LDS missionaries teaching in the fields of Guatemala

Comalapa, Guatemala

The road into Comalapa

The road into Comalapa

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 closed-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.

Propaganda sign in Comalapa

Signs that appeared at the doors of many houses.

LDS missionaries in Comalapa, Guatemala: Elder Frischknecht, Elder Argueta, Elder Choc, and Elder Richman

LDS missionaries in Comalapa: Elder Frischknecht, Elder Argueta, Elder Choc, and Elder Richman standing on the street in front of Walter Matzer's house where we rented two rooms.

LDS missionaries in Comalapa, Guatemala: Elders Richman, Argueta, Choc, Evans, Frischknecht, and Larson

Missionaries in Comalapa: Elder Frischknecht, Elder Argueta, Elder Choc, and Elder Richman

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!

Elder Richman and Elder Choc heading out for a day working in the fields to meet people

Elder Richman and Elder Choc heading out for a day working in the fields to meet people

Elder Choc working in the fields

Elder Choc working in the fields

Elder Choc teaching a man and his son in the fields of Comalapa, Guatemala

Elder Choc teaching a man and his son in the fields of Comalapa, Guatemala

Elder Choc staying dry from the rain wearing a large leaf

Elder Choc staying dry from the rain wearing a large leaf

Elder Choc and Elder Salazar standing in the street after a heavy rain

Elder Choc and Elder Salazar standing in the street after a heavy rain

Elder Richman and Elder Choc knocking on a door in Comalapa

Elder Richman and Elder Choc knocking on a door in Comalapa

In front of our house in Comalapa

Street in front of our house in Comalapa

Street scene in Comalapa

Street scene in Comalapa

Catholic church in Comalapa before the earthquake

Catholic church in Comalapa before the earthquake

Catholic church in Comalapa a few months after the earthquake

Catholic church in Comalapa a few months after the earthquake (Photo courtesy Michael Morris)

Comalapa Catholic churches rebuilt

In 2009, showing the facade of the old Comalapa Catholic church rebuilt and a new church beside it.

Elder Luis Manuel Argueta working in the field

Elder Luis Manuel Argueta working in the field

Elder Bradley Hixon teaching in the fields in Comalapa

Elder Bradley Hixon teaching in the fields in Comalapa

Waiting for a bus in Comalapa: Elders Richman, Hixson, and Larson

Waiting for a bus in Comalapa: Elders Richman, Hixson, and Larson

Getting on a bus: Elders Choc, Evans, and Frischknecht

Getting on a bus: Elders Choc, Evans, and Frischknecht

Elder Larson carrying a table down the street to set up for the "¿Qué es un Mormón?"

Elder Larson carrying a table down the street to set up for the "¿Qué es un Mormón?" night

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.

Elders Richman and Hixon at the Comalapa church (rented building)

Elders Richman and Hixon at the Comalapa church (rented building)

Elder Choc teaching at the Comalapa cemetary on the Día de los Santos, November 1, 1975

Elder Choc teaching at the Comalapa cemetery on the Día de los Santos, November 1, 1975

Elder Frischknecht teaching at the Comalapa cemetary on the Día de los Santos, November 1, 1975

Elder Frischknecht teaching at the Comalapa cemetery on the Día de los Santos, November 1, 1975

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."

Hotel Don Juan, Comalapa, Guatemala

An ad for the Hotel Don Juan in the local paper

Elders Luis Manuel Argueta and Larry Richman in front of our house in Comalapa

Elders Luis Manuel Argueta and Larry Richman in front of our house in Comalapa

Elder Richman in our room in Comalapa,  Christmas 1975

Elder Richman in our room in Comalapa, Christmas 1975

Elder Choc studyingElder Choc studying

Elder Choc with headphonesElder Choc with headphones

Elder Argueta, "El Manín"

Elder Argueta, "El Manín"

Elders Argueta, Richman, Robbins

After camp Patzicía ended, we returned to Comalapa and lived in this tent. Elders Argueta, Richman, Robbins

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."

Elder Larsen and Victor at his baptism in Rio Pixcaya

Elder Larsen and Victor Manuel Simón Caná at his baptism in Rio Pixcaya on May 6, 1976

People of Comalapa

Elder Argueta and Walter Matzer

Elder Argueta and Walter Matzer. Walter was our landlord in Comalapa. (Our maid called him "La Valter.")

Elder Richman, Walter Matzer, Elder Argueta

Elder Richman, Walter Matzer, Elder Argueta

Mario Matzer in Comalapa, Guatemala

Mario Matzer, also known as Ma Patix. His truck was named "El Pecador."

Miza Family

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.

Miza family with Elder Kelly Robbins

Miza family with Elder Kelly Robbins: Maria Elena Miza, Rigoberto Miza, Hugo Miza, and Noe Miza

Rigoberto & Elena Miza family

Miza family: Elena, Rigoberto, Hugo, Noe

Miza family: Elena, Rigoberto, Hugo, Noe

See the baptismal service program and the recommends for Rigoberto and Elena.

Miza-baptism-Schmo-Evans-Maria-Elena-Rigo-Hugo-Noe

At the baptism of the Miza family, January 23, 1976: Elder Steven Schmolinger, Elder Taz Evans, Maria Elena Miza, Rigoberto Miza, Hugo Miza, and Noe Miza

Elder Taz Evans baptizing Rigoberto Miza

Elder Taz Evans baptizing Rigoberto Miza

Elder Taz Evans baptizing Rigoberto Miza

Elder Taz Evans baptizing Rigoberto Miza

Elder Steven Schmolinger baptizing Maria Elena Miza

Elder Steven Schmolinger baptizing Maria Elena Miza

Returning to Comalapa after the baptism

Returning to Comalapa after the baptism

Elena and Rigoberto Miza and their new baby Lery Nelson Miza

Elena and Rigoberto Miza and their new baby Lery Nelson Miza. The baby was named after Elder Larry Richman and Elder Nelson.

Lery Nelson Miza in Comalapa in 1978

Lery Nelson Miza in Comalapa in 1978

elena-lery-rigo-new-house-1978-high.jpg

Elena and Rigoberto Miza and Lery Nelson Miza in their new house in Comalapa in July 1978

Rigoberto Miza family about 1995

Miza family about 1995. The baby is Melanie.

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!”

Elena Miza, Lery Nelson Miza, Lery's wife, Rigoberto Miza

Elena Miza, Lery Nelson Miza, Lery's wife, and Rigoberto Miza

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.

Noe Miza and his wife

Noe Miza 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!”

Elena and Rigoberto Miza

A picture of Elena and Rigoberto Miza that Noe posted on Rigoberto’s Facebook page.

See other pictures of the Miza family when Elder Richman saw them at Tikal at the end of his mission.