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, January 31, 2010

Sometimes our missionaries listen to us and sometimes they don't. We tell all of our missionaries to break in their new shoes before they arrive in the field. The first foto shows an unhappy result. We have seen a lot of feet similar to this, mostly on brand, new missionaries. Actually, this is a veteran American missionary who played basketball at a ward missionary activity and had some little pebbles in his shoes. He was too busy to shake them out. He knew that he would have blisters, but played on. He lived to tell about it.

We also caution our missionaries not to play too hard on preparation day. Some do and some don't. It is not worth having to go home for surgery. But, we understand. Boys will be boys. However, knees are also knees. This excellent missionary fell and wrenched his knee pretty hard. The picture was a couple of days later, knee still ballooned. He lived to tell about it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A few months ago we posted a picture which showed the lot next to us with almost nothing growing on it. We took this picture on Sept 6th. Something changed.

Elder Watts has a little Relief Society in him and loves to set a nice decorative table for baptismal services. His companion, Elder Espinoza, is signing a little memory book for the two baptismal candidates.

They are Jessica and Lady, whose mom was baptized about a month earlier. Mom and I had known them for awhile. We have been to their home. They are a great family. The girls wanted to get permission from their dad in Tennessee (not married to their mom and they haven't seen him for five years). But finally, they were baptized. He caved in to their pleas.

In the final foto they are shown with the elders and their mom.

Elder Orozco came to us from Merida, Mexico. He grew up in San Diego, CA, but was deported when he was 18. He was involved in gangs and all sorts of problems. He is one of our most fun missionaries. His English is perfect Spanglish and so is his Spanish. We communicate very well. He never really knows when he is shifting Spanish to English. It is automatic. He was our materials secretary for awhile. We have 30 beds in a dorm at the mission offices. The foto is of Elder Orozco hauling a wheel barrow load of dirty sheets to the washing machine.

Sorry, sort of, for this one. In September, we were driving back from a stake conference in the south of the mission, had to stop for gas, and saw this tow truck. We think some Mexican trucks are funny. It reminded me of the 60's. Peace. Out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Elder Bada and Millan were walking in their area in north Veracruz. A young woman was sitting on the street curb crying. They stopped and talked with her. They asked if they could help her. She said they should leave her alone. She needed no help. They said that they were representatives of Jesus Christ and if she needed help, they were disposed to help her. She talked with them and said that her boyfriend was a jerk, that he had hit her, that he threw her out. She moved in with her parents, but they also rejected her and she just didn't know what to do. So, the missionaries visited with her. It was Saturday. They invited her to attend church the next day. She said that she would think about it. Much to their surprise, she showed up. It was Sunday morning, 5 minutes before church started, and she walked in. She stayed the whole 3 hours. A lady from the ward gave her a room in her house. The foto is of the lady at her baptism. Her name is Leticia and she was born in Bethlehem. Her parents had business there and she was there often. Her life has been tough though, as noted above. Now she has the gospel and is very happy.

Some of our missionaries work through incredible challenges. We are very proud of this one. We call him Elder Starving. When he came to Mexico he would eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly on bread. Then, he started tasting things like chicken soup, roasted chicken, broiled chicken, grilled chicken, and other forms of dead chicken. Eventually, he loved it. He tried rice and loves it. He tried beef and loves it. He tried fish and didn't really like it, but ate it. He liked the white fish better than salmon. (Confused isn't he?) He is hoping to be able to try armadillo and iguana. What an unexpected change! Well, things are not perfect in Elder Hungry's life. He has developed a back problem. He can't stand up very long or it hurts too much. Now when he eats, he feels like bugs or something else is crawling around in his stomach. They/it might be, but I think that is what food does as it digests. He wants to throw up. We sent him to an orthopedist who X-rayed his back. Yup. It is ugly. Should be basically straight and not offset. It is not. In spite of this, he is still hard at it, walking, baptizing, being happy, giving it his all. In his letter to the president this week (11Jan10) he wrote, Estoy mejor. Bautizamos el sabado pasado. Estoy muy Feliz. Estamos trabajando como locos como siempre...pero la semana pasado no porque mis enfermedades. Pero tengo animo. Tengo fe... Vamos a bautizar esta semana tambien. Con mucho amor, Elder Starving. Translated: "I am better. We baptized last week. I am very happy. We are working like crazies all the time...but last week, no, because of my illnesses. But, I am excited. I have faith... We are baptizing this week, too. With much love, Elder Starving." You know that Elder Starving is not his real name, right?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This shot closes the pictures from the month of August, 2009. It is taken from the pueblo, Anton Lizardo, and looks back at the very southern end of Veracruz.

