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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sisters Calvillo and Anguiano were assigned in the Martinez de la Torre Ward and it was divided creating the new Plaza Verde Ward. These are the very first baptisms in the history of that ward. The interesting story is about the man in the foto, Bro. Arcadio. It was written by Sis. Anguiano.

"He was to be baptized on a Friday. He finally came to his interview but he didn't come to his baptism. I believed in him and in God. I knew that he would do it, nevertheless, I was a little worried about what we should do that he might be baptized. We looked for him on Friday afternoon but didn't find him. I trusted in God. That night I prayed that Father would show me what to do. I knew that He would reveal it to me. Through my dreams He has always helped me. I didn't dream anything all night long, but, I woke up at 6:15. It was time to get up at 6:30 and I thought I would just lay awake. But, sleep overcame me. It was those 15 minutes that Father required to tell me what to do. I saw Hno. Arcadio. I saw that we needed to visit him early in the morning. I saw exactly the words that I had to tell him so that he would be ready to be baptized in a few hours. When the alarm sounded I told Sis. Calvillo that we needed to hurry and leave not later than 8. I told her what had happened and what we had to do. When we got to his house, he was just about to leave. We got there on time. We talked with him testifying exactly what I had dreamed that we should say to him. He committed and he did it. He is a very good man. I love God. He never abandons us even though it is late."

That is the last post of August, 2010

Sometimes is just rains and rains and rains. The ground saturates. The rain can't seep into it. It runs off. The rivers fill up. Upstream waters roll downstream. The banks overflow. The rivers can be pretty, but the results are hard on your furniture. These shots were taken along the Papaloapan River between Ciudad Aleman and Cosamaloapan.

Houses all along the river flooded.

It makes both basketball and soccer tough to play on the schoolgrounds.

And sometimes, the only way you can do your home teaching is by boat. Of course that is what they are doing! These picures were taken on August 31, 2010 after 7 p.m.

This man is a Totonaca. The Totonaca are an indigenous Mesoamerican people who ranged from the famous ruin city of El Tajin downcoast toward Veracruz at Zempoala, another ancient city. They flourished in the coastal Veracruz from 300 A.D. until 1519 A.D. when Hernán Cortés landed near Veracruz, wooed them, and conquered the entire region into and beyond current-day Mexico City. The Totonaca remain as a group after all those centuries and are easily identified by their white linens and straw hats. The Totonaca are also the interesting voladores of our current day, the "flyers" who descend by a single rope from a 30-meter pole pleading favors from the rain gods. That is discussed in an earlier post. This Totonaca man waits for his bus early on a Saturday morning in Papantla.

Oops! Missed it.

We were on the way from Veracruz to Teziutlán to a zone conference. We called Elder Dunn to tell him how close we were. He asked if there were anything I needed. I said, "Yes. A Dr. Pepper, without caffeine, crushed ice." There is no such thing around here. So, I thought. Elders Dunn and Robertson went next door to a supermarket and this is waht they brought me.

Caffeine free?

Pres. and Sis. Hilton are temple missionaries from McCall, Idaho. He serves as the first counselor in the Veracruz Temple Presidency. They have joined a local club where they play tennis and swim and stuff. The young man standing at Pres. Hilton's left is a 14 or 15 year old gardener who works at the club for 10 pesos an hour, about 75 cents. The wage is very typical. The Hilton's were impressed by him and talked with him about the Church. He and his family came to church. It cost them 50 pesos each to go to and from church services. They made the sacrifice. After time, Elders Villalobos, Cano, and Lázaro taught the boy, his mother, and his sister the gospel. They were baptized by Pres. Hilton.
Months ago I had the chance to interview Pedro Rodriguez Rivera. His problem was homicide. Two men attacked him many years ago. He claims to be a martial arts specialist and at the end of the short-lived fight, Pedro won 2-0. The interview was odd and he was not ready. He said that he had a testimony and wanted to be baptized, but the timing, the readiness, was not good. Elder Carter, the zone leader, interviewed him a couple of times. After four months, Pedro was still very active in the Church. He was the self-designated ward home teacher. He talked with the teenage boys about staying out of drugs and alcohol, both habits he had kicked. He sang in the ward choir.

