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, April 26, 2009

At the base of the other pyramid is this one-stop shopping health business. You can go to the dentist, get a medical consultation or have your health evaluated, or you can go around the corner of the building and buy diapers at the pañaleria, which is a diaper and diaper supply store--baby supplies. Judging by the snappy, yellow Ford Peekup (that is what these are called here), Dr. Julius Caesar Baltazar Matus is doing okay for himself.

One of the areas most remote in the mission is San Juan Xiutetelco in the Teziutlán Stake. It is a pueblo higher up above heat and humidity. It is on the edge of the dry Pueblan plain, but there is still a lot of citrus, bananas, and much foliage and flowers. Many of the people look different, and dress differently than in the coastal cities and pueblos, more kind of . . . hard to describe. . . Indian-y, I guess. The missionaries up there freeze at night in the wintertime. There is a ward which gets lots of help from the elders. There are also three pyramids in town which date back to 1200-1500 A.D., we are told. We are standing on one of them taking pictures of the other two. The predominant religion has build altars and prayer houses on the top of two of the pyramids. At the base of one is a tire shop. There is an agency which is supposed to safeguard the antiquities, but . . .

Erick Francisco Maza Aguirre is a young man from Isla in the Los Tuxtlas District. He was an interview back in July, 2008. He needed a little work to prepare for his missionary service and he really got serious about it. He finally received his call to serve in the Mexico Guadalajara South Mission. I set him apart for his missionary service in the president's office. An hour or so later he flew to the MTC in Mexico City. I learned an interesting story later. Around 1993 a missionary in Isla was attacked by a man with a machete. He was very severely wounded. A member named Bro. Maza saved his life. Ten days later, the missionary was back on the job. Bro. Maza's grandson is Elder Maza.

On March 22nd, we went to San Andres in Los Tuxtlas and organized the Santiago Tuxtlas Branch by dividing it off of the San Andres Primero de Mayo Branch. This has been a long time coming. It was work well worth it. Pictured are the members of the new branch who made the trek to San Andres for the division. Pictured are the new branch president, on the left, and other leaders and missioanries. There are also 5 investigators in the picture, all of whom have now been baptized. The missionaries are Elders Page (Kernersville,NC, who served in Stgo Tuxtlas for 9 months) Castro, Collins (from Centerville, UT), and Rangel (who served in San Andres for many months).

We went to Xalapa for a special interview with Leticia, the lady walking with Mom. They are walking down a very steep road from her very humble home chatting away in Spanish as they go. She was a wonderful sister. The second photo is her son who was baptized a year ago. He is walking down the road with Elder Moyar from Payson, UT and Elder Llanos, his Peruvian companion. I want to share with you Elder Moyar's story which took place a couple of weeks after Leticia´s baptism. The missionaries stopped by on Easter Sunday.

"We hadn’t eaten all day, and we were hoping to make it quick and get over to the house of the member with whom we’d planned to eat earlier, because we hadn’t been able to go for appointments and the meetings and everything that happens after church. So we got there REALLY hungry. They invited us in, we talked a bit, Jose’s boss [José is Leticia´s husband who was also baptized.] is on vacation so he hasn’t been paid in a while, they didn’t even have enough for them all to take the bus to church that day, they’d only been able to send their son, Alan. So, when she invited us to some tortas we were like, "No, sister, seriously, we’re good." But she never listens when we say that, and went ahead and used the last of their bread, cold beans because their gas ran out, and two pieces of ham to make us tortas.

"Then, we gave them The Lamb of God DVD and she wanted to watch it then and there. We were eating, so we were like, "Cool, put it in." But she couldn’t sit still! She was up and down and up and down, in and out of the little one-room apartment. Then she turned the microwave on and brought us some chicken and tortillas. "EAT, Elders!" So we ate, but she still just wouldn’t sit still!

"I ate two small tortas, one chicken-rib, and 6 or 7 tortillas and was as full as if I’d eaten a three-courser. Then, the movie got over and we were taking turns sharing our testimony. My companion ate the same, or less than I had, and there was still chicken and tortilla, but we couldn’t eat any more.

