Bountiful Children's Foundation

Our Guatemala NutriTour

Mar 28, 2023 | 2023, Guatemala, News, NutriTours | 1 comment

by Sheela, Rachel, and Kurt Matthia

March 5, 2023, Sunday

Our red-eye flight from Las Vegas, Nevada to Guatemala City arrived at noon. Our tour guides Gloria and Raul Rosales along with Jorge Pavlo recognized us immediately as we exited the airport’s secure area to the busy airport arrival concourses. Rachel, Kurt and Sheela were all wearing our Bountiful Children’s caps. Gloria was wearing a Bountiful T-shirt and holding a sign that read Bountiful. Their warm greetings assured us that we would be in good hands for our Guatemala adventure.

Guatemala City

We quickly formed friendships with our hosts as we drove through busy streets to the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel and shared a meal in the hotel’s restaurant. Gloria, a Bountiful board member, is the head coordinator for all of Central America and Raul, her son, works with her part-time where he is needed. Jorge was recruited to be our translator. We were very thankful for his service since none of us speaks Spanish, Gloria speaks no English, and Raul speaks just a little.

Parque Las Americas

The Crown Plaza fronts on the Parque Las Americas which is a walking park in the center of Avenida Las Americas that extends for over a mile. This Sunday, motor traffic was restricted. Pedestrians, bicycles, scooters and the like moved up and down the length of the avenue, and the park itself was filled with vendors and activities for children and adults. It seemed that every dog owner in the city was proudly parading their pet and many vendors specialized in items for pets. Rachel bought some well-crafted miniatures for her dollhouse back home.

In the evening, we all met together to go over our goals and plans for our tour in the coming week. Gloria and Raul were always willing to adjust the plans to accommodate things we had interest in doing or seeing, and they often offered us choices of experiences and restaurants. Our friendship and love continued to develop throughout the trip.

Google map of Sunday’s Travel

Market at Parque Las Americas

Market at Parque Las Americas Guatemala City

Dollhouse furniture offered at the market

Dollhouse furniture display by vendor at Parque Las Americas Guatemala City

March 6, 2023, Monday

Antigua Overlook

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed west to Antigua where we first drove up the Hill of the Cross which overlooks the entire city. On the south side of Antigua towers the inactive Agua Volcano. Antigua was the original capital city of Guatemala until 1541 when Agua erupted. That Agua is presently inactive is little consolation because the Fire Volcano was smoking merrily just to the west of Antigua. While we were on the overlook, Jorge shared with Kurt how being on the tour as our translator came to pass.

Cross overlooking Antigua with
Agua Volcano south in the background

Cross overlooking Antigua with Agua Volcano behind

The Fire Volcano smoking to
the southwest of Antigua

Fire Volcano smoking southwest of Antigua
Jorge at the Chinese restaurant
Jorge Pavlo, our translator

Jorge’s Miraculous Answer to Prayer

My service on this tour began weeks before with a personal prayer. I had been feeling that I was serving the Lord and doing something, but that my personal contributions to His work were definitely not enough. So, I decided to kneel down and offer a prayer to express to Heavenly Father that I was willing to serve Him more. In that prayer, I mentioned that, if possible and if it was His will that I serve him in that way, my desire was to serve in a way that included speaking in English.
At that time, I was helping some friends and Church members with English, and I also was spending time with the missionaries to learn more of the language from them. These experiences gave me the desire to ask the Lord to include English in a service opportunity. So, that was the prayer, my offering and request to Heavenly Father.
I received an answer to my prayer in a matter of a couple of weeks. Luz Galindo, the local coordinator for the Bountiful program in Quiche where I live, called me. She explained to me that someone from the Bountiful Foundation needed an English translator. When she called, I didn’t know very much about the Bountiful Children’s Foundation, only that they distributed food supplements for mothers and children.
Luz shared Gloria Rosales’s phone number with me. When I called, Gloria explained with a little more detail about why they were looking for a translator. There were people coming to participate in a NutriTour from the United States who don’t speak Spanish. Gloria and her son Raul, who were to be their guides, don’t speak much English. And, that was my first interaction with the Foundation. I was hired!

Antigua City

Next, we drove down into the city and parked by the Convent of the Capuchinas where we ran into several missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in the courtyard on the last day of their missions. President Probst of the mission arrived as we were speaking to them and Kurt got to talk with him about Bountiful and its work.

