Sunday, December 28, 2014

Protection by the Holy Spirit

December 28, 2014

About 2 weeks ago we met with security representatives from church headquarters.  They are continually monitoring missions and working with the missionaries to ensure as much safety as possible.  We do not live in a “safe” mission and have several incidents a week.  Fortunately these incidents are usually thieves just wanting a few pesos.  They have never resulted in any bodily harm.  We teach the missionaries to hand over anything they have when asked.  They have been instructed to offer no resistance.

Keith receives letters from the missionaries each week.  We were touched by the following letter – these two Elders experienced both of these incidents in one day!  We are so thankful for the blessings of the Holy Spirit!

From Elder Cam.
It was a day of interesting events. In the morning, my companion and I were walking through one of the streets that were a shortcut to a sister's house.  On the way three men surrounded us and began to ask for our money. The tranquility that I felt let me know that they weren’t trying to assault us or do us harm. I told them that my companion and I were representatives of Jesus Christ and we had nothing of value other than the Gospel. I felt like starting a contact (joke). The men moved away and relaxed and one of them said: "My respects for the messengers of Jesus Christ” and let us go.

After that, we were walking back along a street in our area and suddenly two men grabbed Elder Lar. and myself and wanted our money and said other things.  At that moment, I felt uneasy and thought that they would hurt us. Just then, a sister of the Ward walked by and we were given a chance to flee.

Things were never easy for the Savior, why would it be for us? The Lord was rejected and crucified by his own people.  Maybe we will not be crucified but rejection is something we have to live with. He felt discouraged but never stopped working until he had completed His work.  Yes, we are not asked to die for this work but it is something that we can never deny. That day I saw miracles and protection like I have never in my life experienced. I could not be in a better place now.

A sweet letter from Elder Ord.
This week we were able to baptize a sister who has been receiving lessons for 5 years. We always kept teaching but she never wanted to be baptized.

We continued visiting her hoping that someday she would be baptized. Then on Tuesday we ate with her and we were able to teach a lesson to her. We teach with the video "He is the Gift" and it touched her heart. We extended the baptismal invitation and we had not finished when she said "Yes".  Her husband is the 2nd counselor in the bishopric and was baptized 5 years ago. On Saturday she was baptized with her two daughters... Miracles of Christmas!

The safety and well-being of our missionaries is always in our prayers and in the prayers of their parents.  They are so often protected and guided!

Sunday, December 21, 2014


December 21, 2014

Music is so very powerful!  We attended one of the Neza Wards today.  Along with us came our youngest son Jeff, his wife Stephanie, and their 2 year old daughter Colette.  Stephanie had played a rendition of “Silent Night” the previous week in their ward in California.  Keith “offered” her abilities to the ward for the Sacrament service today.

She played so beautifully and I truly felt the love of my Heavenly Father pour over me.  It was a wonderful moment and I felt such peace.  Music can do that – it can open the spirit to feelings from above.

We struggle sometimes with music in the mission.  Do we let our missionaries listen to it – and what are the guidelines of what they can listen to?  Can they only listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or can they include gospel singers?  What about classical music – and then the wonderful music from Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera?  Sometimes we wonder if we should draw the line or put faith in our missionaries to draw their own lines!

With everything that can be used for good, the adversary has found a way that it can be used for bad.  Music can turn you away from spirituality as quickly as it can turn you towards it.  It becomes one’s choice.

I personally find good music to be one of the quickest ways of turning my spirit towards my Heavenly Father.  It calms my soul and transports me to a better place.  At this time of the year, it is hard to express how much I love Christmas music.  It becomes a touch with my past and makes me smile.  It brings tears to my eyes as my mind fills with memories.  I am thankful for it.  Feliz Navidad!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas distractions know no international boundaries

December 14, 2014

Christmas is always so busy.  I had hoped it would be a little different down here – that was just a dream.  I guess I thought I was always so busy because I lived in Oroville.  Wrong! Although the distractions are different, they exist none the less!

Distractions this week: broken garbage disposal, broken dryer, broken freezer, and van in body shop (another story), 7 hour long Christmas Party for 206, Elder at hospital, 2 Elders staying with us for 2 days, training meetings,  and one tired body.

Every Christmas day, I look back at the month of December and wish I had spent more time contemplating the birth of Christ and less time being pulled in many “Christmas” directions.  After all, Christ is the reason that we even have this holiday.  Once again, as in years past, I will try and have a stronger focus on Jesus Christ in the coming days.  What a blessing that our Heavenly Father loved us enough to send His son, Jesus Christ, to redeem this world.  What a difference that one baby made.

Focus Susan, Focus!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I'll be Home for Christmas

December 7, 2014

This song had little meaning until I had moved away from home.  Before then it was just pretty words – afterwards it would pull at my heart strings.

We put Elder Somppi on a plane yesterday headed for home in California.  We were supposed to have him until the first part of April.  However a trip in his apartment, during a dark night, bought him a ticket home sooner.  Crunches don’t do well with uneven roads, lots of stairs, and miles of walking.

I watched him as we gave him the unexpected news – the news that he would “be Home for Christmas.”  He started to go through the five stages of grief with denial and anger (at least for a few seconds), but quickly passed on to the acceptance stage.  His parents flew right by all stages to land at pure excitement.  

As the news spread I would see the look on some of the other missionary’s faces.  It’s hard being away from those you cherish. Momentary jealousy, sometimes just longing, would be reflected.  And then, just as quickly, their dedication to continue serving the Lord in Mexico would return.  We all know that the Lord has His hand in all of our lives.  He knows where we are to be, and what we should be doing, if we just trust in His will.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” plays again in my mind….”if only in my dreams.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Lessons of Thanksgiving

November 27, 2014
Our first Thanksgiving in Mexico – notes for next year:

          Make twice the mashed potatoes and half the gravy – Latino’s love their “papas” but don’t know what to do with gravy.
          Don’t put butter on the table.  Rolls are eaten plain.
          Sweet potatoes are white – no amount of cinnamon or brown sugar will turn them to the beautiful orange color.
          Chorizo is not a good replacement for Jimmy Dean’s sausage in dressing.
          Buy a metal potato masher.  Plastic will not hold up.
          Have a working garbage disposal instead of just Elders.
          Latino’s prefer their beloved Jell-O plain.  Addition of fruit, cottage cheese, marshmallows and whipped cream means it won’t be eaten.
          No amount of homemade chocolate chip cookies will be enough.
          Don’t give everyone flu shots following dinner – it’s a downer.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Americanized Mexico

November 23, 2014
Keith keeps saying that this is not the Mexico he served in 44 years ago.  So many things have changed here.

Americanized Mexico:
·         We sat with some friends eating waffles and pancakes the other morning.  The only Mexican thing on the table was the fruit milk.  Pancakes have become a great love down here – I even see them served at Church functions.  And of course you can buy Krusteazs.
·         100% of my Christmas decorations were purchased at Home Depot, Walmart, or Miguel’s (Michaels in the states)
·         IPhones are a common site
·         Churches have wireless abilities and projectors are hidden in the ceilings.
·         Carl’s Jr., Domino’s, Burger King, Papa John’s, and McDonald’s are not hard to find.

