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

Friday, April 30, 2010

We ordered a rosca from a local drug rehab house near the mission office. When we went to pick it up we took a couple of pictures of their Nativity in the driveway, complete with cardboard box houses and reindeer. There is no Bibilical account of the wiseman being transported to the event by reindeer, but how else would they have gotten there? Camels and donkeys??? Problem: Someone had stolen the Baby Jesus from the log cradle, so one of the drugs rehab patients ran into the house and got a substitute, placing it on the log very carefully so that he didn't burn it with his cigarette.

Click on the pictures for an enlarged view.

January 4th marks the end of the annual Christmas celebration in Mexico. The drinking begins December 12th with the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe and ends on the traditional day of the arrival of the wisemen from the east who visited the Christchild. On this day there is also a celebratory cake called La Rosca. At their district class, these missionaries ate it up. They are Sisters Anguiano, Samaniego, and Garza and Elders Miskin, Johnson, Diaz, Haro, and Castro.

Elders Minetto of Tigurd, OR and Del Rincon of Querétero, Mexico finished teaching the Word of Wisdom to this family in Xalapa. Afterwards they pulled boxes of milk, stored on the shelf at room temperature, and posed the family condemning coffee. Isn't there something in the Word of Wisdom condemning room temperature milk?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Sunday before Jane and Spencer came into town, November 15th, we went to church at the Lomas del Mar Ward next door to the temple. We sat near the back so that we could make an easier escape to head to Mexico City. 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 realized 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 Garcia Garcia, had taught the man and woman 4 months previously 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 while they were gone he prayed every day that when they returned to their home that the missionaries would come by.

The missionaries did come by. They went past the vacant house every two weeks for four months. Finally, the family returned and the missionaries made contact. This was the first Sunday after their return. 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

Click on the photo to enlarge it.
This post concludes December, 2009.

The Los Tuxtlas Zone had a bautizona to finish off the year 2009. The zone is geographically large and it is not possible for them to gather for a zone-wide baptism. So, they all baptized that week and then got together later for a zone class. They took a picture of their ties spelling the name of the zone. The missionaries are (back row) Elders Orozco, Hernandez C, Melchor, Tryon (Dallas), Taylor (Weed, CA), Lázaro, Amador, Ostler (Eagle Mtn, UT) and (front row) Dominguez, Solesbee (Anaheim Hills, CA), Preston (Santa Rosa,CA), Hernandez A, Larsen (Orem), Antuna, and Huaman (Perú).

For New Year's, a much bigger celebration in Latin America than is Christmas (meaning more drinking and less missionary work) so on that day let the zones have a party and watch a Hollywood movie. We create the list of approved movies and it is very short. One favorite is "Nacho Libre" which the office selected. Elder Norcross fancies himself to be quite the Mexican style wrestler and Elder Del Rincon looks frighteningly like Esqueleto, the Skeleton, who is Nacho's tag team partner. I included two pictures so you could get the full effect.

The newest addition is the office staff is Elder Hernandez. The tradition is to welcome a new missionary to the office with a Monday morning treat. So, Mom made a homemade chocolate on chocolate cake with a little help from Hermana (Sister) Costco. The fresh cold milk is usually a bigger hit than the pastry. Boxed milk, warm and stored on the shelf, is much more common. The missionaries are Elders Norcross (VT), Collins (UT), Hernandez, Cifuentes, Brandt (UT), Sosa, and Del Rincon.

Elder Hernandez looked pretty happy after cutting and tasting the cake.

The elders of the Coatzacoalcos Zone went to a rest home on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning marked our last day of package deliveries to the missionaries. It was yet another trunk full.

Sugar cane season is in full swing in December and it continues into May. Long lines of cane-laden trailers follow tractors down the roads at about 5 mph.

They block the roads as they try to turn into the refinery parking lots.

The refineries, like this one at Carlos A. Carrillo, never stop until all the sugar cane has been processed.

Mom needed tangerines to put in the Christmas stockings of the office elders. She couldn't find any decent ones in the store, but we were up north in citrus country, Martinez de la Torre, on the 23rd. We saw this truck and flagged him down. He said that these aren't very good because the best come on in November, but we didn't care. Neither did the missionaries. They'll eat anything. He wanted 5 pesos (less tham 40 cents) for a full bag of tangerines. We gave him all our change, I think 17 pesos, and a Tabernacle Choir Christmas DVD. That'll teach hinm to try to undercharge us.

Christmas deliveries continued. The big guy is Elder Taufa, our first Polynesian who is from Mesa. His companion is Elder Garcia Flores from Mexico. The second photo shows Elder Menet from Ephraim and Elder Andersen from West Valley. They are contacting an older gentleman on the highway. We delivered their packages from home after they were done. The missionaries call Elder Andersen "Wonder Bread" because he is so white. The number one Mexican sliced bread company is Bimbo. We are grateful they chose to go with an American brand.

