Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Alejandro Vicente Rivera - Faith and Trials

[20 Sept 2017]

The most impactful event of the last few weeks was the premature passing of one of the newest members of Rama America - Alejandro Vicente Rivera.

We met Alejandro and his family shortly after they were baptized in Rama America, back in May. 

Sometime around March, Alejandro and his wife, Marina, had realized that they needed to make some changes in their lives. Alejandro, 37 years old, was a miner, which is a good job here, but very dangerous. Before joining the church, he drank with his fellow miners, chewed coca, played futbol on Sundays, etc. Miners have a set of very indigenous beliefs in Pachamama (Mother Earth, basically), meant to protect them in the mine, and have very little use for some nebulous God. They have a strong brotherhood with other miners, and strong cultural pulls to share their spare time with their miner brothers.

As they talked they decided they wanted to find a church to go to. They truly wanted to change. They knew some members who were their friends, knew that they didn't drink coffee or alcohol, and knew that they were happy. So they contacted their friends, and they passed the reference on to the missionaries.

They next day, the missionaries knocked on their door, and the Vicentes were so excited to see them. In the first lesson, they expressed to the missionaries how they wanted to change. They had actually been waiting for a while - Alejandro had wanted to go knock on the missionaries door.

Upon hearing the gospel and joining the church, they left their old life behind. Alejandro studied and learned, and accepted assignments with joy. He was ordained a Priest, and helped with the administration of the Sacrament each Sunday when he didn't have to work. He bore his testimony every chance he got - sweet, and powerful. He and his wife, Marina, attended our temple preparation classes, with a goal of going to the temple and being sealed as a family next May. They had a Family Home Evening at their home for the entire branch a couple of weeks ago, and Alejandro stood by his younger brother's side while he taught a well-prepared lesson. His brother, Cristian, was baptized in August, and Alejandro ordained him a priest a week ago. He was planning to be alongside Cristian as he learned how to administer the Sacrament this last Sunday.

We had had his wife and children over for a Family Home Evening at our apartment a couple of months ago. Alejandro couldn't be there, but we had such a sweet experience with his wife and family.

His assignment last Sunday, was to speak in Sacrament Meeting about Faith. Molly and I weren't able to be in Rama America, but those who were told us how strong his testimony was. One member told me that he had chickened out on his first speaking assignment three times after being baptized, and was so very impressed by Alejandro. You could see and feel the light and joy that had entered the lives of this sweet family - Alejandro and Marina, and their four children - Alexander (11), Danitza (9), Maritza (6), and Jhael (4).

On Thursday of last week (Sept 14), we were walking downtown when we met President Huarachi, the president of the branch. He was carrying a boquet of flowers with a card of condolences. When he told us it was for Alejandro, who had been killed in a mine accident that morning, our hearts broke. So many thoughts went through our hearts and heads.

We went to the "funeral parlor" where his velorio was being held. It was full of miners and their families, Alejandro's family, and Marina's family. It was an interesting experience. At one point, all the miners came to the front and surrounded his casket. They sang a song, and then each of them placed the wad of chewed coca in their mouths into a bag at the foot of his coffin. This is part of the Pachamama belief and ritual.

President Huarachi gathered the members of the branch who were there around the casket a little later, and we had a little service - an opening prayer, some songs, a few words by him, and a closing prayer. I'm sure not many really heard us in the bustle of the large crowd, but Marina later said that she had felt a sense of peace while we were there.

On Friday, Molly and I went over to the chapel to make sure things were ready. We were told that the miners had stayed with Alejandro through the night. That morning they had accompanied his body to the Taxi Drivers Union Hall (?), and had some sort of service there. He was a taxi driver before getting the job at the mine.

At about 3 or so, we heard the band accompanying his procession outside the church, and within minutes, the chapel was filled with family, branch members, and miners. We had a wonderful service, with a couple of members giving sweet testimonies. Then, Hna. Vicente asked President Huarachi if she could speak. It was a powerful testimony. She told us that she had felt peace and love, that she felt like Alejandro was with her throughout the night, and that she knew that the gospel was true. It would surprise me if there weren't a number of family and friends touched by the Holy Ghost that afternoon.

