Friday, November 4, 2016

Home is where your parents live

October 31, 2016

Three years in Mexico…that calling changed our life so very much.  Three years is such a long, and a short time.

My children and grandchildren have loved coming here on vacation.  Mexico has so much to offer – antiquity, history, and brand new experiences.  They all have seen, and eaten, things they never would have dreamed of.  Some have held baby lions, pet camels, and eaten deep fried crickets.  They have walked through churches that have stood for hundreds of years and climbed pyramids that are thousands of years old.  All of them have said it was their best vacation ever.

Their “last vacation” here has already happened for most of them.  It is so interesting to see their reactions as they leave.  Our home here has become their family home and they feel sad leaving it.  They talk of never being here again and what they will miss.  They will miss all of “this stuff” here.  Some of them are trying to find ways to come back “one more time.”  Slowly Mexico City has replaced Oroville.

Home truly is where your loved ones are.

Two transfer missionary

November 4, 2016

Not all young LDS men can serve missions.  Sometimes one has the desire, but not the physical ability to complete 24 months of service.

The church has a program called the Two Transfer Mission.  This mission is for 12 weeks (6 weeks equals one transfer).  This is program allows a young man with limited abilities to “try out missionary work” and see how his body responds.  These missionaries do not go to the MTC first and have not attended the Temple.  If they are able to handle the rigorous lifestyle, they can appeal to Church Headquarters to fulfill a two-year mission.  The church asks that they work each six week period with a different companion to vary the experience.  When the 12 mission is completed, the young man goes home with an honorable release.

Jose is our two-transfer missionary.  He is 5 foot, 1 inches tall.  He weighs 123 pounds.  He was born with a bone disease that has required 5 surgeries in the last 13 years.  Too much walking causes intense pain at night.  His pain medicine causes ulcers in his stomach. 

It became apparent in Jose’s first transfer that he would not be able to serve a full 24-month mission.  Each night at home he would cry.  After pain medication, he would cry again because of the pain in his stomach.  We approached him about going home at 6 weeks.  He talked with his parents and both agreed and asked to stay for 6 weeks more.

Jose is with his second companion.  His companion Cesar is also from Mexico.  Cesar is 6 inches taller, and 80 pounds heavier than Jose.  Last night we heard how it was going with these two.  It’s going very well.  When Jose starts to hurt too much, Cesar picks him up and piggy backs him around their area.

I cried.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Elder Lorenzo L.

August 28, 2016
This week we say good bye to one of the best missionaries we have known, Elder Lorenzo L.   He joined our mission within weeks of our arrival.  We have loved him since we first met him.  He is held in the highest esteem by every missionary in this mission.  He is a natural at teaching and his love of people can be easily felt.

Elder Lorenzo L. is from Chile.  He came on his mission just shy of his 24th birthday.   He is a certified mid-wife.  He had received a scholarship for this training and the scholarship could not be deferred.   He chose to finish his schooling and then serve a mission.  Because of his outstanding performance in school, he was offered a scholarship for a postgraduate degree studying in Europe following graduation.  However, his goal was to fulfill a mission for the church and so he turned this opportunity down.

While attending medical school, he fell in love with another medical student.  She is still the love of his life, but together they decided that he should serve the Lord for two years before they married. She stayed behind practicing her profession.  The wedding is planned for November.

Elder Lorenzo L.’s parents will arrive next Friday morning.  We will be there with Elder L. to greet them.  There will be many tears of joy which will help mask some of the tears that Keith and I will be crying.  Our tears will include a few of sorrow as we bid farewell to an extremely fine man.

What a privilege we have had in Mexico.

Elder Daniel A.

August 28, 2016
Elder Daniel A. came to us from Tijuana.  We laughed when we first saw his picture on the application.  How did this Nordic name come to be attached to someone who was obviously a Mexican?  After he arrived, we found he had been raised by an American stepfather and hence the name.  He was also fluent in both English and Spanish.

Elder Anderson is a temporary missionary.  His mission call is to Logan Utah.  However, his Visa into the United States was delayed and so he joined our mission while waiting for his Visa.  He is a fine young man and easily fit into Mexico City.

Elder Anderson did not know his biological father.  Another man had filled that position for him.  However, just two weeks ago he received an email from a cousin.  He had not heard from this cousin for 8 years, but in this email she told him how she had recently run into his biological father, right here in Mexico City.  She shared an address and an email of his father.  Elder Anderson became excited and nervously sent an email telling his biological father that he was currently in Mexico City and that he was serving a mission for the church.  Within a week his Father found him in a local church.  Elder Anderson said there was little doubt it was his father – they resembled each other in every way except for age.  His biological father brought along 2 half siblings, and shared information about 2 other half sisters living in Spain.  It was a special and healing reunion for Elder Anderson.

Our Heavenly Father knows us all so personally.  He knows of our needs and our desires.  I have total faith that Heavenly Father made it possible for these two to meet.  And now, after being in our mission for 16 weeks and the arrival of both a Visa and a Father, Elder Anderson flies to Utah on Monday.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The final chapter

August 22, 2016
I think I can write the final chapter of my “leg” experience.  It has taken me awhile to get to this point.  Each time I took 2 steps forward, I often found that I had to step at least one step back.  However, after this past weekend, I think I have moved into the safety zone.

I had necessary plastic surgery just 4 weeks ago on the hole in my leg.  When I was so sick last May, the doctors had to remove the infection in my leg in order to heal me.  The hole that remained was at least the size of an American quarter.  It healed for several months before it looked like another surgery would be necessary.  It had healed enough that I was praying that the surgeon would look at it and cancel the surgery – let it continue to heal on its own.  That was wishful hoping.

During the first plastic surgery they found that the destruction of the cells went clear to the bone and so that surgery increased the “hole” by 2 ½ times.  Later that week they placed the skin graft taken from the other side of my leg.

I came home in a wheel chair which is difficult in a 3 story house with varying levels on each floor.  I crawled up our spiraling staircases too many times and the dozen cement stairs that lead into the house were even more challenging.  My daughter Laura came to give me help.  From wheelchair I moved to a cane.  And now the cane is resting against the wall.

However, even just 10 days ago, the healing was not going well.  Last Saturday I finally turned a corner and that corner brought new hope.  This will heal after all.

Emotionally at times I hung onto the knot at the end of my rope.  I pleaded with my Heavenly Father and I cried too many times into my pillow.  I now know that I have been blessed and soon this will just be a difficult memory.  The prayers of many others have helped immensely.  Very soon the exercise bicycle will not sit quietly in the corner!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Returning to a mission - Elder Reyes de Leon

Elder Reyes will complete his 2 year mission in just 2 weeks.  His story was recently featured in the Central America Liahona.  It is a courageous story of determination and perseverance. Hopefully I have done a good job in translating!