From there, we did some sightseeing in the city, had lunch and visited Antigua’s Central Park. Many Guatemalans in colorful, traditional Mayan woven clothing and others in contemporary clothing, congenially fill the streets all day and long into the evening. On market day the streets are congested with people selling and shopping.

Our luncheon on a buffet of typical Guatemalan food in downtown Antigua

Typical Guatemalan lunch and dinner food

The 1680 Primate Cathedral of Antigua
faces Antigua’s Central Park

Primate Cathedral of Antigua Guatemala

Convent of the Capuchinas

Back by where we parked, we began a tour of the Convent of the Capuchinas. Our tour guide spoke English and shared the history and stories of the old convent built in the 1730’s. Under the nuns’ circular living quarters is a subterranean chamber. Our local tour guide had us stand against one wall, and then he walked around the chamber while singing How Great Thou Art in English. He had a beautiful voice and the song, sung with the spectacular acoustics of the chamber, caused our hearts to swell and brought tears to our eyes.

On leaving Antigua, Raul drove late into the night to the beautiful Latam Hotel in Quetzaltenango.

Google map of Monday’s Travel 

Interior courtyard in the
Convent of the Capuchinas

Courtyard in theConvent of the Capuchinas Antigua Guatemala

Interior classroom in the
Convent of the Capuchinas

Classroom in the Convent of the Capuchinas Antigua Guatemala
Classroom in the Convent of the Capuchinas Antigua Guatemala

Subterranian acoustic chamber supporting the circularly arranged nuns dormatory above

March 7, 2023, Tuesday

Tour Fuentes Termales Georginas

Early Tuesday morning, Raul took us on a winding mountain drive with crops planted right up to both sides of the road on 45-degree slopes. The fields were all cultivated, watered, and harvested by hand. We stopped at a vegetable stand and bought radishes the size of tennis balls. They were delicious and not at all bitter.

At Fuentes Termales Georginas, Quetzaltenango we hiked up to the hot springs and Rachel and Jorge went into the natural pools. It was a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the therapeutic waters surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers.

Farming on Quetzaltenanto mountainsides

Vegetable fields on the Quetzaltenango mountain sides

Delicious roadside stand radishes

Huge radishes along the Quetzaltenango mountain roadside

Ascending to the hot springs

Kurt and Sheela ascending to the hot springs

The Georgiana Hot Springs

Steam rising from the mountainside hot springs in Quetzaltenango

Visit to Tierra Blanca Momostenango Community

Driving to the north of Momostenango on the Pan-American Highway, again through steep mountains, we arrived just after 3pm at the Tierra Blanca Branch meetinghouse of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This entire region of Guatemala is mountainous. Nothing is level, and the meetinghouse property is no exception.

Tiera Blanca, Momostenango meetinghouse

Tiera Blanca Momostenango community meetinghouse

A large number of mothers and children and a few fathers were waiting outside the church for the supplement distribution to begin. Supplements are distributed monthly by the local coordinator. Some of the men helped us carry the huge sacks of Incaparina food supplements down the hill to the meetinghouse.

Vivian Irasema Guzman is the Bountiful coordinator for the Tierra Blanca community. Vivian along with all the mothers and children gave us a warm group welcome on the lawn in front of the building before we started the distribution. A few of the mothers expressed their gratitude to Bountiful and its donors for the help their children are receiving. They are able to see the progress their children are making. Jorge translated the mothers’ appreciative comments for us, and then he translated our expressions of love for them.

Carrying Incaparina sacks down to the meetinghouse

Carrying Incaparina sacks down the hill in Tiera Blanca

Vivian, the local coordinator, organizing the supplement distribution

Tiera Blanca Bountiful coordinator Vivian organzing supplement distribution

While outside, we scattered candy to the children in pinata fashion. There were approximately 80 children there, and we set up the supplement distribution on tables inside a classroom in the meetinghouse. Along with the vital Incaparina supplements, we handed out some toys and snacks that we had purchased. As the mothers came through with their children, they would sign in and tell us how many packages of Incaparina each mother would take for the month.

Many of the mothers carried their small infants and children in a large woven piece of cloth on their back. It was amazing to see how they were able to do that. Many brought another cloth or bag to carry away the Incaparina. Although the line outside was long, both the children and parents were patient and happy. We were really impressed that none of the babies or children cried. They all seemed happy to be there. At one point Rachel went outside with little stickers she had brought from home to entertain the children a bit. The stickers were a real hit with many of the children and some of the mothers!

