On a Saturday afternoon we went to El Paraíso for a baptismal service. We sent missionaries there at the same time we sent elders to La Venta. This was the second baptismal service in this very small branch. It was unique because again, we are talking about a family and a historic location.
We have previously mentioned that Paraíso is a long way from nowhere. It is the little branch where there have been no missionaries for 8 or 9 years. Attendance was 15-18 people. 25 kilometers away is the town, Jesus Carranza. There the elders found a family of 6. The mom and dad are ready to get baptized after he gets divorced from someone else and they get married. This story continues to be a rerun, doesn't it with some slight variations in the theme. But, they are really solid! They have a son, 18, who is training for an Olympic tryout. He is a sprinter. He does not live with them and is attending school elsewhere, but he does come home weekends, has received the lessons, and desires baptism. There is another boy who prefers alcoholic beverages over the gospel. The two daughters are in high school. They were set for baptism.
We arrived, picked up the elders on the highway on the way in, went to the house of the investigators, and loaded them into the minivan. Now we were 10 live people in a 6 or 7-seater. Very Mexican of us. Only one of the girls was dressed in white. Turns out that the younger of the two was teased at school. Her friends told her that the only reason the Mormon elders wanted to baptize her was so that they could take her away Utah and marry her. That would be tricky to pull off. Two of the elders are Mexicans and the other lives in northern California. He is a BYU student, though, so maybe that would be the child-bride connection. Anyway, she chickened out based on that rumor. Her sister was not hustled off to Utah, so she got over it was baptized a week later.
We drove our overweight vehicle to the river. This river is called the Coatzacoalcos and runs along the edge of the town, Jesus Carranza. (You longtime subscribers may recall the story about an 84 year old man who killed a guy who was going to kill his father. That happened in this same little town, Jesus Carranza.) About 17 or 18 members of the branch loaded up in the back of a Nissan pickup with wooden cattle racks, all standing, and came over from Paraíso to witness the baptism. Remember, when the missionaries started there they had 15-18 in church on Sundays. (They set a record high last Sunday at 36. They have doubled attendance in 8 weeks.) I talked with the former branch president. He and his wife are the very first members of the Church there. He told me that every baptism that has ever happened in the branch has been in a little stream outside of Paraíso. This was the first ever in Carranza. It was an historical day.
As we were about to walk down to the river, a local fellow drove slowly past, totally nonplussed.
The riverside service was short and sweet. We sang and prayed, there were two short talks, and the ordinance was performed. We sang and prayed again. Then, everyone stood up in the back of the truck and went home. It was perfect.
This picture is the opening song at the first ever LDS baptismal service in Jesus Carranza. The song was not "Now We Gather at the River," but was "Families Can Be Together Forever." The two men are the current branch president and the former branch president. The sister on the right is the second member of the Church in El Paraíso. Her husband on her right was the first. Their daughter is leading the music.
Here is the larger portion of the El Paraíso Branch. They are stood in the back of a Nissan pickup and came over the 25 kilometers from Paraíso to Jesus Carranza. The fourth man from the right is that sweet fellow who was the first convert baptism of these missionaries in that area. There are others of the family of the girl who was baptized, Guadalupe Terán Blanco.
The missionaries are Elders Gonzales Ureti, Rodriguez Salinas and Taylor who is from Weed, California.
The baptism of Guadalupe Terán Blanco. (You can click on any of these fotos to enlarge them. This one is worth the minimal effort.)
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