Saturday, November 21, 2015

Work - Coyoacan - Monterrey

Dear Family,

The big news on the mission is the pending change in Exec. Secretaries.  The Montoya's, who have been here longer than we have and have been so good to us, have been called to be mission president, and we are working to let them go home 6 weeks early to get ready for their mission in July 2016. They will be Spanish speaking, but they don't know which mission yet.  We have relied on them so much; now we are going to have to step up.  Their replacement couple will be here next Monday, so things are going to really change.

We continue to have new challenges arrive in our office all the time.  A new challenge is that the US used to take 3-4 months to issue a visa for a Mexican missionary to go to the US.  For some reason, it is now taking twice that long.  The missionary department doesn't want them to just sit around, so they are assigning them to do temporary missions here in Mexico.  We currently are making available to the missionary department 7 "slots" in 6 missions close to Mexico City.  But now we are looking for more "slots".  These temporary missionaries, waiting for their visas are a challenge for the mission presidents.  They come on short notice, can leave anytime, if they need to learn English they have to go to the MTC in Provo, and some of the temporary missionaries go to the mission with no MTC experience.  Bless those good mission presidents who take them and train them.

Many of the things we deal with in the area office we can't tell you, so we tell you about our outings.

Some of the senior missionaries recently went to Coyoacán, an area of Mexico City visited by many tourists and locals.  We  went on Oct 31st, Halloween or Day of the Dead in Mexico.  In Mexico they celebrate the Day of the Dead by such things as going to the cemetery, taking the dead relatives' favorite food, and eating there by the grave and singing the dead's favorite songs, etc.  A skeleton is not scaring but funny.  I will show some pictures.  It was interesting to learn about some of the different ways they celebrate here.

The stores sell lots of things for the Day of the Dead like these candles.

And a special bread - the secretaries at work even brought it into the Area Presidency meeting.  It tastes pretty good, light and white, with sugar.  It comes in this size, two hands, or VERY LARGE.

We went to the artist park where we had been before, called San Angel.  This is the first thing we saw.

They decorate lots of things with yellow flowers.  Notice the smiling skull on the wall.

They decorate the churches as well, including the altar.  We found it very interesting to see all of this.

But maybe the most interesting thing I saw was this in a church; notice the skeleton in the middle,

or this, in the cathedral.  The man was lighting candles.

In the stores the attendants were often dressed up.

They often look like "Catrina".  She is a character of the Day of the Dead.  It is part of the tradition to laugh at death.  She is often dressed as a rich and elegant lady, but a reminder that death comes to all equally.

We saw couples there walking around willing to have you take pictures with them. No money asked.

They had a nice church there.  We went in.  Here is Michelle giving something to a man in need.  That is part of her make up, very willing to give to others.  Good lady.

This is a lady waiting to have her child baptized.  I didn't see the father.  When the Spanish came to America they did some really bad things, but they brought Christianity and Christ here, and it is deeply rooted.

The priests came out and talked to her for awhile. They promise to raise the child in the Catholic Church, some take it very seriously.

They he, the priest, walked into the church to the altar, and he sang as he went, a beautiful voice.

We went to Monterrey Mexico last weekend.  The Area Presidency wants to try some large women's gatherings, women's conferences, in Mexico and the first one was there.  The Presidency wanted to be there for the opening Sunday evening and the closing on Monday evening but did not attend during the day Monday so we had our weekly Area Presidency meeting there on Monday.  The Exec. Secretaries went and we paid for our wives tickets and they attended the conference.

Monterrey is about a 1 1/2 hour flight north of Mexico City.  It is a large city, a major center of commerce and technology.  We stayed in the hotel next to a GREAT BIG convention center.  It is located next to a large steel mill that operated from about 1900 to 1960, I think by a German company, who gave the whole mill area to the city if they would use it for the benefit of the city.  The city made it into a wonderful park with a river walk.

They have kept the old ovens and buildings.  It reminded me of Geneva Steel in Orem, Utah.

This is part of the river walk.  Notice the large bucket pouring out water, like the old steel buckets did.

The weather was cloudy with drizzle most of the time we were there.  They say the city is surrounded by large impressive mountains, but we did not get to see them, only a little bit, on the last day.

The first thing we did was attend the Monterrey Temple.  There was a beautiful chapel right there on the grounds.

The temple experience was very good.  My impression was the temple workers were younger than in Mexico City.

