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?
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.
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