Sunday, January 25, 2015

MTC and Mexico Residency - Jan 25, 2015 - Gilbert

Dear Family and Friend,

Really we are doing well.  I can understand most things in Spanish.  Two weeks ago I fasted and prayed for help with Spanish.  The answer I received was do not let casual conversations in Spanish slide by.  Make the effort to engage, understand even when they switch subjects quickly, and make some comments.  I have been doing more of that.  I am doing better on the phone as long as we talk about one subject.  (They say learning a language keeps the mind  young - I hope so).

We got to go the Mexico City MTC/CCM (Centro de Capacitación Misional)  this week.  The area doctor had to go; he has a car, and he and his wife invited us to go with them.

The area around the MTC is a little rough, actually rougher than in the picture.

But inside the campus is BEAUTIFUL.  It is the former Church school, Benemérito de las Américas.

Michelle said when she was here when her dad was mission president this site was out in the country; now there are houses all around.  It reminds me in some ways of the MTC in Provo.  The buildings are named for great missionaries in the church.

This is the administrative office building.

They have this impressive 2 story painting inside the administration building.

The words above the painting include power, light, intelligence.  At the top of the painting is the "Tree of Life" stone found in Southern Mexico.  Some people think it shows Nephi and his dream of the tree of life.   The man in the picture is the brother of one of Michelle's high school classmates, Eloy Ruvalcaba.  This man is a counselor in the presidency of the MTC.  His name is Boanerges.

They told us there are about 500 missionaries there now, but they expect up to 1200 later in the summer.  In the past almost all the missionaries here were not going to serve in Mexico, but in the US or in some other country.  Now they are sending missionaries here from the US that will learn Spanish here and stay and serve in Mexico.

There are in the area office 5 people who work with visas for missionaries.  They work on visas of missionaries coming to Mexico and those leaving Mexico to other countries.

This week this good brother drove Michelle and me to the immigration office to work on my visa.

First we stopped at a photo shop for my pictures and then went to the immigration office where other missionaries, from all over,  were waiting for their visas.

I went inside with the employees of the area office walking me through.  The government workers were faster and more friendly than I think I have ever seen in any country.  They took my pictures, finger prints of all 10 fingers, and I signed a bunch of forms.  I was in and out in about 10 minutes.

Some of the missionaries said they were from the Mexico City North Mission and that a senior missionary from the Colonies was leading their group.

I went inside and said hello to EDDIE JONES whom I taught and coached in basketball the one year I lived in the colonies.  Really nice to see him.

Since Michelle is a Mexican Citizen and I am here as her spouse, I will get permanent residence in Mexico.  I told the missionaries outside that the only reason I married Michelle was to get my Mexican papers.  They got a good laugh at that.  (The usual story is someone from here marries a US citizen to get US papers.)

The brother who works with visas told us of some of the challenges.  For example, recently Peru said they would not allow any youth from there to come to Mexico because it is too dangerous.  Now any youth that comes here as a missionary has to have a special interview to make sure they are mature enough to come and withstand the dangers.  :)

For awhile, I think it was Venezuela, wouldn't accept any missionaries from Mexico.

But the biggest challenge seems to be Brazil.  They have to show that the missionaries are qualified to be ministers.  They MUST have graduated from seminary and have a certificate of graduation.  On the application they also have to show their church experience, what callings they have had, etc.  Very interesting conversation.

On Saturday we had our local missionary sisters over to eat with us.

Sister LeSueur is from Draper and Sister Bravo from Guatemala.  Very impressive.  Isn't it a miracle that these two sisters from other countries and cultures are getting along so well and helping the people in Mexico.

To get to church we walk about 1/2 mile.  It is ALL up hill.  This is looking up the hill part way up.

This is looking down hill from the same spot.

On the way we walk across this bridge.  I took this picture on the way home today.

The bridge crosses this barranca/ canyon.

I haven't decided what to call the hike to church.  Climbing Mount Zion, Ensign Peak 2, ??

At church today 5 new members were confirmed in sacrament meeting including a family of 5, 4 where confirmed - the 3rd child was too young.  They looked so great, the males all in suits.  The sister was so moved; you could hear her crying during the confirmation.  Great converts.

For a closing spiritual thought I want to tell you about a talk given by Elder Montoya.  He is my fellow executive secretary; I am so impressed by him.  He was talking about the temple.

