We lean toward the small units of the Church, as you know. We really like the little branches. From Veracruz, we drove over three hours south-southeast and then due south toward the Pacific Ocean. We were in that narrow area of Mexico called the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The land of Mexico twists hard to the left toward the Yucatan and suddenly the Pacific is on the south and the Atlantic, or better stated the Gulf of Mexico is due north. El Paraíso is barely into the State of Oaxaca, pronounced, wah-háh-kah, and is about halfway across that narrow neck of land. I think I have written about El Paraíso before, but let me sum.
The branch was organized many years ago and the Church flourished to the point that a chapel was approved. I think it was 28 or so years ago that they began construction. The townspeople who were not LDS rose up against the members. They showed up with clubs and machetes and threatened to kill the branch president if they did not stop building. This was reported to the mission president. He went to the governor of the state who sent back a letter with him telling the town to let the Mormons build their little chapel. The town decided to ignore the letter and ran the mission president out of town. They stopped building. The rebar stands there rusting today. But there is a small metal building and a flushing outhouse.
Years passed. Missionaries came and left. The last missionaries were in Paraíso, which means Paradise, about 8 or 9 years ago. I have had feelings about the place but until now have not been moved to send missionaries until recently. That we did in April--Elder Rodriguez from Mexico and Elder Taylor from Weed, CA.
Their first convert was about three weeks later. We met this man at church two Sundays after his baptism. In a plastic bag he had his Book of Mormon and a copy of this same picture. He was excited to tell me all about his baptism.
The last time the missionaries were in town they found a group of about 15 youth who were 100% active in the small branch. They assumed they were members of the Church. They were doing all the church stuff the branch could provide. The elders had a branch list. None of the names appeared thereon. When properly investigated it was determined they had never been baptized and confirmed. So, one afternoon, all 15 of them went down to that same little river and were baptized.
Now, 8 or 9 years later, one of those converts is the Primary president. Most of the others have moved away. In this, she is teaching the entire Primary a song to perform in sacrament meeting.
Her husband is a convert of almost a year and is the YM president. He blessed the sacrament last Sunday and gave a great talk on missionary work. They plan to be sealed as soon as they can after their mandatory year mark. He was baptized by Elder Tobler from Illinois in that same river, now rain-swollen.
These are the parents of the Primary president standing in between two of their grandsons. The old brother was the branch president until a few months ago. Now, he is the quorum leader for the Melchizedek Priesthood. He and his wife are the first converts to the Church in El Paraiso. They came here many years ago and were baptized in 1977. Shortly before that the Church sent four families from Mexico City to the area to farm. Thereby, the Church was established.
The two boys are waiting for their mission calls. Another grandson and the couple's youngest daughter will total four of their posterity in the mission field at the same time.
Elders Taylor and Rodriguez started with 15 in services. Last Sunday there were 29 and about five more came late. Five were also investigators. They will have their next three convert baptisms next Saturday in that same little river.
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