Sunday, February 22, 2015

A harder and better mission - Feb 22, 2015 - Elder Sandberg

A harder and better mission – Feb 22, 2016 – Elder Sandberg

Dear Family and Friends,

In the last 7-10 days our mission has gotten harder, yes harder, but also better.

First harder, some humbling.  Part of my calling is to prepare and present to the area presidency all the back-ground information necessary for them to approve, or not, recommendations from the stake presidents for new bishops, stake presidency counselors, or patriarchs.  If the AP approves, they are sent to Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City for final approval.

Getting harder:  I got a great idea about how to improve the process so that more recommendations would be improve.  I carefully wrote up a “great” change in our process and presented it.  It was not approved.  I felt down.  Then I was driving the lead car of senior missionaries on a FIVE MINUTE TRIP to a restaurant and I took a wrong turn, GOT LOST and the missionaries behind were saying in their car, he’s going the wrong way – ON A FIVE MINUTES TRIP.  We have been working hard to have the Church movie "Meet The Mormons" released in Mexico and part of my job was to send a letter to all the stake and mission presidents about the film.  There were letters from the area presidency to be attached, one letter to the mission presidents and one to the mission presidents.  So I sent my letters off, with THE WRONG ATTACHMENT to the mission presidents.

Not so good.  I was feeling pretty low and then I thought about my father.  He had about 100 cattle and one time he made a mistake and about 40 of them, I believe, died.  Elder Lean Otten who was a missionary in South Dakota described what happened.

“One night the cattle ate some flax screenings and it bloated them and killed them.  He lost, in terms of today, tens of thousands of dollars.  Do you know how he responded?
“’I yusta thinka the Lord is  humblen me.  I yusta thinka the Lord is humblen me.  I need humblen’.  Everything was around the Lord; it was the gospel for him, a way of life.”

So I say the same thing.  I just think I could use a little humbling from the Lord.

Also this week Michelle received 32 new missionary recommends on Monday.  That is the most she has received in 1 day.  She needs to translate them to English, make sure all is correct, get them reviewed by the doctor, by the member’s records department, and the legal department when necessary and then call the stake presidents if things are not right.  It has been a busy week for both of us, but Michelle is getting faster at doing her job and was able to process 55 recommendations.

As I said, we have been working hard to get the movie Meet The Mormons here in Mexico.  We have had special meetings and letters sent, contracts with Cinemex, etc.  We had a premier showing for VIPS and guests scheduled for Thursday, and on Monday we found out the theater we had selected because it had the most seats did not have parking, was not in a nice part of town, and was not nice enough to invite press and special guests.  That was about the low point.

In our presidency meeting on Tuesday one of the area presidency gave the spiritual thought.  He quoted in Mathew 14 when the disciples are in the boat at night and Jesus comes to them on the water.  The scriptures say in verse 24, “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.”  The presenter said the winds feel contrary to us now.   The scriptures goes on to say when Peter was on the water, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”  So the presenter said we need to press forward and not look at the waves and trust Jesus.  The scripture says; “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?  Then the presenter said "if we have faith and pray and work Jesus will put forth his hand and save us as he did Peter."

And then it was like Jesus put forth his hand to help on the Meet the Mormons project.  We were able to find a better theater location for the premier.  And much to my surprise David Archuleta, famous young Mormon singer, who was invited only the week before agreed to come to the premier.  He would be here along with Carolina Muñuz from Costa Rica, who was the kick boxer in the movie, and the director of the movie from SLC. David Archuleta sings one of the songs in the movie.  Suddenly things really picked up.  We sent letters to all the leaders, and I had to call some of them to make sure they knew of the change, etc.

The press conference was in the afternoon.  We did not attend but the reports were good.  There will be some press comments available later in this post.

Then the day of the premier arrived.  It was in a nice theater in a beautiful mall on Reforma.

David Archuleta, the kick boxer lady, and the movie director were there signing autographs and having their pictures taken.

There were lots of people there, some reporters, and many youth.

Michelle got in line with all the other "young" girls and they signed her poster.

It was a nice large screen.  They had a little introduction before the movie with Elder Pieper and the 3 guests.  They also gave free popcorn and drinks to everyone!

Then the guests came and sat in the row right behind us!  After the movie I turned around and shook hands with David Archuleta.  (Tell the teenage girls that!)

The public relations department in SLC was helping us track the press coverage after the premier. This is a letter from them.

