Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sunday bridge, or Repairer of the Breach

"Sunday Bridge, or Repairer of the Breach"

Sunday was a red letter day.  Normally, my habit of writing has been once a month or once a change, whichever comes most conveniently.  I don't know if chicken-with-head-cut-off translates into Spanish, but it seems like there are enough chickens in the Coban mission, that this phrase might translate well to a senior missionary couple named Starkey.

Here are four of the ten!
Last week, midweek, ten new imperial Olympia mattresses with a base came from the Capital.  Elder Starkey was in modum operendum (get them out of the house, before the rattling plastic "lamina" that had been rattling for days finally blows away and we are liable for 10 new mattresses being spoiled.)  Call after call went out in search of transportation "over the river and through the hill" to mountain-bound missionaries we go. 

While hunting a new apartment for the Assistants and Alta Verapaz zone leaders, we talked to passenger buses and pick up drivers.  Finally, with the influx of chipi-chipi, or the misty rain that invited stronger rains, Elder Starkey contracted with Cargo Express to send four complete beds east.  

And then there was poor Elder B,  who went home last spring after an appendix operation, and came recently to find a new companion, Elder M, from New Zealand, president of Rabinal branch, nice area. Bad bed.  Springs poking him in the back, remembering his comfortable bed from home.  Wanting to keep our missionaries in the field, Elder Starkey put this Elder to the top of the totem priority pole and helped me load bed number five on top of our Rav4 just after 7 am Saturday, knots in tow.  Who said you have to be an Eagle Scout to remember your knots, and who said you will never use them again??? 
We and the beds made it in time to celebrate and share zucchini bread, 
smiles, and experiences with the elders.  Celebrating with song, no dance, but green bananas, for Elder Starkey to try his hand once more at Tegucigalpan tostones.
Last May Elder Alonso told the missionaries that happy missionaries
spend their days next to a "pila"...these Elders have taken it to is a pila next door, filled to prepare for the coming day where they are expecting no water.  

  After a quick look at a possible apartment to replace the pigeon loft where the Salama zone leaders have been dodging feathers, we found lunch at  Elder Starkey's favorite comedor--Luna Dely...chicken, beans, and rice for in essence, just over $3 a plate. 

Visits to friends at the top of the hill, learning grandchildren's names, 

           Merlin                                  Samantha                                    Haile
               Emily                                       Nahomí                             Moroni
             Mahonri                                            Moisés                                  Juanita
Yeni and Kerin

we heard Moises and Juanita's plans to go to the temple again in a few weeks. And we visited a tailor, father in a family expecting their first--any minute--who served where Elder Starkey served in Nicaragua.

The Salamá branch a few weeks ago received four brand new computers for their Family History Center.  They have been waiting for nearly a year.

Following calls, letters and prayers from this office, after being stuck hostage in customs for days and weeks, the computers were allowed to escape and are finally in place.  Elder Starkey is bold.  He thinks Salamá should have a community open house inviting everyone in the surrounding cities to learn about finding their stories, grandparents, cousins, and family tree with the use of this amazing state-of-the-art resource.  Our visit with the family history consultant leaders was energizing and delightful.  
Marisol and Mario, our brilliant consultants, 
with a leaf of their family tree
Here is to hoping that our Salamá friends are as good at planning a Family History party as they are a chapel dedication, an Independence Day commemoration, or a celebration of marriage,

 We rose early after a late night visit to Salamá's Primary president, who is preparing with her family to be sealed as soon as they finish temple preparation classes.

"Tanish" plays marimba;
never had played the piano
before, but with coaching
(no lessons) played for the
little group
after 10 minute's practice--
Pouring ourselves into bed, and prying eyelids open by 5:30 a.m.,we made it up the hill to our Santa Barbara group by 8:15  to open the chapel, prepare the piano, and coach some of the learning students to accompany the sacrament hymn and help with prelude songs.  Two of our friends stood, to be sustained in new callings--Gladis, to teach Sunday School, and her sister Angela, a member of just over a month, took on Primary--my hero! 
                 Gladis, Rudy Jr, Rudy, Sergio, Shirly                                  Angela
We learned from our friend Barbara, visiting from San Jerónimo of the amazing trip her branch had had the day before to the temple.   

 Our friend Amanda went for the first time, and another sweet family that we care for was sealed together.

On the way home, Elder Starkey had had a few dizzy days and had decided he would forgo his fast day for another time, though it was fast and testimony day.  "Yo no" (not me).  I can do this.  And when he ate and decided to rest, fearless Sister S.  decided to hold out for a few more hours to eat... you know, the full 24 hour thing.  But male missionaries have one advantage over sisters in their dress code in February.  He wears shoes.  And socks.  I had tights, but they were kind of wet.  And sandals.  So, up went the heat, and the soft Sunday music got followed by October conference in Spanish.  Both of us were jarred awake crossing speed bump number 17 of 39 (our best estimate--someday we will count.)  And then came Purulha, a little town about half way home.  We usually trade there.  But when your spouse is sleeping oh, so soundly...That was the last thing I remember thinking, minus translating October conference mentally, before feeling a hit, 
and finding ourselves on the other side of the highway, having crossed the center line,  climbed an embankment of 18 inches and slowed down into a welcoming pile of rubbish on the west side of the road.  