After our service, we accompanied the hearse, on foot, first to the Vicente's home for some last culturally important event, then to the cemetery, some three miles up the highway. At the cemetery, the miners took the casket into a little shelter, and from what we could tell, railed on God, life, and anything else that came to their minds in their fear and grief. What a different feeling from just moments earlier in the chapel. At dusk, they finally brought the casket out and prepared to place it in the crypt. President Huarachi, in the midst of a very large group of people, very few of which understood the magnificence of what he was about to do, asked for a moment of silence, and then proceeded to dedicate the grave by the power and authority of the priesthood. I was so proud of his faith and courage.

The funeral procession on foot, through town. We
were about halfway back in the whole procession.
You can vaguely see the raised hatchback of the car
being used as a hearse in the distance.
Others might be tempted to curse God, as Job's friends encouraged him to do, and as Alejandro's miner friends did, but not Marina, and not his family. In a very short period of time, this young father had demonstrated his faith, his trust, and his obedience. Marina knows that raising her children without their father will be hard. But she has faith as well, and strength, and testimony. And the love and support of this sweet branch here in Tupiza and all the members.

We can learn from these experiences, these trials, and recognize that God's plan will bring us joy throughout the eternities if we have faith. I look forward to someday being able to see the joyous reunion between Alejandro and Marina and their children. We will do everything we can to help them reach their goal of being sealed in the temple.

We Love Being Missionaries

[19 Sept 2017]

We've been very busy these last three weeks. We've had visits to members' homes, helping them with their Family History work and updating their records. We've listened and encouraged a couple of families having problems to be patient, listen, love first, and work to understand God's plan for us and all his children. Piano lessons are becoming a bit more successful with two members - Claudia from Rama Tupiza and Gelvin from Rama America. Both are very motivated. We've had lunch with the missionaries at a member's home, dinner with the missionaries here at our apartment, and get to help the sisters with lunch each day this week. We've been to baptisms, a birthday party, a funeral, spoke in church in Quiriza again - what a fun trip - and continue to be able to wash our clothes in a real washing machine due to the generosity of a lovely sister here in Rama America.

Megan Cuiza at her birthday party. She was baptized
earlier in the day. She is one of Molly's dearest friends.
 So, on to the details.

It's always enjoyable going to Quiriza. The scenery is spectacular (looks like southern Utah, especially Capitol Reef Nationl Monument) and the people are wonderful. They always appreciate us coming. This particular trip was a bit of an adventure. We were about half way to Quiriza on a windy, narrow, dirt road when we saw some rocks strategically placed in the middle of the road warning us not to go any further. Our taxi driver got out and looked up the road a ways. He didn't see any problem so he moved the rocks and we continued on the road. It wasn't long before we found the reason for the roadblock. A piece of the mountain had fallen onto the road making it impossible to pass. We were able to find a spot to turn around and headed off into the river bed. We had to cross the river twice, luckily it wasn't very deep. There was one place that had some deep sludgy mud that would have been easy to get stuck in, so our driver got out and scouted around and found us a better route through some tall weeds. It was fun and we made it to church with time to spare. We took a different route home. We had to cross the river again. We went through some little villages with cute names like Chacopampa, Espicaya, and Pilquiza. It was beautiful and we enjoyed the scenery from a different perspective.  

Rocks blocking the road to Quiriza - no way around due to the cliff.
Off-roading through the riverbed.
The Quiriza branch.
Diogenes and Isabel Martinez - two of the first members in 
Quiriza, along with a great-granddaughter.
Miguel Martinez, son of Diogenes and Isabel, with three of his children.
The son in the middle is getting baptized this week, and wants to
be baptized in the river like his dad and grandpa.
Two cute sisters after our meetings, eating the sandwiches
provided by the sisters of the Relief Society.
The attendance in the Quiriza Branch was even more sparse than usual. A lot of the men were out hunting wild oxen (kind of like our deer hunt, I guess). There were 5 sisters in Relief Society, counting me. I enjoyed participating with them and hearing their comments and testimonies. The Relief Society President is a good teacher and inspires a lot of sharing. Charlie got to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting, and it turned out completely different from what he had prepared.

After the meetings, a sister brought us all something akin to a hot dog. Some of the members walk a couple or more hours to get to church, so the sisters in the branch often provide a light meal.

We got home in plenty of time to put the chicken lasagna in the oven for our dinner with the missionaries. Elder Fiero, who has been our District Leader is going home this week and since we haven't had this group of missionaries over before, we thought it would be nice to invite all 8 of them for dinner. It's always fun to spend time with them. They are like our children. I gifted him with a song that is always sung when missionaries go home, "Placentero Nos Es Trabajar", played by me on the zampoña (a simple wooden Bolivian instrument.)

