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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mom and I are walking to the front of the Veracruz Temple where two-thirds of the mission are assembled waiting to start a multizone conference. There they are staged for a foto on the front steps of the temple.

At a multi-zone conference in Minatitlán we are doing the traditional pesquiza, inquiry, which a a scripture chase. The clue-giver provides some obscure few words from the Book of Mormon and then when he says, "¡Vámonos!" the missionaires hurry to find the scripture. The winner wins a food prize. Chocolate always goes first. In that conference, the Los Tuztlas Zone provided a special number. Elder Lopez is playing the piano, Elder Perez the violin, and Elder Taylor is directing. I don't remember what they did, but is was great!

So our friend, Elder Bangerter, got two boxes of Wheat Thins in the mail from his mom. She must love him very much. You can't buy Wheat Thins where we are and they are not inexpensive to ship. He knows we love Wheat Thins, so he shared a box with us. We are saving them for the opening BYU game. Having now returned home from his mission, he will be there and we will think of him as we feast.

This story testifies that the hand of the Lord is here in the Mexico Veracruz Mission, that angeles veracruzanos-Veracruz Angels-are protecting our missionaries. This is the story.

Friday morning, 15May09, Elder Fox from Kentucky and his new companion (went into the field three days earlier) who is Elder Zárate were in their apartment at about 10a.m. finishing their morning study time. About two blocks away there was a loud explosion which shook their cement house. An LP gas tank had blown up in a taqueria (taco shop). As you can see, it leveled the building it was in. The taqueria was attached to the house. If you zoom up on the foto you can see where the taqueria was attached to the house--the areas of exposed brick walls. The taqueria is gone. The house was demolished and the roof fell straight down to the ground. The car was parked on the street.

Here is the miracle. The missionaries, as noted, were home studying. The propane tank exploded with such force that it blew out all the windows of other houses for two blocks including across the street and in houses adjacent to theirs. The missionaries were sitting in front of their front window. Not one window in their apartment was broken. Not one. They were protected, uninjured, and well enough to walk down the street and take pictures on their way to work.

Unabashed, the missionaries continued working and baptized a family of four the next day. There is no denying that our missionaries are protected by the hand of the Lord, His ministering angels, and the Holy Ghost.

In Baxcaxbaltepec, Cerro de Las Iguanas, or Hill of the Iguanas, the branch president is a high councilor named Dr. Rojas. He is an M.D. He was ordained a high priest when he lived in Minatitlán in about 1975, if my memory is right. The man to ordained him to that office was a visiting Apostle named Gordon Bittner Hinckley. Here President Rojas is pictured with the president of the teachers and the president of the deacons quorums. They are also the only two active young men in the branch. The other picture is of him with the first and second counselors in the branch presidency, Elders Eduardo and Villalobos.

The missionaries, Elders Melchor and Brown, never gave up. Here we see Bro. Marquez smiling with his family, all in street clothes, the day of their baptism. They paid bus fare, 25 pesos each, to go the chapel in Carlos A. Carrillo to be baptized. The man, who is Bro. Marquez' nephew, and his wife were baptized with their daughter on her 8th birthday. About two or three weeks later, the man baptized his nephew as four other family members were baptized at the same time. Two Sundays ago, he was leadoff speaker in the conference of the Tuxtepec Stake. The work is continuing in Tlacotalpan. The second foto is of their very humble home in that beautiful town. We have been in the home. I wish I could have taken pictures. A true shanty, no front door, one room divided by a hanging curtain to separate sleeping quarters from living room, clean as a whistle.

This is Tlacotalpan, a beautiful and unique community on the banks of the Paploapan River. It is a destination point because it has two beautiful Catholic cathedrals. The town is very small, a few thousand people. There is a branch of the Church there and two missionaries who meet together in a casa de oración, house of prayer--there is no chapel. Missionary work has been very slow. I talked with the stake president and told him that we would give it one more change cycle, 6 weeks, and if the missionaries didn't get something going we would have to move them. In the meantime, a man named Bro. Marquez, who lives in Veracruz, said that he wanted to go there and work with the missionaries. He is a Tlacotalpan native and still has family there. His wife helps with the mission home. Off he went. The first of the results are in the next post.

