Friday, May 4, 2018

Conferences, Sweet Friends, and Families

[May 4, 2018]

We enjoyed watching General Conference in English in the Secretary’s office at the church with our English-speaking missionaries. This picture also includes their Latin companions. We feel right at home watching conference with 18-20 year olds. It reminds us of the old days with our children at home.
The missionaries in Tupiza getting ready to listen to conference.
Conference was wonderful and exciting. For me, it was full of hope. Hope for the future, hope for the church, hope for families. The changes that were made will really bless the members here. They are working to implement them.

We also loved having General Conference on Easter Sunday. We didn’t see a lot of the celebrations here, because we were at the church most of the time with Conference. We did see some people setting up stations of the cross down town.  I made a traditional Bolivian orange cake for the occasion.

I had a good visit with our landlord Nora about Easter and the sacredness of the holiday. She feels the same way about the sacredness of the day. I think she appreciated hearing stories of our “Easter Becky”. (We preferred to not emphasize the Easter Bunny, but to focus on Christ. Our oldest daughter, Becky, used this as an opportunity to do special things to remind her brothers and sisters and parents about what Christ did for us.)

We didn’t do much in the way of April Fools day.  One of my young friends, 11-year old Salma, tried to make me believe her mother was in the hospital having her baby. When I found out she was teasing me I had to tell her about April Fools day. (Her mother did deliver a sweet baby girl a week or so later).

A couple weeks later we had our District Meeting (which is like Stake Conference). I love having all 5 branches together. We have grown close to members from each of these branches. We were asked to get a musical number together for the conference. Charlie had arranged a medley of “I Love to See the Temple” and “Families Can Be Together Forever” while we were serving in the Cochabamba Temple. He put the music and the words on WhatsApp (which is the preferred form of electronic communicating here). That way the people from Uyuni, Villazón and Quiriza could hear about it and participate as well.

Our first practice was right after General Conference. We had a lot of people attend. They sounded really good. We had a couple more practices during the week after Noche de Hermanamiento of each branch, with a final practice 30 minutes before the Conference on Sunday.

As people came for conference I invited them to sing with us. Our last practice was probably 20 people, most of which came from Uyuni, Villazón and even some from Quiriza. Our mission president’s wife even sang with us.  There were about 30 members who ended up singing for the conference. I was so touched as they sang. It was beautiful and heartfelt.

Charlie and I were asked to bear our testimonies and I told them how sweet it is for us to see all of them together, how I feel like family, that families are forever and that I will never forget them. I don’t know how they could take that as we are leaving soon, but they did. After the meeting a lot of people asked us when we are leaving, and many wanted to take our pictures. We were even invited to dinner. At least they understood my Spanish, even if not my meaning. So here are some of the pictures from District Conference:

President and Sister Montoya
The Mendoza family from Villazón.
The Villalobos family from Villazón.

This is another family from Villazón, the Villalobos family. The girl next to me, Nohelia, left for her mission to Brazil right after the conference. She lived in Tupiza while she was going to college so a lot of people here were able to see her off.  
Abigail, Cassandra, Nohelia, and Sandra - Young Single Adult (JAS) friends.
These are some of the Young Adult girls sending Noelia off.

Hermana Davila, grandaughter of Clementina, Clementina, Hermana Lyon, and Hermana Teresa

These are some of our favorite sisters. Rocio Davila, Clementina Tejerina and Teresa Orellana. Teresa is the Relief Society President in Rama Tupiza and Clementina is one of her Counselors. Hermana Davila is the wife of the District President. They are amazing and faithful sisters.              

The Arce children and grandchildren from Titioyo.

These darling people live in Titioyo. They walk two hours to attend church in Quiriza. Or they walk three hours to attend the Tupiza branch where their father attends. Filipe is a counselor in the branch presidency in Quiriza. Mirtha is the one that often walks by herself the three hours to Tupiza. Rosario, with the braids is the mother of the two young girls and Reina is on the right. I met Reina the first time we went to the branch in Quiriza and was so impressed with her comments in Relief Society and we became fast friends. We just missed their father. He is one of the most faithful members in the Tupiza Branch.

Eduardo Vedia, District Secretary

This is our dear friend Eduardo. He is the District Secretary. He loves to pick Charlie’s brain. We have enjoyed him in our home often for dinner and a visit. He is very intelligent and has a strong testimony.

