Saturday, June 11, 2016

June 8, 2016 Last Blog

June 8, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

The time has come for the last entry for Los Sandberg in Mexico Blog.

We had many goodbye events.  Some missionaries and we went to a very typical old style restaurant.

Very good food and they had singers wandering around.  Check out my pretty wife singing along.

Roland Reyes is a member of our ward.  He was stake president a while back and Kevin Wagner, son-in-law of Michelle's sister Patricia and her husband Leo, was his counselor in the stake presidency.  They wanted to invite us to eat at their place before we left.  Very nice home.

Michelle's class, where she taught Spanish and English to those who wanted to learn either language, brought a pie to the last class.

My nephew Matt Sandberg - son of David and Marie Sandberg - and his family took us out to a very nice restaurant.

The restaurant had a beautiful plaza in the middle.

We also had one last picture with them at the church.  It was nice to have some family in Mexico with us.

We worked a lot with the membership department, and they invited us down to their area for a yummy brunch.

We had a nice exit interview with the Area President and then a lunch for saying goodbye to us and several others who are leaving.  That is the Area President, Benjamin De Hoyos, who is being transferred to Salt Lake City and Elder Paul Pieper who will be the new Area President.

That is everyone who was at the luncheon, including the wives of the area presidency.

The senior missionaries took us out to eat at a restaurant and gave a special FHE farewell for us that included a recitation of an original acrostic presentation in Spanish (An acrostic is a poemor other form of writing, in which the first letter or syllable or word of each line or paragraph, or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message).  

In Spanish there were 8 sentences about us, each sentence beginning with a letter in our name.  
S A N D B E R G.

And an original song for us.

We went down to see the list of all the senior missionaries in Mexico.  Our name was on the top, the next to go home!

Michelle wanted a pictures of her eating her last good Mexican mango and tamale. It was a blackberry tamale. 

I made a last appointment to the dentist because it is cheaper.  
Right now they say the city has the worst pollution it has had in 14 years.  They have put in restrictions; depending on our license plate, you can't drive one day a week and 1 Saturday a month.

This picture is just to remind you that in Dec - Jan we had some very clear skies.

Then there was nothing left to do but pack the bags. (I had to buy an extra bag.)

Then a 4 hour non-stop flight and we were in Salt Lake City with a nice greeting.

It is SO quiet here and no traffic.  This is a walk at 8:00 am on the main street by our house.  Big change from Mexico City.

Big change from Mexico City traffic!

Well time for looking back and summarizing the experience.

I had some expectations before the mission.

1) I thought it would be great for Michelle to serve in Mexico.  To me it seems she enjoyed it far more than I expected.  She loved seeing the sites she knew from before when she lived there, meeting people, and speaking Spanish.  She processed and translated to English about 3000 missionary recommendations.  She said the thing she enjoyed most was calling the stake presidents on the phone and talking to them.

2) I thought I would enjoy working in the Area Office as an executive secretary.  That was generally better than I thought.  I was repeatedly inspired by what is happening in Mexico.  I got to see the best things going on in the Church, including somethings not yet announced, and also the worst things happening in the Church of over 1,000,000 members 230 stakes, 34 missions, with 13 temples.

3) As you know Michelle was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico.  I was absolutely amazed how many people in Mexico know about, have had experience with, or have roots in the Colonies. So many people know about about the Colonies and the Hatches and Lunts. While there we had 3 senior couples where one of the spouses were born in the colonies.   But at least 14 of the other couples had ancestors from the Colonies, most of who left during the revolutions.

What was hard.

1) I did not find it hard to be in the office at 7:30 most days.

2)  We had such an active schedule we had trouble sleeping some times.

3) Understanding Spanish was harder than I thought.  In Mexico they speak faster than in Guatemala.  I think the things I liked least was calling stake presidents and speaking in Spanish, but even that got better, pretty good at the end.

4) There were some tough days and some days with tears, but there were tough days and tears at home before we left and I expect there will be more.

What will I miss. 

1) Having something important for the Kingdom to do everyday; being in the "know".

2) Watching the almost weekly broadcast from SLC for all General Authority Seventy Training.

3) Attending meetings when the apostles from SLC came to do training,

4) The top quality managers in the area office.

5) Interaction with the other couple missionaries.  We did lots of fun things together.

6) Mexico City and the country of Mexico.  Large and varied and very interesting.

What I learned, again.

