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, February 22, 2009

Elder Moeller from Tucson, AZ is baptizing a little boy in a lake near San Pedro. We love this picture. The little boy seems to be looking up questioning, but with total trust in Elder Moeller and he looks down at the child with love and patience. Very nice. We were glad that all went well in this baptism. There are crocodiles in that lake.

Elder Rusk from Merritt Island, FL and Elder Wray from Rigby, Idaho heard that shaving your legs helps you stay cooler. That would be nice, if it were true. All it did was give them a rash and cause their pants cling to their legs. They will be so happy to see this blog someday after their missions and know I got my hands on this picture to share with all the world.

Elder Collins from Centerville, UT served as a new missionary in Cosamaloapan, a pueblo on the banks of the very wide and long, and mosquito-y, Papaloapan River. We have talked about the cuisine in that region which includes turtle from the river. They are an endangered species, I am told, probably because so many of the locals eat them. They say that you cook them in spices and then turn the shell on the back and dig in. Armadillo is available. Iguana is fairly common. But a very common food is chicharrón. It is most often deep fried to a crispy, bubbly delight when served with salsa. It is also stewed and cut up into smaller pieces which are put in tacos. (Yo quiero Taco Bell, ¿no?) This picture was actually taken in Santiago Tuxtla and demonstrates very well a version of chicharrón which is boiled in water with a few spices. Chicharrón is pig skin. Elder Collins reports that it is a bit chewy. To get a really good look at the hairs, click on the photo.

Elder Edgington, Nibley, UT, is getting all wrapped up in the work by Elder Hunter from Riverton, UT. Elder Sandoval can't hold back the excitement to see the toilet seat which is being held by Elder Rosales. Elder Andersen from Oak Park, CA obviously loves his new padded toilet seat, as does Elder Bradshaw from Oxnard, CA.

Okay, time for a little fun. Many of our missonary apartments don't have toilet seats. When he heard of this situation, a very kind man mailed us some money and asked that we buy toilet seats for missionaries who needed them. Some of them sent pictures expressing their glee. The first one is Elder Perkins from Boise and Elder Peacock from Spokane. They set up a traveler's distress folder and then posed behind it. The second is Elder Fox from Kentucky and Elder Martinez. The third is Elder Rodriguez and Elder Harris from Sandy, UT.

The first picture is a great example of member missionary work. The man in the middle, who baptized the lady to his left, is one of our stake presidents, Pres. Meza. He and his wife, also in the picture, introduced the lady to the Church and then he baptized her. They are now working with her husband. The next photo is another complete family. Elder Fox from LeGrange, Kentucky is in the front.

The first photo touches us because of one of the missionaries who are in it. Elder Merrill is flanked by Elder Alonso and Elder Jaime. Elder Merrill had to go home early because of illness. That is really hard for everyone when it happens. But, he left baptizing. The second is a wonderful family. She needed a special interview. He is rock solid. Mom wanted to take the baby home with us. I am pretty sure that is against mission rules. The missionaries are Elders Alonso and Parra. To get a closer look at the baby's curly hair, click on the foto to enlarge it.

The missionaries email us lots of baptism photos. Here are a couple of them. The first is Elder Briones and Elder Mendez in Cocoleacaque. The second is Elder Villalobos and Elder Gil in Arista; complete family, father included.

Elder Erik Maza of the pueblo Isla sent us this photo. He is about to open his mission call. He was my third of four prospective missionaries from the Los Tuxtlas District, so far. He is going to Guadalajara South and is very excited. The others are serving in Mexico Tuxtlas Gutierrez, Ecuador Guayacil, and Mexico Culiacan.

This good brother, Alfonso Ramirez Rivera, is 84 years old. He can't read or write. He loves to listen to his wife read the Book of Mormon to him. In his special interview he told me all about why prophets are important. In his letter requesting baptism of the First Presidency he wrote, "I don't know Thomas S. Monson, but I believe that he is a prophet of God just like Joseph Smith was." He was baptised a couple of weeks ago after receiving special permission. That was required because almost years ago he killed a man while defending the life of his father. 18 year old Elder Castro baptized him.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This slide ends "The Elders Rodriguez and Carter Show." Before and after the baptisms they changed clothes in the mission minivan. Here they finish off by putting on their shoes and socks. These two are a model companionship. They are friends and they work really hard. Elder Rodriguez Mendoza is now a zone leader in Xalapa where we hope he can find the 22 year old sister and teach her the gospel. Elder Carter is a senior companion with a young missionary named Elder Rodriguez Vazquez. They re-opened an area, Moctezuma, in the State of Oaxaca.

