Sunday, March 29, 2015

The adventure continues in Mexico, March 29, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

As our grandson serving his mission in Tahiti says, the days go by like weeks, but the weeks go by like days.  Things are flying by, we are coming up on 4 months here.

The sad news this week is a change in the use of church cars from the Area Office car pool.  We used to be able to check them out for personal use, but no more.  So it is more walking or public transport. O well, we can take a taxi to a SupeRama market 3 miles away for 30 pesos which is about $2 US!

Michelle is teaching some of the sister missionaries Spanish classes here.  Her class approach is to get Spanish and English speakers together and have them work as companions to learn the other language.  Well, they asked her to start a class on Wednesday night for the local sisters in our ward who want to learn English.  Then some men started to come and today in Church they announced everyone who wants to learn English can come to her class!  It is really growing!

She gave a great talk in church today about helping family and others come closer to Christ.  She prepared and prepared and fasted and it was great.  As a visitor said, “She knocked it out of the park”. The visitor was a Cluff who had spent the summers in the Mormon Colonies when he was young and could name Michelle’s brothers and sisters and said he knew Dr. Hatch very well.  On a regular basis we meet people with a Colony connect.

My wife does her class and her talk and everything so well.  I just hope when she enters into the Celestial Kingdom that God will let her turn around, extend her hand, and bring me in!

I said in an earlier post that part of my job is to help control the time that the various committees take when they come in to make their monthly presentations.  Here for interest is a picture of the balls I use.  I put up the green when they start, and then yellow, and red.  It continues to work really well.  The presentations used to always go over.  Now many end early.

When the general authorities get back from general conference we will have what is called an Area Council where in the area presidency will train the 19 Area Seventies.  (Some will change but I can’t tell you who until it is announced).  We will go and stay overnight with them and we take a box with us that has manual, paper, etc. and a satellite phone.  This is in case of a major disaster and we lose electricity, phone and cell phone service, then the leaders in Salt Lake and Mexico could still communicate.  Part of our job is to charge the phone battery.  So just to learn I took it up on the roof and made a phone call.

I am impressed how often the Area Presidency communicates with the leaders in SLC.  Almost everyday on the phone.  And then we have video conferences often.

I told you a taxis is not expensive.  I try to get flowers for our apartment and Michelle often.  About $3.50 for a dozen red roses.  Pretty nice.

It is fun to have the local missionaries over.  In this picture on the left is Elder Goodrich who is from the same area where our son Jonathan, wife Sharon, and family live.

Don't the missionaries look great!  I mean the two on the side!!!

The normal eating schedule here is a very light breakfast.  Then about 9 a larger breakfast or brunch.  They bring various things into the area office and many of the workers go there and eat.  Then about 2 is the main meal of the day.  Then they eat something light in the evening.

So the Elder ate the main meal with us at 2:00.  We have had the sisters over also.  The Elders eat a LOT more.  It is always so inspiring to be with the young missionaries.

Check out these men working on some overhead wires.  Earlier several of them just held the ladder while he climbed up.

Then once he was up there they just left the ladder leaning on the wires.

We really love hearing from home.  So much is going on in the lives of our children and grandchildren that it is hard to keep up.

Our grandson Spencer Sandberg lives in Lindon, Utah, and recently participated in a “spirit” day at school.  At the end they would choose one young man as “Mr. Viking”.  He attends Pleasant Grove High School and their mascot is a Viking.

They had to make a poster, do a dance taught by the drill team, dress in a spirit outfit and answer questions, and then end in formal dress.  Here are some pictures.  (Excuse me while I brag a little)

At the end the announcement was made – and the winner of Mr. Viking who will soon be taking his talents to Russia – Spencer Sandberg.  He will leave this summer for his mission in Russia.

So I hope the following will be a bit of a spiritual thought.

There are MANY blessing and opportunities in our callings.  We see and hear amazing things.

Every week in Salt Lake City they have a 70’s meeting.  This is conducted by the 7 presidents and all the Seventies in SLC are invited to attend.  It is recorded and the Seventies outside of SLC can watch it later.  We usually watch it during AP meeting.  WOW!  The presentations are great.

