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, February 23, 2015

February 16th through February 20th

February 16th through February 20th:  Monday, after arriving in Las Vegas I made it through customs and figured out that I could catch a shuttle to St. George.  I had to wait 2 hours but after what I had been through the last 2 days, what was 2 hours.  I arrived in St. George at 5:30pm and was met by my lovely wife who I only realized upon seeing her how much I had missed her.  We had only been apart for 30 hours or so but with all of the uncertainty about whether or not I would make it to Oaxaca and back to Mexico City and then find my bag and make the plane, it was a real relief to see her and get a big hug.  My brother Tad, who just recently moved to St. George lent us his truck and so we got on the freeway and drove to Bountiful, arriving about 10:30pm.  While I was riding buses back to Oaxaca and then back to Mexico City, Chris was enjoying spending the day with John and Jill’s and Ginny and Sam’s kids, swimming and just hanging out.  
Pool fun in St. George.
More pool fun.
I hadn’t been in a bed for 58 hours and it felt so good to be able to lie down and sleep.  Tuesday we started shopping for the list of things that people want us to take back and in the evening we took Ginny and Sam to dinner.  
Ginny and Sam.
Dinner with Sam and Ginny.
We are going to dinner with each of our children and their spouses while we are here and we also want to have a Family Home Evening/Morning with each of their families.  Ginny and Sam have to go back to LA on Friday so we started off with them.  Wednesday we had a play date for all the children who were not in school at the food court at City Creek Center.  They have a nice play ground with dinosaurs for the kids to climb on.  Watching 7 kids, 5 and under made me tired and I still wonder how we had the energy to raise 5 of our own.  But it was a lot of fun to watch them play together.  We took James and Kirstin to dinner in the evening.  
Dinner with Kirstin and James.
Thursday I got up and went to John and Jill’s and made Swedish pancakes for the kids before they went to school.  We spent a lot of time preparing for our “get the whole family together at a church” night.  John and Jill got permission for us to use their church.  We had homemade Café Rio pulled pork salads for the adults and quesadillas for the kiddos.  We played “minute to win it” games and our own made-up game of Mexican Frisbees.  We also had a piñata and finished off with a birthday cake for Tilda.  She is one tomorrow.  
The kids got fed first.  All the adults are in the kitchen making their Cafe Rio salads.
Char manning the quesadilla station.
John and John Jr. Surpervising.
Everyone playing nose dive.
We are missiing half of Emme and Badger.  But for the most part this is the John Norman gang.
At the end of the night Charlotte read a letter from Pres. Atkinson to our kids about our service in Oaxaca.  He made us all cry.
Friday we went in to the Temple Department to deliver some material for Pres. Atkinson.  We met with Elder Moore, who is over all the senior temple missionaries and Brother Carvajal, who is an area director over all the temples in Mexico.  We were introduced to Elder Teh, who is one of the seventies over the temple department, and we ran into an old friend, Kevin Holman, who is over interior design for all the temples.  We also met some of the women who always answer our questions when we run into “What do I do now problems”.  We came home and had our Family Home Morning with Ginny and Sam and then they packed up and were off to California.  We went out to Kate and Bryce’s home and tended their kids so they could have a night away from the chaos of 3 kids.  Saturday, I got up and made Swedish pancakes for the kids and Bryce and Kate got home about noon and we had our Family Home Afternoon with their family.  
Nana and Poppa with Kate and Bryce's three munchkins.  Abigail, Stanford and Kimball.
We came home and I tended Char’s kids and Chris went to John’s and tended his kids.  Are you getting the idea that Nana and Poppa are really good at tending?  We are!  Sunday we went to our old ward on the Avenues and listened to the report of Walt and Peggy Plumb’s mission to Iraq.  They were the first missionaries (humanitarian) to be called to Iraq.  They really had some stories.  ISIS got within 30 miles of the town they were living in.  We then went to church with Char’s family and we taught the Gospel Principles lesson for Alex.  It was on the Temple and Family History.  We went to James’ for dinner and had a Family Home Evening with his family.  
James, Nana, Rigby and Emme dancing.
What fun we are having spending time with each of our kids and their spouses and their kids.  We both have our doctor’s appointments tomorrow.  We hope all goes well.