On Monday, December 21st, we took off for the south of the mission to deliver Christmas packages which had come in the mail. We left later than planned, no big surprise, and made our first stop in San Andres Tuxtlas. After that was an unscheduled missionary setting apart in Catemaco. They found me through the missionaries by cell phone. The missionary's name is Yair Timoteo Paredes. He is the only active member in his family except for his little 10 year old brother. Elder Timoteo is going to the Tuxla-Gutierrez Mission which borders us on the south. It is likely a very beautiful area. They say their are lots of mountain and jungle areas. We know that there are lots of ruins in his mission. It should be an interesting place to go.

We arrived at the Catemaco Chapel. He was there with the new branch president. His hair was combed in the very typical teenage pointy-Godzilla-Mohawk style which is popular in Latin America right now, and it drives a priesthood leader nuts. I told him that I couldn't set him apart while he looked like that. We have actually talked about his hair before. He said that there was no water in the chapel that night. I told him, " Too bad. Deal with it." We went off to the bathroom together, and it was true. No water. But he was able to squeeze enough out of the tap to flatten the gel in his hair. I told the branch president that the young elder had to get a haircut before he got on the plane the next day to fly to the Mexico MTC. The setting apart was very strong in spite of the opposition in the beginning. Elder Timoteo bore a very strong testimony in the pre-blessing meeting. I think he will do okay.

The elder on the right, Elder Sereno, is a favorite. He came to us in May of 2009 and is a 100%-er. You can see in his face his love and desire. Because of a serious illness he had to go home. This is a picture of him at his final baptism on the Saturday before his Monday departure. Maybe he will come back. His companion is Elder Espinoza.

Mom asked the missionaries in Isla to find us two pineapples and a liter of pineapple juice. She wanted the new temple president and his wife to taste what Isla is most famous for. We took them out there with us to the branch conference. After church in that branch, the members gifted us with 20 pineapples and three huge jugs of juice. I think they are 5 liter plastic bottles. We are giving away the goods as fast as we can! These pineapples are called piña miel, honey pineapple. They are supposed to be the best in the world. They don't ship out of Mexico because the skin is really tender and they would bruise. But, they sell them in our Costco for 25.5 pesos each. At the peak of the season you can get them for 1 peso in Isla. The juice sells on the street for 12-20 pesos per liter. The members would take no money. The man on the right is the new branch president there. The missionary is Elder Tryon from Dallas.

I interviewed a man named Vincente for baptism. It was a long interview mainly because he vented about his family situation. His wife hated him. He hated her. They fought constantly. Lately, they were fighting about religion. He loved the teachings of the missionaries. She hated the thought, although she was not active in any religion. He wanted to bring her and the children to church. She refused. She would not listen to the sister missionaries nor would she allow their children to do so. He told me that he didn't care. He was determined to be baptized to save his own soul and work on hers as he could. I told him to be patient, kind, not to engage in battles, and especially not fight over this stuff. The Lord would not want them to contend.

Months passed. We would receive pictures of Vincente in white baptizing for the sister missionaries in his ward. I saw him at various church functions, always alone. At the bautizona baptismal service, which was held inside a chapel, Vincente was the first speaker. He bore a strong testimony. Sitting beside him in the congregation was a woman whom I assumed to be his wife. She did not smile. I was glad that she had come and hoped that she could feel something, that this would be a beginning. In the baptismal foto you can find Vincente. He is the tall guy, about the fifth from the left, moustache, smiling with teeth. In front of him is his wife, and their two kids, the girl the boy. He baptized them all in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the bautizona. The missionaries are Sisters Cua from the Yucatan and Castellanos from Mexico City.

He was patient. She started coming to activities, grouchy in the beginning, but she slowly warmed. After time, she listened to the sisters, prayed, and desired baptism. They are very active and are working toward a temple sealing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This was quite the bautizona, as you can see. Veracruz North Zone gathered at Playa Norte and baptized 19 people in the same service. The day was December 19, 2009. The wind was fierce and the waves were strong. It was an unforgettable experience for us, the missionaries, the busloads of members who supported the event, and most of all for the converts themselves.

Juan Carlos Mezos Castro is 19. He lives in Ciudad Isla. He wanted to be baptized by Elders Antuna and Tryon who is from Dallas, Texas. I got to interview him. He met me at the door of his house with his white shirt and tie on, Book of Mormon in hand, his finger marking that he was reading about Abinadi in Mosiah. It was an easy interview. The clincher was at the end. I asked him why he desired baptism, He said, "Because in one year I want to be serving a mission like the elders are."

