Sunday, November 29, 2015

Three short stories

November 29, 2015
Three short stories:

November 29, 2015

Elder Luis and Nicolas: (Elder Luis’ words):

I was up on the hill in Chicoloapan (Los Reyes zone) at 7:00 PM.  It was already dark and I was afraid because it is dangerous.  However, I had faith in the Lord and He gave me and my companion, Elder Nicolas, security.  We felt that we were being protected.  I testify that when we were coming down that dark hill, four people cared for us and illuminated our way.  We did not see them, but we definitely felt their presence.

The Reynosa Family:

We were at church last week when the Reynosa family was confirmed and became members of the Church.  Juan, Maria, and their two teenage daughters each took their turn receiving the blessing to receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion in their life.  I watched the women of this family, each dressed in jeans and a blouse, smile as they came forward.  And then Juan, probably in his 40’s, came forward.  His face showed more years than 40, having obviously worked hard at making a living.  He wore athletic pants, athletic shoes and a gray T-shirt turned inside out.  I wondered why the shirt was inside out but soon realized it was probably either for cleanliness, or to hide pictures/sayings that used to be appropriate but were no longer.  When Juan was asked to give the closing prayer for the Sacrament service, he timidly walked up.  The Bishop gave him a trusting pad on the shoulder, and Juan gave a lovely closing prayer.  What a blessing to witness such humbleness, happiness, and change.

My Sabbath:
Keith’s father used to say: “Even an old barn looks better with some fresh paint.”  This morning we awoke to no water.  No shower and dirty hair started off the day.  We rushed around trying to find the solution to the water and finally gave up and got ready to leave.  As we entered a church in Los Reyes, we were once again summoned to sit on the stand.  At least it was the Primary Sacrament service so we wouldn’t have to speak.  30 minutes into the meeting, I remembered I had a big red sore on my chin.  Had I remembered to put makeup on that blotch?  I discreetly pulled out my cosmetic mirror to see if I saw it – and to my surprise – not only had I forgotten to put makeup on it, I had managed to forget makeup all together.  This old barn did not look “better” today!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Elder Alejandro

November 21, 2015

This is a story written by Keith.  We love Elder Alejandro (first name)!

Elder Alejandro is going home this next week.  He is a wonderful young man from Oaxaca, Mexico. He stands about 5’1”, very stout build, and radiates happiness. 
       About 8 months ago he asked for an interview with me, and walked into my office with tears in his eyes.   He explained about his family.  His Dad left them when Elder Alejandro was about 5 years old, leaving his mom to raise 3 little children, himself being the oldest. 
       He was raised pretty much in poverty. His Mom supported the family with a little “in home” business where she made corn tortillas and corn tortas, and sold them on the street.  She and the kids worked together in pretty tough conditions to be able to survive. 
      They were members of the Church, and Elder Alejandro always wanted to serve a mission, so when he reached 18, he accepted a call from the Lord to serve in our mission. 
       He being gone became an extreme hardship on the family.  His Mom heavily relied on his help to keep the family supported. With Elder Alejandro gone, the family slipped further and further into poverty and hopelessness. 
      That day,  8 months ago, Elder Alejandro told me that his mom had told him that she wrote to him, pleading for him to come home, and that she was deserting her family to move herself to Tijuana, Baja California to seek work.  She was just going to leave town, leaving her young teenage children on their own, hoping that Elder Alejandro would leave his mission and come take care of his siblings.   That meeting was on a Friday, and his Mom told him she was leaving on the following Tuesday. 
      Through his tears, he shared his deep desires to stay on a mission and fulfill his commitment to the Lord.  “President”, he said with tears streaming down his face, “I love my family, they need me, but I want to be a missionary!!!  I hugged him as he cried on my shoulder.   What a struggle for a faithful young missionary, coming from hardship, working through the challenges of missionary life, and wanting to finish him mission where he was “called to serve.”
       That day, we prayed together, I gave him a blessing, and we talked about the options.  Going home was one of those options.  He basically had the weekend to decide. 
    I contacted the Stake President who said he would contact his mom.  He did, in fact.  Sometimes the membership and ward support here in Mexico is quite not like it is in the USA.   This Stake president and the Bishop decided to help family. His mom decided to stay.  
       Ward members began to help this poor, struggling family.  Over time, the little family business was doing better, even flourishing. 
         Six weeks ago, we had a seminar for the Latino Elders on how to get jobs, choose colleges, do resumes, and to take advantage of the Church perpetual education program.  Elder Alejandro was among them, and is very excited about his future. 
        End of story, Elder Alejandro is going home to study business, will expand his mom’s family business into a store, and plans to open some kind of a “chain”, at least opening a few more stores. 

