Xinia Muñoz of Belize City, Belize


Xinia Muñoz of Belize City, Belize

It happens almost every Sunday evening. Nine-year-old Xinia (ZEE-nyah) Muñoz gets out a pencil and several sheets of lined paper and starts writing letters.

She sits at the kitchen table, absorbed with her writing. Sometimes she’ll look up to ask someone how to spell a word, but during most of her letter-writing time, she is “in her own world”—or in the world of the person who is lucky enough to get her letter.

To whom is she writing? “The missionaries,” she answers with a smile. The letter she is working on in the picture here is for Elder Ed McCoy, a close friend of the family, who is serving a mission in California. He is the only member of his family who belongs to the Church, and Xinia makes sure that he gets at least one letter every week—hers!

“He used to come here for Sunday dinner,” she says. After he left for his mission, Sunday evening just didn’t seem complete without a visit with Elder McCoy—even if only through a letter.

Before long, Xinia started writing letters to the other missionaries from Belize City too. Now she writes a letter nearly every Sunday evening to all six of them. Sometimes she writes to missionaries who served in Belize and have returned to their homes. Every Monday morning, her mother mails a stack of her letters to places such as Honduras, England, Canada, and the United States.

Since Xinia lives in Belize—a Central American country near Mexico and Guatemala—you might expect her to speak Spanish and write her letters in Spanish. But although she has lots of friends who do speak it, Xinia and her family speak English, the official language of the country. The family also speak Creole, a Caribbean dialect of English.

Sometimes Xinia includes poems in her letters. “I make up poems about happiness, the Bible, my feelings about people, gratitude for Heavenly Father—I love him very much, and I’m thankful that he sent me to earth.

“Sometimes I make up poems for Mom’s Day and Dad’s Day,” she adds. “I’m thankful Heavenly Father sent me to this family.” Her dad, Joel, is president of the Belize City Branch. Her mother, Tomasa, teaches institute and family history. She has three brothers—Alfonso (18), Angelo (12), and Micah (3),—and one sister—Madelyn (17). “I’m thankful for my friends, too, and I write poems about them.”

“Xinia is always writing of her feelings,” says her mother. “When something happens to her, she will write about it.”

Like most people who enjoy writing, Xinia also enjoys reading. She brings her reader home from school every day, “and sometimes I read it about five times a day. I love it. It has a lot of stories and articles.”

She also likes to read the Book of Mormon and the Friend, especially the stories, puzzles, and activities. She and her brother Angelo save the magazines in big brown envelopes so that they can read them again later.

“In one of my magazines, there is a story about a CTR ring,” she says. “I love to read it. Once I had a CTR ring, but Micah took it out of my jewelry box and lost it. When I found it, it was bent and wouldn’t fit on my finger again.” She was disappointed, but remembering what her ring stood for helped her forgive her little brother.

Xinia also likes to sing. “My favorite Primary songs are ‘Mother Dear’ and ‘Book of Mormon Stories.’ Then there’s a little one about popcorn popping, and one about a snowman—tall, tall, tall. Of course, I’ve never seen snow,” she admits, “but I like the song about the snowman because it helps me think about the world around me.”

She hasn’t seen snow in Belize because it’s located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Belize City is hot and humid. Because the land is flat and swampy, many houses are built on stilts. Some of these stilts are above ground, and you have to climb stairs to enter the house. Other homes and buildings, such as the Belize City meetinghouse, don’t look like they are on stilts, but many of them are—the stilts are below the ground. Then lots of soil is brought to fill in the swampy land.

Xinia loves to go swimming. She also enjoys going with her family to the park down by the lighthouse that looks out across the Caribbean Sea. In the park are swings, bars to climb on, and cement animal shapes that you can play on. The ostrich has a long neck you can hug. The hippopotamus has his mouth wide open, and you can sit in it. (That’s her favorite!) There’s an elephant, a tiger, a lion, a lizard, a turtle. “And I like the yellow fish with a big circle in the middle,” she says. “You can just sit down in there and rest!”

She recently wrote down her feelings about Heavenly Father: “When I talk about Heavenly Father, I feel love. I love him. I wish I could go up to heaven and thank him that I’m on earth. I’m glad to go to school and have friends. I know that he loves me. And I love him very much. With his help I can do all sorts of things, like climb a tree, play run-race, and be friendly.”

[photos] Photographed by Marvin K. Gardner

[photo] 1. Writing to Elder McCoy

[photo] 2. With school friends

[photo] 3. At the park by the lighthouse

[photo] 4. Hugging a “friend”

[photo] 5. Getting a thank-you hug for a Mom’s Day poem