Comalapa was a town of about 25,000 people, and unlike many other towns around it, Cakchiquel is spoken virtually all the time. Even most of the very few Latins who live in Comalapa speak Cakchiquel. It was also a close-knit community that was skeptical of outsiders. Thus, it was important that the missionaries speak Cakchiquel and gain the trust of the people. The town was very religious—either strongly Protestant or strongly Catholic. It would be important to establish the Church correctly, so that the townspeople didn’t see it as a Gringo church or as a church just for Latins, but as a church for the whole community. Therefore, the first families we baptized would need to be the right families.
In 1975, President Arnold called two missionaries (Elder Taz Evans and Elder Steve Schmoliger) to go into the town of Comalapa and open it to missionary work for the first time—the first time the Restored Gospel had been preached it that town. The missionaries dedicated themselves and worked hard.
On October 21, 1975, I received word that I had been reassigned from Patzicía to Comalapa to join the two Elders already there, and that my companion would be Elder Daniel Choc, the native Cakchiquel missionary from Patzicía! He was a very dedicated missionary. Read more about Elder Choc on the page about the earthquake.
Here’s our district report for December 1975. That month, I taught 130 lessons in 99 hours, with 64 hours study time, and 264 total proselyting hours. My best teaching day was with Elder Choc. We committed to teaching 10 lessons in one day with 10 hours contacting time. I remember we ran from door to door to find people to teach, and by about 9:00pm we had taught nine lessons. We needed one more lesson, and we said we would reach the goal even if we had to teach a drunk in the street. We finally found a man at home who agreed to let us in and hear our message. Part way through the lesson, we realized that the man had been drinking. So, we did get our ten lessons and we did teach a man who was drunk!
Progress brought about a search for a building to rent in Comalapa where we could hold church services. We found a few possibile buildings. We selected the green house behind the Catholic church for Q25 a month and in late January 1976, the mission office sent benches, pulpit, blackboard, etc.
We ate our meals at the Hotel Don Juan, a small place a block away. One morning when we arrived to eat breakfast, Don Juan wasn’t there, so we asked the Indian lady who cooked the meals where he was. She shrugged her shoulders and said “Cuando yo venís, ella no está.”
Letter to my family, dated April 3, 1976. I inform my family that Elder Choc died, and they I had returned to Comalapa.
Upon returning to Comalapa after the earthquake Camp Patzicía, we lived in a 13’ x 9’ tent in the back of the house we lived in before the earthquake. There were four missionaries in that tent. We had good food, and the only flush toilet and hot-water shower in town.
On May 13, 1976, I wasn’t feeling well, so I visited an American doctor who was working at the emergency hospital still functioning in the town square in Comalapa. He gave me a test and said that I had several different types of intestinal worms (tape worms and Ascaris eggs) and parasites (Strongyloides stercoralis). He gave me a prescription for 22 tablets 300mg of Piperazine. I asked him how many to take per day, and he said “I want you to take 11 pills today and 11 more tomorrow. That should kill most of them. Then come back and we’ll test you again to see which kinds of worms are left and we’ll treat you for those.”
People of Comalapa
The Miza family was the first family to be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the town of Comalapa, Guatemala.
- Read Elder Taz Evan’s story about finding, teaching, and baptizing the Mizas.
- Read Elder Larry Richman’s story about the Mizas.
Sister Miza passed away June 21, 2007.
On December 10, 2013: I (Larry Richman) was on Facebook and Noe Miza messaged me. He was sitting in his living room in Guatemala with his mom and dad and wondered if I wanted to video chat with them. I didn’t have a camera on my computer, so we just messaged back and forth a little. Noe had just bought his dad a tablet and set up a Facebook page for him. Rigoberto’s profile picture (see below) was of him and his wife Elena in front of the Salt Lake Temple with Lery Nelson Miza and his new wife. Noe said, “that’s my brother named after you! And that’s his wife from Chile. It is great and good memories of Larry Richman the missionary! This is part of the blessing that came thru your service!”
I pointed them to some pictures of their family that I had posted online. After they looked at them, Noe responded, “Hey! that´s me and my bro! Seems we were not sad. Thanks for the memories. I fully remember. Ok, this is Lery Nelson my brother.” As I pointed them to more of their family pictures, Noe responded, “This is amazing. Wow wow and wow! I feel something in my throat. This is incredible. Thanks for sharing, we are commenting here.” Then Noe sent me the picture below of him and his wife.
In closing the conversation, Noe said, “Thanks Larry for taking, keeping and sharing my family photos. You missionaries did a huge and total change in a Lamanite generation. Thanks!”
On October 17, 2016, Melanie Miza posted the following on Facebook. She is Noe’s daughter. (Noe being one of Rigoberto’s sons.) Melanie came back from her mission last February, and in March her brother Fielding left for a mission to Quito, Ecuador.
“Rama San Juan Comalapa. Hace mas o menos 43 años mis a abuelos fueron las primeras personas en entrar a las aguas bautismales en este lugar. Esta semana leímos una pagina en donde el Elder Taz Evans describia la conversion de mis abuelos, Estoy profundamente agradecida por la manera en la que el Señor trabajó a traves de estos misioneros. Tres generaciones hemos sido bendecidos grandemente por el Señor a partir de ese día. Hoy tuvimos la oportunidad de asistir a la Rama de Comalapa. Me encantó compartir con los miembros alli 😀
Gracias Larry Richman por recopilar toda la Historia de la Iglesia en Comalapa!”
Translation: About 43 years ago, my grandparents were the first people to enter the waters of baptism in Comalapa. This week, we read a page where Elder Taz Evans described my grandparents’ conversion. I am profoundly grateful for the way the Lord worked through those missionaries. Three generations have been greatly blessed by the Lord since that day. Today, we had the opportunity to attend the Comalapa Branch. I enjoyed being with those members. Thanks to Larry Richman for gathering the history of the Church in Comalapa!