2019 Guatemala Trip Journal

Forty volunteers from Ensign Peak Academy are providing service in Guatemala. Check trip updates here:

Notes from Ruel Haymond

Photos from Carolyn Marriott

Saturday, July 6, 2019

IMG_0753Dear families,

We are about to bed down now for a comfortable and much-needed night’s rest. After traveling from Vegas and Texas and New Mexico and other places, to Guatemala and with a very long day of driving in a wonderful bus it is time to sleep.

Everyone arrived by about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and we’ve slept comfortably in the two hotels in Guatemala City. Our host that has breakfast and then Greg Jensen from Cultiva International showed up with a big chicken bus which is basically a US public school bus that is now used to take tourists around Guatemala and we drove from Guatemala City to the city of Xela (pronounced Shayla) to attend the temple.

IMG_0760We arrived at the temple and a lunch and then we went to do baptisms for the dead and some initiatory.

The weather is beautiful today with with a slight breeze and we were at an altitude of about 8,000 feet.

It was a great blessing to be in the temple with your children and to see the young men performing the baptisms and acting as witnesses. After we were done at the temple we returned the same direction we came and then worked our way slowly to Panajachel. We are blessed to arrive with enough light to see the lake and to be able to easily find our way to our hotel rooms.



Many of us are staying at the Cultiva International compound and the rest are at the Hotel Victoria. It is about 30 to 50 second walk between the two.






We quickly put our things in our rooms wash their hands and then we went to eat some delicious pizza and watermelon for dinner.

After dinner, Greg Jensen gave us an orientation regarding the rules and standards here and our schedule for tomorrow is we go to church in the morning.


IMG_0775We then had everyone turn to a neighbor and share the reasons why they came on the trip and what they were hoping to get from it and that turned into a really nice discussion about the purpose of the trip and how we can all find ourselves by losing ourselves. I shared some thoughts about the concept of identity and the Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary definitions of identity and sameness. We talked about how we are all created in the image of God and our united foundation as human beings on this Earth. I wish you could be here to hear your children’s comments. You would be so proud of their maturity and goodness. We closed by singing “Count Your Many Blessings” and then had a prayer.

IMG_0777The rest of the night was spent visiting playing, talking, laughing and then we had lights out at 10 pm.

More tomorrow…☺







Sunday, July 7, 2019


Sunday morning was a peaceful restful time and we were so grateful to have beds to sleep in. πŸ™‚ We had breakfast at 8:00 a.m. We had a devotional thought by the Wells family prior to eating and then we met in the common courtyard here at Casa Cultiva at 8:40 a.m., to walk the church.








The walk to church was about 10 minutes and we had to be careful walking along the roads as they are very narrow and you can only walk two deep going laterally to make sure that we’re not competing with took took (which are the motorcycles with a cab) and of course regular taxis and buses.

Sacrament was testimony meeting and so most of the testimonies were in Spanish and one was in English which I think was a delight for the kids. There were opportunities to hold babies and meet with a members of the ward here in Panajachel.


Group Photo at Church

After the Sakura meeting, we went downstairs in the church, and discussed the Come, Follow Me curriculum. We used Acts 2:37 to guide a discussion on how our hearts are pricked here in Guatemala. We asked ourselves the question – what do we do now, with this information, as the Spirit guides us in what we should do.

I shared a story from the great classic book To End All Wars about how, in a prisoner of war camp, there were various opportunities to help men pull out of their struggles with internal poverty and hopelessness, because of the conditions there. The story is about a man who helped another man learn to walk again. It was very inspiring and very appropriate.

IMG_0792After church we walked just down the road to a restaurant where we were treated with four different types of dishes we could choose from, and lemon soda, orange soda, orange water or lemon water. This is mineral water where they put in real orange juice and lemon juice. It is just is delightful.



After lunch, some of us returned to our living quarters to rest, while others went to visit the Catholic Cathedral.











Others went to walk down by the lake to enjoy the beautiful weather and the people.






Our dinner was held 6 p.m. Following dinner, Greg Jensen gave a marvelous presentation on the principles of Cultiva International and how they started their program here and the desire to help people pull themselves out of hopelessness, despair, shame, embarrassment and sadness. As Elder Benson said – the Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ with take the slums out of the people and then they would take themselves out of the slums.

