Monday, April 20, 2015

Day to day mission work in Mexico - Elder and Sister Sandberg

Dear Family and Friends,

It is hard to believe that we are approaching 5 months on our mission.  In mid June we have permission to go to a family reunion in Minnesota .  When we return we will be near 7 months!

We try to exercise every day.  There are 2 tread mills here at the hotel, but they are often busy.  So we went out and bought an exercise bike.  We wanted a good one, big enough for me.  It is QUIET.
I have set a goal to lose 10 pounds before the reunion.  (Any family members want to join me in a goal?)

We also try to read scriptures everyday, together and individually.  By reading when I exercise I have read the Pearl of Great Price, from Genesis to Exodus, and Joshua to Job in the Old Testament and the New Testament now in Romans.  We read the Book of Mormon together.  Can't do this calling without physical and spiritual strength.  I pray that my intellect will be clear and active; I'm not as sharp as I used to be, or I thought I was.  I think I know why General Authorities Seventies are released at age 70.

So many interesting things happen on a day to day bases.  Monday mornings we start the day with a devotional at 7:30 for the employees in the area office.  There is a song, prayer, and spiritual message.  I love the picture out of the window of the room where we meet.  Some mornings it is very clear.

This coming week it is the Area Presidency's turn to do the devotional, and I am doing the agenda.  Michelle will play the piano, and I will pray and our Area President will give the message.

They asked Michelle to get some birthday cakes for those with birthdays.  We had 2 birthdays last week.  This is for Sister Montoya in red, the executive secretary that works with us.  The sister on the left if Daisy.  She is the secretary of the Area President and is excellent in both English and Spanish.

Sometimes on our busy days we don't even have time to go home to eat although we can get there in 5 minutes.  Sometimes Michelle brings us a sandwich from home or buys something close by and we eat in the office.  Here we are eating in the conference room.  Note the computers.  We spend most of our days on the computer.

A long time ago in this area there was a small community far from Mexico City called Tecamachalco.  Now the city has grown up all around this little pueblo which still exists.  We enjoy walking up to it. This past week we did.  I took a picture of the small Catholic Church they have in the main square.

They have a large mural there,  Murals and paintings are a big deal in the Latin Culture.  They also have a large cross there they used for Easter.

They usually put a black cloth on the cross on Good Friday and a white one on East Morning.  Good Friday is a big deal, many businesses closed and schools closed for 2 weeks.

In the Pueblo this man rides a bike up and down streets or parks in the center; then he turns it around and pedals to sharpen knives.  You can see the knife in his hand and the grindstone that he spins.

We buy drinking water.  5 gallons cost $30 Pesos about $2.10 US.

It is hard to lift 5 gallons so instead of a water dispenser where you tip it upside down we use a hand pump.

There are quite a few rich people in this area and  many have dogs in their apartments.  So some people's jobs are to walk the dogs.  It is amazing how many dogs 1 handler tries to walk!  And sometimes the dogs are very large.

In our apartment we have a table with a large glass center.  The other day it developed a crack along the edge and then a couple of days later it broke.  We told the hotel people and immediately they came up and replaced the glass.  It must happen often because the repair man had the handles to take the old part away and they had a spare part which he brought to replace it.

Michelle continues with here 2 Spanish / English classes every week.  She teaches the wives of the senior missionaries and some of the employees in the Church Office building on Thursday and on Wednesday night she teaches in the chapel.

Some of the senior missionaries help.  There is lots of interest in the ward in learning English.  Her class members age from about 12 to 60.  People really like what she is doing.

Michelle loves the flowers.  The bugambillia come in all colors.

This purple bugambillia is climbing up a jacaranda tree.

The jacaranda trees are in bloom all over the city.  Their delicate lilac blossoms are beautiful!

And we love the bread stores.

One of my favorite things is the chance to watch via the internet the weekly meeting of the Seventy from Salt Lake City.  The meeting is under the direction of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy and which ever of the Seventy are in Salt Lake City come.  It is recorded and the Seventy away from Salt Lake City can watch it.

They do everything from having the Presiding Bishopric talk about buildings and temporal affairs to the history the Church in Japan to the life of Paul.

The last meeting I observed what was a spiritual thought to me.  One of the brethren told about being called to be a stake president in Mesa for one of the oldest stakes.  After he was called to be stake president he and his wife we sent into the High Council room to think about counselors.  When they got in the High Council room he noticed the pictures on the wall of all the previous stake presidents going back to the very early days of the church.  As he looked at those great men he felt inadequate and said to his wife, "I don't think I can do this."  She just said to him that he better go back and talk to the general authority that had called him, which he did.  He said to the general authority, "I don't think I can do this."  The Seventy then told us he expected the general authority to say something like you can because you will have counselors and bishops.  But instead the General Authority just paused and said nothing.  Then the authority said ,"Well I suppose you can't." And paused again while the newly called stake president truly expected the authority to choose someone else.  But then the authority said, "But the Lord can do it.  You just pray and work hard and you will be OK."

Then the Seventy speaking to us expressed the spiritual thought.  "I suppose there is one thing worse than a person who thinks he can't do the call he has received, and that may be the person who thinks he can" (by himself).

Elder and Sister Sandberg.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Xochimilco Mexico - Apr. 5, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

First happy Easter to all.  We were able to watch all the sessions of General Conference.  It was a wonderful experience.  Somehow being here in Mexico, away from Utah, makes General Conference seem even more important.

