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Snapshot of Guatemala – Guatemala’s official language is Spanish, though it does have a significant Native American population, with each tribe having its own language or dialect as its primary language. K’iche’, Kaqchikel, and Q’eqchi’ are among the most-spoken indigenous languages in the country. Much of Guatemala’s population still lives in rural areas. Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion of Guatemala, though many people incorporate traditional practices into their Catholic worship. About 40% of the population belongs to some type of Protestant church. The marimba is the national musical instrument of Guatemala and is played throughout the country, though salsa, merengue, hip hop, and reggaeton are more representative of modern popular musical styles. Brightly-colored, traditional clothing is still worn in many areas (generally a shirt and long skirt for women), and most villages have their own unique patterns. Guatemalan cuisine is heavily influenced by Maya culture. Corn, chilis, and beans are all staples of the Guatemalan diet. Tamales are also extremely popular, and there are many different types available throughout the country, using different ingredients for the dough and different fillings. They are generally served wrapped in banana or plantain leaves.
**Did you serve in the Guatemala Guatemala City South Mission? If so we could love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**
The Church is constantly growing in Guatemala. The people of Guatemala are extremely humble and faith oriented. They have a strong and wholesome faith that is based from a powerful testimony. At times, member referrals and assistance can be difficult to acquire. However, your ability to work with and encourage members to aid in missionary work will come from your ability to focus on the testimony and love they have for the Gospel.
Guatemalan food consistently includes rice and beans along with many types of things with a corn base such as tortillas. You can expect seeing some sea food if you are in an area that is near the coast. Fruits and vegetables can be found all throughout the year. Some of the most common dishes include black beans, caldo (which is a lighter soup including chicken or beef and an assortment of vegetables) and tamales. But remember, don’t eat the outer layer of tamales! For those times when you are just craving a burger, you will sometimes be able to find some fast food that you remember. Some American restaurants that you will recognize include McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King.
Missionaries in this mission do A LOT of walking. So, it is important that you have really good shoes that will last through a lot of wear and tear. There are several mini buses that have a specific route, which can be taken to facilitate travel to certain appointments; however, this is not something you will want to do too often.
Due to the location and lifestyle in Guatemala, theft and car jacking are the most common problems experienced by foreigners.Missionaries that refrain from carrying large amounts of money and wearing flashy jewelry rarely run into problems while out in the field.
Drink lots of water and stay away from eating food off the streets until your body has acclimated.
Just as you will see throughout the scriptures with families in the Bible and the family of Lehi, following ‘the tradition of your fathers’ is a big deal. This will be something you will notice in the way the people of Retalhuleu act, speak, dress, believe, and live. The better you are able to appeal to these beliefs, the quicker you will help them realize that following Jesus Christ by living His gospel is a long-time tradition that they need to follow.
Suit coats are rarely if never worn during your mission. Typically suit coats are only worn on Sundays and Zone Conference.
Wear quality shoes. You will be walking everywhere. Your shoes should also be able to endure flooding during typhoon season.
Umbrellas are optional. It depends on your preference. Many missionaries just brave the rain along with the locals. Females usually use umbrellas. Umbrellas can be purchased at the local “mercado” (open market).
Most silk ties shrivel up in the humidity. Use ties with fabric blends.
Light weight sheets and a pillow case is all you will need for bedding. Bring sheets that are good quality but are also very cool to sleep in.
Small hand sanitizer bottles are essential to pack and use constantly. You can find these at local drugstores in the mission.
Bring a small, lightweight proselyting bag. While proselyting, you will only be bringing small Books of Mormon and a few other items. A “fanny pack” style bag that has a shoulder strap and a waist strap is a very good option.
The best way to send letters is through the postal service. Once a missionary arrives in the field, pouch mail (Dear Elder) can take several months to arrive. However, in the MTC pouch mail is the best option.
Typically the best way to send packages is through a fixed-rate box. Packages can take a few weeks to a couple months (so send Holiday packages very early in advance).
Rumor has it that boxes with religious stickers placed on the outside often pass untouched through customs.