Vickie (Presidente Davila's daughter) and Vanessa (grandaughter of Clementina)

Vanessa and Vickie. Two little girls in Rama Tupiza that love Elder Lyon.

Rama America Relief Society. Left to right, front to back:
Ruth Lopez-RS President, Magdala, Maria Luz Romero with Sarai (sister of Ruth)
Maydee Sanchez, Elizabeth Sanchez, Marcelina Ibañez (mother of Ruth and Maria Luz), Felipa Tiñini
Lucia Huarachi (wife of branch President), Clemencia Miranda
Prima Cuevas, Sirley Huarachi (daughter of branch President)

One Sunday after Relief Society in Rama America I asked the sisters if I could take their picture. I love these sisters.

Prima Cuevas Isnado

This is Prima. I like to say she is my twin, because I aspire to be like her. She is loving, spiritual, an immaculate house keeper, fun and very funny. She was one of the first members to greet us in Mercado Campesino the first week we were here in Tupiza.

Sandra Solanchs

This is Sandra. She is 19 years old, a convert of about 4 years and the only member in her family. She is very faithful and willing to do anything that is needed. She is serving as the Primary President right now and is getting ready to serve a full-time mission. She will be greatly missed.

Ruth Lopez and Benjamin

This is little Benjamin and his mother, Ruth, the Relief Society President. He is getting ready to lick a squash called chayote. A couple of sisters planted a lot of squash and corn in the planters behind the church. On this day after the block of meetings we all went out and harvested. They broke the big ones up and passed them out. 

Here are some more pictures of Benjamin’s family. We wrote about them in our last blog entry.

Jorge and Sarai Lopez

I get to hold this sweet little Saraí every Monday when we do our laundry. She always smiles and talks to me even though she is so little. I think she is telling me all about my new grandson that will soon be born.

Benjamin, Jorge (dad), and Jorge (son) Lopez

I love this picture. Little Benjamin is in front wearing Elder Lyon’s sun glasses, his dad Jorge and brother, also named Jorge. Drinks are sold in plastic bags with a straw. Jorge is drinking mochochinchi. It has a little dried peach in it for flavor and to eat. Motorcycles are a common mode of transportation. It is not uncommon to see a young family of 5 on a motorcycle. They are such a smiley family. No matter where we are, when Benjamin sees Elder Lyon, he yells “Lyon!” and runs and jumps in his arms. And Jorge gives the best bear hugs.We have gotten to know this family pretty well. In fact, we learned a week or so ago that they were sealed in the temple while we were serving there. They recognized us. It was our second week serving in the temple.

When Saraí was born I wanted to make her something. But of course, I couldn’t leave out the boys, so I decided to crochet them some lions, because we are Lyons and maybe that would help them remember us.

It took a while to make them and I learned a lot with each one. I would work on them whiIe I waited for Charlie when he had a meeting or during Relief Society in the other branch. A sister asked me what I was making and when I showed her the picture on my phone they all wanted me to teach them how.

These sisters know how to crochet very well and they make very beautiful things, but they are not used to following a pattern. I didn’t realize that, until I had translated the pattern and gave out copies. I learned a lot of new terms (different from the Spanish terms I found on the internet). It’s been fun. I know I have learned the most.

The Lopez family.
Here they are with their lions.

Benjamin with his friendly lion in an aguayo.

Little Benjamin is carrying his in an aguayo on his back

We left 14 grandchildren when we came on this mission. We do miss them and are very grateful for Skype and the ability to see them and talk to them. When we go home we will have two more grandchildren that we have not yet met in person. We have adopted quite a few grandchildren while we have been here. Even one of the elders calls me Grama (when he comes to eat at our house he says our house smells like his grandmother’s cooking- so I take that as a high complement).

The missionaries with Gerson at his baptism.

The baptism of Gerson with all the missionaries in Tupiza.

One night an unusually tall young man in the Tupiza branch asked Charlie if he could borrow his suit coat. He needed to take a formal picture and suit coats are not all that easy to come by in Tupiza, especially if you are Elder Lyon’s size.
Miguel Palenque and his grandparents.