International Team,

The news articles that I have read today, following last night’s movie premiere in Mexico City, are not only favorable…they are substantive!  These are quotes from senators, secretaries of education, television program hosts, catholic secretaries of culture, and the government coordinator of religious affairs. Here are some worth reading (if you speak Spanish):

I have not yet found any critical reviews. You?


Friday night was a devotional mainly for some of the youth in the area.  It was in the multi-stake center by the temple.  They filled the cultural all with chairs towards the stage.

Then they turned all the benches in the chapel around and people sat even in the choir seats.  I guess there was over 1000 people there, many youth.  When all the seats were filled, people stood.

We really like the devotional.  They had some youth ask questions.  One asked David about his choice to go on a mission.  He talked about  all the advice he got.   You should go, some said, and others said your music career will suffer if you do.  Others said that being successful in your career will help the church more than going on a mission.

He said finally he went into his room and praye and then received the strongest spiritual impression he ever had to go a mission.  And that thought, go on a mission, just kept coming until he went. Great for the youth to hear that.

They asked him about family history,  He said he knew nothing about it until a friend showed him indexing and then while riding in his bus, on tour with his music, he has started indexing.  And now he has done the temple ordinances for some of his ancestors.

The sister talked about balancing being a mother, work, children, and her husband being bishop in Costa Rica.

But one of the highlights for me is when David sang during the devotional.  He sang the first verse in English and the rest in Spanish.  The place went completely quiet, 1000 people!  He started:

       If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do?
      Would I think of His commandments and try harder to be true?
      Would I follow His example? Would I live more righteously,
      If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

I will attach a video, I think I know how, the picture isn't great but I think you can hear his voice.

Does the video work?

The singing was a highlight for me, a true spiritual experience.

For a closing song David sang Glorious, the song he sang for the movie, Meet the Mormons o Conozca a los Mormones.  I have some pretty good videos of that, let me know if you want to see them and I will send them by email.

Then the guests walked down the aisles to greet a few people on the way out

Lots of excitement and interest.

So for me this was the hardest time here.  I was feeling down and prayed God would help me and lift me up spiritually.  I was discouraged and worried about the premier and devotional for the movie. We prayed for help with the presidency.  I felt like it says in the scriptures - the winds were contrary, it was dark, and I felt alone.

And then, and then,  I really felt God put out His hand and brought the movie showing to success and safety, and He reached out and gave me a spiritual experience that lifted my thoughts, raised my vision, increased my faith in Him, and blessed me.

So that is my spiritual thought, when the winds are contrary, and it is dark, and the storm is all around, and you feel alone, reach out, don't doubt, God will extend His hand in His way and in His time.

Love you.

Elder Sandberg

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday 15, 20015 - Valentine's - Things we LIKE and LOVE - by Michelle

Dear Family and Friends,

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY yesterday!  Please receive our belated expressions of love.  Near the top of our list of things we like and love are you--our family and friends.

Valentine's Day has become a big deal in Latin America--much more than I remember it as a child. They refer to it as "Dia del amor, dia de la amistad, o día del cariño."  (Day of love, day of friendship, or day of affection.)  Here is a display in one of the local Wal-Mart stores that I liked.

Gilbert and I had our own little Valentine exchange at home. We also made some goodies to give away.  I made a banana cream pie for Gilbert, his favorite.  The cake we shared with others in the apartment/hotel complex, and the pretzel/kisses goodies are to take to work to share.

Gilbert game me the roses.  They are one of the things I love about living here--affordable fresh flowers.  We can get a dozen beautiful roses for less than $10 sometimes around $5.

Gilbert also told me he would take me to a nice restaurant I have been wanting to eat at, Loma Linda. Fifty years ago when I lived here as a teenager I wanted to eat there but Dad said it was too expensive to take all 7 of us kids to, but we think he and Mother probably went there sometime without us. :)

Anyway, after 50 years I finally got to see inside as well as outside.  We would drive by it as we came and went from the mission home, which was only a couple of blocks away.

Dad was right; it is too expensive to take kids to; he would have called it a "swanky" restaurant.  Note the napkin Gilbert is wearing; it has a button hole in one corner so you and button it to your shirt.  F

And the food was delicious!  They specialize in Angus Beef al carbón (grilled).  Gilbert and I were going to go alone, but I told someone about it and before we knew it our twosome grew to 16, eight couples.  They all enjoyed it.  Maybe we will go alone sometime.  :)

Something I like about being in Mexico City is remembering the good times we had here as a family when our parents were mission leaders.  Gilbert and I took a ride down memory lane last weekend. We had access to a church car and he is gaining confidence driving around our neighborhood, not clear across the city yet.  Anyway, we drove by the old mission home where we lived.  Loved it!

