In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, young men age 18 are asked to serve a 2 year mission. Young women age 19 and older can serve if they so desire for 18 months, and many do (my daughter is serving in South Korea right now and loves it).
My character James in Eyes of Light—who you were introduced to last week–serves a mission in Guatemala when the story begins. I based his experiences off my little brother’s mission there about eight years ago. His letters fascinated me. I tease my brother that my character James is like him—only cool. (Siblings can get away with being rude in a loving way like that) 🙂
Here’s an excerpt from Eyes of Light to give you a glimpse of James as a missionary. (And in case you don’t know, male missionaries go by the title “Elder Last Name” and female missionaries go by the title Sister, or Hermana, in Spanish). Later in the book, James finishes his mission and heads off to college. This snippet takes place in the coastal region of Guatemala when he’s still a missionary.
As Elder Hinton marched along the cobblestone street, he studied the menacing clouds. Glancing at a passing yard, he gulped and did a double take. “Hey, Compa,” he addressed his companion, “look.” He nodded to a white cement house.
Elder Cinta glanced over and laughed at a grayish-white alligator tied to a pole in front of a house. Terra cotta pots with tropical plants graced the wall behind the reptile, giving the impression of quiet tranquility.
Cinta grinned. “I say we skip that house.”
“I think you’re the smartest companion I’ve ever had,” Elder Hinton snickered, pulling out his camera and snapping a few shots to prove such a thing was real.
They continued up the narrow street, chuckles escaping as they thought about the guard alligator. It did its job well. They hadn’t been tempted in the least to knock at that door.
So far, it’d been a lousy day in Semillero. The alligator was actually a good way to end. They’d spent hours opening their mouths, but had been unable to get into a single door to preach a lesson. The hour-long bus ride to get here had been a total waste of time and quetzales.
A gust of wind blew, lightning flashed and loud rolling thunder broke the heavens, reverberating around them. As they dodged a motorcycle, another sizzling bolt made their eyes widen. Ground-shaking thunder followed. In an instant, the scattered rain turned into great sheets of water pouring down from the sky.
Pulling his backpack over his head, Elder Cinta shouted, “I see the bus! Hurry!”
They ran to the main street and packed onto an overcrowded city bus. Standing in the aisle, they wiped their drenched faces. In the next town, a group of girls squeezed on beside them. James squirmed as they turned their attention to him, the only gringo on the bus.
“Oooo, look at me,” one of the girls demanded as she batted her eyelashes. He swallowed hard as he met her bold gaze. She giggled and said in halting English, “Oooo, boo-teeful blue eyes!” Another one whistled and said in primitive English, “You…are…cute giant.”
When Elder Cinta raised his eyebrows, Hinton’s face burned. One of the girls yanked his arm and batted her eyes as she asked in Spanish, “You guys teach people in their houses, right?
Another girl winked. “Come…my house, man handsome. I want you…me teach!” All the girls chimed in, some in crude English, most in suggestive Spanish: “Yes, teach me,” or “You can come to my house anytime,” and “I bet I could teach you a thing or two.”
As they flirted, Elder Hinton prayed for the bus to hurry.
Another girl with curly hair and a low cut blouse gushed, “Oooo, you are an angel from heaven. I could look into these beautiful, blue eyes forever. Couldn’t you, Lucy?”
Her friend, Lucy, agreed and added, “It’s a good thing our giant angel doesn’t have wings to fly away.”
The girls tittered. Elder Hinton cringed as he felt himself rubbed by the forward girls as they tried to convince him to come home with them. When they reached Tiquisate and he prepared to hop off, the curly haired flirt grabbed him by his tie and simpered in broken English, “Give me blue-eyed baby, gringo.”
He pulled away in shock as the bus doors closed behind him, shutting off their laughter.
It’d go down in his journal as the longest bus ride ever, although it’d only lasted about 25 minutes. James had never been so grateful to get home, even though Elder Cinta wouldn’t stop teasing him about being selfish and not giving the pretty girls their blue-eyed baby.
An experience like this actually happened to my brother. It makes me laugh, imagining him all embarrassed as some girls had fun at his expense. I’m hoping to have updated covers on these books before the New Year. Stay tuned for a character interview with Suvi after Christmas. Until then, enjoy your Christmas and think of me as you’re eating goodies. I’ll do the same for you!