I also was a missionary about 20 years ago in this very area of Senahu/Seamay
and I know Blas and Magdalena so I was thrilled to read this article. He was
certainly a very effective leader back then and am so happy to see Blas leading
his people for a better life. These K'ekchi' people really are "salt of the
Earth" people. I have wondered about so many of them over the years.I think it's great to read such an uplifting story of not just helping a
people, but teaching them how to become self sufficient. I wasn't in the least
surprised to learn of their dedication and hard work. There was a small group of
converts who would hike several hours one way just to come to church, until they
build a facility in that area. They certainly have a lot to teach us too!
I hope some of you who have commented before on this Deseret News article are
still checking.I too am amazed at what has been accomplished by the
people of Seamay, Guatemala, with the assistance of the LDS Church in improving
their very difficult life circumstances. Those of you who believe in
the Book of Mormon, as I do, can come to realize that what is taking place there
in Seamay was the kind of thing the Prophet, Mormon was referring to when he
said in Mormon: 5:10-12 "And now behold, this I speak unto their seed...
(people of Seamay and others)and also to the Gentiles (us non-Indian Mormons)
who have care for the house of Israel, that realize and know from whence their
blessings come. For I know that such will sorrow for the House of Israel (The
people of Seamay, Guatemala)that realize from whence their (our) blessings come.
(from our doing God's work in assisting these Israelitish people who have very
great needs - Their children have only been attending school three years! Their
forests are being depleted!
Ernest, Another aspect to consider here is the fact that many of
these projects require the education and know-how that only an adult missionary
with a lifetime of experience in the field can provide. But I totally
understand your point--that our 55,000 20-year-olds could do much more than
knock doors all day long. The missionaries here in my neighborhood will start
their day tracting, but if they come upon a person or family in the process of
moving, or involved in a yard or home improvement, or some other project, they
offer to help, and the offer is often accepted. I don't remember being
encouraged to do such things 40 years ago when I served, so things have changed.
I think all of us would be surprised if we knew the full extent of the
humanitarian service our missionary force provides throughout the world.
I served my mission in that very area of seamay/senahu. I know Blas Cuz and
Frederico Caal personally and am very happy to see that they are not only
gaining help but learning to do these things on their own. As missionaries we
did countless hours of service a week sometimes even doing the very same things
mentioned in the article like helping get water and wood for thei fires. I love
the people of the Polochic area and am glad to see them gaining a better life.
Sorry K, but governments can't do much of anything right.
Of course handwashing wasn't done frequently. If you had to carry water and wood
were such an effort you'd stop too. The other problem is when you
bring water and school structures to communities sometimes they become desired
and a target. This is more the case in African nations. Every cure seems to have
it's issues. But most of the day won't be wasted on water or wood. So someone
has a lighter load. I wish governments could do more to relocate
people to an area that can receive infrastructure like water and heating source
for cooking and education if they can't serve where they currently live.
@Hutterite- Sheesh. The Church can't do anything right, according to you. The
glass IS half-full sometimes buddy.
Many organizations have learned that you must have the community take ownership
in projects such as those described in this story.When an outside
organization comes into a village and puts in a well and provides clean water,
it lasts only until there is a breakdown in the equipment and that is the
end.When the community is involved and they provide labor and more
importantly, leadership, the result is different. You set up a for profit water
company where locals run the water company and they will have enough to pay for
repairs when needed and the system becomes self sustaining. It can also work as
a non-profit but they must charge a fee so the equipment can be maintained.A little education can go a long way in these small communities.Clean water, Washing hands, Washing food, Purifying water all translate to
better health and greater productivity. You get much more work done when you
are health than sick.High productivity means wealth.What a
blessing both temporally and spiritually.
Our missionaries in Miami came and read to the children at our elementary
school, as their "service" time. The kids loved it, the teachers and
parents appreciated it.
@Ernest T Bass- I understand what you're saying. But, the objective of
missionary work is to bring saving ordinances to people. The rest is a bonus.