This last week there was a presentation about the Church growth in Japan and how when the mission opened in about 1900 with Heber J. Grant they had very little success and the mission was finally closed.  Very interesting.  Then the full Presiding Bishopic talk about the world wide emphasis on spiritual and temporal self-reliance and how there are now 1000’s of self-reliance centers in the world, outside of the US and Canada.  The goal is to have a self-reliance center in every stake where people can get training on how to find a job, how to get a loan to go to school, or how to start your own business.  Many people here in Mexico have their own small businesses.

What has inspired me in the last couple of meetings is they have talked about self-reliance and helping others.

One of the Seventy who we knew in Guatemala is now in Salt Lake City and they asked him to tell about being willing to help others.  He said when he was a child someone came to his father and asked for money to help with his problem.  His father said, "I have no money to help, but here, take my dining room table and sell it to help solve your problem."  The now Seventy said they sat on their couch and ate their meals on their laps for several months.

He also told of a man in the ward who made money by spreading refried beans on bread and selling it.  If that man was not able to sell all his bread with beans on it, his father would buy it all at the end of the day. He, the Seventy, said he remembers eating bread with cheese every day for a month.

We knew the now Seventy and father when we were in Guatemala.  That made it extra special for me.  But it did make me really think – what am I willing to do to help others????

And finally they showed a video about the life of Elder Sitati, a Seventy from Kenya.  He was emphasizing the importance of working to be self-reliant and the importance of education.  As he talked about his life they had people in the video acting it out.

He said when he was 10 he felt a desire to make something of his life.  He had never left his village in the rural part of Kenya but he borrowed his father’s bike and road hours to another village where he had heard there was a good school.  The video showed a young man – 10 – riding an old blue bike.

When he arrived at the school he went in to talk to the director.  He stool straight like a soldier.  The video showed an older white man with a mustache.  He said he had never spoken to white man before but the white man had kindly eyes which helped him to say that he wanted to attend his school.  All the director said was, "We will see."

He was accepted to the school and Elder Sitati said he thought he should try to be a good student, and he became the best in his class, and that allowed him to get into a good high school and go to a national university.

While at the university he met his wife and also the missionaries and joined the Church.

He wanted to encourage everyone to take action, take control of his own life, and make a difference.
Now he is a general authority.

WOW, I was inspired.  Of course not all of us will do what he did.  But each of us can see something that will make our lives and the lives of others better.

So my message is, let’s get going, let’s make our lives and the lives of others better.  We can do it.

Love you,

Elder Sandberg - Dad - Grandpa

Friday, March 20, 2015

To Guadalajara and Back

Dear Family and Friends,

Our trip to Guadalajara to attend the temple was eventful.  We left Thursday morning and returned Saturday night, and then Monday was a holiday so we didn't go to the office until late afternoon.  But the missionary recommendations keep rolling in. Now we are playing catch-up after missing 3 days of work.

The drive to Guadalajara was pleasant and the weather lovely.  We drove by a large lake.

And took several pictures of it and the nearby fields. Pretty scenery.

These yellow arches were some of the first landmarks we saw in the city. 

We had to hurry to get to the temple in time for a 5:00 p.m. session and didn't get a picture until after dark.

I was delighted to see that the temple president was Gilberto Cerda, one of 5 brothers who served as missionaries when my father was president of the Mexican Mission.  It was great to see him and his wife!

Of course everywhere we go I have to take pictures of flowers.  

We saw some beautiful ones in city parks and even along the highway.

Friday morning we went to a famous market place near Guatemala - Tlaquepaque.  Street scene.

And a picture of some of the plentiful restaurants surrounding a beautiful patio.

And some of the shops.

Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco are famous for their mariachis.  Fun statue!

Also known for their typical colorful costumes.  This was a 3-D mural on a wall of one of the restaurants.

We didn't see any mariachis that day, but we did see and listen to some marimbas.