Both of us were sobered.  We had been saved.  Sister S is no longer deemed invincible.  And Elder S decided that there was no way down without high centering our rented SUV.  No way out but forward.  Maybe 20 feet in front of us was a gully 15 inches deep.  If we could build it up, we could cross.  No tow trucks, no waiting 3 hours, no worrying  about others caring for the car less than we care.  No scrapes on the underside. But where and how to build up the gully?  A hundred yards behind, near a fenced plowed area, was gravel and yes, rocks!!  Even a few big ones. The bridge building took over an hour.

A poor passerby on bicycle took pity and helped lug a good portion of the 450 pounds I am guessing we towed.  Elder Starkey is kind of picky.  It is better  to overprotect.  But Alfonso, our new friend, was done.  It was good enough for him.  He began to pedal away.  "Woooooah!" called Elder S.  But "woooah"  did not translate into Spanish.  Alfonso kept pedaling, until he heard  "I want to pay you!"  That translated directly.  Alfonso came back.  He accepted the money and went on his way.

After three more loads of rocks, the rock ditch bridge passed inspection.
 I was asked to stand exactly at the edge while my companion gunned it across.  I was to tell him to turn.  "NOW!"  was the key word.  Well, D&C 1 warns not to trust in the arm of flesh.  I opted to extend my arm, not my being.   Reaching out, pointing down, Elder S gunned it, turned, and Voila! Out he drove.  Check the fluids.  Still checking bolts and nuts, two slightly bent, a few scrapes on one wheel...but the scrapes were on steel, not people. 

The only bodily damage I noticed
was a tiny blood blister from playing with stones.  So we experienced, then rejoiced to hear
"And the Green Grass grew all around all around, the Green Grass grew all around"  from grandson Spencer.  For Thomas, we were released from our (involuntary) day camp!  For Eleanor, learning the 10 Commandments, we gratefully kept our ox out of the mire.  And for William we are now singing in (and out of) Sillyville!  

But from his Boeing processes, Elder S. likes to focus on 
Lessons Learned:

Number 1: Don't sleep during the restoration!

Number 2:  Drifting is Dangerous--Don't Do it!
(A personal version of Pres. Benson's 4Ds:)                 

Number 3:  Engage a neighbor, even if their attention may be focused elsewhere--it might keep you alive in the end--there may be safety in numbers!

Number 4:  Where were the carrots from last letter?!!  Even if Emelia Erhart's descent may have been in eating on the fly, President Curtiss, our most seasoned traveler of the Coban mission eats while driving.  Follow the leader!

Number 5:  Who shall ascend unto the house of the Lord?  He who hath clean hands, and a pure heart! (Alas, however--soap and water do work, after you have lifted where you stand!) So, put a shoulder to the wheel and trust in the rock of salvation. 
 He is mighty to save!

Finally, a favorite from Isaiah 58:
           "Is it such a fast that I have chosen? bow down [our] head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? ...[v.5]
(I am learning to have respect for sackcloth!  It moved mountains!)
"And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

"Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."   [Isa. 58:12-14, emphasis added]
We are sobered, grateful for another day, and for loved ones who pray daily for our safety.  For guardian angels.  (Maybe even angels who occasionally drowsed.)

      "So long thy pow'r hath blest me, sure it still
       Will lead me on
       O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
       The night is gone.
       And with the morn those angel faces smile,
      Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!  
                                    [Lead Kindly Light, Hymn number 97]

Blessed, protected. Safe, sound.  Grateful.  Glad.  Determined to thrust in a sickle, with our might.  Appreciating blessings of prayers, thankful for pathways up and out.  Thanks to our dear ones, for daily prayers, for being alert in your posts.   

Guess what came in the mail Tuesday?
A new stove!  Not exactly mail...but better than mail!

"Never say 'NO' to new, when affordable, paid for, needed, and near!"

We are appreciating talents of our friends that cook with branches and clay.  When we watch little boys carrying large limbs of wood home for their fires, Elder Starkey tells me that he thinks our country does not realize how blessed we are!    

Guess what poor, unsuspecting missionaries got Monday?  
Funny, the promises you make when you are in a pickle--I vowed if I ever got out of that mess, I would make bread--the Bread of Life!!!  "Integral"--means whole grain!
Love from your Guatemala fan club

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Found a Peeler!

