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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This is always the best part.

Grandma and her newest baby.
Here come a unique few days of our mission. Jane, Spence, Mason, and Pequeño Andy came to visit from Concord, CA. The next several posts will focus on that. We haven't really taken a day off in our first one and one-half years. But, we did that while they were here, all except for the cell phone ringing incessantly. The cell phone does not take time off. We received permission from the Area Presidency to leave to mission to pick them up at the airport and to visit El Tajín, a famous archaelogical site in the Tampico Mission. So, we did that and a few other things as well. It all started on November 16th when they arrived at the Mexico City Airport. We had never met Andy, who was now 5 months old and 22 pounds big. President and Sister Bulloch from the Mexico City East Mission were kind enought to go with us to the airport and took pictures. He was the stake president in Cedar City who interviewed them for their marriage in the Salt Lake Temple a few years ago.

They are coming through the gate!

Grandma greets Mason while Andy, always hungry, eats his hand.

We found Mason a nerf football in San Andrés. We were both happy.

Pequeño Andy he ain't! He is one big boy!

The month of November, 2009, closed with the baptism of this man on the 28th. His wife is already a member. November was a record month for the mission. Many wonderful people entered the waters of baptism. Elders Decker from Pleasant View, UT, and Watkins from Kingman, AZ are the missionaries.

Another zone activity, same week. We control our zone activities. They are all held on the fifth week of the 6-week transfer cycle and are approved by the mission president. We want them to enjoy themselves, but we don't want them to get into trouble, get hurt, or leave the boundaries of the zone or mission. The Veracruz South Zone played paintball. Here, they call that "Gotcha." You can get hurt doing that when they getcha. Bruising happens once in awhile. Sister missionaries are very competitive and deadly. Sisters Arciniega and Narciso, in the front, look sweet and they are. But, don't mess with them! I´ll try to list the names of the missionaries, left to right. First, the other sisters who opted out are Sisters Martinez, Anguiano, and Perez. Sister Martinez could getcha if she wanted to. The elders are Elder Garcia Gonzalez, Ramos, Ramirez Arambula, Bullock, Amador, Collins, Garcia O., Ramirez M., Parra, Castro, LeDosquet, Rodriguez Salinas, Johnson, Edgington, DeGroff, Cruz, and Campos Castillo.

The Los Tuxtlas Zone went out to Isla for a zone activity to play baseball at the Maza Family compound. Bro. Maza is the new branch president at Isla. In the back row are Elders Lázaro, Courtright, Hernandez Contreras, Ostler, Larsen, Meza, Tryon; front row Elders Carter, Huaman, Llanos, Sifuentes, Perez Segovia, Lozano, and Solesbee. Some of these missionaries had never before played baseball. Be sure to click on the foto and read Elder Meza's pink shirt.

When we went to Mexico City to pick up Jane and Spencer, Mason and Andy, Mom thought of the office elders as she always does. There is a Krispy Kremes store near President and Sister Bulloch's mission home. We bought and delivered to the office missionaries, Elders Cifuentes, Sosa, Norcross, Preston, Brandt, Del Rincon (still working on getting up to 100 lbs.), and García García.

Elder Phipps, from Richfield, UT, was stationed in tiny Tlacotalpan on the banks of the Papaloapan River. He took this picture of himself in front of a political posting which reads "Tlacotalpan has hope." PRI is the dominant political party in the Republic of Mexico.

When it rains here, it does rain. Las Choapas is way south in the mission and sits on the border of the state of Chiapas. Last year the town seriously flooded in October. This year it waited until November. The missionaries were isolated there for awhile because all the bridges were flooded over. There were able to walk in most parts of the town, but sometimes a lancha was the only option.