We sent letters of explanation and testimony along with this picture to Salt Lake and approval was given for Pedro to be baptized.

These two missionaries, Sisters Flores and Anguiano, taught Pedro in the beginning, but were transferred before his baptism. We arranged for them to return for the service because they were serving in Veracruz.

Sisters Cua and Flores were the baptizing missionaries. The bishop performed the ordinance.

Contact and contact and contact. That is what Elder Martinez Dominguez and Elder Redfern are doing just a couple of blocks from the mission offices. The missionaries have a lot of success from talking to everyone in the street.

Elder Chase from Plain City, UT and Elder Lopez Pech from Mexico City served as zone leaders in Tuxpam, the northernmost zone of the mission. They are standing on the bridge which crosses the wide and beautiful Tuxpam River a couple miles before it dumps into the Gulf of Mexico.

Elder Lopez stands in the road, ankle deep in water after a summer rainstorm. He really isn't posing. That is how our missionaries have to get around in the colonias after heavy rains. Why isn't he wearing rain boots? Fungus grows in steamy, humidity filled boots and flourishes on missionary skin.
Elder Schilhabel, from Bakersfield, labors in Poza Rica. He and his companion, Elder Romero, worked hard to recuperate a difficult missionary area. They dedicated themselves to the Lord and His work. They did anything they could to help people receive the blessings of the restored gospel.

The brother in the wheelchair, Francisco, lives with his aged mother in a sad little house. He is paralyzed. The elders contacted them and were allowed to come in to share the Gospel. The first lesson went well. The biggest challenge was that the family needed to go to church, both before and after baptism. They have no car. Sometimes it is hard here to get the few who have a car to help with transportation. Gas is not free here, either.

So Elder Schilhabel, never one to say that nothing can be done, took matters into his own hands. He pushed Francisco to church, a distance of over 2 kilometers one way. We have seen the road to the house. It is downhill going, but a minimum 30% grade going back when the sun is much hotter. The picture was taken on the flatter area. This was the first time that Francisco had been out of his mother's house, the first time that he had been in the sunshine, for over 3 years.

Transportation was arranged and within a couple of weeks Francisco and his little mom, Bruna, were baptized and confirmed.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

You are going to love this story from Elder Stewart of Kanab, UT. His companion is Elder Contreras.

"I have to tell you about our baptism. Friday, Amraranta passed her interview and was excited and ready to go. The only problem was she didn't have any white clothes. We told her not to worry about that because we could find some, we thought maybe a member had a white blouse and skirt or something and if not we had these super cute, white jumpsuits. We showed her a picture of one and she did not like the idea of wearing one, but her mom told her if that is what we had that is what she'd wear. So Elder Contreras and I went to Tuxtepec early and got everything ready to go Saturday, but we didn't look for white clothes. We're supposed to use the jumpsuits anyway, no? When the family arrived we handed her the jumpsuit and was she not happy. I was changing into my whites but Elder Contreras said she about smacked him and was not going to put the jumpsuit on for anything. Finally,her mom and another hermana convinced her to do it, but she still wasn't happy as you'll see in the pic. And after the ordinance I think that was the only time a girl has beat me in changing clothes."

You simply MUST click on the photo to enlarge it and see the pure joy in that girl's face. There is nothing like a really happy convert!

In the Training Conference, Elder Redfern and I were talking with Elder Campos Gomez. He was playing the part of a man who we were inviting to attend church. We decided that we would risk catching a cold and take off our suitcoats.

Poor Elders Chase and Lopez Pech. They drew the assignment of "teaching people, not lessons." The topic they got to teach to this cute girl was the law of chastity and committing her to obey it! Looks like everyone is having a great time except Elders Chase and Lopez Pech.

There they are. All the leaders of the Veracruz Mission. Not all the trainers were there. We handled them in a different session.

