In the above explanation I use the terminology “Ammon-like” that will be used throughout this writing, and especially for non-Mormon readers I should explain. Ammon was an important young man from ancient America whose life is detailed in the Book of Mormon, that Mormons, or LDS people, believe to be the history of ancient America and a companion book with the Bible, both of which we accept as sacred history and “witnesses of Jesus Christ.” Ammon had been a rebellious son of an important leader, but who was converted much the same as had happened to Paul in the New Testament. With his conversion he believed the Lord wanted him to go as a missionary among a rebellious faction of his day the book calls, Lamanites.
Along with his brothers and companions they were criticized or “laughed to scorn” by their own people, but they nonetheless dedicated their lives to helping the Lamanites and were the first to experience success in such a dangerous God-appointed mission. The first phase of his effort was a span of 14 years, so “Ammon-like” usually refers to a 14 year period. Ammon himself actually continued among his Lamanite converts his entire life—I believe because he married one of them.
NOW BACK TO "THE STORY"
It couldn't be as bad as where gossip and rumor has taken the history causing the loss of many friends.
As explained further along, it would be…..
So, I will now begin to stick my neck out and give all a chance to understand this PART 2 of my autobiography entitled PREPARATION, but in this book, A FIFTY YEAR “IMPOSSIBLE DREAM” IN THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MAYA, will be Part 1: THE MYSTERIOUS CAUSE & PREPARATION TO ACT, followed by Part 2, The RISKY….JOURNEY, and concluded in Part 3, with the “rest of the story” in the COMPLETE FINAL REPORT that comes last.
To guide me in gradually revealing all--I had a very profound dream, that two times was interrupted by waking for various reasons, but each time as I went back to bed, the dream continued without missing a beat, convincing me it was much more than a simple dream.
I saw myself invited to speak in LDS General Conference but told not to worry about what I would say as it would be on the teleprompter. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to prepare in my mind a special message just in case.
For better understanding I’ll quote a few paragraphs of that future chapter—THE RISKY…..JOURNEY, as it mentions clearly our reasons and what would be our necessary preparation.
“Our final leaving for Guatemala was after having failed the first time, and we had to return to Provo, go back to work for Andersen Samplers & Consulting Service, and wait for authorization to go through Mexico with our huge load. I'll quote a paragraph or two for complete understanding, coming out of it with a list of our reasons for making the move.
“Two weeks or so later a telegram came and we packed up for the 2nd time and headed for Mexico. But this time, before leaving, had a 2-hour long heart-to-heart talk with my parents who had been understandably doubtful and scared to death about what we were to attempt. Dad had previously tried to talk me out of it in what at times almost became heated conversations. Once he shocked me saying,
"No cursed people in the history of the world have ever been able to rise above it! You will be sacrificing you and your family in vain!"
I was shocked that a true believer in the BOOK OF MORMON would say such, and decided to not debate the matter anymore, rather quietly continue our preparations. Eventually, Dad, seeing my resolve decided to support us even without full understanding.
We had left the first time without any further discussion, but having to return "with my tail between my legs," as elderly Sister Cannon had predicted, I felt strongly there was purpose in it, and believed I had to have a heart to heart talk with mom and dad.
I requested they let me talk without interruption, but to jot down any comments or questions to deal with afterwards. I described emotionally the long chain of spiritual experiences had since I was a young boy.”
So, Maria was raised by her aunt, in Tierra Blanca, and they were all early converts to Mormonism we see in an old photograph of the LDS branch members.
Maria is the little girl shading her eyes on the left, next to her brother Albert, and then Graciela, also shading her eyes. I’ll insert below the complete group picture with a special purpose as in it we see on the back row, far left, one of the young—but very tall, full time LDS missionaries, who good fortune would have it was HAROLD BROWN, who years later became one of the most key actors in our entire history.
one tough bunch of little guys registered a new team,
WOW I LOVE FOOTBALL!
We then continued to Lake Atitlan that some believe to be
“the most beautiful lake in the world.”