1) Our leaders sometimes seem to wander around in making a decision, but in the end the inspiration comes.

2) General authority wives are more than average confident, with opinions of their own, and willing to speak up.  Maybe that kind of wife is what is needed for us men to progress.

3) The Lord can and does do his work, sometimes not obviously, but He gets it done, sometimes in spite of us.

And finally, a spiritual thought.

I hope I remember the Mexico Area Plan.  This was for all the members and many stakes passed out a copy to ever member.  Here are some highlights.

It started with an introduction:

Over the past 135 years the Church in Mexico has grown in strength and maturity, thanks to the faith and sacrifice of members from both in and outside the country.  (I know many who have served missions in Mexico).  Ancient and modern prophets have prophesied of the essential role that the saints in Mexico will play in bringing the gospel to all nations. To achieve this, we will need greater faith, sacrifice and commitment.  Now is the time to take our place in the establishment of the Kingdom upon the earth. (I could see and feel the members in Mexico moved by this introduction, let's stand up, do more to help the kingdom, we can do it.)

We will help hastening the Work of Salvation by increasing our faith in Jesus Christ.  We will make the sacrifices needed to become temporally and spiritually self-reliant, to provide for our own needs and to support the growth of the Kingdom throughout the earth.  (One of the goals for Mexico has been to provide from Mexico enough fast offering funds to meet all the needs in Mexico.  There has been a significant increase and Mexico is now very close to meeting the need.)

Areas of Emphasis
The members and missionaries, working together, will increase our faith in Jesus Christ to be self-reliant.  To this end, we will: 
•   Fast faithfully, donate generous fast offerings, and be full tithe payers.
•   Take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, participating worthily of the Sacrament and keeping the 
        Sabbath day holy every week.
•   Find the names of our own ancestors and complete the temple ordinances in their behalf.

As we strive to increase our faith, worthiness and obedience, the Lord will open the windows of Heaven and provide for the temporal and spiritual needs of our families.  We will feel the joy of serving others and be blessed with many new friendships.  Our family relationships will deepen and our families will be protected from the spiritual scourges of today’s world.  We will receive peace in our hearts and strength in our souls to face our daily problems.  Our faith will help to hasten the Work of Salvation in all nations of the world.

I believe this plan, vision, and promise applies to me, really to everyone.

I enjoyed my mission.  I am so glad that we went.  Someday when I am old, or maybe better said, when I am older, I will sit in my rocking chair and stare out the window and review my life.  I will think of some good things, and my mistakes, and then I will say, something really good I did was serve senior missions and especially I did a good thing in taking Michelle on a senior mission in Mexico.

Thanks family and friends for your interest and comments.  It has been a wonderful experience for me to write down my experience.  God lives.  He has a plan for each of us.  When I live the Gospel principles my life is better, no doubt about it.  Love you and hope to see you soon.

ex-Elder Grandpa and ex-Sister Grandma
Gilbert and Michelle 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

No hay quinto malo - The fifth time is never bad

Dear Family and Friends,

Someone here in the office asked me if we would serve another mission.  I said that would be our 5th. He said that here in Mexico we say "No hay quinto malo." (in English) "The fifth time is never bad." Well, it is not the time to think about a 5th mission.

We expect to do this last post on the blog before we leave, and then a summary after we get home. We arrive home next week.

First I want to do something I have wanted to do for a long time - a little geography quiz about Mexico..  Without looking at the answers below, answer to yourself these questions.

Which is further North, Dallas Texas or Tijuana Mexico?
Which is further North, Miami Florida or Monterrey Mexico?
Which is a longer flight  from Mexico City - Tijuana or Salt Lake City?
Which is further North, Mexico City or Miami?
Which is further North, Mexico City or Cancun Mexico?

Then look at the answers
About the same
About the same - 4 hours direct flight
Mexico City

Kind of amazing.

Anyway, we got to go to the National Congress of Mexico. They call it the Chamber of Deputies or House of the people.  The Church here is helping organizing a Non-Governmental Organization to advocate for religious freedom and the family.

They had their first meeting in the building where the National Congress meets.  The Nation Senate meets in a different building.

Here Michelle and I are entering the building.

You can see the building in the background.  Then this is what the building looks like on the other side.

Always being interested in politics, I really enjoyed it.  This is one of the halls inside.

We didn't go where the deputies have their official meetings, but to one of the rooms in the buildings.