While at the Campos home with Elderes Gil and Weaver, they offered us a taste of baina which translates, "baina." You peel off and eat the soft, spongy, styrofoamy covering of the large bean which is about to sprout a little, baby tree. Pretty tasty if you like sweet, soft, spongy, styrofoamy tree seeds. Click on the foto and you can see the sproutling.

Elder Weaver arrived from North Ogden, via the MTC, on Monday, 12May09, as planned. On Tuesday he was in his area. Wednesday, Elder Gil called. He had a family scheduled for baptism but the man still smoked one a day. He asked what to do. I told him to give the man a blessing. He did that. Ten minutes later he called back said that after the blessing the man exclaimed, "I am done! I have no desire to smoke. It is gone!" On Friday, we went to Lerdo where this happened and I interviewed the man and wife for baptism. They passed with flying colors. They are pictured in front of their home. On Saturday Elder Weaver and Elder Gil baptized this family along with three other people. Nice start for Elder Weaver, ¿no?

Our Mexican missionaries come in at 11:00 on Monday mornings. The Americans come in at 5:50 Monday afternoon, if there are not delays with the airlines. In the morning we begin training with the Mexicans. In the afternoon we take them back to the airport, along with the office elders, to greet the gringos. It is really a joyful and exciting time--lots of new missionary energy. Then we return to the offices and walk together to a parilla, a grill, where they Americans eat food they have never heard of: tacos al pastor, arrachera, etc. It is all meat, not particularly healthy, and they love it. We try to arrange seating so that the Americans are flanked by Mexicans. The next day we continue training. The trainers come in and sit in the final session of training with their new charges. The fotos are of the restaurant and the chapel across of the offices where we host the training if the group is large.

Sorry about the lighting in this picture. Later that night, Aug 25, 2008, this group of norteamericanos came into the mission. They entered the MTC on our last day there, June 25, 2008. After our final meeting and dinner with Elder Bednar, we searched them out. They were in classes in 3 or 4 different groups. We were allowed to talk with them for a few minutes. I told them of the visa delays getting into Mexico. I invited them to fast on Fast Sundays and pray always that their visas would arrive. I knew that the mission was down in its numbers because of visa delays. The day we arrived their were 163 missionaries. There should have been 182. We needed these missionaries. I promised them that if they prayed faithfully and fervently, believing and never doubting, that their visas would come and that they would arrive on time. They accepted the invitation. Frankly, people scoffed at them, MTC instructors included. This was impossible. But, I remebered our son Clay's visa/prayer experience when he went to Brazil on time, against the odds, and shared that with them. Unphased by those of a lesser faith, they kept on praying. When we arrived, I invited the entire mission to pray that their visas would come. I told the personnel at Missonary Travel in Salt Lake what we were doing. They did not doubt. The visas arrived on time, at the last minute. It was a miracle. (A group of 4 missionaries who had been delayed for 6 weeks arrived three days later.) These missionaries, to a young man, have continued to serve with faith. That experience set them all up for mission success. You have read the names of several in other posts and will see them again later. All are senior companions and have beem for some time. All speak excellent Spanish. All are successful and happy. In the transfer of Sept 8, 10 days from this writing, 6 will be zone leaders, 2 will be district leaders, and 1 will be a trainer for the second time. Seven have been trainers. I need to call Pres. Monson and ask him the extend each of them for 2 more years. They would all jump at the chance. That is how they are. They are Elders Watts, Taylor, Harris, Larsen, Minetto, Hollander, Moyar, Carter, Fox, Brandt, Moeller, Tobler, and Ricks. The assistants kneeling in the front are Elders Anaya y Castillo.