Apartado Postal 340-A
01909 Guatemala City
Straight from the Guatemala Guatemala City South Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“You can find practically anything you need/want in most areas I served in. Except bug bite ointment.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“corn tortillas, rice, beans, chicken, stews, mango, plátanos (fried plantains), chow mein (surprising)”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“chow mein with ketchup, green salsa, soy sauce, and eaten with a tortilla, not with a fork”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“The superstitions and traditions that have a strong impact on the day-to-day life still (ie being discouraged from showering when you have a cold/for a few days after). Everyone always talks about how welcoming and accepting people are in Latin American countries, but I was still completely overwhelmed by how loved I felt even though I couldn’t communicate clearly at first. They were so patient and encouraging that it was easy to feel at home and heartbreaking to be transferred. I loved how the temples of Guatemala are well known and appreciated landmarks and people are always commenting on how beautiful they are. I was surprised by the extremes I saw of the “haves” and “have nots” and it was a struggle to learn how to serve in two entirely different ways.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Guatemala Guatemala City South Mission?
“Take lots of bug spray. Take all the advice on safety you get from leaders seriously. Ignore anything you hear regarding reputations of areas or companions. Every area is an opportunity and every companion is a blessing. There is no such thing as “difficult,” just “different.” There will be areas where it seems that everyone knows the missionaries and has had the lessons, but those people are not the same as they were the first time they listened. Never forget that. Every time you knock a door, even if you have been there 6 months and have contacted every neighborhood multiple times, you will ALWAYS find someone to teach. Enjoy every minute of it. The Guatemalan people (los chapines) are incredible and you can learn a lot from them. Pay attention. You’re not likely to see so many perfect examples of Christ-like charity in one place ever again. The best advice I got on the culture was from my Guatemalan MTC president. Accept, Assimilate, Amar. Accept the differences, acquire the traits you admire, and love the people for who they are. Also, NEVER, ever, under any circumstance should you compare yourself to other missionaries. Your mission is your own. Your areas, your investigators, and your companions are unique to you in that moment. God will provide you, your companion, and your mission president with the revelation necessary for success.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish more people talked about the different forms of success as a missionary. One of the biggest blessings was when I realized that in Chapter 1 on Preach My Gospel under the section “A Successful Missionary” it doesn’t say anything about baptisms under the bullet points. Obviously, as stated in the first paragraph of that section, it is an easy way to measure our success, by the number of people brought to the waters of baptism. But, as a missionary I quickly learned that reactivation, preparing families to be sealed in the temple, encouraging youth to prepare for missions while on splits, helping a companion meet her goals, the letters written home that build up the testimonies of others, the small and simple acts of Christlike attributes that you strive for, and your own personal growth in the gospel are a huge part of your success as a missionary. I wish I had known the roll that seminary was going to play in my mission. I wish I had been familiar with Preach My Gospel. I wish I had known how much I would miss it once I was home.”
“Something I have made a point of mentioning to everyone that I know that is preparing to serve a mission is how crucial it was for me in the mission field to know why I was out there. This might seem silly, and maybe everyone goes out there knowing full well that THAT is exactly where they are supposed to be, but I don’t think so. I wrote off serving a mission. In part because I hadn’t felt strongly one way or the other and in part because I didn’t feel like I was cut out for it. So I ignored the promptings for a long time. I am so grateful for the return missionary friends I had at the time that helped me recognize that it was something I needed to consider. But I am especially grateful for the very strong impression I received when I prayed about it. That moment, as small as it was, was a driving force in my mission. Try as he might, the adversary could not convince me that I had made a mistake by choosing to serve a mission. As discouraged as I found myself at times, I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. I hope and pray that every missionary going out into the field has that confirmation. And that if they don’t have it already, that they ask for it right away. Satan knows that he can’t stop the work, but he can sure slow it down by making missionaries question if they are adequate, if they wouldn’t have just been better off back home where everything was easier, if they were randomly assigned or called of God to that place. When you know with all your heart that you received that confirmation that you should serve a mission it isn’t hard to be obedient. It isn’t hard to get outside of your comfort zone and contact. It isn’t a trial to be with that companion 24/7. It isn’t a struggle to believe that there is someone out there prepared and waiting to hear the message of the restored gospel. Because you already have God’s stamp of approval. You already know that He, in his infinite knowledge, chose YOU to serve as his representative. Flawed as you may be, He knows what you can become and the lives you can touch. And that is the biggest vote of confidence you can ask for and the only opinion that matters.”
**Did you serve in the Guatemala Guatemala City South Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at email@example.com**