Tiera Blanca Distribution Photo Gallery

Click on a photo to enlarge and flip through 36 enlarged pictures

Shopping at DollarCity, Cuatro Caminos

We had now depleted almost everything for the children that we had brought from the States. We did some shopping to replenish for the next two communities we were going to visit. We bought more snacks and more toys and baby bottles. Gloria knew the numbers we would need. Gloria also bought juice boxes for everyone.

We stayed this night in the Hotel Gran Karmel in Retalhuleu.

Google map of Tuesday’s travel


March 8, 2023, Wednesday

Visit to El Codo, Retalehue Community

In the morning we drove to the El Codo branch and began setting up to distribute food supplements at about 10am. Here we set up the distribution in a multipurpose room that was also used as the chapel on Sundays. From front to back there were at least five sets of accordion doors, six doorways to the hallway, and six whiteboards so that the large room could be used as classrooms. The room was set up with chairs and filled with children and their mothers who had been waiting for us. On arrival, we brought in some tables and arranged the Incaparina supplements, snacks, and toys we had brought with us.

El Codo families waiting for our arrival

El Codo Guatemala supplement distribution 1

Setting up for supplement distribution

El Codo Guatemala supplement distribution 2

As with yesterday’s distribution, we began with a meeting where we were greeted and thanked by those participating in the program. We also set up a station with a scale and measuring mat for screening some new children in one of the classrooms on the other side of the hall. Rachel and Sheela got to help with the measuring and weighing of the new children. They screened 10 new children, and all were determined eligible for the supplements and other program benefits. Three were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and seven were not. Unlike yesterday, we heard more crying today particularly from the infants who were being screened.

Weighing and measuring the new children

El Codo Guatemala screening 1

Registering the new families

El Codo Guatemala registration of new children

Raul set up a station for entering the new children and their mothers into the computer app that Bountiful uses to register the children on the program and follow their progress at six-month intervals. He had Kurt do the data entry so that Kurt would learn to use the app. The photo gallery below includes photos taken during the distribution of the food supplements, snacks, and toys.

El Codo Screening and Distribution Photo Gallery

Click on a photo to enlarge and flip through 19 enlarged pictures

Drive West to Visit the Seashore

As we drove toward the beach, we passed many sugar cane fields. It was very interesting to see that fences in the area were made from living trees set fairly close together. It looked like when they needed to replace or add a fence post they simply drove a straight cut branch in the ground and it would soon sprout with leaves and then branches. We got to Champerico Beach on the Pacific Ocean south of El Codo at 1pm. The sands of Guatemala are black! After walking around, exploring and looking at a few shops, we went to Restaurant Maxim´s Retalhuleu and shared a sumptuous family-style Chinese dinner.

Bountiful Team at the beach

The Bountiful Team at the Champerico beach Guatemala

Black sand at Champerico Beach

Black sand at Champerico Beach Guatemala

We arrived at the Hotel Siboney at about 5pm and unpacked. Rachel, Kurt, and Sheela taught Jorge to play Five Crowns in the evening on one of the tables on the covered patio by the swimming pool. Raul also came to sit with us after a while and we taught him the game as well. Rachel, Kurt and Sheela have taken Five Crowns on their travels before. It has always been a hit with those we taught to play, and tonight was no exception.

Google map of Wednesday’s Travel

Entering the Chinese restaurant

Chinese restaurant near El Codo Guatemala

Playing Five Crowns at the hotel

El Codo Guatemala registration of new children

March 9, 2023, Thursday

Touring Takalik Abaj National Park

Gloria and Raul took us to visit the fascinating Takalik Abaj National Park this morning. It is a site that features pre-Columbian art, statuary, altars, and buildings from both the Olumek and the Early Mayan peoples. We had a very knowledgeable, English-speaking guide show us around the site. Wikipedia says, “The site flourished in the Preclassic and Classic periods, from the 9th century BC through to at least the 10th century AD, and was an important center of commerce, trading with Kaminaljuyu and Chocolá. … Finds from the site indicate contact with the distant metropolis of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico and imply that Takalik Abaj was conquered by it or its allies.” The whole site is expansive, and we were only able to see a small portion of the ruins.

We three with Raul at the right

Sheela Kurt Rachel Raul at Takalik Abaj National Park

Jorge, Sheela, and Kurt

Jorge, Sheela, and Kurt at Takalik Abaj National Park

Visit to Cantel, Quetzaltenango, Community

From Takalik Abaj we headed north to get to Cantel, but suddenly all traffic came to a full stop. We learned that healthcare workers were on strike for higher wages and had blocked the main road that leads toward Cantel. This would be a good place in our narrative to say that our tour guides Gloria and Raul are very aware of dangerous places in Guatemala and would never knowingly place anyone touring with them in any danger of physical harm. We felt very comfortable with their judgment throughout the trip.

