Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Many are Cold, but Few are Frozen"

 Here is my letter--pictures will be at bottom:

"Many are Cold, but Few are Frozen"
We are told by Paul, to be an example of the believer.  And lots of times, I am.  But when our friends from Honduras came to the entryway of our little temple bearing "bufandas" (scarves), "goros" (hats) and "guantes" (gloves) it colored my view of what they might mean when they assured me that Cobán would be COLD.  

These shots are mild.  Val watched a Honduras woman come to the temple in a white ski parka one day when the temperature was mid 60's.

Yes, cold.  Like 65 degrees Fahrenheit cold.  Gratefully, I asked Sister Beverly her opinion and followed her advice to bring four sweaters.   Then my lovely generous "thrift store queen" mother offered me an ample selection of jackets (I had no idea what I would do with jackets in 70 degree weather, but they were pretty and classy, and reminded me of Mom, so into the suitcase they went.)   Then we arrived.

The first night our President told us that they were expecting an unwarranted drop in temperature, to maybe 7 degrees Celsius.  (This is about 45 degrees in Fahrenheit.)  No heat in the apartments.  We have a space heater, but the rooms are large, and my large bathroom is drafty.  One day I decided to wear six pair of socks--and still shivered.  Not a good idea--the six pairs of socks, especially when three of them were hose, elastic, and very binding.  Once my Dad slept on a wood chair arm and cut off the circulation to his nerve.  Saturday Night Palsy, we learned is the layman's term for a person who has taken extra time inhaling a different kind of "spirits" and woken the next day to find no feeling in the arms.  Well mine is just the toes.  And gradually, the feeling is returning. 

After weeks of unsuccessful store searches for missionary shoes, I finally decided against shoes at all (commiserating with Maria and Michelle who sometimes wear size 11 and 12.) Never put off finding shoes before traveling to a place where most people wear two sizes smaller.  In our scramble to make a laminated card for an upcoming leadership meeting, inquiring at our sixth store, we walked past a place with  "imported shoe" (Calzados importados).  We returned that Saturday to peek and hope.  And Velcro expanding sandals would be my present prescription.

That evening, on our way out of town to have a tour of the outlying area, Val wanted to stop to find some tortillas without limestone (or "cal.")  We were directed to a couple of women cooking on an outside grill.  Twenty minutes, they requested.  We returned to watch the women cook and count 40 tortillas.  Asking to take a picture of their process, I stepped inside the tienda, to grab a quick photo, and was humbled to notice that the legs of the boot-cut jeans (of the pleasant woman who was counting) went straight down.  Underneath her pants was no evidence of shoes, or feet.  I had been complaining of having uncomfortable toes, but our smiling helper had no feet.

(I only asked permission to capture the tortillas. The woman on the left was the friend; the woman on the right [black striped shirt] is the woman who helped us feel glad to bear our own lack of sensation in the toes.  )

Thinking of walking and pioneers, our song of the week unveiled itself in the music we located in coves and crannies before coming to Cobán, that we packed to lighten long drives out and around inspecting apartments and the like.  It is by Dave Tinney,  Prayer of the Walking Child.

Can you hear me

Will you listen to me for a while

Please, can you make the day warm

The sun will dry the dewy grass 

And all will be well

Make my steps a little larger

I’ll try not to fall behind

Also bless my shoes

To help them last another mile or so

I’m so hungry

I’ve had nothing to eat for a while

Please, can you fill our grain barrel

Mother can make a flour cake 

And all will be well

When the food is gone, forgive me
I’ll try hard not to complain

Also, bless my mother

Dry her tears and help her smile again

If I sleep too long, forgive me

Wake me up, don’t leave me behind

But, if sleep still keeps me
Father in your arms please carry me home

All will be well

All is well

(If the Prayer of the Walking does not work for you, "Google" it on YouTube for a good help to find some tears.)

This week I have tried to complete a 1957 diary of my father as missionary, age 18 and 19 years, in Montana and Wyoming--braving snow and mud, countless widow investigators making less than visible progress, marking days beginning at 5 and 6 a.m. ending at 10 and 11,  and wrestling personal paces to make 160 meetings per month.  This would be 40 hours per week of meetings--I wonder how many hours were spent just walking, riding or knocking on doors.  When my companion  figured out how to play the Cinnamon Creek Singer version "Come, Come Ye Saints" on Thursday night, I wept, thinking of our sweet sister, Pamela perennially typing this journal, and Dad, perennially repenting, trying to make up for missing a diary day.  I mourned the expense of his $37 in 1957 money to buy a bicycle and have the handlebars fall off, crash into the spokes of the bike and render it useless.  As we tossed our chicken soup yesterday that got accidentally hydrated with tap water, I rejoiced we have garbage service, and do not need to burn our garbage like our elders in La Paraiso; grateful that the pan had not been left overnight to charcoal, like my Dad's 1957 midnight chicken.   