We didn’t realize that we were going to get a ride to our house to pick up the suit coat. This is the mode of transportation we took. The picture is taken in front of our house. The tall young man is standing up in the back. His grandmother is sitting in the back and his grandfather is driving. That is my seat in the front. Charlie had one just like it on the other side. With these bumpy roads I was afraid I would pop right out of the seat. What an adventure.

Virginia and her husband. They live in Cochabamba.

This cute little lady cornered us one Sunday and asked if we could meet her at the bus terminal the next day. She had something she wanted to give us.

Her name is Virginia. She lives in Cochabamba. I remember her. She and her husband have been out here working in the fields. She gave us a big bag full of choclo and goat cheese. Choclo is a type of corn that they eat a lot of here.

I took some to our landlord and asked her how to prepare it. She said it was very nice choclo and was already cooked. There are different ways of preparing the choclo, but her husband said he likes it in a salad. So I cut up some tomatoes, onions, green peppers and locoto peppers topped with some lime juice and salt and pepper with the choclo. She sliced me off some thick slices of the goat cheese and told me to fry it. Goat cheese doesn’t melt and it was really yummy. I gave most of the choclo and the rest of the cheese to them.  

Elder Smart - son of my cousin Lois Smart from Salt Lake City.

Before we left for our mission we learned that Charlie’s cousin’s son had just left to serve in the Cochabamba Bolivia mission. We have been hoping to be able to meet him while we are here. He just arrived in Tupiza last week and we are really enjoying getting to know our very own Elder Smart.

There are so many dear people we would love to tell you about, but It will have to wait. They will forever be in our hearts. As our dear 80-year-old, fence climbing, Isabel from Quiriza told me, when we get to the other side of the veil we will have to find each other and if I see her first I am to yell “Isabel!”.

Diogenes Martinez, a great-grand daughter, and his wife Isabel.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Missionary Highlights

[29 March 2018]

It's good to be in a place long enough that you grow to love the people and see them as individuals. You get a chance to understand their customs and appreciate their way of life. We have so many dear friends here that feel like family to us.

We have watched them accept callings and grow from those experiences as they serve. We have watched them handle difficult challenges as they exercise their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His promises. We have seen the light come on in their eyes as we have taught them the truths we have learned about the temple and the blessings of making covenants. We have seen and felt the love and concern the leaders and members have one for another. We have seen them act in faithfulness even when it has not been easy to be faithful. We have watched their children grow, learn to walk and talk, get baptized, and bear strong testimonies, among so much more. We have mourned with them at the loss of loved ones. We have worked alongside them in natural disasters and in preparation for events such as marriages and baptisms and funerals. We have learned so much from them. They are patient with life, with each other and with things that are out of their control. 

They are not afraid to work hard. I was talking with the Relief Society President in Rama América the other day in her home. She is a young mother with 3 children, a 6-year old boy who attends kindergarten, a darling 3-year old boy who loves Elder Lyon, and now she has a brand new one-month old baby girl.

I was holding her little princess while she was putting things away. We were waiting for "superacion personal" (the Relief Society mid-week activity) to start. I was going to teach them how to make chocolate chip cookies (which is not an easy thing to make in Tupiza, but that's what she wanted to learn).

Since no one had shown up yet, I offered that if no one else came, I would tend her little one while she took a much-needed nap. She gets up at 5 in the morning to complete the final cooking that she started the night before after her children were in bed. She tries to get to bed herself by 11. She leaves when her kindergartner goes to school and comes home when he gets home in the afternoon. She takes all this yummy food and her new baby to a restaurant. She and her sister work at the restaurant making more food there as well as sell the food and serve the customers. She comes home and tends her babies, supports her husband and does it all over again the next day. Not to mention, being a great Relief Society President. Her response to my offer to let her take a nap, with a smile, was, "Hna Lyon, thank you, but I'm used to this kind of work". She really doesn't feel like her life is hard, it's just the way it is, and she is happy serving her family. Others did show up and we made the cookies. I loved holding her baby girl.

Here is a picture of 3-year old Benjamin who didn't have a problem taking a nap while we cooked. 
Benjamin asleep on the floor while his mother is working
with the Relief Society sisters.

Here are a few other highlights of our month along with pictures.

