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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Our first day at church!

July 13, 2014
Our first day at church!  Keith arrived in Mexico with pneumonia so church was out last week.  But this week, we are in the swing of things.  Keith had a monthly meeting with one of his six stake presidents.  It was in the Villada Stake Center.  We arrived at the office at 7AM to pick up the assistants and off we went.

We arrived at a sweet little chapel with 8 rows of benches.  They were full.  Keith was on the stand and told the assistants to be my body guards – really?  There was no pianist, so the chorister would sing the first line so that people could then follow.  Since everything was in Spanish, I would listen carefully to see if I could guess the hymn.  I did recognize each of them so could make an attempt at staying with the tune.  There were times when I thought I was the only one following the tune, but that is irrelevant!  They asked Keith to speak and he, being the veteran speaker, handled it with ease. 

Stake President Huerte followed him.  He asked everyone in the audience who had been a member of the church for less than one year, to stand up.  Amazing – almost 20 of the approximate 80 people stood.  Now this is a missionary ward!

Afterwards there were many hugs and pictures.  There were also four people who wanted blessings from Keith.  We were off to the Bishop’s office to give blessings.  The bishop had anointing oil there – it was this rather large bottle of anointing oil.  I have never seen one this big before.  Keith gave blessings to 2 brothers (Hernandez) who told him that they had been accused of a felony.  They had already served time but were out on a special program.  However, they had another court date coming.  Could Keith help with that?  Keith blessed them that they would become more righteous, that the court would take proper action, and that their lives would become better.  A 21 year old girl named Rebecca said she was in the process of filling out mission papers when the doctor found a tumor.  She pointed to her stomach so it was probably a “female” problem.  She needed surgery.  He blessed her that the surgery would go fine and she would go on a mission.  He said he also felt inspired to tell her that there was a girl waiting for her to bring the gospel and that she would know the girl when she saw her.  The final blessing was to a 29 year old, divorced young man named Brother Martinez.  He was discouraged and couldn’t find a job.  Keith blessed him to become more righteous and spend more time in prayer.  He encouraged him that his answers would come that way.  There was so much oil there that Elder Vizueto (one of the assistants) refilled his little vial for future needs. 

After the blessings, my “body guards” dropped me off at Relief Society (the organization for women) I met 4 sisters: Vanessa, Alma, Grismalda, and Guadalupe.  Vanessa put me right between her and Alma.  Guadalupe is a young mother and an investigator.  The teacher gave me something to read and I was supposed to answer.  The question was about the importance of Baptism.  I do all right reading, but it’s that answering thing!  I could only come up with three words: llave, puerta, and celestial.  Key to the door of the Celestial.  The teacher looked at me and I said I could say no more.  After a quizzical look, she moved on, much to my relief!

My “body guards” picked me up from there, and delivered me back to Keith.  They were laughing about the “body guard” part – a new role for them! After another hour of pictures, plus seeing 10 of our missionaries serving in that area, we were on the way home.

And a short note about yesterday:  We found a little corner taco stand just a 2 minute walk from our home.  Before we left, people kept telling us about tacos pastor.  This stand had them so we picked up a couple.  How do you say:  BEST TACO of my LIFE!  BBQ’d beef and pineapple on a fresh tortilla, with cilantro and salsa.  WOW!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Talk with Elder McKinlay

I had the opportunity to talk with Elder McKinlay today in the office.  He told of the following experience that happened right after arriving:
He and his companion were walking down a busy street.  A man on a bicycle approached them and asked for 2 pesos. (It takes 12 pesos to make $1).  They truly didn’t have any money on them so they told him so.  At that point the man used his bike to cut them into a side street.  He then told them he wanted their watches and phones.  They didn’t want to give up their shared phone because it’s a slow process to replace it.  Elder McKinlay’s companion handed over his watch (a cheap knock off watch) and told him they didn’t have a phone.  When the man showed them a gun in his belt, the companion reconsidered and said, “I do have a phone but it’s an old Nokia”.  The phone battery was almost dead, and there was no credit on the phone so it wouldn’t make any calls.  The man took the phone, tried it, and said, “This is lame” and handed it back.  Off he rode on his bicycle with his new watch.

Elder McKinlay also had a few sayings about the traffic and crazy drivers:
“If you come to a complete stop, you have yielded the right of way and you have to wait for another person to make a complete stop – which may never happen.”

His theory on speed limits: “You go as fast as you want as long as you can slow down for a speed bump.”  By the way – I call them speed mountains here.  You can forget about the alignment of your car if you hit one of these babies with any speed.

And Keith: “There are no nice drivers in Mexico” which is quite true.  Today two, not just one, did a left turn over in front of us from the right lane.  Driving is truly an experience here!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2 super nice Elders!