Today, we spent some time with Hno. and Hna. Mamani. He is the Elder's Quorum President, and is doing a great job in organizing Home Teaching, and encouraging the brethren to be involved. She has a great desire to do her family history, so we went over and helped enter her grandparents and an uncle in FamilySearch. She has some dates to verify, so she is going to take us to the local government offices and show us how you find death dates, birth and baptism dates, etc. As we were talking about death dates, I told Hno. Mamani that we needed to find dates for about eight people that I had been told were dead. He told us that he had lunch yesterday with one of them, so that crossed him off our list (we want to meet this fellow!), and told us that he had known the other seven, and that they really had passed away. So, that will help quite a bit.

We spent this evening with Hna. Vicente and her family and brother-in-law. Her husband was killed last week (see the next post) in a mine accident. Since Elder Fiero is leaving tomorrow, she wanted to share dinner with all of the missionaries here in Tupiza. She is working towards taking her family to the temple next summer (they were baptized in May), getting Alejandro's work done, and being sealed as a family. She is an amazing member. 

Hna. Vicente with two of her children
(and two of the missionaries).
The caption on the picture of the temple is "Our Goal".
We love being here. Some days, we try to just be in the background, encouraging, listening, and enjoying it all. Other days, we are in the middle of things, speaking in church, teaching, feeding missionaries, and enjoying it all. Either way, we feel like this is where we need to be. We are learning while we teach, being loved while we love, and appreciating more each day the beauty of the gospel plan in the lives of all of God's children. Especially these humble, wonderful people in Tupiza.

Flowers blooming at Plaza Leon. Spring is coming.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Missionary Experiences

[1 Sep 2017]
Sorry for the lack of pictures. We’ve been having some real missionary experiences these past two weeks and haven’t bothered to document anything with the camera.

Here in Rama America, there are even fewer Melchezidek Priesthood holders than in the Tupiza branch, so the Branch Presidency consists of President Huarachi, and one counselor. They don’t have a branch clerk, so I have become the defacto clerk, which is perfectly fine with me. As a result, though, since President Huarachi has been doing all the membership stuff himself, he is very interested in how I look at things. Each week, I have an opportunity to show him the errors I’m finding, and what needs to be done to correct them. That results in needing to meet with members and reviewing their records. So, he’s been accompanying us (it makes it so much easier to get in to visit when someone known, and loved, in his case, comes to the door) to visit inactive families.

One of the families, the Venturas, were baptized 15-20 years ago, and had been very active. Some things happened, though, and their feelings were hurt. We’ve heard comments from others about some of the things that happened, and there were three or four strong families that left at that time. It had to do with gossip – we don’t know any facts, nor who all was involved, but there are some real lessons to be learned about how we treat each other, and how fragile some testimonies are. We really need to love, be patient, realize how imperfect we are ourselves, and what the purpose of the gospel and Christ’s Atonement really are.

Anyway, we went to visit them on a Tuesday in their typically humble Bolivian home. The father and two older sons (23 and 21) were working outside, and didn’t come in to visit with us, but the mother, Flora, and her three youngest children did. These three were born since they became inactive, and thus aren’t baptized. It was a sweet visit, but in telling us about her family, Flora was very emotional. We learned that they had two other sons who were killed in a mine accident some three years ago. One was about 17 at the time, the other about 24. It felt like a prime opportunity to remind her of the promises of the Temple, and that her sons weren’t really gone. We made an appointment to come back on Thursday.

After we got home, I looked up her sons’ names in FamilySearch, and found them easily. They were both there, but some of their information (death dates and places, for instance) weren’t complete. So, I figured that showing them this might be helpful.

When we went back on Thursday, the father, Humberto, came in to visit with us. As we talked, we realized that they had been very active for a time, and had not forgotten the principles of the gospel, nor of the temple. I fired up FamilySearch on my laptop, and with the help of their 12-year old daughter, we built them an account, and started their family tree. When we connected their sons, and corrected their information, the green icon lit up, meaning their temple work could be requested. So, we talked about what steps they would need to take as a family to get their three children baptized, to prepare for the temple, and to go and do the work for their sons and themselves, and to be sealed as a family. There was such a sweet feeling there, everyone was fully engaged. The mother, Flora, even said that she felt that the heavens had opened up again when we came, and especially mentioned Molly. It’s so easy for Mom to make loving connections with these people.