Things break.  Especially nice electric glass top stoves when electricity comes in spurts and switches require a consistent level.   While my perplexities have been finding shoes and internet, the test for our fearless office manager is having a questionable cooking source.
But Elder Starkey is an engineer, and throughout his childhood he remembers neighbors bringing broken toasters and everything else to his grandpa, because his family can fix anything.  Elder Starkey's sister pulls the drain apart and remedies the water softener if anything drips or peeps.  Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without. 

Dad shared with chef Brianne,
Friday, his love for cooking.   It is real. It is relaxing.  But sadness sizzles when two burners are toast and the third burner crackles. With five pounds of costly quinoa remaining, 20 pounds of black, red, garbanzo, white beans and lentils galoreat the local grocery store, healthy eating could be at our fingertips at the flip of a switch--if only the switch would flip!

Never fear, Elder Starkey is here.  After researching the make, model and switch numbers, after weighing carefully if the switches themselves would cost as much as a new stove, after hunting down a company five hours away that sells switches for "less," a repairman was summoned, parts were ordered, and ultimately four switches arrived in a cheerful yellow pouch.  Only one problem.  The switches came with the wrong model number.  It is a RARE thing indeed to return something in Central America with exchange in mind or reimbursement expected.  Regardless, we set to work, looking for the original KNOB to the first switch.  
              One of the mysteries! 

Our friend Betty visited.  Betty looked.  Elder Starkey looked. And looked. 
We like Betty.  She is wonderful, and helps curb the dry white "hongo" (or mold) that peeks out when we are not looking on the concrete walls and tile tops.  

But when something goes missing,  there is every a wish to peer into the mind of Betty.  Where could that thing be?

At the beginning of our mission we told Amber if she was sending a package, 
she could send a vegetable peeler. 
                  And she did.  

Light weight, not too expensive.  

But in the left behind items from the previous missionaries there was a cool blue sideways peeler that Elder Starkey uses every day to peel his carrots.  

Carrots are good for the skin, you know.  Nice for complexions, good for vision,  roughage, and they carry well in a ziploc during our weekend jaunts over the hills between here and Baja Verapaz. 

But the happy blue peeler went into hiding.  Hooray for Amber's conventional peeler.  Hooray for less mold on the front room tile.  Now was the time for Elder Starkey's sidekick to crank into gear and find the missing knob to the broken stove.  

You have to believe losing something offers incentive for putting things in order.  
Rice and beans were inventoried, the plastics organized, 
the vitamins placed in a row and the spices lined in their boxes. On the last leg of the kitchen, the switch was declared indefinitely lost, but the peeler!  The peeler peeked out from behind the oat meal and honey.
(When the dryer of dishes, hands laden with cups and lids, dropped it safely into the silverware bin, it did not have the courtesy to stay. 
It slyly slipped behind the stands waiting to surprise us in our despair over broken switches and crackling burners. )

"Found a peeler, found a peeler, excavating for a knob!"

Elder Starkey smiles at least once a day on demand, and this did it for him!  

Also, yesterday brought a garage full of new hotel quality mattresses with their bases that have become a new puzzle for our expert resident engineer -- how to economically transport four large items atop a passenger van over winding muddy potholed trails?? 

[These last four pictures are courtesy of our temple president counselor, Pres. Don Cazier, who also traveled these roads...I was invited once, but failed to capture the roads like he did!]\

 What would life be without a challenge?  And perhaps a peeler will peek out on the way! 

Note from a special gathering at a meeting house six hours north.  A week ago, Elder Quentin L. Cook and his wife  visited an area that just received a stake (a more developed and well organized group than the districts where we work in Salamá and the mountainous areas of Polochic to the east.)  Sister Cook invited our missionaries to do a spontaneous medley to "Hark all ye Nations, Hear Heaven's voice!"  She glowed as she taught us we could learn to be like Jesus by remembering Primary songs for children and letting them teach us and help us stay on track.  

Elder Cook then told stories of a beloved missionary companion whose sister had given up nearly everything to help him come.  The new missionary did not know his part instantly, but what he offered made a difference.  Elder Cook left an unequivocal witness of the Savior and left a blessing with the missionaries that their mission would bring blessings that they could not comprehend, to each of their loved ones--mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, future spouses, children, grandchildren.  If things were not going well at home this would change. 

A great promise--as Kristen called last night with the washing machine smelling like caramel and forgetting how to agitate... as a new baby begs 

  for feeding... and her three siblings ages five and under  
are learning like cousins at Uncle's house
 that their clothes
 should NOT be the napkin. 

Hoping in your hunt to find a functional switch to augment your daily doings that you also will be met with pleasant surprises.  May your favorite peelers materialize and your eight colorful vegetables a day be cut with care.  

We love you! 

Are you noticing blessings?  Thanks for being ours!
Elder and Sister S