Also we drove down Paseo de la Reforma all the way to the statues of Diana and the Angel de Independencia--such familiar sights to me.  As kids we would ride the buses or take taxis around the city to see friends, movies, etc. There was no Metro/subway then.  It was fun and safe and I liked it.  

On the way to and from, we drove through the Chapultepec Park area. It was Sunday afternoon and many families were walking along the beautiful walkways surrounded by trees and poinsettias still in bloom,  I'm sure some were enjoying the zoo, the lake, the museums and the castle there, but others were just sitting on the grass relaxing or having a picnic.  Such a pretty and favorite part of the city!

I like Mexico City.  As I said, one of my favorite things here are the flowers.  There are many little flower shacks on street corners and even street vendors walking out into the middle of the streets at stop lights selling dozens of roses.

And since it was Valentine's Day, the stores were all selling flowers this weekend.  The flower business is a big one in Mexico and Central America; they export.  Gilbert read that over 50,000 are directly involved in the flower business in Mexico with another 50,000 indirectly involved.

Another thing we like about Mexico are the panaderías / bread stores.  We have a couple within walking distance of our hotel and every big grocery story has a panadería in it.  It is hard to pass up the sight and smell buying something.  Sample of some breads we had in our house one day.

And of course we love the fresh and affordable produce!  This is some of what I bought last Saturday when we were grocery shopping.  We can buy guayabas, mangos, melons, papayas, etc. year around.

But the thing I like most about being in Mexico right now is seeing the growth of the Church.  I am so grateful for the gospel and the joy it brings into my life and the lives of other members.  It is exciting to process the missionary recommendations that come in every day.  I am learning to review and translate them more easily and quickly.  Instead of dreading a day when I have 20 or so to process, I rejoice.  And I feel sad when only 5 or less arrive.  We need more missionaries.

7,662 missionaries in Mexico

4,093 missionaries from Mexico 

3,022 from Mexico in Mexico

1,071 from Mexico in other countries

About 2/3 males and 1/3 females

I love seeing the pictures of the young missionary candidates when they arrive with their applications.  Following are some of the ones that came in last week--such beautiful, handsome and happy young people!  You can see the light of the gospel in their eyes and faces.

Many of them are spiritually and temporally self-reliant already.  Others will become so when they return from their missions because they will receive training in the stake Self-Reliance centers where they will get career and educational counseling, where they can apply for PEF loans, learn to budget, apply for jobs, etc.  Just imagine what wonderful parents they will make!  As we strengthen the families we strengthen the nation and the world.

On the missionary recommendation form there is a place where the candidate can share his/her comments. Some of them are very touching, like this one. (Which I translated.)
"I will be the first full time missionary from my family and it is my privilege to do so. I have a strong desire to serve a mission.  My great joy is to have the gospel in my life and to live it.  That is what I want to offer to other people, so that they will know that this is the only true Church of Jesus Christ and that it has been restored again to the earth and will not be taken away again, and that Christ is there with his arms open to receive them.  I want them to know that Heavenly Father loves us all as his spirit children.  I look forward to the day and am grateful to our Father for letting me serve in his work, to wear a name badge and represent the Church.  I want to do this for Christ, for my family and because of the priesthood which I hold."

I feel that way; it is my joy to serve a mission.  Even though I am not involved in sharing the gospel directly, I am helping make it possible for others to do it.  I like doing it.    

Love to all of you,
Michelle / Mom / Grandma / Sister Sandberg 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mexican Papers and Butterflies - Feb 7, 2015 - by Gilbert

Mexican Papers and Butterflies - Feb 7, 2015 - by Gilbert

Family and Friends,

This week I got a car from the area office for the first time - driving here is even more frightening than in Guatemala City.  We used the car to get some Mexican papers.

Here when they take pictures they say you can't smile.  So I got these cards.  Maybe I didn't have to look sad!

First is my Mexican driver's license.  Then my INAPAM card.  It shows that I am over 60 and lets me ride on the Metro free and get big discounts at museums and archaeological sites.