Still just Mexico
·         Vendors greet you at corners, even on the freeways, selling their goods
·         Jell-O can be purchased on any street – they do this whole layered thing even with nuts.  They hand you a glob on a napkin and you eat away.
·         Guards protect each church
·         Old VW buses as used as “combis”  to transport citizens everywhere
·         Agua Frescas – drinks made with everything from wheat, rice, and fruit are sold on the street.

What I am still longing to still find: siestas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Me an answer to a prayer?

November 12, 2014

Today was airport day.  We had six Elders to deliver and they left in batches of 2.  The first batch of 2 – Americans - flew out at 9AM.  We picked them up at 6:30 AM and headed to the airport.  All went well.

We returned to the mission office to pick up the next set.  They were both leaving around 11AM.  Along with that we needed to take Elder Baldeon (Peru bound) to the Immigration Office to correct a VISA problem so he could fly home at 2PM.  We have 2 terminals in the huge Mexico City airport.  Our two 11AM flyers (both Mexican residents) were going out of Terminal 2.  The Immigration Office resides in Terminal 1.  We arrived at Terminal 2 to find a line of about 30 cars waiting to park.  When the lot fills up, you get in line and wait for someone to leave (I know there could be many comments here which I will just skip saying..)  Since there is always a time factor, Keith decided to drop me and the 2 Mexican Elders at Terminal 2, and he would go and work with Immigration Office in Terminal 1 with Elder Baldeon.  Through broken Spanish and English, I got both Mexican Elders in the right place.  I still had 15 minutes before Keith would return to pick me up and I was hungry.  I stopped at the OXXO (like 7-11) and grabbed a mango milk (wish the US had this!).  I looked down the long concourse of the terminal and saw 4 vacant seats so walked over and sat in one.  Just a few moments later I heard the word “miembro” and “no dinero.”  I looked over to see that a “suited” young man had sat in the 4th chair and he was talking with 3 others.  I wondered if he was a missionary since I wasn’t at the right angle to see a name tag. I stood up and walked over.

Elder Marrquillo was trying to return home to Guatemala from the Cuernavaca mission in Mexico.  When he tried to enter the plane he was stopped because he didn’t have the proper immigration form.  He ran to correct his problem but the plane left him.  He was in the act of praying when 3 other members of the church noticed his name tag and stopped to talk with him.  He was explaining to them that he was stranded in Mexico City with no money and then he saw me walking over.

In his prayer he had told his Heavenly Father that he had just completed a mission and was headed home.  He had no help and no money.  Could His Heavenly Father help him?  And there I stood within seconds of closing his prayer.  What a blessing to me!

His new ticket has been arranged, paid for, and is ready for use tomorrow morning.  He is staying in our mission office tonight.  Heavenly Father loves His missionaries.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The revolving door of the mission

November 10, 2014

We are just starting our fifth month on our mission.  Every six weeks we welcome new missionaries, and send other ones back home.  On Monday the new missionaries arrive and we train then.  On Tuesdays we meet with all those being changed, including the new missionaries.  Changes are announced and everyone cheers and greets their new companions.  Tuesday night we have a big good bye dinner at our home for those returning home the next day.  Wednesday morning we are on the way to the airport and bus station to say our good byes to the missionaries returning home.  Elders (boys) serve for 24 months.  Hermanas (girls) serve for 18 months.

We are a revolving door!  We arrived in July with 191 total missionaries serving in our mission.  Since then we have received 67 more and sent 39 to their homes.  The goal of the church is to have each mission with a compliment of 200 missionaries.  Therefore, we expect to lose more missionaries than we gain during the next six months.

There is such excitement as we stand at the airport like we did today.  We waited anxiously for 10 North American Elders to pass through customs.  They are always a little scared but some try to hide it.  They are always tired because they have left the Provo MTC at 4 in the morning and traveled all day.  They are unfamiliar with customs and the forms but just have to figure it out.  And then they pass through the opaque glass doors into a culture and language they have never experienced before.  We greet them there.

There is equal excitement for the Latino missionaries who have been at the training center on the other side of Mexico City.  We arrange a van to go and pick them up.  They arrive less fearful because they are not facing a new language.  However, many are away from home for the first time and have never “been in charge” of themselves.  We received 8 of these Elders today.

Every six weeks we have to identify new trainers.  As we pull missionaries to train, we must then place their former companion with a new companion.    With a net increase of 12 missionaries this time, we had to find 6 new apartments and furnish them.  Furnishing includes everything – beds, refrigerators, stove tops, eating utensils, cooking items, desks, tables and chairs. We had to arrange training, prepare materials, order credit cards, and insurance cards.  You finish one transfer, take a 2 week break, and start to work on the next transfer.  We don’t do this alone – it takes a team!  Our team is us, and 6 Elders.

Four months on a mission and 37 trips to the airport so far.  Turn, turn, turn….

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

English after Spanish

November 5, 2014
I can often tell how long a missionary has been in Mexico by the words they use when they switch back to speaking English.  I was talking with Elder Schaap the other day.  He was discussing all he is doing and I laughed as he continually used two words.  These words are seldom used in English – one has rather a different meaning.  However, because so many Spanish words are similar to English words, Elders who have been in the country for a while use them when they start speaking English.

Capacitacion:  The name of the Language Training Center in Mexico is “Centro de Capacitacion.”  This equates to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.  Therefore missionaries will often speak of “capacitating” (kah pass e tate ing) when they start to speak in English.  “We need to capacitate.”  “We are meeting to capacitate.”  “We will lead the capacitation.”  It took me several months to even figure out what they were talking about!  They mean “training.”

Disanimated:  “She is disanimated.”  “The Elder is disanimated.”  While this word exists in English, we usually prefer to use the word “discouraged” or even “unenthusiastic.”  This also took a while to figure out because I always associated animation with cartoon characters.  I would look at the Elder who was speaking and try and figure out how an animation could become dis-animated. 

I suppose (or rather hope) that I will likewise be making these errors in the future.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Quite a repair job

October 27, 2014
We drive a 2011 Toyota Van.  It is rather beat up which is just fine with us.  Missionaries and Mission Presidents are not very nice to cars!

There is a saying in Mexico City.  It says: “If your car does not have any scratches on it, it is less than 30 minutes old.”  We (Keith) have already added scratches to our van.

It has given us some trouble in the last couple of weeks.  We found that the battery was dead several weeks ago.  Not having jumper cables, we flagged down a taxi who happened to have them.  We thought we had maybe left on the light.  It happened again last week but this time we had purchased jumper cables.  It was easier that time.  And then Sunday morning, it was dead again.  It was time to call Church maintenance.  Keith sent an email off early this morning asking for a new battery.  On the way to the office, in the other car, church maintenance called.  They asked if we could be home on Tuesday morning.  We answered in the affirmative.  They said they would deliver the new car to us then.  Wow – that is real service – a new car instead of a new battery!  What a way to fix a dead battery!  Now to see when the first scratch happens.....

Sunday, October 26, 2014


October 26, 2014

Priesthood: Today is a day that I am so glad I don’t have the Priesthood and therefore am not in charge of this organized chaos!  Between a stomach that didn’t appreciate the food in Puebla, a semi-nasty fall in the Walmart parking lot, and a dead battery, I am staying in today.  Poor Keith.  He was up at 6AM and left at 7.  He had an hour drive to arrive at church for the starting at 8.  He spoke in Sacrament Meeting, and then was the main speaker in the 3rd hour.  At 11 he was in Ward Council.  At noon someone handed him some food.  At 1 he was in a meeting with the Stake President.  That meeting was followed by special interviews.  He may get an hour break before he is the speaker at a ward fireside tonight (in another building even further away).  If he is lucky he will return by 9:30 tonight following a 90 minute ride home.  And to think that I missed all of that – my body is so happy to be home today!