Elder Moyar, not pictured, always has something fun to do. This night he and Elder Ruiz from Delta, UT introduced S'mores to a family in Moctezuma. The family is sitting on their shiny cement floor roasting strawberry flavored marshmallows over a hot plate on their homemade coffe table and putting them in between some kind of a Mexican cracker. We have not seen graham crackers or regular Hershey bars. But, these details and formalities never slow down Elder Moyar and the family didn't know the difference.

The Los Tuxtlas Zone went paintballing in the woods one preparation day. Some of these guys look a little scary. Others, well...
The missionaries are Elders Larsen, Llanos, Lozano, Gil, Carter, Solesbee, Sereno, Sifuentes, Perez, and Dunn.
Click on the picture!

Poor Elder Ricks slipped and fell into a cowpie down in Sihuapan.

You probably heard that Pres. Obama visited Mexico in August, 2009. I still don't know how Elder Collins got so close to him.

And they really like to take pictures of their dessert creations. Elders Garcia and Barrio are doing just that. Looks good enough to eat!

¡Braunis! This is what Mom does every six weeks--about 250 of them. She is really popular. Many have asked for her recipe so they can teach their own mothers how do make them. One took a brownie home to Peru to share because they had never tasted them in his pueblo. The secret recipe is to buy the brownie mix at Costco and follow the instructions.

This is the Camarillo Family who live outside the pueblo Piedras Negras, which means Black Rocks. He was baptized in the Gulf. She was supposed to be baptized but changed her mind. The boys want to be baptized but are waiting for their mom. They all want to grow up and serve missions. In her interview, I mentioned that her baptism would be so wonderful because her husband could do it. She told me that she didn't want him to, that it wasn't right. I was surprised at that comment. She told me that she had a dream the night before. She was standing in water dressed in white. With her in the water were these missionaries, Elders Bradshaw and Quintanar, also in white. They were to baptize her. After the interview we talked under the tree with the family and the dogs. Bro. Camarillo said that the demon was visiting his home. We didn't understand. He said that he hadn't seen the demon for 15 years and now that he was baptized, now that his wife and boys were getting ready, that the demon was coming by. We then deduced that he was referring to the local padre. At this writing, the demon still drops by, Hna. Camarillo has not been baptized, and the boys are still waiting for her. But, they are going to church, and Bro. Camarillo is 100% active. There is hope.

When potholes show up suddenly, usually in the night, they are not marked unless a citizen does it. Usually someone will stick a 2x4 or a palm branch in it to warn drivers. This particular morning a recurring pothole dropped in (dropped out?) in the street in front of the office. Someone jammed a blue piece of tarp into the hole, but the office elders had a better idea. They hurried and created a little warning sign.

Looks like it worked!

There is an interesting word they use here. It is planchar which translates "to iron." You planchar your shirt, you planchar your trousers, and sometimes you planchar missionaries. To planch a missionary means you chew him out. Our Elder Moyar from Payson, UT, who is at least as rubber-faced as Jim Carrey, asked me to planch him, which I warmly did.