We immediately turned and backtracked south a bit so that we could take a different route to Cantel–one not affected by the wage dispute. The detour added about an hour to our travels which meant that we didn’t get to the supplement distribution at the Cantel Branch building until about 4pm. We met in the meetinghouse chapel and again the distribution began with us greeting the whole group and hearing from a few of the mothers. Although there were only 30 children in the Cantel community distribution, our meeting with the children and their mothers was as delightful as the others.

A Cantel mother thanking Bountiful donors

Cantel Guatemala distribution of nutritional supplements

Group photo as we prepare to leave Cantel

Cantel Guatemala distribution group photo

Cantel Distribution Photo Gallery

Click on a photo to enlarge and flip through 9 enlarged pictures

Jorge Pavlo in Antigua Guatemala
Jorge Pavlo, our translator

Jorge’s Reflections on the NutriTour

We went to visit three of the communities in which the program is functioning: Tierra Blanca Momostenango, El Codo Retalhuleu, and Cantel Quetzaltenango. There is a slight variation in how the local coordinators organize everything in each community, but, in the end, the results are the same: parents are able to find and enroll in Bountiful’s program to help them feed and nourish their children.

In collaboration with the local area presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the coordinators receive the supplements in their homes monthly. The quantity is based on the number of children/families who were newly enrolled in the last month plus the children/families who were previously enrolled. Next, the supplements are transported to the church meeting house or other place where the distribution takes place. Some families walk long distances to the distribution point or to buses which take them the rest of the way. Some come together in the back of pick-up trucks or other means of transportation. The children receive a special gift and snack. That is cool. In one of the communities that we went to (el Codo) the people got very excited and they were not making a line or following an order they just wanted their stuff. That was funny and fun to watch.

In most cases single mothers are raising their children and just a few are doing it with their husbands or partners. I also noticed that there are 3 groups of families, or I just classified them this way: those who already have a certain amount of time in the program, those who recently were enrolled and those who want to be part of it, and one can tell the difference between each.

The supplement is changing their lives. I perceived that those who are receiving the supplements are more alert, happy, energetic, and playful. Some of them are silent but in a good way. They are very calm or in other words just enjoying what is happening in silence. This at the end of the day increases their possibilities of success in life considering the few options they have in the country and in their own towns.

I am happy to have had the opportunity to be part of this tour.

Dinner and Marimba Band at the Albamar Restaurant, Quetzaltenango

We then went to dinner at the Albamar, and an accomplished marimba band entertained us the entire time we were there. The menu was filled with authentic Guatemalan dishes that were delicious.

Visit to the Quetzaltenango Temple Grounds and Annex

Our evening continued on a deeply spiritual note as Gloria and Raul took us up to the temple mount of the Quetzaltenango Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The sun had set. The evening air was still and the temperature was perfect as we walked around the temple. It was a deeply quiet and spiritual experience in the bright glow of the temple itself lighting the gardens all around. By comparison, the lights and sounds of the city below were subdued. The annex is used, in part, to house families coming from long distances to perform temple ordinances. The artwork in the Annex was beautiful and its architecture was functional. The building contained a Family History Center, a cafeteria, a room with lockers and showers and rooms where people attending the temple from a distance could stay. We saw a few families with children who were using the facility that night.

Tonight, we stayed in the Hotel Real Classic, Quetzaltenango.

Google map of Thursday’s Travel

Quetzaltenango Temple from the east

Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seen from the east

Quetzaltenango Temple from the south

Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seen from the south

March 10, 2023, Friday

Visit to the Market in San Francisco El Alto, Totonicapan

We drove to San Francisco el Alto, Totonicapan, and climbed to the top of the town where market day was in its full glory. There were lots of people everywhere. Many were there to sell live sheep, rabbits, dogs, turkeys, ducks, chickens, geese, etc. as well as produce, clothing, household items, etc.

San Francisco el Alto Market

San Francisco El Alto Totonicapan market day

Selfie at the market

Selfie San Francisco El Alto Totonicapan market day

There is a school in the town run by an American man for girls in the area. Many of the girls have to work so the school is also open on Saturday. We met the daughter of one of the coordinators. She is fourteen years old. She works from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, so she attends school on Saturday with her sister. We went with her and her mother to a shop which sells art and office supplies. She needed to buy some art supplies for school. We encouraged her to pick out some things that she needed and wanted for herself and her sister and we purchased them for her. She and her mother were very thankful.