Update to February 9th through February 15th

  As I was going through pictures, I found that on the 9th we went to a house warming party for Max and Ruth Martinez.  We had gone to their wedding about a month ago.  Anyway we had a fun time at their new house. 
Dinner at Max and Ruth's.
More of the dinner from Max and Ruth's house warming.
Sister Pena, mom and Sister Serrano
And here are some pictures from the week.  Guadelupe and Layton met at Benemerito in high school he is from Veracruz and she is from Juchitan.  They both went on missions.  He had to wait for her.
Guadelupe y Layton.
I had the honor of sealing this great couple.
The Sisters and Mom and other relatives of Lupita's.  Don't you love the colorful dresses from Juchitan.
On my way back to Oaxaca Sunday Afternoon.
Getting settled for the last bus ride back to Mexico City.
Half way to Mexico City 2:00am Monday morning.

Monday, February 16, 2015

February 9th through February 15th:

February 9th through February 15th Surprise! I am sitting on a plane flying from Mexico City to Las Vegas. That is the teaser and you will have to read the whole blog to get the why and the how.    Tuesday, mom went to the doctor to have her MRI read.  He said, she had 2 tares in her meniscuses, one a 3rd degree and the other a 2nd degree and that she should have arthroscopic surgery to clean up the tares.  We knew something was wrong because sometimes it would lock up and other times it would click.  One of the reasons we are flying home is to get a second opinion about mom’s knee.  Back in December we asked for permission to fly to Salt Lake during the closure of the temple.  I need to see a doctor to get a new prescription for my blood thinner medication and I haven’t been able to find the same brand of medication here in Mexico.   So we decided to use this time to also get a second opinion on Chris’ knee.  We have known for some time that we would be coming home for a short visit but we have tried to keep it a secret from everyone except our kids.  The cheapest tickets we found were from Mexico City to Las Vegas.  Wednesday mom also went to see the dentist for the last time.  She got her 2 crowns installed and we are hoping that all is well now.  Thursday we had 3 buses come from Puebla and we had a very busy day in the temple.  I spent a few hours doing sealings and helping mom out.  She has had the task for alphabetizing all of the personal ordinance sheets and recommends.  This has been a huge job and has taken many, many, hours of checking that we have an ordinance sheet for every recommend and a recommend for every ordinance sheet.  But they have to be alphabetized separately.  I also got the history report for 2014 sent in to church headquarters.  That was a big relief off my shoulders.  Friday we had 2 buses and it was a very nice day in the temple and we got the personal ordinance sheets and recommends shipped off to Salt Lake.  Mom can relax now.  Saturday we had 4 buses and we were very busy.  In the afternoon I had the honor of sealing one of our secretaries and her husband.  Her family is from Juchitan down by the Itsmo.  The dresses her sisters and mom had on were gorgeous.  They are a very cute couple, who meet at Berimerito during high school.  They both went on missions; he had to wait for her.  Then we got packed and headed down to the bus station.  We had purchased bus tickets to Mexico City and I got nervous because everyone was saying that there is a lot of road work going on and it would take longer than we had planned.  So we got there early to try and get on an earlier bus.  No luck they were all full.  So we had a 2 hour wait for our bus that left at midnight.  We arrived about 6:30am only a little late.  We took a taxi to the airport and went to the Volaris counter and they explained that, the check-in for their international flights is in another building.  So we had to walk for maybe 10 minutes.  We went through and checked our bags and got our boarding passes and were told we needed to see immigration once we were pass security.  