Saturday I lost my camera, but gratefully I snagged some of its contents first:  

 Here is what we found out on our "block walk."  
Tell us Kaleb and Zoey, if we don't have a dog like Bella?  And Amber, this is our version of  Golden Doodle...we will call her "Snickerdoodle."

Her owners laughed when she posed for me.  This is our neighborhood park...Not an upstate NY grove, but nicer than pavement.  Dad loves the one way roads and I am trying to teach him not to play "chicken."
 Though not good for drying out towels after Dad's cold shower (I like mine hot) the clouds have some scenic value.

 I like the sunflower tree, it reminds me of a tree my brother David planted in my yard the months he lived with us and told us Marijka stories from his Netherlands mission.  I tell the missionaries here that it is their job to collect stories.  

 And I told Elder Machado to pray that I would not want to go to straight to my house, into the backyard to eat worms, when I tore through the apartment, the car and all my bags, retraced our steps to three stores to no avail to find the missing camera.  But this "worm" is in reality, a millipede wanting to try its legs at typing.  It was not invited back.
The Bakes were.  Somehow, they were given reprieve from their "in house arrest" after being T-boned by a drunk motorcyclist.  And don't they bring great company?  Look at their friendly Elders! Bakes are the other missionary couple, who live north of us about five hours by bus and blog at

 This was our leadership conference..aren't they radiant?  And how did Elder Tellez get up there?
I forgot to tell you we have sisters!  Boy do we have sisters...They smile, cook, blog, "warm the soil" and teach!  
Our zone leaders had the missionaries work together to not drop in as they carefully carried the precious friend to the Savior's feet.   (also read Elder Wong)

And we found a second chapel (the Stake Center) on the other side of town, near a store that carries ironing boards--Val's recent quest.

And when my friendly camera went missing Saturday, at least I had three years of rich photos worth of good from it before retiring it, unlike Dad, whose 1990's purchase while visiting China, found it had only foreign instructions and directly donated it.  We are learning from the online streaming of Roots Tech 2015 Conference (even young missionaries were perusing it on that there are pieces of technology that are not to be left behind.  We are working on this...and on patience (a good first step in being humble, says Preach My Gospel and Sister Curtiss!)  Meantime, thanks for being patient with us.  Hoping to get our technological "act together" and remember where we put it.
Doesn't this happy snap make you want to dive in and try your tongue at another language or another street sign?
Yes, the laborers (at least the old kind) are few, and the "ripe fields" are waiting for you--whenever you feel ready!!                  
Blessings to you!
Sister and Elder Starkey

Friday, February 6, 2015

Comings and Goings

catch the wave
If we follow encouragement to "catch the wave", it is good to note that waves bring ebb and flow--comings and goings.  Returning from a sacred 18 month assignment in a new Honduras temple, we felt like we had "four minutes" to love children, extended family, friends, and neighbors, sprinkled with vaccinations, dental visits, money matters, and preparations for mission "numero tres."

After sweet reunion with children in Seattle area and Arizona, (see we landed for December and the first part of January at our little house to remember gifts and blessings, new birth, and celebration of others...

"A family that plays together stays together" 


                                                                                 (If any of ye lack wisdom [teeth]...)

                             Victory, Victory, Victory
  We are finding that Christ is "the gift" and we are learning life experience and missions are gifts...

as are endings and new beginnings

This is Aunt Merla, Verla's twin, who learned Swedish as a senior missionary, reading her poetry--some of which encourages us in our nine vegetables per day!
We were set apart Sunday 11 January 2015 and the next day entered a large campus, joining 75 new senior missionaries and 2,000 + younger sisters and elders to learn to invite others to come unto Christ and receive the blessings of gospel living by personal change, exercising of faith, commitment to principles of sound living, and perseverance.
             Our teachers, glowing                      District leaders, called to PCC, Hawaii

Learning to listen, to love and lift people rather than teach lessons, the strongest mandate from the pulpit was "to NOT have a heart attack" (experienced the week before, in a group twice our size.)  We have worked hard to be obedient.  And it has not been easy! 