This store has a clever way of entertaining children while their mothers shopped for beauty supplies inside.

One of the things we enjoyed was sitting in the shade in the central plaza.

We were entertained by watching some guys trimming the trees with machetes.

And this woman was sweeping up the trimmings with a palm frond broom.  I am fascinated by how many people sweep the sidewalks or yards with palm leaves.  They are long and cover a lot of ground.

Most parks have the trees trimmed in shapes:  circles, squares, and sometimes even like animals.

This park in Leon, Guanajuato, where we were Friday afternoon had trees trimmed like gumdrops or Dots.

Also there were many vendors around.  I was impressed by this colorful mountain of balloons and balls.

Look at the size of these pieces of bread!  I think the panadería/bread store must supply giants.

We left Leon about 3:30 p.m. and were supposed to be in the city of Guanajuato where we were to spend Friday night in less than an hour.  Well, it took us over 4 hours to get there!  Near the town of Silao a gas tanker truck had tipped over and blocked traffic going both ways.  We laughed at this sign above the road as we inched our way along at 1 mile/hour.  It says "This road is not for high velocity."  We were very tired when we finally arrived after 9:00 p.m.

Our hotel in Guanajuato, Real de Minas, was lovely and picturesque.  

I must have taken a dozen pictures there.   

We spent a comfortable night and had a delicious breakfast buffet there and also at our hotel in Guadalajara. There is always an abundance of a variety of fresh fruit along with cereals, eggs, sweet breads, and an assortment of Mexican food. 

The hotel was full of arches and flowers.

Plus nooks where where you can sit and admire the beautiful architecture and decor.

It began to rain during the night and rained all day so we didn't get to enjoy the unique city as much as we would have liked.

Since the town is built on hills, it is hard to build roads, so there is a maize of underground streets/tunnels to get around the city.

Another thing the city is famous for is its mummies.  After a person has been buried for 5 years, if the family does not continue to pay rent for a grave-sight, the remains are removed to a large common grave.  However, it was discovered that many of the remains did not disintegrate but were dehydrated or mummified.  

They had not been embalmed but were still preserved by the chemicals in the soil.  Now they have over 100 mummies in a museum near the cemetery.  Not my favorite stop on the tour of the town.

Much more interesting to me was a tour of an old abandoned mine.

Between 1768 and 1804 about 2/3 of the silver produced in the world came out of the mines there.  Note the vein of minerals in the ceiling of this mine. 

There was also gold found in the mines, but mainly silver. Some mines are still in operation.

Some in our party were anxious to get home before late at night, so we had a nice noon meal at a restaurant on the town square and left.  Note the trees here all trimmed to form a hedge.  Guanajuato is definitely a city I would like to visit again. 

In spite of some traffic weather problems, we had a good trip.  Best of all for me was being in the temple.  I miss not being about to attend 3-4 times a month as I did in Utah.  Only being able to go once every 3 months makes it more special.  I especially enjoyed doing some initiatory ordinances in Spanish after our session.  It is the first time I have been able to do it in 8 years, since Guatemala.  We are excited that the Mexico City Temple will be open again in September.  The open house will go from August 14th to September 5th, and the dedication will be September 13th.  I hope some of our family and friends will be able to attend.

Love to all of you until next time,
Michelle / Mom/ Hna. Sandberg  

NEWS FLASH:  We experience our first earthquake since being here this afternoon.  Gilbert and I were in the office alone about closing time and I felt my chair shake a bit.  I looked towards the window and saw the vertical blinds swaying and told Gilbert I thought we were having a small earthquake. Then over the loud speaker the announcement was made that we should go to our safety stations near the elevators.  We are on the 11th floor.  When we got there, many others from our floor had already gathered.  We chatted for awhile and then returned to our offices.   




Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Less pictures and more day to day of the mission - March 11, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

This week I would like to write more about our day to day experience as missionaries - less pictures about things we do out of the office.  This coming weekend we are going to the Guadalajara Temple and stopping on the way back in Guanajuato so will be lots of good pictures next week.

