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Emergency Roof Repairs a Success

May 15th Cahabon Report

We continue to find ourselves in the most unusual and exciting situations and they all seem to lead to something that will help us progress and reach our goals. Just a few days ago one of our villages was hit with a weather microburst and 32 homes lost their roofs. We sent out a plea for help to buy sheets of corrugated steel and within a day or two, we had enough funds to purchase 240 sheets of corrugated steel. The picture below includes five leaders of the community that got hit with the damaging wind, the Mayor, and two of his assistants. We are humbled by the support we are getting from so many people.

We continue to help distribute water filters. I think there are two or three villages left and then that project will be behind us. This activity has been an amazing project that has allowed us to become acquainted with so many people in such a short time. As you may know, Susan took a BYU Kekchi language course and knows enough to really wow the villagers. For someone that can come into the village and speak their language, even a few words, it is really a big deal. And it doesn’t stop there, just this week Susan was able to participate in a wonderful Mother’s Day event, and she was honored because of her example, as well as for her wonderful family.

She doesn’t miss an opportunity to share our special family with them and they really soak it all up. She was also a major participant in a Health meeting that was held a few days ago. They were focusing on children that were malnourished, and other health problems. She had a powerful influence in that meeting and those in charge were so grateful for her input. I think I’m safe in saying that she is the undisputed queen of the Cahabon District. As we walk through the villages all the shopkeepers have big smiles on their faces and show their warm respect for what we are trying to do.

Back to our water filter celebrations. And that is what it really is. I get the impression that this celebration is one of the highlights of the year for each village. It’s not necessarily due to the fact that they will all receive a much-needed water filter, but it is all the fun and excitement the community leaders (Cahabon mayor and his staff) have created for this event. And, here again, Susan gets to wow them with her story and her ability to speak to them in Kekchi. During her presentation, she adds a very special spiritual side of getting the filters to Cahabon, which I think touches their hearts. Having these filters to give out has given the elected community leaders an opportunity to connect with the people and develop positive relationships with them. After all, there is an election coming up and it looks like we have created a great opportunity for them to make some political points. We have to handle that part of it very carefully.

Preceding most celebrations there are a number of religious ceremonies that they go through, that sometimes take about an hour. It is one of the richest cultural experiences that I have ever had. There are a lot of candles and recitations as well as marimba music. They also have men and women swing their incense burners. And I was impressed with their system of handling the collection plate (it's really a bag on the end of a pole, so they can reach everyone). This has been an opportunity to be able to get right in the middle of their rituals and sacred worship and get a better idea of who they really. They really are spiritual people.

Susan actually spends most of her time teaching English to the missionaries and to the locals who are interested in learning English. Some of these local students have become interested in the gospel. I think the best way to describe her impact in this area is a final tribute that a leaving missionary sent to her: Hi Sister Susan, I'm Elder Tello. I just want to say thank you for your effort to always be helping us with English as a mission. Thank you for the service you are giving to the Lord by helping us as a mission and also for the incredible advances in Cahabon. Thank you for being an example for us to serve the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We will be planting our experimental plot in two weeks, where we will be measuring ten variables, and after we triplicate these plots (for statistical evaluation) we will end up with seventy-two plots. Plus, another section where we will do some simple comparisons that will be directed more at the local farmers. This has become quite a project because the practices are so foreign to what I am used to. I just had a conversation with one of the farmers in the U.S. who I hired many years ago and he was all excited about his new corn planter. He could plant two hundred acres in one day with absolute precision. So, I’m definitely in a different world.

See the picture to the right. This is a fairly typical field (this field has more rocks than

usual) where a farmer is using a jab stick to plant the corn.

This project, too, has been full of surprises.

Just this week Luis, the farmer who is providing the land, came to me and told me of an experience that he had with his mother.

She cautioned him about all these new ways of doing things and then she said, "You are not going to change any of our sacred ceremonies, are you?" These ceremonies are associated with the planting of the corn. So, he wondered how I felt about all of this falderal. I told him that I could not see any conflict in "you doing your thing" and in "us doing our thing." He felt very relieved. So, we will let you know how this all works out.

One of the things that I have discovered is that the soils are very unique here and it has been a challenge for us to know how to manage them. I’m receiving a lot of help from several BYU soil scientists as well as experts both here and in the U.S. I’m also receiving help from some of my former associates. During the last 20 years of my employment, I was primarily involved in administration and marketing, so it’s been 40 years since I have had some real serious involvement in the management of soils. I think that some of the things that we have come up with will make a big difference in the outcome of this crop and hopefully, it will have a long-term impact on this area as a whole.

We continue to make progress with the new association. I reviewed the architectural drawing of our new Cardamon and Cacao processing facilities. I had some questions, so they are revising a few things and I will be able to look at them again in a day or two. We expect to get some funding soon and should have them built this fall. We feel this will be the first step in helping the farmers start to make enough money so they can farm in such a way that they can build the soil up rather than always taking from the soil. It is heartbreaking to see fields being abandoned because the farmers have extracted all the growing power out of the soil. This in turn leads to them cutting down forests in order to replace the land they abandoned. It’s an economic and environmental disaster in the making. Getting this turned around is one of my greatest passions. I have a lot of support in making something happen but I don’t think they really feel it is possible. I am actually encouraged with some of the reactions that I’m getting from the farmers.

We will be participating in the “The Corn Project” in a big way when 110 lb. bags of fertilizer will be issued to 9,000 farmers. Welcome Hand (our organization) will be handing out about 2,000 of these bags. The municipality will be doing 1,000

bags a day for nine days. This is another opportunity to connect with the villagers. The city will also take this opportunity to make a major celebration event out of it. We will be doing all of this in the city on the large soccer field.

We are continuing to make progress with the possibility of starting a Church group here. We met with the Area Seventy and had a promising conversation with him. We continue to have conversations with potential investigators and we are anxious to start the missionary process. We have found a new tool to help us introduce the gospel to them. We have been showing them the movie of The Testaments. This movie was shown in the Church visitor centers for some time. This shows the events that took place in both the Holy Land and in the Americas during Christ’s lifetime. When the scenes that show the buildings that are similar to Tikal appear they get all excited and say Guatemala or Tikal. It helps them understand that the events of the Book of Mormon could have occurred in this area.

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