Elder Ordonez was in the office yesterday.  He was waiting for his companion who was having an interview.  He is from Honduras and we can speak with about half Spanish and half English.  He was wearing a pair of black plastic shoes with a bright orange strip.  He told me he was embarrassed to be wearing these shoes, that they weren’t appropriate shoes.  I asked him if he had another pair and he said no.  He and his companion had been walking home a few days before when a Saint Bernard started to chase them.  The dog was about to bite Elder Ordonez when his slip on shoe fell off.  The dog grabbed it and ran the other way.  He had to walk home with one shoe and one sock.  He and Keith made a trip to Walmart for a present from the president.

Elder Avalos was also in the office.  His companion had to go with a secretary to clear his Visa.  He is so fun to talk with!  I had noticed when I shook his hand that it felt different.  When he was sitting by me, I could see why.  He is missing his pinkie finger on the right hand.  I asked him about it.  When he was 17 he was working with a large printer.  He was feeding in the paper when his hand got too far in and it just cut the finger off.  He showed me his shocked face and then pointed to the ground where his finger was.  I looked at his hand.  He still had toner tattoos in many places on his hand where the machine had done its dirty work.  He had no sadness – his face just beamed with his love of life and Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

These are great days

June 8, 2014
Today was a full day with transfers, training meetings, and bringing three missionaries to our home for a farewell meal and testimony meeting.

Missionaries going home are starving – as are all of them!  I expected 5 for dinner plus Keith and I.  We ended up with 7 and so I worried about enough food.  I had a large pan of lasagna and decided to walk to the local BBQ just in case.  Three chickens, tortillas, and rice added to my lasagna, French bread, and salad.  There was nothing left – and I didn’t get either the chicken or lasagna!  I did get some of the vegetables that came with the chicken.  I thought it was green beans.  It turned out to be cactus.  I wondered why it tasted different, but not too bad.  We finished with hot cookies and brownies.  They likewise disappeared.  Don’t get in the missionaries way at dinner time!

Stepping back one day:

We received 3 new missionaries yesterday.  They are the replacements for the ones going home.  Elder Garcia is from the Dominican Republic.  His spanish is hard to understand even for the latino's.  He joined the church less than 2 years ago, lives with his Catholic grandma, and doesn't know how to read.  His family is not happy he is here.  We had a problem with the office computers and he sat down and fixed them.  Goal: to read!  Keith gave him a special blessing.

Yesterday  we were in the mission office.  I couldn’t find Keith so I asked “where was the Presidente hiding?”  Poor Elder Canto.  He thought I said President Eyring so he jumped up, straightened his coat and got ready to greet him.  Disappointment….

I had a great talk with Elder Garrett while at the office.  I asked him what the best thing about Mexico was.  He said, “other than the spiritual experiences, it’s the food.  He told me about pambazo.  They take bread, soak it in salsa, dry it out, deep fry it, and serve it with sweet cream (similar to sour cream).  This sounds so perfectly unhealthy that I will have to try it.

Yesterday also presented another challenge getting home.  We thought we had the way and we got there and the entry road to the highway was closed with a policeman standing there.  We tried several ways and kept getting lost.  So Keith got out of the car and begged the officer to let him on.  Cars were whizzing by, there was a lot of road noise, and Keith kept begging but to no avail.  We continued the hunt for another hour until we found another way home.

We are tired after two 15 hour days – but man, we are loving these missionaries!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

6 Days into the mission

6 Days into the mission – an update

Keith contracted pneumonia while at the MTC.  We, I am sure by divine providence, were not scheduled to fly to Mexico until 4 days following the MTC.  He survived the first two days here and then was even sicker than before.  Our neighbor, President Valadez of the MCS mission took him to a specialist.  He was given 4 medicines and sent to bed through today.  He is quickly regaining strength and hopes to start next week at full power.

The most overwhelming task at hand is how to get around this place!  Neither the mission office nor home is actually in the mission boundaries.  We live about 9 miles from the Mission office.  Seems a short distance in the USA – but here the traffic is “over the top.”  Nice drivers don’t even finish last – they are simply “eaten alive.” The Assistants have driven us to date.  Taking a suggestion from President Valadez, we got in the van just before light today.  We had blocked out the route to the office and getting there went pretty smoothly – although once on the street the numbers didn’t make sense.  After 4 trips up and down the street, we found it!  All offices and residents in the area sit behind two metal garage doors.  So unless you are looking for a business, you are looking at myriads of metal garage doors.  We were happy to find it – and then tried to plan our way back.  We tried following the same route back but couldn’t enter on to the expressway.  We found ourselves down a blocked street that we had to back out of.  We returned to the office to try again.  We followed a route the Assistants had mentioned – 2 more attempts and then back to the office.  By now Keith’s not feeling well was showing!  We prayed again, and set out.  I would trace us on the IPhone and he would drive.  We finally found the correct “freeway” and made it a few miles till it was under construction.  We tried a side street only to find we were face to face with a rather large bus.  Both Keith and the bus driver had their hands in the air.  I found that funnier than Keith did!  Finally, after several hours we found ourselves back in Coyoacan, where our home is.  Some of the streets in Coyoacan are cobblestone, no traffic lines, with a lot of speed “mountains.”  Great “fun” to hit those mountains!