It was exciting this week to have a visit from our nephew, Matt Sandberg, he is the son of my brother David.

Matt and his family have lived in Guatamala City where he works in the US embassy.  He and his wife Jessica and 4 children will be transferred to Mexico City about July of this year.  It will be fun to have some family here.

While Matt was here I was thinking of my father, who left Sweden speaking only Swedish and knowing only the Swedish culture, and now he has a son and grandson married to women with a Latin culture living in Mexico City speaking Spanish.  It is kind of nice to think of how the gospel is going to all the world.  This past week they made a new stake in Jalapa, Mexico.  Of Xalapa as it is often spelled.  Now there are 3 stakes.  Elder Valenzuela started his mission as a youth in Jalapa and there was one branch then!

A couple of good news items.  The USA changed to daylight savings time today, but Mexico doesn't change until April.  That means we are now on the same time as Utah and maybe I can stay up and watch the BYU basketball team plan in the WCC tournament!!

Also the public affairs person in the area office said the movie, Meet the Mormons, in Spanish was the 12th movie in attendance last week, ahead of some Disney movies!  We expect even more attendance this weekend.  Our local ward rented a whole theater for all the young and leaders and friends to go.

Once a month we have committee reports.  These committee come in and meet with the area presidency to give them an update.  I continue to be amazed at the items we cover.  Part of my job is to put us green, and then yellow, and then a red ball to show them how much time they have left.  Here are some examples of some of the things we hear about.

The legal committee talks about land we thought the Church bought on which we are ready to building a chapel.  But now there is some concern about the title.  We have a couple of lawyers in the area office but mostly they contract with local lawyers to do the work.  One time one of our lawyers wanted to brief the AP on an abuse case, and said to us executive secretaries, "Don't go away mad, just go away." So we don't hear everything, but I hear all I want to in this area.   The public affairs committee updated on the movie Meet the Mormons as I told you earlier.  They also talk about news coverage, good and bad.

The missionary committee reports on the senior missionaries about 200 coming and going in Mexico  and about 2500 young missionaries from Mexico in the MTC or in the field.  They had done a survey of the cost for couple missionaries, it is costing more than we think.  The presidency decides what to tell potential couples from Mexico the cost they should expect.

The records department shows the records and attendance and full tithe payers etc. for all of Mexico. They have really good, up to date records.  The area presidency recently sent thousands of membership records back to the wards they came from and asked for help in locating these members. We get a report on how many membership records have been moved to a new ward and how many have come back to the unknown file.

We watch all this and keep track of action items to be followed up on.

The audit committee reports on the hundreds of audit committee that audit the records of wards, stakes and missions.  They tell us they train all new stake presidents and they tell us which stakes are late in the audit reports.  Some times the AP decides to call some leaders.  These people are amazingly competent with a good spirit.

(If you have heard enough, you can stop but I will try to have a spiritual thought at the end).

We also had a report on the self-reliance committee.  Over the last couple of years they been putting in place self-reliance committees in the stakes and districts.  90% of the stakes and districts have them - they are employment centers, PEF resources, and training.  They helped 1000's of people find better jobs, start their of business, or start an education program.

The welfare committee reports on how many people have been helped with fast offering.  The biggest needs are food and medical help.  We talk about a young woman who needs a kidney transplant and help from the Church.  We see the report on fast offering.  The members are paying more fast offering.  In a year or so we might not need fast offering funds from outside the country!

The temple committee reports on the number of ordinances done in the temple.  More and more names are coming locally.  We may not need names from outside the country soon.  The temple in the Colonies often has the best numbers.

Finally the youth committee reports on the 8 or 9 FSY (formerly EFY) campouts of up to 10 stakes that we will have this year.  We hear about young single adult activities and conferences.  And finally their are 100,000's youth in seminary and institute and the number is growing.

Really, after all these committee reports I just sit there amazed.  So many people doing so many good things.