The children of the branch presidency didn't seem to be too bored. If a boy can find a stick to add to his collection, he is happy.

Mom made me put this one in. She loves her missionaries.

Getting ready for the ordinance . . .

Elder Carter, ready to baptize, sits on a rock and sings the opening song. The service was held under the trees on the riverbank and was actually a very unique and moving experience. The girl standing next to Elder Carter is 17. Her 13 year old sister never misses church and bears her testimony of the Restoration every chance she gets. However, she also goes to the Catholic church on Sunday nights. She likes the images. Her sister to her left is 15. The next sister is 22 and attends university in Xalapa, the capital city of the State of Veracruz. The mom stands by Elder Rodriguez. She wants to be baptized, but her husband (to whom she is not married) objects. It is interesting that he signed permission slips for his daughters, but prevents his common-law wife from progressing.

Christmas is now over and it is back to work. On Saturday, December 27 we went up to Misantla to enjoy the baptism of two sisters. Elders Rodriguez from Coahuila, Mexico and Elder Carter from Bakersfield, California got into the Misantla River to move rocks around. They needed to establish a solid base for the converts to stand on. I guess this is okay if the president is watching. There is no baptismal font in the casa de oración in Misantla. The nearest font is an hour away, so we find a secluded spot on the river and use it. Yes, Sis. Carter, your son wore his suit pants into the river. Do they look happy?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This is how our Christmas Day began. We delivered Christmas packages all over the mission for two days, the 24th and 25th. Mom is shown with Sisters Moreira, Ramos, Guzman, Alarcón, Anguiano, and Cruz all of the Veracruz South Zone. Sister Alarcón is holding a Whiffle Bat and Ball. We got one for each zone to play with at their zone Christmas Party.

Elder Wray from Rigby, Idaho got into it with a monkey and lost. There is a man in Catemaco who has a couple of pet monkeys in cages. The missionaries like to stop by and check them out. Elder Wray had a pen in his pocket. The monkey took a liking to it and stole it from Elder Wray. The monkey started chewing on the pen. The missionary was not happy about that and reached into the cage to retrieve it. A tug-of-war ensued. The monkey knew a rule Elder Wray didn't--the bite-the-opponent-if-you-must-to-win rule. He bit Elder Wray on the pinkie as you can see. He went to a member's house. She heated up a clove of garlic in a frying pan of hot oil. Then, with tongs, she placed the hot garlic on the open wound. Bitemarks cauterized, the scar is now guaranteed. He also got his 25 cent pen back.

We passed through Catemaco on the way back to Veracruz from Acayucan that day. We took Elders Judd and Wray to lunch. While we were there these two little guys, ages 10 and 11, came to our table to sing for tips. The song was something about the Virgin Mary and a tree and the baby. I didn't really get it, but these little guys were really something. They got their tip. They really sang well, too. The elders are assigned to print this foto and take it to the boys at their home.

Luz del Carmen Aguirre Vergara was taught by missionaries a year ago in Coatzacoalcos. Not having a testimony, she declined baptism. A year later Acayucan Elders Tovar and Castro were walking in their area when a man hollered at them to come teach his wife who was ready to be baptized. The man was inactive but still wanted his wife to join the Church. So, they taught her. This time it took. On December 19, 2008, the couple was married. On the 20th in her special interview, she told me that she wanted to be sealed in the temple the next day! She wept with joy all the way through the interview. She was baptized that afternoon. Click on the foto to see her wonderful smile.

The Tezuitlán Zone was the outstanding choir. Elder Rusk, at the piano, is a true musician. He is a piano performance major at BYU and arranged the music the missionaries sang. He had them going in harmony. It was really something.