To our grandchildren, nieces and nephews--to explain about the MTC--you may like the FOOD.  There were between three and four choices of entrees nearly every meal--and Val often had a special portion offered, without sugar or arthritic aggravates.  One of our favorite focuses was meeting other couples, from near and far, headed for near and far, having served zero to twelve missions. 

"I cannot believe how 'everything came together' for us just before we came," was a common theme.  We are still pray for the Holts, (two over to our left) who are waiting to receive a visa to serve in their call to Prague, where their son served, a place they had heard about from their long time Czech neighbors.                   
Our teachers served in among other places Tri-Cities, WA and Zimbabwe (#2, #3 bottom row)

The "coming together" is ever a process with us.  Breaking a new phone, wrestling 600 GB backups, with varying success at hunting shoes and other hard to find items, we juggled packing and weighing bags to focus on weightier things, like holding grandchildren, embracing moms, and being awed by awesome children.   
During our Provo stay Maria shared peanut butter, plastic forks, and a nursing roommate to monitor our blood pressure and encouraged us, again, to eat our greens, reds, oranges, and exercise often for healthy hearts!
                                       Finally, it came time to hit the "wild beyond." 

Our flight was during the day, thanks to greasing of skids by kind travel helpers. One of our best tender mercies came at the gate, as Zach brought us to American Airlines, the attendant helped us sail through check-in, even with 10 bags.  "I know about medical bags!" was the comment, and coming to travel security, we were met with a "You have been selected to go through screening without removing shoes or computers from bags!" which considering what we were carrying, proved a major gift. 
 Along the way, we met new friends from the States and from Europe, each with an interesting story.  Arriving at the hotel, we slept soundly, and woke to a wonderful "Think it, and we'll serve it!" meal, from breads, to omelets to juices of every make or model. 
 We got to sneak a peek at the Guatemala CCM (MTC or missionary training center) and then 
passed a temple that our friends from Honduras and Nicaragua would travel for eight to eighteen hours to attend 
 prior to our Tegucigalpa temple being completed.  

Percy, our greeter at the airport and chauffeur for our five hour van ride 
from Guatemala City (city of 1.2 million in south central Guatemala) to Cobán (2nd largest city, population 250,000; 136 miles northwest, in central Guatemala)             


  (shown directly above, experimental gardens begun by German immigrants)
Percy shared his love for our temple friends, the Amados, who blessed and prayed with Percy and his wife to realize their dream of becoming parents--after what seemed an interminable wait, the Salazars are currently raising twin daughters.  Percy also shared an experience similar to our Tom, of being an employee and making a difficult choice of beginning a family-operated business.  And as a counselor in one of the Guatemala City missions, he told us stories of missionaries "coincidentally" being transferred to areas where friends they had mysteriously lost had recently moved. 

 "You have arrived!" were words echoing from our family history visit with Val's parents with our English automatic Garmin tour guide.   

 You are looking at our dwelling place  for a time (note an 18 month calendar!) 
balloons and map, included.
Looking out and beyond our is "home."


 After meeting our new president and his wife (from the Midwest US and Guatemala, respectively; they having met in the Peace Corps, having raised their family in the States and later returned to Guatemala to create water systems and assist in Guatemala City to organize church operations throughout Central America)  
 they bid us a fast farewell to travel five hours for interviews in a town halfway to Lake Isabel on the eastern side of Guatemala.

Personal interviews happen quarterly with each missionary, where each has one on one time individually with President Curtiss, Sister Curtiss, and the two assistants, where they are encouraged in their personal growth, desires to serve well, get along with companions, or whatever might be on their plate. 

Learning with our MTC group that our job is to receive missionaries (as well as electronically document their goings and comings and good works) the reception of our first few days included two missionaries who went to school with our previous home teacher, and a good friend of the daughter to Maria Ligia, our Nicaraguan temple angel.  
Our first day focus ended up being wrestling communication connections (following up from our plague at the MTC which yet remains to be remedied in a satisfactory, affordable way.)  Sunday, we met member neighbors 
and witnessed deep, hard to release bonds that flow with serving, loving, and having to leave.  

  Office life has been witnessing and celebrating the ebb and flow of outgoing and incoming Elders and Sisters from Honduras to Bolivia, from Texas to Logan,
replete with water purifier and medical packs and advice to-go.  