Sunday morning we took a cab to the Central Ward meetings, the oldest ward in Monterrey which I think was formed in the 1940's.  The state of Mexico there, Nuevo Leon, has a new governor.  They call him El Bronco - or the bronco - he is an independent, not part of any of the political parties.  He refuses to live in the official residence, a high rent home of a former politician, but lives in this apartment building and walks to work.

Some people say he will run for president.

The chapel is an older one, one long building with dividing curtains.

It was their ward conference so the stake president, Daniel Taylor, son of Dan Taylor from the Colonies, was there presiding.  It was fun to visit with him.  The stake president is acting bishop because there are no good candidates to be bishop right now.

Now to the women's conference.  This was their logo.

It says Fill our Homes with Truth and Light - Women's Conference.

Like I said it was a HUGH convention center with several events going on at the same time including a sex therapist meeting and a Comic Con, a convention where people dress up like comic book or movie characters.  We walked around a little in the comic con area.

Took a few pictures.

It was Sunday, Michelle said she didn't even want to be there.  Some pretty immodest things.

We did check out the conference room which was on the top floor.  They had expected 3000 sisters but in the end put up 4000 chairs.  I think they used at least 3500 of them.

Michelle writing now:  This was a momentous and unprecedented occasion--the largest gathering of LDS women outside of the USA.

It was a beautiful sight, seeing hundreds of sisters pouring into the huge convention room--women of all ages and stages of life.  One thing they all had in common, the light of the gospel in their eyes.

Our visitors from Salt Lake City were Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, and Sister Denise Lindberg (originally from Cuba and Puerto Rico) of the Young Women General Board.
What inspiring talks they gave Sunday night and closing remarks Monday afternoon!!
(I will write more about that in a separate letter.  If you don't get it and want it, let us know.)

Here is Sister Burton with three young women ushers who wanted their picture taken with her.

Sunday night was a general meeting and Monday morning were excellent classes taught to 6 groups of over 500 each.  The huge room was divided into 6 rooms by folding curtains and the presenters rotated.  Then we had a long break for lunch.  Most stakes provided lunch for their sisters, but there was also a buffet for those who wanted to purchase food.  After lunch we were all back together again and a  great song and dance program was presented; it was quite professionally done with the backdrops changing to match the theme of the dances and songs.  Note the famous saddle mountain, landmark of Monterrey in the background.

Following the program was a panel discussion answering questions that had previously been asked by assorted sisters.  And following that were very touching and inspiring comments by leaders and visitors.  The day ended with the large choir of over 100 sisters and congregation joining in singing the theme song for the conference, written for the conference.  There weren't many dry eyes as we all stood and sang together.

The chorus is, "Llenemos nuestro hogar de luz y de verdad; la mano del Señor nos guiará."
"Let us fill our homes with light and truth; the hand of the Lord will guide us." (repeated twice)

I was very impressed by the whole conference; every detail was so well planned, prepared and presented.  It was amazing!  But even before the first session began, I was inspired.  When we entered the building at 4:30 Sunday afternoon before the 6:00 opening we saw sisters entering the building on the ground level and being confused by the sight of many people dressed in all kinds of costumes for comic con.  It was a bit overwhelming, even a little frightening.  But stationed in strategic places were priesthood brethren showing the way to go.  It was easy to recognize them by their suits, white shirts, ties and calm dignity.  They kindly pointed to the stairs and escalators that would take us to the next level.  It seemed symbolic.  Even on the second level there was an interesting mix of crowds--those going to comic con and those going to the women's conference.  The difference was that now most of the sisters seemed to know where they were going.  The crowds divided as those in costume headed towards the noisy music on that floor and those in Sunday dress pressed on up to the third floor. Again symbolic!  On that level, even though the congregation was probably larger, there was a spirit of calm, peace, love and joy.  There were smiling ushers all along the way welcoming and directing the sisters to their seats--much like in the temple.  I felt that not only was I experiencing a momentous occasion, but a sacred one. So grateful I could attend!

This is Gilbert - So that is the spiritual thought - rise up to the upper level.  Leave the dress and cares and confusion of the world..  Follow our leaders.  Not the first level, don't stop in the second, rise up to the 3rd.  Up, up, to the best, the highest.