So, last night, we took the sister missionaries with us to visit them again. The father and two older sons were working away from Tupiza, but their daughter-in-law, Talia, was there and joined us. It was so sweet seeing the sister missionaries get to know the family and begin to teach them. The mother told us that she and her husband had spoken, and were committed to getting active again, and Talia even told us that she had talked to them and wanted to know more. The sisters are going to proceed from here, and when they feel like we are needed, we’ll continue to accompany them.

We went to visit another inactive family early in the week as well, from the Tupiza branch. The father is a son of one of the pioneers here – one of the first to be baptized in the area, but he apparently never really was active. His wife comes sometimes, but not often. As we visited with her, she told us about a daughter who had gotten sick and died at age 20. Again, we checked FamilySearch, and found that her temple work had already been done by other family members. Hopefully, knowing that will help bring peace to her, and encourage her and her family to work to be active again. We introduced the Elders in the branch to their family, and we’ll work together with them.

And, last Sunday night, we had a branch “Noche de Hogar” at the house of a recent convert family – the Vicente’s, in Rama America. They have only been members for two months, but they are fully involved with the branch. The mother cooked sopapillas – big scones – for everyone, and made a big pot of api, a drink made from purple corn, cinnamon, etc. Hno. Vicente’s younger brother, who was just baptized two weeks ago, gave a lesson on the Sabbath day, and did a very good job. Afterwards, we all played a game that the Elders taught, and had a very nice evening with all the members who came.

On Monday, we took our clothes over to Hna. Ibañez’s to wash in her washing machine, and had a nice visit with her. She offered to take us to find an inactive member family that she knows.
We continue trying to teach piano lessons, and we find a new person every once in a while, who wants to learn. Their schedules can be busy, so we end up waiting sometimes, but it still is a nice interaction when they come to learn.

So, we’re getting busier, and it feels so good to be here with these sweet people. Whether we are impacting their lives in any significant way, or not, we know that they are impacting ours. We feel such love for them, and want to help in every way possible for them to receive the richest blessings Heavenly Father has in store for them.

We also took a quick trip to Potosí this week for a Mission Conference. We really love President Montoya and his wife. He was an institute teacher for some time, and really has a beautiful way to teach gospel principles. Some of what we learned feel more appropriate in our private blog. So, if you are interested in reading them (the “small plates”?), you can go to our private version, “Ramblings From the ’Rents” blog (that's It requires us to give permission, and is protected from internet searches, etc. So, if you try to get there and it stops you, let us know and we’ll fix it as quick as we can.

On a side note, the temperature has shot up, suddenly, so we’ve gone from needing the heater to needing a fan in over just two days. We still haven’t had any rain since April, but the forecast shows a 25% chance of rain on Tuesday. We’ll see.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Día de Independencia

[21 Aug 2017]

August 6th was Bolivia’s Independence Day. Celebrations like this, here (and there are many), involve “desfiles”, or parades. On Saturday, the 5th, the parades included all the schools – primary (“escuelas”), secondary (“colegios”), and universities (“universidades”). All students are required to attend. For some of these celebrations, the students’ parades have fallen on Sunday, which makes a real impact on church attendance. For this celebration, Sunday’s parades involved workers unions, miners, businesses, etc., so we didn’t get to see that one.

The one on Saturday, though, was very entertaining. The missionaries wanted to participate in the main plaza, greeting people and distributing pass-along cards, Books of Mormon, Liahonas, and pamphlets. The sisters suggested taking pictures of families with a border saying “Families can be together forever” to take to them later and find those interested in listening to our message. It was a big hit.

First, the “Forever Families” pictures resulted in a number of interested people. The sisters took the pictures, and I printed them out later. Since then, the missionaries have been contacting the families. It will be interesting to see if any investigators result. Here are some of the pictures:

While the sisters were taking pictures, the elders were greeting people, talking to them, and offering them literature. A group of young boys came by, and wanted Books of Mormon, so the Elders obliged them, along with Liahona magazines, and other literature.

Later, as you will see, we noticed the boys in the parade, proudly carrying their books and magazines.
The way the parades work is that everyone gathers in the street between the plaza and the main Cathedral, organized by school. They have uniforms, banners, and bands, all playing at the same time. The songs ranged from patriotic to native renditions, but also some strange ones, like “The Ants Go Marching One by One”. Very interesting.

