As her twin grandsons set out to serve a two-year mission for the Mormon church in Ecuador, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Mary Katzenbach decided to start her own project and document their experiences in a book.
Now that the boys have returned home, Katzenbach's book is telling the tale of their experiences in a third-world country. It's a story their family never expected to get from two young boys.
"The title really says what it's about," said Katzenbach, who titled the book Twin Trials and Triumphs in Ecuador, Mormon Missionary Stories of Matt and Scott. "These are kids who were brought up in the Foothills. They're kids of affluent people. Not rich, but they have everything. They went to this awful place that was so frightening, even to us at first."
The Katzenbach boys, who are now students at Brigham Young University, faced many challenges during their mission. The book only covers their first year in Ecuador, but in just that time the boys had seen prostitution, adultery, pornography, abortion, starvation, poverty, gun and knife attacks, witchcraft and even volcanoes.
"I really wanted to show how by the end of this book I realized we don't give teenagers all the credit they need," Mary Katzenbach said. "I say it in the beginning, why would they want to do this? Matt put it in good form. He said he felt that they had been given so much in their family and their society that they felt they needed to give something back."
The boys volunteered to serve a mission for the church, not knowing where they'd be sent. They'd never spent a night apart growing up and the thought of leaving each other and the rest of their family for two years was hard. It was a tearful event when Matt and Scott opened their letters and found out they'd both be serving in Ecuador. They would not be serving in the same cities - but at least the same country.
"We raise our children to want to serve the Lord," said Michelle Katzenbach, the boys' mother. "That's part of the training of our children is that's a way that they serve the Lord for two years."
Though the boys had tough times, Katzenbach said they loved serving every day. They learned to love the people and now they want to continue to help. Through friends of a friend, the boys learned about Humanity Corps. The small group, created by other missionaries who had served in the area, set up a tutoring center for students in Ecuador to give kids a place outside their meager homes to learn. Sales of Katzenbach's book will raise funds for this cause.
"Matt and Scott kept saying ‘I wish we could do more for these people,'" said Mary. "Michelle found out about the Humanity Corps and I had definitely decided I was going to finish the book and that I was going to sell it to make money. When I heard about Humanity Corps I thought, that's what we can do. I don't need this money. You can always use money but I don't need it as bad as they do."
The book also mentions three other missionaries who served difficult missions. Four of the five are from Ahwatukee Foothills.
The family decided to have 250 of the books published, without the help of a publisher. After members of the family and friends purchased a copy, they now have about 100 copies left. The books are being sold for $18 and can be purchased by contacting Mary Katzenbach at (480) 759-2575 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It just gives me the most wonderful feeling to think we can continue Matt and Scott's mission by selling this book and getting this money and educating some of these kids," Katzenbach said.
"For every one you can help, it's going to help that country."
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