Serving in Honduras

On February 27, 2013, our lives changed forever when we accepted the call to preside over the newly created Honduras San Pedro Sula West Mission. Four months later, on June 27th, we arrived to greet the 135 missionaries with whom we would start this great adventure. The mission has grown to 205 missionaries in the first nine months and continues to climb. All of that growth has brought great enthusiasm to the stakes, wards and branches in the mission. We are grateful to serve at such an amazing time in the history of the Church, and in such a beautiful part of the world. The people of Honduras are warm and wonderful, and the climate is even warmer (ok it's hot). We are so very grateful for our missionaries and everyone who supports all of us. Thank you for your love, prayers and support!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

SO Many People to Love

There are SO many people here in the San Pedro Sula West Mission that we dearly love and appreciate.

First--We would not have survived without our missionary couple, Elder and Sister John.  It was so sad to say good-bye a couple of weeks ago.  We just might have enough strings to pull to get them back here when they choose to serve again. Watch out Elder and Sister John:-)!!!!!!  How many couples do you know who both husband and wife can speak Spanish and are made of grit?   Well, the Johns are made of the stuff that help missions function.  We will never be able to express enough love and gratitude for all they have done to help get our mission ready before we arrived.  

Elder and Sister John--Master Finance Man and Master Office Manager
Elder Figueroa--Immigration
Elder Zitting--Secretary
Second--Our office staff always keeps everything running.  There are immigration details to take care of constantly, records to record, bills to be paid, budgets to keep track of, money that needs to go out to every missionary so that they can buy food, travel by bus and pay their rent.  We need help with special projects, transporting furniture for apartments, checking apartments, training new missionaries and helping missionaries figure out how to live in a new country with a new culture.  Our Assistants are constantly taking phone calls and helping zone leaders, district leaders, and individual missionaries--sometimes without ever letting us know that they are helping to take care of problems.  They do so much to help take care of details that allow us to focus on interviewing missionaries, getting ready for dinners, planning for new missionaries and SOOO many more responsibilities.

Elder Mower--Assistant

Elder Juárez--Assistant

Third--Our missionaries!!!!!  Every single one of them!!!!  We love their faithfulness and their desire to serve the Lord.  We do our best to help them when they struggle and they often express appreciation for what we are doing, even when we can´t be with them all the time.  They communicate with the President every week by e-mail and we look forward to hearing about how they are doing.

New Arrivals from Guatemala

New Arrivals from Mexico City

The Mission Basketball Team (not really--but almost)

Checking out the medical help in Copan and visiting missionaries

Fourth--Members and the neighbors of our missionaries who are always helping.  One bishop just recently took an Elder to our main hospital in San Pedro Sula because he knew that the missionary needed some serious help.  All turned out well because of his service.  Many members sacrifice to feed our missionaries and take them into their humble homes to help them feel a part of the ward or branch.

Thanks to ALL--we are truly blessed and know that we are being watched over and protected in this part of the world.  We appreciate all the prayers in our behalf and in behalf of the missionaries.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Mission is Constantly Changing

Every 6 weeks, some missionaries are transferred to new areas with new companions.  It is always a lot of work. Even though not all missionaries are changed, it causes quite a domino effect.  President Dester spends many hours with his assistants making plans for those who need a change and seeking inspiration as to which missionaries need to serve together.  He also has to identify what missionaries can be "trainers". Trainers have one of the most important jobs in the mission--to help brand new missionaries learn how to be missionaries, to study, adapt to the new culture, get to know the area and learn how to be more disciplined.  When we were growing up, our mothers always used to tell us "a change is as good as a rest".  I am afraid that isn't really true of mission transfers.  Transfer week usually involves picking up missionaries at the airport on Tuesday. Usually, one set of missionaries come from the MTC in Mexico.  All the English speakers now come from that training center.  A larger group of missionaries come from the Guatemalan MTC.  Those missionaries already speak Spanish.  Sometimes, we still get missionaries from the Provo MTC.  They are the ones who are typically bilingual and do not need language training.