You can see that the water in the streets is not very deep, only up to the knees, but it still flooded many homes. The elders live in a second floor apartment (by mandate) and were never in danger. All was well. The elders baptized four people in November--in the font in the chapel. The missionaries are Elders Medina and Curiel.
Elder Gutierrez from Las Cruces, NM and Elder Bada from Peru walk along a railroad track in the Estación area of Xalapa. You notice that they are both wearing one-strap backpacks. We now provide them for all of our new missionaries. The two-strap backpacks fill up with way too much stuff, are very heavy, and missionaries were hurting their backs. They walk everywhere. We have no cars assigned to missionaries in our mission. The smaller backpacks help them travel lighter and they can switch from one side to the other if they get tired. The two-strappers are still used for overnight divisions of missionaries. These two elders look pretty good, don't they?

One night we came home very late and found that the tile floor in the living room of the mission home had "exploded." For some reason, it just pushed up from beneath. The mission home is built on sand. I think that they forgot the construction fundamental that "the wise man built his house upon the rock" and also forgot to anchor the foundation on the bedrock below the sand. So, the house shifts. A couple of weeks later the same thing happened upstairs in the master bedroom. This happened on November 11. After Christmas, FM showed up to fix it. In the meantime, we had one complete change of missionaries who did not come to the mission home for food. We went to restaurants with the new and the old. There was nowhere to put them in the house! And Christmas came and went. The bonus was that nobody had to put up the plastic Christmas Tree that someone else bought years ago. That was good.

Elder Chamorro is from Argentina. His home is about 20 minutes from the Buenos Aires Temple. His companion is Elder Millan from Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Before his mission, Elder Chamorro worked in a restaurant famous for its empanadas. So, one preparation day, we invited him to the mission home to make them for us and to teach us how.

Sis Marquez, who helps in the mission home, and Mom are rolling out the risen dough and cutting it. The filling was hamburger, chopped hard boiled eggs, and spices, kernels of corn, mozarella cheese, and it was really good.

Elder Chamorro really knew what he was doing. He taught us how to tuck together the edges of the filled dough, brushed them with beaten eggs, and baked them. Some he fried. They were amazing to look at, as you can see. But seeing was not believing. Tasting was much better.

We talk often of beautiful Santiago Tuxtlas. The first two pictures are the Catholic Church and the town square.

In the town square, and underneath a covering, is an original Olmec Head. It was found behind the famous Cerro Vigía, Watchtower Hill which is in the background, at a place called Tres Zapotes. (Three Zapotes: A zapote is a tree which can grow to 25 meters, 82.0209 feet, in height. The fruit of the zapote is a large berry 5-10 cm, 2-4 inches, in diameter and looks like a tomato. At maturity the color is yellowish-green, the pulp maroon, with an aroma y texture simliar to chocolate pudding. That is what Wikipedia says.)

This Olmec Head is the largest ever found. It is about 10 feet tall. It is unique from the others. The eyes are closed and the nostrils are flat, the lips without life. Experts suggest that it is a monument to a deceased ruler. The other heads look quite alive. The Olmec did not worship these basalt-carved statues, rather they were carved to honor their leaders. The Olmec date to a time between the Jaredites and the Mulekites. Anthroplogists worldwide say that the Olmec are the first civilization on the Western Hemisphere.

Friday, February 19, 2010

But, darkness was not the challenge at the beach baptism. It was the mosquitos. This is the story.

A wonderful lady was found by the missionaries 10 years ago in Vega de a la Torre and desired baptism. Then, the missionaries were pulled out of her town and she never recieved the ordinance. 10 years later, she was found by Elders Page and Moyar. She was retaught, desired baptism, and wanted to do it in the sea. After the Friday zone conference in Martinez de la Torre, Mom and I drove the missionaries (and the assistants) to the baptism.

We were in Vega plenty early. It didn't have to get dark, but, factor in missionaries who have no sense of how fast the sun drops, and Mexicans who have no sense of how fast the clock runs, and that equals dark and late. Dark and late is also when the mosquitoes really come out, especially near water. The sea is near water.

We loaded ten people in the minivan. The missionaries took a taxi. We met at the beach, which was ten miles southeast of nowhere. Good thing it was dark. There was no where to change. The lady, about 50, just walked to the edge of a grove of trees and changed. No one looked. And if it was a sin, she was about to be baptized. Baptism cleanses. Oh, yes. The mosquitoes.