Returning to my mission 

On August 15, 2015, I was called to serve a full time mission to Mexico City, Southeast Mission.  I will never forget the moment in which I opened my call; the moment was special and totally different from most of the experience of others.

I was born on the 20th of January, 1994, to a wonderful and great people, my parents.  I come from a family in which every day, while on the Earth, we strive to succeed.  When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with a disease that would change my life and my family.

After taking many tests and studies to identify the disease, I was told that I needed to have an operation for a tumor that had formed in my head.  When the day of the operation came we relied on Heavenly Father that all would be well.  We had also hoped that the words from the doctors following the surgery would be that there was nothing more and that my recovery would be immediate.

After passing this trial my family and I continued to strive and progress within the Gospel. Years passed and all was going well until I turned 14 years of age. At this age my family and I did not imagine what was to happen to me. Five years after the first surgery a tumor was again growing in my head. No new studies were required.  The doctors already knew what was wrong and another operation was required; only that this time it would be totally different. On this occasion, Dr. Castellanos (doctor who saw my case all my life), knew that my illness had worsened.

I remember that he talked with my parents and with me about what was happening, and he mentioned that treatments of chemotherapy were needed.  I would have to fight this disease for the rest of my life.  Histiocytosis cancer occurs in several ways.  It manifested in my bones, creating tumors.

I did not want chemotherapy at 14 years of age and following my second operation.  However, I started my treatment that lasted for four years.  During those years of chemotherapy, many tests and trials were experienced by my family.

I can only imagine the tests that were endured by my family, but they never passed on the difficult times to me.  Every week I went to the hospital to receive my chemotherapy.  My family always was with me at every moment.  I did feel something special in those moments of difficulties and that something was hope.  I knew hope meant believing that all will be well and that God would comply with His promises.  Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness, hope sustains us from despair.  This encouraged me to continue through all the tests.

When I turned 18, after having 4 years of chemotherapy, I returned often to the doctor to see how my body had accepted the treatment.

It came the time which had to make the decision to serve a mission or not. I remember that one of the doctors was not in total agreement that I serve a mission. My body was well, thanks to the treatment that I had, the disease had stopped and there was nothing more. It was incredible knowing that all was well, and that I could do the things I’d like to. On one occasion when I was talking to Bishop of the ward where I attended, he mentioned serving a mission. I remember that the Bishop asked me if I wanted to serve a mission, and I said yes, I was willing to serve.

I started filling out my paperwork and be ready to serve a mission. My papers were sent to Salt Lake City. We waited for the letter to return with my assignment. With the letter in my hands, it was time to know where I was going to serve.  I opened it at the time we selected and it was special. My grandmother was sick with cancer and about to leave this earth. I remember that we gathered around her as she was in bed being unable to speak. She wanted to know where I was going; so I opened my call and read it. I felt something special in my heart as I read that I would in Mexico, and felt a great love for the country.

I passed the time preparing to serve as a missionary, reading my Scriptures, praying to the Heavenly Father, and attended the missionary preparation classes that helped to increase my faith in Jesus Christ daily.

Finally the day came to go on my mission and I was excited, happy and nervous about doing something that my family and I had been waiting for a long time, serving a full time mission.  I started my mission on August 15, 2012 and it was so special and unique that I will never forget how my testimony began to grow as I served the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength.

I loved seeing how the Gospel of Jesus Christ changed the life of the people. I knew that time was something special and I had to forget myself and give myself entirely to the Lord's work. Having served nine months in the mission, without knowing what would happen, once again there appeared a small ball of dough in my arm elbow. The doctors said that it was a tumor and had to return home to recover. I returned to a sad home and was desperate to know what I had, the doctor saw me again and started blood tests and other studies. With the results in the hands of the doctor, he told me: "you have nothing!"

I remember that my mother and one of my sisters were with me at the time, and the two turned to me as my eyes filled with tears to know that I had returned from the mission without being ill. After spending time at home, I started to study at the University. I was often thinking that the mission time that was not over.  The leaders of the Church told me that I had done my part to serve and that it was not necessary to return, and that I had been returned with honor. Eventually, they called me as a teacher of future missionaries of stake and when this happened I felt happy for the mission release I’d received, happy for the desire to help others with my mission, and that the mission was a success. However, something inside of me still wanted to help in Mexico, and the desire to return was in me. My uncle shared his experience when from his mission. I thought so much of my mission.  I decided to go back.

I went to the Stake President and shared with him that I wanted to return. He helped me a lot and we started to prepare my papers to return. Two years passed and I remained at home waiting for an answer to see if someday I could return or not. In those two years, we tried three times and never got a response. I decided that I had to do something and started to work, prepare, and focus more on my gospel study.

Finally it happened and my father received a call that I could return to complete my mission. In June 2015, a Friday, they called me from the offices of the Church, and they told me that I could now return to the mission and gave me a date for leaving. The date of departure was the Monday of the following week. I couldn't believe it. I thanked God for giving me this great opportunity to return. That weekend was one that I will not forget. I had to prepare myself to go back to complete my mission. My family and I were so happy.

At this moment I am in the Mexico City, Southeast Mission, culminating my mission. Four months before finishing, I have grown to understand that God and our Lord Jesus Christ are always on our side and that they know the desires of our heart. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He came to this earth to die for every one of us. I testify that God has created this wonderful Plan of happiness for His children, and that the tests that we endure in life cannot be compared with the test Jesus Christ faced on this earth. And that in this moment Jesus Christ guides the steps of both my companion and me.

I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ is true, that the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith was the perfect instrument by which this beautiful and wonderful Gospel was restored.

As a representative of Jesus Christ I know that God blesses us when we are faithful and obedient to all that is demanded, and that He is always with us wherever we go. All in the life is based on our Heavenly Father, and God blesses us for our obedience. I Testify of these things, testify of God the Father, of his son Jesus Christ and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Everything has value

June 18, 2016

There is a noticeable difference between Elders returning to North America and those returning to Central and South America.  Of course I am talking in generalities but almost without exception, I see the following.

Elders returning to North America take very few of their clothes and shoes home.  It can be compared to a woman who has just given birth.  A pregnant woman is so tired of her clothes that once the baby is born, she is happy to wear something different.  North Americans take home their favorite ties and socks, but most of the rest stays behind including their underwear.

