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
Saturday, March 12, 2011
The slogan of Veracruz is "The State that Smiles." Life here really is tranquil. We hear of problems up on the border and can hardly imagine it. Once in a very rare while though, something crazy happens. These pictures show a big truck with some bullet holes and a tire flattened because of a balacera, a shootout. This is the story.
We were sleeping soundly in the Rio Vista Hotel in Poza Rica. At 5:40 a.m. the phone rang. It was Elder Amador. He greeted me cheerfully. He sounded very awake. I asked what was up. (Not who...I knew that.) He said that right out in front of their missionary house was a balacera, a shootout. I asked what he and his companions were doing. There are four living in that apartment. He said that they were all lying down on the floor. Cement houses are good if there is a balacera in the neighborhood.
There are two major drug cartels in Mexico. One is generally located in the north and work the border states. The other is the Gulf Cartel. The locals refer to both of them, and most other drug gangs as Los Zetas or the Mafia. The word is that the northern guys came to town to shoot it out with some of our hometown Gulf gangsters. They go into homes and yank people out of beds demanding to know where a suspected rival is. Sometimes they hurt people. Sometimes they don't. If they find whom they seek, he is a dead man. It is not personal. It's just business. Don't worry about visiting Mexico unless you are in the illicit drug business, if you ARE in the illicit drug business stay near California where they are trying to legalize that stuff!
The local police got involved, who knows from which of several legal or less than legal positions. Then a chase around town started. The army joined in. That can be either good or bad, as well. There was shooting. Finally. the chase stopped in front of the missionaries' house and the real balacera began. So, I told the elders to keep their heads down and call me back in a few minutes when the shooting stopped. They did that many minutes later.
Elder Amador reported that all was tranquilo. He said that the police were still outside and that he could see a patrol truck and a big Chevy all shot up. At 7 a.m. the army banged on their door and wanted the keys to the church. It was about 1 block up the street. I asked him to see what was going on. He went out to talk to the police who were hurrying pedestrians along. Traffic was not passing by. The street is a hard dirt backstreet with minimal vehicular traffic. He told me that the police were inside the church. I asked him to hustle down there and see what their plans were, if it were safe. He said that it was, and he did that.
When he and his companion arrived they found that the big gate to the church parking lot had been forced open. Four of Los Zetas were handcuffed and sitting in the middle of the outdoor basketball court. More officials were inside the church searching for more bad guys. Then, the shooting started again!
Elder Amador and Elder Martinez Barrios made a dash for the church. Los Zetas had returned, presumably to attempt a rescue of their captive amigos. This round was short-lived, only a few dozen shots were fired. The attempt failed. After all was quiet, the officials returned the church keys and sped off with the arrestees in tow. Elder Amador and Elder Martinez sprinted back to the safety of their bunker.
By the time their regular morning studies were done, the missionaries all left for work. They worked in areas away from their houses. At 6:30 that night we went through the neighborhood. People were out in the streets as usual. Life was normal. The missionaries returned home and baptized the following Saturday.
There are some procedural things that I do. I inform the Area Presidency. They talk with SLC, with their first point of contact who is an Apostle. The Brethren want to know when a missionary is in a dangerous situation. Church security called me for followup. It was back to business as usual after a couple of hours.