Friday, May 22, 2015

WOW good things happening - Sandbergs in Mexico

Dear Family and friends,

We are just about to finish up with a 10 day area review visit to Mexico by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Craig C. Christensen one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy.

It is a wonderful experience, but generates lots of activity here in the area office.  I will talk about that visit more in a later post.

First a little funny experience.  In the meeting of the presidency they were talking about a building which was in a place called Lo Mas Verde (The most green).  I kept wondering where this most green place was.  Finally asked the other executive secretary, and he said they are talking about Lomas Verdes (Green hills).   I thought it was kind of funny.

One of the senior missionaries works in a mission office and taught the priesthood lesson at Church on flooding the world with the Book of Mormon.  He says he orders about 500 Books of Mormon a month so if you take that times the 34 missions in Mexico times 12 months that makes 200,000 copies of the Book of Mormon a month going out from the missions a year.  That does not count what the members do on their own.

Recently I was able to watch a talk by an emeritus Seventy reflecting on what he had learned.  One of the things he mentioned was how important unity is.  He said, "Sometimes you may be prematurely right."  Meaning you may see something in your ward or in the Church that needs to be improved, but it may not be in your area of responsibility.  But with a little patience, it will be taken care of by the Lord, and we should not get ahead of our leaders.

I also heard another talk by a leader who had been told in his patriarchal blessing when he was a young man that he would see the return of the lost 10 Tribes of Israel.  He said he was recently in Russia and was in a meeting of about 70 members in a remote part of Russia.   When asked how many had received their patriarchal blessings about 35 raised their hands.  In that group of 35, in their blessings stating their linage, all the tribes of Israel were mentioned.  Interesting times.

I love it when all the different committees, youth, church education, temple, missionaries, etc. come to report to the area presidency.  The welfare committee recently reported their efforts to help people here in Mexico have a better income.  One of the senior couples goes out and helps people in the remote area to get animals and gardens of their own.  They don't give money but help with seeds and plants and often help the members get help from government programs they didn't know about.  I enjoyed some of the pictures they showed.

Happy to have some chickens of their own.

And turkeys

They say rabbits are good to eat and that they multiply quickly.

They are helping the members, and non-members, get seeds and learn how to have gardens.

This effort follows the principle of our welfare system; we should help people help themselves.  This helps preserve self-esteem.  To just give things to those who are capable, encourages dependence which does not lift them.  Of course for those unable to do things, that is different.

I enjoyed the report from the Self-Reliance Committee.  Self-Reliance is an initiative by the 1st Presidency for areas outside of the US and Canada to help the members be better off economically.  It is new but is getting going in Mexico.

Each stake is to have a self-reliance center, kind of like a family history center.  In fact in most places they share the same room and use the same computers.  The self-reliance centers form interest groups.  They have manuals, videos, etc. to help them.  Here is how the groups are growing.

The self reliance centers are also job placement centers as well as training centers.  Here is a slide about people using the self-reliance centers.

So in 2015, 223 people have come in looking for jobs, 367 asking about additional education which can include Perpetual Education Fund, and 1004 want to start there own businesses.  I may have mentioned before how amazing these numbers are.  I think if these classes were offered in the US where I have lived, the number wanting to start their own bushiness would be the smallest group! Difference in culture I think.

The First Presidency has asked that we give priority to five groups in the Self-reliance Centers.  Here is a report so far.

We also get reports on buildings,  There is a big effort to have good meeting places for members but at lower costs.  This is called the Meeting House Priorities program.  For example we are looking more at renting buildings for chapels rather than buying land - very expensive in parts of Mexico - and fixing them up.  The cost is less.

Here is an example of a building that the Church signed a 10 year lease on.

These are some pictures of the inside.

After the remodel.

And the inside.

All of this supports the Area Plan put together by the Area Presidency with these statements.

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.

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. 

People are very excited about Mexico being more self-reliance, meeting our own needs, and helping the Church in other parts of the world.  The programs of welfare and self-reliance, and managing the cost of buildings will help all that to come about.

One of the committees that reports is the youth committee.  This time they talked about the Especially for Youth (or sometimes called Strength of Youth) events they have.  It reminded me when we helped organize and put on the first EFY for the youth in Belize.

This is when each group chooses a name and makes a flag and a cheer and they are judge for best.

I can remember the talent night we had in Belize.  This is in Mexico with a native dance.

Oh yes, and the favorite food night; there is always a Pizza night.