Those returning to Central and South America show much greater respect for their worn out clothes.  They find value in all things and find it very hard to get their bags down to the “acceptable” weight for the airlines.  I see broken toys, crepe paper from birthday parties, books, and worn out shoes returning home.

We recently sent an Elder home to the Dominican Republic.  First we replaced his luggage because it had not survived the 2 years of service here.  We told him of the weight restrictions and stressed that his bags could not be even a pound more.  When we picked him up to go to the airport, his shave kit was attached to his belt.  We arrived at the airport and of course his bags were overweight – but he was prepared.  He pulled bags out of his pocket and moved items over into them.  He started to attach each bag to his backpack or belt.  We took him to security and laughed as he walked away with bags tied in many places.  He was leaving nothing behind!

North Americans live in a “throw away” country.  That is not that way in other places!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The ability to look on the heart

June 15, 2016

We receive notice of missionaries who will be joining us by email.  We receive a copy of their missionary application and their name suddenly shows up on our missionary software.  We are notified of missionaries coming from Mexico as long as 4 months ahead, and sometimes just weeks before they arrive.  We are often given a five month alert on missionaries coming from foreign countries due to strict Visa requirements.  Yesterday I received notice of 2 new Elders who will join us.  Both were of the same ethnicity but from two different countries.  The comparison of the two left me uneasy.  It was a stark reminder of the different opportunities that are open to some, and not to others.

Elder M. is graduating from high school probably about right now.  He has done extremely well in school and earned an Associate’s degree along with his high school diploma in the past few years.  His parents are both members of the church. He is an Eagle Scout, a clarinet player, and his sister is also currently serving a mission in Mexico.  With 4 years study of Spanish with grades of “A”, he will probably pick up the language quickly.

Elder H. is 20 and joined the church when he was 18.  His parents disowned him because of that decision so he lives alone.  With only an elementary level education, where he rates his accomplishment level as “not very good,” he has supported himself as a cook for the past 4 years.  His home ward will help him purchase the necessary clothing items, and also be the ones to kiss him good bye. 

Both Elder M. and Elder H. are highly recommended by their local leaders.  Both have the chance to excel here and deepen their own convictions.  Each will approach this assignment from their own perspective and face discouragement and challenges differently.   Hopefully Keith and I can help guide each to success.  I do know one thing for sure – Heavenly Father loves each of them more than can be imagined and will bless them both for their dedicated service.  He has the ability to look on the heart and not on the circumstances.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sara's perspective on Max with autism.

Lenore was going to give a lesson on motherhood.  Sara, our second daughter, has Max, a son with autism.  Lenore asked Sara her perspective on the experience. Sara writes so well and I thought others may enjoy!

"Did you know that a front-loading 4.5 Cubic-foot LG washing machine has a maximum speed of 1300 rotations per minute and is available in red, white, and graphite steel? I did.
Did you know that a Boeing 747 has four wing-mounted engines and eighteen wheels? I knew that too.
I wouldn’t have known it a few years ago, though. My 10-year-old son, Max, has recently become a master of all things regarding washing machines, airplanes, and elevators, filling his mind with any and every piece of information that he can get his hands on. He is a walking encyclopedia. And he has autism.
Max was diagnosed a few months shy of his second birthday. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human development, my “spidey senses” were tingling six months prior to that. But there was something about getting the official diagnosis; it triggered a reaction in me that I wasn’t quite prepared for.
I ugly-cried. A lot. I sobbed until I shook. And when I thought I was done, the tears would start again. My husband and I found ourselves mourning the loss of our son’s life as we had pictured it would be. It is okay to feel that way. As I speak with mothers whose children have a new diagnosis, I actually encourage it. You have to go through the grieving process before you can get back to living. And that’s when you put down your plan, pick up God’s, and grab the hand of that little child who still has so much love to give. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would learn from Max.
Max is always 100% authentic. He embraces life with reckless abandon, completely oblivious of society’s opinion. And he is so very happy because of it. One particular Sunday he came to church wearing a headlamp and six watches on each arm. Another Sunday he yelled “Amen!” in the middle of a prayer that he believed had gone on too long. And after a beautiful musical number had been shared during Sacrament Meeting, he stood up, clapped, and yelled, “That was great!” How much time do we waste worrying about what other people think? Now I’m not suggesting that we all start wearing headlamps to church and interrupting prayers, but there is freedom in living without inhibition due to the fear of criticism from others.
The most important life lesson that Max has taught me is to trust. We were all part of that special council in heaven who chose to come down to earth. We sustained Heavenly Father’s plan and made the decision to follow Jesus Christ. What would your premortal self say to you? In times of struggle, I imagine my premortal self saying something like this: “Hey – you signed up for this. You know the beauty of this plan. Have faith in Heavenly Father. Trust in Jesus Christ. You know them, remember? Trust that they will help you do the hard things.” One of the most difficult aspects of motherhood is feeling like you aren’t doing it right. Guilt is a brilliant little tool that Satan uses to make wonderful mothers feel like they don’t measure up, like they aren’t doing enough. Don’t listen to those voices. Focus on your relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; listen to that wonderful still small voice who works as the instrument to communicate their guidance. Trust in that.
And guess what – the trust goes both ways. The first few years following Max’s diagnosis were very difficult for me. The frustration that Max experienced not being able to communicate came out in explosive tantrums and meltdowns. On top of that, a surprise pregnancy two weeks after his initial diagnosis brought along a little girl who mimicked everything that her brother did. When I introduced them to people I would say, “This is my son with autism. This is my autistic daughter who does not have autism.” At the end of a particularly difficult week I sat in the temple with tears streaming down my face and a very heavy heart. I felt completely paralyzed in my life and didn’t know what to do. And then the relief came. I heard a voice in my head call me by name and say, “Sara, don’t you know that I trust you?” It caught me completely off-guard. As I sat there, trying to process what had just happened, the clarity came. Yes, it’s going to be difficult. Yes, there will be a lot of tears. But God trusts in my ability to do it.
As mothers, it is vital that we constantly remind ourselves that Heavenly Father trusts us to raise His children. Let me say that in a different way. The Almighty creator of heaven and earth, the all-powerful and all-knowing God, trusts you with His children. He is vouching for you. He is pulling for you. And He is there to give you all the help you need. Nurture that relationship. Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Sanctify yourselves. For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” He wants to bless you. He trusts you. And he loves you.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we have been promised that our minds and bodies will be restored to a perfect state. This scripture takes on new meaning to those of us who have children with special needs. I look forward to the day when I see Max after our time here on earth is complete. I am excited to fully remember him from the preexistence and embrace him again, knowing that we did it together. But more than anything I want to thank him for the gift of being his mother. "

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Got to love Elder Blackham!