Elders Vazquez and Gutierrez, from New Mexico, are with a family with an interesting story. They live very near the Estación Chapel in Xalapa. Everyone on their street knew of the missionaries. Their habit was to hide inside and not answer the door when the missionaries would knock, kind of like I do when the Jehovah's Witnesses come by. But, this man would stand outside his house and watch families leave the LDS chapel on Sunday. They all seemed to be so happy. He and his wife weren't. She drank a lot. They weren't getting along well. Their 21-year old son was in the street at night. He wanted his family to be happy like those he saw leaving the chapel each week. One day, the elders knocked again. This time he answered. He thrilled at the story of the Restoration. But, his wife was hiding upstairs. He went up and begged her to come and listen. Reluctantly, she relented. Upon hearing the message, she wept openly and told the young elders that she decided at that minute not to drink again. She hasn't. My interview with the man was very strong. A month later, he baptized his 21 year old son. This foto shows that day.

This picture is of Elder Chacacanta from Peru and Elder Arnett from Vancouver, WA at a baptism in a funny little outdoor font. They are at the Zaragoza Branch south in the mission. They were told that this is the first convert baptism there in anyone's memory.

On a Saturday morning in August, Mom and I drove to the Ojo de Agua Ward (literally Water Eye or Eye of Water, but really means "spring" as in spring of water) in Orizaba for a special interview of Noelia Rodriguez. It was a long and emotional interview for the lady whose primay concern was remaining active in the church because she works too much. We decided that her level of activity was one of personal choice. I felt to offer her a blessing. She agreed to that. The missionaries assisted. There were a few tears and a nice spirit prevailed. The second picture is of her and her son at their baptism that night. We saw her at the Orizaba Stake Conference in December sitting on the fourth row, fully active and smiling. The missionaries are Elders Castillo and Rodriguez.

This one is of a family group the Teziutlán Stake organized on August 9, 2009 in the pueblo Vega de a la Torre. Mom and I went up there, about two hours north of Veracruz. I have a special interest there. Every time I drive through the Spirit tells me that we need to do something in this place. Pres. Hurtado, the stake president, and I have talked. I am not authorized to assign missionaries to Vega because it is not a branch. The location is over an hour from the nearest church unit. There are about 40 members there, the new 11 day old babe in arms being the latest addition. Missionaries were last here about 9 or 10 years ago. There has never been a branch. The group was shut down about 5 or 6 years ago because the high councilor assigned to work with the group had a dream that he was to take one of the local women to wife. That didn't go over very well with anyone. Too many of the people in the dream were already married--like all of them. But, that is over, and we are back, this time for keeps. The stake president is working on applying for branch status and we hope to have that approval in a short time. Then, I will send two excellent missionaries there and we will light it up!

We met in the house of Sis. Salas. Ten of the people in the picture live in the town. The younger adult, kneeling in the front, is Pres. Hurtado. He is a wonder. Sister Salas is the lady in the center in the back. Her daughters, Sandra and Someone, flank Mom and I. To the left of Sister Salas is the group leader Miguel Angel Cabreras. To his left is old Bro. Silvestre. Next to him is a young man, 15, who received the Aaronic Priesthood today and was ordained a teacher. The missionary is Elder Norcross from Vermont.

An interesting note is this. Phil Somerhalder was a counselor in our YSA ward bishopric in California. His son, Aaron, was one of the last missionaries to serve here in Vega de a la Torre years ago. Four of the people in the foto remember him.

In our zone conferences, Mom gives away a brownie when a missionary receives a "Dear John." Elder Ricks from El Dorado Hills, CA called and asked what the reward might be if he wrote a "Dear Jane." That was easy. Two brownies. So, here he is, sealed letter and two brownies in hand. Boy, if his ex ever sees this blog he is in big trouble; especially if he goes home and marries her!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I took a lot of pictures of tall and beautiful buildings when we went on an hour-long bus tour of Mexico City's downtown. But, you'll have to come by if you really want to see a slide show of tall and beautiful Mexican buildings. I took some other shots as well. Here are three--random shots of Mexico City life.

This is an iceman delivering somewhere. He better hurry. It was about 90 degrees that day.

