Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Getting and Keeping the Nurse

We all get to help in nursing some days!
Above: A big sister granddaughter preparing 

for little sister who was coming soon

After less than two months in Guatemala I was blessed to wear the title "Nurse."  I am no nurse.  In college, I studied pre-physical therapy and had classes with the best.  

Just before becoming engaged to Elder Starkey, watching over two little ones, ages four and one, I was accepted into nursing school in Tri-Cities, Washington, but ultimately decided to forego the opportunity, as it would require a four-hour commute from my new home-to-be in Seattle. 

Twenty plus years later Sister Allen, the nurse from the birth of the mission in 2013 extended for an extra month, preparing, praying, hoping for a qualified replacement. 
She and Sister Curtiss reviewed the possibilities:  the mission donned an exercise physiologist, a pre-physician's assistant, an aspiring pre-dermatologist, and a life guard.  I heard Sister Curtiss say something like Sister Starkey is "my choice."  Her words were in all actuality, "Sister Starkey is mature."  (Little did she know!)

Upon receipt of the new assignment, I received a letter from and former fellow temple friends in Honduras.  

This couple had met in Idaho as stake missionaries, served separate missions as young adults, married and after raising a family of twelve (living) children, they served five succeeding missions, one of which included presiding over a mission in Mexico. (Meeting them might be a reason Elder Starkey has resolved to served consecutive missions--they beam!  Between missions, Don and Virginia Cazier make time for very fun family retreats--their family is supportive, as ours has been--and it just may be that our association with them has given Elder Starkey an idea that we are in a race!)

The letter: 

Congratulations on your promotion!  We remember well the years Virginia had the same assignment in the Mexico City North Mission, and she’d get about ten phone calls a night between 9:00 and 10:30 p.m.  She never wanted to give the mandatory injections our missionaries needed for parasites every 6 months, so she had the assistants do them.  They practiced on oranges.  Our missionaries may not have been any healthier than others, but we had the healthiest oranges around!

...To minimize the number of needless phone calls you get every night you’ll want to let the word get out that you have a dart board in your apartment and practice throwing hypodermic needles at it.  You’ll also want to personalize the health department of your mission.  Instead of “sticking” the missionaries who need shots, you can tell them you’re going to “stark” them.  And instead of putting mere “bandages” on their owies, you can call them “Cobandages.”  I’m sure you can take it from there.

Anyway, good luck with this exciting new opportunity.  ... you can always call the area medical advisor in Guatemala City when you need to be able to tell the missionary something other than to take two aspirins and call you in the morning.

Have you picked up some Keqchí yet?  Or do people just say “¡salud!” whenever you mention the term?"

What we did not know, while the phone was ever on "alert", and while Sister Curtiss and her medical assistant were fielding rashes, dengue, and chickengunya from Petén to the Polochik, was that we had a new nurse in the wings entering the Missionary Training Center.   And we had not heard how she chose to become a nurse.  Standing in line at Arizona State University to enter course study of architecture, our friend, now Hermana [Hilaree] Wade had a small notion inside her mind, a nudge, you might say, that whispered, "You should do nursing, instead." She listened.  She completed her bachelor's and thought about serving a mission.  Again the nudge:  "Not yet."  So she worked.  In Arizona and Utah in a surgical hospital, then in veteran's rehabilitation. When it was about time to search for another more interesting job, the nudge came again. This time it was time Time to prepare her papers to apply to serve a mission.  To be a mission nurse to a budding mission, where people (like me) were praying daily that someone with her qualifications would choose to really come.  After she met with her bishop and filled out the application, interestingly enough, weekend dates came out of the woodwork.  

   But she had decided."  Once I put in my papers, I was resolvedThere was no turning back." 

Central American missions are not a piece of cake. 

Her confessions to me on her birthday:   "I just prayed I could make it to nine months."  Well, she made it.  It is now 10 months and counting, on the downward slide, and Hermana Wade resides on my superhero list. 

To help our grandchildren like her like we like her, note--she likes to color, and still watches cartoons!
Zoey, Kaleb, and their mom sang and danced as we talked over the internet this week:
"No matter where you go
You know you're not alone

I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one call away"
Thanks to Hermana Wade, our missionaries have someone "one call away"!

