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
Monday, October 26, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
We came home one afternoon to find Veracruz' finest rounding up some young dope-smokers in the park across the street from the mission home. Good job boys!
When people get arrested here they toss them in the back of a peekup. The police trucks normally have two officers in the cab and four in the back, all carrying M-16's, fully automatic, or shotguns. You can see one of those in the hands of a couple of the officers. When there is a police action, lots of backup shows up. One does not want to mess with these guys. The guns are loaded.
This is a favorite story. Elder Tobler from O´Fallon, IL and his companion Elder Gonzales Poot from the State of Quintana Roo (Yucatan) were working in trio with Elder Yebra from Mexico City. They were assigned to Acayucan. More than a 90 minute bus ride due south is the Paraiso Branch in Oaxaca. We have been there. It is remote and beautiful, another tiny pueblo with almost no one living there. For the missionaries to go there, well, it is not time and cost effective. They are very busy where they live. But, they got a referral.
The referral was from the branch president. It was that his son-in-law wanted to receive the missionaries. But, the referral had no data. It was only the propect's name and that he was the son of the presidente in Paraiso. The struggled with what they felt, but feeling that they should go, they did.
They got off the bus at the Paraiso bus stop. The town is another 3 kilometers off the highway on a mostly dirt road. As they disembarked, a young woman holding a baby said, "Hola, Elders!" What a surprise that was! As they spoke they told her that they were looking for a certain man and shared his name with her. She said that she knew him. In fact, he is her husband. They don't live in Paraiso at all, but in another pueblo, Jesus Carranza, 13 km farther south on the highway. She said that he was at their little store and she would take them to him. Miracles? You bet.
So, they met him. He told them that he has closed his little store on Sundays and has been going to church every week for four months. He expressed frustration that he couldn't do anything to help the branch because he doesn't hold the priesthood. He doesn't hold the priesthood because he isn't a member of the Church. He asked the elders to baptize him. So, they taught him and the next week they baptized him in a rainstorm-swollen river in Paraiso. Paradise. That is what Paraiso means.
The same day we were in Hidalgotitlán, Elder Moyar from Payson, UT was in his area, Moctezuma Ward, Tuxtepec City, State of Oaxaca in a bit of a rainstorm. He is happy, though, and is keeping that Book of Mormon dry. Don't you think that he looks like one of those velociraptors in "Jurassic Park?"
This cute little guy was the gatekeeper to Hidalgotitlán. He was unofficial, but he had a gate and we gave him a few pesos to pass through. On the way out we did the same thing and snapped a photo. Click on the photo to zoom up. Check his clean hands and face, his calloused hands, his arthritic fingers, and the warm twinkle in his eyes.
Hidalgotitlán is a wonderful place. It is ready for missionaries. There is a good spirit there. The people were very receptive, somewhat curious about us güerros, white guys, but very congenial. Several expressed interest in talking with us if we came back. We can't go there yet. We are instructed to work from church centers. This is an appendix. We need to first establish a branch at San Cristobal and then, little by little . . . . It will be a great day when the Church can go to Hidalgotitlán.
Everywhere we go, Mom talks to people. This lady was selling volovanes and other pastries from the tray on her head while her husband walked beside her. They had a nice discussion. Had it been earlier in the day we would have bought some volovanes from her, but we get leery as the heat comes up. Volovanes are a layer of pastry, layers of tomato-based salsa and then some kind of meat like meat, for example, or chicken or shrimp. Then there is another layer of pastry on top. Some are filled with pineapple. We really like the shrimp and chicken ones, but not at midday in the sun.
We were in Hidalgotitlán 10 July 2009. We asked the lady who tended the papeleria, paper store, to take our picture. This group of missionaries may be the first in Hidalgotitlán. Some may have passed through. We have heard of members nearby. There are some in San Cristobal and El Roble which are 30 minutes away. But, the stake president says that missionaries have never been assigned. The missionaries are Elders Reidhead from Arizona, Blanco, Sierra, Carmack from New Jersey, Barrio, Stake President Rojas, Elder Ficiur from Canada, and the bishop and his counselor from the Hidalgo Ward in Minatitlán.
A few months ago, LDS Charities delivered a couple of thousand wheelchairs to the Veracruz Mission. They were distributed through the stake presidents. We were surprized to see one in Hidalgotitlán where there are no members of the Church. I talked with the man and he said that he got it from a guy but didn't remember who it was. Obviously, he was protecting his source and was worried that he might not have received it legally. But, he was surely happy to have it.
Hidalgotitlán is a pueblo of about 8,000 people an hour or so west and south of the city, Minatitlán. The stake president wants us to open a mission branch there. We gathered some missionaries went to investigate. The first picture is the town square and the Palacio Municipal, City Hall. The second is a side street and the Rio Coatzacoalcos. If you look closely you will see Elders Blanco and Sierra on the right, down toward the river, contacting a couple.