He said he had visited a prison once.  It was dark, in both light and feeling.  People did not want to be there.  They were always uncomfortable and not relaxed.  They wanted to be out.  Then he said, suppose you had a relative there and you had the papers to release him from prison, from prison where maybe he had been for years..  All you had to do was show up with the papers.  How soon would you go? What excuses would be good enough not to make time to go?

Then he said we have been taught our relatives who have not been baptized are in spirit prison and if we have the information about them, all we have to do is show up with the papers at the temple, do their ordinances and they can be released.  They can be where it is light and free and beautiful.

I thought it was a great talk - nice analogy.

We are getting more comfortable with our callings.  It will be fun.

We love and miss our family and friends,

Dad - Granddad - Gilbert - Elder Sandberg

Monday, January 19, 2015

Exciting Growth - 18 January 2015 - Michelle

Dear Family and Friends,

Some of you have asked about our safety.  We feel very safe; we can walk around our neighborhood day or night.  For instance we walk to and from church each Sunday, 10-15 minutes each way.  We have walked it in the dark.  The biggest danger is stumbling and falling on uneven sidewalks or crossing streets when the traffic is heavy, which it is most weekdays.  But on Sundays it is calm and quiet, and today the sky was clear and blue. With less traffic on weekends we get less smog. The weather has been nice so far--usually in the 70's during the day and in  the 40's to 50's at night.  Of course the locals here think it is cold and wear coats, caps, and scarves in the early morning or at night.  We usually just wear long sleeves or sweaters and suit coats.

Back to safety, besides walking we can take buses or taxis or even the metro / subway.  The biggest danger is having a wallet or camera stolen when we on the metro or in a crowd.

Each day we are becoming more familiar with our responsibilities.  Gilbert and I are both learning a language--he Spanish and I "computerese." Up until now there have been 3 couples of executive secretaries working the the office:  Montoyas, Olsons and Sandbergs.

However, the Olsons leave this week and the work will all be on the Montoyas and us.  The Olsons know everyone and everything in the area office so well; we will really miss them.  Thankfully the Montoyas have been here several months and will carry the biggest load.  They are both from Mexico but have lived in Arizona for 20+ years so are comfortable in both cultures and with both languages.
I really like them and will tell more about them in a future blog.

When the men are in meetings with the area presidency, then we sisters are in the office alone.  We work hard, but we also have fun.

Last Sunday we attended church in the Lomas Ward, English speaking, as well as our own Palmas Ward, Spanish-speaking.  We were excited to meet Eric and Lauren Otto and their darling daughter Chloe.  Lauren is my cousin Rod Bluth's daughter, Aunt LaRee's granddaughter.  Eric works here with Chrysler.  It was a special treat because the Otto's spoke that day and gave inspiring talks.

Today was our ward conference.  We had about 200 in attendance which really filled our small chapel.  It was also ward conference in our ward back in Lehi, Utah, and that chapel was full with about 600 attending.  We thought it would be divided today, but not yet even though it is needed.

In connection with our ward conference here we had several activities during the week.  One was a farewell party for the Olsons and another missionary couple, the Ellis, who are going home next week and last night was a ward dinner..  On both occasions we had lots of yummy food at the church.  I forgot to take my camera last night to take a picture of the Mexican potluck dinner.  It was an abundant and colorful buffet.  But this is a picture of some of the members at the despedida/farewell.

In ward conference, our stake president, Miguel Tenorio, talked about the area plan for Mexico for 2015.  Again I was inspired by it.

"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. 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."

This introduction to the Mexico Area Plan for 2015 means a lot to me.  Would you believe I have lived more than half of those 135 years?  There was not much growth in the first half of those years, but it is amazing to see how the Church in Mexico has grown in the second half--in my lifetime.  When I was growing up in northern Mexico, there was only one stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the country, and that was in the Mormon Colonies in Chihuahua.  It was made up of 4 wards--two in Colonia Juarez and two in Colonia Dublan--and a few small branches.  Two of the wards/congregations were English-speaking and two were Spanish-speaking.  Now there are two stakes in that same area and about 15 wards and branches.  Still there are only two English-speaking wards.  However, amazing growth has taken place among our Latino brothers and sisters!