"Leticia, when we told her we were seriously too full to eat any more, got really emotional and bore us her testimony that God listens and answers our prayers. When she was getting up and down and first, she was going all over in the hall, to the door, thinking in a frenzy what she could possibly give us to eat. As Alan showed us later, they had nothing. But seriously nothing. There were empty glasses, a dish of salsa, and a thumb-sized chunk of cheese in the fridge. But, thinking and praying she remembered the left over chicken from the day before that was still in the microwave. [Yikes! Day-old chicken stored in the microwave?] Warming it up and serving us she prayed and prayed that God would bless the food so that it would fill us, she didn’t care if she had to be hungry the next day, she wanted to treat us well.

"Then, after having served us, when she started getting up and pacing all around again, she told us, that when she was there sitting on the mattress watching the movie, and when we started to eat, she was sure she’d seen out of the corner of her eye, a dove come down above and behind us. But so sure that she thought maybe a bird had seriously flown down the hall, (the building’s missing a few walls.) She was sure though, as she was telling us, and I’m sure too, that her Heavenly Father was telling her she could relax and enjoy the movie, He was going to take care of everything.

"It’s sort of silly, but I really felt it when I thought about how Christ, seeing a group of hungry people prayed that His Heavenly Father would bless the bread and fishes to fill them all, and the prayer was answered, there was even extra afterward. Leticia had made the same request to the same loving Father in Heaven and He’d answered in the same way, smaller scale, but Elder Llanos and I ate until we were full and there was still chicken and tortillas left over afterward.

"It was a really good Easter."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Elders Rangel and Reyes were headed for home. So, we invited the office elders over for a little beeksteak estilo Grandpa Hansen. It was quite the feast, as you can see. The best part is always Mom's homemade rolls which the elders eagerly dipped in the "dook" or drippings from the meat. The best phrase I could come up with to describe it for them was jugo de vaca, cow juice. But that doesn't really work because cow juice is really milk. The missionaries are Elders Lopez, Blanco, Reyes, Page (Kernersville, NC), Rangel, Judd (Mesa, AZ), and Eduardo.

After a special interview in Orizaba, we gave the elders a ride to another appointment. It was at the home of a little man named José Luís Amezcua. We met him and we heard his testimony. His story is really something special.

The missionaries had a referral from the bishop to look a less active for a named Luis. They had a bad address, but people seemed to know him and they were directed to a pink house on a back street. They found the house. The lady of the house invited them in. She said that Luis was not there, but that José Luis was. They offered her a message. She brushed them off but pointed to little José Luis and said that he is always talking about God. So, he invited them into his very humble little home which was next door. The missionaries are Elder Galvan from Acapulco and Elder Hunter from Riverton.

They sat down and began to visit. José Luís told them that his mother died about a year earlier. No one helped him. The churches didn't help him find solace. He had prayed often and cried in the night. In desperation he prayed again one night, not knowing what else to do. A voice came to him and said, "No te preocupes. Te mandaré lo que necesitas. No me pides más." "Don't worry. I will send you what you need. You don't have to ask me again." Then he dreamed a dream and saw a man, a gringo.

While we were in his little house, he recounted the story for us, pointed at Elder Hunter and said, "That night I his your face in my dream. He was wearing that brown tie and those brown pants." They taught him the gospel. His baptismal date was set for March 28th.

Elder Rosales and Elder Gil had an investigator who needed a special interview. We went out to the sticks where they live. The missionaries are in Lerdo, a large and strong branch in the Los Tuxtlas District. The sister lives in a neighboring pueblo, Angel R. Cabada, about 12 km away. We drove to this most humble setting. There are six or seven one-room "apartments" side-by-side in a row, each housing a separate family. Plumbing is out of doors. You can see the laundry-scrubbing basin on the right of the picture. This is very typical in almost all homes in Mexico, except in wealthy areas. Chickens and dogs are in the yard. The chickens are food. The dogs are skinny and in the way. A large mango tree edges into the upper righthand corner of the image. The little tan things are flowers and will self-cull, leaving many mangoes to mature. I interviewed the lady in her home, the door of which is to Elder Rosales' right--one light bulb, a couple of chairs, not clean. They had a fridge, though. I sat on one plastic beer chair and she on the other. The interview was great. She and her 15 year old daughter went to general conference the next day and they loved it! There are members in town who have mini-vans and they pick this family up and take them to church in Lerdo.