       His “goodbye” interview as very touching and tearful, as he explained his appreciation of the Church, the Savior, and for the blessings of the gospel.  He loved his mission, and I know he will not be returning to poverty!!!  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Garbage in Mexico

November 10, 2015

When I first moved to Mexico City, I was disheartened by the amount of garbage and graffiti I saw everywhere.  At times it was hard to see the beauty of the city because your eyes would stop at the gutter or painted wall first.  It has taken me awhile to see another perspective.

People living in Mexico City are very clean.  I seldom see someone in dirty clothes unless it has to do with their line of work.  I think at times the Mexican people might be cleaner than North Americans.

Every day I see hundreds of people sweeping the concrete in front of their homes.  They sweep and then they wash it.  I don’t know how they do it, but they take a bucket of water and with a “special” hand action, throw it across the concrete to clean it.  Most things are cleaned with buckets down here – hoses are not seen too often.  How often have I swept the concrete in front of my North American home? 

Cars and buses are washed frequently – all using buckets.  At most stop lights, there are people – sometimes many people - there washing windows and wiping down dusty cars.  They do this for any amount of pesos you want to give them.

Trash collection is done by a system much different from the states.  A man/woman walks down the street ringing a bell.  It signals that someone will arrive soon with a cart, hand drawn or horse drawn, to collect the garbage.  A residence doesn’t sign up for trash service - you give the trash collector a few pesos for taking your garbage.  It later arrives at big garbage trucks where it is hand sorted for recyclable materials.

My home is covered with almost white tiles.  Every drop of water causes footprints – and yet they don’t last long.  Our housekeeper is here 10 hours a week, split over 2 days.  Every tile throughout the house is cleaned twice a week.  I have yet to walk into a home that is dirty or messy.  They take pride in that.  Note to self: Never put off white tiles in your American home – way too much work!

So why is there garbage catching your eye when you drive or walk around?  It’s an infrastructure problem.  There are not workers paid to clean it up.  There are some around, but they have huge areas to cover.  The Mexican people have simply learned to overlook it and keep their own little bits of heaven clean.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Best Zone Conference ever

November 1, 2015

As I left the meeting with Elder Brent Nielsen last week, a missionary walked up to me and asked who would be the next General Authority to visit us.  After all, we had Elder Christofferson of the 12 apostles last month, and this month we had the Executive Director of the Missionary Department!  I guess this missionary thought this might be an ongoing pleasure!  I told him it would not, but it would have been fun.  I think we have had our share of visitors from Salt Lake for some time to come.

When we heard that Elder Nielson would be visiting us just weeks after Elder Christofferson, Keith and I joked that we were either “really good”, or “really bad.”  We didn’t dare guess which!

Elder Nielson and his sweet wife Marcia stayed with us for 5+ days.  He spent 2 days just visiting our missionaries and giving them instruction.  They all were on spiritual highs as he answered any question asked, and gave great guidance on how to make this mission even better.  A few of his hints that will be started ASAP:
  • Less active members are a goldmine.  We are using 18% of our time with them, and they are providing 48% of our baptisms.  We need to use time more wisely.
  • Leaders (Zone and Assistants) need to be the hardest working missionaries in the mission.  We never take them out of their area.  Missionaries come to “their laboratory” to see how it is done.  Divisions will be changed – we do it just opposite of this as do most missions.
  •  Alma 23:13: “lay down the weapons of your rebellion.”  He taught us that we all have these weapons – the little things that keep us away from completely enjoying the blessings of the gospel.  After this teaching, several missionaries handed over electronic devices that were against mission rules.

The missionaries absorbed his sweet spirit, mild manner, and 4 hours of help.  He visited apartments to see how they are here.  He interviewed some Elders and Sisters.  He encouraged, he loved, he shook every hand, and he motivated.  It was the best Zone Conference ever!

As we put them on the plane on Thursday, we took a deep breath of relief!  We had maneuvered the roadways, got people to places on time, fed the guests, and felt “filled” our selves.  Good times in Mexico City!

Added side note:  Mexico left an impression on Elder Nielson also.  He missed the last stair while at the airport and ended up with a sprained ankle.  He will remember us for a while! (Add him in your prayers!)