[Patsy Huber, daughter of John Forres O'Donnal (pioneer Church member in Guatemala) submitted the following excerpt from Brother O'Donnal's new book, "Pioneer In Guatemala -- A Personal History of John Forres O'Donnal, including the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Guatemala." Brother O'Donnal has given permission to have this excerpt posted on LDS-GEMS.]
As a counselor in the Central American Mission I was assigned to visit the branches of the mission. On December 1, 1953, I took the plane to Panama, where we met with the members of the Canal Zone Branch. While there I baptized a new convert in the ocean. I then flew with Elders Guthrie and Parker to the San Blas Islands of Panama, located in the Bay of Panama. Their principal commerce is with Colombia and carried out in their small canoes. We spent the night on the Island of Aligandi and spoke to many of the San Blas Indians there.

Each island large enough to support one, has a small landing strip. Our flight was in a small, one-engine, chartered plane. On one small island the landing strip was very short, too short. The landing was accomplished rather easily, but for the take-off, the pilot had several men hold on to the tail of the plane while he revved up the engine, then he motioned them to let go. The aircraft was barely airborne at the waters edge. The landing strip for the Island of Aligandi is on the mainland shore. As soon as we landed, several small canoes, all being rowed by young women, were hurrying to meet us, bringing their many, different, tourist articles. They were beautifully dressed in their typical, hand-made clothing, with beads and large gold earrings and chains. Each had a golden ring in her nose. Most striking were the large, gold earrings and small, colorful beads on their legs, which were wrapped about six inches up their ankles. These are never removed until they wear off. It was surprising to see that many of the people were white, albino-like, both male and female.

The San Blas Islands were first visited on September 21, 1953, by Huish Yates and two missionaries. A chief on one of the islands was not surprised to see them. He told them that, as he lay in his hammock, a voice came to him saying, that white men from the north would come with a book containing the history of his people. He was reluctant to see them leave, and clung to their hands.

Many of the young men from the San Blas Islands worked in the Canal Zone where they had been contacted by the missionaries. There were about 30 of these young men on Aligandi who were attempting to construct a hall in which to study the Book of Mormon, which they called their history. They were being taught by Abel Coleman, son of the chief, who had been taught and baptized in the Canal Zone. In talking with these beautiful people we felt a special spirit. They were anxious to hear our message, and were especially interested in the message of the Book of Mormon. They were a visionary people. I would have liked very much to have spent more time with them, and promised them that they would be visited by the missionaries and taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ, especially as it is recorded in the Book of Mormon.