I am serving in a small village called Pancá. Everyone told me that where I was going to be serving was “out in the middle of nowhere,” and they were right. There isn’t even a single tienda (store) in Pancá. Pancá consists of multiple different “aldeas” (small villages) such as, Parracana and Canquixaja, which are probably the more well known aldeas in my area. Since Pancá is literally out in the middle of nowhere, who knows if you have even heard of these different aldeas Dad?
You wanted to know what my area is like? Pancá is an aldea that is about an hour away from Momos on a dirt road that you can only get to by taking a “flete.” Fletes are these little pickup trucks with bars in the truck bed for people to hold onto. And since fletes only travel all the way out to Pancá every 4 hours, they are always so jammed packed with people that there are usually people who practically dangle from the sides of these pickups. For that reason, every week when we have our District meeting in Momos, we have to get up by 5am to board the flete by 6am.
We literally live inside la capilla (the chapel) in Pancá. The church builds small dormitories onto the chapels in these remote villages for the missionaries to live in. The chapel is the only building that keeps the village visible at night, and is also probably the only way we find our way home at night because most people don’t have electricity in this little village. The chapel is a beacon at night for us to follow… like “a city set upon a hill, which cannot be hid.” And because it is so dark at night, it is very easy to startle the chuchos (dogs) at night, which is why my companion and I always have to fill our pockets with rocks to fend off the dogs as we make our way home at night.
Here is a photo of the LDS chapel in Pancá. It is the only building in town.
Based on my description of the area, it may appear that I would not be enjoying my time here in Pancá, but I am actually loving it! This is a “once in a life time experiences.” I am really being taught humility by serving in an area that is as 3rd world as Pancá. It is actually pretty nice sleeping in the Chapel. No doubt if we had to rent a house in Pancá, it would probably have a dirt floor and a tin roof, which is not effective at protecting you from all the outside elements.
Pancá is literally the farthest area out from Momos. But it surprisingly has electricity and running water. However, since people are so dirt poor here, the chapel is one of the only places that actually has these luxeries. Despite how dirt poor the people are here, they always seem to have a smartphone and a TV. Many missionaries feel that Pancá is one of the worst areas because it is so remote, and missionaries don’t typically have a lot of success here. I, on the other hand, love it here. Living in remote villages is how I envisioned Guatemala. My new companion told me that he has been praying to the Lord to give him a companion who has a drive to work. I think that after being with a lazy companion, he has developed a poor attitude toward having to serve in Pancá… which I can hopefully change, and help him get back that drive to work hard again. Only then can we finally start seeing success here. I have faith that we are going to prove everyone wrong by turning Pancá into a highly successful area.
Although there are a lot of members out in these remote villages, 90% is way too exaggerated, Dad. I would probably say that at least 40%-50% of the population are members…which still is a lot… but that doesn’t really mean anything since the majority of them are inactive because many of them have to hike at least an hour to get to the chapel (And we complain about driving 15 minutes). The branch is so weak here that the missionaries usually are the ones who have to hold it all together by teaching seminary, gospel doctrine, and giving talks in Sacrament Meeting almost every Sunday. The Branch President here is this super young dude that just got back from serving a mission a couple years ago. It also doesn’t help when most people here can’t read, and most speak broken Spanish. We currently have an investigator who can’t even speak or understand Spanish, yet he still walks 2 hours to go to church every Sunday. The only reason why he hasn’t gotten baptized yet is because my companion is a chambón, and he never discovered that the reason he never accepted to be baptized was because he wasn’t married and he didn’t have enough money to pay the fee to the local municipality to marry his wife.
Even though the native language of the majority of the people here is Quiché, they still have Sacrament Meeting in Spanish with a Quiché translator. Sometimes I feel like Indiana Jones serving here, traveling through the mountains of an indigenous people with my Indian travel guide/translator. But instead of looking for precious artifacts, the riches we are seeking are the chosen elect that the Lord has prepared for us.
We had to travel to Momos today to use the internet, and then we are spending the night with the Zone Leaders so that we do not have to travel back over to Momos tomorrow for the District meeting. (Note from Dad: when I served in the Momos Zone back in 1992, I spent the night at the Zone Leaders’ place one P-Day. And since all the other missionaries from all the other villages came into Momos for P-Day, there were not enough beds to go around. So I ended up spending the night sitting in a chair in the kitchen with Elder Alvarez from L.A.).
The rainy season has begun here in Guatemala. The way that Dad described the weather here when it rains is pretty accurate. The rain comes in sideways, and there is no way to keep dry. When it rained in my last area, it was a lot lighter than it is here. But it feels good when it rains here because it is a lot more humid in Momos than it is in Xela.
Okay, I gotta go now. I’ll tell you more next week.
Tu Hijo, Jake
P.S. By the way…thanks for reminding me Mom that will not be able to have Pizza Hut once a week anymore. I did not think the chicken soup was that bad, but that just might be because my taste buds have already begun to adapt to Guatemalan food.