My big assignment last week was to help with the slides (in English) for a presentation the area presidency will make to the 1st Presidency, 12, and 7 presidents by video conference about the work in Mexico.  We had a rehearsal with some brethren from SLC.  They did not like our slides which I made.  Oh well, they used to say at Hewlett Packard where I worked, "Don't get married to your slides, they will change."  So we are working on that this week.

Just to show you it is not just fun times here.  Tuesday I went to the office at 7:15 am, had a break for lunch at noon, and worked until 7:15 am preparing recommendation for new leaders for the area presidency to review.  On my cell phone I listened to the BYU basketball game as I walked home.  (On my computer I watched they lose).

Wednesday I went to the office at 6:45 and came home at 5:30.  I get tired.

Also this week I gave the spiritual thought in presidency meeting.  We are now doing the thought and signing a hymn in English to help the presidency improve their English.

I choose Mark 4 as my theme where Jesus teaches.

 24 And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
 25 For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

As I read that I saw what the Joseph Smith translation says:

JST   and unto you that continue to receive, shall more be given.

I took note of the phrase, continue to receive.  I thought of some who had received, some how stopped receiving and lost even that which they had received earlier.

Sydney Rigdon was an early convert, brought many people to the Church, dedicated the land of Zion. experienced the vision recorded in the 76 section with Joseph Smith and was in the first presidency But somehow he did not continue to receive, was excommunicated, started several churches that failed and lost what he had received before.

I thought of Joseph Smith who received and continued to receive until the end of his days in Nauvoo.

I thought of my mother, a good Baptist girl, college educated who married my father, a Swede with a strong accent who probably only went to the 6th grade because she received a testimony for herself. About 15 years latter when my father died she did not stop receiving, did not go inactive, did not go back to the Baptist Church with her family.

She continued to receive and to serve and went on 2 senior missions, one for herself and one for her deceased husband she said.  She continued to receive until the end of her days.  She was always humble and interested in learning more.

So how do we receive.  I think the fist thing is humility, admit that after all, maybe after many years, we still don't know and understand everything.  We continue to receive though inspiration, revelation, meetings, counsel, reproof, scriptures, reading, and conferences,

We continue to receive as we ask, are willing to receive, write it down  (Elder Scott says) , act, and the ask if there is more.

So let us continue to receive, until the end of our days, least we lose what we once had.

It has taken me a while to get this out, but here it is.  (Michelle has not reviewed it for errors).

I am getting busier and busier, but I enjoy it.  I understand nearly everything in Spanish.  Even some jokes.  Today in the meeting someone told this joke in Spanish.   "Two men were sitting and eating in a restaurant and one said, 'All lawyers are jerks' .  The man at the next table said. 'Don't make that comparison!!' The first man said, 'Oh, I am sorry, are you a lawyer?' The man at the next table said. 'No, I am a jerk'".

Elder Sandberg - Dad - Granddad

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Teotihuacán and Temples

Dear Family and Friends,

On Saturday February 21st Gilbert and I went with about 12 other couple missionaries to Teotihuacán a large and famous archaeological sight about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City.  (pyramids of Moon and Sun in background)

 We had a great guide, a member of the Church one who knew the archaeology facts, plus made interesting similarities to our temples.  

Most people refer to the sight as pyramids, but he said that is the wrong term for the large structures in Latin-American ruins.  The correct term is temple.  They do not come to a point as do the pyramids in Egypt which were used as tombs.  These are flat on top and form the foundations for sacred buildings that have long since been destroyed.  Only the large mountain-like structures remain.  The were built with rock and filled with dirt. 

 The outside of the structures were stuccoed and painted--often red..  All we see now, except for in a few protected spots where you can still see the plaster, are the rock walls.  People would climb/ascend to the top to be closer to God, to worship and commune with Him there.   

The guide said that Teotihuacán means in Nahuatl, "Place where men become Gods."  I looked up the name on Google and found the following possible translations:  "Place of the Gods, Place where Gods were born, Place of those who have the road of the Gods." Our guide said people would come from great distances to learn how to become like God.  It was like a journey or walking along a path that led from mortality to Godhood.  He said people would dress in white. They walked along the road progressing in learning. Even today certain native groups come to the area dressed in white or dress in white in their local areas for religious reasons. The end point of the journey of path of progression was the top of the pyramid of the Sun. 