And finally this is Samuel with Elder Smith, one of the senior missionaries whose calling is hep organize these youth events.

Samuel told Elder Smith of an experience he had.  Elder Smith wrote it up in Spanish and I translated it to English.

Here it is, maybe we should call him Samuel the Lamanite.

Testimony and Experience of: Samuel Silva Cruz from Juchitan, Mexico

Samuel was sitting in a classroom at school during free time before the next class began. There were in the classroom a few students and a teacher preparing materials for the class following.

Samuel was reading the Book of Mormon and during this time the students around him began mocking him saying gross things about reading the book during his free time.

The teacher realized what was happening and asked why they were saying these words to Samuel. When she realized that he was reading the Book of Mormon, she also said that he could not read the book in class.

Samuel replied that they were now in their free time not in a class and there was no reason that he could not read the book.  He stopped speaking and without saying more he continued reading the book. After a few minutes the students began to tease and bother him again, but he said nothing.

When the students finished speaking, Samuel stood up and said something like this, "I let you speak and now it is my turn.” He said that the Book of Mormon is the most important book he had read in all his life. He said he had a strong testimony of the book and it changed his life. He testified that Jesus Christ spoke of his visit to the Americas, and here was a book that everyone should read. "

After that he sat down and there was not one more word said during the leisure time, and a little later the teacher and students left until the hour of his class.

We say, "Very good Samuel.  You did very well, you were a very good example in your school showing much patience and love for your fellow men."

April 2015 - The Guardian Mexico

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Meetings and Meetings - Sandbergs in Mexico - May 3, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

It is hard to believe that it is now  May.  We have been on our mission for 5 months!

Today we will write about meetings.

Every three months we have an Area Council meeting with the the Area Presidency and the 19 Area Seventies.  This is like a stake presidency and a high council meeting.

EVERY, I mean EVERY, participate has his computer or large tablet.  The two executive secretaries propose the agenda, arrange for songs and prayers, and over 3 months collect any agenda item the presidency mentions during the 3 months.  We sit up front and drive the projector for all the slides or videos presented.  The next meeting I will be in charge of the agenda and driving the computer - a new experience for me.

We always meet in the same Marriott Courtyard Airport so the travelers from all over Mexico can fly in and walk right to the hotel for the meeting.  This time they took a picture of the group.  Some of those who read our blog will know some of the people in the picture.  I have divided the large picture into 2 parts.

Lower left is our area president - Elder Benjamin De Hojos, to his right his 2nd counselor Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela R. and to the right Miguel Tenorio the Director to Temporal affairs, and brother to Nelson's former mission president.

Below, lower right is 1st counselor Elder Paul B. Pieper who knows my brother David well.  David replaced him as mission president in St. Petersburg Russia.  To his left is Hugo Montoya, newly called General Authority and brother to the other executive secretary, Jose Montoya.

One more to the right is Lester Johnson from the Mormon Colonies and upper right is Stan Martino, church employee from the US and area lawyer.

Readers of our blog - do you know any others?

We also had a mission presidents' seminar with the 34 mission presidents, their wives, the area presidency, and some others from the area offices.  We stayed over night in the same Airport Marriott but the meetings were in the Aragón mult-stake center next to the temple.  Michelle came and attended all the meetings and did some translating from Spanish to English for the wives who do not speak Spanish.  There was plenty of good food.

Same routine, the executives secretaries up front.  Just as the meeting started the screen of  the other executive secretary died.  We were really scrambling.  During the meeting one of the area presidency said, please put up on the screen the song - The Family is of God - in Spanish.  "We want to sing it".
We had no warning so I found it on my computer, put it on a thumb drive, and we were able to put it up and everyone sang it.

One of the reasons I really wanted to serve a mission in Mexico is for Michelle.  I knew she would LOVE it.  And as I sat and watched Michelle talk to everyone and laugh and smile it was just what I hoped.  We met MANY people who knew Michelle, her family, and especially Dr. Hatch.

Here are some of the people we met.  President and Sister Gary Wesley Wagner.  We know both of their parents.  He is the son of Kenyon and Leona Wagner from the Colonies.  Kenyon was a director of the Academia Juarez when Michelle was in school there and then was the first director of the Benemérito church school here in Mexico City when Michelle's family lived here in the 60's.  His wife Lori is the daughter of Mitt and Valoy Smith who were president and matron of the Guatemala Temple when we were called there to serve as a counselor and assistant to them.  Good people!

