Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Because it's true.

May 30, 2017
During our recent Mission President’s Seminar, President George of the Tuxtla-Gutierrez mission shared this experience.

Chiapas is the state in the southwestern part of Mexico.  When Cortez conquered Mexico, he only had a little interest in Chiapas.  It did not have the precious metals of the other areas in Mexico.  The indigenous tribes were able to escape Cortez’s army by fleeing to outer mountainous areas.  Many of these tribes still exist today in outlying areas of Chiapas.  They have their own languages with little of the Spanish influence.

In one of these tribes, there is a mother and a son who belong to the Church.  The son knows both his native language and Spanish.  Each week, in order to attend church, this mother and son walk five hours to the nearest chapel.  The services are in Spanish.  After the services, they walk the five hours back to their home.

Recently the son asked his mother, “Why do you go to church?  We walk so far, and you can’t even understand what they are saying.”  The mother answered, “Because it is the truth.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

He watches over us!

March 14, 2017

I am still amazed each time I see a loving Father in Heaven intervene to help one of his children.  It awes me when I see these simple yet powerful acts.

We had two Elders flying home today because of health problems.  We were taking both Elder Nava and Cortes to the airport early this morning to catch planes.  Elder Cortes' plane didn’t leave until mid-morning, but we had interviews starting at nine in a chapel over an hour away, so the two were going together.

Last night we had second thoughts – if we had Elder Cortes stay at the office instead of our home, we could take Elder Nava at 4:30 AM, turn around, drive to the office, and pick up Elder Cortes.  This would give this Elder two more hours of sleep with just a little inconvenience for us.  We changed plans.

We left home at 4:30 and were able to finish with Elder Nava by a little after six.  We drove to the office and proceeded with our Plan B – pick up Elder Cortes and head back to the airport.

We didn’t realize we would be part of heavenly intervention until we arrived the second time to the airport.  As we walked towards check-in, we saw an Elder standing by the chairs, shifting through papers.  We stopped to say “hello” to Elder Smith.  Elder Smith was flying home to Washington from the Puebla mission.  He and other Elders had left very early in the morning for the three-hour bus ride to the airport.  Since Elder Smith was the only one of the group that had flown more than one time, he took the time to check each of them in and get them to the security gate.  He then checked himself in.  He inquired about the immigration form that he knew he needed because he was a resident with a green card.  The check-in said they were out and to go to an office down the hallway.  That office said they he needed to go to another place.  He finally found the form, filed it out and headed to the plane.  However, one step was missed.  Instead of going to the immigration table after security, he went to the information table who said he was fine and to go to the plane.  Once the error was found while trying to load the plane, Elder Smith had to run back, get it stamped, and ran full speed for the airplane – which had just left.

When we noticed him he did not have a phone, a phone number, or even one peso to his name.  He had spent all his money checking his second bag.  He had asked to borrow a phone from several people but was declined.  He was there alone, upset, and wondering what to do.  However, Heavenly Father had already solved that problem with the change to our plans the night before.  Divine intervention.

We arranged a new flight, called parents, gave him some money for food, and hugged him good-by.  He will arrive five hours later than originally planned with no luggage, but I don’t think his parents joy will be any less.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A sweet experience from Keith

January 22, 2017

As we finished Stake Conference today, a man walked quickly up to me.  He greeted me as I stepped down from the stand.  He was a gentleman in his 70’s, I believe, in a crisply ironed white shirt, tie, nice slacks, and shiny shoes. He gave me a hug (all men give “Mexican hugs”), and asked me if I remembered him.  I hate it when they say that ‘cause I am lousy at remembering names and faces!!! 

With his smiley face and moist eyes, he said he was sorry for the interview that I had to have with him over two years ago. He reminded me that he was one who I had to write a letter of permission to be baptized to President Monson! Then I remembered him!! His was the story of about 50 years ago.  He lived in a rural hilly area somewhere in Mexico, and 3 men had invaded his house and kidnapped his little sister.  He said he searched for days and days, tracking them and looking through valleys, mountains, and countryside.  Then one day, he found their “camp”, and horrifyingly discovered that they had just taken the life of his little sister.  A fight ensued. Two men fled the scene, but the other one commenced “mortal combat” with this gentleman.  They fought until this kidnapper lost his life to the brother of the kidnapped girl.  Police arrived, surveyed the scene and heard the story.  They told this man to return home and took no action.

