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, May 29, 2011

We stopped at a homemade potato chip stand in Piedras Negras. These things are really good, if you dump some salt on them, and are a guarantee for instant heartburn.

I asked the man and his sons who run the stand for a picture. This was it. Mexicans do not naturally smile for the camera. It is a genetic imposibility unless you beg them.

I begged. This is what I got. Maybe I should have tipped them a little more.

(If you want to see bigger smiles, click on the photo.)

In Piedras Negras these two boys, about 10 or 12 years old, are gambling. Put your coin in the slot and hope that money falls off of the tray. I asked if they ever win. They said, "Of course! Why do you think we play?" Duh...

We have often mentioned eating iguanas and other delights, but Leapin' Lizards! Can you imagine that creature on your plate? We were coming north along the coastal highway and I was watching for holes and bumps in the road when Mom hollared at me to look to the left. There it was! ("It" refers to all creatures in the picture.) This guy and his friend were selling, illegally of course, iguanas on the federal highway which courses the length of the Gulf of Mexico. He said the big one weighs about 4 kilos. I am sure that is true. We have never seen one even close to that big. Interesting that both the iguana and Iguana Man both comb their hair the same way.

Elder Petersen is such a good boy and a fine missionary, but he is confused. In college sports he favors a school immediately north of Provo. His companion, Elder Hales, is a brilliant scholarship student at BYU and is also an outstanding missionary. By their apartment in Vega de Alatorre, there is a basketball court. For their morning excercise, they go out and shoot. They made a deal. If Elder Hales could beat Elder Petersen in H-O-R-S-E a certain number of times, Elder Petersen would have to stand by their little Christmas tree wearing Elder Hales' BYU football T-shirt and pose for a picture. Elder Petersen lost and is pleased to pose.

These are those two generations with their respective trainers.

(Always click on the photo if you want to see it in a larger format.)

In between all that excitement, a generation of five Mexican missionaries also came in. They are Hermana Moncayo and Elders Perez, Herrera, Zamora, Sanchez Soto, Garcia, and Cuevas.
We were pretty excited to learn that more American missionaries were coming in. As you know, visas have been tough to get. Coincidentally, it seems to connect (or not) somehow to the news of the "Arizona Law," the one which is very offensive to Mexicans. Some of our missionaries from Arizona say that they are from Provo. One of them claims to be from Australia. Whatever.

There is a process to get a visa to Mexico. When a missionary opens his call packet, there is a goldenrod-colored sheet of paper which tells him to apply for his passport and visa immediately. He sends his paperwork to SLC. Missionary travel does the work with the Mexican government. Mexico issues a permiso which grants the Mexican consulate permission to create the visa for the missionary. Simple, right? Nope. Starting last July, the delay has been months. We had no visa waiters before that--four days was the longest delay. The Mexican consulate in SLC was ordered to issue only 15 visas a week. There were over 200 Mexico-bound Americans in US missions waiting to come to Mexico. At one point a couple of months ago we had 26 Americans waiting visas and assigned temporarily to missions in the USA. As a mission we fasted and prayed on fast Sundays. The missionaries started trickling in.

The Friday before Thanksgiving we still had 15 missionaries out there awaiting visas and one in the MTC. A mother of one of them, an Elder Gust, contacted us and wondered where she should send her son's Christmas package because he was in Albuquerque and they knew that he, and an Elder Ursua, had not yet received the permiso, the first step. WHAT? Everyone else had received the permiso months ago. On Monday I raised Holy Ned, as my mom used to say. (No, I don't have any idea who Ned is, nor do I know from whence or from what he needs be raised.)

My email was direct, detailed, and was copied to everyone I could think of in the Mexico Area Travel Office and Missionary Travel in SLC. One by one, the emails came in. They all said, "That is Roberto's deal." Roberto. That evening Roberto wrote me and said that the Mexico City Consulate promised him the two missing permisos on Thursday. I sent the report to SLC Travel. They said that is good, but these missionaries still won't arrive until February, January if they got lucky. That would give them 2 months in the MTC in Provo plus 5 months in a mission in the USA. Not acceptable!

We did all we could. That included prayer and asking our missionaries to pray.

We got this photo of all those missionaries from the mother who tipped us off. Elder Gust, whose mom provided us with the vital information, is second from the left. We put this color photo in the weekly mission announcements with the names of the missionaries below it and asked the missionaries to pray specifically that hearts would be softened in the consulate and that the miracle would happen. Mom told the missionary mom to ignore what travel was saying and send Christmas to Veracruz. We believed that they would come.