More information from Google.  Teotihuacán was the largest city in Pre-Columbian America perhaps with a population of 200,00.  It covered about 32 square miles. There were even high-rise or multi-storied dwellings.  Of course not all of it has been all uncovered and restored--only the large religious complex. I don't know how many acres it covers.  It is estimated that it was built in the 1st century AD and was the new religious center and was used for its original purpose until about 250 AD.  During that time the city was the center of Meso-America with an influential culture. It was a multi-ethnic culture probably made up of Nahua, Otomi and Totonac groups.  By about 500 AD it had been sacked by the Toltecs and the religious buildings destroyed.  They and other groups that conquered used the area for their ceremonies and cultural events that were different from the original purpose.  
This is a model of the religious complex.   

Our guide took us along the path that the original founders followed.  The first complex was a large congregating and instructing area.  There are 12 structures surrounding three sides of a large square with 3 larger structures on the east side and one main one in the center.  From the center, one can speak in a loud voice and be heard all over the huge square.  We were told that the walls of the square were covered by instructional murals.  

At the east of this complex is the temple of Quetzalcuatl, the feathered serpent which represented the God of heaven and earth. (Moses put a serpent on a pole-symbolic of Christ.)  
In many Central and South American countries there are different words that translate into feathered serpent, but all of them refer to a great God.  

It is interesting that as you progress along the path of learning, you cross over a river where they did ritual washing. There are several streams in the area and used to be many springs of water, but with deforestation, overuse, etc. most have gone dry.  Today it is an arid place, but apparently it was originally wooded.  

We passed through some ruins that were used for certain ceremonies.  At the end of the journey or road one ends up at the pyramids/temples of the Sun, the Moon and Stars.  Of course, the ultimate goal was to reach the highest level of the largest pyramid/temple of the Sun.  It is said to be the 3rd largest pyramid in the world. 

 Only a few of our group chose to climb it because it is a tough climb up all those stairs--especially at 7,500 feet about sea level. I have climbed it a couple of times before but wanted to do it again, and am grateful I can still do it at my age.  It was an exciting and even a spiritual experience for me to be there.  (At the top)

By the time the Spaniards came on the scene, most of the original truth had been changed or lost and some human sacrifices were being committed.  However, the native people valued human life more than most of the Spaniards did.  At one large temple sight, in Cholula, over 4,000 natives (men, women and children) were massacred by the conquering Spaniards, and a Catholic cathedral was built on top of the temple hill. Some people believe that the Spaniards told of all the native human sacrifices to cover their own bloodbaths. Regardless of the situation of the native people when the Spaniards arrived, there is much evidence to prove they were once a very advanced civilization with knowledge of the heavens, agriculture, architecture, astronomy, construction, medicines, pottery, textiles, etc. There is a beautiful museum there that shows some of these achievements.

This mural on the museum wall depicts some of the history.  Other parts of the mural resemble Egypian figures.
There is so much in the history that coincides with the Book of Mormon.  I believe that Christ did visit many peoples of the Americas after his resurrection and that for a few centuries the different groups were united in peace and prosperity as they lived principles that He taught them.  Won't it be great when some day we understand how all this fits together?  I look forward to that day.
It was also exciting to see a couple of the Colonies in Chihuahua--Eddie and Irene Jones from Dublán. Gilbert taught him in high school the year we lived in Colonia Juarez.

After our tour of Teotihuacán, we all went to eat at a nice restaurant where we enjoyed an abundant buffet.

Please don't think that all we do is eat and sight-see.  We worked very hard the past two weeks, putting in long hours and processing more papers than ever.  But our office work is much the same day after day.  It is the weekends that differ.  But we enjoy our assignments and feel we a making a small contribution in this great work.

Saludos a todos / Greetings to all,
Michelle / Sister Sandberg