They were so well organized; 5 different religious leaders spoke,  They were openly against gay marriage and were very pro-family.

This says the first meeting of legislators and interreligious councils.  Below is the Church's director of public affairs being interviewed by some press.

Below is Elder Dallin H. Oaks; he was the main speaker.  All the speakers were introduced by a deputy from the Congress.  Elder Oaks was introduced by one of the leaders in the congress who is a member of the Church.

Afterward they served us a nice buffet lunch, and we ran into some people who know Michelle's family, like happens everywhere.

This is Marco Antonio Flores who was my brother John's classmate at the Church school Benemérito, and is close friend of the Wagner family.  His wife is the sister of Elder De Hoyos, our area president.

Oh, we had a talent night at our Senior Missionary FHE.  I wiggled my ears and played the boogie woogie on the piano.  (Not at the same time)

One of the missionaries, Elder Longhurst, played the saw.  Check out this short video.

One Mexican Mother's day - 10th of May - we were awakened by a group of missionaries serenading us, singing a traditional song, Las Mañanitas, and the group included the saw!

Rainy seasons is approaching.  We do have rain and hail.

We also went to visit Sara Osnaya Flores.  When Sara was 13 she went to the Colonies to go to the Academy.  A mission president here at the time made arrangements for 13 youth to go to the Colonias, learn more about the Church, and learn English.  Sara lived with Michelle's family for two years and later stayed with other people until she graduated.  Michelle's mother taught her to play the piano.  Here she is with her children.

Since she played the piano when she returned home, she has often played in church and all of her children play the piano.  Boy did they treat us great - wonderful meal! Like good Mexican hosts, they could not have been more gracious and kind and considerate.

They had a special basket for the ladies; that is Sister Longhurst with them.  And they also gave a large bouquet to each of the ladies.

Then we went to what they said was the first church built in southern Mexico.  And Sara's brother showed us many pictures of the early days and the first missionaries.

Including a picture of Michelle's Aunt Reah who served there years ago as a young missionary.

We do have some fun FHE times.  Onc the lesson was on being childlike, and afterwards we played some games children pay.  This is Michelle playing jackets.

And the Elders playing marbles.

We have been working on our "bucket list", things we decided we wanted to do before finishing the mission.  We went to the World Trade Center - Mexico.  It is a revolving restaurant at the top of the tall building that turns all the way around in an hour.

They made Michelle's salad table side.

The meals looked like this.

This is how I got my pina colada ice cream.

And now we are training our replacements, George and Judy Sloan from Mesa, AZ.  We picked them up at the airport.

Because Mexico City is very crowded and land is expensive, to expand the roads costs too much to go wide, so to get more traffic lanes, they go up--two story freeways.

And the final thing on my "bucket list" was to visit Chapultepec Castle.  This castle is on a hill in Mexico City.  The name in Nahuatl and means grasshopper hill.  They say the Aztec kings liked to leave the crowded center of their city on the island in the middle of the lake and come to this hill which was outside the city.

The Spanish leaders used it and Maximilian, emperor of Mexico set up by France, used it as his palace, and some Mexican presidents used it also  They say the Chapultepec park that surrounds it is the largest city park in the world.

e approached the park by going through the monument to the 6 children heros of Mexico.  The castle, which can be seen in the background, was used as a military academy during the Mexican - American war in 1846.  The US military entered Mexico City, and when the US was winning the battle for the castle one of the teenage cadets wrapped himself in the Mexico flag and jumped from the castle to his death to save the flag.  5 other cadets jumped and now the 6 cadets are heroes.  Thus the 6 spires in the monument.

This in on the outside of the castle.

This is one of the rooms which has a grasshopper in the stain glass window.

Many of the rooms are like this.

There have been many remodelings over the years.  This is now kind of a sun room, with some of the Greek Goddesses depicted.

Personally, I like the gardens and being with my wife, she is kind of a modern beautiful goddess, no?

Then we walked through the Mexico History Museum which spirals down with many displays.

  This is the display of the Battle of the Alamo.

I really enjoy history and politics.

As I said, the name Chapultepec means grasshopper.  Well a few days later one of the couples that went with us to the castle brought me this, sauteed grasshoppers!  As we have said, we need to think of a mission as an adventure, so I ate one.  Salty and crunchy.  OK, but won't buy any to eat.

Well in summary, we have had a grand experience in Mexico.