I saw this article and brushed it off as another feel-good piece. But as I
skimmed its contents, I became fascinated with the Church's approach. The
concepts of this project are so applicable to our own lives. I was intrigued by
this comment of Don Clark: "We really did take a holistic approach to this.
You can't solve a community's problems with a single project. You can't go in
and build a school and leave town. We started with a water project, and we
started with hygiene classes with the women, and we built from there." It's
also interesting they started with the women. If you want to initiate positive
change in a society, start with the women.
Ernest - Again, you just don't get it. Have you never heard the "teach a
man to fish" analogy? Throwing money at the problems NEVER
helps in the long term. Ennabling people to find self worth by having them
engage in and take ownership of the project, with financial and material help
from outside sources makes a difference in their lives, their confidence level,
and their desire to forge a better life for themselves, their families, their
communities and their countries.If the Church were doing this for
PR, sure, they could write a big check that would make very little difference in
the long run. But that's not what this is about. These peoples' lives are
changed forever, and generations down the road will bless their involvement in
building the water system and the school long after anyone remembers that the
Church financed it.
This was inspirational! It just shows what happens when you "teach people
correct principles and let them govern themselves". Putting the masses on
welfare will only destroy ultimately not help.
How much more of these projects could they do with say, $4billion?
RE: Ernest T. BassAlso, mormon missionaries don't just tract all day
long. In my mission we tracted from 9:30am-12:30pm five days a week. That was
it, no more and no less. Tracting was simply the only way to reach some people.
The rest of the day we would do service projects (lots of them and very
frequently), we would visit struggling members, we would visit member's homes
for dinner and speak with their friends. That is a small glimpse of the things
we would do. Tracting was an essential, but small, part of the overall
RE: Ernest T. BassThe church's purpose isn't to simply gain
converts, it's to bring souls to Jesus Christ. It's for individuals to repent of
their sins and feel the sweet peace of forgiveness and hope that comes from
following Jesus Christ. The focus for the LDS church will never be
simply to get people clean water (as good as an objective as that is). The
objective will always be to help people become followers of Christ. President
Benson said this statement:"The Lord works from the inside out.
The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the
slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves
out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. The
world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature."Missionaries will continue to bring people to Christ. The church as a
whole will continue to bring people clean water. People coming to Christ will do
more than a water program ever will. I converted as a poor teenager in a rural
area, now I have attended graduate school. I have lived this exact principle.
@ Mr. Bass;Are you not aware of the thousands of humanitarian-only
missionaries, and that the proselyting missionaries also have a mandatory
service component? I bet you at least once a week the local proselyting
missionaries are helping with this school.....
@Hutterite- it is those very "conditions" which made the humanitarian
projects successful. Unconditional handouts don't foster self sufficiency, but
rather dependency. Surely you can see that.
Great story. Always uplifting. Heartwarming. But, and there is always a but,
it's aid with conditions.
Thank you for this great story.
Great idea for a post doc in sociology, study this town for the next 5 years and
chart changes to the "culture" of the town. Des News should hook up
with this post doctoral student to report yearly on the progress, trial, etc, of
this town that has been radically (or not so) changed. Let's get 'er done Des
It's this level of poverty that leads to illegal immigrants coming across the
border.This is what I wish the young missionaries would be sent out to do.
The world would be a better place and I would wager everything I own that the
LDS church would win more converts than having missionaries just tract all day
Such good people just need a little help and they take off. I can't even
imagine spending that much time to get water. We are so blessed here in
America. Thank you for insight into these peoples lives.
I would love to read more heartwarming stories like this one. In a world of
suffering, it's nice to know that we can make a difference in others' lives.
One step at a time... Thank you for the story!
Always good to see the truely poor receive assistance.I think
America's "poor" need to look at the living conditions of these
families in Guatemala and reassess whether or not America's poor really are all
that bad off.