After the last training we took them all to our favorite parilla, grill for all the arrachera and tacos al pastor, horachata and tortillas they could possibly eat, all served family style. We went through 11 kilos of arrachera and 7 kilos of pastor meat. That is 39.6 pounds of meat, raw weight, for about 50 people. Mercy! Arrachera is very tender, marinated flank steak of beek, diced into pieces and cooked on a flat plate grill. You fill a tortilla with the meat and other condiments al gusto such as fresh cilantro, pineapple, onions, and salsas. Dee-lish! Pastor meat is sliced pork heavily seasoned and it takes kind of like salami, also cooked on the parilla. Horchata is rice milk flavored with vanilla, poured over ice and sprinkled with cinnamon. Really good! And tortillas are, well, they are tortillas. They are always corn in southern Mexico. I always look like that after about a dozen tacos de arrachera.

The third day of the training was Elder Cifuente's birthday. He was the financial secretary for a time and was now serving as a district leader in Poza Rica. It was also Mom's birthday so she made herself Mud Pie for the entire congregation of 50 or so missionaries!

Elder Holman helped them blow out the candles. I spoke a piece from one of the other pans. Yuck!

Elders Reidhead and Cansenco liked theirs.

And Elder Redfern could hardly contain himself! He is always generous to others and chooses the smallest piece . . . uh, yup.
The Missionary Department sent out a new emphasis on "Preach My Gospel Methods." It re-emphasizes attention to teaching skills and more focus on the investigator and less on memorized, robotic deliveries of doctrines and principle of the gospel. It also changes a lot of how we do business. We now have zone coneferences and personal interviews every three months instead of every six weeks, which theoretically allows a mission president more time to work more closely with missionaries. There are a number of regularly scheduled training meetings for misson leadership and trainers. They are the missionaries who do face-to-face training of the field missionaries. Bored yet?

The first training called for 3-4 days straight with the leadership. These are four pictures of that major event.

We gathered in the church across the street from the mission offices. This is the oldest church in the State of Veracruz. It was fit for air conditioning less than a year ago! And they only air-conditioned the chapel. So, of course, we met in the cultural hall for these August 1st meetings. We didn't want our missionaries to catch a cold.

Assistant to the President Elder Redfern led some of the training. He is always ready with a wisecrack.

Elders Villalobos, Cano, Lozano, and Merino enjoyed. Well, maybe Elder Cano didn't quite get the joke. It was in Spanish.

Assistant to the President Amador (which translates "lover," but he was actually a world-class swimmer before his mission) runs the training videos the Church sent us.

We like bauti-stritos. This one took place in Córdoba. The missionaries are Elders Flores, Rosales, Luna, and Camacho on the Saturday after Elder Flores came into the mission. That is a great start!

Elder Hunt has big hands, huh? XXL. If my hands would grow to fit the size of my body, they would be XXL, too.

Missionaries have district class every Tuesday morning from 9 until 11 a.m. The first hour of district class in Veracruz is focused on principles from "Preach My Gospel" supported by doctrine from the scriptures. The second hour is dedicated to role plays of teaching situations. The office elders hold their class on Sunday afternoon from 4:30 until 6:30 because they are at work on Tuesday mornings. We returned from a run to the north of the mission and needed to leave some things at the office. Class was just ending. I talked with the assistants in the president's office and Hna. Hansen visited with a couple of the elders in the council room. After a few minutes she came into the president's office laughing and pulled me in to read what was on the whiteboard where class had been held.

Hna. Flores is a heckuva missionary. She is also a bit of a heartthrob for those who take off their blinders long enough to notice. That would be basically all the elders.

On the board the district leader has written a list of temptations which cause a missionary to lose focus. One of them copped out and admitted in front of everyone that Hna. Flores could be a source of personal unfocussment. We cracked up.

I know that unfocussment is not a word. I don't even know how to spell it. English is tricky sometimes.