It might be fitting that the day Hermana Wade arrived--late for challenge with travel arrangements, I was joined by something else fairly common here--
Entamoeba Hystolitica. 
                                                        And then Entamoeba Coli. 
Not a fun memory, but we learn in Alma 7:12 that when Jesus suffered, it was through this suffering that He understood how to succor his people.  Elder Holland defines succor as "to run to." 

During this period, it also became clear the burdens for my shoulders had been a touch too heavy.  Through help of a kind practicing physical therapist that I met in our park one day, yes, doing the strrrretches 
our daughters like to tease me about, I learned beginning with small weights 
and adding more slowly, regularly.  Then, along with coaching from an athletically-inclined daughter to drink doses of apple cider vinegar with our morning start of eight glasses of water per day (if Sylvester Stalone can stomach it and attests to its benefits, why should it hurt a non-three ring-fighter?) 

In addition to the leaf poultices to reduce swelling from our neighbor Angela who has healed a broken arm ,

 I received suggestions from an orthopedic doctor friend of Uncle Laurence, to use water bottles, not just to drink with, but to add to the crook of an ankle to strengthen feeble knees. 

Mid-February, President Curtiss announced a change that included the greatest mix up of companionships ever, including a transfer of Hermana Wade to be with a new companion.  In a new area.  Her first area had consisted of the ward including three tables of my piano students in Barrio II, 
 across the river Chui, next to Colegio Verbo. One of her companions grew up next door to my mom's sister in Orem. 
    But there is nothing more constant than change. 
This is a five generation picture--here, when missionaries train,
they lovingly claim "children, grandchildren and great grandchildren"

It now became our turn to morph into true and living house hunters.  The training my sister gave me in helping her search for a Lake Stevens house; learning from Amber in finding a house for Dad with no stairs, moving to Kaysville, and finally scouting south toward Spring City may have paid off. ("And all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."!) 

When missionaries are repeatedly robbed, or for some reason an area is unsafe or closed for lack of missionaries arriving, apartments are emptied, changed or


In our mission, apartment searches are not as simple as picking up a newspaper or looking on Craigslist or KSL classified ads.  For security purposes, advertising is generally word of mouth.  Elder Starkey thinks availability is greater than what appears on the surface.  But norms from the missionary handbook, requesting separate entrance and other items compiled from previous experience made our twenty-one day search challenging,  and slightly arduous.
The sisters finally found a pretty pink apartment.  
Did I say pink? 

Yes, pink.  Inside and out. 

                          (One of the missionaries asked if the dueña would be renting the shoes!)

   The cost, however, loomed above our mission price range. 
However, in the looking process, I had listed three full pages of inspected possibilities, ranging from cemented holes 
and planked wood caves


   We had wanted to rent the house with 
   the rooster, to save money on
   alarms, but alas, the room did not have a
   private entrance or bath.  ¡Que lástima!

In some places it is a luxury to access water all day!   Many homes need a water tank placed high for 
when the water goes off during different parts of the day--it is one reason for large water basins called pilas

 to lofty spacious mansions, of course, out of our budget.

 Finally, after treading with the sisters by foot

to the southern boundary of their new area, we captured photos of a machine printed sign near a reasonable looking apartment complex.   

This was unusual--usually if you see a sign it is handwritten and pasted near a market tienda.  We decided the lead could be be promising.  About this time, the pink dueña informed us that she would not come down from raising her price from 12 to 1500 Quetzales, and our budget was markedly lower.  Going on three weeks with sisters living cheek to cheek, 
four hermanas in a teeny-tiny house, we were getting desperate.  I called a number.  I thought it was the pink lady.  And we all met at the pink house, visiting it for the third or fourth time.  Someone called from across town.  It was not the pink lady.  It was daughter to dueña of the nice apartments.  By this time--we were going on day 17--we did not question that it was a touch out of the area (another good rule of thumb--missionaries meet people when they live in their area.)

Patricia led us up three flights of stairs to a third story apartment.  This was not something Elder Starkey was enjoying.  We had veered from serving another assignment in China for stairs.  But he had not been with us when we climbed 
one hundred twelve stairs up a mountain to inquire about a different apartment that led us (two sets of missionaries and a Sister Starkey) directly back down the stairs to learn that the apartment was too big, sold, a boarding house, or wooden, small, sporting no bathroom door. 

The night before clinching our "find," I read a letter by a niece in Oklahoma with a scripture  from Doctrine and Covenants section 100 that spoke of an effectual door being opened.  Just what we had been hoping for!  