These were taken on August 25, 2008. The first shows you that we really do have cars and highways in Mexico. The highways are also very liberally sprinkled with litter. That anti-litter campaign has not yet caught in this nation. We were leaving the airport with a vanload of new missionaries. The second is of Elder Sinai Gil Jimenez. Elder Gil came into the mission that morning from Oaxaca, Oaxaca. He talks a million miles an hour and has a very unique accent. When in training, I told his generation that I was looking for the first missionary who had the faith and drive to baptize and confirm 100 true converts. They all sat and looked at me; all of them did that except Elder Gil. His hand shot up like a skyrocket. With a year under his belt he is on track. I have asked him his secret. "The missionary who believes he can, does." Good answer for all phases of life. The foto is of him in the mission home kitchen scrubbing a scrambled egg pan. His mom told him to wash dishes for the mission president's wife every time he got the chance. This was a good start. And his shirt tail is often out. That is just the way he is--100% action.

I came across some fotos in Mom's camera that I wanted to post. They are out of chronological sequence, but oh well. These stand as rock solid evidence that the office elders get special attention from Sis. Hansen. Elder Bangerter. secretary to the president, had a birthday. Mom contacted his mom for the recipe to his favorite dessert, which is pictured. Some of the ingredients, like shortening, are not to be found in Mexico. She is hestitant to use mantequa, lard. (McDonald's fries used to be so good when they fried them in animial fat!) But, neither Elder Bangerter nor any of the office elders complained. Hna. Costco provided the ice cream.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The four missionaries were replaced later the same day by 18 new missionaries. They are Elders DeGroff, Deal, Kraft, Hna. Frausto, Gardner, Decker, Hna. Lopez, Weaver, Brown, Hna. Pech, Tryon, Zárate, Goodworth, Gates, LeDosquet, Sereno, Santamaria, and Lopez. Click on it for a bigger view.

These four missionaries were scheduled to leave on the Cinco de Mayo, May 5th. But, Mexico was leery about flying into and out of Mexico City, so the Church, always happy to take the high road, cancelled missionary travel that week. The no-tie ban was cancelled. Air travel relaxed. Early in the morning of May 10th these four great missionaries went home-- Elders Gonzalez, Alcantara, Galvan, y Sanchez--to their moms who had kept the menudo(cow stomoach soup with hominy, yum . . .) warm for all those days.

Of course, the missionaries had there fun with all the swine flu restrictions. The first picture is of some of the missionaries in the Zona Coatzacoalcos. The writing on the board says, "No ties, no work." The missionaries are Elders Sanchez, Ficiur, Divildox, Martinez, Gil, Parra, Stojic, Ling, and Contreras. The other picture is Zona Xalapa wearing cubrebocas, cover mouths. I really like what Elder Sanchez, the one on the extreme right, is doing. Click on the photos to enlarge. The missionaries are Elders Holman, Llanos, Amador, Barrett, Phipps, Castro, Orozco, Hna. Vega, Hernandez, Hna. Sanchez, Gonzalez, Hernandez, Moyar, Sanchez.

On Thursday of that week, I think it was May 6th, the government lifted the "no meeting" ban, but imposed a you-can't-wear-ties-because-they-are-unsanitary mandate. I guess it depends on what you do with your tie, huh? So, because we believe Article of Faith 12, we complied starting May 7th. It was wierd, though. The missionaries are Elders Lopez, Judd, Page, Barrio, Blanco, y Huaman.

But, even though we were officially closed for business all over Mexico, we were permitted to hold services in small groups in member's homes. All over the mission our missionaries did that. They went in and shared a brief message, sang together, shared the sacrament, visited many members that day both active and inactive. They invited investigators into homes. In spite of the adversity, we enjoyed one of our best weeks. Bishops held very small baptismal services. Converts were confirmed the following week in normal sacrament services. We met with the office elders for our own special sacrament meeting. Elder Barrio, one of the assistants is ironing a clean sheet to use for the table. In the next foto the elders (Elders Huaman, Eduardo, Barrio, Judd, Blanco, Lopez, Page) are posing, but we had a very nice and spiritual testimony meeting around the council table. Don't you love Mom's hair? I am in trouble for posting this one . . .