In 1962 when I was 16 and my father was called to be a mission president in Mexico City, the first stake had just been organized in southern Mexico.  There were only 3 missions:  Hermosillo in the northwest, Monterrey in the northeast, and Mexico City covering from the central part of the country all the way south including the Yucatan peninsula.  Now there are 34 missions in Mexico and 228 stakes, about 1800 wards and branches, and 1.3 million members.  I can hardly believe the growth!  Here is part of a poster of past mission presidents in the Mexican Mission which is now the Mexico City South Mission.  It shows my parents.

Up until 1983, members from all over Mexico and Central America had to go to Mesa, Arizona, to attend the temple.  I wondered if there would ever be a temple in Mexico.  Now there are 12, and a 13th is nearly ready for dedication.  And there are 6 in Central America.  It is a dream come true!  I am touched to witness all the members who go to the temple to receive their own ordinances and who return over and over again to receive the ordinances vicariously for their ancestors.  This surely is fulfillment of prophecy!  It thrills me that we have a small temple in Colonia Juarez, the town where I was raised, and that now my brother John Lunt Hatch is temple president there.  Our great-grandfather Henry Lunt, who was one of the original settlers in the Colonies and was a patriarch, had prophesied that temples would one day dot the land.  It was hard to believe that 50 years ago.

Another prophecy is "of the essential role that the saints in Mexico will play in bringing the gospel to all nations." Already members of the Church from Mexico have taken the gospel to many nations--especially throughout Latin America.  For instance among my mother's 8 siblings, grandchildren of Henry Lunt, over 30 missions have been served in Spanish-speaking countries.  Many have been mission presidents, MTC presidents and temple presidents.  But I feel that will happen even more in the future, because as I read and translate the recommendations of young people from Mexico to be called to serve as missionaries, I can see them serving in many countries.  Many know more than one language, are firm in the gospel, have confidence and are already quite educated.

When they return from their missions, I can see them marrying and being sealed in the temple, having families and teaching their children the gospel, and serving in the Church in many countries. Many are the 3rd generation in the Church; others are new converts.  We process about 50 missionary recommendations a week.  Most will serve in Mexico, quite a few in the USA, and some will go to other countries.  For example, one young man from our ward is serving in Ireland.  And a friend of ours from Guatemala was called to serve in Taiiwan.  Now he speaks 3 languages and teaches Mandarin at the MTC in Provo.  Even in their youth these missionary candidates and returned missionaries are educated, experienced in Church service, and eager to bless the nations of the earth. They are becoming leaders in the Church and leaders in business and in governments.  Mexico is taking her place in establishing the Kingdom upon the earth.  The members are catching the Vision:
"We will hasten 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."

This will be the focus all year.  There is still much to be done to become temporally and spiritually self-reliant, to provide for our own needs and to support the growth of the Church around the world.  I am grateful to be part of this work.  Ever since I was a young girl I have wanted to serve a mission in Mexico and now I have the privilege of being part of this great plan.  It is exciting!

Love to you and your families,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fulling engaging in the missionary work - Jan 11,2015 by Gilbert

Jan 11, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

The holidays are over now and we are getting fully engaged in the missionary work.  Last week has been our fullest week yet.

Monday was a very busy day in that I spent all day getting ready to present the proposed new bishops, patriarchs, and stake presidents' counselors to the area presidency.  They review them one by one, and if they approve we send them to Salt Lake City where the apostles on the Boundary and Changes Committee make the final approval.

We receive the recommendation by email and then send them to the member records department who prepare some background information on each candidate.  The information we need includes how long the present leader has served and why he is being released.  If the bishop has served less then 5 years we need details of why he is being released.   For the candidates we need to know their current calling, 2 or 3 previous callings, work details, worthiness, support of wife, contributions to the church, etc.  The area presidency wants the leaders to be an example in living the commandments.

On Tuesday I presented 9 names, and they reviewed each one in detail.  My job is to have all the information they need at the first presentation.  6 where approved, 1 rejected, and 2 needed more information.  Sometimes the area presidency calls on sensitive matters; I was assigned to call the stake presidents of 2.  This is the biggest challenge for me, calling on the phone and speaking Spanish.  (Pray for me).

On the first week of each month  we have committee reports of various committees in the area.  They each get 1 hour or sometimes 1/2 hour.  We had committee reports on Wednesday and Thursday. Last week we tried something new to control time.  I was in charge of time; we have a green ball I put out to start, yellow ball when half way through, red ball when there are 5 minutes left.  People kind of laughed about it but by the 2nd day the area presidency were announcing and support it.  It seemed to go well.