     This is an inticate Mayan door
to one of the sisters' Cobán friends

Three sets of stairs are a small price to pay for oodles of elbow room, two bathrooms, including a spanking new functioning bathroom fixtures. 
Since President has encouraged a moratorium on new moves (no one could squelch Sister Starkey's shriek of spirited surprise) we are centered again on compiling a yearly mission history; accounting for, ordering and distributing fire alarms; filling out temple recommends, helping to fill out family trees, celebrating families preparing to and returning from temple to be sealed as husbands, wives, children, grandchildren;  capturing pieces of meetings where young adults aging from 18 to 25 years assume leadership and teaching roles, welcoming and sending off missionaries coming and going. 

One of the most recently celebrated is a fellow couple that served in the northernmost department of Petén.  During their 18 months service, they loved missionary, member, neighbor, and budding leaders without measure, then deciding it a good suggestion to live closer to family, sold and purchased a home (online) to move near a daughter in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  They gave their return home church talks this Sunday. Missionaries leave from small branches in our mission, and Elder Bake championed the task of translating their applications and faithfully submitting them.  Now my one-armed paper-hanging husband smiles with another assignment.  

A favorite task of ours, because it is something that we can do as a team, is apartment inspecting.  When I got bathroom duty as an adolescent, my mother had good psychology--"You do such a great job, we want YOU" (to continue doing it.)  And then, because it is such a talent, what if you teach your younger brothers? 

We are now learning the creativity of dealing with "fugos de agua" (leaks) and other water projects like a brother years ago in Holland and now a daughter headed there to study in a few months!
Well, some things you simply don't grow out of!  But water in the United States is heated with a water heater near the furnace.  In Cobán, homes generally do not have furnaces.  Nor "whole house" water heater.  Water for the shower can be heated by an attachment to the shower head.  It is called a calentador or heater.  Feeling a chill with the fourteen or so companionships who complain of broken or non-functioning calentadores, my hero, Elder Starkey is working steadfastly to prepare a document of procedures of how to fix or replace each, one by one.

Meanwhile, Sister Wade and Sister Fernandez, who learned her English by watching television from the time she could speak, 
now have only thirty--not 112--
stairs to climb. 
Of course, after cheering for a day or two, there was then no  
          (Can you guess why?)

electricity for days and days  and no working lock (from the inside) of their front door.  But they were creative--they unlocked the back and then lock the door from the outside!
We've heard that when God closes a door, 
He opens a window.  
Maybe it works the other way around.
So the P.S. to the story happened yesterday on the fifth day without electricity.  In a visit to the home of the dueña (landlord) we found a lovely garden
kept by a kind woman using her means and uniting with fifteen friends to offer blankets, stoves, and other resources  to the indigent so they can provide for themselves.   
Even after searching for three weeks and then having power out for five days, Sister Wade shared a favorite scripture from John 14:18, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come unto you."  Only in Spanish it translates, 
"I will not leave you orphans."

Our Coban 3B sisters are no longer homeless! 

 And they have found a new prescription for strengthening feeble knees--thirty stairs twice a day, if not oftener.  


          You notice who was taking pictures!  We love our friends who lift where they stand!

Thank you, Sister Wade.  Thanks to each of you, for responding to nudges...even if it means giving up being an architect!  
What if we work daily to heed Isaiah and increase the joy?  
Blessings to you as you strengthen your personal feeble knees 

Hermana and Elder Starkey

Here is to grandchildren who are doing this as they learn about chores!  
And a shout out to moms and dads that teach by doing!

Oh yes:  my favorite quote!  I called Monday night to find out if the energy company finally came.  Me to Sister Wade:  "Do you have light?"
Her answer:

Okay, you have read it all...but would you like to hear a funny joke?   A set of sisters were spooked when they felt creepy things happen around them and found out an unfortunate incident had caused a former resident to pass away in their house.  They found out after they moved.  When I asked later, how they were liking their new apartment, one giggled a little and admitted it was a little lonely without the ghost!  

May your day be filled with happy spirits!  Hermana y Elder S



  2. I am exhausted! Keep up the good work!
    John and Aloma

  3. We love Hma. Hilaree Wade R.N. and are grateful for you and all you do for her and those she loves so much in Guatemala.

  4. So tender and poignant, as usual.