We visited the Quiriza branch. While Elder Lyon met with the Branch President I got to go visiting a family with the Elders. I especially enjoyed visiting with this dear family. They all live in one house, a mother, her two daughters and their children. I don't think any husbands are present. While the Elders played with the children (or better said, the children played with the elders), I had a wonderful conversation with these amazing, faithful, hardworking women. They shared spiritual experiences and how the Lord has helped them get through really hard things. It was one of the highlights for me as a missionary. I felt like they needed to share these things and I was privileged to be the one they shared them with.
Family in Quiriza -

We had another zone conference in Potosí. Charlie and I like to go up the day before to get acclimated to the altitude. Since the conference didn't start until the next afternoon, we took in some of the sights of Potosí. We took a tour of the Monastery San Fransisco. We got to see down in the crypt where the wealthy were buried. (After letting the bodies decompose for a time, the monks would go down and clean off the rotted flesh from the bones.) We saw the main chapel and the confessionals and the loft where the choir sings and the cupboards where they keep the band instruments. Then we climbed a very short, steep, narrow, windy stair well to get onto the roof. Pretty breathtaking!

Altar in the Cathedral San Francisco in Potosí
From the choir loft in the Cathedral San Francisco in Potosí

Climbing up to the roof.
The walkway across the roof of the cathedral.
Looking the other direction.
View of Cerro Rico (the pointy one) and Potosi from the top of the Cathedral.

Here is the closest thing we get to snow. We had a summer hail. We hear the sisters made a
Hail in our patio.

You can see the little "snowmen" created by the hail sliding off the corrugated roof.

There is a hill close to our house called the hill of the cross (Cerro de la Cruz). It has a cross on top. We hiked it with all the missionaries here in Tupiza and had a devotional at the top. It wasn't a bad trail and I was never scared, but the steepness and the deep steps coming down sure did a number on my legs. It was well worth any discomfort.
Elder Lyon (looking much older now) climbing to the summit of Cerro de la Cruz. You can see how steep the trail was.

The Tupiza missionaries.

Devotional at the top of Cerro de la Cruz with Tupiza in the background.
Panorama of the city of Tupiza. The old part of town is across the river at the top left.

We have been working with the Duran family. Here is a picture of their little one-year old boy who has learned to pray.

Matias Duran showing us how to pray. He's about 20 months old. (Sorry it's so blurry)

The Relief Society Birthday was celebrated this month. This is how Rama Tupiza celebrated. We met at the Chachadita (a member's restaurant). We had a lovely lesson, meal and were even given some favors to take home. Rama América celebrated on Sunday with the sisters giving all the talks and a musical number. After our lesson in RS we had yummy cake and a fruit drink.

The Relief Society Birthday dinner at Chachadita's in Tupiza.

Isabel and Richar were married last month and this is a picture at Isabel's baptism with her boys and some of the branch members. Her boys were so proud of her.

Isabel's baptism.  From the left: Teresa Alfaro, Teresa Orellana (RS Pres), Maria Teresa Meruvia, Isabella
(her three children are in front), Clementina Tejerina, Sister Lyon, Nohelia Duran
(Matias is her son - in front in the Spiderman clothes), and Mery Ajalla

We went visiting with President Huarachi and passed by some of the houses that were destroyed in the flood.

Houses damaged by the flooding.

This is one of my favorite images of Tupiza that I will cherish forever. All of the children love Elder Lyon. We were sitting in the hallway of Rama América chapel waiting for Noche de Hermanamiento (Fellowship Night) to start. These little neighborhood boys wait for the church gate to open so they can play on the church's basketball/soccer court. They came inside and immediately ran to Elder Lyon. I love the look on Charlie's face. I think he loves them too.

Boys at the church with Elder Lyon - very outgoing and happy.

It's hard to put into words the deep feelings of our hearts as we share our mission in this blog. It is such a blessing for us to serve in this way. We love what we are doing, and we love these dear people.
We have seen the Lord's hand in this work as we just happen to be in the right place at the right time or when things don't work out like we had planned, such as an appointment falling through. So often, we are able to fill that time with something else that needed to happen. 

