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, November 24, 2014

November 17th through November 23rd

November 17th through November 23rd:  Monday the Rays and mom and I went with the Penas to Arrazola, a small town southwest of Oaxaca.  On the way we stopped by the grand opening of a health club.  Lucero, the daughter of Laura and Luis Perez, opened this club that mostly teaches people about nutrition and sells Herbal Life.  This is the family’s second club.  Her dad is an architect, which means he also oversees the construction of the buildings he designs, and manages the school they own.  The new club is in one of the buildings he is just finishing. 

Lucero at her new Club.

Arrazola is another town that is mainly known for making alebrijes, the carved wooden animals that are then painted bright colors.  Mom found a few new animals for her collection.  She also bought 4 painted birds that kind of look like turkeys to help decorate the table for Thanksgiving. 

The mad shoppers at one of many alebrijes stores.
Which of my grandkids wants this one?
There really are some strange animals running around this town.

When we finished shopping, we decided to eat at a restaurant we had eaten at when we visited San Bartolo de Coyotepec, the town that makes black pottery, barro negro.  In fact, the name of the restaurant is Restaurante Barro Negro, black mud restaurant. I wanted pork ribs.  We had eaten a sample of their meats the time before and I thought the pork ribs were delicious.  This time they did not live up to my memory, OK, but not great.  Then we had to do some more shopping.  Mom found a nativity in barro negro.  You will have to wait till Christmas to see a picture. 

Just waiting for lunch/ dinner.  It was about 3 in the afternoon.
The park across the street from the restaurant Barro Negro.

As we were leaving the store, one of the workers said they was a protest demonstration going on and the road was blocked going back to Oaxaca.  So we had to make a detour of about a half an hour to go around the demonstration.  These road blocks are very common and are mostly just a big inconvenience. Tuesday and Wednesday were nothing special except that mom had a post put in one of the teeth she had the root canals done on.  They didn’t think there was enough of the tooth left to hold the crown she now needs.  On Thursday we had a big group arrive and one of the older women in the group arrived with a temple recommend that had been mislabeled by her bishop and she thought it was valid until the end of November, but in fact it was only good until the end of October.  She was going to have to wait all day for the others in the group to finish their visit to the temple.  After everyone was in the temple, I saw her sitting on one of the concrete planters.  I went outside and she was crying.  I invited her to come in and sit in the waiting room.  She was so sad.  I told her it was not her fault and that she would be blessed as if she had been able to enter the temple.  I told her the Lord knew the desires of her heart and that he would bless her for her efforts to come to the temple.  I’m not sure that my words were much of a consolation, but at least she didn’t have to sit on a concrete planter all day.  Friday and Saturday we started at 5:00 am in order to get in an extra session and accommodate everyone that was scheduled.  We had 3 great days again and this month is going to be another record.  I’m estimating that we will be somewhere around 24 to 25 thousand ordinances for the month.   Salt Lake says that our numbers are the same as some of the large temples.  The saints here love to come to the temple.  It is so rewarding to see their joy and they always leave with smiling faces and a real glow about them.  Sunday, we spoke in the Violetes ward.  This is the second time we have spoken there and we really feel at home in this ward.  Mom did an exceptional job and the women really love her.  Mom had a secretaries meeting in the afternoon.  They set a date in December to have dinner with us and I get to cook for all of them.  Fun for John.

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 10th through November 16th

November 10th through November 16th:  Monday we went on another outing.  Fifteen of us went to Yanhuitlan, to see a 1541 Dominican convent/monastery that is on part of the old Dominican road.  It lies about 1 ½ hours north of Oaxaca.  When we arrived we found out that it is closed on Mondays.  We went to the town hall and asked if there was any way someone could let us in to see the church.  They finally said if we came back at 4:00pm someone might be able to let us in.  So we had lunch and then drove another 20 minutes north and visited the small church in San Pablo de Teposcolula.  We got back and the man said he did not get permission to let us in, but he would let us in for 5 minutes and that we could not take pictures inside.  It is an incredible church with a ceiling that is over 100 feet above the floor of the church.  It is built on the site of a Prehispanic Mixtec ceremonial mound.  I got a couple of pictures off the internet of the inside.  Of course the building is impressive on the outside as well.  We got home about 7:00pm. 