Some of the committees reporting - legal, facilities, missionary, temple, youth, church education, public affairs, family history, church history, welfare, self reliance, church records, auditors, etc.
The church is looking for ways to build less chapels to save on costs. Here in Mexico they are writing a musical production like they have in Nauvoo or Manti  This will be the first one in Spanish.  This week I will try to get clearance to call 6 people to work on writing the production.  All of these kinds of things come up in AP meetings.  TRULY I was thrilled and inspired by all the good things going on in the Church in Mexico.

But there are mundane things too.  This is what happened when I left a pen in my shirt when it washed.

Fortunately I lost only one shirt

Then I used my just purchased duct tape to help a missionary neighbor when their oven door came partially off.

To my son-in-law Tyler - another use for duct tape.

Wednesday noon the area presidency took us out to lunch.  They said it was a farewell to Carl Pratt the Mexico MTC President and to the Olsons the executive secretary couple who are leaving and a welcome to us, the Sandbergs.

Starting on the left - Elder Piper, 1st C and knows my brother David who replaced him as mission president in St. Petersburg, Carl Pratt leaving the MTC; he spoke highly of the work done by Michelle's cousins James and Pat Jewel while they served in the MTC.  Miguel Tenorio Director of Temporal Affairs and me and Michelle.  Interesting the sisters sat apart.

On the right, Elder Valenzuela 2nd C, President De Hoyos, Elder Montoya executive secretary and grandson of one of the famous martyrs in Mexican Church history, and Elder Olson who will be leaving.

We spent all day Friday preparing for a broadcast Friday night to all the stake, temple, mission presidents and others for all of Mexico.  It was a review of the annual plan for the Church in Mexico.

I really enjoyed the productions, so well set up and executed.  There were technical people from the area office everywhere.  It was held in the large mutli-stake center close to the temple.

We hope the temple will reopen this summer after remodeling and we can attend.

The area plan was the most exciting and inspiration thing for me this week.  Here are some of the highlights translated to English.

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. 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 like the recognition of those both inside and outside of Mexico who come to help.  I thought of my son Nelson.  I like the reference to prophets both in the Book of Mormon and modern who have talked about the great future of Mexico and its people.  And am inspired by, "Now is the time to take our place in the establishment of the Kingdom upon the earth."

The plan goes on to say:

We will hasten 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. 

They are really emphasizing self reliance; depend less on others, others outside of Mexico, to meet the needs.  The plan says:

Areas of Emphasis 
In 2015, members and missionaries, working together, will increase our faith to be self¬reliant. To this end, we will: 
Fast faithfully, donate generous fast offerings, and be full tithe payers. 
Help another person each day to receive the teachings and ordinances that will allow him to return to the presence of the Father. 
Find the names of our own ancestors and complete the temple ordinances in their behalf

They are asking for more from the members temporally and spiritually in everything from donations, to number of missionaries, to names going to the temple.

All day Saturday was an area council with the area presidency, 19 area seventies for Mexico, others, and the executive secretaries.  We stayed in the Marriott hotel by the airport.  The exec. sec wives stayed with us.  This is a picture of the lobby.

I took note of this sign in the hall,  Yes, we are in Mexico City.  No earthquakes yet.

Saturday we reviewed the area plan and did lots of training for the area 70's.  They introduced me and asked me where I served my mission.  I said Australia and they said something about I had married a Hatch and that is why I was there.  I tried to say it is important whom you marry, but I couldn't think of the word in Spanish about married.  Kind of embarrassing, but they are all very nice about it.

At the council meeting we met Elder Lester Johnson from the colonies  Michelle and he were neighbors when they grew up.

And today another Colony connection.  We went first to the Spanish ward and then to the English ward where we met Lauren Bluth Otto, the daughter of Michelle's cousin Rod Bluth who lives close to our home in Utah.

And finally after all the Hatch / Colony connections, a Sandberg connection.  After the English sacrament meeting a member came up and asked if we knew a Karl Sandberg who went to Indiana University

Well enough of what has happened;  a few spiritual thoughts to close.

During the area council, they showed a video of training about family search and how you can store pictures and stories on there.  They showed a video of an older man showing lots of pictures on the walls of families.  He said can you hear the pictures talking. The children said they couldn't hear the pictures.  He said listen harder; they are saying - "Protect me, share me, and I will live forever".