At the far north end of the malecon this main street terminates at a cross road which leads to a large tourist, hotel, and restaurtant district near the Mexican Naval Headquarters. Wierd, isn't it, that they would have that huge grey wall sitting at the end of this picturesque area.

Well, it isn't a wall at all. It is a huge grey ship. The second picture is taken from a different angle. Same boat. This odd-shaped vessel is said to carry up to 3,000 cars which are partially constructed. They are shipped in from Volvo, GM, Ford, Volkswagen, and others, to Mexico. From the port they are trucked to plants where assembly is completed and then they are shipped or trucked to distributors and dealers. Cheap labor? Must be.

The water is rough even deep in the harbor as we look across the at 16th century fortress, San Juan de Ulua. It was a fort, a prison, and is now a historic tourist attraction. Maybe we'll go there someday.

Farther around the malecon the wind is from a different angle. Well, we have moved our base. The wind has not shifted. We have, so the wind is from a different angle compared to us, but not compared to where it really comes from. What I am really trying to say is...oh, forget it.

Huge ships list in the wind and ropes strain at its power.


Norte-whipped water between the malecon and the Isle of Sacrifice with its famous lighthouse, a Veracruz icon. As the waves are pushed shoreward, the ocean floor rises which thrusts the waves higher as they mount their assault on the sea wall.

A "norte" is the Veracruz version of a Nor'easter. The wind blows very hard out of the north, sometimes 100 km/h (62 mph) or more. It oftens brings rain. The temperature almost always drops to 70F or below. People bundle up in ski parkas and knit stocking caps. They don't go to church because it is too cold and windy. In the storm featured in the following few pictures, schools were closed because of the bitter wind. Honestly, it was 75 degrees Farenheit. But, closed they were. These pictures on taken on the malecon ,or levee, which is built up all along the hotel front of the city which borders the usually calm and flat Gulf of Mexico. There is a sea wall to fend off the storms, which are very real. The first picture shows the sand blowing in from right to left. The second shows the sand fluting up through cracks in the sidewalk above the malecon.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It is the sugar cane harvest in Veracruz. The harvest lasts for 6 months and brings some field labor jobs and cheap cane homebrew to hundreds of tiny pueblos in Mexico. When the cane trucks roll through town you better get out of the way. And when they are on the highways, they slow down traffic to 20 to 40 km/h. During the harvest, the highways are choked because of these overloaded trucks. The air is choked from the smoke of the sugar cane mills. It is good for the poor people but horrible for everything else, unless your like Frosted Mini-Wheats--which we certainly do.

These two young men live in Ciudad Isla in the Los Tuxtlas District. I met with each of the one Sunday, 22 Feb 2009, and worked with them on their missionary papers. The first is Eloy Solano Sosa. He is a 25 year old widower. The second is 26 year old Cruz Robles Alejo. Both required special permission to apply for missionary service because of their age and other unique factors. When their calls arrive, we will post their photos again along ith their individual stories, both of which are quite interesting.

This photo show Mom with Elders Ostler from Eagle Mountain (Lehi), UT and Elder Olvera. The little lady is 94 year old Delfina Salcedo Reyes. Two other missionaries were contacting and found a lady named Clementina Guadalupe, 58. She was baptized after a few weeks by Elders Ostler and Olvera. After her baptism, the missionaries were back giving more lessons. They saw her mother, Delfina, in the back of the house and invited her to join them. She did so and took very quickly to the message of the Restored Gospel. Her granddaughter, Susana age 38, also began lessons. In about three weeks granda and granddaughter were baptized.

Before the service, the missionaries were taking the traditional pre-baptism photos. After they were done, Hna. Delfina, who doesn't see well, walked closer to this painting of the First Vision. She touched it with her hands and began to weep, her tears coursing silently down her cheeks. Such is the testimony of this sweet grandmother. How stong are her feelings about the Restoration! Reverently and respectfully, Elder Olvera snapped the second picture.

Renewed, after her baptism she handed her cane to her daughter and said, "I don't need this anymore" and walked all the way home.