The presentation stirred up many feelings, thoughts, hopes and ideas and we were able to have quite a discussion afterwards and apply the principles to our lives. We ended the night singing “As I have loved You” and then the kids enjoyed spending some time together before bedtime. We love and appreciate you. These are noble and kind young people.

Monday, July 8, 2019

IMG_0746Monday was our first work day in the field and it began with a devotional by the Fletcher family. One of sister Fletcher’s daughters named Rose sang a solo of “I Stand All Amazed.” It was beautiful. πŸ™‚ Following breakfast, we met in the courtyard of Casa Cultiva and divided into work groups and then entered the vans and began the drive to the homestead.






The homestead is a piece of property that has been donated to Cultiva International and that’s where the bulk of their training takes place, for the mothers who want to have a square foot garden.




They learn from seed to plate, how to go through the whole process and then they earn a box. It is a 10-hour training course.







It was exciting yesterday because the mayor of the local municipality was there to congratulate and thank Cultiva for the work that they’ve done and even said that even though he will not be re-elected in 6 months, he is willing to donate land to Cultiva if the city decides not to allow them to use the land they are using now.

There was even a television camera there so some of us may end up on Guatemala television. πŸ™‚

IMG_0843There we were trained on how to work as groups in the field and the discussion focused on the goal to be effective and not efficient. Efficient means we go in there, wave to the family and do all the work for them whereas effective means we go there and with the family we work together and visit and laugh and cry and smile. πŸ™‚

One of the highlights with my group was with the first family and it was Adam Willard making a 3-month old baby laugh from the belly. πŸ™‚ you ought to check it out on Debra Fletcher’s Facebook page. πŸ™‚




After preparing about 4-5 boxes per family we headed back to our hotels and rested before dinner.






Our dinner was a delicious taco salad with so many colors and flavors and nutrition and so plentiful that we almost forgot that Italian gelato is available here in Panajachel. I took a large group to get gelato but we found that the store was closed and we ended up just getting a little bit of ice cream, but we will one day very soon have our gelato. πŸ™‚


Our devotional was held at 8:00 p.m. and we started by reflecting on what we had learned that day and our experiences with the people and building relationships with them. We also talked about the application of the principles of self-reliance and the most effective way of doing humanitarian work.








I shared with them some stories and information for the book called The Mainspring of Human Progress and then shared an example of a woman that I know from Utah County who recently had an experience that has helped her to deal with her internal poverty in a beautiful way. We all have internal poverty at different times in our lives and thank goodness we all have access to prayer and to the tender mercies of the Lord.




Tuesday, July 10, 2019

On Tuesday our schedule was the same as Monday in that we had our morning devotional breakfast and then headed off in different vans to do work in the field. Again the blessing of working with people in their homes at their homes with their children is always magical and marvelous. To watch a father play soccer with his little two-year-old son and entertain us while we’re helping build boxes and have the clouds settle up on us and then disappear like wisps on the wind and then come again because of the altitude at which we are working.

Van 2

After we finished our work, we traveled toward Panajachel and we able to stop at a beautiful lookout point with a view that was just magical, of the lake and the surrounding volcanoes, hills, mountains and villages. Soon we were dropped off at a restaurant in town where there was an all-you-can-eat taco buffet bar and it was amazing.

Following that, we walked down the street to a local gelato place and there we were able to taste strawberry, passion fruit, mango, lemon, pineapple and dark chocolate gelato. After walking back to the hotel, we held our devotional and we had Debora Fletcher speak to us about her experiences with sustaining and supporting the family at the United Nations and also some stories about her father who was from Guatemala and about the hero that he was and is in this country and in their family.

We love you all! Learning here at Casa Cultiva is a healing, transformative experience. Everyone must experience this.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

We awoke to a delicious breakfast and then met in the courtyard to begin our walk toward the lake. We stopped to exchange money and then we met our guide who would be helping us get into two different boats. Those boats would take us across the vast expanse of Lake Atitlan.

The Sun was shining and the water was gorgeous and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the ride to San Juan our first stop. In San Juan, our entire group met with an artist who, with his wife and a variety of other artists, runs an art gallery there. We had a very nice tour and then an opportunity to purchase pieces of artwork.