We love receiving new missionaries!!!  They are excited but nervous.  Our assistants and secretaries do an amazing job of putting them at ease and helping them to feel more relaxed about their new adventure.  The incoming missionaries have training at our closest Stake Center, eat lunch (usually something easy--like pizza), have an interview with President Dester and then are taken by bus to our apartment for a dinner. They are SOOO tired and I have finally learned that because of all the stress, excitement and changes, they usually don't feel like eating a lot.

The Elders stay that night in the house with our assistants and secretaries (we have a lot of bunk beds set up) and the few sisters who arrive, stay at our apartment or with the Sister Training Leaders.  The next morning, they are all picked up by bus and taken to eat their first Honduran breakfast--baleadas.  You will have to look that up or ask your missionary how they are made and if it becomes one of their favorite foods while here on the mission.  I often see women making them to sell in the front of their homes.  I always worry about where our missionaries get their food.  I know they often eat off the street--even though I tell them NOT to.

After breakfast, all the new missionaries, the trainers and any other missionaries who the President feels a need to change, meet at the Stake Center and we have a special transfer meeting.  Every missionary I have ever talked to about their first experience in the mission, remembers the first two days as though it was just yesterday.  It is as clear as a bell in their memories. Everyone is curious about who the new missionaries are. The new ones uncomfortably sit on the stand, waiting for the time when the President announces the changes.  When their names are read along with their new trainer´s name, their first companion usually jumps out of their seat and comes up enthusiastically to greet the elder or sister who they have a responsibility to teach.  It is SUCH an important job and the impression made that first 12 weeks will affect them for the rest of the mission.

                                                                    New Missionaries from Guatemala



                                                                            Three New Elders
                                                                         From the Mexico MTC

                                                                  Only Two New Sisters


         We ALWAYS have a lot of luggage!!!

        Their First Dinner in our Apartment in Honduras

                                                                  They ALL Look Happy!!!!!!!

Monday, January 13, 2014


Not all Sundays are the same, but very often we get up by 5:30 in the morning to travel to a ward or branch in our mission that is outside of San Pedro Sula.  We attend Sacrament Meeting, meet members and leaders--then President Dester usually interviews the missionaries while I talk to their companions.  Two thirds of our missionaries are Spanish speakers, so I either have to struggle with what little Spanish I have learned or have an English speaker translate for me (if there is one).  I ask the missionaries what their food is like (if they have a cocinera or if they cook for themselves), if they have been cleaning their apartment, if they have been sick or if they need any other help. I learn a lot about what is going on in their area. 

I love to talk with the members (they think I can speak more Spanish than I actually do). 

I especially love the children.  They are not only cute, but it is fun to have some of them come up to me after the meeting and say a word or 2 in English.  There are many bilingual schools in Honduras and the members are always excited to practice speaking.  Almost every week I have a very funny experience with at least one or 2 of the children at church.  They stare at me a lot!!!!!  It is my hair.  Almost no one in Honduras has blond hair.  (Needless to say, I hate going to get my hair done--I'd rather have a root canal).  One of our very blond new sister missionaries has had the same experience.  She told me the other day that one of the children kept asking her something and she just didn't understand what the child was saying in Spanish.  So, the sister missionary finally said, "Si´".  Before she knew it, the little girl reached up and plucked out a few hairs from her head.  Ouch!!!! 

We see a lot of interesting things along the way when we travel outside of the city.  The countryside is beautiful, despite the poor roads and the poverty.  We love the cooler weather this week (only 75-85°).  I don't know how much longer it will last so we are enjoying it while we can.  Right now, it is better than living in Minnesota.


This could be any place in the U.S.


There is usually a lot of fog in the mornings on the mountains

Lake Yojoa

We have a lot of coconuts

Yes, we have A LOT of bananas!!!!!!