Then he told me that his mom, who lives in Orizaba, recently married a Mormon guy whose sister is a returned missionary. So, we passed her phone number to the elders there. He was baptized on the subsequent Saturday night. His grandmother, grandfather, and two aunts attended the service. We were in church in Isla the following Sunday for the branch conference and the branch president asked me to confirm Juan Carlos a member of the Church. Very nice. The foto is of him flanked by his missionaries Elders Antuna and Tryon who is from Texas.

This is why we are here. Elder Muñoz from Tlelmenalco, Mexico and Elder Callaway from Big Foot, Montana labor in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz, Mexico. They "married" this couple who had lived together for some time. Now that they desired baptism, they needed to legalize their marital status. We are so very picky about this law of chastity stuff. So, the elders took them to the registro civil, the vital statistics office, and helped them get it done. Elder Muñoz is holding their marriage documents.

The next day they went to the river with family, friends, and members of the ward. There is no chapel in Tlapacoyan, but the river works. All you really need is enough liquid to submerge the candidate and proper authority to affect the ordinance.

This is one of my all-time favorite pictures. Doesn't she look happy? It was December 14th in river water and nothing but smiles. How great was their joy!

Elder Preston who is from Santa Rosa, CA called. He works in Sihuapan. He called and said that he thought he had a tick. We told him what to do about it and to send us a picture for our Mission Medical Memories. He did and here it is. What a beauty!

The delivery was a new silk tie for all the elders. It is a cool Misión México Veracruz tie. We ordered them from an outfit in Mexico City. They were made in Korea and came to Mexico on boat. Then they were trucked to Mexico City, after which they were put on a bus for delivery to Veracruz. On the back they are labeled Mazzotti of Italy. So, for Christmas they got a genuine silk Italian tie made in Korea and purchased in Mexico. The smiling elders are Elders Kohlieber from Simi Valley, CA and Perez. The elders wear their mission ties in all zone and stake conferences.

The sisters received a scarf which was made locally and turned out really . . . ugly. The scarf, not the sisters. They are Hermanas Garza, Anguiano, y Samaniego. The sisters, to their credit, never wear their scarves.

After the skits and musical numbers, the office elders bounded into the chapel bearing gifts. What could they be??? This was VERY exciting! Elders Del Rincon and Norcross flew down the aisle like so many reindeer.

Elder Sosa looked frightenly like the Grinch!

Elders Carter from Bakersfield and Minetto from Tigard, Oregon accompanied a choir on their guitars.

Elder Zárate played the piano and Elder Moyar from Payson accompanied him on a genuine plastic mouth organ he found in some random store in Teziutlán, that almost maybe Peruvian city in Puebla.

Christmas zone conferences came. The Veracruz North Zone scripted a Luke 2 presentation. In the first picture, Elder Gonzalez Poot (pronounced Pote) arrived representing some of the shepherds. They had good glasses in those days. Mom, playing Mary and holding a real live plastic doll, had a very difficult time being reverent. That is a consistent and recurring problem with her.

The producer of the skit selected a choir and had those missionaries who could not sing in the play, and those who theoretically could in the choir. Good in theory, but it really didn't work very well. They were sufficiently loud, though.

Elder De Los Santos (translated, Elder Of the Saints)is a non-Mormon angel as evidenced by the wings.

The visiting kings are Elders Davis (Cedar City), Chacacanta (Peru), and Bowen (Draper, UT) all hailing from points east of somewhere.

Teziutlán is in the top of the mission, way north and west. It is the in state of Puebla. The town has a very unique feel to it, almost like Peru. I guess it feels like Peru. Í've never been there. Teziutlán is mountainous, cold, beautiful, rainy, and foggy except when the sun shines. Then the air is still nice, rarely hot and the skies are vey blue. Most of the people are short. They look and talk differently than in the coastal and lowland regions of the mission. They dress differently--much more "rural," serapes and ponchos, many women wear hats. We love to go there. So do the missionaries. The work is very good. This is a bauti-strito, kind of a fun word we invented which indicates that all companionships baptized in the same week. Here, then, is that district of missionaries with their baptismal candidates, family members, and ward members. The elders are Vazquez, Samayoa, Gardner (San Antonio), Chan, Muñoz, and Callaway (Big Foot, Montana).

We sent that December generation home and the next day met with the new zone leader council. There were 6 new zone leaders and one new assistant in the group. The missonaries are (L to R standing): Elders Yebra, Norcross, Castillo, Watts, Collins, Maya, and Ricks. Sitting, L to R: Elders Nava, Tobler, Esquer, Ficuir, Minetto, Lopez Flores, Castro, Haro, Amador, Solesbee, Estrada, and Moyar.

We had breakfast with that departing generation on their way out of town. The waiter was kind enough to serve Mom coffee. Elders Eduardo and Brandt are entertained and she seems to be quite happy about it, too. What???