Actually, it is not for 1000 days. It is just that 3 years times 365 days plus June 27 through June 30, 2008 equals 1098 days, and that is way too cumbersome to convert into a blog headline. Futhermore, our release date will not be determined until May or June of 2011. Therefore, 1000 Days sounded just about right, more or less. Having noted all that, we are humbled and thrilled (Pres. Uchtdorf would refer to the feeling as "joyfully overwhelmed") about having this marvelous opportunity to serve in La Mision Mexico Veracruz.

Con amor,
Pdte. y Hna. Pete and JoElla Hansen

Sunday, May 29, 2011

We stopped at a homemade potato chip stand in Piedras Negras. These things are really good, if you dump some salt on them, and are a guarantee for instant heartburn.

I asked the man and his sons who run the stand for a picture. This was it. Mexicans do not naturally smile for the camera. It is a genetic imposibility unless you beg them.

I begged. This is what I got. Maybe I should have tipped them a little more.

(If you want to see bigger smiles, click on the photo.)

In Piedras Negras these two boys, about 10 or 12 years old, are gambling. Put your coin in the slot and hope that money falls off of the tray. I asked if they ever win. They said, "Of course! Why do you think we play?" Duh...

We have often mentioned eating iguanas and other delights, but Leapin' Lizards! Can you imagine that creature on your plate? We were coming north along the coastal highway and I was watching for holes and bumps in the road when Mom hollared at me to look to the left. There it was! ("It" refers to all creatures in the picture.) This guy and his friend were selling, illegally of course, iguanas on the federal highway which courses the length of the Gulf of Mexico. He said the big one weighs about 4 kilos. I am sure that is true. We have never seen one even close to that big. Interesting that both the iguana and Iguana Man both comb their hair the same way.

Elder Petersen is such a good boy and a fine missionary, but he is confused. In college sports he favors a school immediately north of Provo. His companion, Elder Hales, is a brilliant scholarship student at BYU and is also an outstanding missionary. By their apartment in Vega de Alatorre, there is a basketball court. For their morning excercise, they go out and shoot. They made a deal. If Elder Hales could beat Elder Petersen in H-O-R-S-E a certain number of times, Elder Petersen would have to stand by their little Christmas tree wearing Elder Hales' BYU football T-shirt and pose for a picture. Elder Petersen lost and is pleased to pose.

These are those two generations with their respective trainers.

(Always click on the photo if you want to see it in a larger format.)

In between all that excitement, a generation of five Mexican missionaries also came in. They are Hermana Moncayo and Elders Perez, Herrera, Zamora, Sanchez Soto, Garcia, and Cuevas.
We were pretty excited to learn that more American missionaries were coming in. As you know, visas have been tough to get. Coincidentally, it seems to connect (or not) somehow to the news of the "Arizona Law," the one which is very offensive to Mexicans. Some of our missionaries from Arizona say that they are from Provo. One of them claims to be from Australia. Whatever.

There is a process to get a visa to Mexico. When a missionary opens his call packet, there is a goldenrod-colored sheet of paper which tells him to apply for his passport and visa immediately. He sends his paperwork to SLC. Missionary travel does the work with the Mexican government. Mexico issues a permiso which grants the Mexican consulate permission to create the visa for the missionary. Simple, right? Nope. Starting last July, the delay has been months. We had no visa waiters before that--four days was the longest delay. The Mexican consulate in SLC was ordered to issue only 15 visas a week. There were over 200 Mexico-bound Americans in US missions waiting to come to Mexico. At one point a couple of months ago we had 26 Americans waiting visas and assigned temporarily to missions in the USA. As a mission we fasted and prayed on fast Sundays. The missionaries started trickling in.

The Friday before Thanksgiving we still had 15 missionaries out there awaiting visas and one in the MTC. A mother of one of them, an Elder Gust, contacted us and wondered where she should send her son's Christmas package because he was in Albuquerque and they knew that he, and an Elder Ursua, had not yet received the permiso, the first step. WHAT? Everyone else had received the permiso months ago. On Monday I raised Holy Ned, as my mom used to say. (No, I don't have any idea who Ned is, nor do I know from whence or from what he needs be raised.)

My email was direct, detailed, and was copied to everyone I could think of in the Mexico Area Travel Office and Missionary Travel in SLC. One by one, the emails came in. They all said, "That is Roberto's deal." Roberto. That evening Roberto wrote me and said that the Mexico City Consulate promised him the two missing permisos on Thursday. I sent the report to SLC Travel. They said that is good, but these missionaries still won't arrive until February, January if they got lucky. That would give them 2 months in the MTC in Provo plus 5 months in a mission in the USA. Not acceptable!

We did all we could. That included prayer and asking our missionaries to pray.

We got this photo of all those missionaries from the mother who tipped us off. Elder Gust, whose mom provided us with the vital information, is second from the left. We put this color photo in the weekly mission announcements with the names of the missionaries below it and asked the missionaries to pray specifically that hearts would be softened in the consulate and that the miracle would happen. Mom told the missionary mom to ignore what travel was saying and send Christmas to Veracruz. We believed that they would come.

The permisos were granted on Thanksgiving Day. The Monday after, I called travel in SLC and pleaded with them to put these two missionaries, Elders Ursua and Gust, in the same travel group with their district. If not, the missionaries would go to the bottom of the stack of 200+ for who knows how long? My contact in missonary travel did that.

On Friday the 10th of December at 10 p.m., Elder Ursua, one who had neither a permiso nor a visa until Thanksgiving Day, arrived at Veracruz International. He came with Elder Ioane who was serving in Los Angeles. They have been out of the MTC for 11 weeks. Now they are very happily here. You see Elder Ioane in the photo with two of the office elders. He is kinda tall, huh? He is 6'7", size 17 shoes, and lost 70 pounds in Los Angeles.

All at the same time, sorta, we got news that Elder Gust and the other five visa-waiters had appointments at the SLC Mexican consulate. We picked them up at 11:00 p.m. at the airport, five days after the others arrived. They are Elders Neves, Harmon, Bartolomei, Nartker, Vaughan, and Gust.

What has happened was impossible. It was a miracle. Faith and works work.