Lower left is my permanent residency card and then my national ID number.  Many people say people from Mexico marry a US citizen only to get their green cards in the US.  Because Michelle is a Mexican Citizen I got my permanent Mexican residency.  I've been trying to tell a joke here saying the only reason I married Michelle was to get my Mexican papers.  Some people laugh, but most don't seem to get it.  They just stare at me!  Humor in another language is one of the hardest things.

To get my "old person card" we had to go to a senior center.  They had this interesting statue there.  The eagle is part of the official flag, but not this eagle.

When we went in there they were having a large exercise class stretching with large rubber bands etc.  They were all old people --  "much older than we are".  :)

Every Monday we have a home evening with the missionary couples.  We have a lawyer, doctor, dentist and Intel IT guy in our group.  Last week the lawyer did a lesson on the history of Mexico because it was a holiday - Constitution Day.  They had a panel of 5 of our group born in Mexico.  Michelle was on the panel.  The head of security for the area came with is guitar and he and his wife sang.

The panel answered questions about the history, or I should say tried to agree, on the history of Mexico.

I have attached a short video of the group singing.  I don't know if you can do that in a blog post, but if it works notice the smile on Michelle's face!  (Some one let me know if it works)

Here is the head of security and his wife in their traditional dress.  It was nice of him to come.

This is a package which our daughter Kristin sent to us on Jan 3rd.

It arrived Feb 6.  A month and 3 days, BUT IT GOT HERE.  (I needed a debt card which was sent UPS Express overnight and it got in 3 days - the day they said it would arrive).

We live in an interesting building.  It is a triangle.  They build the buildings on the lot size they have.  This is a Google Earth picture.  Ours is the white triangle building.

So this is what the inside of our building looks like.  Interesting, huh?  But we are very comfortable here.

As I said we had a car checked out from the area car pool and we along with 10 other missionaries in 3 cars went to a national reserve about 3 hours west of Mexico City.  We had to get permission from the area presidency to go.  See the name of the Church on the car.

This national reserve is for Monarch Butterflies who migrate on the East side of the Rockies, some all the way from Canada.

First we drove on 6 lane toll road, then 2 lane, then through small towns on narrow streets, then a dirt road, high up in the mountains.  THEN WE GOT ON HORSES.

Yes, horses.  They had mainly teenagers lead the horse up and down the hill.  We really had no control other than stay on.  The ride was about 30 minutes up and 20 minutes down.

They said these butterflies come here for the winter,  The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation all live about 2-6 weeks.  Then the 4th generation is born, larger and stronger.  They live about 6 months and they are the ones who go north in the summer.  They travel 1000's of miles, often they catch the wind currents.  The same thing happens while they are in the north.  Then the 4th generation there lives longer and are stronger and make the trip back here for the winter - TO THE SAME PLACE THEIR 6th GRANDPARENTS KNEW!  I think that is 6 or is it 8 generations.

The difference in appearance between a male and female is 2 black dots on the male and larger veins on the female.

They had a rope so we couldn't get too close to the clusters, but there are MILLIONS of them.  Those aren't leaves, they're butterflies!

Be bought a postcard that shows how thick the clusters get some times.

Riding the horses was hard on some people.  This man, not a missionary, was in pain at the end of the ride.

Then we had a group picture of the 12 of us.

We ate at a small local restaurant.

Some did not like the simple meal, but no one has gotten sick yet.  The green is from a cactus leaf (nopal).  It didn't taste too bad.

Then some "mariarchis" came to sing.

It was a father and 2 sons.  The little boy is 8 years old.  He kept good rhythm and changed chords.  I asked why he didn't sing and the father said because he had not practiced with them.  The 8 year old wanted a dollar bill so he could see one, but none of us had one with us.

It was a fun and memorable day.

The mission work is going better and better.  I know my Spanish has improved.  I can talk pretty well on the phone with stake presidents.  Michelle can translate missionary recommendations more and more a day.

A spiritual experience has been to watch a man and his family who have joined the church here.  They attended the church for 5 weeks and were confirmed in sacrament meeting.  Then he and his son were sustained to have the AP.  In priesthood meeting they invited the priest who is an assistant to the bishop to ordain the father after instructing him.  Then they had the father ordain the son after instructing the father.  Today the father and son passed the sacrament and the father was sustained as 2nd counselor in the YM.  It is exciting to see their progress.  The light of the gospel is in their eyes.

Love you and miss you.

Dad - Granddad - Elder Sandberg