Below are two sisters who are both wives of current mission presidents.  Their maiden name is Lyons.  They were born in Idaho but have lived in Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato, most of their lives and are married to local men.  What a surprise it was to learn that they knew my brother Robert and Sharon!  In fact, they used to babysit their children when they lived in Celaya and Robert was the seminary teacher of one of them.  They hugged us as if we were family.  It was a lot of fun to watch them enjoy being together; one is serving in Culiacán and the other in Yucatán, across the country from each other.

This is President and Sister Ramos of the Torreón Mission.  We wanted a picture of them because some of our friends from Utah, the Southards, have a daughter serving in their mission.  They say she is an excellent missionary.  She is good friends with some of our grandchildren.

We attended our first stake conference in our own stake here.  We drove about 20 minutes to get there.  The meeting was broadcast to 2 other chapels.  One of the speakers gave a good talk about how the gospel spreads.

His children have started junior high where many jokes are told about Pepe, a kind of dumb cartoon character.  The joke goes - one day the teacher told the students the next day would be an important test.  Pepe forgot to study.  The next day the teacher said to Pepe, today is the important test.  What is the first letter of the alphabet.  Pepe, unprepared, yelled Aaaa, and jumped out of the window.  The teacher looked out the window as Pepe fell and said, "Pepe you get a 10 on the test."

Anyway, the speaker had people hold up little paper people on a stick representing Pepe who joined the church, and then his wife, and their children, and in-laws, and some friends that joined the church, and the children and grandchildren of all, and then some ancestors for whom they did temple work.  Everyone on the stand was standing up holding several little paper people. It reminded me of my parents joining the Church and how many people that brought into the Church.  I took a picture.

That Sunday afternoon we were were invited to dinner by some relatives of Michelle.  The husband works for Chrysler in Mexico and they live on the 17th story of one of the many tall apartment buildings here.

They have great views out both sides of their apartment.

Here is Michelle holding their precious little daughter Chloe.  Michelle misses our grandchildren.

This is Kimberly and Lauren (daughters of Michelle's cousin Rodney Bluth) and a daughter of some friends.  Kimberly just graduated from BYU.  Lauren is married to Eric Otto and Chloe is theirs.

Eric specializes in making chocolates.  How about this huge bar of chocolate?

Eric made some delicious truffles, plus we dipped fruit, crackers and pretzels in the chocolate. Yum!

Our hosts, Eric and Lauren, in their home.  They will be moving back to Michigan this summer.

It is fun to do things with the other missionary couples.  Eating out is a frequent activity.

I wanted to do something nice for Michelle for Mother's day and start early.  She said going shopping and not rushing would be great.  She needed some things. So we went to one of the nicest malls; we had not shopped there before.

Those familiar with Mexico will recognize Liverpool as one of the top of the line stores.

Inside it goes ON and ON with 4 different levels!

And what did I see for sale in this top of the line store?  Converse tennis shoes just like we wore to play basketball 55 years ago!

In the mall, they have an ice skating rink.

Yes it was pricey, but hey we are actually spending less here than at home.  And besides it will be for Mother's day.  She is a GREAT mother and grandmother.  One of the best, don't you think?

Generally we are having a good time.  But we have had some challenging times.  When Michelle gets 30 new missionary recommendations on a Monday and many have to go through extra medical steps or go through the legal department, it is a challenge.  She often feels overwhelmed.

My big challenge still is speaking Spanish.  The other day at one of the meetings while sitting at the table eating, I tried to participate in the conversation and one of the area presidency could not understand what I was saying and had to ask someone else.  I have noticed that the presidency has started talking to me in English?

The other day I was reading in 2 Corinthians 4 and took note of these verses.
8 - We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.
9 - Persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed.

and then

17 - For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Things are looking up.  Michelle has pressed her request and with the approval of the area presidency another senior missionary sister will come into our office and help her a couple hours each day.  The new sister will start by checking the missionary recommendation forms and printing off a couple of the pages of each.  Some days that can take most of a morning.

I just remember I have many more months here and God has sent me here and will help me in all areas.

Well, I guess that is the spiritual thought.  Sometimes we need to say: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair."

Oh, one thing more.  Today I was fasting to do better at Spanish, and as I prayed mid-day I had the impression, "Why do you get up and study!" So I got out the manual from my Spanish class and studied when to use the article el "the" in Spanish.

Maybe there is an important spiritual thought there as well.

Elder and Sister Sandberg