Richard and María Layme Huallpa of Villa Lipe, Bolivia

Richard and María Layme Huallpa of Villa Lipe, Bolivia

The fresh air and the intense sun brighten everything in Bolivia’s Altiplano, a large region high in the Andes Mountains. The village of Villa Lipe sits at an altitude of about 4,000 meters—near Lake Titicaca, South America’s second largest lake. Most of the people living in this area are farmers who raise grains, potatoes, and a few cows, goats, or pigs.

The Layme Huallpa family, including Richard, age 9, and María, age 6, live in Villa Lipe. They and many of their neighbors are members of the Church. Many of the other 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 building. It has no roof, but board benches run along all the walls, and the children sit facing one another as they sing from their hearts. They love to sing! The hymns haven’t been translated into Aymara, their native language, so the chidren sing in Spanish. The plains, even the distant mountains, seem to resound as they sing “How Great Thou Art” (Hymns, number 86)—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 plains.

The children’s mothers gather under a tree for Relief Society. 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 sisters reads the scriptures to the others, 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 small building. If the weather is bad, the entire branch meets together in the building for all its meetings.

The Villa Lipe Branch is growing. The members hope to have a new chapel to meet in very soon. First the Church must get permission from the government to buy the land and build one. If all goes well, the pig lying in the dirt near the current building will soon have to find a new home to make room for the new chapel.

María and Richard are grateful 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 the flute at school. He thinks the rest of school is all right, 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 he must take very good care of them.

María helps her mother in the house after school. She peels and cuts up the potatoes the family eats 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 says. “That means a lot to me.”

Both Richard and María appreciate all the hard work their parents do for their family: washing the clothes, cooking the meals, farming to provide them with food, and teaching 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 playing 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 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, their dad 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 get to choose what their family will have for supper that evening. María always asks for rice soup; Richard asks for quinoa (a kind of grain) soup. Either is a tasty change from the potatoes they usually eat.

Richard and María are grateful their family joined the Church four years ago. Richard likes going to church, because he knows it 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 says, “He made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins.” They both love to sing hymns.

Before the 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 they pray for the animals when they are sick, that they will be strong and healthy. “At night when I pray and go to bed,” María says, “I feel Heavenly Father’s care and protection.”

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

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

[photos] Photography by Corliss Clayton

[photo] Villa Lipe is in the Altiplano of Bolivia. Even though the town is at about 4,000 meters, the Andes Mountains tower over the valley.

[photos] Left: The children enjoy the antics of the pig in a field where Church members hope to build their new chapel. Right: Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world.

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