Once everyone gets lined up, the local government and military authorities, business leaders, education leaders, etc., who are all seated on a stand in front of the Cathedral, get to have their input. Lots of patriotic messages, but interspersed were a number of school-age kids with dramatic readings (very dramatic, I might add), poems, songs, etc. Entertaining to say the least. Once they’ve all had their say, the bands start playing, and one by one, the groups peel off to march around the plaza. Here are some pictures of the various school groups in their uniforms.

As they were all marching by, I caught a glimpse of the boys who had requested the literature. There they were, marching along, with Books of Mormon and Liahonas in hand:

Quite interesting, to say the least.

Another day, we wanted to meet a family who hasn’t been coming to church for some time. We found out that the mother is the sister of one of the strong, faithful sister members of the branch, Hermana Delia Diaz de Cabezas. She has a handicapped son, and they come every Sunday. She is so sweet to us. When we asked about her sister, she offered to go visit with us. Afterwards, she invited us to her house. One of her daughters, who lives in Sucre with her husband and baby, was here visiting, so we got a picture of them with Hermana Lyon:

Hermana Delia Diaz de Cabezas, with her son, Gabriel,
 her daughter and grand-daughter, and Hermana Lyon.
And lastly, just so you know we’re still in Tupiza, Bolivia, here is a picture of the main street through our neighborhood - Avenida Diego de Almagro. They are repairing the road, so it has been all torn up. As a result, when the wind blows, which it has been doing of late, the dust gets everywhere. Eyes, nose, teeth, shirt collars, shoes, etc.

But, we still love it here. The people are so kind and gracious. This last week, we were invited to come visit a young mother and her family as we were riding on the bus. Turns out, her husband is a member, but inactive. So we took the missionaries with us to visit. She knows many of the members of the branch, and has had the missionary lessons, but stopped coming after a time. Maybe the missionaries will have success this time.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Back to work in Tupiza

[29 July 2017]

We have been very busy since we've been back from Cochabamba.

There are a couple of sisters we have been trying to track down to verify their records. We finally succeeded. The one sister, Martha, seemed happy to see us and even let us come to her home to talk about her records. It's more than just talking about the records. As with most things we do in the church, it seems there is usually more than one thing accomplished when we are doing the Lord's work. 

This sister has been away from the church for a number of years. Charlie has a way of asking hard questions with love. The one being asked the questions usually feels comfortable enough to answer, as did this dear sister. I think she was waiting for something like this to give her the push she needs to come back. She thanked us over and over for visiting her in her home. She has a flower shop in town and so we have visited her there, several times.

Our other sister is not quite ready to receive a visit from us. However, she and Martha are good friends and maybe they will be good influences on each other.

Another sister that we have grown close to is our produce vendor at Mercado La Paz, Jeaneth. We have met her whole family at the Mercado. She keeps track of us and tells us when we haven't been there in a while. She seemed happy to see us after our trip the week before. While I was digging through and climbing on things to find what I wanted, Charlie was giving her the first discussion. I kept looking for more things while I listened to their conversation. She said we could bring her a Book of Mormon next time we came, but she wasn't quite ready for us to go to her home yet. 

We had a family home evening with the Arumburo family.  We talked about the Holy Ghost. I was impressed with the whole family. The mother is a member. The sons, a 17 year old and 11 year old, have been coming to church for a while and would like to be members. The Dad is not a member and has not been coming to church until recently. I was impressed with the dad. He was patient and loving with his kids. He seemed to be receptive to our message and had good comments. It was good to be there. The mother was passing out oranges and I gave her the cookies that we brought with us. They seemed to enjoy our being there. 

They live in a very small room with a set of bunk beds and a double bed. The 10 month old baby sleeps in her stroller with lots and lots of coats, sweaters and a big furry plush winter cover all. Even with that big fuzzy thing on, her mother was going to put another stocking cap under the cover all. It does get cold in their houses at night. It was great to be with them.

On Saturday we took a rapidito out to Charaja to visit our friends, the Martinez family, that we have mentioned before. They always feed us when we come, so this time we brought some home made cookies to share. When we got there no one was home. Their niece, who lives next door, was outside and she told us they were at the river washing their clothes. We visited with her dad a bit and he told us how to get to the river. 

It was a fun adventure. We did find them, but they were on the far side of the river. We looked for a crossing that wouldn't require us to roll up pant legs and hike up my skirt. There really wasn't any place. We were happy when they came across the river to talk to us. I was glad we could share our cookies with them to add to their fun day at the river. They are such a sweet family and seem to enjoy being together.
The river near Charaja. Doesn't look like the best place to wash clothes.