Buying school supplies for two sisters

Shopping for school supplies

Drive to Lago de Atitlan (possible Waters of Mormon)

Lake Atitlan is a large crater lake in the Guatemalan Highlands. The lake is surrounded by three volcanoes: Toliman, San Pedro, and Atitlan.

We stayed in the beautiful Hotel Tzanjuyu on the eastern shores of the lake near the village of Panajachel.

Entering the Hotel Tzanjuyu on Lago Atitlan

Hotel Tzanjuyu Lago Atitlan Front

Gardens at the Hotel Tzanjuyu Lago Atitlan

Hotel Tzanjuyu Lago Atitlan gardens

The “Waters of Mormon” as Described in Mormon’s Codex

John L. Sorenson, in his book Mormon’s Codex, discusses the possibility that Lake Atitlan was the setting for the Book of Mormon’s “Waters of Mormon.” He argues that the lake’s location, size, and features match the description in the Book of Mormon.

Sorenson also points to the presence of ancient ruins on the shores of Lake Atitlan, which he believes could be the remains of Nephite and Lamanite cities. He notes that the terrain of Guatemala is similar to the land of Nephi described in the Book of Mormon.

Sorenson’s argument is based on a number of factors, including the geographical location of Lake Atitlan, the size and features of the lake, and the presence of ancient ruins on the shores of the lake. He also mentions ruins of buildings, a pyramid, and altars located 55 feet below the surface of the lake that date to about 2000 years ago.

Sorenson’s argument is an important contribution to the discussion of the Book of Mormon and its historical authenticity. His argument provides a possible explanation for the setting of the Book of Mormon story and the presence of ancient ruins in the Americas.

Google map of Friday’s Travel

Map of Lago de Atitlan

Lago de Atitlan Map

Photo of Lake Atitlan

Lago de Atitlan Photo

March 11, 2023, Saturday

Our Boat Excursion Around Lake Atitlan

After breakfast at the hotel, we took a boat ride around the lake.

Ready to go!

Boat ride on Lake Atitlan - 1


Boat ride on Lake Atitlan - 2

The first stop we made was the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve where we hiked up a mountain until we reached a point where the trail was very steep and uneven. While the rest of us sat on benches and enjoyed the beautiful view of the lake, Rachel and Jorge continued hiking to view some ancient Mayan altars. They also found a place where there was a platform about 36 feet above the water. From there, brave hikers were diving into the water, some doing backflips on the way down. Rachel and Jorge didn’t jump. They continued hiking, enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

This is as far as Kurt and Sheela went

Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve 1

Rachel went exploring

Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve 2

Our next boat stop was San Juan Laguna where we climbed out of the boat onto the pier and walked around to shop. We visited one shop where we saw a demonstration of chocolate making. It was interesting to see the cocoa beans and watch them being crushed with a rolling pin on a stone slab.

We visited another shop where we saw a demonstration of cloth making from the spinning of the thread, dying, and weaving. It was very interesting and the many, varied cloth products were beautiful.

Chocolate making demonstration

Chocolate making demonstration

Weaving demonstration

Weaving demonstration

Our boat driver must have been late for something because he sped straight across the lake on the way back to the hotel, and our boat was hydroplaning a little bit. Exciting!

Raul drove us back to Guatemala City where we spent our last night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and played Five Crowns again with Raul and Jorge.

Google Map of Saturday’s Travel

March 12, 2023, Sunday

On our final morning, the six of us met for breakfast together in the Crowne Plaza Hotel restaurant. Then Jorge went for a last walk with us around the park outside the hotel. As Gloria, Raul, and Jorge dropped us off at the airport, there were hugs and tears all around. We were all a little sad to end this incredible experience with some truly amazing people!


We arrived in Guatemala as strangers and tourists. We leave as lovers of Guatemala’s peoples, lands, and history. Serving the children and their families was the best part of our tour because our experiences with them were life-changing. We definitely hope to participate in future Bountiful NutriTours.

God be with you till we meet again, Gloria, Raul, and Jorge! Thank you for all the experiences we shared. We love you!

Rachel Sheela Kurt Matthia Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple

1 Comment

  1. Angela Johnson

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I can’t wait to go to Guatemala again. Such an amazing trip. Thank you for volunteering your time and talents!


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