When I (Elder Sandberg) came I had some expectations

1) Michelle would really enjoy it in Mexico.  That has been FAR better than I thought.  She has just loved being in Mexico, talking Spanish, meeting people,  SO MANY people know her family the Hatches and Lunts.  AND THE MORMON COLONIES - We have 8 anglo couples here in the office and in every couple either the husband or wife has an ancestor that lived in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico where Michelle is from.

2) I expected to enjoy working as an executive secretary to the Area Presidency.  That has been everything I expected and more.  I have heard about the very best things happening in the Church in Mexico which brought tears to my eyes.  But I have also heard about the very worst things happening in the Church in Mexico; that brought tears to my eyes too.  Glad, very glad, for the experience.

I understand my wife and Mexico better; that is good.

And finally, my testimony that God directs His work is stronger than ever.  I am inspired how sincerely and continuing the Area Presidency acts on directions from the First Presidency.  They take that direction as very important prophetic direction.  I wish I had done that more as a Church leader.  And I am inspired watching the presidency make decisions.  Sometimes they kind of go around and around, but then the inspiration comes, they make the decision, and they are always all in agreement.

This is the Lord's work, He can do and does do His work, sometimes I think in spite of us.

We love our family and friends and look forward to arriving home.

Elder and Sister Sandberg
(It will be sad to put away the name tags.)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Historical sites and Visitors part 2

Dear Family and Friends,

We had the chance to visit a town about 2 hours north of the city called San Marcos.  Some of the very early members of the Church were baptized there.  Michelle visited there when her father was mission president 62-65.

First we stopped in a small town call Conejos - which means rabbits.  I don't know the origin of the name, but some of the early members build most of the chapel there using local stones.


This is the side of the building.  The building has been upgraded over time, but the original rock is still there.

Inside the building is the same rock, and above the chapel door you can see they have some stones in the shape of rabbits.

Look at the black stone on the lower left just about the white ledge with the black sign.  From that black stone the first stone to right is a rabbit, a reddish color.   Along the ledge from that rabbit, the second stone is another black stone.  Above that is a second rabbit, also reddsh.  Interesting.

There are 4 wards in that little town now.  We just asked around until we found some members who went and got the key and let us get in.  They have a big, beautiful, modern stake center there also.

Then we visited an archaeological site in Tula.  It is very much a desert in this part of Mexico.

It is famous for it's large statues.  To notice the size, see the people in the picture.

They have lots of carvings of snakes eating skulls.

Some people speculate it represents the feathered serpent so common in carvings here.  Some members think it represents Christ and these carvings represent Chris overcoming death.

They had some big buildings there with many columns, reminds me of some buildings in Europe.

Then we sent to San Marcos.  Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales were early Church leaders there who were shot by revolutionaries in 1915 when they refused to deny their religion.  Elder Montoya who served with us in the Area Office is a descendent of Rafael Monroy.  We have met many Church members who are descendents of these two men.  They had a big reunion in San Marcos last year for  descendents of the two, 2015, 100 years after they were shot.

Michelle remembers visiting San Marcos several times and eating with the family, the Parra family, who lived above this store in San Marcos.

Sister Parra was a daughter of Monroy.  Benjamin, her son, was an assistant to Dr. Hatch was he was mission president.

They have a nice chapel there, built in 1951.

With an interesting door post.

And an interesting window in the chapel.

There have been many good and faithful members in Mexico for years, and now good members, multi-generational members.

AND we were very glad to have our daughter Kristin, husband Tyler, and children Tanner and Lindsey visit us,  Her 2 older children did not come, one is on a mission.

They climbed the pyramids and did many of the fun things we have put on our post before.

As we were visiting sites, as often happens, a young man came up and wanted to talk.  As part of his class at school to learn English they have to ask some questions to a North America.  Here is a  picture of a young man asking his assigned questions to the Pruetts.  Like, "Where are you from?" "Do you like Mexico?"

This time we had lunch at the pyramids, in a cave.  Nice cave.

I am STILL blown away, even after seeing it several times. by the National Folkloric Ballet.  Now they start the program with the drums.

Our seats were just back of the center aisle, as part of the program they come out in the audience and dance in this aisle.  This video will show you the energy in most parts of the program.

It was fun to be with the grandchildren in this very large city,  Tanner wanted pictures of the traffic.

In the National Anthropology Museum there a large drawing of how they think Mexico City looked when the Spanish arrived.  It was on a island.

