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.
Pdte. y Hna. Pete and JoElla Hansen
Pdte. y Hna. Pete and JoElla Hansen
Saturday, September 26, 2009
You'll love this one. When the phone rings at 5 a.m., it is never good news. But, I answered it, anyway. Elder Bradshaw, Oxnard CA, and Elder Godfrey, somewhere in Draper, UT, are about two hours out of Veracruz in a small town called Piedras Negras. Elder Bradshaw was sharply awakened by a stinging stab in one of his fingers. He turned on the light to find a 2" long scorpion. Yuck, huh? So, I told him to stick his hand in ice water, take a couple of Tylenol, and I would call the doc. I hated to wake Dr. Brunt at 0500, but oh well. Misery loves company. He was sent to a clinic. There is not a real hospital in this little town. They woke up the night attendant who laughed and them and said that scorpoins aren't poisonous and that he didn't have any anti-venom anyhow. He then asked the elders why they were up so late, wondering aloud if they were drunk. Elder Bradshaw talks in both languages like he is drunk. They hadn't been drinking. They went home to bed, but haven't been able to really sleep all week. The locals tell them that scorpions travel in pairs so they are freaked out. Scorpions travel in pairs and mate for life? Not. Some varieties, similar to black widows, mate for the life of one. Then, the female kills the male and cannibalizes him. I told the missionaries they travel in herds.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
June 27th marked one year in Veracruz. Elder Barrio called a few minutes before 9 in the morning that day and asked if we were coming into the office soon. I told him we were about to leave. He asked if we could wait for a minute because he needed to stop by. This was odd for that time of day because they are usually in their companionship study. But, I said that would be fine. A minute later we heard Sister Marquez, the housekeeper, come in. She usually starts at 10. Wierd. Then, I went downstairs and saw missionaries sneaking around outside. Elder Barrio signalled for me to get Mom and come to the back. I did so. There was a mariachi band in full uniform and full noise beginning to blast away. They were REALLY good! (I am not sure what our neighbors thought at that time of morning.) They played a four song concert and left. Wow. We were really surprised. Then, the office missionaries presented us with a thick binder of letters from every missionary in the mission including some who had gone home. What a wonderful treasure. One year down, and too fast.
We went to Mexico City on business. While there, we stayed at the Mexico East Mission Home with our friends, Pres. Russ Bulloch and Ellen. I served as Pres. Bulloch's counselor in the Cedar City University Third Stake Presidency, and Mom served as president of the stake Relief Society. Now, we are together in Mexico. Pretty fun for us. Their son, Ryan, was about to head off to his mission in Uruguay Montevideo in a couple of weeks. He is not yet 19, but mission president's sons are permitted to go at 18 if they desire. Ryan had a semester of BYU under his belt and now he was on the way. While in Mexico City we went to WalMart and Costco to buy some things we can't buy in Veracruz. We can't buy Frosted Mini Wheats here nor can we buy Caffiene Free Diet Coke. So, we filled up the back of the minivan with essential supplies before we came back to Veracruz.
We stopped by the Salta Eyiplanta. When this pictures were taken, the rains hadn't started yet, so the waterflow of the river is a little down. Salta Eyiplanta is actually within the boundaries of the Baxcaxbaltepec (Hill of the Iguanas) Branch. It is a beautiful area as you can surely see.
The next day was spent with about two-thirds of the mission. We gathered at the Mocambo Stake Center adjacent to the Veracruz Temple, but took the photo on the steps of the temple. Two days later we met at a meetinghouse in Minatitlán with the rest of the mission. What a great experience we shared. Things that happened with ELder and Sister Grow that will change the mission as well as our personal lives forever.
June 19, 2009, we were so blessed to receive Elder C. Scott Grow, 1st Quorum of the Seventy, and his wife, Rhonda to tour the mission and train us. He is also first counselor in the Mexico Area Presidency. They spent the first day, from 10 until 8, training our zone leaders. The zone leaders are Elders Blanco (A.P.), Bangerter, Ficuir, Bowen, Garza, Stojic, De La Cruz, Ling, Carmack, Norcross, Page, Ramirez, Collins, Garcia Garcia, Rusk, Lindsay, Esquer, Martinez, Perez Segovia, and Barrio (A.P.)
Sorry the first picture is fuzzy. Someone moved the camera. We picked up the generation of 15 June 2009 at the airport. As is the custom we went to the mission home to feed them breakfast. Afterwards, before we head to the office to begin their training, we sing "Brillan Rayos de Clemencia" or "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy," the designated mission hymn. It talks about the lighthouse. Veracruz is famous for its lighthouses on the many small islands offshore. The most famous is the big one on the Isla de Sacrificios, Island of Sacrifices. As we explain to the new missionaries, that is where we take disobedient missionaries and hang them from the lighthouse by their own ties. Some laugh. Some sit very quietly not knowing what to think. The second foto is of the new missionaries with their trainers: Elders Blanco, Meza, Taylor, Gonzalez, Tobler, Hnas. Cua y Vergara, Elders Luna, Moyar, Sanvicente, Kerns, Villagomez, Melchor, y Barrio.