Mom and I went into the Catholic Church on the town square. It was very nice, clean and tidy. We were very interested to see the tithing box. The writing translates, "Tithing--Deposit your envelope here."
One of the daily goals our missionaries have accepted is to contact every "matrimonio" or married couple in their camino, or path. Here, just outside the Ojo de Agua chapel in Orizaba, Elder Israel Castillo and Elder Miguel Angel Rodriguez are doing just that. Not all matrimonios are married, but our missionaries are happy to help them get married and then baptize them. Ojo de Agua literally translates "Water Eye" but the phrase is used for "spring" as in "spring of water." There is a beautiful park with pools and springs of water just below the church property.
La Luz del Mundo, the light of the world, is a religion here in Mexico. The missionaries say that it was started by a former member of the LDS Church many years ago. There are over 3 million members of that religion in Mexico, compared with 1.1 million LDS. They sit the men and women on opposite sides of an aisle for services and at some point the women veil their faces. Preaching is done from behind an altar. They must be doing okay financially because they build fancy meeting houses. We have watched this church in it final stages of construction in the city of Cordoba. The beautiful and extinct volcano Pico Orizaba is behind the building. The rumor is that this church is built in the shape of a ship so that it can float in case of a flood. We think that an "Ark of the Covenant" is at the bottom left corner of the church.
This was an especially proud day for our mission, 5 July 2009. We have mentioned often the Sihuapan Branch in the Los Tuxtlas District. The mission president presides in districts. On 4 November 2008, we sent two missionaries to this branch. There had not been missionaries there for some time. There was only one active man in the branch and he was the branch president. He struggled. Attendance ranged from 12-15. The branch was dying. The goal was to rescue the inactive members, find and activate or baptize a branch presidency, and find others to baptize.
We sent in Elder Lopez and assigned him to serve as branch president. His counselor was Elder Seth Bowen from Santa Rosa Valley, CA. The former president was called as president of the elders quorum, but got angry after a short time and swore not to return to church until Elder Lopez was transferred. Elder Lopez was not transferred until he went home in July. These missionaries, and Elder Jacob Ricks from El Dorado Hills, CA who replaced Elder Bowen, raised the attendance to an average of 55. The high was 72 one Sunday. There is not room for that many in the casa de oracion. They overflow into little classrooms.
The missionaries got up at 5 a.m. to teach 5:30 seminary. They re-activated men, women, and children. They helped people learn to pay tithing. And they baptized. One of the new tithe-payers is Hno. Bis who is standing on Elder Lopez' right. Next to him is Hno. Tadeo, his brother-in-law. The elders met with these re-activated brethren for weeks, training them from the institute manual, "Principles of Leadership."
When they were ready, Hno. Bis was called as branch president, Hno. Tadeo 1st counselor, and Elder Lopez 2nd. We went to the branch for services on July 5th for the sustaining and setting apart of the new presidency. Elder Lopez went home on the 30th. Pres. Bis is 100% active and continuing to grow the branch. Average is now at 60. We are looking for property to build an official chapel.
Sidenote: I saw the former branch president at a training recently. He is slowly working his way back.
This photo is the youth Sunday School class. The boy to Elder Lopez' left was batpized the following week. The boy in the corner is the son of the former branch president. He is 16 and is preparing for a mission in two years. Mexican boys can serve at age 18.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
We were in one of the local supermarkets, Chedraui, and spotted these chocolate rats. They are called "ratones." So, we bought them for a little treat for the office elders, Barrio, Blanco, Judd, Del Rincon, Huaman, and Orozco. If you click onthe foto, it will zoom up and you can see the little rats. Why do they bake these things? Because we buy them!
This is the zone leader council of July 9, 2009. We are blessed to have a council room in the mission offices. Five of these great missionaries flew home on July 30th. Mission success starts in the zone leader council. We try to teach them correct principles of counselling together, to make good decisions under the influence of the Spirit which will affect the mission both immediately and for years to come. The missionaries are (back row) Elders Barrio, Blanco, Bowen, Perez Segovia, De La Cruz, Ling, Stojic, Bangerter; (table) Ramirez, Esquer, Norcross, Rusk, Ficiur, Carmack, Page, Martinez, Collins, Garcia Garcia, Lindsay, Garza.
This photo of this cute couple was sent in by Elder Minetto in Isla. Again, Isla is in a mission district and the mission president presides. Eugenio Reyes Dolores is old and, as it turns out, a little confused. He and is wife were ready to be sealed in the temple. Then, it was determined that Bro. Reyes was baptized in 1997, but he said he was never confirmed. So, we launched an investigation. In the meantime, the elders began to re-teach him as they should have. If it has been many months between a baptism before the confirmation happens, we re-teach and re-baptize. We were talking about 12 years. A records search confirmed that he had not been confirmed. The man needed to be confirmed before a Saturday, 10 days away, because that was the scheduled sealing day. But, what about the one-year waiting period? Bro. Reyes and his wife had been active for five years. He had also been ordained an elder, according to the record. That showed on the same membership where it says that he has not been confirmed. Tricky. Confused yet? Try it in Spanish and over the phone.
