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,