The permisos were granted on Thanksgiving Day. The Monday after, I called travel in SLC and pleaded with them to put these two missionaries, Elders Ursua and Gust, in the same travel group with their district. If not, the missionaries would go to the bottom of the stack of 200+ for who knows how long? My contact in missonary travel did that.

On Friday the 10th of December at 10 p.m., Elder Ursua, one who had neither a permiso nor a visa until Thanksgiving Day, arrived at Veracruz International. He came with Elder Ioane who was serving in Los Angeles. They have been out of the MTC for 11 weeks. Now they are very happily here. You see Elder Ioane in the photo with two of the office elders. He is kinda tall, huh? He is 6'7", size 17 shoes, and lost 70 pounds in Los Angeles.

All at the same time, sorta, we got news that Elder Gust and the other five visa-waiters had appointments at the SLC Mexican consulate. We picked them up at 11:00 p.m. at the airport, five days after the others arrived. They are Elders Neves, Harmon, Bartolomei, Nartker, Vaughan, and Gust.

What has happened was impossible. It was a miracle. Faith and works work.

Elders Martinez and Castellanos baptized this husband and wife in the river near Misantla. There is not a baptismal font.

Then, Elder Martinez slipped and fell.

Afterwards, they strolled down the road together, happy and oblivious to the fact that people were changing clothes behind them obscurred (on one side, at least) by a blanket.

We have talked about the various celebrations of the virgin. One is in Piedras Negras, a little town where we have a branch. It is about 90 minutes outside of Veracruz. The entire town turns out for this. They decorate all the streets downtown. Countless streets are covered with colored sawdust. There are many designs. Some are Christmas trees, some are camels and wise men, others are of a "virgin," and others of depictions of the several the so-called "stations of the cross" depicting steps along the way toward the Crucifixion. Bags of sawdust are delivered to almost every house in the town. The residents are responsible to color the sawdust. They they gather and decorate the streets. There is a float prepared with real flowers. At 8 p.m. on the 8th of December a procession begins at that Catholic Church. All the people walk in the streets singing and chanting. They gather at the Christmas tree downtown. Babies are blessed at midnight.

In the meantime, Mormon missionaries Buenfil and Ramos press on.

Poor little guy. This little boy was in trouble with his grandma. She tied him to the window so that he couldn't go out and play--so that he would serve his sentence. The missionaries snapped the picture. I think he could have untied himself if he really wanted to.

This reminds me of my mom telling us of Aunt Eva tying cousin Brucie Tall, as Mom called him, to the clothesline so that he wouldn't go out on the highway to stop cars and beg money.

The picture is of Elder Apaza, a Bolivian, and Elder Coffin who is a Samoan. They had been teaching the family of the man in the back. His daughter had been baptized. His wife was ready, but wanted to be baptized with him. The problem was that he really did not want to listen with his heart. One day the wife called the missionaries. She asked them to meet her at the hospital. Her husband had suffered a stroke. When they arrived they found him completely paralyzed on one side. The doctors had told the family not to expect the man to walk again and if he could it would be at least a year before they should expect any change.

The young elders offered the man a blessing. He agreed. They explained to him the sacred nature of what they were about to do and the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood. He asked that the blessing might proceed.

The man was anointed with consecrated oil by Elder Coffin. The blessing was sealed by Elder Apaza. He was promised that he would heal and walk. The next day he did so. Now, he listened to the missionaries with a sincere interest. He walked into the baptismal font. His arm is not completely healed, but the miracle happened.

Elder Apaza is almost 19 years old and comes from a totally inactive family. His prayer is that because of his faithful service that his family will reactivate themselves and those who are not members will listen to the missionaries. Elder Coffin is a member for two years plus a little and came here speaking very little English, but talking often of his "faif in Jesus Christ." Faif is his favorite American word, I think.

Sis Flores and Sis Carrillo were working in their area, Jardín Branch, San Andrá Tuxtla. They had been in the area only a couple of weeks. They were each contacting people in the street. Sis Flores said that they were about a meter apart. Someone yelled at her, "Hey are you the elders?" She said that she said, "No, we are elderas!"-- but she was joking . . . I think. The man said that a few weeks ago that "boy elders" had been teaching him but that the had not seen them for a while. He said that he needed to be baptized and so did his three grandsons. So, the "elderas" taught them. They were all baptized together. The older young man is preparing to serve a mission and he was the desiganted baptizer.