Things here in Mexico really slowed down for Easter or for Holy Week (Semana Santa) as they call it. The Church office buildings were closed on Thursday and Friday.

The area presidency returns tomorrow from General Conference.  So things will pick up a lot.

In last Monday morning's devoyional they made mention that we have a new general authority from Mexico, Hugo Montoya.  They said what a blessing and wonderful thing it is for Mexico.  The new GA is the younger brother of the other executive secretary Jose Luis Montoya.  That will be interesting if the younger brother gets assigned here as a member of the area presidency!

Anyway, during the slow week I agreed to get a rental van and driver, and another missionary arranged an excursion for us.  All 14 of us loaded into a van in the morning.

It was a little tight, but OK because traffic was very light.  I should say very light until we got to the exit to Acapulco.  It was JAMMED with people leaving the city for the beaches.  Some say it was taking 3 hours to get out of the city when usually an hour would do it,   And on they way back from our excursion, THE EXIT WAS STILL all blocked up.

For our excursion we went to the Xochimilco (Zo chi  mil co ).  When the Spaniards arrived Mexico City was build on a lake with several islands.  There were canals and boats.

Xochimilco is kind of like that.  It has canals and boats and it is also famous for it's flowers.  Lots of tourist go there.  (xochitl means flower and milco means place--so place of the flowers)

So when we arrived early, there were ALL of these boats.

And the boats went ON and ON.

We arrived early to try to beat the crowds, so it was a little hard to get to our boat.

The boats were all basically the same inside--a long table with chairs.

(OK you folks that know Mexico. are you getting a little lonesome for Mexico?)

The way you get around in it is that someone pushes your boat with a long pole.  The water is about 10 feet deep.

It is pretty hard work.  I even picked up a pole once when we stopped.

It was not very crowed at first, but in the afternoon there were quite a few boats and sometimes they did bump into each other.

Some of the local families brought large ice chests on board.  Some even had grills.  We brought just a few snacks.

But as you move along all of these vendors come up beside to sell their goods.  If you seem interested their man poles them along side you.  This man is selling roasted ears of corn.

This man is selling blankets and table clothes.  Michelle bought a table cloth.

Even some kind of candied apples were for sale.

And entertainment is offered all while you move along.  We paid for some marimba songs.

There were several different mariachi groups playing traditional music.

I will attach a video; see if it works.  It may too large.  They were singing La Bamba.  The Bamba is a dance and it says things like I am not a sailor, but I will be if you want.  To do the Bamba you need style.  Get up and dance.  I am a captain.  Then the 2 men stood at opposite ends of our boat and kind of made up words.  Like I want to be your brother-in-law so you will need to give me your sister!  They weren't exactly on tune, but had great time.

Xochimilco is famous for it's flowers.  Years ago they decorated the boats with flowers, but now they just have the fronts of the boats painted with flowers.  However, we did stop at some nurseries on the shore.

They had MANY MANY beautiful flowers.

And they also sold dolls.

As we went on up the canal we saw interesting flowers on the shore.

And some beautiful homes on the shores line.

And a little further on, some not so nice homes.

The little boy called to us and wanted us to buy some drinks and food from his family store.

When we got off the boats there were many shops.  I sat down in one that had a orange tarp over it; and tried on a hat.  (The tarp made everything orange)

So then we left and all went to lunch together. 

It was a great trip.  It would be a great place to take any visitors. (Want to come?)

Now for a something of a spiritual thought.

The Liahona is the world-wide magazine of the Church.  It includes the Ensign, New Era, and Friend, all in one magazine.  Here in Mexico it is in Spanish and the middle few pages are Mexico specific.   One of the Area Seventy wrote the main article this month.  

This is the author Ernesto Toris; he works here in the area offices.  He is the employee in charge of welfare for Mexico.  Each month he gives the presidency a report about welfare projects, fast offering used, etc.

After I read the article I talked to him before the Monday morning devotional began to learn more about him.

As the article says at the beginning, when he was young man  some members arranged for the missionaries to teach his family.  His father said they did not want to know any more, but  Elder Toris continued to be interested.  He read church material but he had to keep it hidden.

Finally he insisted he wanted to be baptized; the father said no but Elder Toris said "It is my decision." When he returned his father forbade him to talk about the Church to his siblings and gave him anti-Mormon materials to read.

Then he decided he needed to know all he could about the Church, so he attended Seminary and Institute and priesthood meeting and especially sacrament meeting.  He said of the meetings.
"las cuales fueron fuentes de agua viva para mi." (The meetings were fountains of living water for me, a new convert.)
Finally he decided to go on a mission and his father said that was the final straw.  He was no longer going to be his father and he could no longer be his son!

But Elder Toris decided to go anyway.  But then his father softened a little and actually took him to the MTC.

I asked him if any of his family joined the church; he said no.  And now he is an Area Authority!
So a couple of thoughts.  Who knows what will happen with a convert, even a young single man or woman?  The parable of the sower and good soil comes to mind.

Would I be that dedicated to a "new religion" from a "foreign country"?   I guess it just shows the power of the true gospel.

We get to see examples of devotion and dedication often.  It strengths the testimony.

Elder and Sister Sandberg