From Elder Blackham in one of his letters: 
I do have one quick question.  Is it cooler to be a missionary or mission president because I think it´s pretty sweet to be a missionary and can´t imagine anything else cooler then this! 

Once in a lifetime experience?

May 17, 2016
I have been a very sick girl.  A small injury on my shin slowly turned into a massive infection that became septic.  For 10 days in the hospital, the doctors worked to strengthen me so that I could survive.  Both my lungs and heart were compromised and I now have a quarter size hole in my leg that needs to heal.  That’s enough said about that!

I now am recovering at home and reflecting on what the experience was all about.  We have lived in Mexico for almost 23 months.  It has been an experience that can’t be told with just words.  It is the greatest, and the hardest.  As I lay in the hospital I realized that I just may have the choice of going back to California 13 months early.  I was sick enough to request that…… but I didn’t.  Keith and I talked and we came to realize that we really didn’t want to go home early.  Do we miss our town, our children, and our grandchildren?  Absolutely.  Do we want to stay and finish what we are doing here?  Absolutely.  I think that perspective change will carry me for a long time.

As news spread of my sickness, Keith and I were amazed at what a presence social media has become!  It was not just my family praying for me, it was past missionaries, parents of missionaries, websites dedicated to missionary moms and past school buddies.  Friends of my children knew what was going on everywhere from North Carolina to Texas to Washington, and California.  My son’s boss joined in the prayers as did coworkers.  Quickly many temples and families knew my name.  That is a humbling experience!  What faith so many have.

Because I am the “wife” of a mission president, word went to Salt Lake City quickly also.  Doctors from Salt Lake called and monitored my progress.  A cardiologist from the states but now serving in South America is still checking.  Our area medical authority, Dr. Heder, came to the hospital several times.  My name was added to the Quorum of the Twelve’s prayer roll. (I didn’t even know they had one.)

As I lay there so sick, I sometimes wondered what all the fuss was about.  Poor Keith slept on the room’s couch for 7 nights.  I never saw him cry but knew he was when he wasn’t by me.  My children were in close contact and I just hoped it wasn’t being too hard on them.

It is hard to sum it all up.  I can say that I’m glad to be alive.  I’m glad to still be in Mexico.  I know there is a God who lives and loves us dearly.  I have been deeply touched by the generosity of so many – so many who could not be by my bedside, but could turn to a God they loved, and ask for a special blessing for me. 

I don’t think I want to go through that again.  Wonder if that can be my “once in a lifetime” experience?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The hand of God

April 23, 2016
We often feel the hand of God in our life.  This calling would be impossible without it.  That truth was reaffirmed last night.

Keith put his phone on the nightstand next to the bed.  Although it was on “vibrate”, it will usually wake me up.  Last night it didn’t.  It is always heart wrenching when you awake and see 32 calls from the same number during the night.  With dread you call and find out what emergency happened while you were sleeping.  Last night the calls were from Revolution.  Revolution is in Los Reyes and some distance away.  Sometimes it takes 2 hours to drive there, totally depending on traffic.

Elder C. is allergic to penicillin.  He knows that.  When he went to the clinic for antibiotics, they were informed of that.  However his reaction came from a different strain of medicine last night.  As soon as he started to experience difficulty breathing, the four Elders called us with no reply.  However, they didn’t stop there, prayers were offered.  Elder C. was alert enough to take Benadryl and call for an ambulance.  It probably saved his life.

How thankful we are this morning for a loving Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ, who could help when we couldn’t.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lost in translation

Elder Munoz is from Mexico.  However, he arrived with an excellent foundation in English which makes talking to him much easier for me!

We brought Elder Munoz to the house last night.  He is the companion of an Elder who is hospitalized.  Even in the hospital, we keep 2 missionaries together.   We don’t like to keep companions of those who are ill and in the hospital for too long because it is boring.  So last night we brought in someone else to replace Munoz and he came to our house to sleep and be ready to start missionary work the next morning.

Elder Munoz arrived hungry.   It was 9:30 at night and we decided to scramble some eggs for him. Keith got them in the pan starting to cook when the phone rang.  Keith ran to get the phone and told Elder Munoz to watch the eggs.

After the phone call Keith went back to the kitchen.  There was Elder Munoz being totally obedient and “watching” the eggs.  They had now formed a solid pie like piece, totally black on the sides and bottom.  

“watch” does not equate to “scramble.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Surprise of the Century!

April 12, 2016
I am getting old – which has never bothered me much.  I don’t mind my gray hair or my skin that sags a little more.  I do mind that my body gets more tired and my “get up and go” seems to have “got up and gone” at times.

Anyway, the monumental 65th birthday came this month.  Since I had already retired and started to collect Social Security, the only fanfare was going to be signing up for Medicare.  Whoopee!
However, my children had a plan that I later found out started clear last fall.  Quietly, and secretly, they planned a trip to Mexico City.  This was going to be one of those trips for “our children” only.  All 19 grandchildren, and spouses, would be left behind to keep “life rolling.”

They arrived on the 30th of March.  The Mecham’s, our neighbors who are serving in the South Mission, were part of the plan.  They picked up all five kids at the airport and brought them to our office.  We were out in the field installing Fire/Carbon Monoxide detectors totally unaware.
Elder Nebeker called us and told us we had a visitor at the office.  Supposedly it was a former missionary coming back to say “Hello”.  The missionary wanted to surprise us so he wouldn’t tell us who it was.  Keith: “Really, we are 90 minutes away, can it wait for later in the day?”  Elder Nebeker said the missionary was on a time schedule – “Can you come now?”  Under my breath I said, “Hope this is worth it…..”

What a shock when we walked into the office and were greeted by our five grown children.  They had already had a great time together meeting in Texas the night before.  They had on purple T shirts with funny sayings.  They had been eating and laughing for a day.  And now they were here.  Keith screamed and I cried.  Mecham’s and Nebeker’s recorded the historical “surprise of the century.”

We spent 4 days laughing, eating, and shopping. It was beyond great.  How I love these children – and those wonderful spouses left home to care for precious grandchildren.  Family is just the best!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Elder Hernandez

April 10, 2016
Elder Hernandez returned to the Dominican Republic the other day.  He had completed a full time mission and returned with honor.  He was closing in on 29 years old, so we wondered about “his story.”  He shared a little before he went home.

