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!