Elder and Sister Sandberg


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cancun - Mission Presidents' Seminary

Cancun - Mission Presidents' Seminar

Dear family and friends,

I am tired tonight but I want to work on this post.  We were gone all last week to the mission presidents' seminar so we have been working hard to catch up on work missed.  Yesterday I went to the office at 7:15 am  and didn't come home until 8:30 pm.  We did go to Subway for lunch and Michelle brought me a sandwich and a apple for the evening meal. (And we had an hour FHE at the office.)  I think I am a little old to work these long hours, but really I enjoy it most of the time.

We have been kind of sad, since our son Richard and wife Deanne and their family left.  Just a few items to remind us of their visit.

And some drawings.

Every day we walk by a well.  I read that something like 73% of Mexico City's water comes from wells. Recently we noticed they were pulling all the pipes up out of the well we walk by.

The people in the Mexican Colonies know about pulling wells.  Lots of pipe in that well.

Every year all over the word there are held Mission Presidents' Seminars for all the mission presidents serving.  This is a couple days of training and some time for them to relax.  A big project for us was getting ready.  We are not in the picture but all the mission presidents (34), MTC president and their wives and area presidency and wives are in the picture.

The days before the seminar Elder Montoya, the other executive secretary, was asked to go to Tijuana to translate for Elder Holland who was visiting there, and Sister Montoya was out of town also, so Michelle and I made all the final arrangements, which included handouts and name tents for everyone.

A name tent, in case you didn't know, is a triangle shaped paper with a person's name on it to show where he sits.  I am 71 years old; how can it be that I have never heard that name before!!!  Oh well, many new things on a mission.

Elder Brent H. Nielson and his wife came from SLC to train.  He is the executive director of the missionary department and served his mission in Finland.  So one of the things Michelle did was to help translate to English for him, his wife, and some of the wives of the mission presidents.

I will include some the training in a spiritual thought at the end.

The meeting was in Cancun.  This is the view from out hotel room.

Yes, we did get into the ocean, really too rough to be fun.

Nice hotel, big hot tub.

After a full day of training, we had a day of recreation.  Many of the leaders played volleyball in the pool.  For the mission presidents from inland, like the state of Chihuahua, it was really special to be at the beach.

At dinner one of the mission presidents and his wife did a dance for our entertainment.

Then we went on two big buses to see some local ruins called Tulum.  

Our guide was a member of the Church, recently released as stake president.  He said this is what the building originally looked like, they think.

He said some interesting things.  There are in the large buildings some slots which only on certain days at sunrise the sun shines fully through the slot.  The sun shinning completely through on one slot happens only on June 21st, the longest day and on another Dec 21st the shortest day.

Then he said there is one slot where it happens only on April 6th, which he thought had to do with the birth of Christ.

I really related to one thing he said.  These buildings are 100's of years old.  Maybe they were used for good purposes sometimes and not so good other times.  He said for example, the Kirkland Temple was used for sacred purposed once, but not now.  The Nauvoo Temple was sacred, then not sacred, then rebuilt.

I wanted one picture of us together.

Then we went to a large amusement park called Xcaret! While we ate we watched a presentation about the history of Mexico.  It was entertaining and good for the mission presidents and wives not from Mexico to learn a little more about the history of Mexico.  Large arena.

They had nets come up from the side of the stage and plastic walls will hoops where they played the game of trying to knock the ball through the hoops on the wall.  It is an ancient indigenous game.

You can see the hoop on the right side.  They would knock the ball back and forth, hitting it only with their hips.  When the ball was on the floor they would run and then slide into the ball with their hip.  After quite a few tries they got the ball through the hoop!

Then they had a game with a fire ball to try to get it into each others fire pit with hockey-like sticks.

It reminded us of when our boys would soak a tennis ball in gas and light it on fire and hit it back and forth.

They showed how the Spanish arrived.  First they showed the Aztec's worshiping their idols.

Then the Spanish arrived.

 And the Spanish making the local Indians carry a cross.

And they put the cross on top of the Indians' idols.

I took real interest in how they showed how the main saint the Virgin of Guadalupe came about.  In this story a humble man in the country, named Juan Diego, had a vision when the Virgin Mary appeared to him and told him to build a church.  He went to the priest who didn't believe him.

He returned to talk to the Virgin and she did a miracle for him  He took his shawl to the priest and when he open it, there was a large bouquet of roses.  They showed all this.

Then the show moved to dances and music from different parts of the country.

In part of the state of Veracruz they have this tradition that around a large pole they wind ropes.  Then on top of the pole some men sit and then with their feet tied to the rope they swing around and around unwinding the ropes until the reach the ground.