Rama América had a Noche de Hermanamiento or night of fellowshipping. It is for the whole branch and I think they do it regularly. We had an opening song and prayer then the missionaries gave a short lesson. After the closing song and prayer, we all went outside to play games. It was fun. There was one other adult outside playing with us, a young father. Charlie was inside talking with the Branch President and helping a sister with her records. She has been a member for 30 years. Her family (because of Charlie's questioning mind) is finally getting connected on the records of the church. I think she was very happy when he got through with her. I was happy that I didn't break anything as I ran around with the teenagers in the dark.

And last night, we had another Noche de Hogar with two families - the Maizes and Alemans. The wives are sisters. They have young children, but they were at the church practicing for the Pioneer Day activity at the church tonight, so we were able to talk to them in depth about being spiritually self-reliant. Hna. Maiz has been a member the longest, maybe two years. The Alemans have been members since January. Just as we finished talking about the Holy Ghost and how to learn and grow through its influence, the kids showed up, so we had cookies and played games before coming home.

These are just a few of the experiences we have had this past week. We are enjoying the work and loving the people. There is a lot to do and we are so grateful to do whatever we can to help and support the good members and leaders here in Bolivia. 

Here's a recent picture of us, just to scare you all.

Us outside the Tupiza Branch chapel.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cochabamba Again

[28 July 2017]

We are having some wonderful experiences with the young missionaries.

We had a big zone conference in Sucre and officially met our new mission President and his wife. They are delightful people and seem to have a good rapport with young people. 

To get to Sucre we (14 of us missionaries) left Tupiza on a bus around noon and arrived in Potosí about 4 pm, where we picked up some 20 more  missionaries. It is so fun to see their camaraderie and their enthusiasm. We got into Sucre about 8:30 pm. We were met by the zone leaders, who took very good care of us. They walked us all to our hostels, carrying the two sisters' and my luggage. I'm so impressed with their leadership. They take charge when it is their responsibility and they are confident and caring and give us confidence that we are in good hands.

We are very spoiled when we travel, even here in Bolivia we have stayed in some very nice places. Well, this time we were not in charge and we stayed in a hostel. It was different, not luxurious, but comfortable enough. They even had breakfast of dry bread, yogurt and juice. Not yummy, but felt good in our tummies. This is the first carpet I've seen in Bolivia outside of the temple. Isn't it lovely?

Hostel room in Sucre. A bit run down, but adequate.
It actually had carpet! (if you can call it that)
Zone conference was wonderful. We were taught by the Assistants to the President and other missionaries. Our mission president's wife shared about their family. President Montoya asked Charlie to take some time to share his insights and wisdom. He talked briefly about the wonderful Bolivian people, and how these missionaries will be grateful throughout their lives to have been here. He talked briefly, as well, about how the blessings that come when we serve are far greater than any sacrifice we may offer.

President Montoya then taught us beautiful, powerful truths from the scriptures. The missionaries ate it up. It was time well spent.

One of my very favorite things about these big zone conferences (three zones were in attendance), is the singing. Wow! The young missionaries sing with gusto and feeling ... so beautiful! I love being a part of that music.

A member family from Sucre served us a wonderful, yummy, traditional meal called pique macho and a traditional, colorful cake for dessert.

We had some free time after the conference, so we went sight-seeing. The Elders suggested going to El Castillo la Glorieta. It was built by a man and his wife who achieved great wealth here in Bolivia, and were appointed to represent Bolivia in Europe. They were made a Prince and Princess in Italy, so they are considered something like royalty here in Sucre. The buildings were impressive, but in bad repair, without furniture or fixtures. One fun thing, though was the narrow spiral tower with 108 steps that we ascended. They were charging for the "right" to take pictures, so we only took pictures from outside the gates. There wasn't much inside worth photographing, really. 

The "Principality of La Glorieta". 

You can see that tower we ascended in the center.
It was the most interesting part.
We took a bus back, walked around the central part of the city. When Charlie was here as a young missionary they called Sucre the "white city". All of the buildings in the center of town are white and it is beautiful. Sucre is one of Bolivia's bigger cities.
We spent another night in our hostel and flew out the next morning with 3 elders and 3 sisters to Cochabamba to complete the paper work for our visas and our identification cards.

Once in Cochabamba we were on our own. The elders in charge now know they don't have to entertain or worry about us in Cochabamba. We got the same room at the hospedaje that we had a week or so ago. It felt like we had come home. We didn't have much to do while in Cochabamba except our "tramites" -- paper work. 