At immigration I was informed that because I only brought a copy of my temporary residency card that I could not leave the country.  When we got our cards, the missionary who helped us told us to carry a copy because if we lost the card we would have a very difficult time getting another one.  So I always carry a copy.  Mom had her card so she got on the plane and I had to return to Oaxaca to get my card.  But first I had to go and get my ticket changed and find out about my bag that had been checked.  I gave mom by baggage ticket just in case it would not have to be pulled off the plane.  In order to leave the secure area I had to walk for at least 15 minutes and then walk all the way back to where we had checked in.  There they said that they would have to pull my bag so they printed me another claim ticket and sent me back to the first Volaris counter where we had tried to check in when we arrived.  There I got my ticket changed (not a cheap change)  and I was told to go to international arrivals and wait for my bag and that it could be a couple of hours.  After 2 hours I went back to the Volaris ticket counter and explained that I could not wait all day for my bag because I had to return to Oaxaca and get my temporary residency card.  A nice young man, who was a member of the church, took pity on me and said that he would have someone find my bag and that it would be at the counter where we were talking in the morning.  I was off to TAPO the name of the bus station closest to the airport.  I got on a bus at 1:00pm and bought a return ticket for 11:15pm, thinking that an extra 45 minutes couldn’t hurt.  The bus ride back to Oaxaca was more than an hour longer than the bus ride to Mexico City, because of road work and traffic.  I got back to the apartment at 8:30pm.  I took a shower and changed clothes and went a bought a hamburger.  Pres. Pena took me back to the bus station.  When we arrived in Mexico City the traffic was stop and go for miles and miles.  I finally went and talked to the bus driver and he said, this is normal.  Well it wasn’t anything like the day before, but the day before had been a Sunday.  He said we had at least another hour to get to the station.  That 45 minutes that I thought couldn’t hurt got used up and then some.  But I made it back to the ticket counter by 6:45am.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00am.  Alan the young man who had helped me the day before said that the bag was in international arrivals and to wait a minute and he would have someone go with me to get it. After almost 30 minutes of waiting, (I don’t wait really well) I said I will go down there and try and find it and to send the girl to find we.  I got through another set of security and my bag was not there.  I waited for about 10 minutes and Carina showed up and said that the bag was back at the counter.  The walk between all these places is a hike.  I asked if I could go upstairs and check in at the Volaris international counter and if the person who had the bad couldn’t bring to me there.  She agreed and so I made my way to where I could check in.  I got in line and started filling out my immigration sheet.  Finally a man showed up with my bag and I got through the check in process and through security and through immigration and to the gate with 20 to spare before they started boarding.  I am finally calm and grateful that I am going to be able to spend a few weeks with my children and grand kids.  Three 6 to 7 ½ hour bus rides, two nights in a row on a bus, and 4 taxis rides and more stress than I want to have ever again were an adventure that I am sure I will look back on and laugh at, at some point, but right now it is way too much of recent nightmare.  I was so stressed out when I found out that I could not leave the country with Chris that I couldn’t think straight and I think I might have had a panic attack.  But as the day went on and we had a clear plan as to what I needed to do, I calmed down and stopped hyperventilating.  From somewhere over Mexico, Saludos and Abrazos.