Three handfuls came in and about three handfuls went home in the space of a couple days.  Each had personal time with their president, time remembering miracles, defining moments, and preparing for future choices.   
Elder Gomez has worked in the office twice and is on his way back to Argentina.  
Elder Lomeu invited us Monday night for a Family Night to join a young family he had worked with, preparing to be sealed in the temple.  After building a play dough temple, we made a list of things we could to help "our home" be "a house of order, a house of God." Thankful to Brianne and April for teaching us about making flapping card-stock "to do" lists for a four and eight year old--we practiced sweeping the floor and making a bed to begin our day with a "Victory!"  We added prayer and time to read stories of Jesus.  The mom and dad then added brushing teeth and paying tithing, so the children could learn to manage their Quetzales. ¡Muy linda! (Quite beautiful.)
Nos faltan nuestros nietos, pero vamos a substuir.  (We truly miss our grandchildren, but are doing our best to make up.)
Sister Ball (far left) is from Kaysville and her family lives down the street from Grandma Starkey, Sister Empey from southern Utah, reminds me of a fun Empey family in Washington State, Elder Parker, next to Elder Gomez, with pelo rojo (red hair) graduated with our niece, Sarah Gee. ("It's a small world, after all...) "Elder Zavala (one of President's assistants) is from Honduras, and Elder Willits (far left) from Sumner, WA is teaching me the magic of paintbrush in Excel. 
Sister Curtis is an artist with comida (food) and in loving missionaries.

Elder Santisteban (right) gifted me a copy of his code to learn Q'eqchi
                      Elder Espinal is from Comayagüela, Honduras, our last "home"
  With smiles and tears...
how sweet it is, to confirm that shared goals and common trials bring long-lasting bonds.  "Till we meet...till we meet, till we meet at Jesus' feet!" rang the words of a hymn echoing beyond blended voices in Cobán, with arms extending outward to circle wards, stakes and temples embrace families at home, ready to lift up textbooks and future callings as ward missionaries, visiting teachers, brothers, sisters, and friends.


             And here we stay,                                           poised to run our own race
 to hold our "baton"* do our part, and hope our goings (and comings) will bring the joy and heart stirrings that we felt these past few days.  

 News from other parts--youth in Amber's Young Women group have been encouraged to "Look UP!"  (see right)

Toby (aside from being a bit energetic) got rave reviews from his trainer and is liking having longer hair.  Amused at his walking a treadmill alone, we are resolved to tag him!
Seeing video of Eleanor and Thomas soloing in a school concert with "Let's Get Together" (Yeah, yeah, yeah!) Grandpa and Grandma are trying to see if we can dance such a song without tripping.  

Pinewood derby time approaches with older and the younger scratching heads to produce the ultimate design.  Speaking of designs--we are grateful for slopes in future home showers, as we find squeegee-ing quite a job without no slope! 
Flat is good for shoes, and flats, but not showers!

More about wet--rain hit yesterday.  Awaiting "lodo" or mud with sandals (still hunting elusive comfortable hush puppies!)  But the sun smiled on our departing friends who made it to the Guatemala temple with minutes to spare (temple workers held a session for them.)

We heard that in Q' CHI (an indigenous dialect spoken here) the way to ask "How are you?" is "Masa la Chol"...or "How is your heart?"  Maybe you will join us, in reaching for our number one mission rule--"No heart attacks!"  And, as Riley explained to us yesterday, there are many possible Latin answers to "How are you?" What if together, we work to making the answer: "prodigialisprodigiosus" (fantastic!)

Much love,
Elder Val and Sister Laurene Starkey

To our grandchildren--do you know you are loved?
Send us updated pictures if you want us to have better wallpaper!
Oh!  The "PINK" photo below is for Eleanor, Zoey, Amelia, Savanna, Evelyn, and granddaughter #12 
"in the oven," who we learned Sunday will be PINK, due June 10th!  Speaking of gaining balance, grand-girls are due to match the boys--six to six!
Because phones are not working as we like--presently accessible apartment internet connection is slower than dripping molasses, with burgeoning assignments from the absence of months of senior couple office help--a few of us are echoing Zacharias, father of John, exiting the temple--slow of speech. 

This being said--we are grateful that you may be blessed with rapid fire internet.  Use it to bless someone else (we want to be on your list!)

Blessings to you,  Elder & Hermana "Estar Aqui"

*See this link for notes of an "eyebrow singe"ing MTC address of  8 October, 2000 to Brazilian missionaries-- about doing well, doing our part in our carrying of the "baton" in preparing, serving, and returning from our missions--inspiring and motivating--message: "You are loved, prayed for, honored--you must rise to your position...stay true, and share your stories in generations to come."