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.
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