Sometimes when we are waiting for missionaries at the airport we get a shoeshine. I had mine done and Mom got hers shined as well. Cost? 30 pesos each or less than $2.50. That day I gave the shoe shiner a copy of the DVD, "Finding Faith in Christ" and got his address to pass along to the elders in the area where he lives. He said they are Catholics at his house. That's what they all say . . .
These are Elders Norcross from Essex Junction, Vermont and Elder Rusk from Merrit Island, Florida. They are baptizing this very happy and smiling young man in the Gulf of Mexico at Nautla. It was June. The sea is very blue in June, and very clear. There has been no rain for awhile so there is no runoff. Great time to go snorkeling, we think. Maybe next June . . . But, it is a great time for baptizing we are sure.
We love the babies. That innocent, little smile. . . . They are just like kids, aren't they? Give them a little sand or dirt and a couple of old cans, and they are in heaven. Elder Norcross took this foto and the next at a beach baptism in Nautla, north of Veracruz about 2 hours. The second one is a bucket of little crabs they and the members caught. After the baptism they had a crab boil on the beach. These jaiva are really small, smaller than your hand, and are not worth the effort, unless you are hungry. (Click on the photo to enlarge it and really see the smile.)
Friday, September 4, 2009
On the way home, from that baptism I got an old familiar swelling pain type discomfort in my back, right side, low, and a couple of other places. It has been over 30 years, but this sensation is unforgettable. I drove as fast as I could, but the pain was very distracting. I had a special interview in Veracruz at 9 p.m. We got to the chapel. The pain miraculously went away and I was able to complete an abnormally long interview with a 39 year old man who was baptized the next day. A blessing. Immediately after the interview, the pain came back with a vengeance. It seemed to unleash all the stored up pain which had dissipated during the interview. It was 9:45 and we had to take the missionaries home. They got out and I told Mom that I had a kidney stone and asked her to get Dr. Brunt on the phone. He told me about a new drug, Flomax, which reduces the urethral spasm and minimizes the discomfort while the stone tries to pass. I have never passed a kidney stone but have had three surgeries, all right before and right after Becca was born (30 or so years). So, we drove to a big supermarket. No prescription required. I LOVE Mexico! They were out of the drug, but would receive a shipment on Tuesday. Not soon enough. This was Friday. But, miraculously, and I really mean that, the pain stopped. It just quit. We went to a 24 hour pharmacy. It was now 10:40. They had the Mexican version of the drug. I was very happy! We had to attend to some ailing missionaries and got home a little after midnight. We got home and I . . . I will spare you the details. But, for the first time in my life I passed a kidney stone. What a huge blessing! No surgery in Mexico is a very good thing. Who has time and patience for that, anyhow? Drink more water.
We went to a baptism in Carlos A. Carrillo. In a previous blog we talked about the husband of the lady who helps in the mission home. They are the Marquez Family. He has family in the Catholic destination point pueblo, Tlacotalpan, the small town with two huge ancient cathedrals. He introduced the missionaries to his family. A man, his wife, and their daughter were baptized. That convert baptized his nephew who is 17. Along with him, his mom, sister, and grandma were baptized. Their dad is trying to get Sundays off work so that he can go to church and also be baptized. Seven in the same family in three weeks! Great work! The missionaries are Elder Melchor and Elder Brown from San Antonio. The nephew in in the middle in white with his arm around his dad who was baptized about 3-4 weeks later. Sis. Marquez is in the front with the blue necklace. Her husband, our member missionary elite, is the smiley fellow on the right. Squatting in front of him is the first convert in the group.
The second foto show the four missionaries of six in the district who baptized that day--Elders Garcia Flores, Hernandez Contreras, Brown, and Melchor--with their converts.
This one is on the blog with the permission, better stated with the strong encouragement, of the missionary. He is Elder Tryon from San Antonio. He needed a shot of an antibiotic for a serious staph infection. He went to the pharmacy and bought the antibiotic without a prescription. Advantage: Mexico. Then, he took it to a lady in the ward who is a licensed nurse. That much we demanded. We didn't want his companion injecting him. Advantage: No waiting room or HMO to get in the way. She is happily hurting him. That is the way we do it in Mexico sometimes. His companion is in the room taking the picture. Don't you love the look on his face?