All the zones prepared a special number. Most were serious and all were well done. This is the Orizaba Zone all decked out for the cold. It was 85 degrees outside and very humid. Elders Andersen and Gonda led the conspiracy to make a Pres. Hansen piñata which he was allowed to destroy with a broomstick later in the day. The missionaries are Elder Gonda, South Carolina; Elder Castro; Elder Andersen, California; another Elder Castro and Elder Tovar.

The Christmas Multi-zone Conferences were a lot of fun, as you can see. We gathered the missionaries in four large groups from all over the mission. We met at the stake center adjacent to the temple. After a program and a meal, the missionaries went to the temple. Elder Moyar from Payson, Utah is being ridden by Elder Chan from Mexico City as the Xalapa Zone sings about Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer. The two sister missionaries are Sister Mendoza of Mexico and Sister Rodriguez from Guatemala.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It is sugar cane season in Veracruz. They harvest the sugar cane after it blooms. On the way home from the baptism in Sihuapan we stopped and took this picture in the sunset.

Elder Lopez is president of the Sihuapan Branch of the Church. Elder Bowen from Camarillo, CA is the counselor. After a few weeks they had their first baptism in the branch on December 13. The branch members wrote congratulatory messages on the board. This mother and son were baptized together. She bore her testimony at the baptism.

Isaac Gomez is a contract worker for the Church. He is a computer whiz and works on all the Church computers in the area. His wife is a dentist and has a dental office in her kitchen. That is very common. They are good friends of ours. They came into the office on Dec 13th and were almost frozen. Hence, the outfits. It was 75 degrees outside. No kidding.

I love this picture of Mom with Elders Blanco and Sanchez. We are in downtown Minatitlán only days before Christmas. Mom saw some clothes she wanted to buy for the granddaughters, so we stopped. The elders helped her negotiate a deal. She was so happy! The second foto is of street vendors selling plastic Santa Clauses climbing a ladder. Guess where they were made. The box said, "Made in China." Doesn't that lady look full of Christmas cheer?

About 35 years ago Alfono Ramirez Rivera and his brother went into town with their dad. Their dad was a drunk and often came home bloody and beaten. One particular man seemed to take pleasure in hurting him. They saw the man that day and he threatened to kill their dad. He then came after the old man. Bro. Ramirez defended his father with his machete taking his life. The First Presidency approved the baptism of this 84 year old man. He can't read. He told me in the interview that one of the things he loves most about life is sitting in the evening with his wife while she reads him stories of the prophets of the Book of Mormon. He loves the fact that we have a living prophet today. In his letter requesting baptism he wrote (through the missionaries) I don't know Thomas S. Monson, but I know that he is a prophet of God just like Joseph Smith was.

This is one of our favorite baptismal pictures. Elder Moeller, who is from Tucson, and his companion, Elder Villanueva who used to work in the mission office, found this young man in a part-member family. They taught him the gospel and reactivated the family in the process in the pueblo, San Pedro. The little boy is looking up into the eyes of Elder Moeller, who is about 6'3", with trust and love. (Note: There are alligators in this lake.)

We have heard that some of the pilgrims, crawl, some walk backwards, and some run barefooted. We haven't verified the first two, but here is evidence of barefooting. Always CLICK to enlarge.

In some letters we mentioned the Virgin de Guadalupe Torch Run. In Mexico City there is a huge and famous basilica dedicated to her. It is the second most important site in Roman Catholicism in the world. Some of the faithful go to the basilica and light torches. Then they run them to their own cathedrals and light candles there which adorn the images of the Virgin. These pictures depict that. Support vehicles carry pictures of her and supply food and drink to the runners. These runners are on the freeway headed south and east to the Yucatan and other parts of more remote Mexico. According to Wikípedia, the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once said that " may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe." Nobel Literature laureate Octavio Paz wrote in 1974 that "the Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery."

With Stake President Rojas and Bishop Reyes we headed out to the pueblito, El Roble. They had been there before, but only by walking or on horseback. We drove. To find the right dirt road we asked directions a couple of times. Here they are "knocking" on the "door" of a man who lives in a type of civilization very foreign to you and me. CLICK on the foto to enlarge it.