LDS Church helps as Guatemalans bring water, education to their village

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    July 23, 2011 10:42 a.m.

    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!

  • Neil Birch Murray, Utah
    July 20, 2011 2:21 p.m.

    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!

    July 11, 2011 11:15 a.m.


    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.

  • AggieFan82 OGDEN, UT
    July 11, 2011 10:52 a.m.

    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.

  • JRJ Pocatello, ID
    July 10, 2011 11:41 p.m.

    Sorry K, but governments can't do much of anything right.

  • K Mchenry, IL
    July 10, 2011 10:05 p.m.

    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.

  • md Cache, UT
    July 10, 2011 9:35 p.m.

    @Hutterite- Sheesh. The Church can't do anything right, according to you. The glass IS half-full sometimes buddy.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    July 10, 2011 9:24 p.m.

    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.

  • cindyacre Shelley, ID
    July 10, 2011 7:02 p.m.

    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.

  • blue fish LEHI, UT
    July 10, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    @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.

  • LawMama Highland, UT
    July 10, 2011 1:43 p.m.

    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.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    July 10, 2011 1:35 p.m.

    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.

  • JRJ Pocatello, ID
    July 10, 2011 10:40 a.m.

    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.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    July 10, 2011 10:39 a.m.

    How much more of these projects could they do with say, $4billion?

  • BYUCOLORADO Castle Rock, CO
    July 10, 2011 9:20 a.m.

    RE: Ernest T. Bass

    Also, 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 missionary efforts.

  • BYUCOLORADO Castle Rock, CO
    July 10, 2011 9:16 a.m.

    RE: Ernest T. Bass

    The 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.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    July 10, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    @ 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.....

  • TripleCrown Santa Ana, CA
    July 10, 2011 8:18 a.m.

    @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.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    July 9, 2011 11:37 p.m.

    Great story. Always uplifting. Heartwarming. But, and there is always a but, it's aid with conditions.

  • Mrs. Boise, ID
    July 9, 2011 10:39 p.m.

    Thank you for this great story.

  • weedeater Murray, UT
    July 9, 2011 9:47 p.m.

    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 News.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    July 9, 2011 9:19 p.m.

    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 long.

  • Rob Logan, UT
    July 9, 2011 7:54 p.m.

    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.

  • Juliet Bountiful, UT
    July 9, 2011 6:52 p.m.

    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!

  • runwasatch Ogden, UT
    July 9, 2011 6:22 p.m.

    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.