Not everybody lives in a pretty house. This man lives in this one with half a dozen kids, some chickens, and some dogs. He needs to divorce his wife so that he can marry the woman he lives with and get baptized. They both want that. She doesn't want a divorce, lives a couple of hundred miles away, and hasn't seen him for years. Divorces cost money. Obviously, he has none. These are every day problems for Sis Perez from Durango, Mexico and every other missionary in our mission. The little girl drinking Coke from the glass will drive your dental hygiene types nuts. The small teeth I could see are almost black. This is also an every day(every minute)thing around here.
Did you know that Joseph Smith was baptized? You have heard all those stories from Pennsylvania and New York, I know. But, have you heard about Joseph Smith being baptized in Teziutlán, Puebla, Mexico? And that he was baptized by a Mormon missionary from Tempe and by his companion from Mexico City? There is a story about that. I copy for you the letter from Elders Moeller and Cifuentes.
The Legend [but this isn't really a legend] of Joseph Smith
In the early 1800´s a man was born and given the name of Joseph Smith. Nearly 200 years later, another was born and was given given the same name. Joseph Smith was born to Rafael Vega and Alma Nely Avalos. The family was strong in the church and thought to honor the prophet of the Restoration by naming their firstborn son after him. [Interesting that they did not name him "José eSmith."]
Some rough times hit the familia Vega Avalos and they withdrew their attendance from the Church. Smith as they called him, grew up without the church. Alma Nely decided one day to take the kids to church. They had been attending for two months before we caught wind they were not members. They would come to church in their Sunday best. Sometimes Joseph would assist the other teachers prepare the sacrament. Just a little apostasy. I think the whole ward was fooled.
Once we found out the children of the family were not members, we were over there the next day. They had knowledge from their two months in the church so we were able to teach the lessons very rapidly. They agreed to be baptized that next week. We continued to pass by and teach them and strengthen them.
Joseph and his little sister Nelly passed their baptism interviews and on the 9th of May were baptized. Joseph Smith now is a baptized Aaronic Priesthood holder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Elder Moeller and Elder Cifuentes
So, there you have it. Joseph Smith's sister Nelly has a real name. It is Meridiana--Meridian, as in the meridian of time. This family was obviously quite active and knowledgeable. They have returned to that. Joseph Smith and Meridiana (of time) Vega Avalos are now official members of the Church. Very nice. You would think that Joseph Smith could look a little happier about finally being baptized.
This is Elder Baas baptizing in that place the missionaries call the River Cumorah. There is a reason for that, but I don't want to be misquoted, so I will leave it alone. I just want to share a note about Elder Baas. He came on his mission arriving 23 March, the only member in his family. About a month later he called and told me that his brother had been baptized. Then a few weeks later he called and said that he had received an email from his dad. An MTC companion of Elder Baas had taught and baptized him. This past weekend on 30 Aug, Elder Baas called and reported that his mother had joined the Church. These are example of the miracles that touch the lives of our faithful missionaries.
We drove Elder Carter and his companion, Elder Baas from Merida (on the Yucatan Peninsula), to Santiago Tuxtlas which is their area. We went there for a special interview with Juana Chacha. Juana Chacha is her real name. We think it is kind of funny. Juana Chacha, get it? "Wanna cha-cha?" Anyway, this foto is the outside of her house--hammock, table and chairs, lots of shade, and smiling ladies and missionaries. She was baptized the next day in San Andres.
While visiting missionaries in Lerdo, the missionaries from Santiago Tuxtlas we also there. One of them, Elder Carter from Bakersfield, was growing his sideburns about that much too long. Mom reminded me that I had a razor in the van. So, . . . adios sideburns. Dry shaving is really fun. (I know. You are asking, "So, who shaved the front of your head?") I don't think he has enough hair on his lip to grow a moustache, and he wasn't, but what the heck. As long as we were in the neighborhood.
We really like Chili's. We used to go the Chili's a lot and always started with an order of chips and salsa. Weird, but you can't get chips and salsa here. You can get fried flour chips, but in an area of Mexico where there are only corn tortillas, we never see chips of corn and salsa. Then we found a Chili's. It is in Xalapa and is the only one in our mission. They have real Mexican chips and salsa just like in America! We went to Xalapa on business and then took Elders Gates (Overton, NV), Collins (Centerville, UT), and Amador (Mexico) with us. We are so proud of Elder Gates. He came here and didn't think he would like the food, but he now really does and has gained a bunch of weight. He told me that he is looking forward to trying iguana and armadillo someday. They serve neither at Chili's, but the salmon was really good.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Missionaries love baptismal services. I am not sure why so many were at this one. This is the great portion of the Veracruz Norte Zone. I do know that the one of the converts was taught by Elder Page when he was in the area. Because he was close, he was permitted to go back and perform the ordinance. The foto was submitted by a missionary. The missionaries are Elders Lopez F, Del Rincon, Brandt, Garcia Gonzales, Ortega, Page, Alvarado, Sosa, Preston, De La Cruz, Valdez, and Esquer.
