Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Birthday - Ballet - Cuernavaca

Dear Family and Friends,

It all started with my birthday.

Michelle made my favorite birthday cake - spice cake with camel frosting, as well as several favorite meals.

I was feeling old at 71, until Michelle translated a missionary recommendation for a couple here in Mexico who wants to serve a mission - he is 85!!

It was so nice to have all my children and many grandchildren contact us here in Mexico to wish me a happy birthday.

Michelle asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I said I wanted to go to the National Folklore Ballet with Mexican Traditional Dances.  It is presented close to down town in the Palace of Fine Arts; to see the building is in itself quite an experience.

Done in marble with balconies and everything inside.

In the ballet, they do lots of traditional dances - really well done.

In one dance, a couple ties a bow with their feet.

They have one dance about the Mexican Revolution; the revolution is highly valued in Mexico.

One of the dances is a dancer acting like a deer,  He moves like a deer and then at the end he dies having been shot by an Indian arrow.  Notice the changing backgrounds from one dance to the next.

So pretty!  I love the men's and the women's costumes.

They had some really good mariachis.

I was especially impressed when they had some harp solos.  I think they must have 20 fingers on their hands to play so many notes so fast.  I hope you can see this video.

We went with my nephew Matt and his wife Jessica and son Kai.  It was a great birthday present.

Then Michelle arranged for us to go to a city close by called Cuernavaca. Known for it's nice climate, it is called the city of "eternal spring.  Many rich people have weekend homes there.  It is about 4800 feet compared to 7800 feet here, so was warmer there.  It takes only a couple of hours to get there.

We went with the Area Doctor who went to see the mission president.  While there we visited the Palace of Hernan Cortez, the oldest government building in Mexico.  The conqueror Cortez was made ruler over a part of Mexico as a reward for his conquests and he had this home/palace made.

Not much of a home, if you ask me.  One thing I found interesting, was inside they had some displays saying when the Spanish came to America there was lots of debate about whether it was right and moral to conquer the Indians.  Finally it was settled with it is "OK" to conquer to make them Christians. (Really wanted gold.) This is a baptismal "font" used for water to sprinkle new converts.

One of the things the building is famous for is some murals by Rivera Diego.  There are 2, very large. One shows history of the conquest of Mexico and the other history of the early days of Cuernavaca.  

As is traditional, the mural goes on and on for many feet.  In upper middle of this part you see the slaves building Cortez's house or palace.

In this part they showed when the sugar cane business was big in the area.

The murals were done in 1919-1920. I understand and the US Ambassador donated them to Mexico.

One of the reasons we wanted to go to Cuernavaca was so we could eat at Las MaƱanitas, a restaurant with beautiful gardens.  Michelle ate there when she was a teenager here in Mexico with her family, and she wanted to go again.

There were nice gardens.  It was so peaceful and calm and the air was clear.

And Peacocks as Michelle remembered.

Very nice, but we did have one disappointment.  Michelle decided to try a new meal.  The waiter said it was one of the specialties of the house, taken from the leg of beef, and was called Ossobucca.  ?

So this is what came.

WOW - that is a bone sticking out of the top with a red chile draped over it.  It did not look good and Michelle said it didn't tasted good either.  Maybe if she could have eaten with eyes closed?  Oh well.

So, this week all of the Area Presidency come back to the office after their month of time with their families.  And boy are they going to be busy in August and September!  Two of the apostles are scheduled to visit and of course there is the open house and re-dedication of the Mexico City Temple as well as the Cultural Pageant.

We have not been able to review recommends for new bishops for a month so I am trying to get ready.  Here I am with 45 recommendations and we are expecting 15 more next week.

Now for something of a spiritual thought:

First I enjoyed helping a couple get sealed in one of the temples.  They got married legally first as couples must here in Mexico and then went to the temple, but the temple people said it had been 6 days since their civil sealing and the handbook said if they didn't come in 3 days they would have to wait a year to be sealed.  We checked the handbook and all it says is in a country where a civil marriage is required first, the couple must come to the temple as soon as is practical or they must wait a year to be sealed.  I ended up calling the temple department in SLC - there is no 3 day rule.  They have discussed the word practical with the first presidency and they have decided practical is the right word.  So in the end the temple department called the temple president and got things taken care of.   It was nice to help the couple out.  In the end it is the individual members that really count.

Oh, and I observed a meeting for 3/4 of an hour with the top leaders of the Church in Mexico trying to meet the guidelines for the Church and get a place for a small group, not even a branch, of members to have their meetings. 

Finally, you may have heard that a missionary serving from Mexico in Costa Rica died in his sleep. We spent some time helping the family fly to Costa Rica to get the body; it would go quicker to get the body back if they were there.  Our fellow executive secretary went to the airport to meet them when they came back to Mexico.  One of the Area Presidency met with the family before they left, and one of the Area President attended the funeral and brought back this report.