Our children are still a part of our lives. We love Skyping with them. They are all doing good things in their lives and raising their families in righteousness. We are grateful for modern technology that allows us to be a part of their lives as we serve. Our grandchildren are growing, and their parents are growing as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A New Year in Tupiza

[13 Feb 2018]

Here we are beginning a new year in Tupiza. One of the things that is different here is their celebration of the Día de los Reyes Magos, or Wise Men day on January 6th. To some it is more celebrated than Christmas.  In some families, the children will put out their shoes or a sock and the wise men will come and bring them gifts like they did to the baby Jesus. All celebrations in Tupiza include parades, things to buy such as treats and souvenirs and lots of balloons.

Christmas / Wise Men day treats

Baloon vendors
This year there was even more excitement in Tupiza around this time as the whole town was preparing for DAKAR. DAKAR is an international race. This year, it started in Peru, passed through Bolivia, and ended in Argentina. It occurs over a couple of weeks. Racers come from all over the world. They don’t race on regular roads and they drive non-conventional vehicles. Tupiza is a perfect place for DAKAR, however this is the rainy season and the dirt roads and riverbeds where they race would have been too muddy, so they didn’t race from Tupiza into Argentina. They just drove in a caravan on the regular paved road. We did get to see things we never see here, though, such as helicopters and airplanes. It was said that Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, was flying over in one of the helicopters.

Bolivians don’t seem to get discouraged by these kinds of disappointing upsets. They are patient appreciative people. “They get what they get, and they don’t throw a fit.” I love that about them.

As for the rainy season, this one has been one of the worst in recent memory. Since we came last year, we had been told that the dry river actually filled up during the rainy season. Well, it rained pretty solidly for a week. Then, one day, we started getting announcements that the river was topping its banks, so we went to look. It was fuller than we had ever seen it, and they closed the pedestrian bridge for fear of it failing. There were trees and all kinds of debris being washed down the river and getting stuck on the bridge pylons. It looked scary.

Pedestrian bridge over Rio Tupiza
Main bridge
Then we heard that about 50 houses built on the banks of the river upstream had washed away. Below the city, we heard that a dike had broken, and water had flooded a neighborhood to a depth of about 2 feet. A couple of member families live in that neighborhood.

Flooding in Villa Florida (picture credit Henry Duran)

Neighbors helping to move family possessions (picture credit Henry Duran)

Homes destroyed in Barrio Quechisla (picture credit Henry Duran)

A damaged home (picture credit Henry Duran)

The flooding only lasted through one day, but we’re still helping clean things up. The 50 or so families are living in a tent village, and we’ve helped one of the branches provide dinner for them. The city is organizing, and the government has promised the families that they will rebuild their homes. The problem is, they want them in the same place, and fortunately, the government is telling them that they won’t rebuild them again close to the river. People here say they haven’t seen the river this high in many, many years, but you never know when this kind of thing will happen again.

Missionaries helping out

Tent city (picture credit Henry Duran)

Donated mattresses and blankets
The missionaries also helped muck out the houses of the members in the neighborhood downstream, and we’re still planning to do some repairs to their houses. Members in Potosí donated food, blankets, mattresses, and clothing to help, and the branches have been distributing these things.

Then, just a couple of days ago, there was a river that overflowed in Cochabamba that impacted the wards where we attended last year when we were in the temple. Crazy weather.

On to happier news. Molly got to lead the council meeting in Relief Society on the first Sunday in January. With the new curriculum guidelines, Relief Society and Priesthood have council meetings the first Sunday to discuss needs in the branch. It went well, with good participation. It’s a different approach, but we can see how this approach will involve the members more and will help Tupiza.

We were sad to learn of President Monson’s death, but we were happy to be able to watch the funeral on the web. We even got to watch it in English. It was a very sweet memorable meeting. We’re so grateful for modern technology that allows us to be a part of things like this. We were also able to see the announcement of our new first presidency. Again, we got to see it in English along with the six English-speaking missionaries here in Tupiza.

As for the missionaries, we invite them over every six weeks or so (the length of their cambios, or assignment changes) for dinner. They like the change in diet that this provides, since Molly cooks a bit more like what the gringo missionaries are used to from home. Molly made chicken pot pie, lots of fresh fruits and veggies and a peach batter pie for dessert. Molly says It doesn’t matter how good it tastes, just so you make a lot of it. They cleaned it all up. One Elder even asked if he could scrape what was left in the pan and eat it. Of course.