I'll post the pictures when I get a chance.

Monday, February 9, 2015

February 2nd through February 8th

 February 2nd through February 8th: Monday we invited some of the secretaries over to the house to learn how to make the Ramon Chinese Chicken Salad we served at the dinner we had for them in December and chocolate chip cookies. 
We taught some of the Secretaries and a friend how to make Raman Chinese Chicken Salad and cookies.
In the afternoon we got together with everyone and celebrated the day of the Candles.  Día de la Candelaria is celebrated on February 2, forty days after King’s day, to remember the day that baby Jesus was taken to the temple to be blessed and Mary to be purified. We celebrated King's Day on January 6th when we ate a Rosca de Reyes, sweet bread cake, with figurines of a baby hidden inside.  Children in Mexico receive their Christmas gifts on King’s Day in recognition of the gifts that the Magi brought to baby Jesus.  The baby figurines are to remember the babies that were hidden from Herod’s soldiers.  I asked what the figurines were for as they began to appear. “If you get a figurine, you get to help make tamales for everybody at another party on Candelaria” was the reply. Sometimes I do love the way they think down here.
February 2nd also marks the mid-way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. This may be a vestige of an old Pagan Tradition, since Feb. 2 has long been thought to be a marker or predictor of the weather to come. Remember that in the USA, Feb. 2 is celebrated as Groundhog Day. (some of our days down here are groundhog days). We didn’t make tamales, Laura Perez bought them.  
Three different kinds of tamales.
Laura bought all the tamales for our celebration of the Dia de la Candeleria.
The tamales were great.  Elder Ray is the only one missing. He is taking the picture.
Tuesday and Wednesday were carbon copies of the last few weeks.  
This is a Sister Mamani from La Paz, Bolivia.  Mom helped her when she received her endowment in Cochabamba 18 months ago, before she left on her mission.  She goes home this week.  The world is such a small place especially in the church.
Thursday we had no excursion coming, so Mom and I went downtown and had a MRI done on Mom’s knee.  This took a couple of hours.  While she was in the machine I walked around the city.  Three hours after the MRI, I returned to pick up the results.  I was handed a bag with three 15x18 negatives, a DVD disc of the results and a letter describing the results from the doctor---all for less than $140, which was paid by the missionary insurance.  The same test at home would be $600--$800.  OK, everything wasn’t fancy and shiny and new, but it makes me wonder exactly what we are paying for at home. 
While mom was getting her MRI, I walked around and visited another church we had not been to before.
The Church of San Francisco
Bell tower.
We made Thursday and Friday marathon days for sealings because we had no excursions coming.  We scheduled all the sealers for 2 hour blocks and did sealings all day long.  In the evening, we had the regular endowment sessions. Saturday we had 4 buses from the Salina Cruz stake arrive at 5:00am.  We had a packed house all morning.  They left about 2 pm and things really slowed down.  Mom was the secretary in the afternoon.  We both had been asked to speak in the evening adult session for stake conference in the Amapolas stake where we are assigned. President Atkinson said he had received a call from the Seventy who was going to preside at the conference and had been asked to speak in the evening session. When we got to the meeting we got unassigned to speak.  Pres. Atkinson did a great job and we can certainly use our talks another time. 
Mom rearranged the furniture in our front room.
Sunday we went to stake conference and then had dinner with all the missionaries and Pres. Atkinson and Pena.  We had a delicious meal of baked salmon.  We tried to talk to all the kids in the evening.  There is nothing we don’t love about this mission.  We are learning and growing in ways we never dreamed of.  We feel so blessed to be able to serve.  We know we have a very small part, but it is very satisfying.
Stake Conference choir.

This is one of our temple workers and his daughter.
Week 3

Monday, February 2, 2015

January 26th through February 1st

January 26th through February 1st:  Monday, on our morning walk we went and walked around Home Depot.  It really is one of my happy places.  It makes me want to redo a kitchen or a house or just make something.  We also did grocery shopping. 

Me in my happy place.
Spring has come early for this bush.

Tuesday and Wednesday were the same as they always are.  Tuesday, presidency meeting till 1:00pm and then the evening shift.  Wednesday, morning session at 9:00am with a group of missionaries from one of the zones here in Oaxaca and then the evening shift.  Thursday, 2 buses arrived from the Cuautla stake and they stayed for 3 days.  They have a lot of workers and are pretty much self- sufficient.  Friday we also had a group of youth come from the Nealtican stake in Puebla.  They all had earned their trip to the temple by meeting an indexing goal.  We really thought this was a great idea.  They were really cute and added a great spirit to the temple. 

Nealtican stake youth group.

Saturday we had, in addition to the 2 buses from Cuautla, a bus from the ward Xilotzingo in Puebla and a small group from Puerto Escondido.  We had a busy 3 day weekend and over 7000 ordinances were performed, over 30 percent were family names if I remember right.  When we have multiple groups, I stay pretty busy organizing how they will get into the temple and what they will do once they are inside and receiving all the members who come for personal ordinances. I help in the office with recording and checking to see if sealings can be performed and sometimes being the sealer for a sealing session. Mom also helps people with Family Search who come with problems and need help in order to print their family names. 

Me hard at work scheduling.

Sunday, we went to church in the Juarez ward and the teacher for priesthood meeting didn’t show up so they asked me to teach the lesson.  That was a lot of fun.  We had Sunday dinner at the Pena’s apartment with the Rays and the Atkinsons.  President was late because he had a 6 hour meeting with the area seventy and the stake presidents. 

Sunday dinner at the Pena's L to R, mom, Sister Atkinson, mission President Atkinson, still at a meeting, President Pena, Sister Pena, Elder Ray and Sister Ray.
Sister Pena made a delicious pork dish.

Mom interviewed, over Skype, a Chinese woman for possible acceptance into the CAPA program and I listened to the last half of the Super Bowl, boy what an ending.  The weeks and months seem to fly by and we are now half way through our mission.  We love it and are continuing to learn and grow.  It is such a blessing to be here and we feel so blessed. 

Week 2