We flew from Cochabamba to Sucre Friday afternoon, dropping off a couple of the missionaries and picking up the companions of the missionaries who went to Cochabamba with us. We took two taxis to Potosi, arriving at about 8:30.

The road from the airport that we took bypassed the city and it was basically a wash. It got so dusty I don't know how the driver could see out the window. He was definitely used to driving this side road because he went very fast and knew all the sharp turns. It did cut off a good portion of travel time.

In Potosi, we stopped and had dinner before taking another rapidito to Tupiza. We all slept a little. We got into Tupiza about 2:30 am. It was a very long drive.The taxis were all lined up to pick up anyone that came in on a rapidito. We got to bed about 4. We slept till about 10.  

One thing that impressed me about the missionaries, wherever we were, was that they were missionaries. They talked to the people in the rapidito on the way to the airport and in the airport while waiting for the flight. I was very proud of our missionaries.

We found out just as we were leaving on our trip that we were giving talks in Sacrament meeting the day after we got home. So we spent a good portion of the day working on our talks. About 5, we went looking for an object lesson for Charlie's talk. We found brightly colored Jenga blocks that were PERFECT to show the balance between our sacrifice and the Lord's blessings in response to our sacrifice. It went great. In fact, in Sunday School the Branch President referred to it and in Relief Society a couple of sisters reminded us of things from Elder Lyon's talk. 

It's great to be back in Tupiza.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Temple Trip

[9 July 2017]
Cochabamba Temple. Photo taken by Angel Vasquez, a friend from the temple.
When you think of a temple trip, what does it mean to you? Take off work a bit early, dash home, get a bite to eat, pick up the babysitter, drive maybe 20 minutes to the temple, and get home by 10:00 pm? On the way home, you stop for ice cream, maybe? Pay the babysitter when you get home, and find the kids all in bed, asleep? OK, maybe the babysitter and the kids in bed asleep are a fantasy, but otherwise, in terms of time, cost, real sacrifices, etc., the trip is less expensive than a date night out with your spouse would be. A movie, dinner at Arby’s or Texas Roadhouse if you’re feeling flush?

Now, let me give you the perspective of a member here in Tupiza. Not taking into account many things, like how difficult it might be to get a week off from work, imagine that the temple is 20 hours away by whatever means of transportation you have available, and the cost to you is between 2 and 4 weeks of your gross salary – not net. To maximize the time you can spend at the temple, compared to the time in transit, you leave on Monday before noon and arrive at the temple Tuesday morning at 5:00 am, having traveled all night without really any sleep (I assure you, sleeping on a train or bus in Bolivia isn’t as easy as you might think), planning to leave Friday afternoon so you can get home early enough to wash clothes and prepare for Sunday.

Imagine, too, that you are a single mother with four children, ages 8 to 16. You can’t really leave them home – you don’t have the luxury of babysitters, and your extended family all live hours away.

Knowing that you have limited sessions and a number of family names to do the work for, you show up at the temple at 9:00 am to do baptisms for the dead with your teenage daughter or son. It’s their first experience, even though they are sixteen. They have helped get all the information needed into FamilySearch, so they feel connected to these grandparents and great-grandparents.
The train station in Tupiza.

Molly next to the train in Oruro.
Continue to imagine that you come back to the temple Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning and afternoon, and Thursday morning and afternoon to do as many sessions as you can, so that you can do sealings on Friday and complete the work you have planned. You know that you might not be able to come back until next year, or even later, due to the cost, family circumstances, etc.
Real leg room on the train.
That’s a small view of what last week was like for us. What a joy to be able to go and help at the temple for members from our branch here in Tupiza.

We left Wednesday afternoon on the train from Tupiza to Oruro. We had seen the train, and read about it, and felt like it would be more comfortable than one of the flotas or buses with restricted leg room. It did have ample leg room, bathrooms, and even a dining car where we had a very nice, but simple dinner.
The downside of the convenience of the train, though, is time. The distance from Tupiza to Oruro is about 310 miles (522 km). The distance in time was 14 hours 40 minutes. That’s about 20 miles an hour. The speed, I’m guessing, is due to the quality of the tracks. Due to lack of money for maintenance, the train goes slowly to avoid problems. It swayed and bounced incessantly. It was very dangerous to try and get up and walk between cars to get to the dining car, for instance. Very interesting, and well worth it once. We did it twice – the second time to get back here to Tupiza.
Just outside of Oruru, we passed a lake filled with flamingos. This picture doesn’t do it justice – there had to be thousands of them.