A man named Richards told a story to be recorded on Family Search.  He said when he was a young man they won a church ball tournament in California and came to Salt Lake City to play in a tournament.  His name was Richards and when we arrived to play there sat his grandfather who was a member of the 12 apostles.  This man said to his grandfather, "Grandpa what are you doing here?  You are a member of the 12; you have more important things to do.  His grandfather said, "I have nothing more important to do than sit here and watch you play!"

One of the brethren had been with Elder Packer when he took questions.  Someone said "You are an apostle you must know when Christ will come again.  Would you share that?"  The response was,  "I don't know when and I don't care."

Finally an authority came to a stake conference.  In the car he asked the president.  Do you have family home evening.  The president responded, yes, every week.  The authority asked are they effective.  So I guess I close with this response: is our reading of the scriptures effective, is taking the sacrament effective, are our prayers effective?

Love you,
Dad - Granddad - Elder Sandberg

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year and our New Life - 5 Jan.2015 - by Michelle

New Year and our New Life - 1/5/15

It has been nice to have a lighter schedule and a few days off the past two weeks.  We have had some good times with the other missionary couples serving here.  Last Sunday Elder and Sister Mata, who are from Puebla and are Church History missionaries, showed us their office and collection of historical documents.  I was delighted to see what my cousin Virginia Hatch Romney has sent them from the Colonies in Chihuahua.  She and her husband Kent are Church History missionaries there.

On New Year's eve, most of the couple missionaries went across the street to the area offices to watch a movie on the large screen there.  We took snacks and had a fun time welcoming in the new year at 10:00 p.m. since most of us did not want to stay up until midnight.  On New Year's day we hosted all of them at our apartment for a Mexican dinner.  Mexican food for New Year's is our family tradition.

I made enchiladas, mole and pastel de tres leches.  Everyone else brought something to share.
We had a good time eating and visiting.  Notice our stick Christmas tree in the background.

Sixteen of us crowded into our casita.  This picture is taken from the front door facing the kitchen.

Friday morning, Gilbert and I walked up the street, literally up-hill, to get much-needed haircuts.  I liked our barber/hair stylist Juan even though he cut both of our hair shorter than we expected.  Now we have new hairdo's for a new year to go along with our new life.

Saturday we went shopping for groceries for a week.  We have several nice stores to choose from: Superama, Costco, Wal-Mart and Chedraui's (like a Target only French-owned).

This is in Chedraui's -- very nice store!  There are a few products we are used to that we can't find here, but for the most part we can get what we need.  They have lots of good fresh produce also.

Most of these nice stores are in a mall with the parking on ground level and the stores above.  So they have electric walkways you go down with your grocery carts which have magnetic wheels that grip the metal walks--no need to hold them back to keep them from running downhill.  New adventure!

But we have to catch a ride, take a taxi or go by bus to get there.  Saturday we took a taxi home with all our groceries.  The driver was so kind to help us unload them.  Most of the people here are very helpful and very polite.  Of course we tip most helpers for their services.

A little bit more about our hotel apartments.  Teca Once Suites used to be condominiums, but now it is a hotel.  There are 5 floors.  Below is a picture of the foyer taken from a floor above.

This is our floor with the elevator and a large pot of sticks which we didn't want in our apartment. Now it decorates the landing.

We are very happy to have an exercise room in our hotel.  The two treadmills are used a lot, but the bicycles don't work well.  We may have to purchase an exercise bike.

There is also a laundry facility which we can use when the hotel maids are not using them--between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.  It is a challenge because only 2 washes and 2 dryers work.

Gilbert had a cold over the weekend so came home to rest after sacrament meeting.  When I returned a couple of hours later, he surprised me with an added decoration to our Christmas tree.  Nice!

We are happy to be here and hope to make this a good year serving in the Mexico area offices of the Church.  There is so much to learn and to do!  It is a happening place.

This morning we attended a devotional where the area goals were presented to all of us who work in the offices there.  We are encouraged to memorize the vision statement which reads in part: 
"We will hasten the work of salvation by increasing our faith in Jesus Christ.  We will make the needed sacrifices to become self-reliant temporally and spiritually..."
The big emphasis this year is on sacrifice, consecration and self-reliance. 

May this be a good year for each of you as you work to reach the righteous desires of your hearts.

Michelle, Mom, Grandma