Yanhuitlan, the ex-convent of Santo Domingo. You can see how this church is built on an elevated platform, probably Mixtec.
These doors are at least 20 feet tall and about 8 inches thick. 
These pictures don't do this building justice.  It is just so massive.
By seeing the people next to this building, you start to understand how really big this church is.  Yanhuitlan is a town of only a few thousand people and is out in the middle of nowhere.
These are the doors on the side of the church. You can see the small door in each of the large doors. The small doors are about 6 feet tall.
The back of the church from the town square.
One more shot of the back of the church.
The red hills surrounding this town were right out of Southern Utah. 
Another church in the distance and the red hills.
L to R,  Elder Flores, Sister Flores, Sister Tovar, Sister Pena, Elder Ray, Sister Ray, Sister Serrano, Sister Atkinson, Pres. Atkinson, and Pres. Serrano. 
Magnificent windows
The stone work is incredible.
Part of the Renaissance facade.
The picture quality is not very good but you can get an idea of how tall the walls are and the beautiful ceiling.
This is off the internet and I feel bad we could not take pictures inside, it was massive.
Looking east onto the town square and the municipal building.
The town municipal building.
In the middle of this wall you can see a carved stone that was part of the original Mixtec temple that was torn down to build the church.  Pres. Atkinson was trying to convince us that in the lower right corner of the carved stone is a man's head with no  hair.
This is a small aqueduct below the church.
This is the 15 of us on the steps on the side of the church.
The small church in San Pablo de Teposcolula.
They are restoring it.
The small church in San Pablo de Teposcolula.
The remains of a side chapel in San Pablo de Teposcolula.
The bells of the church in San Pablo.
They were working on the roof and the workers lets some of us climb up on the roof.
View from on top of the church in San Pablo de Teposcolula.  
You can see the newly restored roof of the convent.

President and Sister Pena coming down off the roof.
I saw this sand painting on the floor of the mall by our house.  They really love the day of the dead here.

Mom was back at the dentist on Wednesday for the last root of her second root canal.  They only did one of the roots the first go around. She has many more appointments in the next few months.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday were unbelievable.  We had 7 buses from one stake on Thursday, only 2 buses on Friday, but they stayed the whole day and 6 buses on Saturday.  In fact we set a new record for one day on Saturday, 3150 ordinances, almost 6000 for the 3 days.  I had the opportunity do a number of sealing sessions.  What a rich and sacred experience to officiate in the sealing of a couple for time and all eternity and then seal children to their parents.  I come away always with a sense of the profound love our Father in Heaven has for each of his children.  Sunday we spoke in the Reforma ward and then went to a meeting with the coordinators at the temple, finishing up about 6:30pm.  The week really flew by, we were very busy and we were richly rewarded with many tender mercies of the Lord.

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 3rd through November 9th:

November 3rd through November 9th:  Monday Mom and I went to the dentist.  In our neighborhood lives a couple who are both dentists.  The previous counselor in the temple presidency had given us their business card.  Mom has had some pain and decided we had better find out what is the matter.  They picked us up and drove us to their office.  It was a good ½ hour drive to their office in another little town, Cuilapam.  They both spoke pretty good English, so Mom was hoping they had trained in the states, but no, they met in dental school here in Mexico.  Mom was very nervous when she saw their office; it was small and “dusty”. The long and short of it is mom has an abscess and needs 2 root canals and a bone graft and 2 crowns.  They decided to do one of the root canals right then.  I had planned on making some orange rolls for dinner and Family Home Evening at the Pena’s home, so I left and took a bus and then a taxi back to the apartment.  2 hours later mom got home.  She has to go back on Wednesday and have the other root canal done.  Their equipment was newer, but mom says they need to work on cleanliness.  I got my rolls done just in time to go to dinner.  The Penas prepared pork ribs and they were delicious. It was just 3 of the couples that live in the temple housing, us, the Penas and the Rays, and Laura and Luis Perez, who are always driving us around to see different ruins and places of interest and their daughter, Lucerno . 