Following that we divided into two groups and one group went to learn about weaving and textiles and another group about leather work. We were able to meet some of the people who do the work personally by hand. We then did some shopping. πŸ™‚

We then returned to the dock and boarded the boats and headed to San Marcos where we enjoyed a delicious curry bar. There were at least seven different types of curry with salad and lemonade. Just to remind you, the the food has been amazing here!

Also the scriptures are very clear when they say it is by their food that ye shall know them. πŸ™‚

Following our lunch we walked to a large platform called the trampoline. It is about 35-40 feet above the water. We began jumping in. The weather was perfect and we could see the volcanoes and cities that surround the lake. We felt grateful to be in Guatemala.

Great View

There was quite a bit of happy drama during the jumping, as many of our participants overcame quite a few fears to jump into the water. It was fun to hear their peers and friends cheer for them as they they made the jump. πŸ™‚


After a couple of hours of jumping we noticed that there was a storm crossing the lake, so Greg Jensen said it was time to get in the boats and we had a fun bumpy ride all the way back to the shore, with rain coming into the boats and tarps protecting us from the rain. It all makes for a great story.

After the boating, some people went shopping while most went home to shower and prepare for supper. Dinner was a delicious and very nice pasta bar. The devotional following supper focused on the worth of a soul, which was a continuation of Candice Slack’s morning devotional. The spirit of the Lord was present and all were edified. πŸ™‚

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Thursday was another work day and we began it again with a very delicious breakfast and then we filled up three vans and headed off into the rural areas surrounding Panajachel.


The next few hours were spent with a variety of different families, helping them build their own square foot garden boxes and building relationships with children and adults. we were divided into four different groups.

Boy and Girl

For lunch, we met together and enjoyed each other’s company and then went out one more time as separate groups to work with families. One of the families that my group worked with was a mother of 10 children, eight of which are still living. We spent quite a bit of time with her youngest child who is 10-years-old. She was as bright and adorable as any girl I’ve ever met and I was impressed with her maturity and adult-like behavior. I found out while visiting with this girl that her mother is a bone healer and works with broken bones in the community.

Wells with Guatemalans

It is hard to explain how pretty everything is here with the corn as tall as a basketball hoop and fruit trees surrounding us and just beautiful people everywhere. We returned home for a dinner of a Guatemalan tacos and tamales. Following dinner we went to get some gelato and then return for the evening’s devotional.


During the devotional, I asked everyone to share three or more experiences or feelings about each other. I mentioned names one by one, and hands raised and kind comments were heard. It was beautiful.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday was our final full day in Guatemala. It started with a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, black beans, plantains, watermelon and tortillas. Our drive to the zipline was about 11 minutes long and soon we were signing disclaimers, getting our little bracelets and entering the reserve where we would zipline as well as enjoy the butterfly sanctuary.

Wells at Farm

Each person was outfitted with the proper equipment, gloves, helmet for the zipline and then we went thru a training process where those who would like to practice on a small zipline could make sure they knew how to properly brake.

Zipline 1

Then we walked up through the jungle and enjoyed spider monkeys around us and the noise of birds and bugs. We finally reached a platform where we stood in line until one by one, we were attached to the zipline and sent off for a wonderful ride. There were eight different lines that we went on.

Zipline 2

After the zipline adventure, we returned to drop off our equipment and then we ventured to the butterfly sanctuary to enjoy this very beautiful place, with butterflies flying around us and landing on us, and feeling the peace that was there.

We then drove 10 minutes down from the reserve to Panajachel. There awaiting us was a delicious lunch with chicken burgers and breaded chicken and soup with a variety of different vegetables, fruits, guacamole and lots and lots of horchata.

After lunch, and for the rest of the afternoon, we enjoyed shopping and bartering and resting and more shopping and bartering and resting. πŸ™‚ We made sure that after supper we had enough time to go and get some more ice cream before we left this beautiful city. πŸ™‚

Our devotional was simple and we talked about logistics for traveling the next day and then we were each given a picture of the group from the zipline reserve and a special pen from Cultiva.

After devotional, most of us left to travel home. ☺

What a blessing it has been to be here! Thank you so much for your love and support.