I arrived in Chile as a missionary just three years after the coup d’etat that removed the first freely elected socialist leader in the Western Hemisphere and replaced him with the military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Even three years later, it was still very different from what I was use to in the USA. They were under martial law and there was a curfew (toque de queda) every night from midnight to early morning. In downtown Concepcion, one could still see big bullet holes in the side of a building left over from fighting during the coup.

The police were a branch of the armed forces (Carabineros), dressed like the military, carried Uzi-type machine guns, and drove in jeeps with 50 cal machine guns mounted in the back. While this took some getting use to, after a few months it seems normal. Several times kids would yell “CIA” to us as we walked. I didn’t understand why until years later when I read of the CIA’s complicity in the coup.

So while the military Junta that ran the country seemed pretty stable, there was always the chance that it could become unstable, and we missionaries could be in danger. In July of 1977 we received a letter from the Mission President. It said that “we never know when there might be an emergency of natural or other causes” and that we should have an emergency plan. It also gave us code words that the mission office would use to convey what we were to do in an emergency. They were

“Keep the books”: We were to stay in our houses and not leave for any reason.

“Pack the books”: We were to pack our bags, and be ready to leave when given the commend

“Sell the books to the zone” We were to go to the Zone Leaders house, and stay there.

“Sell the books to the mission” We were to get the mission office immediately.

There was talk among the missionaries that there use to be another code word used right after the coup. It was “Burn the books”. When this was was received, the missionaries were to get to anyplace safe, like the mountains and just hang out. This was cool stuff for 19 year old kids! There was endless talk among the missionaries on how we would get to the mission office (sometimes 4-5 hours away in a train), or better yet what we’d do if we had to “burn the books”.

As you know nothing happened, we never did anything with our “books” except try to get investigators to read the BofM. Did any of you go to missions with emergency plans? What were your code words?