This is Augustina Choc and her family. It’s not a great picture. You can see my thumb holding it. This was the passport picture the Choc family of Patzicia, Guatemala had when they went by bus to the Mesa, Arizona temple. They saved for years to make this trip. There were a few other families with them. One of the women who participated, Rosalia Tum, told me in her broken Spanish (she speaks Cakchiquel) how touched she was that “everyone was dressed alike.” There were no distinctions based on wealth or lineage. This was unusual for her. Her family was poor, and the Indians in her village rarely had much power.
Augustina was the mother of the first Cakchiquel Indian missionary, Daniel Choc. She was at his missionary farewell, as was I. The entire town came to see Daniel take his place among the white Americans. He, as a native speaker of Cakchiquel, had access which the “gringos” could not duplicate.
On February 4, 1976, an earthquake jolted Guatemala. 27,000 Cakquiqueles were killed. Among the dead were Augustina, who was eight months pregnant, and two of her children. A month later, Daniel died while rebuilding another city.
I don’t know much about Augustina’s life, as I met her only once. I don’t know if she, like other women I met, walked for several hours to get over a mountain in order to do visiting teaching, but I’m guessing she did. I assume she worked, selling produce at the market or taking horchata to workers. Such is the way there.
Others I don’t have pictures of:
Sharon, my father’s student in Mainland China.(She has a Chinese name, but I can’t spell it.) She became a Christian and insisted on going to university campuses and reading from the Bible, knowing that she could be arrested. She felt called by God to do this.
Sister Patricia in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela. She cleaned the church and served as the Relief Society president. She loved toll painting, and gave each sister a hand-painted kerchief for Mother’s Day–a day which was particularly hard for her, since her son had died only a year earlier.
Mona, a single mother in Momostenango, Guatemala, who took care of the missionaries, cooking their meals and cleaning their apartment.
Cestra Nina Byzarskaya, a brilliant woman in Russia who joined the church and became the Relief Society president. Her son later served in my parents’ mission in the Baltics.
Our sisterhood is global. My first responsibilities are caring for these sisters who don’t always enjoy the access to education, medical care, and even clean water like I do. If I am living according to my faith, I give what I can to better their lives.
This thought by C.S. Lewis informs my life, my thoughts, and my future plans:
“No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.”