Dinner Monday night, L to R Sister Ray, mom Lucerno, Sister Pena and Laura Perez,  Lucerno is Laura's daughter.
Family Home Evening

We had a great week in the temple.  On Friday, we set a new record for ordinances performed in one day--2,723. 

Some of the youth from Cuautla Zapata who were in the temple Friday and Saturday.

And on Saturday, we had 7 buses arrive in the morning.  Three of the buses were a Relief Society group from Tlaxcala.  It was a challenging morning, but we attended to over 320 patrons. 

This is one of the brides and her parents.  They are from Huchitan down on the itmas. (SP narrow part of the land between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific)

Saturday evening in the middle of watching Granite Flats our internet went out and we don’t know when we will get it back.  A truck took out the telephone wire and cable for internet.  There are about 10 homes in this neighborhood that are now without phones or internet.  We are supposed to get a new fiber optic cable with phone service and fast internet.  We hope that happens soon.  I don’t know when I will be able to post this, but at least now it is written.  Sunday, we went to church at the Violetes ward and heard great talks from Pres. Junco, the Stake president and Elder Villalobos, the area seventy. At the end of the Relief Society meeting, the young women sang a farewell song to a young woman leaving on her mission.  Mom said it was very tender.

The young women who were singing for the sister missionary who was leaving on Tuesday.

In the evening, we had a meeting with the coordinators to go over evacuation procedures in the temple in the case of an emergency and then another meeting with the members of the High Council who are over the temple in their respective stakes.   Time is flying by; we have just completed 1/3 of our mission.  1 year is all that is left.  I went to a coffee shop close to the apartment and had a hot chocolate so I could upload this post.

Monday, November 3, 2014

October 27th through November 2nd

October 27th through November 2nd:  Monday we went with Laura and Luis Perez, the Penas and the Rays to visit a couple of small ruins, Yagul and Lambityeco.  Lambityeco is believed to be the ruins of the home and burial site of a noble family.  This town is believed to have been in the business of making salt.  There are hundreds of mounds that have not been excavated. 

Remember I have to take pictures of where we go so I can remember how to spell the names of the different sites.
A pyramid/altar at the entrance to a tomb at Lambityeco.
  These are masks of probably the last people who were buried in the tomb.
A close up of the mask.
A patio/courtyard at Lambityeco.
Close up of one of the masks, believed to be a representation of the Zapotec rain god, Cocijo.  He is holding corn in one hand, representing fertility and lightening rays, power, in the other. 
The second mask at Lambityeco.

Yagul is much larger and is at the base of a hill.  We climbed to the top of the hill and the view of the valley was spectacular.  When you read in the Book of Mormon that the land was covered with inhabitants, I can picture this area being what was written about.  This valley of Oaxaca has been inhabited for thousands of years and it seems that there are ruins and unexcavated ruins everywhere you look. 