Long story short, I sent the letter to Salt Lake City.  My start of the letter to President Monson was, "Well, this will sound like a real live wild west story...." ;  the First Presidency granted baptismal permission, and here he was today, almost 2 years later, at Stake Conference, a priesthood bearer, all in his finest Sunday faithful clothing!!  Yes…this is a great experience!!!!  My heart was warmed!!!



A sacred and difficult experience

January 22, 2017

I participated in both a sacred, and difficult experience today.  Sometimes in the midst of great sorrow and remorse, one still sees the comforting hand of the Lord.

Elder Ochoa is from El Salvador.  His country battles an increasing murder rate.  Elder Ochoa has served faithfully for twenty-two and one half months.  He is scheduled to return to his country the end of February.

Keith received a text this morning from Elder Ochoa’s Stake President.  His step father, but the only father he has ever known, was murdered last night when someone decided to take their anger out on the taxi his father was driving.  Three taxis drivers lost their life to random shootings.  It was simply murder.

We called Elder Ochoa’s zone leaders and had them arrange to meet us at the chapel at 1 PM.  Elder Ochoa and his companion were to come to the meeting also.  Elder Ochoa came prepared.  He sensed that something was wrong but he just didn’t know who it was.  He had a dream several weeks previous to this that his father passed away, and his hope was that dream was just a nightmare.

As Keith shared the news, the Elder cried on his shoulder.  We all three hugged and expressed love.  And then he called his bereaved mother.

As we listened to the phone call and watched the Elder through our own tears, he expressed his love for the family.  Soon, although he was still crying, he gained composure and started to counsel his mother.  He talked of Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for families.  He talked of the fine man that had blessed them all.  And he bore complete faith that the family would be able to handle and grow through this new trial.

Where did that kind of strength come from?  How did he suddenly become all grown up, and ready to handle what was hitting him?  Keith and I sat there with sorrow, and a rich feeling of love for this wonderful Elder.  As the zone leaders, Keith and Elder Ochoa’s companion gathered around him to give him a blessing, there was little doubt of the love that all felt, including our Heavenly Father.

Will the Elder fly home early or will he choose to stay and finish?  He would go home with honor either way and we would support either decision.  He is taking that decision to the Lord and will tell us of his wishes once he receives Heavenly Father’s answer.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

An email changes everything

January 15, 2017

The morning of December 22nd started early – they all do.  I had just awakened and headed towards the bathroom when Keith ran up to me and said: “It’s here”.  It was the email from Salt Lake City.

We had been down this path ourselves just three years ago, only we were at the other end.  We knew that the current President of the Southeast Mission, President Morales, would be told of his replacement before Christmas.  We wondered each day if that email had arrived and how it would be received.

I read the names of Lindsay and Lesa Mann of Visalia, California.  At first I let out a big holler, and then I cried.  I ran down the hall and awoke my daughter and son in law who were visiting.  Through a bedroom door I whispered the news.  She asked if I was crying and through tears I answered that I was.

Within minutes I had already stalked Lesa Mann on Facebook.  Putting faces to the two people who would be coming helped me find peace.  It helped me to see the ones who would start loving our missionaries as we have.

What a strange mixture of emotions!  We are tired, but still going at a complete pace.  We look forward to returning to California, but whatever will be do with ourselves?  We have changed, and we can’t even tell you how.  Our children have surprised us as they speak longingly of not coming to their “Mexico” home again.  Four out of the five have booked weekend trips this spring just so they can experience Mexico again.  The blessings that have come to our family because of this service are immeasurable.

As I packed away Christmas this year, I did it far more carefully than before.  These loved items will make their way across two countries to greet us again in California next Christmas.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Extraction" from Acolman

The government of Mexico owns the gas stations and oil.  They announced a 20% increase in the cost of gas.  This made all the truckers mad and they decided to stage a protest.  Wish someone had told us.