We continued to Chichicastenango, and then back to the city and....
........down the Atlantic Coast Highway to visit the magnificent ruins of QUIRIGUA, getting more wonderful photographs.
....and on to the mountain stronghold of remote Coban—COLONIAL GUATEMALA where Maria was able to see there was one General Store, one Dental Clinic, one pharmacy, an old government Hospital and schools.
INTERESTING PROBLEM FROM TESTIMONY MEETING
Soon after returning from our trip to Guatemala having made a lot of headway with Maria, one of our Guatemalan members of the Branch, who along with her family had been converted by John O'Donnal in Retalhuleu, had also made a trip back to Guatemala. She stood in Testimony Meeting, and described how she had literally been tortured in Guatemala to witness all the poverty and suffering, and said it was so depressing that she had made the decision to forget all that human misery and never return to her country. I of course thought, "What a disaster! Rather than be concerned for her suffering people and wanting to do something to help, she rather put blinders on, and turned her back on her people."
Gratefully, Maria also reacted as I did. Interestingly years later when living in Guatemala I learned that said member's younger brother, Julio Cesar, an LDS University student in Guatemala City had become the leader of the main Guerrilla rebel group in the country. Somehow, as far as I know it never became public knowledge that he was a Mormon. Eventually he, and his brother, Alfonso, were both killed by Guatemalan security forces.
THE CHAT WITH MY PARENTS POINT OUT MORE KEY EVENTS
“perfect marriage” – finally.
"The devil is trying to tempt me!"
“You aren’t going with. I’m going alone!”
I continued my fast, and the next day, October 24th had the Sunday of my life. In Priesthood meeting, there was some kind of discussion going on, and the Elder’s Quorum President, Roque Quiroz, turned to me and said, “President Andersen, can you help us?” I gave a simple explanation.
From the beginning going through a period of 12 years "leaving it in the hands of the Lord," and then quite incredibly renewed with a period of 8 years of struggle—attempting to understand and do what the Lord wanted all three of us to do—and we should have made it then, yet again it would "be left in the hands of the Lord" and unbelievably 30 years would go by without neither Nora nor me having any knowledge of the other—but always loving, never forgetting and always believing. During those years the plot would thicken somewhat and I would actually be given the opportunity to fulfill the covenant of Celestial Marriage, and in a tragic sense “loose Maria,” not as anticipated, but nonetheless sadly lost!
We see to the right Garth examining one of the negatives in my camper/darkroom, with containers of all the chemicals I had to use to process daily the film—to make sure what I was getting was professional quality for Garth’s purposes.
They needed help, and…
That 2-1/2 month trip—from mid-November to the end of January 1967, is mentioned in the RISKY….JOURNEY report, but so important in our long history that I will now insert a description of the highlights of that crucial exploration:
Our 75 day exploratory/investigative trip prior to actually making the big move, was eye opening in many ways with a couple of memorable, scary and dangerous experiences that helped prepare us for many years of residency—as one friend described it “living from crisis to crisis!” among the Maya. It was also a vacation for the family which was likely to be our last—as it worked out, our last in seven years before we were able to make a trip back to Utah in 1974. I’ll just recount here one series of learning experiences on our way down, and one scary one on our way home, along with mention of investigations, and experimentations with projects that could support us. The first I’ll begin calling it……..
……DAVID & THE WHITE HORSE
As we were accustomed to for our first years, we headed due south from Utah to cross the Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona. NOTE: Eventually we changed our route to and from the U.S. avoiding Mexico City, driving less in Mexico, and more in the U.S. on nice highways with safe Rest Areas. From Nogales to Guaymas and then slowly enjoying the many wonderful spots along the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez, and then inland through Guadalajara—to there all those areas a few years later became famous for the drug cartels’ production and trafficking of the narcotic drug trade.
From Guadalajara, we are inland beginning to climb into the mountains working our way towards high altitude, 7,350 foot high Mexico City. But, first we approached very large Lake Chapala—with its murky/muddy waters.