About mid-month, Sylvana, a 10-year-old girl was baptized. Molly has gotten close to her as we often are the first ones at activities, so she has had lots of opportunities to get to know her. She is very diligent and committed to living the gospel. We were grateful that she chose to have her baptism in the morning, so we could attend before we left for Cochabamba for our temple trip (more below). She asked Molly to give the talk on the Holy Ghost. The best part of the baptism was after the talks and before the closing prayer, when her mother asked if she could say something. She told us she is Catholic and loves Jesus Christ and thanked us all for loving and accepting Sylvana and that she is happy Sylvana has made this decision. The Spirit was very strong as she spoke.

Sylvana, her mother and brothers, and the missionaries.

As indicated, we had a temple trip scheduled for the branches here. Molly and I left early so that we didn’t have to sit on the flota for 14 hours. We like to take a 4-hour trip to Potosí in a minivan, stay overnight in a nice hotel (hot water from the tap, good water pressure for a shower, etc.), and then fly to Cochabamba early the next morning. The flight only takes about 45 minutes. All in all, much better than a 14-hour bus ride without bathrooms.

The problem is, that there have been a number of political problems here, due to a new bill that was passed that created prison sentences for all kinds of controversial things (including inviting people to come to your church and trying to convert them.) We figured if we got to Cochabamba early, we’d be OK. We got to the temple on Thursday and heard that things were getting worse. The Temple President told us that they were going to close the temple on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday due to the shutdowns, protests, and blockades. He counseled us to go back to Tupiza on Saturday, but there were no flights out. So, we ended up having to stay. The Temple caravan for the members in Tupiza was cancelled, though.

On Sunday, we were able to attend the two wards that we attended when we served here as Temple missionaries. It’s always good to see these dear people. Some that were in our Temple preparation class came up to us with smiles and hugs, thanking us and sharing with us their experience of going to the temple.

On the way back to the temple, we got out of the trufi about 3 or 4 blocks too early because we’d kind of forgotten all the cross streets leading up to the temple street. It was a fortuitous mistake.

We crossed the street after a block or so, and just happened to walk past the home of the Zambrana family. We love this family and have spent time in their home while on our temple mission. Three generations of Zambranas live in this very nice house. Grandpa Zambrana is a worker in the temple, his wife taught English in high school, and laughs that she really doesn’t speak it. His son (who was also a temple worker when we were here) and his wife and their 10-year-old son all live happily with the sweet grandparents. As we passed by, the older Hermano Zambrana was standing at the gate (they may have just gotten home from church). We had a lovely visit with him at the gate. He invited us to come in and hear his grandson play the piano. He played three songs in church today. Between the piano concert and the cookies and pop, then the ice-cream, we had a wonderful conversation.

As is a typical Bolivian custom, they had us stay for a lovely meal. We especially enjoyed the very interesting and adventuresome stories of Grandpa Zambrana.  We felt like it was one of those Divine Rendezvous that President Jensen often talked about.

Three generations of the Zambrana family
    For a   bit of a height perspective.
The problem with the protests was resolved on Sunday by a proclamation by the President, so it was OK that we had to stay, after all. The temple was closed on Tuesday, but we were able to do sessions, baptisms, and ordinance work on Wednesday, and on Wednesday afternoon, the temple President set us apart as temple workers – good for two years. So, anytime we can make it to the temple, we can pitch in and help. There is a significant shortage of workers – they really scramble to get everything done each day, and still do so with an immense amount of love. The spirit in the temple is always so special.

Our flight was scheduled to leave Friday morning, and we were hoping to be able to help one family from Tupiza that made it to Cochabamba on their own. They arrived Thursday afternoon at the temple, and I was able to baptize them for his parents. The father isn’t endowed, yet – their goal is for him to be endowed and for their family to be sealed in May. We visit with them each week, teaching them the temple lessons. So, it was a big milestone for them. He has only been a member about a year or so. Very fun and fulfilling.
Marcelo and Vanessa Reynaga at the temple
Their children,  Maya and Emanuel – 6 years ago

On February 5th, 2017 we arrived here in Tupiza. After a year we can say it’s been such a wonderful learning experience, filled with the love of the members and other friends here in this small town. We are so grateful for this time. Our lives have been so blessed to be here and we hope we have been able to contribute in some small way in strengthening the members and leaders here.

Rio Tupiza – fuller than we’ve ever seen it.