I just reread this. I wrote "Hna. Hansen" instead of "Mom." Hopeless am I.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So, our zone leader council went puro cholo for the unofficial photo. Cholo literally translates "dark-skinned" but the common use connotes a punk hanging out on a street corner looking and acting tough. Do we look pure tough? If I didn't know Elder Ávila, first on the left, I might think he was. But, he is one of the happiest, most kind and loving young men you will ever meet. Same for all those Mexican missionaries trying to look cholo. The Americans just look silly. Click on the picture.

The missionaries are Elders Ávila, Castillo, Redfern, Peralta, Selvas, Courtright, Espinoza, Haro, Lopez Pech, Cook, Melchor, Reidhead, Ahlstrom, Hyer, Dunn, Chase, Cano, Villalobos, and Amador.

Elder Bodine and Elder Coffin fish in Poza Rica. This sign is on the door of their apartment.
"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).

But, while we were at the airport we took a minute to get our shoes shined while waiting for the plane to come in. 30 pesos for a shine, $2.25. The missionaries think that is a ripoff because you can get it done in the street for 10 pesos, or sometimes 5-- that would be .375 dollars. 30 pesos is okay.

The August 9, 2010 generation of Mexcian missionaries arrived right on time. Elder Matadama helps them with their luggage as they leave the airport. They are Elders Gil, Flores, Gonzalez Pescador (which means Gonzalez Fisherman, unless you leave out the "s" and then is means Sinner), and Jáugeri. Elder Flores' dad and mom are friends who were released in July having served for three years presiding over the Chihuahua Mission.

The next day they were trained, met their trainers, and went off to their new areas of assignment.

We have a couple of banana trees in the back yard of the mission home. In August of our first year we harvested. Last year nothing happened. But in very early June of 2010, this is what started to happen.

A couple of days later the little flowers were a bunch of bananas all "stuck together" or not yet separated into individual bananas. This is a good picture to click on for a closer look.

After one full week, they looked like this.

And then this.

One morning, it was August 6th only two months from the beginning, we got up to go to work and both trees were bent to the ground. So, we harvested.

I love this story. A few weeks ago, Elders Goodworth and Moro found this family in Tlapacoyan which is 30 minutes from the Cuajilote ruins shown in earlier posts. They were taught and invited to church, The man came, but has was basically inebriated. He liked church a lot. I haven't tried pre-attendance inebriation, personally. Maybe it would help on the 3rd Sunday . . .

Anywho, they really liked what they were taught. They kept all their commitments. He quit smoking immediately, and drinking, too. They loved the message of forever families. They heard that the ward was planning an excursion to the Veracruz Temple (over 4 hours away) on the same day as their baptism. They wanted to do temple baptisms. The elders moved the baptism to Friday night. The bishop and stake president waived the waiting period to be confirmed (first Sunday after the baptism) and for the brethren to receive the priesthood (one week after baptism) and did it all fontside. So, the husdand and his wife were baptized and confirmed along with two of their sons on Friday and woke up early Saturday to go on the bus with the ward to the temple. We went to the baptism. It was really very nice. Their goal is to be sealed in a year.

Three of these six missionaries are those we sent from our mission office to the Villahermosa Mission office. They emailed us this foto from a major ruin in their new mission which is called Palenque. which translates palisade. My dictionary says that it could also mean Indian ranch, pandemonium, or hitching post. Is that why these missionaries are there on their preparation day? Our former Veracruzanos are Elders Campos, Jimenez, and Yebra, missionaries 1, 2, and 4 from the left.

We were on our way from Veracruz to Teziutlán and we stopped in José Cardel because I needed to interview the missionaries there. While I interviewed one of them in my mobile office, Mom jumped out and went to work with Elder Gutierrez Luna contacting people in the town square. She is not afraid to talk to anyone.

In Carlos A. Carrillo there was a bautistrito on August 7th. The missionaries from Carrillo and neighboring Cosamaloapan, where there is no baptismal font, are Elders Linares, Gardner, Coffin, and García García. Elder García was studying to become a Catholic priest when we joined the Church a couple of years ago.