Food:  Pork skin in salsa verda – just how did that become a well-loved food in Mexico?  Deep fried crickets – really?  And they are even better with lime juice?  Eye ball tacos, brain tacos, deep fried chicken feet, and pig foot stew….I don’t know if I can even try these!  That said – Burger King is better than McDonalds down here and Subway is way better than what you get in the States.  What I miss?  Ice in my drink and butter on my bread (rolls on the table, never any butter).

Service and Sacrifice:  All the 35 mission president couples met in Puebla for 3 days last week.  We left a little more than 6,000 missionaries on their own.  Most of the missionaries had no idea they were on their own – cell phones kept ringing and calls were answered.  What an amazing group of people I had the opportunity to mix with.  It was an honor! About 1/3 are completing their 3rd year, 1/3 in their second year, and then us newbies.  We gathered so many ideas and gained so much wisdom from their experience.  One couple is going home in January.  President Pratt served as an attorney for the church for many years.  Now he and his wife preside over the Mexico City MTC.  They are approaching their 70’s.  They have lived for 37 years out of the States as they served the church.  Their kids can’t wait for them to return to Las Vegas and live in the house they have owned for several years – but never lived in.  The Titensor’s are new this year.  None of their belongings arrived from the States.  All of it disappeared somewhere.  They have only the clothes they brought in their four suitcases – and her recent accumulation of clothes from Costco.  The Kusch’s are going home in July.  With the recent floods in Rexburg, they lost all their belongings.  Only the grand piano, stored on another floor, awaits them.  With the recent student riots in southern Mexico, they have recently evacuated 90 missionaries to safety further north.  President Wagner was arrested for burglary – a neighbor identified him as the one that broke into the house and stole possessions.  Fortunately his toll booth tags from that day proved his innocence.  All of them walked into this new life willing to give it all.  And the stories continue on….

Friday, October 17, 2014

IPhones and other "devilish" devices

October 17, 2014
We arrived to a mission that wasn’t “completely” keeping the rules.  90% of our missionaries are the most amazing Elders and Sisters in the world.  However, some of the rest were having a little too much fun!

Now I am always for fun.  No one enjoys a good laugh more than I!  However, when there is one set of parents for 210 children, there has to be some pretty good controls to keep them all safe!

One of the rules of our missionaries is to not have electronic devices that connect to the internet.  Electronic devices are a huge distraction to missionary work and also allow some unwelcome behaviors with the internet. Each companionship is supplied with a phone so we do have contact.  However the phone model is about 1932.

We have worked hard at changing a little bit of the culture of our missionaries.  IPhones and IPads are cheap at the local flea markets.  Therefore, many would like to have them.  They have also found out that they can take the sim card out of the 1932 model and make it work in there new (probably stolen) IPhones.

Tomorrow is Amnesty Day!  All IPhones, etc. can be turned into us with no adverse consequences.  After Saturday, there will be a price to pay!  There is a meeting of all of us tomorrow morning.  We hope to gather all the “loot.”

So our missionaries have been having a good laugh at this.  Most don’t own an IPhone or even know the meaning of the word “amnesty.”   But all want to see who does have these “devilish” devices!

Today we were doing interviews in Los Reyes.  Elder Hixon, always the jokester, decided to play a prank on “President.”  Just before going in for an interview, he borrowed my IPhone and arranged for Elder Gomez to call him in 5 minutes.  The interview started and the phone went off in his pocket.
Elder Hixon pulling the phone out of his pocket and answering: “Listen, I can’t talk right now.  I’m with the President.”  He hangs up and puts the IPhone back in his pocket.
President, looking strongly at the Elder: “Elder Hixon, was that an IPhone I just saw?”
Hixon: “Yes President it was.”
President: “Why do you have an IPhone Elder Hixon?  Don’t you know they are against the rules?”
Hixon: “I thought I would just use it until you take it away tomorrow.”

Seeing the shocked look of the President, Elder Hixon started to laugh.  The prank went off perfectly!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The weight of the name tag

October 7, 2014
The weight of the name tag….
When I first received my name tag at the MTC, it was so exciting to put on.  It made me different from what I had been before.  It represented a calling, a three year calling at that.  It was light.

When we arrived to Mexico, the name tag changed.  Although it carried the same significance as before, it suddenly offered me more security and protection.  On days that we were just going to be at home, or maybe walk to the grocery store, we still put on the name tags and dressed the part.  It’s what felt right.  It also made me feel that I had heavenly protection.

This last week, the weight of the tag has changed again.  This last week the name tag has been heavy on my shoulders.  It has represented a necessity to act or react in a strong righteous conviction.  It hasn’t allowed me to turn my head or look away.  Instead it has insisted upon responsibility and respect.

Isn’t that interesting – the name tag’s weight changes with my experiences.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Death of a loved one.

October 1, 2014
Death is not an easy thing on a mission.  Just yesterday I was called by my sister to let me know that her 36 year old son passed away.  This is so difficult as a family – it’s hard to know how to give comfort when you are thousands of miles away.  My sister and I are the last in our family.  Our parents and younger brother have all returned to Heaven.

In just 3 short months we have watched our missionaries deal with the death of 2 fathers, 3 grandfathers, 1 grandmother, one uncle, and an eleven year old brother.  These are hard phone calls to make and receive.

Keith had an experience several weeks ago when the spirit confirmed to him that many family members who have already left this world, serve as guardian angels to our missionaries.  He shared it with the missionaries and there have been several remarkable stories about that.  I wanted to include his words.  This was a call from an Elder who received one of those hard calls several weeks ago.  His 11 year old brother had passed away after an 11 year struggle with disabilities.

"President, I have to tell you what happened to me two days ago.  We knocked on a door and a lady opened it and looked at us with the most amazed look on her face. She said ' I...I..just dreamed about two white young men knocking on my door.  You were one of them (Elder G.), then looking at Elder G.’s companion, she said the other one wasn't him, but it was a young white boy that looked like he could be Elder G.’s little brother."  Very choked up, this Elder told me this morning that he knew it was his little brother that died just a few weeks ago.   He said, "President, I really know that it was the Holy Ghost that told you to tell me about my brother.  Thanks so much."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Help from above

September 28, 2014
I drove myself to church today.  Keith had about 6 hours of meetings with a Stake President and a Bishop, and we still have an Elder recuperating at our home.  So I did not go with him and was going to get myself to church.

We have gone to this church about 3 times.  However, I have never driven there but had always been a passenger.  In my mind I could see most of the turns.  It is about a 15 minute drive through twisty roads.

Just as I was preparing to leave, I spotted my phone on the table.  As I went to pick it up, I remembered I hadn’t prayed, so I did that, and went to the car.  I made the first few turns correctly, but as I approached the final turn to the church, the big landmark (a billboard) was not the same.  I also couldn’t see the church through a parking lot like we usually can.  And so I drove on – but knew almost immediately that I had missed it.  It was a one way road so there was no turning back.  I drove for several blocks and turned right on the first semi-big road I could.  I reached for my phone so I could use google maps but I had forgotten to pick it up after the prayer.  I started to talk to Heavenly Father!  I hoped that I could make a square and find myself so I took the next right turn.  Almost immediately I was on dirt roads that were very narrow and filled with small houses.  I was in a little Puebla.  I carefully maneuvered around holes and people and tried another right.  I knew I should turn around immediately, which I did.  I continued down this small street as it weaved back and forth and finally saw a tower of a Catholic Church that looked familiar.  I drove towards it and was out of my confusing little area in a few more minutes.  Once at the Catholic Church, I could find my way back to our church.