NOTE: This brings to mind a few years later when I was invited to make my every two month trip to the U.S. with some friends in their private plane. After spending the night at Tikal, we proceeded to Veracruz, Mexico where we found the mountains towards Mexico City all socked in fog which had them going up and down the coast, testing canyons hoping to find one open and low enough as our small plan couldn’t cope with altitudes over 15,000 feet. I went to sleep when they had found one, and woke up a while later seeing the pilot and his supposed navigator in deep conversation pouring over maps. Then the pilot turned around and asked me and my seat partner,
“Do either of you know where we are?”
Shocked I finished waking up and looked out the window, and luckily down below us a bit ahead and to the south was a very large lake with murky/muddy waters—I immediately recognized it as Lake Chapala and told them. Note: Directly above we see the Lake, and north of it Guadalajara. Veracruz is on the far right, the Pacific on the left. With that they found us on the map and made it safely to Guadalajara, let out a passenger, and finally we made it to the U.S. In northern Arizona we came to Flagstaff. The pilot was apparently navigating by following the highways below us, and from there was to head north following the highway to Page, and Flaming Gorge Dam, then to Kanab and then north to the west of the Wasatch Mountains to avoid bad weather.
At that point I went to sleep, awakening a while later and sensing we were heading east rather than north I looked down to notice the highway entering a town which wasn’t supposed to be there, and I mentioned that to the pilot, and they pulled out their maps and I showed them it was Winslow, Arizona to the east of Flagstaff. They had turned east rather than north at Flagstaff!
So we turned north and crossed Lake Powell mid-lake, flew over the Henry Mountains and Hanksville and soon were approaching Price with north Soldiers Summit locked in a storm and had to land st Price and have someone come from Utah Valley to get us home in a car!
After so many stupid errors we were lucky to have made it alive. That friend and pilot not surprisingly a few years later crashed his small plane unwisely trying to make an emergency trip in a storm from Provo to Nevada—the crashed plan was found the next day on the mountains east of Springville, with the pilot and the entire family he was taking dead!
Back to 1966 as we approached Lake Chapala 3 year old David was upfront with me. I had chewed him out quite harshly over nothing, and was making up to him with a hug. Ahead on the right were a few horses, facing away from the highway, but all of a sudden a white one wheeled abruptly jumping right in front of us and we crashed!
Our radiator was pushed into the fan that chewed up a portion with water squirting everywhere. Instantly I knew what I had to do. Off to the side of the road I pulled up close to a phone pole, and turned off the motor. I jumped out, got a chain….part of my emergency equipment, attached it to the radiator and the pole, then started the motor and slowly backed off separating the radiator and the fan so all functioned normally.
Yes, we lost most of our water and gradually losing the rest. I went to our emergency water, filled the radiator and quickly drove along the lake finding a place we could camp
out as we weren’t near any town. Lake Chapala is not in the least scenic, so I got no photos, except a few representing our emergency camp-out!
It would take a few days, but I had to plug up as best I could the many leaks using more of my emergency equipment—a large tube of liquid aluminum.
I quickly marked the leaks with chalk, then drained the radiator, ran the motor just a little so the warmth would dry the radiator, and plugged the leaks, then waited for the liquid aluminum to dry.
Then filled the radiator, warmed the motor, and marked additional leaks, and repeated the procedure a number of times taking several days while we had a great family camp-out.
Luckily this was one trip when I bought at the border insurance that would cover a repair, but we had to make it to Mexico City. My repair job was far from perfect so we had to have extra water to fill the radiator a number of times before making it to the City. The repair took several days, so we finally got to do a little site seeing in the giant City, with a few pictures to remind us of visits to museums and tourist spots. We finally continued
We finally made it southeast to Veracruz and on to Tierra Blanca, Maria’s hometown, visited relatives and then on to Guatemala where our investigations got serious making our way to Coban.