They swing around and around, upside down, for a long time.

I liked the dance of the old men.

Then they switched to songs and things from the North part of Mexico.  I think I had to hold Michelle in her seat.

They ended with everyone on stage with streamers and everything.  A great show!

  The next day after our morning seminar, we flew back to Mexico City.

Here is a question for you, which is further North, Mexico City or Cancun Mexico?

The visitor was Elder Brent H. Nielson.  We were surprised to find out his middle name is Hatch, related to Michelle way back.  Michelle helped translate for them during a stake conference.  The conference was in the Ermita Stake.  The chapel there is one of the very first in Mexico.

Michelle's father and her mother attended church in this chapel when he was a medical student in Mexico City,  And Michelle's sister Patricia was blessed in the chapel!

Lots of people know the Hatches.

Michelle even played the old piano inside the chapel.

And to my great surprise, Sister Nielson asked if they could have a picture with us.

Their son served as a missionary in St. Petersburg Russia when my brother David was mission president there.  They wanted the picture to send to their son.  The Nielsons spoke at length about what a great mission president David was.  FINALLY A SANDBERG CONNECTION IN MEXICO.

We love to see the local members in the meetings.  Aren't these kinds cute!

Well, I will try for some kind of spiritual thought.  This is a story told by Sister Nielson, the wife of Elder Brent H. Nielson, who visited here with him.  She called it the parable of the peaches.

They lived in Idaho for a number of years and found that it was an ideal place for growing peaches, so she bought 3 peach tress and planted them.  After a few years they got beautiful peaches, sweet and delicious.

She had 3 grandsons ages 2, 4 and 6.  When they arrived they would run to the peach trees.  The 2 year old would stop and pick up the fallen peaches and try to eat them.  Many would be rotten and were basically not good and could make your stomach hurt.

The 6 year old would climb to the top of the tree and get the peaches that got the most sun and would taste the best.

The 4 year old would be afraid to climb. We would halt back and forth between picking up the fruit on the ground, picking some fruit on the bottom of the tree, and climbing to the top.

The 6 year old would say, come on up here to the best fruit.  Be he would hesitate.

Now the message of the parable of the fruit tree is like life.  We can pick up the OK but often bad and sometimes really bad things in life at the bottom, or we can get some better things a little bit up in the tree, or we can go to the top.

So my challenge is, reach for the top where the best things are.  God is saying, come on up here where the fruits of life are the very best.

I say to us all, don't be afraid, don't hesitate back and forth between bad, OK and really good.  And DON'T get old and stop reaching.

(By the end of the summer the 4 year old learned to climb to the top).

Love and miss the family and friends.  Hope the videos work.  We enjoy hearing comments back from you.

Elder Dad/Grandpa/Gilbert and Michelle

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Backward, turn backward, oh time in your flight

Title:  Backward, turn backward, oh time in your flight

Dear Family and Friends,

I will explain that title a little later on in the post.

Sept. 16 is independence day of Mexico from Spain.  The night before, the 15th is a big ceremony.  I watched a rerun on TV.  The revolution got started when a priest Hidalgo rang his church bell and invited all his congregation to start the revolution with him.

So on the 15th the president of Mexico rings a bell in the main square, called the Zocolo.

Then follows the "grito" or shout.  He says "Viva los heroes de la revolution." Hurrah to the heros of the revolution.  The zocolo is full of people who shout Viva.  He names some of the heroes and everyone shouts Viva.  Finally he shouts "Viva Mexico" 3 times and every shouts Viva.  They do this in many cities in Mexico.

Then the following day they had a HUGH military parade through the main square.  1000's and 1000's of troops.  Many women in the military.

We enjoyed a visit from our son Jonathan who teachers at BYU and was here to make arrangements for an exchange program for students from BYU.  He and his companion went to Church with us and we had a couple of meals with him.  Yes, senior missionaries can have family visit.

I remember when Jonathan was a little boy and we had to go sit with him in Primary class to help keep him quite.  He has done really well.

Then we had planned for weeks for the arrival of our son Richard, wife Deanne, and 6 young children.

We went to Church and then to the house of my nephew Matt Sandberg for dinner and a birthday celebration of one of our grandchildren, Emilyn.

She loved it.  Couldn't help but think of my daughters.

We took a tour of the city on a "hop on hop off" bus.  Fun.

Lots of things to see.  The statue of independence.

