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, August 1, 2010

We attended church on the first Sunday of April, 2010 in the Carranza Ward. I wish we would have counted the numbers of people who shared their testimonies. I would be no exaggeration to say there were fifty. No one gave a "talk." No one stood up there for 20 minutes. All bore pure testimony of the Savior and the Restoration. All said it differently. They rushed to the stand as soon as the bishop sat down. About eight could sit on the stand at the same time. A few others staged on the empty first row. A blind man was helped to the stand and back to his seat by others. The girl wearing the blue jacket in the first photo was accompanied to the stand by the sister missionary in the middle of the first photo. The missionary is Sis. Flores. The girl in blue is Lola. Guess her age. I'll tell you in a minute.

They sat together on the stand, Lola a bit nervous, Sis Flores holding her hand. It was the first time she had ever born her testimony. She is not yet baptized, but was so moved by the Spirit that she really wanted to express her feelings. She said that she loved coming to church and loved what she was learning. She said that she believes it all. She testified that she knows that God loves her, that she is His daughter. She witnessed that she will be forgiven of her sins and that they are many. A little girl like that with sins?

She is not 12. That was my guess. She is barely 16. She is expecting a child.

The other children are her siblings. They are aged 7, 9, and 10. The girl in blue in not wearing torn jeans because it is stylish. You look and you can see that this is all they have. They all stood and bore their testimonies aided by the sisters, but they spoke their own hearts. Their mom wants to be baptized, too. But, she is living with a guy who is an inactive member who is married to someone else. So, it won't be happening. Mom and I talked about the situation on the way home. The woman depends on the married-to-someone-else guy to buy tortillas for her children, so she chooses to live in sin. Sadly, Lola has learned by her mother's example.

Adoption is rare. It is not a cultural norm. Without knowing the mother, we could guess that Lola´s mom was never married and it is likely that her mother was not married either. It is a cultural weakness. Thankfully, our little Mormon missionaries are able to help many, many of these people figure out how to get married. This case will be tougher because divorce will have to precede the marriage. . .if he wants to get divorced . . . if he wants to marry her. Can you imagine naive little missionaries being thrown headlong into this stuff? A mission in Latin America is a huge and immediate dose of reality, especially for the norte americanos. Many of our Latin missionaries have mothers in similar circumstances.

As the children spoke, I looked at them and could not help but wonder what will become of them. They need clothes, shoes, education, and a bar of soap. But, tortillas and beans are in first position by necessity. My mind turned to Elder Charles Challas from Ireland, the apostle who was baptized there. He was baptized alone at age 12, the only one in his family, a self-described street urchin. He called himself "that dirty little Irish boy." The gospel saved his life. He became an apostle. I could not help but think, "Which of these will serve a mission, as a bishop, a president of a church quorum or auxiliary?" They live in a poor ward. The members all understand. These children were they themselves only a few years ago. Now, almost every adult in that ward has been to the temple which is only a ten minute walk away.

The children will be baptized next Saturday and then go to the Veracruz Reforma Stake production of "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat." It is free. The sisters will pay for the bus ride. The children will have some nicer clothes and shoes for church next week.

The missionary on the right is Sister Anguiano. She is the one who had to go home some time ago because too much walking caused a shift in her previously injured spinal column. She became paralyzed on the right side of her body. Fully recovered, she is back serving a powerful mission. The one in the middle is Sister Pech from the Yucatan. Her background and socio-economic status is very similar to the children. Thank you for paying your tithing. You bought Sis. Pech's very thick glasses for her. She came with none, walleyed, and able to read only out of her one good eye.

These pictures show the children on their baptismal day. Someone bought them all new clothing and shoes.

We love Mexico.

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