We camped out at the soccer stadium—one of the most picturesque I’ve ever seen. Too bad I can’t locate the left portion of the panorama shot showing the grandstands, and the whole bowl surrounded by pines that fill up with spectators.
We spent at least a month in the Coban area, made many new friends, including the governmental leaders, business and plantation owners and learned all we could. But we could have never guessed while camping out on the edge of the stadium, and even attending a soccer game won by Coban’s team, COBAN IMPERIAL, that one day our VALPARAISO-CENTER FOR INDIAN DEVELOPMENT students would actually be parading around the stadium for the Annual Fair presided over by Guatemala’s President Lucas who would award our CID’s participation—
1980 THE BEST OF THE FAIR!
We visited often the one General Store in Coban—EL GALLO, seen to the right, viewing here the textile/clothing/.footgear side, with the grocery section in the middle, then the hardware & agricultural sections on the other side. I met the owner, Carlos Daetz, one of a unique group of residents of the area of German descent from the two German migrations to Guatemala—in 1875 and 1925.. The Germans adapted well to the area and freely mixed with the native population, and contributed to the development of coffee and cardomon plantations, along with processing plants and exporting businesses.
By the time of the World War II, there was a well established German culture in the area even with a German language newspaper, and it was common to see sympathy manifested with them greeting each other with a Heil Hitler salute, and there was fear by the government of sabatoge—as Guatemala was one of the first, along with the U.S. to declare war on Germany. This resulted in plantations and properties being confiscated by the government and the Germans being sent back to Germany, or to concentration camps in the U.S.
Carlos Daetz was one of them spending the war in the U.S. and spoke perfect English, as well as Spanish, Kekchi and of course German. He was one who was able to recover his properties and businesses after the war. I learned a lot from him, and other acquaintances we established during that important period.
Later I met an LDS convert sister who was pure Q’eqchi, but who had married aSo it was common to see pure Q’eqchi speaking natives in the market who obviously had some European blood as seen to the right.
Many of our associations during that period of investigation was with those few who were LDS, and the pictures I have used showing the early pictures of the LDS branch were taken during that period, as seen below:
One thing that was missing in Coban at that time was entertainment. There had been a movie theater, but twice it had burned down. We put on a number of slide and 16 mm. movie shows using the chapel, but inviting our many friends who weren’t Mormons. Several shows were to give people a tour of Utah, along with some of the trips we would we take as a family every Christmas, celebrating that sacred day in non-commercial ways, inviting for tiny Christmas celebrations the poor, nomad-like fishermen along the Sea of Cortez, and teaching our children to share simple little gifts and food with needy people. I also showed them the slide show I had shown to the ex-missionary groupo in Salt Lake—showing the beauty of Guatemala, but also the many serious problems that we were planning on doing our best to solve. For Christmas Eve we invited all to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Program I had as a 16mm. movie, and a color movie about the Savior’s birth and life, I rented from an agency in Guatemala city I had established a formal relationship with for the future. All of them were smashing successes.
The basic idea would be to locate and rent a large house or building where a wall or two could be knocked down creating a large hall, such as the Church does to establish a chapel in the beginning. I’d rent 16 mm movies from the agency in the city, as well as always include an educational movies from embassies, and hope it could be a business 5 or 6 days a week.
Christmas was celebrated in our camper, just as a family with a few simple gifts you can see below.
We see in these two pictures, Cristina who would have been 3 years old, David, 4 years old, Julie 7, and Rich 3 months. We also went on picnics and fishing trips to the lake at San Cristobal.
Nothing was off-limits for me in my explorations and investigations of every aspect of life in the area, as you can observe in the following set of photographs from that trip—from meeting and getting to know well some of the most well-off families of the area, like “The Sisters de Leon,” and their Churches where the wealthy mixed freely with the Indians and then Indian Guatemala where the Q’eqchi natives practice a mixture of Catholicism and their Mayan traditions, all the way down to finally exploring the countryside—where we did not go as missionaries sent with a special purpose to Coban. Now, nothing was off-limits for me as I needed to really understand the people and the cultures of the area.