As I sat with him in the office where he would spend his last “mission” night in Mexico, he picked up the guitar and started to play.  It was very obvious that he had spent many hours with the instrument, and he immediately brought it to life with rhythm and song.  When Elder Hernandez was 13, he and his divorced mother joined the church. After chancing his life to join the church, he fell back into some old behaviors and moved away from the church teachings.  With the help of a loving mother, and good friends, he slowly felt the pull to return to church when he was in his mid-twenties.  He started preparations for a mission.  Most missionaries come in their late teens, or early twenties.  This was not his course.

Being a musician, he had spent time writing music. As the mission approached, he had a hard choice to make.  A music producer showed great interest in a song he had written.  He was offered a goodly sum of money – enough money that he could purchase his mother a home.  However, along with the money a contract was required.  Accepting it would mean he would go to work for the producer and not go on a mission.

Even now, 2 years later, he did not regret his decision.  And now with a successful mission behind him, Heavenly Father will guide his footsteps to his new path.

US Embassy

April 10, 2016
VISAs for Mexican missionaries who are called to serve in the United States or other foreign countries, often take many months.  The VISAs to these countries do not seem to follow any schedule.  It is hard to predict how long they may take.  Therefore the church has started to send “temporary” Mexico born missionaries to the missions in Mexico.  They serve with us until the VISA has arrived.  Temporary missionaries who will be speaking Spanish in these foreign countries often go to the 3 week Mission Training Center (MTC) located here in Mexico City.  If they will be speaking English, they arrive to us without any training and come straight from home.  Their future training will be in the MTC in the foreign countries they are assigned to, once the VISA has arrived.  Our mission currently has 7 temporary missionaries.

Elder Vargas arrived here 8 weeks ago. He is assigned to the Utah St. George mission and was waiting for his VISA.  He did not go to the Mexico City MTC.  His parents brought him to the mission office, hugged and kissed him, and bid him farewell.  He is wonderful and has loved being here in our mission.  We received notice last week that it was time to take him to the US Embassy to complete his VISA to the United States.

Keith and I were excited to visit the US Embassy.  Having heard of embassies all my life, I pictured how it would be.  In my mind I would find many Americans.  We would share our stories of what had brought us to Mexico.  Warm greetings with officials and laughs would be exchanged.  I didn’t expect punch and cookies, but that would be nice also!

Well….high fences, guards with automatic weapons, and long lines greeted us instead.  At least there was an American flag flowing in the breeze.  Elder Vargas was the only one admitted, not even his companion Elder Call got to enter.  Circling the outside were hundreds of people anxiously waiting for their loved ones inside.  We would occasionally see someone come out from the enclosed edifice.  The only pleasant part was the Yogurt Berry Frappuccino purchased from the Starbucks around the corner.  We bought 8 of them for all the missionaries waiting outside while their companions were escorted behind the walls.

Elder Vargas exited about 90 minutes later.  With a big smile, and pretty good English, he announced he was “going to Utah.”  We were so happy for him, and so sad for us!  We laughed on the way home about the cultural shock he was about to face…Mexico City to St. George, Utah….hummmm

Thursday, March 3, 2016

We have a Senior Couple!!

March 3, 2016

We have a Senior Couple!  It is impossible to put enough excitement into those words!

My daughter Sara lives in North Carolina.  She is the Young Women’s President in her ward and her Laurel advisor is Shannon.  They are good friends.  When Shannon’s parents, who live in Southern California, started to talk about going on a mission, Shannon and Sara put their heads together.  Why not set these parents up on an 18 month double date?  If Sara and Shannon got along so well, surely their parents would also!

How blessed we feel!  We have support.  With approximately 170-180 missionaries, we are now 45:1 and not 90:1!  We have someone else on this “Boy Scout” 3 year overnight experience!

I’m not saying it’s the Nebeker’s fault or anything like that….but since they arrived about 4 weeks ago, we have been living the “crazies!”  We have been on a frantic run with hospital needs, VISA visits to consulates, a Pope visit that totally clogged the city’s traffic, and various other semi-emergencies.  We haven’t stopped, and the Nebekers have not either.  Along with that, we have even been having our office “O” boys (Elder’s Olson and Orchard) filling in when all four of us are in different locations.  (Side note: Both Olson and Orchard have “served” time in the hospital this last month to add to the story) I guess Heavenly Father knew the coming months would be like this, and he blessed us with the Nebekers!

Are Senior couples needed in a mission?  Do I love chocolate?  Am I going too fast for an almost 65 year old woman?  Is the sky blue?  “Thank you” goes to the Nebekers for coming.  What in the world would we have done during this last month without you two???

Monday, February 29, 2016

Giving thanks

February 29, 2016

We have two of the finest young men as assistants.  I can’t imagine two finer – I think the Lord knew our need for them and blessed us to have them.

Elder Camarillo related this to us this morning during our weekly meeting.  Last week, he and Elder Labra received a referral for a gentleman who might be interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were told that this man had a daughter living in the United States that had joined the Mormon Church.  He also had other daughters living elsewhere who were active in other religions.
Off to find the gentleman – and the address was correct.  This gentleman invited them in and told them that he would listen.  And timed perfectly by the Lord, the phone rang.  His daughter from the United States was calling.  Dad told her that the missionaries were sitting in his house at that very moment and he was going to listen to them.  She started to cry and asked to speak to Elder Camarillo.

“Thank you for serving a mission” she said.  Elder Camarillo told us how he felt in that moment.  He said he had never been thanked for serving a mission.  He and Elder Labra cried with this daughter and Dad, and made appointments to return.

Sometimes I wonder if I see the folly of 18-21 year olds before I see their dedicated service.  I will try harder in the future to give my thanks personally to each missionary and acknowledge their sacrifice.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

I was brave...or stupid...

February 28, 2016
     I was very brave…or stupid…last week.  In looking back, a whopping 4 days later, I will vote for brave.
     Before coming on our mission, I underwent a fairly rare back surgery.  Surgery was done on the nerves in my spine.  I had started to drag a foot when I walked.  At times I would use a cane.  We didn’t think it could be corrected, but some internet research led me to a doctor in Texas who performed a “miracle” (at least in my mind) and gave me back complete control of my legs.
One of the post-operative procedures was a yearly MRI, for the first two years,  to check on the repair.  Last year I flew to Texas for the MRI.  This year, I meekly asked if I could go to California.
     My youngest son Jeff, and his wonderful wife Stephanie, had their second child just two months ago.  If I could go to California, I could witness the baby blessing.  My other son David, with Lenore and four children, also lives within 5 minutes of Jeff.  Together I could hold and kiss six grandchildren.  That means more to a grandmother than I can write.  Little did I know that my daughter from Washington was too “close” to stay away and so she arrived with two of her children also.
     Permission was granted, and I booked the flight.  My sons live about 2 hours away from Oroville, where we had lived since 1978. However, my doctor appointments were closer to Oroville than where the boys lived.  At times last week, I was within 30 minutes of my home in Oroville.  I looked across the fields and saw Table Mountain.  I drove by the “Buttes.”  I walked in Chico as I went to several doctors.  And I considered, but stuck to my decision, to not enter “my town.”
     What a weird experience to see California after 20 months.  I looked at the Pacific Ocean splashing upon the shore as I flew over.  I watched the landscape to see if the rain was having the desired effect on the state.  I felt the wetness, as I had left the dryness of winters in Mexico.  I watched little TV, chose to hold a baby rather than see a movie at the theater, and ate my favorite sandwich at LaBou’s.  (Favorite:  Walnut bread, goat cheese, apple, and avocado).  I bought brown sugar and makeup and enjoyed the less than busy freeways I traveled on.