I sat in Sacrament Meeting and thanked my Heavenly Father for getting me through that situation.  I almost wondered if I was supposed to forget my phone – maybe pulling over would not have been a good idea!

Elder R and Grandmother Beth

September 28, 2014
We send Elder R. home 2 days ago (September 26th).  He was supposed to fly home this coming Wednesday, October 1st as he completed his successful 2 year mission.  However, our Heavenly Father had other plans.

On Wednesday the 24th, I received a short email from his step mom.  She informed me that Elder R.’s Grandmother Beth had passed away.  They were hoping they could talk with their son.   We arranged for Elder R. to come to the office on Thursday morning and place a call to Wyoming.  When he came on Wednesday, Keith asked him if he would like to go home a little early.  He said he’d think about it and called home.  After calling he came out a shared an experience he had just 2 days before his Grandmother’s death.  He had a dream that he saw his father crying, and he rushed up and gave him comfort.

Heavenly Father had already prepared Elder R. to go home and assist his family.  We got him on a plane the next morning (Friday) and he flew to Idaho Falls, his Grandma’s town.  The viewing was that night, and the funeral the next.  We are so sad to lose him, but so happy he could go and offer support to his family.

Before he left, I asked him if his mother was an active member of the church.  He replied that his entire family, except for a 23 year old sister, were active members of the church.  He said, “And as of this coming Sunday, my sister will also be active!”  Watch out sister – brother is coming for you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Long time to go to school

With two missionaries recovering at my house, it has been a very “quiet” time.  Keith is still doing zone conferences, and I am at home.

Hermana Valdez had the emergency appendectomy.  She will be returning to her missionary apartment tomorrow morning.  She has limited English and I have limited Spanish – however we have done pretty well at expressing ourselves.  She was telling me about her high school years.  Her mother was the Seminary teacher and they held the class at their home.  Seminary started at 5AM on school days.  Her mother would wake her up at 4 AM, she would dress in church clothes (mother requirement) and be ready by 5 AM.  The class ended at 6 AM, and “Laura” would quickly change and be off to high school which started at 7 AM.  Her high school finished at 3:30 PM unless you were in the late start which ran from 10 AM to 8 PM (there must be a siesta time in there somewhere!). American high school students should be rejoicing at this moment!  School times have recently been increased in Mexico under the new president.  Kindergarten is now from 7:30-5:00 (PM).  Can you imagine?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The mission infirmary

September 13, 2014

We are becoming an infirmary.
Hermana Valdez called Wednesday night in a lot of pain.  She arrived at the hospital at 10:30 pm.  By 1:00 AM she was in surgery for an emergency appendectomy. She was in a hospital close to the mission office which helped us get to her.  Missionaries have been dropping by to bring food to her companion Sister Cruz.  While they have been in the hospital, their apartment was robbed.  She and Sister Cruz lost everything except their clothes.  Sister Valdez will be released today.

On Thursday we heard that Elder G. needed hernia surgery.  The decision was made by his parents to keep him on his mission for the surgery.  We have some really good hospitals in Mexico; it was just finding a good surgeon.  Late Thursday night, Keith emailed the doctor that had taken care of him when we arrived from the MTC with pneumonia.  Dr. B. emailed back during the night that she would see him.  Dr. B. is a heart surgeon but we found she also does some general surgery.  Heavenly Father watches out for His missionaries – we felt it was a tender mercy.

Friday morning was zone conference in Neza.  Elder G. joined us after that and we made our way back to the mission home area where the hospital is located.  Our Assistants, Hammond and Burt, had teased Elder G. that he would probably have a beautiful surgeon.  The Angeles Hospital is big and modern.  It might as well have been sitting in SLC.  When Dr.  B. walked in, Elder G. looked at his companion and said, “I’m going to kill the assistants.”  Dr. B.  is 36 and quite beautiful.

Surgery is this morning.  Keith has taken Elder G. and his companion to the hospital.  Elder G. will probably be released tomorrow.  Having been the recipient of five hernia surgeries, my heart is pretty tender towards Elder G. this morning!

I am home starting to cook and prepare for some house guests.  There is “no way” we can send these two (and companions) back to their apartments to recover.  I’m about to start a large pot of chicken soup.  We’ll keep them in the mission home until they are in better shape and then return them to their apartments to finish recovery.  It certainly would have been more convenient to have all sisters, or all elders, but that was not the way this one rolled out!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Elder Rodriquez

September 10, 2014

We said good bye to Elder Rodriquez this evening.  The three of us had tears as we hugged him one last time and put him on the plane to go home to mom.

Elder Rodriquez has been feeling like he needed to go home.  He had received just a little information from home that his father (actually step father – but the only father he had ever known) had left the family.  He had heard his mom was selling sandwiches on the street to survive.  He felt the need to go home and help.  We had him call his Stake President last week and his Stake President encouraged him to stay and he would check on his family.  Elder Rodriquez’s family lives in a small pueblo four hours away from the Stake President.

Elder Rodriquez had a good week, but the thoughts persisted.  He came into the office on Tuesday for another interview.  Keith left him in his office to call home.  When the Elder came out of the office, he was emotionally distraught.  His father had indeed left home because he had died.  He died 2 months ago.  His mother can hardly get out of bed, and needed him home.

Elder Rodriquez comes from a part member family.  He hopes to be able to bring the rest of his family to our Savior Jesus Christ.  He has gone home to poverty and a difficult situation.  We pray that our Heavenly Father will give him the strength to live his convictions and help raise his family to a better life – and we cried.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


September 7, 2014
I have felt a need to write a little about depression.  We have about 6% of our missionaries receiving some kind of help for depression.  While missions certainly bring great joy, they also bring tough experiences such as being away from home for the first time, being in a foreign country, not being able to speak a new language, new food that doesn’t always agree with you, little communication with home, and living with someone you may not pick as a friend if you had your way.  Missions will exacerbate old behaviors.

There are two types of depression we deal with: 1. Depression caused by a chemical imbalance in your body, 2. Depression caused by sin.  We love a talk given by Stephen Robinson called “Healing in His Wings.”  Quote: “Grief, despair, guilt, and depression can be caused spiritually by sin. But grief, despair, guilt, and depression can also be caused physically by hormones and by body chemistry. If our depression is caused by sin, no amount of counseling or medication will make it go away. We must repent. But if our depression is caused by our chemistry and by our hormones, no amount of prayer or fasting or faith or scripture study will make it go away. We must seek professional help.”  Fortunately for all those missionaries who deal with depression in our mission, we have trained professional help here to guide us.

We have watched those whose depression is caused by sin, gain great relief quickly through the atonement of Jesus Christ.  As they learn how to overcome their sins, their countenances change.  We see smiles and clear eyes again.  We have also watched those whose depression is caused by body chemistry just keep trying and putting their shoulder to the wheel.  Medications don’t work overnight – it takes time and patience.  Companions make a huge difference in these missionaries.  We applaud their courage to wake up and work each day!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A neighboring mission

September 2, 2014
A couple of experiences from a neighboring Mission – we have some friends presiding there.  The experiences were too good not to share!

