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, April 3, 2011

Two days after the burglary we received five motivated missionaries from the USA. They are Elders Butterfield, Moa (a Hawaiian who brought a box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts--I like him a lot), Thomson, Rider, and Buck.

Here they are the next day complete with their trainers and new mission ties.

At least they didn't take my Einstein in his BYU colors.

The FM men secured our front door, see the photo, with a ladder, a step stool, and some banquet tables. Clever design, huh?

The next morning they came and constructed a really good lock system.
We returned from those trainings in Papantla at about 9:30 at night. Something was very weird when I walked into the house ahead of Mom who was gathering stuff from the minivan.

The kitchen door which leads to the garage was wide open. The pantry door in the kitchen was also hanging open. I thought it very weird that Hermana Marquez, who helps us with the house, would leave door open. The garage is behind an electric garage door, so it was no big deal, but still, is was very odd and my neck hairs started to stand on end.

I walked to the stairs to drop off my first load of stuff--my laptop and camera bag. The front door was ajar. It was open about an inch. There was a light on upstairs. I could see the glow from the bottom of the staircase. I checked the door and saw that the lock had been destroyed. Mom was just coming into the kitchen from the garage. Neck hairs now standing at full alert, I hollared at her to get into the van fast. She did not argue. Wasn't that nice of her?

I quickly backed out of the garage and told her that we had been burglarized. I was not certain that the house was empty. We were now parked down a street perpendicular to the front of the mission home. Mom mentioned that she was so glad that we had taken our laptops with us when we left town. Laptop. Dang! It was sitting inside the house on the stairs.

I drove back into the garage and hustled in, grabbing the laptop and the camera bag. Yes, my neckhairs returned to full attentive status. I would have felt much better with a baseball bat in my hand.

We returned to the surveillance point where I began making phone calls. Protocal is to contact the Area Presidency. No one answered. I called the Church attorney in Mexico. No answer. I continued to try to talk with someone. I needed to verify local area policy. The policy is that when something like this happens, we don't call the police. There is an abundance of corruption. Some say that you don't really know whom to trust. So, we don't call the police because one or more of them may be involved.

In the meantime, I got to the regional FM (Facilities Management) supervisor, who was called to be a stake president last week. He sent help. I got through to Elder Tenorio of the presidency who verfied that we do not talk to the police but that the new Church security guy would call me.

Within 20 minutes FM man Mariano showed up and right after him, Abel. We went into the house. As we were entering Benigno and Luis arrived with another fellow I didn't know. We searched the house thoroughly and no one was inside. But, someone surely had been.

The upstairs, where we spend all our time, was ransacked. It was a fairly orderly ransacking with no vandalism. Having been on the scene of a few hundred burglaries, I have certainly seen much worse. It is obvious that the burglar(s) was looking for things easy to carry. Dang it! Why didn't he take our dinky little TV? We could use something a lot bigger. That is for sure.

The saddest news is that they took Mom's jewels. She doesn't have too many, but what she has all have a story to tell: her cartouches from Egypt; my grandma's real gemstone (I don't know what type of stone they were) earrings that Dad gave to her; a turquoise necklace I bought her in Albequerque on an IACP Convention at a time when we really didn't have any money; her pearls which I bought at an drug seizure auction in Cedar and had Wayne Clark string--I think they are the ones our daughters wore at their weddings; things with more sentimental value than dollar value.

They also took a nice ancient Mayan "piece" I had aquired. It was wrapped up in a cloth in the bottom of my underwear drawer. But, the underwear all ended up on the floor, so it was stolen--that and Mom's iPod which was in her little desk with all her Spanish gospel stuff on it (maybe they will listen and get baptized. . . maybe not) and our Wii including the Mario Brothers Go-cart discs and steering wheels. We haven't even looked at those since Christmas week.

There are a couple of important points:
1) We are safe and feel very protected, even directed. When we stopped by the mission offices on Friday night on the way home, I picked up a basketball and shot for maybe 10-15 minutes with the office elders who were just coming home. I think that I have not ever done that. We are always tired at that time of day and are trying to find our way home to bed. We have deduced that the little creeps (not the missionaries) had just left or that we interrupted them as we came into the garage. They went out the front door, the same way they came in.
2) This has nothing to do with the violence that you read about and see in the US news. That is all very true and very bad, but it is all way north of us. That does not mean that there is no crime or violence in Veracruz. Of course not! I am not yet that naive. But, this was a random home burglary and one which could happen anywhere.