Catemaco, Veracruz is most famous for its brujos, witches. They come to Catemaco from all over Mexico for an annual cleansing so that they can be more powerful. Here is one of them right next to the huge Catholic cathedral in the center of Mexico City doing her incantations and spells with smoking herbs on a person who bought the service. (They are not smoking herbs; the herbs were smoking.) There were at least half a dozen brujos there that day, both genders, all doing the same thing.

Finally, this picture in honor of our son. This cosmetic dentist has a clever little storefront in the downtown business district. Click on the picture for a closer look.

When we left the museum, Pres. Russ Bulloch of the Mexico City East Mission and I bought professional wrestling masks. We bought these because they look like the one worn by the famous luchador, Nacho Libre--one of our favorite really dumb movies.

We took lots of pictures inside the museum. You'll have to drop by and we will give you a slide show. I liked the skulls.

In the other shot we are standing beside one of the original Olmec Heads which date to the time of the Jaredites. They were found in our mission,some near the Hill Vigía which stands watch above Santiago Tuxtla. The word vigía translates watchman. The Olmecs are the oldest civilization in the Western Hemisphere, according to the anthropologists. The Olmecs did not worship these figures, but carved them from basalt to honor their leaders.

While at the seminar, they took us to the Anthropological Museum. Wow. It was loaded with great stuff. It is huge and we saw only the wing dedicated to the Gulf Coast. On the way in there is a pillar with replicas of ancient inscriptions. It represents a tree of the life of Mexico. There is a canopy and water falls from it in a 360° pattern. The day was quite warm but looked refreshingly cool behind the circular waterfall, so I strolled under the tree and stood by its trunk, much to the delight of the other mission presidents nearby. They were all laughting and smiling and taking pictures of me, so I posed for a minute and then walked out.

I was happy that they were happy, but I couldn't figure out why no one joined me until I walked out and they showed me the sign. In part it reads "you are prohibited from putting yourself under the 'umbrella' of the waterfalls . . ." Thanks for telling me. I didn't get arrested, but plain clothes security didn't want to let me into the museum because they thought my pants cuffs were wet. They might have been a little damp. I didn't acknowledge that I understood their language and just kept walking. The museum was nice and cool inside.

In August we were in Mexico City for the annual Mission President's Seminar. Elder Daniel Johnson is our new area president. He is from the Mormon Colonies in Northern Mexico. His wife is from Sugar City, Idaho. Her mom was Marva Weston who taught grade school with my mom in Sugar. Sis. Johnson knew of Nonnie and Grandma Hamilton. Interestingly small world this Churchworld is.

The seminar was presided over by Elder Todd Christofferson. He was kind enough to pose with each of us. When he was a Seventy, he came to Cedar City and released us from our stake presidency callings which, in turn, caused Mom to be released as Stake Relief Society President. That was in February of 2000. Then we moved to California arriving on July 1st. My cousin, Hal Allen, told me that Elder Christofferson attended a large 4th of July family gathering at their home in Orem (Vineyard) this year or last. He is a relative of Hal's wife, Connie. As they all introduced themselves, Elder Christofferson quipped, "I am Todd and I am still active in the Church." This photo is taken in the Visitor's Center at the Mexico City Temple. We had just come out of the temple from an endowment session.

Elder Christofferson was accompanied by Elder Walter Gonzalez of the Presidency of the Seventy. Elder Gonzalez set Mom apart as a full-time missionary on June 6, 2008. It was very nice to renew that acquaintance.

Office elders, Judd (Mesa), Huaman (Peru), and Preston (Santa Rosa, CA) are with a convert and her brother before her baptismal service in Veracruz. She was baptized after church on July 27, 2009. Her name is Grudelia Salazar Ramirez and her brother's name is Guadalupe, a man named after the famous Virgin of Guadalupe which gives you a sense of the depth of Catholicism of their parents. Grudelia is about Emma's height--but now that I think about it, she is shorter--maybe Andy's height. Elder Judd and I are about the same tall, as a point of reference. Guadalupe is planning a temple marriage in a year with his wife whom he also baptized last Saturday. He himself was baptized two weeks before that.