This week something happened to us that strengthened even more my testimony about the work we are doing and the protection the Lord gives/offers us.  I was on exchanges with Sister O. and in her prayer when leaving the house she asked that we might be invisible to those who would do us harm. Upon taking a bus to go to an appointment 2 armed men got on the bus, yelling and asking that we give them all that we had or they would do something to us. It scared me a little because we were precisely in the first seats. But what was our surprise that despite the fact that they passed by each one of the seats, they never came to us. It was as if we did not exist, they didn´t even turn around to look. It was a very literal answer to our prayers.  We will take the necessary measures to ensure that this never happens again.   D&C.82:10   D&C 84:88

This week Sister R. and I have been hard at work, and we have been greatly blessed with many miracles. The most eye-opening, testimony strengthening miracle (and we don´t take it lightly) was when we returned to the house for a moment, and entered in our room only to see that the concrete ceiling exactly over our beds had fallen. It is amazing that it hadn´t fallen when we were sleeping, if it had we would have been seriously injured... or more likely from the weight of it we would have been dead. I am looking for a new house as fast as I can, I want to keep my companion safe, and this house is falling apart. I know God is protecting us, but it makes me stop to think... from how much? We have to do our part, and keep striving for exact obedience, and we will have His promise!   Sister K.

Monday, September 1, 2014

What do you do all day???

September 1, 2014
So funny – we found out yesterday that today is Labor Day in the US.  We always were camping on this weekend in Fort Bragg, CA.  As many of the family that could join us, would.  Had our son not reminded us of that yesterday, the weekend would have passed without notice.  Guess we are busy!

So many have asked me what I do each day.  I thought I’d take a few minutes to answer.  I will try not to rattle on!

Keith does a lot of ministering; my duties are about half administrative and half ministering.  When I received my call from President Eyring, I was called to a three year mission to serve as a companion to my husband.  We are basically together 24-7.  There have only been a few days that we have been apart.

We try to arise at 6:30 like the missionaries.  The word “try” is in there for the nights that we return home after 10:30, or the nights we are unable to sleep because of a “crisis” in the mission.  (We dread the phone calls after 9:30 pm.  Almost always they require immediate or next day action.)  We arise and both try and fit in a little exercise – we have a couple of aerobic DVD’s and a tread mill.  We eat and get ready.  We dress in church clothes every day.  We have found safety in the name tag and so that defines how we dress.  Unlike the missionaries, we fit most of our studying in at night time.

We have discovered that administering is for all, ministering is for the one.  There are always 5-10 missionaries on our radar.  They may be there because of health concerns, obedience concerns, or because the spirit guides us to them.  We have found that we do best when we immediately react to these concerns.  It might be through interviews or through staying the night in our home.  Sometimes it involves making trips to the city for glasses, blankets, or shirts.  Missionaries move off and on our radars!

Our mission office is 11 miles away.  Our mission is another few miles away from the office.  Travel time to the office can be anywhere from 20-60 minutes due to traffic.  Traveling out to the field adds time to that.  We are often in the car 2-3 hours a day depending on traffic.  We have made travel routes and put them in a binder to many of our destinations and you would laugh at them – infrastructure is not too great around here!  They contain words like “drive around the big ugly head in the middle of the roundabout” and “drive through the crazy intersection that has five lanes squishing down to two.”

When we are at the office, we are either in meetings with the Assistants, the financial secretary, or the Elders who have been asked to come in.  If they are confidential interviews, I am not in there.  I do birthday cards, transfer planning, financial projections, medical updates, letters to incoming missionaries, and organization of every meeting (agendas, handouts, food, etc). These are my strengths, and Keith’s strengths are in compassion and helping those in need.

If we are not in the office, we may be home or in the mission field.  We like to show up at places – like baptisms and Sunday services.  We have only attended the ward we live in twice.  Every other Sunday we have gone into the field.  It’s always fun to see the looks on the faces of the Elders as we walk into a building.  We end up speaking at every meeting we walk into. 

At home we have an office.  We both sit in there with computers.  It also has a large white board with pictures of all the missionaries.  We have notes all over the pictures – these notes may be anything from a “T” meaning we think they would be a good trainer, to notes like “depressed.”  We currently have five with a big “C” on them.  That’s short for “cartel.”  It’s our catch phrase for a group of elders that we have been slowly identifying.  They hide each other’s disobedience.  Those with “C’s” will not be in leadership positions at the next change.

We seldom eat our big meal at home.  The big meal is at 2 PM and we are not here.  Therefore it’s usually at a little restaurant, Subways (better than in the states), or a bakery (they serve sandwiches).  Little local restaurants run about $4/person so they are really cheap.  Morning is cereal and fruit, night time is about the same.

We live in what we term a “concrete mansion.”  We call the living room the “chapel.”  We are told it looks just like the waiting room of the Mexico City Temple (currently closed).  The church owns the home and therefore provides a housekeeper for 10 hours a week.  The place is usually impeccable and so we just try and clean up after ourselves.  We do our own laundry (no tears please!) but spend little time with other cleaning.

We have a Vonage phone here.  It has a California phone number and works over the computer lines.  We keep in touch with our family this way.  We probably talk to each of the five families about once a week.  We do keep emails and messages going.  We also use the phone for calls to SLC, the area presidency, and families of our missionaries when needed.

I hope that answers some of the questions out there.  To call this an adventure is almost an understatement!  We do feel richly blessed by our Heavenly Father that our bodies are doing well with new food, new stresses, and many to care for.  This is an impossible task for two people.  However, two people who are guided by divine providence can keep their heads above water – most of the time!

Red tennis shoe story

Keith receives hundreds of letters a week as the Elders report on their progress.  This experience came from one of our brand new, 10 day in their mission Elders:   
 "After our evening planning session, we knelt in prayer as a companionship.  I offered the prayer, and as I was praying, the Spirit prompted me to ask Heavenly Father to help me find a family of 6 tomorrow.  In my prayer, I also asked Heavenly Father to help me find a little boy wearing red tennis shoes, who would be the key to finding this family."    Well, we worked all day the next day, and I searched, and hoped in my heart, that I could find a little boy wearing red tennis shoes.  Finally I found him, talked to his Mom, and she invited us to teach her family…..a family of 6!"

What faith!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baptisms are so great!

August 31, 2014
Weeks go so by so quickly – months not so much!  One of our sayings is: “Every day is Sunday.”  We are up, dressed, and ready to go as we face new adventures.

We were able to attend two different baptism services this week.  Both were in Nezahualcoyotl Stake involving the same 8 missionaries – Americano’s being Elder's Burham-Endicott, Solomon, Lowell and Hermana’s Gurley and Lopez.

