As usual, I baked chocolate chip cookies for the missionaries who were leaving with this change. Normally I'm super careful with my valuable U.S. baking goods, but I somehow managed to leave the white sugar out of the dough and I only added brown. The cookies looked good and tasted all right, so I took them to the bus station as usual. These guys were SO grateful for them, even though they were not as good as usual.
This is Elder Cobb with his corte guitar cover that he purchased in Quiche.
Elder Pettit's folks are coming to meet him in Guatemala City and they will spend a week touring the country. I can't even imagine how excited they must be to meet the people whose lives he has impacted in such a positive way.
We were pretty surprised to get there 20 minutes before departure and have the bags lined up, the missionaries inside the bus terminal and everything in place. Normally this is a very chaotic morning with everyone running around and making me exceedingly nervous that they will miss the bus.
Elder Little is the gringo center right in the photo. He's our new general secretary in the office and the missionary responsible for the calm, organized way this is being handled. He's a great sheepherder!!
The new missionaries who will be the replacements for this group came in a day early, due to threatened strikes to close the highways. I was at the mission home helping with the training and saw several of the new missionaries looking pretty anxiety-ridden. They are pretty quiet and introspective, wondering where their new area will be and what kind of companion will turn up to train them. It happens in the same way every six weeks, so I usually don't think too much about it, other than realizing they will be more relaxed and in a routine in within a few days.
This morning as I was entering the new positions and mission-wide changes into the computer, I was overwhelmed with emotion at what I saw. Many of the insecure missionaries who came in three months ago are now the trainers for the new missionaries!! The faces that were so uptight in July are now the faces encouraging their newly-landed companions. There are no Latinos paired with Latinos or gringos paired with gringos. One of the first realities for our new Elder Encarnacion from the Dominican Republic is that he will be paired with Elder Gates, a gringo from Utah who has only spoken Spanish since the first of June. Before long they will be the best of friends, watching each other's backs in difficult situations and feeling a strong part of the zone of Nahuala.
When Elder Frodsham (gringo) left this summer he had been a trainer for Elder Mejia (Guatemalan) in Toto-Chiyax in Nahuala. The missionary trainers call their trainees their "kid". Elder Mejia went from being Elder Frodsham's "kid" in May, to being a trainer himself in July to Utah's Elder Gates. Elder Mejia then became a district leader and with this week's changes he has moved up to being a zone leader (several districts are in each zone). This is not only a remarkable formula for good missionary work; it is a remarkable formula for intercultural communication and understanding.
When I am in the office sitting at my desk, I look out the window into the lobby area where the missionaries greet one another with such warmth and genuine affection, one would think they were family members rather than friends of only a few months. Combine that love for fellow missionaries with the deep devotion and love they demonstrate for the Guatemalan people as they endure extreme living/working conditions each day. I can't imagine anything these young people could do that would make them better prepared to add to the sum of the world's goodness when they return to their homelands.