     Within a short time period, I boarded the plane back to Mexico.  There was never any doubt about me returning.  It did remind me however, for a time not that distant, that Keith and I will fly into the tiny little airport of Chico, California.  As we flew out of there 20 months ago, our grandchildren were crying their little hearts out.  When we return, it will be Keith and I who will be crying.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

El Papa

February 14, 2016
The Pope is in town.  This mighty man of God has caused quite a stirring in Mexico City.  El Papa (not to be confused with la papa which is a potato), has received quite a reception.  The traffic has been a nightmare however.

As we drove home on Friday afternoon, the city was preparing.  Literally there were thousands of policemen lining the freeway home.  Had we left any later, we would not have made it.  We drove home 3 hours before El Papa landed, but the police had started to line to freeway from early morning.  Little did we know that the freeway they were using to transport El Papa would be the same one that got us to and from our office.

Monday morning El Papa flies to another place in Mexico.  We have two missionaries flying home that day, just about the same time.  We are thinking that we should arrive at the airport around 4:30 AM for the 9 AM flights.  On Wednesday, El Papa flies back to the Vatican with his final goodbye to Mexico City.  Unfortunately we have 3 missionaries flying home that day also.  Airport trips this week should be quite the adventure!

Welcome to Mexico City El Papa!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Elder Olson's experience

Our's is church that cares about each member - even those who are no longer attending.  We have encouraged our missionaries to visit these "no longer active Mormon's" whenever they have a few minutes.  Sometimes the missionaries can bring the Holy Spirit back to a family in need.  This is one of those experiences.

From Elder Olson:
A few months ago, my companion Elder Orchard and I were looking through the ward lists for less-active members to visit. We found a name that had 2 members, and an 18 year old daughter that hadn't been baptized. They lived on the same street as some investigators we were teaching so we decided to drop by on the way to a lesson with them. When we got to the door, they said "Oh it's the missionaries.." through the window but they decided to open the door. An older gentleman came out and greeted us, and we began to contact him. As we talked, he told us that he had been inactive for the better part of 13 years, and had no desire to return to the church. Elder Nielsen had recently visited our mission, and told us that we should try asking the members if we could practice the lessons with them. So, that's what we did! We asked the brother if we could practice teaching the lessons with him, and he accepted. We put a date to go back one morning, and then went to teach another family.

Finally the day came to go back and visit them. We went back, and started by getting to know them a little bit better. Turns out, the father had been a Stake Counselor, Ex-Missionary, and had worked in the church school Benemerito. His wife had been an Ex-Relief Society President, and had held several other callings in the church. They quit going because they felt like their callings were consuming their lives, and they didn't have enough time for their families. Over time their testimonies that once had been very strong, started to weaken. We invited them to pray, and they accepted but weren't willing to personally offer it. My companion and I would say them to start and finish the lessons. They would answer our questions honestly, but never really wanted to open up. As we got to know them more, we realized one of their best friends in the ward was the bishop! They started to ask about their family and how they were doing, and we were able to schedule a family night with the bishop and his family.

We kept teaching them for several months, and it felt like we were making no progress. We thought we were feeling the Spirit strongly in the lessons, and that we were seeing a change in their lives, but they still couldn't find the desire to return to the church. Last Sunday, I woke up super sick. We have Sacrament meeting last, and we planned on just going to take the sacrament and see who went of our investigators. We showed up a little late, and hurried and sat in the back. We were just listening to the messages, and we saw a family we didn't know. We texted the first counselor to ask who they were, and he sent us back a message that we never expected. "The C. family. They showed up today by themselves."

The feelings that my companion and I experienced this day were amazing. It is something I will never forget.

Keith's writings

I borrowed this off of Keith's writings.  Thought you'd enjoy seeing into the interview process.  He writes with so much passion - nice break from me!