Friday night the baptism was for 2 teenage sisters – Jocelyn and Maricruz. They were taught by Hermana’s Gurley and Lopez. These sisters are without parents but their aunt and uncle have legal guardianship.  The sisters live 5 houses out of the ward boundaries of another aunt who is a member of the church.  All the relatives, except for the member aunt, had strong anti-Mormon feelings.  Still the girls persisted.  For seven weeks they sought permission and finally the uncle said “yes”, but with the condition that they were baptized in the other aunt’s ward (5 houses out of ward boundaries).  The Bishops got involved and with some disagreement the idea of baptizing into the aunt’s ward was finally settled by the Area Presidency. As the time approached, we all worried that something would go wrong – but it didn’t!  In fact, 11 nonmembers sat there witnessing the baptism.  They even occasionally smiled!  Jocelyn and Maricruz were up early the next morning and made the 25 minute walk to a Young Women’s activity.  They returned to the Church Saturday night to witness the next baptism.

After the baptism on Friday night, Keith gave a FHE in the same building.  Yes, it was Friday night so we changed the F from Family to Friday.  Surprisingly, the 11 nonmembers stayed and most seemed to enjoy.  I learned a lesson that night.  With my lack of Spanish, I make small talk the best that I can.  I often compliment women on everything from shoes to jewelry.  I told one sister that I loved her “Tree of Life” necklace.  It was soon around my neck!  Following that talk, a sweet 14 year old, Christina, came up to me and asked me to come to her baptism the following night.  I told her I would try my hardest.

Saturday night we were back at the building.  Christina and her brother were baptized by the Elders.  There entire family sat in attendance.  But even more exciting was the Medina family.  We watched as a Grandmother, Mother, and Dad all were baptized.  Their two little children watched.  The night before I had met this family at the FHE.  I had complimented Hermana Medina on her butterfly earrings.  She brought them to me at the baptism!  All I can do is say a few words of appreciation, touch my heart and hug!

Side note> Elder Lowell was having a great time watching me and finding the hilarity of it all.  Soon after the baptism, I had a set of earrings, a cup of rice pudding, a drink of chocolate something and a piece of cake in my hands.  He tried to unburden me and I told him “no.”  If I let anything go, someone else would fill the space with something else!  He told me to never give compliments because they always just give it to you.  I promptly told him how cool his belt was…and he started to undo it.  We had a good laugh!

Second side note> Keith and I made it to our first tiangis this week.  Amazing.  He bought a geode – I gave my money to a crippled man.  There are few welfare services in Mexico.  Those who cannot work must rely on the goodness of others.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Elder Herrera

August 24, 2014

Elder Herrera went home this past Wednesday.  He stayed the night at the mission home before leaving.  On Wednesday morning he was proudly wearing the name tag of his brother.  His brother served 12 years ago.  The name tag was handed down through 3 more brothers – each completing a successful mission.  Elder Herrera wore the tag home, now for a happy retirement!  His parents should be so proud.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mr. Hollywood

August 20, 2014
We had to get four Elders and one Sister on their way home today.  Elder Cruz was going to catch a bus home.  The bus station is at the airport.  This airport is a mad house!  We find a parking spot and climb out of the car and start to unload his baggage.  He had loaded it into the car.  He has three bags and one bag is in terrible shape.  The back of it is breaking out, and the wheels are broken off.  And then Elder Cruz brings out the weights.

We call Elder Cruz the “Pretty boy.”  He has perfect hair, wears silver suits, and patent leather shoes with extended toes.  He has kept his physic throughout the mission.  The weights are too heavy for Keith or I, so Elder Cruz carries them.  I pull one bag and Keith has two.  Mind you, one of Keith’s bags has no wheels and is falling apart.  He is literally dragging it through the parking structure – and in English so Elder Cruz won’t understand he says, “This is stupid!”  I start to laugh too hard and I hear Keith starting to talk about being on a cruise in the Caribbean……

Elder Kleven

August 20, 2014
No one was more excited to train a new missionary than Elder Kleven.  As soon as he was told by the President that he would be training, he started to make notes and plans.  Elder Kleven is not a quiet sit around kind of guy.  He has the energy and spirit of an eight year old.

He arrived on Tuesday to meet his new companion.  We had about 50 missionaries out in front of the church practicing “contacting.”  Elder Kleven walked up and surveyed all the participants, turned to me and said, “I know who is going to be my companion.  I just feel inspired.  It’s that one over there, in the brown suit!”  He continued, “You don’t have to tell me, but really – it’s him isn’t it?”  I said, “The one in the brown suit – that one – do you mean Elder Alldredge?”  “Yes – that’s him, right?” he said.  My response: “Elder Kleven, Elder Alldredge has already been here for a year!”  Kleven: “So much for my inspiration!”  


August 20, 2014
What has happened to the last 10 days?  I believe the treadmill we were walking on was switched to high speed!  My brain only has the capacity to remember 3 days maybe, so I better write fast!

On Monday we welcomed 24 new elders to the mission.  Before they could arrive, the mission had to find 9 new apartments and furnish them.  21 elders came from the MTC in Mexico City, and three flew in from the Provo MTC later in the afternoon.  The ones coming from Mexico City arrive in time for breakfast – I think they are trying to save money that way!  Of the 21 from Mexico MTC, only four were North Americans.  Therefore, only a total of 7 came from North America.  We spent Monday training them on everything from finances to medical cards.

Being a trainer of new Elders is one of the most important jobs in a mission.  Trainers set the tone for the rest of a new missionary’s service.  Keith prayed and interviewed a number of Elders and selected the 24 trainers.  They were excited.  Elder Kleven even bought gummy bears and treats so he could greet his new “son.” For the rest of the mission they refer to each other as “my father” or “my son.”  At times I even here that someone is “my grandfather.”On Tuesday the “cambio” (transfers) was held. With this number coming into a mission of 192 young servants, there were a lot of changes.  In fact, 134 missionaries experienced some type of change.  If you ever have a chance to see one of these it is quite the experience.  In Mexico, new companions are not just greeted with a passive “hi” or hand shake.  They are given a full abrazo (hug).  The sister missionaries usually scream and jump up and down.  So here are a few highlights:  

  • Elder Keller just arrived.  He is 6’7”.  As he walked up to introduce himself (in Spanish), the crowd yelled “Elder Johnson!”  Our Elder Johnson is tall also.  When Elder Sandstrom was given Elder Keller to train, Sandstrom ran up from the crowd and didn’t stop running.  He jumped up to Elder Keller’s waist, had both legs and arms around him for his welcome abrazo.
  •  Elder Muir walked up while the crowd yelled “Elder Norr.”  Yes, they do look alike.  Elder Muir was the happy recipient of Elder Kleven’s gummy bears.
  •  Elder McCombs is totally North American.  However, he did his high school years here in Mexico.  He walked up and started to talk in perfect Spanish that was probably better than most those sitting in the audience – audible gasp!
  • Elder Kleven lost his distinction of the brightest red hair.  As our new Elder Leavitt got up to talk, he introduced himself as Elder Red Hair.  The audience loved it!
  • Elder Ordaz is from Mexico so of course his language is Spanish.  He is so happy to be here.  He gave his welcome speech and went to sit down.  I grabbed his arm and took him back to the microphone and said, “Elder Ordaz, where did you grow up?”  Elder Ordaz said, “Michigan, and I am stoked to be here!”  Once again, laughter reigned.
So on Tuesday we passed out the 24 Elders and sent them home with their trainers.  We then brought the 5 that were leaving today to our home for dinner – the five plus five more.  As we made 3 trips to the airport today, we cried with each one that left.  How can we love them this much already?  Sister Zambrano (our Sister training leader) flew back to Ecuador.  She is the most fun to hug because my head can rest on top of hers.  We will probably not meet again until Heaven.  Elder Vizueto (one of the Assistants to the President) was put on a bus.  It cost us a whopping $175 pesos (about $15) to send him home.  His bus will take him to his Stake President to be released, and then he will make his way back to Mexico City for some training for a later job.  Elder Vizueto was raised by his grandmother who passed away 1 month before he came on a mission.  He is truly on his own now.  I tried to not let him see me cry too hard.  In his broken English he said as we parted, “I love you sister.”  I love you too Elder Vizueto. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A sweet service project!