Holy flying, biting insects! There were millions of them. They were tiny, which is good news because tiny ones don't carry Dengue Fever. But, the bad news is that they really bite and when they do, it burns. Then, that stops and you think you are safe, but no. A few hours later the itching starts. It goes away after several days IF you don't scratch. Scratch once and you own a welt for over a month. No kidding.

The baptism. It was one of my favorites. Too often they line up speakers for baptismal programs who think they need to discourse on not just baptism by water but what water is and how it is made--you know, two inert gases get together and BANG! Water! And then the next speaker tries to define just exactly what is the DNA of Holy Ghost. Those talks go on forever and are followed by a chorus of would-be songsters who don't know a correct pitch from a Looney Tune. Then, finally, someone remembers that we are here to baptize.

This one was different. We were in Mosquito-landia. There were no speakers, no special numbers, no videos, no prayers, no nothing. Get undressed, get dressed, get baptized, get undressed, get dressed, get in the van, get home. Perfect. It was not the most spiritual baptism I have ever attended, but at least the mosquitoes were well-fed. Now, because we were in a very remote spot and there were no taxis within miles, 14 piled in the minivan and we drove back to town.

The missionaries are Elders García García, Norcross, Page, y Moyar.

We went to this beautiful beach near Vega de a la Torre for a baptism of Elder Page and Elder Moyar. Things got very late before we arrived and it was getting very dark. But, the sunset was beautiful.

The best is always about the kids. The burro isn't so wild and crazy. The kids are always happy.

Elders Page and García García decided they wanted to take a ride. So, the little 11 year old girl steadied the wild beast while Elder Page mounted up. The real entertainment, as you can see, was the dismount. Great news. Nobody broke any bones.

We like burros. They are all over the place. This one lives in a small pueblo called Vega de a la Torre.

On November 15th, we went to church at the Lomas del Mar Ward next door to the temple. We sat near the back. Elder Castro ushered in an older man in who sat in front of us, obviously not a member. His wife joined him a few minutes after the opening song. During the opening song, he stood up to join the singing. Elder Castro made his way over and told him that he did not need to stand. That is when we discerned that the man was blind.

I talked with Elder Castro the next day. He said that Elder Collins, the other missionary in the foto, and his previous companion Elder Hugo García García, had taught the man and woman 4 months previous but that they had to leave the area for a while with no fixed return date. The man told Elder Castro that he had felt something special while being taught that first lesson. He reported that he prayed every day that when they returned to their home that the missionaries would come by.

Even though the man and his wife live in a pueblo distant from their area, the missionaries did pass by. They went past the vacant house every two weeks for four months. Finally, they made contact. This was the first Sunday after the return home of the man and his wife. The blind man told Elder Castro that while the opening hymn was being sung, that he saw angels and that they, too, were singing the hymn. He and his wife were baptized this week. I wonder if those angels will sing in the temple in a year when he and his wife are sealed.

Veracruz Angels.

This is an x-ray of a Mexican missonary´s broken ankle. It happened on preparation day in November, 2009. He and his district were at some local ruins--Zempoala. They were leaping from block to block--stones which had been carved. These are legal to climb on and it is only natural for a young man, or child, to try to jump from one to the next. ("Put off the natural man," King Benajmin spoke.) They are not large. Well, his companion jumped from one to the other and made it, so of course, he had to monkey-see, monkey-do. Problem is the second monkey was a lot bigger, less agile, and not as good a leaper. He fell about a foot (pun intended) short and broke his ankle. Very nice spiral fracture. You can see in the foto how the impact on his heel and ball of his foot vibrated through his tibia and fibula. You can even see a nice splinter of bone. Excellent X-rays, don't you think? So, the next day he mounted a plane for Mexico City where he lives and that night was under the knife receiving screws and plates to help that ankle knit back together. We expected to see him back here in a few weeks; they said six would do it. At this posting, 19Feb2010, he is not been released to return. Put off the natural man.