Unfortunately it was the coolest and most cloudy week we have had.

We went to the top of the Latin American tower.  Tall building.  You can see the temple from there and the mountains in the distance.  It is a big city.

You could see the Zocalo, the main square where the president leads the "grito".

And the Palace of Fine Arts where the Ballet Folklórico performs with all the traditional dancing.

The Alameda Park, Palacio de Bellas Artes and lovely buildings.

And look straight down, look for the men with straw hats on.  They are protesters.

They are also standing in between the lanes.  They are protesting that 43 students in a bus going to protest a speech of one of the state leaders about a year ago just disappeared and the government hasn't been able to find out why.  They were joined by the teachers on the day Richard arrived and blocked one of the main streets making traffic bad and we arrived about 1 hour late to get Richard.

We of course went to the original Sanborn's restaurant were Michelle's father worked when he was a medical student.

We ate there with all the children.  They were so good.

Oh, the times were ate out with our young family!

And we went to the National Cathedral.

Interestingly, after we were there one of the grandchildren said, "I didn't like it in there.  It doesn't feel good." I feel the same way.

This picture is taken from the open top bus we rode.  There are many beautiful streets in Mexico City.

Of course, back to the pyramids.  Very impressive.

They had a tent up in front of one of the smaller pyramids.

I asked a man who was sifting and washing sand and looked like he was in charge what they were doing.  He said they had discovered an original tunnel running under the pyramid.  The tunnel was 15 meters - 50 feet - below the surface and they were slowing digging the tunnel out and shifting and washing all the dirt taken out to look for relics of any kind.

The older grandchildren and grandma climbed to the top.  I "agreed" to wait below with my pregnant daughter-in-law.

Afterwards we went to a restaurant.  I liked the sign on the restroom doors.

Lovely colors in the restaurant.

We rented a van and driver to take us around.

It was about 1 1/2 hours there and back and some of the children we a little tired.

On Wednesday we went to the the Chapultepec Castle where Maximillan and Carlata lived when he was Emperor of Mexico, installed by France.

But this was the closet we could get.  It was closed.  The president was giving a speech there and there were military police everywhere.

We did go to the zoo which the children loved.

I was surprised to find Rafika of the movie Lion King there.

Notice the broom they use here outside, made of twigs or balm leaves.  They work really well for sweeping large areas.

And of course we had to go to the National Ballet.  I have put pictures on a previous blog, I know, but I love the place.  This is of the glass curtain painted with the volcanoes Popo and Ixta on it.

This guy must have spun the rope for 15 minutes with a girl inside; he did change hands once in a while.

Such  pretty outfits. In this one they tie a bow with their feet.

And they really move!

They even came out into the aisle and danced right in front of us.  Notice how tall they are.  They have a height requirement.  They are all nearly the same height.

They have several changes of outfits.

Love that show.

Then on Thursday we went to Xochimilco, where they float in boats.  My nephew's wife and their 4 children went with us.

We noticed 6 boats all floating together.  It was some kind of Social Security outing with older folks.  They had Mariachi bands on board and were dancing and singing.

We paid to have a boat with a mariachi group come along side and play for us.  (Also a marimba group)

Note the oar that one of the local boats uses.

We took our own lunch and ate on our boat.

Good time.  Then on Friday we went to the temple visitors center.

They have a wonderful visitor center with a place for children.  They would really have liked to stay longer.

Then it was off to the airport.  The children helping with the bags.

I think everyone really enjoyed Mexico.  Some of the grandchildren were a little taken back that some places you have to pay to use a toilette,  Buy hey, I paid 4 pesos and got some toilet paper to bring home!

Now, to the title and somewhat of a spiritual thought.

I was truly sad when our family left.

Thinking about our son's visit and his 6 children traveling around, pulling their luggage, I thought of this quote someone used in general conference.

Backward, turn backward, oh time in your flight
make me a child again, just for tonight.

But then I thought I miss my young children, now all grown up and I thought: 

Backward, turn backward, oh time in your flight,
make them children again, just for tonight.

I wished I could have all my children, young again, traveling together.

Why would I like to go back, caused I missed somethings then.  Too anxious, too worried, not enjoying the moment.

So my thought, enjoy fully wherever you are.  It will pass.  You can't go back.  In school, children at home, working, or grandparent.  It will not last forever.  Don't miss out.  Be fully present.  Make the most of every moment.

Elder Grandpa, Dad, etc.