August 10, 2014
My brother used to say: “Did you have a good weekend, or do you own a home.”  My brother passed away several years ago and his wit and wisdom is missed sorely.  David, my son, called yesterday afternoon and when I picked up the phone he said, “Are you having a good Saturday or are you trying to run a mission?”  I appreciated how that made my heart smile and I said, “Hello Craig, so good to hear from you!”

Actually Saturday, or at least part of it, was filled with a sweet service project.  At our last Mission Council Meeting, we met at a nice chapel not far from the office.  LDS chapels always have tall fences, and sometimes guards at those fences.  This one only had the fence, but once you turned off the road to drive into the church, outside the fences, were two long concrete walls.  There were also three rock filled spaces that were encircled with a fences.  The rock places had a lot of trash in them.  The two long cement walls were covered with graffiti.  This is a ward that had some bad experiences with missionaries in the past.  Therefore they treat the great missionaries they now have, with some coldness. 

A service project was just waiting to happen.  We bought 5 gallons of paint at Home Depot, plus brushes, etc.  Saturday morning 8 missionaries, 1 newly baptized member, and the two of us met to get going.  The ward was going to send helpers but someone in the ward passed away on Friday.  Saturday morning was the funeral so that was going on while we were working.  Fences had to be scaled (including Keith and I), walls were painted and garbage was gathered.  Elder Smith, from Texas, took time to talk to the bus driver that was there to ferry people to the grave site.  He got a referral and passed it onto the missionaries serving there. 

It was a great way to start a Saturday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's a cultural thing

August 8, 2014
Having been raised in the United States, I didn’t realize the cultural changes that I would face down here.  While some are a little surprising, most are just the way things are done in a foreign country. 
  • Many incomes are supplemented by tips.  The following receive tips: the man who directs you into a spot when you pull in a parking lot, the person who bags your groceries in the market, the man in the parking lot who will take your purchases to your car, and the person who stands behind your car and whistles as you pull out so you don’t hit another car.
  •  At every major stop light, there are people selling candy, cigarettes (one at a time), roses, phone charges, and some strange apparatus for killing flies.  Sometimes these sellers are children.  We’ve seen a whole family waiting at lights to dust off your car.  The five year old children are weaving between all the cars.  There will also be men carrying water bottles full of sudsy water to wash your windows.  They do it while you wait at the stop light.  It’s hard to stop them because they spray your car window before they look at you! 
  • The aisles in a store are always full of food – even if they don’t have a variety.  Example:  I walked down the “oil” aisle, and the entire aisle, except for a very small section, had the same brand, and size of vegetable oil.  There were hundreds of identical bottles. 
  • Some things are hard to find:  brown sugar, chocolate chips, vegetable shortening, bag clips, and Rice Krispies.  I understand there is an import store somewhere – just haven’t located it yet.  You can buy US candy bars – they run about $1. 
  •   It is cheap to eat in Mexico, if you eat Mexican food.  American food is available, but it is 10-25% more expensive than the states.  Contrast that with a little restaurant that we ate at yesterday.  Four of us had a full meal, including soup and bread in the beginning, for 227 pesos – or a little less than $20. 
  •  Prescription medications are not prescriptions here.  I have bought everything from prescription allergy medicines to anti-depressants over the counter here.  We have LDS doctors that direct us on what to purchase, but there seems to be little restrictions.
  • Final info item for the day:  You have heard us talk about combat driving down here.  I heard it put the best way:  Laws in Mexico are only suggestions.  Police drive with their lights always on and they are often parked on the street.  They love to blow their whistles as they stand on the side of the street, waving their arms, and directing everyone to keep moving.  Horns are loved by drivers in Mexico!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Special "benefactors"

August 4, 2014
We had a sweet experience today.  Half of our mission is filled with Elders and Sisters from Latin America.  This means that they often arrive without some of the basic needs of a missionary.  Added to that, as things wear out, they do not have the resources to replace.

We had a missionary from Mexico, and one from Honduras, that each needed glasses.  We also had a missionary from Argentina who needed white shirts.   We have tried to make this mission a learning experience for the whole family, so we went to our families – adult children, spouses, and grandchildren, to ask if they would like to help.  Together the funds were raised with each contributing.  Luke, one of our grandsons, gathered cans out of the garbage.  He gave us his “garbage money.”

Off to Mexico City we went today.  There was actually a little mall full of stores selling glasses.  Following the exam, the glasses were ordered.  They were ready for pickup just 2 hours later.  We walked the street full of shops for men and found four white shirts.  After a little lunch, and some walks through fantastic old buildings, we all headed home feeling deeply blessed and thankful!  Each of our families has been sent pictures of their “benefactors.” 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The busy schedule!

August 1, 2014
We start to wonder whenever we have an empty space in our schedule.  We know that it will be filled – it’s just always a mystery what will fill it!

Today we had the Leadership Council.  All the zone leaders and sister training leaders come together to work on the direction of the mission.  We knew it would be finished by about 1:30 but then our day was “free.”  “Free” only means it is waiting to be filled, which will happen.

During the council, Keith received a phone call.  Our wonderful Elder S.G.’s hands were swelling again.  This poor Elder has been through major stomach problems, and then ended up in the hospital for a reaction to something – food? Environment? Companion ;) ?  His parents and we have been worried.  Last week when the reaction started again, we took him to the Temple Health Clinic (LDS doctors on missions, serving by the Mexico City Temple).  They arranged for some tests to start next week.  And here we were on Friday and his hands and arms were swelling.  You don’t mess around with allergic reactions!

As with the Lord, small miracles come to the aid of His Elders.  We called the Mexico City MTC who also had two LDS doctors serving over 1,000 Elders and Sisters who are there learning Spanish.  Dr. Gill, one of the two doctors, has a specialty in Allergies and Immunology.  Not for a minute do I think this is a coincidence!  After pulling the Elder out of the field (one hour away) and grabbing his Zone Leader as a companion, we all drove the other 90 minutes to the MTC.  What a blessing.  Our sweet Elder was diagnosed in a matter of minutes and given the correct medicine.  What a relief to us all!

And can I say – that MTC is amazing!  There are 100 acres, surrounded by a high stone fence, existing in the middle of Mexico City.  The campus is spotless and since it used to be a private LDS high school, has all the facilities that you’d expect including sports fields, gymnasiums, and housing.  We even ate at their cafeteria and the two Elders we had with us thought it was Thanksgiving!  Their plates were filled almost embarrassingly,  but amazingly high!  Good laugh!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Less one missionary van

July 27, 2014
Yesterday was quite a day for Keith.  He had several interviews at the office and then grabbed the Assistants to take off for Stake President interviews.  They stopped at the local Subway.  First let me tell you that Subway’s down here are way better – it may be the fact that it’s just American food that we have been deprived of – but boy they taste good!  Keith chose to park the missionary van right in front of the store - he and 10 other cars were parked illegally which is the common thing down here.  Waiting in line, they noticed that the van was about to be towed away.  He was chosen to be the lucky one!  No amount of pleading and bribing worked, so off went the missionary van.  Luckily the Mission’s Toyota Corolla was parked back at the office, so a taxi delivered them to pick it up.  No Subway – had to settle for a granola bar, Snickers, and a soda. 