Elder Carter and Elder Courtright are on the blog a lot. That is because they baptize a lot of people. They had something like 18 weeks in a row. They are like many of our dedicated missionaries who believe that they can do it and then go all they can to succeed. This good man is Osbaldo. He is 36 years old and blind. He speaks quite a bit of English having traveled, undocumented, through many parts of the United States over many years until he was finally deported. He told me that God took his sight because he drank too much and used too many drugs when he was younger. He is a very happy convert to the Church.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Elder Estrada and Elder Castañeda are in Tres Valles, a small pueblo in the Tierra Blanca Stake. They found a family who had been searching for the true church. They had joined the Jehovah´s Witnesses earlier but were not satisfied. They received the principles of the restored gospel with all their hearts and were baptized quickly. A couple of weeks later, the dad (who holds his red cap) was also baptized completing the family. They are working toward entering the temple. It was especially nice for Elder Castañeda who helped find them and baptized them a month after arriving in the mission.

(This ends the posts for October, 2009.)

In a little alleyway in the pueblo Vega de a la Torre, Elder Page and Moyar are entertaining a flock of children. Sponge Bob must not have been on TV at the moment.

Elder Moyar again. Here he is riding a wild and crazy burro in Vega de a la Torre. That is about as wild and crazy a burro as we have seen, but it is basically normal behavior for Elder Moyar. You can see why we don't usually let him carry a machete.

On that same night, the 31st, at about 9:15 the phone rang. It was Elder Norcross. He made some small talk and then asked if we were still up. We were. Then, he hung up. Twenty minutes later the doorbell rang. We found a jack o' lantern on the porch. The missionaries are Elder García, Preston, Norcross, Del Rincon, Cifuentes, and Sosa. Happy Anniversary!!!

This was a really special moment on a very special day. The Familia Caravallo from Lerdo was baptized about 18 months earlier by Elder Garcia. They were in the temple to be sealed. Because they are from the Los Tuxtlas District, I got to interview them. As I interivewed Hna. Caravallo, I realized that 30something years earlier, on 31 October 1973, Mom and I were in the Salt Lake Temple getting married. Now, I was in the Veraruz Temple helping this marvelous family get sealed. I told them about that. It was a sweet moment we shared. Elder García is in picture on the left.

The two brethren in this picture and in the one above are Pres. Bickmore, the new temple president, and Pres. Memmott who is the retiring temple president. This was Pres. Bickmore's first day on the job. Pres. Bickmore is from Lompoc, CA and Pres. Memmott is from Deming, NM.

Over two months before this picture was taken, the mom in this family contacted the missionaries on the street. She was looking for religion and help and knew that true religion would save her and her family. The missionaries responded quickly. The entire family received the teachings very well. A month later, I interviewed her husband. He and his children were baptized. She refused baptism even though she was the one who was originally looking for it. Finally, a month later, she was ready and I interviewed Hna. Fernandez in one of the craziest interviews ever in the history of the world, I'll bet. I can't write it. You wouldn't believe it. But, I'll tell you about it sometime. The very patient and persistent missonaries are Elder Castro and Collins. Complete family baptized, marriage saved, now working toward the temple.

With Elders García, Norcross, Watts, and Eduardo, we feasted at the Dairy Queen in Coatzacoalcos.

I did a little object lesson in zone leader council about feasting upon the word, not just tasting or sampling it. Elders De La Cruz and Tobler (of the cute girl in between Elders Bangerter and Carmack in an earlier post) won.

Mom thought this was clever advertising. These are two identical, and full, containers of instant oatmeal. One, however, allegedly contains 20% more (compared to what?) and the other 30% more (than the 20% more???). So she bought them. Now she has 50% more than something. That's what I call bargain shopping.

On 19 October 2009 we received six Mexican elders, one American elder, and one sister. Here they are with their trainers. As the lone American, Elder Andersen from West Valley, UT got of the plane, the Mexicans were all saying, "Whoa. He is really white." He still is, but everybody loves him. They call him "Wonder Bread."

This is a nice baptismal service in Xalapa. Several adult men are being baptized. The missionaries are Elders Judd, Page, and Minetto.