So, about a week later, on a Saturday we passed by the temple. There are always tour buses there with loads of people coming in from far away regions for temple worship. This big, red bus is parked by the stake center adjacent to the temple. Sometimes, almost always, the drivers are not of our faith. I have always wondered what they did for the hours their fares are inside. They seem to disappear. We found one!

José Minquiz Pelayo was called to serve in the México Culiacán Mission. Because he is from the Los Tuxtlas District, it was my blessing to work through his papers with him and set him apart on 8Feb2009. He is pictured with his father, who is not a member, and his twin brother, Josué. Can you guess which one is José? Look really close. Yup. The one of the right. Or left. Right side as you look at the photo, to my left. Get it? Okay everybody, smile for the camera! They did.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Right across the street from the stake center in Teziutlán is a veterinary clinic. It seems like this is really a one-stop shopping kind of a business. The wall across the street behind the bright green taxi advertises vaccinations, surgeries, and births. If that doesn't work read the next panel to the right. "Se disecen animales" means that if all else fails, they will mount your dead pet for you. Yup. The vet clinic is also a taxidermy shop. In front of mom on the street is the skeleton of a small dog. Nice memory of little Bowser, huh? We have seen a few dogs walking around that look a lot like that, if you just added a thin layer of skin. The third picture is a bonus shot of a stuffed parrot. Fine work. The puppies in the cage are alive and are for sale, but who knows? They could end up on somebody's mantle. These are worth the "click" on the pictures to enlarge them.

I really like this picture of Mom with Elder Ricks from El Dorado Hills in Northern California and Elder Cifuentes from Mexico City. She is most happy when she is with her missionaries. They work in Teziutlán which is in the State of Puebla and is high in the mountains. We were with them that Saturday for a special interview

"Nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach" (Preach My Gospel, 156). We had just completed a meeting with President Hernandez of the Tuxtepec Stake in the Moctezuma Chapel. We gave Elder Preston, Santa Rosa, CA and Elder Badillo, Mexico City, a ride to their area and dropped them off. We drove about 100 yards away and in the rear-view mirror I noticed they were talking with a young man who happened along the dirt road. With the zoom lens I was able to capture two missionaries doing what real missionaries do--talking with everyone they can.

We left the offices on a Monday afternoon in plenty of time to make our way to two days of zone conferences in the south of the mission. The plan was that the assistants would work with the zone leaders and we would go to the hotel to work on missionary mail, etc. We were about 1 kilometer from the exit when traffic stopped dead. We could not go forward or backwards. The medians on these freeways are deep and steep. There was no way out. We later learned that the campesinos, or men who work in the fields, were mad at the government about something so they blocked the freeway. A fight broke out which turned into a riot, police against the farmboys. 36 people, including 11 police officers, were hospitalized. Some of the scofflaws were arrested. The traffic flow stopped at about 6 p.m. At 10:30 a.m., that is in the morning, like more than 16 hours later, we moved again. We slept in the minivan with the assistants and mosquitoes. No bathrooms. Very annoying. But, we had plenty of crackers and water. In the morning the ground fog lingered. We brushed our teeth, and went to zone conference only a three hours late. Here we are with Elder Rangel. One of us is slobbering toothpaste.

The week before Secretary to the President Elder Bangerter left the offices to return to the field as a zone leader, he and his companions baptized a wonderful young man. He is talking about serving a mission and was called as ward clerk just days after his baptism! The missionaries are Elders Bangerter, Mt. Pleasant, Elder Reyes, and Elder Judd from Mesa who is the new secretary.

Bro. Cesário Ballesteros had a problem with homicide several years back. He had polio as a child and is partially paralyzed. He has no education and is crippled. No one will hire him. He took to begging on the streets. After many years of frustration, he was contacted by the missionaries who overlooked his station in life and considered him a brother and a child of Heavenly Father. They talked with him and invited him to church. They thought they would not go because the Bible does not mention the name Joseph Smith. But, he came with his wife and children. They both felt comfortable, warm, and welcome. I interviewed him on July 1, 2008 and learned his whole story. He was required to live the life of a member for many months. His wife was baptized without him in July. Over an 8 month period of time he changed. He started a business. He and his wife walk the streets picking up junk metal and plastic and sell it as scrap. He even paid tithing even though he was not a member. The Brethren granted permission and he was baptized on March 21, 2009. They are making plans to be sealed in a year.