We attended church in Nezahualcoyotl today.  We just found a time that a ward started, and took off.  We wanted to test our ability to find the chapel.  We didn’t know which missionaries we would find but it turned out to be Hermana’s Bennett and Ingram.  We love them!  It took us one solid hour to get there but we popped in 4 minutes early.  Time doesn’t matter here – church started 20 minutes later.  They have a funny tradition here.  Once the Sacrament hymn starts, 2 brothers guard the doors.  They literally keep their hands on the handles and not let anyone in until after the hymn and Sacrament.  I understand they do the same thing at Baptisms.  At least they weren’t armed! (There are plenty of those down here!)

Sunday is a beloved day to walk the streets and visit “tiangis.”  Tiangis are like flea markets.  They fill the streets – they randomly close streets to hold them.  The missionaries love to visit these on Mondays and Fridays.  This is where they find all that “special stuff” they haul home to mom and dad.  You can even find monkeys, giraffes, and lions for sale.  Be thankful those don’t get hauled back to America!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pizza for Lunch!

July 22, 2014
Keith is in the process of interviewing all the missionaries.  As reported by him:
Sister Zambrano, our Sister Training Leader, goes home next month.  She said that when she returns home, all of her closest friend will have earned their college degrees.  She will be behind by 2 years.  But she says it doesn’t matter, she has earned her degree from the “University of God.”  She is so thankful she fulfilled a mission!

July 23, 2014
The interviewing goes on.  While Keith interviews, I go around and talk with each Elder/Sister to get to know them.  I really enjoy talking to the Americans because we can get some humor/sarcasm going.  It’s fun to hear their stories about adjusting to life as a missionary.  As we sat there through lunch time, one Elder mentioned that there was a Little Caesar’s Pizza nearby.  Really?  Off went two Elders to find it.  When they got there the pizza was about double the USA price, but they still grabbed three.  It took them two taxi rides, and a bit of walking to make the round trip.  Arriving back the two had pretty well cleaned out one of the boxes and the other two were attacked by a swarm of hungry bees, I mean Elders!  I have to admit – that pizza tasted pretty good, even though it was lukewarm!  You gain an appreciation here for things you used to take for granted.

Our mission is gaining 24 new Elders in August.  We have 7 Elders going home so we have a net gain of 17.  We need 24 new trainers – the most important job in the mission!  If someone has a bad first trainer, it’s sometimes hard to recover.  Our mission is going from 192 to 209.  We add another 6 or 8 in September.  Housing has to be found, areas opened, and apartments filled with the necessary items.  It will be busy next week!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Mexico City Temple

We took the opportunity to go and see the Mexico City Temple.  It is currently closed for renovations but it has a visitor’s center that is “2nd only to Salt Lake.”  It was most impressive.  The Visitor's Center didn’t look that big, but it kept going with great videos and displays.  We took two missionaries with us, Elders Reyes and Vizueto.  The old Jerusalem display took your breath away.  The church in Mexico left you appreciating all the saints here.  It was in the 1940’s that President McKay, in response to the number of Mexican saints traveling to the Arizona temple,  decided to have the temple ordinances translated into Spanish.  Keith and I didn’t do so well in the touching videos about the family.  By the time they had moved us through 4 displays and connecting videos, we were just crying.  The sister missionaries guiding the tour didn’t quite know what to do with us, so they went to the hidden stash of Kleenex’s hidden in the flower arrangement.  The grounds include dormitories that used to house the Mexico MTC.  It also has a large apartment building for temple workers and a Health Clinic for Elders and Sisters who may need it.  It really was an impressive site!

Words of Wisdom by Elder McDowell while sitting with him in the office: Mission work is like suffering, suffering, suffering, inexplicable joy, suffering.... etc.    Missionaries arrive in the mission in all different sizes - but they all leave the same size - heavy ones lose weight, and skinny ones gain.  (He was commenting about his 20 pound weight gain – and he is still skinny – he must have been a bean pole at the beginning!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One big family

July 16, 2014
Keith has started interviews.  A zone comes at a time.  While he is interviewing, I talk with each one and record some information.  Here is a sampling of our missionaries:

  • Elder C. from Guanajuato, Mexico:  “I want a place for the Savior in my future life.”  He wants to study Pediatric Medicine.
  •  Elder H. from Lima, Peru:  He has been a member for 2 years and baptized his parents and sisters.  He speaks great English.
  • Sister I. from Elk Ridge, Utah:  She had scholarships for sports to UVCC but felt compelled to go to BYU.  She thought it was for the nursing program.  No – it was to be prepared to serve a mission.
  • Elder L. from SLC, Utah:   He had a spiritual experience a couple of years ago when his family did a church history trip.  “I felt a strange feeling that I needed to pray in the Sacred Grove.  Got on my knees, like Joseph Smith, and asked the Lord what He wanted me to do with my life.  I felt a strong conviction about the mission. “
  • Sister L. from Merlo, Buenos Aires, Argentina: She was at EFY, and they taught the importance of missions.  She felt something strong in her heart that she needed to go.  She asked God if it was right.  He said "yes".  She decided to give everything she has to God and come on a mission.  When she was praying to God, she asked if she could come to Mexico.  She wanted to serve among the Lamanites. 
  • Sister M. from Dominican Republic:  She has been a member for 6 years but her branch has existed for 13 years.  Right after baptism, she started to do missionary splits.  She is the first missionary from her small branch.  She wants to be an example for the youth.
  • Elder M. from Providence, Utah:  He has two more weeks on his mission.  He has a goal of preparing two more for baptism.  He is going home happy with his service!
  • Sister S. from Tampico, Mexico:  Her patriarchal blessing told her of her mission to Mexico.  She graduated with a degree in Communications and loves being with the Lamanites.
  • Sister S. from Utah (Missouri):  Studied French and Italian and disliked Spanish.  She had no intention of going on a mission until one day her boss came in to her and told her she needed to go.  That Fast Sunday she received an answer to her prayer.
  • Sister T. from Magrath, Canada:  She always wanted to go on a mission and was planning to at age 21.  When the age changed she prayed about it for 2 months before announcing to her mom she would be going earlier.
  • Elder T. from Dominican Republic:  He joined the church when he was 17.  His mom wanted to join but can’t because his parents are not married.  He is hoping that through his service, his family will be blessed and his mom can be baptized.
  • Elder V. from Hildago, Mexico:  He was raised by his grandmother in Mexico.   His mother lives in Boston.  One month before starting his mission, his grandmother passed away.   Now as he finishes his successful mission, he will need to find his own life in Mexico.
  • Sister B. from Harrisburg, Virginia:  She has her degree in Italian from BYU.  She wanted to serve a mission and asked Heavenly Father each semester if it was time.  Once graduated, and no job on the horizon, her answer came.  She is applying to Oxford for graduate work following her mission.
  • Elder G. from Dominican Republic:  Joined the church just 2 years ago.  He is the only member in his family.  He can’t read, but walked in and fixed a computer problem in the mission office.  He has a huge smile on his face.