We read once that when the Spanish arrived they wrote things like, We have with us soldiers who have visited the greatest cities in the world, like Paris and Constantinople, and nothing was is as grand as this city.  And Cortez conquered it with several hundred soldiers.  He made allies with the tribes that the Aztecs had conquered who helped him, and the Aztecs at first thought Cortez was the Feathered Serpent God who had visited the Aztecs years ago and had promised to return.  So they did not fight at first. 

On the Mexico flag is a picture of an eagle with a serpent in his mouth perched on a cactus.

In the museum they had a large stone with the symbol of the eagle.  The story about the eagle is a very important part of Mexico history.

Can you see the eagle in the stone.  The story, legend, goes that years ago the Aztecs were looking, wandering around, looking for a new home and their "prophet" said where they found an eagle on a cactus with a serpent in it's mouth, that should be their new home.  They found that eagle on the island in the middle of the lake and that became there home and eventually they ruled most of central Mexico.  

However I am reading this book, almost finished, en Spanish.

It says the Aztec came from the North, Tula, where we visited and they originally arrived to be warriors for a local war lord and they did so well he gave them the island as a reward, not too good a place, needed boats to get there but the Aztecs built causeways.  The Aztecs were good warriors and started conquering their neighbors and later their former employer, the war lord.  Then to justify their conquering everyone, they invented the eagle story to justify their conquering, it was the will of the Gods.  Kind of like the US  Manifest Destiny if you remember that part of US history.

We also visited the National Cathedral in the main square.  Very large with several altars inside.

And for the first time we visited some of the ruins of the Aztec pyramid that the Spanish tore down to build the National Cathedral.

This picture is on top of the ruins, and you can see the current cathedral in the background.

They said that Hernan Cortez, the main Spanish conqueror, himself laid the first stone of the National Cathedral in the 1500's.

In these ruin  was a image of the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl.

And then we did something that is on my "bucket list" something I have wanted to do before leaving Mexico, visit the Presidential Palace, which is there on the main square.  The President does not live there nor does he come there except for special occasions.

This is a picture, not mine, of the outside,  Below the flag on the 3rd level is a balcony where the president leads the nation in the grito - cheer.  Viva Mexico - Hooray for Mexico.

This is what it is like inside.

It has many very large murals painted by the famous painter, Diego Rivera, telling the history of Mexico.

WOW, lots of detail.

 This one shows in the background the Mexico City of the Aztecs.

And we got to visit the old parliament chamber.  Notice how it appears like a European design.  Those are seats, two rows, along the edge of the room.

Later we actually got to visit the current Chamber of Deputies, the house of all Mexicans, as they call it, but that will have to wait for a later post.

I wanted to go up to the 3rd balcony, overlook the main square, the Zocalo, where the president speaks, but tourists were not allowed up to the 3rd level; is was a very interesting visit.

Then all too soon it was paletas, and the Pruetts were gone.

Well, time for a spiritual thought.

Supposedly President Hinckley once said that if you are unhappy with something going on in the Church, just wait awhile.  It will get better.  Don't know if he did say that, but my thought is based on the concept.

A few months back the Church had a broadcast for all the mission presidents and then a broadcast for ALL the missionaries in the Church.  You could read about it in the papers.  The theme of the meetings was Preach Repentance and Baptize Converts.

Recently I was in a class where the question was, what is repentance?  These were some of the responses.  In Mexico repentance is when you get married so you can get baptized.  Recognize, remorse, repent to authority, restore the wrong, repeat no more.  Repentance is what happens in the bishop's office, and we good guys wanted to stay out of there.  In Mexico repentance is when you go to the priest, confess, and he tells you what to do - often includes a certain number of prayers to Mary - and he tells you when you are forgiven. 

Where is Christ?

I was "unhappy with something going on in the Church" but not being in charge I "just waited awhile" and sure enough "things got better".  One of the points the instructor was planning on making was repentance is all about Christ and the atonement and daily repentance by everyone and taking of the sacrament.  It is all about Christ. 

So, my thought is if you are unhappy about something that is going on in the Church, wait awhile, it will get better.  It may not get better there in the same the class, but give it a little time.  We are all imperfect and God is working with all of us, or as it says in the Book of Mormon, aren't we all beggars before Christ?

Elder Gilbert / Sandberg / Dad / Grandpa

(I am not saying anything about going home - don't want to get trunki)