Monday, August 25, 2008

words fail

Today is my first day back from vacation and I should be blogging about how rejuvenating a two week vacation is or how frustrating it is to come home to a broken satellite or how irritating it is to be missing 30 pages in the middle of the novel I was reading on the plane . . . but this all shrank significantly in comparison to the news I heard this morning that I am still trying to digest but words completely fail me.

My sister emailed me this article about a plane crash in Guatemala. Two summers ago my sister and I went on a trip with Choice Humanitarian to Guatemala to help build a water system for a small village. While there we met this amazing couple:
Javier and Walfred Rabanales. Both (along with a number of volunteers) were killed in the plane crash. I spent less than a week with Javier and Walfred but I will carry those 5 days I spent living with them under the same small, tin roof of the village health center in Chimaxiat, Guatemala with me for the rest of my life.

Javier was the in-country director for Choice Humanitarian, organizing and running all of the village projects within his native country. His wife was not compensated for her time but she cooked all of our meals and offered a winning smile at all hours under all circumstances. My dear friend Levi was especially close to Javier and Walfred as he met them while serving his mission over a decade ago in Guatemala and introduced them to Choice. I offered a few impotent words of sorrow to him over email feeling unable to properly express my sympathy as I could not yet comprehend that these two people I knew so briefly but who materially effected my life could be gone.

I didn't do a very good job of recording my experience in Guatemala on my blog two years ago but luckily I kept a journal while I was there which, along with a review of my photos, has opened a flood of memories of this couple and the service they generously gave year-round, while I simply gave a week of my life.

Here is Javier (in the white shirt) giving instructions to the villagers and volunteers on how to glue the pipe (for the water system) together. He worked hard and was always in an upbeat spirit - even when he was dealing with silly and/or weary volunteers.
Walfred cooked all our meals. There was one breakfast in particular that still stands out as one of my favorite meals. I remember waking sometime between 5 and 530 am to the sound of chopping and the aroma of fresh onion and cilantro. I drifted in and out of sleep until it was time to eat this delectable huevos rancheros with fresh salsa, refried beans, plantains and of course fresh corn tortillas.On two separate nights Javier saved us all from scary tarantulas - this one was even carrying babies!
Unfortunately Javier and Walfred are all the way down at the end of this picture at the head of the table around which we ate each meal and around which we each unfurled a sleeping bag at the end of the day. I am never sure what to say in these incidents of overwhelming sorrow. While I doubt any of the surviving family or friends are reading this but if by chance they stumble across this meager offering of memories I want them to know how much I loved and admired Javier and Walfred for their willingness to dedicate their lives to the service of others and the betterment of their country. I also want those who were affected by this terrible tragedy to be comforted and find peace and encourage anyone and everyone to help Choice either by donating money or volunteering your time by experiencing a trip with them yourself. I have been trying to go on a second trip with them the last two years and regret that I can only say I have been on one. They are low-frills and you can see how your money directly benefits real people in need. I wish them peace and comfort as they cope with this overwhelming tragedy and grieve those they have lost.


Tiffany said...

Wow. Ryan and I just read this. I am so sorry to hear of this tragedy. They were obviously such wonderful people and touched so many people. My heart goes out to their family. And to you.

lizzie said...

very sad. i am so sorry to hear this news.

autumn said...

I'm so sorry. It's sad to hear when people doing good things have to go. I'm sure they will be missed.

Beck said...

Oh, that is heartbreaking. How sad not just for their families but for the people they helped...

David G. Woolley said...


Thanks for posting this about Javier and Walfred. We are all so very sad.

I've had a lot of people who knew them (childhood friends, brothers, sisters, CHOICE participants) post their thoughts on my blog where a tribute to them appears. I'd like to invite you to join us at if you get a chance.


David G. Woolley

Jen said...

How terrible.

It's so hard to know what to say in the midst of such tragedy. My husband's brother was killed on his mission, and I remember how unreal it seemed. Years later, it is still hard to understand why Heavenly Father would take someone so young, doing so much good.

Elder Holland spoke at his funeral - it was so powerful. He said something that has really stuck with me over the years - that this earth is not our "home." Just that little sentence reminds me of the hope we have for resurrection and what awaits us. If anything gives comfort in times like this, I guess that's it.

pepper said...

This is so sad. My husband Mark's cousin was on that plane. He left behind a wife and three tiny kids, it's all so terrible tragic.

Lance said...

That was a very sad story! My wife told me about it and just about cried in the telling of it. I believe you and I have a mutual acquaintance in your friend Levi. He is a great guy.

I know you don't know me, but I am friends with Tiffany B. Adios!

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