We have created a couple of words. One is bautizona. That is when all the missionaries in a zona baptize in the same week. The other is bauti-strito; all the missionaries in a district baptize in the same week. These are not easy things to do. There are many challenges. The office elders are more challenged to do this because they spend about 40-50% less time proselyting. But, the office set a goal early in the month of May and they did it! They chose to baptize all together at the same service and we shot this nice memory. They are Elders Blanco, Page (Kernersville, NC), Judd (Mesa, AZ), Lopez Flores, Barrio, and Huaman.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
These are two examples of casas de oracion. Where the Church has no chapel, it rents a building, or part of a building. The first is a pretty nice one in Piedras Negras, a branch about 90 minutes away from the Veracruz Temple where the stake center is. The second is not so nice looking. It is in Temazcal. They meet upstairs on the second floor. This is a ward which is a solid 45 minute bus ride from the stake center in Tierra Blanca. The members of the ward are thrilled because the FM group recently bought them the window mount air conditioner you can see if you click to enlarge the picture. Temazacal is that place which translates baño de vapores or "steam bath." It really is that hot there. They average about 55 people a week in church at Temazcal.
Just a pretty flowering tree near Piedras Negras. It is springtime and lots of plants are blooming. The rain hasn't started yet, though, so the fields and hills are very dry and brown. Rain starts in June. Floods start in September and October, and end in November. Hurricane season starts in October and runs through January. Snow? Not a snow shovel to be found. That's the weather.
On May 26, Elder Oscar de Jesus Ortiz Bustamonte was set apart to serve a full time mission in the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission. It is the top baptizing mission in Mexico. Elder Ortiz is from San Andres in the Los Tuxtlas District. He has been serving as branch clerk and will be a blessing to his mission president. He is pictured with his aunts, mom, sister, and dad. The family is basically not active, but have returned to a degree of activity as Elder Ortiz has prepared for his missionary service. The women all wept in the short testimony meeting we held before the setting apart, and could not talk. The dad was brave and the missionary tried to be. His mission is a long way away to these folks. They have no car and don't often leave Los Tuxtlas. Cuernavaca is about 8 hours from their home, but that is two years and one world away. He is the first missionary from the family and is a convert of about 3 years. The other young men are friends from his ward and Elder Page, North Carolina, who served in the area.
Elder Reidhead from Arizona and Elder Maya from Mexico are sitting in front of the baptismal font in the Hidalgo Ward in Minatitlan willing someone into the font. I don't think it worked. Hidalgo, a neighborhood, is named after the famous Catholic priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who is credited with starting a revolt around midnight September 15, 1810 which led to a long war and eventual Mexican independence from Spain. He is believed to have cried, while imprisoned, "Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe, death to bad government, and death to the Spaniards!" while ringing a bell. So, that's why the missionaries are sitting in front of an LDS baptismal font in an LDS chapel named Hidalgo who was a Catholic priest 200 years ago. Huh?
Elder Rodriguez is scootering in the pueblo called Moctezuma in the State of Oaxaca next to the city, Tuxtepec. Tuxtepec is about 10 kilometers from the San Antonio, Texas. That is the real name of a very tiny pueblo, no paved roads, and about a million miles south of the place where the Spurs play.
Ciudad Isla. This remote pueblo is hot-hot and humid. It is pineapple growing country--miles of open, sun-drenched, quite unattractive pineapple fields in all directions. Then, somewhere near the town is a river. The branch has a building with a baptismal font. But, sometimes they baptize in the river. What a happy gathering they are! Click on the picture to really see their smiles. Elder Sereno from Mexico and Elder Minetto (his trainer) from Oregon reactivated these two families and were able to baptize these two little girls, as well. Elder Minetto is carefully leading one into the river and instructing her, one last time, on how the ordinance will be performed.
The pesquisa was mentioned earlier. The clue-giver is demonstrating what he wants done with the scriptures while the clue is being given. These missionaries will do almost anything for a chance to win free chocolate. Nice double-chin, huh? Too many handmade tortillas will do that to you.
At that zone conference, the Foraneos zone did a skit. I am not sure what the point was, but it was funny. Part of it featured Elder Moyar from Payson mocking the mission president. Oh, I remember. This skit was a "silent movie" depicting the president calling the zone leader to tell him that we were not to wear ties because of the flu. The word got passed from missionary to missionary and at the end of the chain of telephone calls they were wearing t-shirts, no socks, no pants (they wore gym shorts). It was clever. Now, what did that have to do with the work and the glory??? I don't know either. I also don't know why he has that pillow under his shirt.