Monday, April 13, 2015

"Alive, Alive, Oh!"

Here is Easter--in a Sunday's walk here in the park.
   I have a sister who once wrote to Maria Von Trapp.   
And got a letter back.
Years later, in Coban Guatemala, driving home after a long day at the office, a siren song streamed through our stereo system.

Voices of Maria von Trapp's grandchildren in clear silvery tones cut through the haze of the day with a song from yesteryear that had streamed decades earlier from an eight track tape deck in the home of my youth:  

   "Alive, alive, oh,
   Alive, alive, oh,"
   Crying "Cockles and mussels,

Some things slice through rubble and fog.  A light, a whistle, and the lure of a song will pierce through obscurity to point at the "why" of where we are and what we have to do, to give us "faith to walk the lonely road that leads to[God's] eternity.

A few members of our family this month (and some from last) especially merit the words 
"Alive, alive, Oh!"

In the wake of Savanna's birthday,  
 we celebrated Grandpa Val (also known as Elder Starkey) on a green March Monday the 31st with a kiwi topped fruit bowl. Thanks to our kind mission Mom.
Smiles only begin to measure the delight he felt with guilt free shareable "postre" or dessert.  Dozens of missionaries heartily sang in English and Spanish topping off "Feliz Cumpleanos" with, "We want some cake already!"
Elder Starkey didn't care if he had cake.  But the last half of his day offered slightly bittersweet icing as the day tasted a little like tax day--"D day, H hour"for submission of a .6 gigabyte 2014 "Mission History."

Final preparations to submit each of dozens and dozens of files came on the heels of the month's mission-wide leadership council and the last of the tri-zone conferences, one which included a winding, beautiful, but full-day trip to Polochik.
President Curtiss' car windows proudly carried so much dust from the road (the president and AP's wager over who can get the most mud) and in our rapid advance and retreat I didn't dare ask to get out and capture the beauty alredador (around us).  The three pictures above were sent to me by President Don Cazier, who once served in Guatemala and traveled the same roads after a little more rain when the grading had worn away. (Hoorah for good timing for us!)
Here are zones from Polochik areas
I kept looking to find sisters.  But when I heard that some of the areas have no water or electricity, I understand.  
       This is an area where a great portion of the families speak primarily a native dialect, Q'eqchi'                  
It was at the leadership council, that we found sister smiles.
who can crash any party, with rabbit ears

   Great meetings, happy reunions, but it came to an end, and the last day of March, the fateful birthday night has proved the only night so far that we lingered duty-bound at the office
until 10:10 p.m. 

"Pobrecito" is a diminutive word for "poor one."
My birthday boy did get dinner out, just not a lot of attention after 2 p.m. :)

   Feeling closer to dead as we hit the sack, we resolved in April to feel more alive, alive oh! 
and to include diversion into our daily routine.  
As a rule, Coban missionaries don't wrestle
or swim
but we do take walks and meet our neighbors.  Cookies help.  (Honey only, cook's orders.)
                          Toothpicks on pavement make great "Pick up Sticks."  And stacking dishes feels like Jenga.
Some days we get to drive out to make sure missionary apartments are acceptable, secure, clean.
Every chance, we try to teach the message of "clean." Some have it.  Some are still learning :)
Eleanor, Kaleb or Zoey--how would you like this kind of pet?
And on the outings, my chauffeur sometimes'll stop for a photo op. 

Adding a second language offers Scrabble a new dimension!
Speaking of language--a favored fraction of a recent morning Spanish study brought chuckles with the double negative "I don't know nothing!"  (This might be true! And in Spanish, Val wants you to know it is correct grammar.)
But like some of our friends who do not know that they have faith but have made marked strides in choosing healthier habits 
at times we know more than we think we know and can do more than "we think we can."

And we are learning with the Velveteen Rabbit, that "when you are really loved, shabbiness doesn't matter."

We join Amelia's engineer daddy, 

Allina's family vacation's southern sea-bound views 
                        and Maria's concrete canoe team 

in securing bridges between what we know and what we need to know, who we are and who we want to be, and then extend them outward.

Our final Sunday in March, an entire department of Verapaz (similar to a county in the States) went without electricity for a day.  From the window light of a small chapel, an acapella invitation beckoned me with a hymn sung on a different hill overlooking a twenty mile long aqua green Bear Lake where we gathered to bury Dad.  

Tune and lyrics crept from open pages of a Spanish Hymnario to extract cathartic, cleansing tears, "Savior, May I Learn to Love thee...Lord, I would Follow Thee."

Though some dear ones visit us only in our dreams, unbidden however often and forcibly comes a conviction that yes, they are "alive, alive, Oh!"

Who are other dear ones who are"alive, alive OH!? 
Chasing an Irish dance to sing to  Grandpa Val came rejoicings for

 and Kevin.

And coupling the birthdays
came new work for Zach
New airplane for Jake

New charter school ahead for Riley
And Conference. 
Above are our resident Q'eqchi' translators, currently fine tuning Conference talks to be published in May's Liahona.
There is always some abandon and fun with Women's Conference  and connecting with Sisters!
And Easter!
On April Fool's day, reporters from channel 17 and the Prensa newpaper visited the chapel grounds asking for someone to explain what our church does in Holy Week.  Like our grandchildren elsewhere, Primary tots outside were having an activity.
The Primary here hosted a small swimming pool, balloons, and treats.

While Val circled chairs in the rear of the cultural hall, I printed an April 2015  Liahona page encouraging day by day pondering of things Latter-day Saint families could do to follow Jesus in that sacred week to serve others and remember Him.  As we explained a weekly promise to take upon us the name of Christ each week (no small task), our new friend Cesar Bejar took note when he heard President Gordon B. Hinckey's answer when someone asked him, if his people did not use crosses on their buildings    what was the symbol of their religion--a bright response that rings clear like our introductory song:
Rather than keep our eyes upon His death, we look to a glorious resurrection.  The symbol of our faith must be reflected in lives of those willing to follow his teachings.

As the city papered streets with sawdust "alfombras" (rugs) over which pageants of pilgrims trod
(and we waited in traffic for the throngs)

members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepared homes and hearts to hear up to 10 hours of messages  from "profetas vivientes" (living prophets) and other voices helping us remember:

"The greatest reward we have received in this life, and the life to come, is our children and our grandchildren." [President Boyd K. Packer]
"we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins...because of events that transpired on a weekend precisely like this nearly two millennia ago in Jerusalem.

Elder Renland:  quoting Nelson Mandela: A "saint" is a sinner who keeps on trying.  "Let's not be latter-day quitters!"

Elder Bednar: To replace our fear (of man) with fear of God.  Fear God--for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes)  [So waiting at Central Park in Carchá, a new Mennonite friend, Alma, from Kentucky shared her "Torch" proclaiming "Do your duty!" And President C even grinned at the close of a 14 hour day as I passed him the message.]

Bonnie Oscarson: "What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes."


Finally, response to Elder Wilford Andersen's "Can you teach me to dance?" 

we heard an open invitation to awake, rise, and sing a song of redeeming love.

As we sing our way home, we rejoice to be "Alive, Alive, Oh!" and invite you to share YOUR song!

P.S.  March and April brought Christmas!  In postcards, packages, and missionary moments (and letters) that elevate faces and hearts to a radiating smile!



  2. I love it. Especially the a easter pictures of Guatemala. And Savanna's birthday pictures :)

  3. I love it. Especially the a easter pictures of Guatemala. And Savanna's birthday pictures :)