The many challenges of teaching the gospel in a remote/primitive village

Hola Familia,

Boy am I soar!  I probably walked more this last week than all the rest of the weeks of my mission combined! We had to make the 4-hour round-trip journey to Santiago’s house 3 times this week because we had to prep his son for his baptism. By the way, the baptism has been pushed back a week because their family was sick this last weekend. The thing that made it a bit difficult to prep Santiago’s son for baptism, and the reason we couldn’t do it in just one day, is because he is not educated and only speaks Quiché…so we had to teach the lesson at a very slow pace. We also had to find a translator to come with us. I’m not sure the translator helped much, however. It seems like the translator wasn’t translating exactly what we were saying. For example, there appears to be a bit of a duration difference in what we say, from what the translator says. My companion would give a long paragraph in Spanish, and the translation would then only be a 5-word sentence. And then we’d hear words like “bautismo” (which is the same in español as it is in Quiché) even though the sentence he was translating for us didn’t even have the word “bautismo” in it.

There are many challenges to teaching the gospel in remote/primitive villages in Guatemala. Apart from how far we have to hike through mountainous terrain to find people, when we do find people to teach, we have many other unique challenges, such as the language barrier. Many people here can’t even speak Spanish. And then there is the literacy issue to contend with. When we introduce our investigators to the Book of Mormon, we usually start off by explaining that God so loves all his children around the world, that Jesus Christ came to the Americas after his resurrection to teach the gospel to the “other sheep” that he referred to when he spoke with the Jews in Jerusalem. Those “other sheep,” are their ancestors (the indigenous people of Guatemala…of Momos…of Pancá). Sadly, most of our investigators are illiterate and aren’t even able to read the Book of Mormon.

It looks like we are starting to give the evangelical churches a run for their money here in the aldeas of Momos. Last week we  contacted a recent Evangelical convert, named Jovelm, who just so happened to be heading home from church with the pastor’s brother. After talking to us, he told us that he would like to begin receiving lessons from us to ensure that he is part of God’s true kingdom here on Earth. We thought we would run into problems teaching Jovelm because the brother of the pastor was with him when we contacted him. In fact, the Pastor’s brother actually ended up being the one who helped us find his house… and to boot, he actually ended up listening intently to the lesson as well.

Later this week we had a pretty treacherous adventure, which makes me think that I don’t deserve to bare the title of Eagle Scout anymore! I knew that we were entering into the raining season, but earlier this week I left our house unprepared. It hasn’t been raining much in Pancá like it has many other parts of Guatemala…that is until last week. So, I ended up leaving the house without a raincoat. Because we were all the way in Xecorral when it began to rain, I had to walk 2 hours that night in the pouring rain. To make matters worse, my companion and I both forgot to bring a flashlight. It was pretty scary walking for 2 hours in the woods, up and down steep mountainous terrain in the pitch black, in a torrential downpour. It felt like we would never make it home.

Surprisingly, my feet were the only thing that did not get wet. Those boots dad bought me really are a lifesaver. Dad says that the rain here comes in sideways. Man, he is not joking. I don’t think I have seen any other sort of rain other than sideways rain.

I’m teaching English now at the local school here. My companion signed me up to teach English classes. We have an investigator who teaches English, and needed help because she doesn’t even speak any English. In fact, none of the English teacher here in any of the schools out here can speak a lick of English.

What dad told me about how the women here will breast-feed right in front of the missionaries is dead on. Women are always wiping out their breasts like it is no big deal. I never imagined that I would end up seeing more breast during my mission than before. We just try to look away, which is difficult when their 5-year-old son is sucking away right in the middle of the lesson. What makes it more awkward is when the child takes a little break from sucking and starts looking around…meanwhile the breast is just hanging there. We just maintain eye-contact while we teach.

The other thing dad warned me about was “Guatemalan Standard-Time.” It is not uncommon for Sacrament Meeting to start 20-30 minutes late. Our branch president showed up 40 minutes late last Sunday, so that is when Sacrament Meeting started.  Almost every activity that they have in church is bound to start at least an hour late.  And the trucks that transport people in and out of the villages are also on their own schedule. When a “flete” tells you that he will be passing by the chapel at 6am on the dot, that actually means that he will be leaving his house at 6am.

Speaking of unreliable transportation, this makes it particularly difficult when we need to go into town to buy food. We do our food shopping once per month. We usually go to Xela to do our monthly shopping. All the missionaries bring their suitcases down to Xela to fill them up to with food. However, President Smith has recently placed restrictions on missionaries from remote villages coming into Xela once per month to buy groceries, along with a few other limitations on what we can do on P-day. Now we are just going to have to learn to survive off of pancakes, cornflakes, tortillas, and eggs, since the big grocery stores are in Xela. The stores in Momos is very limited in what you can buy…It’s also more expensive in Momos. I’m not sure why going down to Xela is being discouraged now. It’s also disappointing because my companion and I like to buy candy for the kids here whenever we go into town.

Now, despite the many challenges of serving in a remote villages, I can’t complaint about our housing condition.  Where we live is much better than any place dad ever lived. Here is a photo of our missionary pad here in Pancá! Pretty nice, huh?  It is attached to the Church property. You would never think to find a nice church building like this in the middle of nowhere.

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The inside is very nice as well.

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We actually have a refrigerator and a microwave.  That is our little camping stove in the corner. No oven = no cookies. 😦

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