 Recently we have been active in interviewing the missionaries. We have been asked by the Church to interview all Elders and Sisters quarterly.  It is really a big job, and I try to spend 15 minutes with each missionary.  That 15 minutes, times 165 missionaries means over 40 hours kneeling, praying, talking, listening, wiping tears, comforting, rejoicing, and many more sentiments.  I wish I could spend more with each missionary…and in fact, some who need to talk take a longer time. If they have a serious problem, I reschedule them so I don´t have all the missionaries waiting for their turn. 
      We interview in meetinghouses in the different zones in the mission.  I find a room, set up a table and place my computer, keyboard, scriptures, Preach My Gospel, note pad, phone, etc.  Susan greets them in another room, and visits with them as they wait for their turn. This time we found pop tarts at Walmart, so we brought a toaster, and they have a treat as Susan talks to them about many miscellaneous subjects, from the 2nd coming, the tribes of Israel, to hair loss, marriage, food, and happiness, etc. 
       I like to interview about 4 hours at a time, trying to be done before the “comida” (the time the missionaries get fed by the members…about 2 PM).   So, it takes about 10 days to finish the interviews.  We give each missionary a time to be there, then ask them to just come 15 minutes prior, and leave as soon as both are done, thus not wasting their missionary time.  However, they still get there in bunches and love to visit with “Mama Stutz” as she is affectionately known in the mission. Plus, they just love to see each other.  When Mom has a non English speaker, she talks a mixture of English and Spanish, and so does the Elder, so they visit and laugh. 
      I have to tell you that it is an honor and privilege to be with them. The times flies by. I have to have a clock on the table to help me stay on schedule.  I kneel with the Elders, but we have been asked not to kneel with the Sisters.
       I always like to offer the prayer, because I like to ask Heavenly Father for blessings for this Elder or Sister, as they listen and pray with me.  What I have learned is to ask them, before we pray, what particularly I can ask Heavenly Father in my prayer for them.  This, sometimes, is a poignant moment.  They have asked me to pray for their Mom who is having surgery, for a sibling on a mission, for their disabled brother, for their Grandma in a coma, for a Dad who lost his job, for their parents because they are getting a divorce, for a dying brother, for a sister with anorexia, for investigators, for their companions, for their ward and their area, for peace in their heart, for forgiveness, and etc, on and on.  Often we both have tears in our eyes, before we pray.   Many times, as I listen to them, I have written a list, and have to open my eyes and peak during my prayer.  Most often, we feel a particular spirit during the prayer and I am prompted to say and ask things that I would have never thought of myself. 
       Often, during interviews, I imagine I am with Jake, Zach, Luke, or Gunnison, soon…in the not too distant future, to be on missions, and think of their Moms…far away, hoping that they are being taken care of.  Every Mom wants the best for their missionary son, so when I am with their missionary son, I think of images of my daughters. 
      One thing I have learned on the mission is more awareness of the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and then acting on them.  I can´t even count how many times He has whispered to me to lay my hands on their head and give them a blessing.  These are “tender mercies”.  
       A while back in an interview, after the prayer, an Elder told me about his disabled brother, and talked about him with tears in his eyes.  I asked many questions, then decided that we needed to kneel again together, and each took a turn to pray for his brother.  It was such a great feeling to do this with him.  That took up the whole interview. I hugged him and he cried on my shoulder!  He reminded me of that moment when I interviewed him for the last time just before he left on his mission. 
      The other day, as I interviewed an Elder, nearing the end of the interview, I felt like there was something he was not telling me.  As I talked to him, more, I just asked if there was anything he needed to tell me.  Tears rolled down his face as he related to me a transgression.  We talked and I helped him through it.  We were both blessed by listening to the Spirit. 
       Today, I interviewed a new Elder from Monterrey, Mexico.  He has been here for 4 months.  He was born “in the covenant”, and lost his Dad at the age of 9.  He just wanted to talk about how much he loved and missed his Dad. He said that is Dad was so kind to him, was a Bishop who everyone love, and was being interviewed and considered to be the Stake President when he passed away.  Elder C. cried as he told me how he would just love to see his Dad again. Then he related the following to me. 
      “Last week when you gave us the chance to do a temple session, I was hoping to just feel my Dad´s presence, just for a moment. Before going to the temple, I prayed so fervently.  During the session, there was an empty chair by my side.  For a time during the session, I was so surprised and blessed to feel my father´s presence, like he was sitting in the chair beside me.  I could hardly believe it, but I felt like it was real.  That night, I had a dream, and in the dream, I saw my father.  My Dad always called me “mi niƱo” (my little child).  In the dream, when he saw me he called me “mi muchacho” (my boy) because I was grown up.  He told me he knew I missed him, then told me that he has always been by my side.  He told me he was so proud of me for coming on a mission, and that he walked with me each day.”
      I needed a box of Kleenex for both of us!! It was very sweet.
      So many times as I visit with Elders and Sisters, and listen to their concerns, many scriptures come to mind.  We read them, and discuss what they mean, and what do we think the prophet writing them really wanted us to know.  One sister today was stressed that she was going as hard as she could go, she was weary, she was not seeing the success she wanted, and was worried about pleasing the Lord.  I shared with her D & C 10:4, and Mosiah 4:27.  It is pleasant to help the missionaries come up with their perceptions of the scriptures and way to solve problems.  I try to be a good listener.  Mom (Susan) always reminds me to let them talk!!
        One sister, so wonderful, told me  today that she has been sick for almost 3 weeks (stomach stuff), but has not wanted to tell me. She has just been working as hard as she can…sick!!  We felt so badly for her.  She tries to “press on” feeling yucky, not wanting to bother anyone.  Gave her a blessing, and tonight I called a gastroenterologist that we have been using, so we can get her healthy.
       An Elder today, told me he was teaching a family who wanted to get baptized, but they aren’t married.  He has been talking to them and encouraging them to make the commitment to be married, but the Father is not sure he wants to marry his “wife.”   The Elder said, “I did not know what to say because I´m just a kid and know nothing about marriage or marriage counseling.  I have no life experience of marriage.”  Then I asked him if he had a Mom and Dad!  He was puzzled and said, “sure”!!  I asked, “Did they love each other?”  Were they kind to each other, kind to you, did they dedicate their lives to their family, etc. etc. ?”  Then he caught on…” I do know about marriage, and family life, and the blessings that come from a family with commitments and love!”  I reminded him…Heavenly Father has given you lots of experiences from your own life…use them!! 
      Well, I could go on and on with the stories and concerns they share.  They all come from so many backgrounds, families, countries, cultures, and even types of “Wards and Bishops” (many being disfunctional!!), so I have to listen a lot, pray, follow the spirit, and act and help as the Lord would have me. 
      Many many times after the interviews, I share and consult with “Mama Stutz”, and we jointly ponder and make decisions to subsequently help particular missionaries.  I am so thankful I am not alone in this calling.  She adds a “fullness” to what we do.  Yep, she is great!!!
       Well, that is enough for now.  Sorry it is so long.  Susan and I are very blessed.  We often just do not know how we keep going on so hard.  Often after a short night, we head out the door again in the morning, telling the Lord that we cannot go on without his blessings. 
       What gives me strength is know¡ng that all my kids, little grand kids, my family, my friends, parents and missionaries pray for us.  Many put our names in the temple….for which we are so grateful. 

       We are on the Lord´s errand, and we know we can do this…we often have to remind ourselves that we can.  I rely heavily on Susan, the Lord, and just “sure will”.   

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A blinking star

January 23, 2016
Elders I & M were out working the other night.  It was almost 8:30 and so they knew they only had a few more minutes before they needed to head back to their home.  All appointments had been completed but they didn’t want to waste the last few minutes.

Elder I.  looked up into the sky where he saw a star that was blinking.  Half joking, he told his companion that they should look for a blinking star at the next few houses.  He hoped that star was giving him a little inspiration about those who would want to hear the gospel message.

They knocked at the doors of 2 houses where they saw a light that blinked – no success.  And then there it was…a house with a blinking star on the door.  The star was probably left over from Christmas.  A knock, and an answer..and within  minutes they had six new investigators who wanted to know more about the Mormon church.

Guidance can come in very interesting ways!

SLC - send me mothers!

January 23, 2016
As Keith does quarterly interviews with each missionary, I sit in another room with the waiting missionaries.  During this time I talk with them about everything from their health, their adjustment to being a missionary, and their families.