Elders Hales and Petersen baptize in a river near Vega de Alatorre on December 11, 2010.

Elder Marín closed his kitchen remodeling business to come on a mission at age 25. He is a fine missionary. This is one of his first converts in the Cazones Branch.

The other really fun and creative thing they did was paint the street. Note that one crosswalk leads into our garage, which is never open. And one of the arrows suggests to the inebriated driver that it is okay to drive right into the house through our front door. So far, the drunken drivers are more in touch with reality than the street painters.

One day the city, Boca del Rio, paved the street in front of the mission home. The next day they dug up the cement manhole covers. Metal ones would be taken and sold as scrap metal. The cement manhole covers sat for days, but the city was good enough to mark them and warn us so that we wouldn't run over them or drive into the abyss.

This one, warning of danger 300 meters away, was particularly effective.

Elder Sergio Luis Hernandez Gallo (gallo means rooster) is our Area Seventy. He lives in Tijuana. One Sunday he came to Veracruz and we gave him a whirlwind tour of Los Tuxtlas including stopping by the Jardín Branch where he met the elders quorum president Bro. Cruz, branch president Eloy Camacho, and Sisters Carrillo y Flores.

Missionaries like their lizards. This appears to be the same iguana in Isla. Elder Moro is the missionary with glasses and is about 6 feet tall. Elder De La Rosa is the missionary who makes the iguana look even bigger.

Temazcal, which translates from Mazateco to Baño de Vapores, which translates from Spanish to steam bath, has been featured in earlier blog posts. So has Bishop Bruno Hernandez, who is a baker. Elders Alavez and Serna gathered with the bishop and some ward members at the river for a baptismal service on December 4th. We don't know the story of the baptism but love the picture.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

These are the Meza Brothers from Ciudad Chihuahua. The younger one, in front of Mom, started his mission in the Tampico Mission but was assigned to Veracruz when the mission division took place in July of 2010. There are three Meza Brothers serving at the same time. Their father died just before they left. They are supported by their widowed mom. The older, and veteran Veracruzano, was a Mariachi singer before he came on his mission. He can really belt it out!

This is the entire Misión México Veracruz in a glance. We bring all the missionaries into Veracruz at Christmas for a zone conference and then they go through the temple. (You can click on the photos to see your favorite missionary up close.)

Mom and I stopped by the temple for some official business. We realized that some of our converts were being sealed that day. In fact, three couples from the Sihuapan Branch and four from San Andres branches were doing being sealed. So, we went in and witnessed some of them. It was quite a wonderful and spiritual experience. One of the very nice things that happened that day was that two of our returned missionaries were also there, Elder Hernandez Camacho and Elder Perez Segovia. The lady in the picture is a doctor. Her name is Leyva. She was baptized by Elder Perez along with her husband about 16 months earlier. He is also in the picture. Doctora Leyva was the physician who helped Elder Hernandez through a bout with dengue fever.

This post is the last of November, 2010.

In later September, we ordered the annual BYU Football T-shirt. They arrived just in time for Thanksgiving. The office elders, on their preparation day, had donned them and were outside the offices playing football when we pulled in. They are always willing to pose. They are Elders Goodworth, Bodine, Castro, Canseco, Checketts, and Regalado.

We really like Elder Checketts. He came to the mission from Hyrum, Utah. He thinks he is not a BYU fan, but a fan of the other school just to the north. He is a bit confused, but is maleable. Our daughter, Jane, sent us a great Christmas package which included BYU Cougar license plates. Elder Checketts is in charge of materials which includes the two mission vehicles and, obviously, their license plate holders. So, here he is removing the apparatus from the mission president's van and putting on a true license plate holder.

We are all happier now.

This is our Thanksgiving turkey. Elder Watkins did not execute it. We bought frozen from Costco. Mom noticed the labeling and we had a laugh. It advertises that this turkey is double-breasted. We have not noticed too many single-breasted ones.

This was the result. We invited the office elders to dinner, on Mom's Spode, along with Hermana Queta who has worked in the mission offices for years doing laundry and cooking for the missionaries. Hermana Marquez, who helps at the mission home, and her husband also came. It is funny to watch Mexicans try to figure out what to do with gravy. Some love it, and others really don't. Not hot enough, I guess.

Elder Hales is from Minden, Nevada. His trainer is Elder Petersen from Salt Lake. They were the first missionaries ever officially assigned to the new branch which is located in Vega de Alatorre. This is one of their first converts. The ordinance was performed in this bay of which is fed in one end by a river and it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.