Richard and María Layme Huallpa of Villa Lipe, Bolivia


Richard and María Layme Huallpa of Villa Lipe, Bolivia

Villages and towns dot the Altiplano (High Plain) of Bolivia. The plain is on a high plateau that covers the western part of Bolivia and areas of three other countries. It begins at about 12,000 feet (3658 m) in altitude and rises up to the peaks of the Bolivian Andes at over 20,000 feet (6096 m). Many of the people living in this area are farmers who raise grains, potatoes, and a few cows, goats, or pigs that help supply them with food. Some people also fish for trout on Lake Titicaca, South America’s second largest lake.

The fresh air and the intense sun brighten everything in the Altiplano. It is here, not far from Lake Titicaca, that Richard (9) and María (6) Layme Huallpa live. Their village, Villa Lipe, is made up mostly of farms. They and many of their neighbors are members of the Church. Many of the villages and towns near Villa Lipe also have branches of the Church, and Church buildings dot the countryside at intervals that make it possible for everyone to attend church by walking.

The branch in Villa Lipe meets in a small, one-room, rock building. Sunlight dimly filters through its small, deep windows, but the Spirit of the Lord shines brightly from the faces of His Saints.

When the weather is nice, the Primary meets in a small stone enclosure near the main building. It has no roof, but board benches run along all the walls, and the children sit face-to-face as they sing from their hearts. They love to sing! The hymns haven’t been translated into Aymara, their native language, so the children sing them in Spanish. The plains, even the distant mountains, seem to resound as they sing “How Great Thou Art”—all the verses from memory—in Spanish. The enclosure may be snug, but close friends and stone walls cut the chill of the winds that often sweep across the plain.

The children’s mothers do not meet in a room. They gather instead under a tree. Many of the older sisters in the branch didn’t have a chance to learn to read when they were young, so one of the other sisters reads the scriptures to them, particularly the Book of Mormon. It is the only chance some have to hear the scriptures.

The young women meet outside, too, while the priesthood brethren meet in the chapel. If the weather is bad, the entire branch meets together in the chapel for all of its meetings.

María and Richard’s branch is growing. They hope to have a new place to meet—a “real chapel”—very soon. First the Church must get permission from the government to buy the land and build one. If all goes well, the pig wallowing in the dirt near the current building will have to find a new home when the chapel is built.

María and Richard are grateful that they can go to school, but it isn’t easy. Their family speaks Aymara in their home, but school is taught in Spanish. When María started school this year, it was very frustrating for her to suddenly have to learn and speak in Spanish. But she loves learning how to write, and she likes drawing—especially pictures of ducks.

Richard is now in the third grade. He likes to study music and is learning to play a flute at school. The rest of school is OK, and he studies hard, but he would rather be studying the gospel.

When the children get home from school, there are always chores to do. Richard helps his father in the fields and herds the family’s three cows while they graze. He keeps them from wandering into the dusty roads, where a bus or truck might hit them. The cows are very important to the family’s welfare, so Richard knows that he must take very good care of them.

María helps her mother in the house after school. She peels and cuts up the potatoes that they eat for most meals. Potatoes are the main crop of the Altiplano. She also helps Richard carry water from the well into the house. They are grateful that there is a well on their own property and that they don’t have to carry the water from even farther away. Occasionally their mother sends them to the store in the village to buy bread, flour, sugar, or salt for the family. “Sometimes María washes the dishes without my asking,” her mother said. “That means a lot to me.”

Both Richard and María appreciate all the hard work that their parents do for their family: wash the clothes, cook the meals, farm to provide them with food, and teach them the gospel. And though they spend a lot of time helping their parents, they also like to play with their friends. María plays dolls with her friends. Her doll is named Elizabeth. Richard enjoys a game of marbles with his friends.

Spring is the favorite time of the year for the entire family, as it is for most people of the high plains. It means plentiful young grasses for their animals to eat and planting and harvesting of fresh grains and vegetables for their own meals. When the potatoes are harvested, the family sells some to buy other kinds of food. If they have a good harvest, Father even takes them all to get ice cream. That is one of María’s favorite things to do with her father.

For their birthdays, María and Richard each get to choose what their family will have for supper that evening. María always asks for rice soup; Richard asks for quinoa (another kind of grain) soup. Either is a tasty change from the potatoes that they usually eat.

Richard and María are grateful that their family joined the Church four years ago. Richard likes going to church, because he knows that is where he will learn how to become a better person. María likes to go and hear the scripture stories. She especially likes stories about Jesus Christ, “because,” she said, “He made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins.” They both love to sing Church hymns.

Before their children leave home for school each morning, the Layme Huallpa family has prayer together. It is María’s favorite family time. They pray for themselves and their neighbors, and for the animals when they are sick, that they will be strong and healthy. “At night when I pray and go to bed,” María said, “I feel Heavenly Father’s care and protection.”

Richard often prays for help with his school exams. “I know that Heavenly Father helps me remember what I have studied,” he said.

“Both María and Richard are very helpful,” their father said. “We are grateful for what good children they are, and we love them.”

[photos] Photographed by Corliss Clayton

[photo] The children enjoy the antics of the pig in the nearby field, but it may soon have to move—its field is where the members hope to build their new chapel.

[photo] The Layme Huallpa family: (back row) Brother Layme Huallpa, Johnny (13), and Sister Layme Huallpa; (front row) Virgina (11), Richard, and María. Fabian (19) is not present.

[photo] Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world

[photo] Villa Lipe is in the Altiplano of Bolivia. Even though the town is at about 13,000 feet (3962 m), the Andes at the other side of the valley tower over the landscape.

[photo] The Primary children in their meeting room

[photo] The children playing a game together during Primary

[photo] The Primary children of Villa Lipe love to sing.