A little about our home:  It is made of concrete, wood and tile floors, and is really quite beautiful.  There are two floors and a small third floor that looks like it is a servant’s quarters – Keith calls it Rapunzel’s tower.  I like the third floor – I can walk out on the roof up there and look around.  There is also a Nordic track – although exercising at 8000 feet presents an oxygen challenge!  The kitchen is modern.  The house is cold and we don’t have a heating/air conditioning system.  There are a few space heaters around.  I didn’t expect cold – this is summer.  Most of our warmer wear is in the packed boxes coming from California.

With Keith sick, I took the opportunity to walk around Coyoacan a little.  I know where the bank, drug store, and Walmart are located.  By the way – Walmart is the more expensive place to shop.  I have spotted a Burger King and a Papa Johns.  I was with Sister Valadez when we got caught in a downpour in the plaza of Coyoacan.  I have never seen such rain.  Fortunately I had my croc’s on – but I was soaked to the bone is just minutes.  I now understand some of our missionary’s letters!

The Assistants were over last night and transfers are ready for next week.  We both are looking forward to “full steam ahead” tomorrow! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

And they twain shall meet...

July 2, 2014
We met with half the mission yesterday, the other half today.  How do you explain these feelings?

As I walked into the chapel yesterday, I was so overcome with emotion that it was all I could do to remain standing.  My hand went to my heart and my eyes filled with tears just to look at them.  It wasn’t planned but I set down my briefcase and started to hug those beautiful sisters!  I walked one by one and hugged them.  We shared tears and I could feel their spirits.  I was walking among the elite of the gospel.  I met apostles last week and their spirit was touchable.  These were just as strong.  Soon Keith joined me and we went Sister by Sister, Elder by Elder.  Forget that agenda – we were meeting our missionaries!  You could look into their eyes and see all the way to their special souls.  They loved us as much as we loved them.

I shall never forget what I experienced that day.  We talked, we laughed, we hugged, and we buoyed each other up.  And I knew I had another day coming that would be just as wonderful!

The second day brought another batch of the elite.  There were no sisters in this group, it was all Elders.  My heart just dropped when I saw them sitting there waiting for us.  I would swear that the armies of Helaman could not have looked better!  Again it was row by row, Elder by Elder and I shook hands and Keith hugged.

There was one missionary that almost took me to my knees.  Elder D.Rob from Nevada:  Elder Rob had an accident last month.  After being in the rain, he went to the roof of a home.  His wet clothes conducted electricity from an open wire and he was accidently electrocuted.  His poor little hands were wrapped clear to the elbows.  They looked so painful.  I looked at them and started to cry.  I so wanted to have the power to have my tears heal them.  He had given so much, and had chosen to stay on his mission.  He said it “was just a trial.”   Every time I looked at him it was all I could do to keep my composure.  What an example!

These greetings are forever stamped on my heart.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We are getting there......

June 30, 2014
We are finally on our way.  We are sitting on an airplane that will land in Mexico City this evening.  It fills like the ride has just started, at least that's what my stomach feels like.  However my head tells me we have already had to come so far to be sitting here.

The MTC was amazing.  We sat at the feet and learned from the entire Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency.  It was a powerful 4 days which left you so thrilled, and tired by nightfall.  We were treated in the finest manner possible.  The MTC experience ended on Wednesday night.  Most Presidents and wives were flying out the next morning.  President Morales, the one Keith is replacing, requested we come on the following Monday.  We wanted to just take off but instead we expected to have four days just experiencing Provo.

Life is what happens when you have plans! By Thursday evening Keith was getting sick.  By Friday morning he had pneumonia.  Fortunately he recognized the symptoms and acted quickly.  He was put to bed not to move until our flight on Monday.

6AM flight ready for take off…or not.  The plane was "unflyable."  SLC to Dallas to Mexico changed to SLC to San Francisco to Mexico.  Picked up luggage, changed airlines, got through security again and we were off at 8:40, in the wrong direction.  We will still arrive today, just 6-7 hours later.  As we flew to California, we saw Lake Oroville out the window.  We saw the area that our home sits.  There were a few small pains that hit my heart.

Back to the present: We have just passed into Mexico.  In less than 3 hours, our life will be forever changed.  This blog is about to change from being about me to being about "them" - all 192 waiting for us.