We had two groups of missionaries go to the Pyramids on January 2.   Each group left the pyramids to return home by mid-afternoon.  The first bus with one group of six, ran into a road block and decided to off road it – and made it past the protest.  The second bus, with 4 sisters and 2 elders, stopped and told everyone on the bus that the bus would probably sit there for 24 hours.  Most of the people got off and walked to a small town named Acolman to arrange other transportation.  Our six followed.  When they got to the town, all the buses were packed and they called us.  We sent them to a local OXXO (7-11), located them on google maps and headed out about 5PM to see if we could rescue them.

 We were good for the first hour and then we hit a protest road block.  We sat for 30 minutes and finally drove over some dirt to get to another road.  That road worked for a while until we hit another protest road block.  This time we didn’t sit so long before we maneuvered off to another road.  By now it’s dark – and there are hundreds of stopped cars.  Keith hid his wallet, and all my money and credit cards were hid in the normal woman hiding place.  We saw a man waving a flag and he led us down a dirt road to another possible way.  We drove for about 15 minutes more and were stopped again.  We were now in the town of Acolman, but still several miles away from our missionaries.  Many people were walking, but security guards at a local store told us of the danger of crossing the bridges.  Not only were there protesters, but some bridges also had bandits.

The truckers were blocking roads into Mexico City.  It wasn’t just one or two trucks – the blocks would be 30 trucks, 3 wide and 10 deep.  The drivers just walked away from their trucks.   They are doing it for 3 days we were told.  We took a two lane, one way street, and drove the wrong way.  We started to think of Plan B.  We called the Mecham’s (our neighbors and President of the South Mission) and got the name of the Pachuga mission president and called him.  President Kimball had been at the pyramids that day and had trouble getting home with his family.  He told us he had seen our missionaries walking.  He is new to the area and didn’t know the town of Acolman, but he started to set up Plan B if we couldn’t get to our missionaries.

 At 10 PM we dashed into a store for a bathroom.  We were once again at a roadblock.  It was now time for Plan B. President Kimball took over and got a local bishop to go to the OXXO and pick up our missionaries.  We were less than 2 miles away from them and couldn’t get through.  We sat in Acolman till we knew they were at a home.  They ended up sleeping on member’s floor – cold, hungry, tired, but safe – and safe was good enough for us that night.  We drove back home getting here about midnight.  Sleep was not the first thing on our minds that night.

Keith and Chris Nebeker headed back the next morning.  The plan was to walk over the safest bridge and get our missionaries.  I called them the “Von Trapp’s” and wished them well.  We thought another man might look more official than an old woman (me).  Surprisingly, the bridge was cleared the next morning and they had the missionaries within a few minutes of arriving in Acolman.  Keith and Chris said the girls just ran to them and cried as they hugged “their rescuers.”  Of course, the boys who had kept them safe, were not nearly so emotional!

Once in the car, they all slept for the hour+ ride.  We thanked our Heavenly Father for their protection.

Yes - reminded once again that they are 19 year old boys....

January 2, 2017

We have an Elder - Elder H. -  that joined us last week.  While at the MTC (Missionary Training Center), he had a reaction to nuts.  We happen to have 4 epi-pens in the offices that were left over from another missionary who had returned home.  They are out of date – but they are not available in Mexico so we have held on to them.  When our new Elder H. was in the office, I was training him on the use of the pen in case he ate nuts and had a reaction.  I told him to keep one with him, and if he had a reaction, he needed to give himself a shot – ASAP.  I even told him he could give a shot through his pants if he was in an emergency situation.  I was holding one of the containers with an epi-pen and told him how to open it and get it ready for a shot.  Elder A. was watching me.  On the following Monday (P-Day) Elder A. came in to pick up the mail.  He saw an unopened epi-pen.  I don’t know what he was thinking but he opened it thinking it was just for teaching/demonstration tool.  He aimed at his thigh and rammed it in still thinking this was the “play” model.  Well it wasn’t and he knew pretty quickly he was a fool.  Blood soaked into his pants, he got a little faint, and the Nebekers laid him down for an hour.  So much for that $400 epi-pen - it did provide a pretty good laugh.