals), 20 restricted workers to help with all the ordinances and 12 baptistery workers.  The rest of the 6 plus buses were youth that would be doing baptisms for the dead.  Once the adults were inside, we had about 130 youth waiting for their turn in the baptistery.  Things were going pretty smoothly and I thought we had been really blessed to accommodate everyone, partly because the group from Ignacio Mejia, a small district, had not shown up by 7:00am when they were supposed to have arrived.  But when they did arrive about 9:00am, we had no room for one more body in the temple, let alone the 40 who had arrived, 20 of whom were youth.  We had a meeting and President Serrano said we should let them have tickets for the 11:00am session and he would talk to the stake president from Salina Cruz and explain that some of his people would have to give up their seats for that session.  I took out 20 tickets for the group from Ignacio Mejia who had arrived late and took the rest of the tickets to the sealing rooms and explained that I only had tickets for 28 people and that there would not be room for everyone to attend the 11:00am session.  I then asked who wanted a ticket.  Everyone but about 5 people took a ticket.  I then went to the other sealing room and did the same thing.  I handed out tickets to everyone who wanted a ticket and I had one ticket left.  I said, “Does anyone want this ticket?” 5 hands shot up.  I gave it to an older woman.  As I was explaining what I had done to Pres. Atkinson, Brother Morales came up and said he had 3 men in initiatory that had been waiting to go on the 11:00am session.  I explained that I only had tickets for the 20 people that were outside.  I said, “Let me go outside and hand out the tickets.”  I handed out the tickets to everyone that was there and I came back inside with 3 tickets.  I went and found Brother Morales and gave them to him for the 3 men in initiatory.  I am crying just typing this story. The tender mercies we received on Saturday were incredible.  About the same time we were letting in the 17 people from Ignacio Mejia, 3 more buses arrived from Tehuacan.   This group’s appointment was to enter the temple at noon, so they were early.  We met with one of the counselors from the stake presidency and he said they did not have a problem waiting their turn.  I got their entire group into the temple by 1:00pm and then I went and did a sealing session with those that were waiting for the next session.  What a nice way to end a very stressful day of running around and getting everyone where they needed to be.  While I was organizing people, Mom was in the office printing off family name cards, interviewing those who had come for the first time to make sure that their documents were correct, and trying to help people print cards or solve problems in Family Search.  She helped one woman who wanted to be sealed to her dead husband, but Mom couldn’t find any membership records for him, even though the woman insisted that he had been baptized before he died.  Mom called the helpline in Salt Lake, but she wasn’t sure anyone would respond at 7:00am on a Saturday. But someone called us back an hour later and she was able to get all the papers in order.  It is such a tender feeling to be able to help someone who wanted to be connected to their loved ones.  Another woman, about 70 years old, could neither read nor write.  She came with a little scrap of paper with names and dates and wanted to be sealed to her parents.  Mom tried valiantly to help her, but the records were such a mess with contradictory information, that she finally had to tell her to bring some documentation the next time she came.  It was hard to see her so disappointed.   On the whole it was an unbelievable day, one I don’t think I will ever forget. On paper we never should have been able to have that many people in the temple at the same time.  But things just worked out and I left so blessed and honored to have been part of something so miraculous.  We set a few records for the day: 294 endowments, 9+ buses, almost a record number of ordinances 2,543.  21 individuals received their own endowment, 5 marriages, and 7 kids were sealed to their parents.  The Spirit of Elijah was present and powerful.  I am still on cloud nine.  I am so thankful to be here on this mission. I am learning so much about how the Lord takes care of things and how this is His church. The temple truly is His house and He wants all of His children to be able to enjoy the blessings that are there. 

Buses started arriving at 5:00am.
Another 150 people arrived at 7:00am.
Three more buses arrived around 10:30am.
We are going to have all of these people in the temple soon.
Waiting patiently to enter the temple.
Some of the youth waiting to enter the baptistry.
Some more of the youth waiting their turn, don't you think they look happy.
Five cute deacons with their family name cards for baptism.
These two brother were waiting to be sealed to their parents.
Waiting to be sealed to their parents.
This is a member of the church who sets up her food stand right outside the temple.  She does a pretty good business on our busy days.

Sunday, we went to church in Barrio El Bosque and were asked to speak next week in their sacrament meeting, another tender mercy for us.  Wow, what a week.

Monday, October 6, 2014

September 29th through October 5th:

September 29th through October 5th:  Monday we went to lunch with the Penas to a restaurant owned by one of the sister shift coordinators.  We had some interesting dishes, octopus and pigs feet to name a couple.  Mom couldn’t believe that I was able to eat the pig’s foot. It was really just skin and tendons.  
Lunch at Sister Leon's resturant.  L to R President Pena, Sister Leon, mom and Sister Pena.
This is octopus.  It was really tasty.  
I forgot to get a picture of the pig's feet.
 We only had one group come from Cuernavaca on Friday. 

The days are getting shorter and it is quite dark when we go to the temple to meet the groups.
One of the most beautiful sunrises that we have seen in a long time.

Being conference weekend, I think that really slowed things down.  The temple was closed on Saturday for conference and so we went to breakfast with President Atkinson and his wife and the Penas.  It was fun to sit and talk for a couple of hours.  We watched conference on the computer and had a good connection as long as we watched it while lying on the bed next to the router.  I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and then I went to the priesthood session and watched it with some North American Elders in the stake secretary’s office.  It was on the internet just like at our apartment.  Sunday we watched it in our apartment again.  Conference was great and it was nice to be able to listen to all the sessions.  I was really impressed with the talk in the priesthood session on making decisions that are consistent with our goals.  We got to talk to most of our kids and everyone seems to be doing well.  That is such a relief.