The branch president decided to confirm him. The elders, under the direction of the mission president and area president told him to wait. We were doing a deep file check with SLC. He decided not to. Then, he reordained him an elder, no matter what anyone said. Now, Bro Reyes was ready to go to the temple all except for the mandatory one-year waiting period.
We found a different record. He was baptized in the USA, Salt Lake City on 10Nov97 and was confirmed the next day. He got double-confirmed n 2009. One of those counts . . . Actually, the first one counts. The second goes down as a priesthood blessing. When I went to Isla to sign his recommend, he started telling me all about how he was baptized in SLC and was never confirmed. His wife gently took his arm, smiled and dragged him away. They are sealed forever and ever. Whew!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
This is another picture we love. Elders Barrio (near the Mormon Colonies, Casas Grandes), Gardner (North Ogden, UT), and Ramirez (Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua), are walking this good sister out of the surf. She was just baptized in Anton Lizardo. There is no chapel in Anton Lizardo, so the missionaries normally baptize in the Gulf of Mexico.
We see pictures and videos of missionary apartments in other parts of the world, especially the USA, and are amazed at how our missionaries live. The elders in Cerro de las Iguanas moved into their new digs. With the apartment they got all new furniture because the were re-opening an area and didn't inherit anyone else's old stuff. With that came two floor fans. The missionaries are to turn them on and point them at themselves to cool them down and to keep mosquitos off of them. These two elders used the fan boxes and a cloth-covered board to improvise an extra piece of furniture.
Another from the Simon Dewey Collection has made it way onto a banner. They really like him here. This banner is in Ciudad Mendoza at the base of Pico Orizaba. The quotation advertises Holy Week, which is the week before Easter. The quotation is John 3:16. This translation is common in mainstream Christianity and come from the NIV Bible or one of the many other non-King James versions. It says "God loved the world enough that he sent his Son that whosoever believed in him would not perish but would have everlasting life." The change of one word takes away the Divine Sonship of the Savior, according to Bro. McConkie. The word is "Hijo," or "Son," compared to "Unigénito," or "Only Begotten." Here is the quotation from the new Spanish Bible and from the Kings James Version. "Porque de tal manera amó Dios al mundo que ha dado a su Hijo Unigénito, para que todo aquel que en él cree no se pierda, mas tenga vida eterna," or "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Another photo submission from a missionary shows Elder Lopez from Mexico and Elder Kerns from Santa Maria, California getting ready to baptize this young man in a small river near Tlapacoyan. We don't know the young man or his story but love the photo. Tlapacoyan was upgraded from a branch to a ward about 8 months ago.
Elder Minetto of Tigard, Oregon works in Isla. He caught this one outside the chapel. These iguanas are very common out there. And they are very big. Elder Minetto is about 6'2". The locals skin them, peel off the meat, stir it up with chiles, and devour it with tortillas. Hand made tortillas are preferred, of course.
We love this story. It testifies of the faith of missionaries and their familes and of the love of the Lord for His missionaries, even those who struggle for a multitude of reasons. The picture is very precious to us.
Several months ago we had to send a missionary, Elder Merrill, home to Kansas because he had a serious health concern which could not be treated in-field. It was a problem which he had known of since he was 12 but was afraid to tell anyone, especially when he was 18, because he thought it might disqualify him from serving as a full time missionary. After almost 18 months in Veracruz, the hidden problem resurfaced. We can't mess with his particular problem here. It is an automatic plane ride home for careful medical evaluation. After a few months of work and the power of the priesthood, the doctors found nothing wrong with Elder Merrill. We call that a miracle. He was reassigned to Philadelphia Spanish. His companions have all been native Mexicans. When he left here his Spanish was like a native. The Pennsylvania locals think he has a Veracruz accent. After 8 weeks in Reading (as in Reading Railroad, Monopoly), Pennsylvania, they made him a district leader. Here he is, the one on the right. The other missionary is Elder Gesmin Fayani, home ward Antioch
5th (YSA), CA--home nation Central African Republic, convert of about 3 years. We sent him on his mission to Philadelphia from that California ward in May-ish of 2008. Churchworld--very small and tightly knit. Many faith-reminding experiences.
Missionaries have traditions. Most are harmless. Some, at six months burn a tie. Others, at 12 months, burn a shirt. Not a bad idea. They tend to turn off-white here, kind of a very weak yellow. This one we hadn't heard of. Elder Bada of Lima, Perus is teaching his new missionary Elder LeDosquet from Kent, Washington his personal tradition of burning a pair of slacks at the 18 month mark.