The dining car on the train.

Once we got to Oruro, we took a taxi to the bus station, and took a flota to Cochabamba – about another 130 miles, and we went at an astounding speed of 30 miles an hour. The road to Cochabamba was under construction most of the way, through mountain passes at 14,000 feet. Very beautiful. It was amazing to see little tiny “towns” (collections of two or more adobe houses) miles and miles away from anywhere else. Sometimes they would have potatoes spread out on tarps so they would freeze overnight. They call those freeze-dried potatoes chuño. Not the tastiest of things, even when adequately re-hydrated.
The young men from Tupiza.

Some members from Villazon. 
We got to Cochabamba Thursday afternoon, and checked into the hospedaje at the temple. What a paradise. Hot and cold running water (to experience the joy of this, wash your hands in cold water – near freezing just to make it real – for six months every time you would normally wash your hands. You can have a bit of respite by using hot water to do your dishes, but you have to boil that water yourself. Then one day, you can turn the hot water tap on when you wash your hands. What a luxury.)
On Friday and Saturday, we took care of some things that we needed to get done – like buy pillows and a mattress pad that we have been seriously missing in Tupiza. We also went to the temple for a session, and met many of our old friends there.

On Sunday, we attended Sacrament Meeting in our Barrio Linde and Barrio Rosedal wards. What a joy. Three of the people that we taught the temple lessons to came up to us to tell us, joyfully, that they had been to the temple, two of them being sealed with their families. Our dear little friend, Eva Cruz, was there. Despite her paralysis on her left side, she comes faithfully every week. She told Molly that she was going to get her long, luxurious hair cut short like Molly’s, because it was so heavy and it is difficult to brush and braid it with one hand.

On Monday, we visited Elva Lopez. She looked healthier this time, and it was such a joy to visit with her and tell her all about the branches in Tupiza. She lives with her daughter Ivana and her family. She has a grandson, Benjamin, who is maybe six years old. He was so excited to show us how he helps take the garbage out to the garbage truck when they hear the truck playing music as it comes down the street.

On Tuesday, through Thursday morning, we went up to the temple to help in the Baptistry with all the youth. Since this is the winter school break, or vacations, many branches and wards send their youth to the temple. The baptistry was full every day. One stake from La Paz had brought 120 youth, and most every one of them had a family name card to do the baptism for. Quite impressive.

Wednesday afternoon, Hna. Rivas, from our branch in Tupiza, asked Molly and I if we would stand in as proxies for her grandparents to be sealed. We were happy to do that for her. She is such a faithful member, with her four children. She is working hard to provide for them in every way possible – temporally and spiritually. They are such dear, dear friends.

On Wednesday, as we were going up to the temple, one young boy (13 years old) from Rama Villazón stopped me and asked me if I could help him figure out why he couldn’t print off family name cards for his grandparents. He told me that he had entered everything in FamilySearch, but it wouldn’t let him print that ordinance cards. I tried to help him on my phone, but decided it would be easier on my laptop, so we arranged to meet in the comedor (cafeteria) at 7:30 Thursday morning to figure it out.

He was so excited. When he showed up, we logged in and found out that he had created his account with a wrong birth year. As a result, it wouldn’t connect with his member account. So we created a new account for him, connected him up, checked the box for showing LDS ordinances, and wallah! It worked. We located his grandparents, connected them to him in FamilySearch again, and printed off the ordinance cards. Only after they printed did I realize they were in English! No worry, the temple work is not constrained by language, so he just took them up to the temple and did the work. He was so appreciative.

Thursday evening, we washed our clothes, packed our bags, and tidied up the apartment. Friday morning, we took a plane to Oruro (30 minutes vs. 4 to 5 hours on the bus), and caught the train back to Tupiza, arriving at about 3:00 am. Fortunately, taxis are still running at that hour here. We dropped into bed at about 4:00 am, not caring that much that our apartment temperature was only 51 degrees. We turned on the heater, and fortunately it warmed up to the mid 60’s by 9:00 am or so when we got up. Quite the change from Cochabamba. What an exciting week.

So, compare that temple trip to yours. When we lived in American Fork, and were temple workers, it felt like such a commitment to be at the temple at 5:00 am on a Saturday morning, serving until noon. Quite the comparison. We sometimes talk about sacrificing to go to the temple. Now I have a much clearer comprehension of what sacrifice really means in that context. We have so much to learn from these sweet people.