This Totonaca man walks across the Papantla town square in traditional garb. The men all wear these outfits. He strolled past a statue which, I suppose, is a monument to how life really is in these parts. Click to enlarge and you will see the statutes better.

This man is an example of another reason we encouraged (with the threat of death if they did) not to drink.

Papantla is the home of the voladores, flyers. The tradition started here some centuries ago with the indigenous Tetonaca people. The pole is 30 meters tall, I think. Between the pole and the church you see a huge cement monument of a man playing a flute as he points it skyward. It is a monument to the flautist who sits on top of the pole and plays. Sometimes he will stand and dance while the four voladores "fly" downward, upside down, attached at the waist with a rope. There is no other harness. They are summoning rain for the vanilla and other crops. They work for tips.

Elder Zárate baptized this family a little over a year ago and was able to attend their sealing in the Veracruz Temple. Many of our missionaries have experienced this grand blessing.

Elder Ramirez. These are here just to make you laugh. I don't know if the missionary is mimicking the rooster or if the rooster is mimicking the missionary.

Poor little Elder Petersen. He got some kind of a weird jaundice problem which no one ever really figured out. He was pretty sick for several days and we actually brought him and his companion into the office so that Mom could keep a close eye on him. He was basically all better and then got hives! Poor kid! But, his kind companion, Elder Hales, was charitable enough to apply non-itch cream where Elder Petersen couldn't reach.

Elder Marin, a new missionary, and Elder Hernandez his trainer walk to an appointment in the evening. They are in the little coastal pueblo, Cazones near Poza Rica.

The very next after the other very next day was November 11th. We had scheduled a Preach My Gospel Leadership Training for about 50 missionaries. We do them in two locations to cut down on time lost in missionary travel.

Part of the training is that we spend about 50% of the time in role plays, practicing how to teach the gospel. Doing that are Elders Castañeda, Goodworth, Bullock, Lopez, and Lozano.

The interesting distraction that day is that directly through the partition was a funeral. (We scheduled the building first!) When someone dies here they put them in the casket and then have an all day and half the night "viewing." They are always closed casket because the don't embalm here. The burial is always done within 24 hours.

The very next day, the 9th of November was zone leader council in the mission offices.

On Sunday, November 7th, we were in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca at a stake conference. En route, I got a phone call from a stake president in Guadalajara who said that a missionary from Aguascalientes was arriving in our mission the next morning. You figure it out. I couldn't. These cities are hundreds of miles apart. So, that night I called Elder Butler from Tucson who was a district leader and working with Elder Ricks from Texas to give them the good news that they would be training starting the next morning. They were thrilled at the chance! We met Elder Hernandez who is from Aguascalientes but who came in from Guadalajara, not the
MTC-Mexico, at the Veracruz Airport. We put him right to work. He is a really good missionary who is working hard and having success. His Spanish is better than mine and so is his English.

Oh dear. I wonder if I am in trouble for posting this photo.

Elders Taufa and Cabacungan work in the hurricane-hit pueblo, Cardel. They found a girl named Diana Elibeth Montes Landa who wanted to be taught the gospel. She is a deaf/mute. But, as so many missionaries here have done, they set out to teach her my drawing pictures and making up hand signals. Elder Taufa claims to know a little sign language, but she doesn't speak English. Time progressed and she received a spiritual witness that the Church is true. It was time for her baptismal interview. I told them that I would love to do it. Mom took these pictures of us during the interview. Diana is a sweet girl with a great smile.

I don't know what was do dang funny, but I guess we were having a good time.

Here is Diana with her missonaries, Elders Cabacungan (Carlsbad, CA) and Taufa (Mesa, AZ), after the interview--all smiles.

This man and his wife were baptized in Tierra Blanca. Their English, especially his, is outstanding. He lived in the United States for many years. He went to church with members often and always enjoyed it. While there, someone forgot to invite him to talk with missionaries. One day, shortly after he returned to Tierra Blanca, Elders Gutierrez and Nelson (from Mesa, AZ) found him. The family was baptized very soon thereafter.