Sugar cane just before harvest
Sugar cane on the way to the factory
A typical pickup FULL of eggs.  With the terrible roads,
we wonder how they all make it to market.
A view from our balcony--our back yard!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas in 85°

We are REALLY enjoying the coolest time of the year here in Honduras.  It almost feels cold when the mornings start out at 70° and the high is only 85°!  Two weeks ago we were able to have Christmas parties with all our missionaries.  They are WONDERFUL!!!  We love them and feel SOOOO blessed to have them in our lives.  Thank you to all the families who share them with us.  We are grateful for your prayers and we pray for all of you.  We hope that you will have a happy 2014 and that you will find joy in the service of your children and in the sacrifices that all of you are making.

President and Sister Dester

Christmas Lunch
President & Sister Dester
James (their son visiting from Minnesota)
Elder and Sister John
(The greatest missionary couple in the world!)
Christmas Lunch

Villa Nueva

San Pedro Sula
Valle de Sula

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Our First 2 Weeks

      We arrived in San Pedro Sula on Thursday, June 27th.  It has been like no other two weeks in our lives.  Frantic is the best way to describe it all.  The departing mission president and his wife, President and Sister Veirs, met us at the airport with our assistants, Elder Hebert and Polendo.  As expected, the heat and humidity were high.  We were taken to our new home on the 20th floor of a high rise condominium building.  Our balcony looks out the back of the building onto jungle covered mountains of thick green foliage.  It really is an incredible home away from home. 
       After spending a few hours with the Veirs, we went to see a couple of grocery stores and finished the evening having dinner at a nice restaurant.  We went to bed in our new home and woke up the next morning, realizing that the Veirs were already on an airplane--so we were on our own.  What an overwhelming responsibility!!!
       On Friday, we met with 7 of our 8 zones (about 125 missionaries) for a "Meet the President" meeting.  We shook hands with each missionary and had a little slide show with pictures of our family.  Annette read about 15 minutes of a script in Spanish, and Jamie spoke for another 45 minutes.  On Saturday we tried to get a few household items purchased with the help of Elder and Sister John.  What would we do without them?????  We can't use our GPS because the streets aren't identified.  We visited a ward and a branch on Sunday morning, came home to pack and then left that afternoon with our assistants to drive 3 and 1\2 hours to Santa Rosa de Copan.  We ate dinner with a member family, stayed in a little hotel for the night and had a meeting with the last zone of elders the next morning, before driving back to San Pedro Sula.  Jamie also met with the District Presidency of our mission district while we were up that way.
     Upon our return to San Pedro Sula, Jamie was finally able to access his church e-mail account, only to find that he had nearly 300 e-mails stacking up in the mission inbox and another 80 letters from his missionaries.  He managed to get through all of the e-mail between other things that were happening.
      When we got home from Santa Rosa, Jamie spent long days on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, July 2-5, interviewing all of the missionaries in the mission.  On Saturday the 6th, he met with his assistants to work through the potential transfers that would be required the following week.  Then, on Sunday the 7th, we went to Church in a wonderful ward in San Pedro Sula.  Dozens of wonderful saints came forward to bear brief, heartfelt testimonies.
     The next day, Monday the 8th, seven new missionaries arrived from the Provo MTC, and another arrived the following morning from Guatemala City.  They needed to be interviewed and the APs helped them get settled.  We can tell that they will all be wonderful.  Annette fixed dinner for them on Tuesday evening, and Jamie held training meetings with them on Tuesday and Wednesday.  After lunch on Wednesday, the new ones were on their way to their first areas, and two elders arrived who were ready to complete their missions and return home.  We had a nice dinner for them on Wednesday evening, and they departed on Thursday morning.  Although the schedules were tight, we had a wonderful, uplifting time bidding a warm welcome to our newest missionaries and a fond farewell to those who returned home.
        We feel grateful beyond our ability to describe for the opportunity to participate in this work, at this extraordinary time in the world's history.  There has never been a more exciting time to be a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are so grateful to be a part of this. 

View from our balcony on the 20th floor

Our Assistants--Elder Polendo and Elder Hebert
Our first dinner with the new missionaries at our home


After church in El Carmen today, a cute little girl came up to Jamie and asked him if he could tell  President Monson "hello" from her.  She was SO excited to hear Jamie speak about how we had Sacrament Meeting with President Monson at the MTC the Sunday before we came to Honduras.  We LOVE these humble and faithful members.