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Retalhuleu, Guatemala

I arrived in Retalhuleu on December 27, 1974. My first companion was Elder Val Bell. Retalhuleu had about 40,000 people, four missionaries, and 19,000 pigs. It was different from my previous area in Ahuachapán, El Salvador. The people weren’t as friendly, and the temperature was about 45 degrees hotter and humid. In Ahuachapán, I learned from Elder Greer how to be friendly with everyone. When Elder Greer first arrived in Ahuachapán, the people weren’t very friendly with the missionaries, but within a few weeks, he was good friends with everyone. Our best friends were the police, the guardia (military), and the people at the post office. In Retalhuleu, that wasn’t the case.

Things moved at a slower pace in Retalhuleu. I was used to teaching an average of 11 lessons a week. For the six weeks I was in Retalhuleu, we taught an average of seven lessons. We only averaged 52 hours a week effective time (with investigators), compared with an average of 61 hours in Ahuachapán. In Retalhuleu, there was also a lot of walking—sometimes 12–15 miles a day.


Val Dean Bell, January 1975

On January 16, Elder Bell and the other set of missionaries were reassigned, and I was assigned to Elder Matthew Fenn Hilton, with just two missionaries in Retalhuleu. President Arnold asked me to be the senior companion for a week. After that, we functioned as co-senior companions.

On February 1, I learned that I would be reassigned out of Retalhuleu. On February 4, we went to Xela (Quetzaltenango) and I met my new companion, Elder David Frischknecht. I found out that I would be going to Patzicía to be part of the Church’s Indian program, would have to learn a new language (Cakchiquel), and would most likely spend the rest of my mission there. I was to be senior companion, since Elder Frischknecht has only been in the mission five weeks.