Monday, April 4, 2011

This is a picture of me and my father.  This weekend, I was able to attend with him his mission reunion.  My father was one of the first missionaries to go to the "Central America" mission for the LDS church.  (It was created from the "Mexico mission").   This was during the Korean War and only one missionary per stake was allowed to go.  Two men were eligible before my father, but they didn't go and my father was called.  

In November of 1953, he got a bus with a man who would later become his best friend and traveled down to New Mexico.  He and Elder P. were in a bus station in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Thanksgiving Day and ordered a Thanksgiving meal.  He said they were both so homesick, they just pushed the food around on their plates.  Later, they took a bus into Mexico, where they were met by President Romney's (their mission president) daughter, who helped get them passage to Mexico City.  From there, they "puddle jumped" in a small airplane and flew from city to city until they arrived in Guatemala City, Guatemala.  There was no one there to meet them.  After waiting three hours, they went to a taxi driver, (neither of them speaking a word of Spanish) and showed him an address.  He indicated he could take them there.  (They later learned the address was a post office box number).  A few blocks from the airport, a blue car pulled up behind the taxi, honking, and waving, indicating they needed to stop and pull over.  In the car was their mission president, and the first thing he said to them was, "Why didn't you damn fools wait for me?"

Thus began three of of the most marvelous years of my father's life.  His first month, he was in Guatemala City and studied the language in the morning and then went out tracking with two sister missionaries in the evening.  My father later served in Weiweitenango, Guatemala, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala and a short time in Manaua, Nicaragua.  (He was only in Nicaragua for six weeks and said it was the hottest most miserable six weeks of his mission.)  I've also heard him mention San Pedro Sula (which I think is in Honduras).  

During his time on his mission, he played for the Honduras National basketball team, even traveling by burro (across rock slides, and a river) into Mexico to play in some Pan/American basketball tournament.  He was later asked to extend his mission (thus the three years instead of the 2 1/2 he was originally called for ) to travel with his mission president, President Wagner at the time and tour the mission.  Even in his old age, my father speaks excellent Spanish.  (He once told me, he has kept it up by praying in Spanish).  At 19, my father was not only teaching missionary discussions (he had purchased something called the "Anderson" plan in SLC and translated that, as there was no formal discussions organized yet) but also was the area president, solving church problems, and interpersonal issues among members of the church.  He told me, "I was a 19 year old kid, helping couples with marital issues."  My dad still tells people he is Guatemalan.  He LOVED his mission and it was his example that made me want to serve one myself.  

So, this past weekend, I was able to go with my father and meet and watch him reminisce with other missionaries from his time about their time in Central America.  I honestly stood in awe of these men.  These are the pioneer missionaries in Central America.  They are now gray haired, shorter with age but their faces came alive as they told stories and reconnected.  There is a big push for them to record their stories and as my father's daughter, he has no choice.  When I go home later this month, I am going to sit there with a recorder and record his stories.  I will them type them up for him to edit.  I will make sure his story and the amazing history of the LDS church in Central America is recorded.

"Every time a person dies, a library burns."


Paige said...


love.boxes said...

This is one of my favorite posts you've written. It gave me chills. These were the men that put the toe hold in South and Central America and now the church has more Spanish speaking members than English Speaking. Amazing story! I would love to hear more.

Tess said...

Wow, that is amazing. Truly.

Amy E. said...

Awesome, Janice. You definitely should record his stories! My husband served in Guatemala in some of those same places!

Britt said...

This is so awesome. And tell him, from a missionary who served in Guatemala, thank you for planting seeds.

Kari said...

I agree on the other comments on your Dad's mission in Guatemala. And especially on the "get the stories from him" step!!!! Do it, do it.