The stone work is impressive at Yagul.
The ball court at Yagul is the second largest in Mesoamerica.
Mom standing above the ball court. I like this picture, she looks so happy.  (She said she was glad she could still climb to the top.)
Right side entrance to a tomb, Yagul.
Left side entrance to a tomb.  Yagul.
Mom and I just climbing around and exploring.
Mom in a maze of walls.
Can you see mom between the two pillars?
On of the glifs found in this tomb.
Who is that old man?
Laura and Luis on our way up to the top of the hill overlooking the valley.
Part way up the hill.  These ruins sit at the base of a tall hill.
This is a different angle and you can see the ball court on the left.
Climbing on ruins at Yagul.
But we started off the day stopping at a park here in Oaxaca, while we waited for Luis to finish up some work so he could go with us.  The park is called Canteras Park.  You might remember from a past blog that most of old Oaxaca is made out of a green stone called canteras.  This park is where much of the stone was quarried. 
Canteras Park.
Canteras Park.
The ladies in Canteras Park, Bobette, Mom, Sandra and Laura.
Canteras Park. L to R Ross Ray, wife Bobett, Mom, Sandra Pena, hubby Augusto, Laura Perez, and me.
Canteras Park.
Mom has found her costume for Day of the Dead.
Day of the Dead stuff.
We finished off the day in Tlacolula for lunch in the market.  I think I had a burrito of the meat of a lamb’s skull.  Sometimes you don’t want to know what you are eating.  It was a fun day and it is nice to be able to “get out of Dodge” and see some of the small towns and villages that are so close to us, but would be hard to visit without a car.  Thanks Luis and Laura for taking the time to show us all of these interesting places. 
Chicharon (fried pig skin) anyone? Tlacolula market.
Lunch L to R mom, Luis Perez our guide and driver, wife Laura, Sandra Pena, Pres. Pena, Ross Ray, and wife Bobett.
These are lambs skulls.
The market in Tlacolula.
Some of the locals.  I'm sure these woman would communicate with each other in  Zapotec.
The 1531 church in Tlacolula.
The church in Tlacolula.
  The side chapel is covered in carvings with gold leaf. This is in a little village.
The dome of the church in Tlacolula.
One of the side doors to the church in Tlacolula.
The bell tower on the church in Tlacolula.
We finished up our P-day by playing cards at the Ray’s apartment.  FHE was a game night, 5 crowns and pinochle.  The rest of the week was a copy of most any week, except for Thursday and Friday. 
One of the many couples that were sealed in the temple this week. I only get to take pictures of the ones that are outside when I am going home for lunch so I miss most of them. They are always so pleased that I want their picture.  I tell them they are going to be famous because I will put their picture on my blog.
Thursday mom and I were asked to officiate a special endowment session at 6:00am for the coordinators and workers that officiate sessions.  It was a very spiritual experience.  When Pres. Atkinson asked us to do this, we hoped that we could do a good job and that they would learn and feel something special.  With a lot of prayer and faith we went forward and we were treated to something very special.  Friday, after the temple closed, Luis and Laura and their daughter, Lucero, and her friend, Marisa, came and picked us up along with the Penas and the Rays and took us to Xoxocotlan.  We went there to see the old cemetery and the Day of the Dead celebration that takes place on October 31st.  What a wild party of decorating the graves of your ancestors and then sitting around and visiting them.  They have a lot of respect for their ancestors and this is a way of honoring them.  
This was painted on the side on a wall in Xoxocotlan.  L to R Lucero, mom and Marisa.
Art work done with colored sand and flowers to honor Christ and some other saints.
It reminded me of Navajo sand painting.
Some of the locals at the Day of the Dead celebration.
The cemetery.
The cemetery.
The cemetery.
The facade of a 16th century church in the cemetery that is falling down and they are trying to save.
Mom and the Penas on our cemetery walk.

Saturday was interesting in that at the end of the day, one of the stakes here in Oaxaca came to the temple for the Day of the Dead.  They filled the temple and in about 4 hours did over a thousand ordinances.  We put in a 12 hour day (6:00am to 9:00pm with a break for lunch) and we were both really ready for bed when we got home.  Sunday we went to church at the Reforma ward and the bishop asked us to speak on the 16th.  This is the only ward in the Ampolas stake that we haven’t spoken in yet.  We then had dinner at the Ray’s apartment with the Atkinsons and the Penas.  We talked after dinner for a couple of hours.  We then skyped with some of our kidlets.  It was a very fun evening. 
Sunday dinner at the Ray's apartment.  L to R Pres. Atkinson, his wife Kathy, Ross Ray, his wife Bobett, me, mom, Pres. Pena and his wife Sandra.  Don't you just love timers on cameras?