Elder T. arrived in the mission a little over 3 months ago.  When American missionaries come to Mexico, we often see an adjustment period.  Many are away from home for the first time and they are in a foreign country with a new culture, language and food.  Many Americans take a little time to adjust.  However, Elder T. has shown none of the regular signs of that adjustment.

Our conversation on Friday:
Me: How are you doing?
Elder T: Great – just great!
Me: How is your family?
Elder T:  Well you know I come from kind of a crazy family (as he pulls out his photo album). 
Me:  (Starting to turn pages):  Wow – are these all your brothers and sisters?
Elder T:  One is missing.  I haven’t met her yet.  She is being born next month.  I am the oldest of 12.
Me:  Some of our best friends have 12 children!  So why is this mission going so smooth for you?
Elder T:  (with a big smile): I’m on a vacation where I only have to take care of me!  My parents both work and I was always washing clothes and dishes, and cooking meals.  This is so much easier!  I love being a missionary!

My Conclusion:  We should only get mothers as missionaries down here!  If mothers took and break and came on a mission, they would really enjoy the whole experience!  Elder T. knew how to work hard – and so working hard here is so much easier for him!  I wonder if SLC would take my suggestion……

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A "golden" baptism

January 12, 2016

In 2012 the Chalco mission had not been created, so Ixtapaluca Stake was in the Mexico City Southeast mission.  Within six months, the Chalco mission was created and the Ixtapaluca Stake which included the San Buenaventura ward was transferred to the new mission.  Ixtapaluca remained in the Chalco mission until it was transferred back to our mission just days ago.
Elder Reyes first arrived in the Mexico City Southeast mission in the fall of 2012.  In February, 2013, he was assigned to the San Buenaventura ward in Ixtapaluca.  He was unaware of changes in both his life, and in his ward, that were about to happen.

Elder Reyes and his companion made contact with a good man.  They taught and loved this man, and he joined the church.  They hoped he would be “golden” – he would be someone to understand and love his new church.

During this time, Elder Reyes was getting sicker and sicker.  By April, after less than 3 months in the San Buenaventura ward, he was sent home to Guatemala.  The diagnosis was cancer and he was a sick young man.  Although it turned out not to be the “c” word, he still had a long recovery.

Elder Reyes recovered but wanted to finish his mission.  He re-joined us in June 2015.  In a miraculous turn of events, Ixtapaluca re-joined our mission just days ago.  With great excitement we assigned Elder Reyes to the San Buenaventura ward.  At his first Sunday visit, Elder Reyes and his “golden” baptism met and hugged.  His “golden” baptism is now the Bishop of the ward.

My year end accounting

January 12, 2016

I can’t let the New Year begin without sharing about the last 18 months.  We have reached our half way point.  We didn’t celebrate with any fanfare – no burning of ties, shirts, or suits.  In fact, we didn’t do anything – Keith was ill.  Once he was up and going again, life took over and we haven’t slowed down.

To date:
       We have met, worked with, cried and laughed with 376 missionaries.  We have sent home 24 with medical reasons, and 10 have decided that a mission is not what they want right now.
       We have been to the airport 173 times – good thing it is close to the office!
       We doubled the size of our mission when we added Ixtapaluca.  It is so large that we made it 2 zones.  Therefore we now have 7 stakes which translates to 9 zones. (La Perla Stake has 2 zones also because of size).
       We quit counting the number of red lights we have run.  It is into the hundreds.  Red lights are sometimes quite hidden and when they are not, other drivers often ignore red lights and honk if you stop. (This has even happened when it’s the “policia” behind us).  Divine intervention has kept us out of car wrecks but we have plenty of scratches!
       We have had multiple traffic tickets (never for running a red light).  Our latest ones were for factory tinted windows (they just wanted lunch money), and for carrying two mattresses on the roof of our car (our car registration says that our car is for people, not stuff).  We try and not make eye contact with “traffico policia.”

Okay – the accountant in me feels better!  Off to the second half.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

The challenge of opening a new area in the mission

January 2, 2016

We are at crunch time.  In just 3 days, we must have 34 missionaries ready to move to a brand new area of the mission.  The details of that keep popping back up.

* 34 missionaries mean that we are closing 17 apartments where they are currently living.  We had 30+ wards with 4 missionaries.  That has been cut in half.  We had to identify the best areas to keep and to close – a task that involved zone leaders, district leaders, many phone calls, and decisions that involved rent contracts, sizes of areas, and support of the ward in which the apartment resided.
    *Closing 17 apartments – what do we do with all that stuff?  We are arriving to apartments in Ixtapaluca that are already furnished.  We have come up with a list of items for each apartment to give away, and which items will be picked up and brought to the office.  They have been told that the apartments are to be packed, spotless, and ready for a quick pick up.  Mind you, in all the apartments we have closed in the last 18 months, only one was totally ready to “just be picked up.”  This time Keith has “promised” a strong reprimand if they are not ready.  We are hiring a truck to go around and pick it all up.  There are just too many for the “van team” (Olson, Orchard, and us) to do it.
    *Transfers happen on Tuesday.  The domino effect of finding 34 missionaries for Ixtapaluca has caused this to be the biggest transfer ever.  We need 6 new zone leaders and a new assistant.  We need new district leaders. 
       *After the transfer meeting, we gather the 34 missionaries for some lunch, and then load them on a bus to go to Ixtapaluca.  We are renting that bus.  We all drive the 90 minutes to Ixtapaluca and meet the 40 missionaries from the Chalco mission.  Our missionaries will live with them for 36 hours – they need to know the ward, the bishop and the ward mission leader.  They need to know the transportation system, where stores are, and who they can contact for help.  They need to learn where the other missionaries in the common wards are and how to get to them.  They will arrive with little food and with cell phones that may work or not.  All this is just a little scary!!
    *  Ixtapaluca while in the Chalco mission had 40 missionaries.  We are sending 34.  3 areas need to be closed out there.  18 out of the 40 missionaries from Chalco are sisters – we only have 19 total sisters in our whole mission.   We are going to send 6 Sister missionaries to Ixtapaluca.  Therefore we are sending Elders to replace some of the Sisters.   These Elders don’t get the 36 hours of training from the Chalco missionaries.  They get brief training at the church, and then they are on their own.

It is a blessing that we are just receiving 4 new Elders on Monday.  It is also a blessing that we sent 8 missionaries home a little early so they could be home for Christmas.  Therefore, the good by dinner and testimony meeting on Tuesday, and Wednesday at the airport is not happening this time.  We are free to handle the “emergencies” that arise.

Ixtapaluca – Here we come!