When the missionary left, at the airport the mother shouted to the departing son, three times, "Hurrah for Israel, Hurrah for Israel, Hurrah for Israel!"  This is like Brigham Young and his family when the apostles left for English in the early days.

At the funeral, they had the local missionaries come and sing and he said everyone gave great talks.

Here is a picture that was on the chapel doors when people come in.

The flags are from Mexico and Costa Rica.

The sign says, "Mission Completed and a Grand Hurrah for Israel."

The 24th of July is not a big deal here, but the history of the Church and the faith and dedication of many of the Saints here in Mexico are very much as strong and as alive here as they were among the saints on July 24th 1847.

Elder and Sister Sandberg

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Good memories - Veracruz - Supreme Court spiritual thought

Dear Family and Friends,

We often receive comments about how hot it must be in Mexico City.  Wrong! Here is a recent weather forecast.  It is typical now in the rainy season to have rain every afternoon.  Note the highs at 70 and the lows in the 50's.  We have been here 7 months and have yet to see 90 degrees.  Very pleasant weather in Mexico City!  Occasionally we have to use air conditioning or heating.

Last year Michelle organized a reunion in the Mormon Colonies for her graduating class from the Academy - class of 1964.  Some of the graduates live in Mexico City and did not attend so yesterday 5 of them got together here.

I just loved watching Michelle chatter away in Spanish about the early days with these former students, especially as they looked at some old class pictures.

I must say I learned some things I never knew about the Academy, what the students did, and some things about the teachers.

For you familiar with the Mormon Colonies, can you recognize some of the students.  In the picture below, the one on the left attended all 12 years of school with Michelle.  It is Gloria Perez-Torres.

I did think about what a friend of mine said once, "I went to a class reunion and all of these old people showed up!"

Good memories!

Another good memory:  We heard from the district president in Belize where we served a mission that they were having a devotional by a visiting authority and he gave us the link to watch it.

So we connected to the link and they were setting up for the meeting, so Michelle called the district president on Skype on her computer and they could talk to us via the link on my computer. Here is Michelle on Skype to Belize.

Here is the district president talking back to us via my computer and the broadcast link.

They carried the camera and phone around and we could talk to members there before the meeting.  So wonderful to see and talk to them!  WOW don't we engineers do amazing things?

Good memories!

The senior missionaries were approved to take a temple trip to Oaxaca Mexico but there was a recent election here, and there have been many protests where they block the roads, and have had to close the airport there, and sometimes even the temple.   The protesters block the roads and they are lead mainly by the teachers' unions in reaction to a major new law which takes away many of the excessive privileges, some actually illegal, they have collected over the years.

So we drove 6 hours to Veracruz on the Atlantic coast instead, leaving Thursday a.m. July 2nd.

We attended 2 sessions which were completely full requiring extra chairs.  I really enjoyed it.  I think I kind of took the temple for granted in Utah; going to the temple was so easy.  Michelle and I have many good memories about our time serving in Guatemala.  It hardly seems real now, all that has happened.  I guess we just take the experiences as they come.

Good memories, though.

When we left on Saturday morning we saw 5 buses at the temple - they would be very busy that day with their only one room in which to start sessions.

After going to the temple Thursday afternoon, we all (18 senior missionaries) went to a well-know seafood restaurant to eat.  It was fun and the food was good.

It sits right on the beach and we enjoyed the view.

The man on the right with his phone is the area doctor.  Where ever he goes, he might get a phone call about a sick missionary.

The beach right there is not much, but it was nice to be close to the ocean with my dear wife.

The next morning we went to our second session and then went to the waterfront to look around.

Big ship there.  We think the one in the back is an oil tanker.  There is lots of off shore oil produced in the area.

We decided to go to an aquarium there, see some of the local fish.

These fish below have a flat part on their heads that they use to latch on to larger fish which they said was beneficial to the larger fish because it cleans it's skin.

And they had more than fish.  See the Macaws which sat on my hands.

(Not really, on my hands)

On the waterfront they had some interesting art, like these large heads on their sides or upside down.

The brother who drove our car loves Dairy Queen and knows where they are, so we stopped by one.

Later we made a special effort to get Michelle a shrimp cocktail, which she loves.

On the way down we stopped to see and eat in Xalapa and on the way back we stopped in Puebla, a large and nice city, 4th largest in Mexico with about 1.5 million population.  They are famous for their Talavera, a kind of pottery.  So we had to do some shopping in several of the many shops.

Michelle bought one that said, "Bienvenida a la casa de los abuelos." ( Welcome to the House of the Grandparents.)

Personally I kind of liked this one.

It says, "In this house lives an adorable woman and a grouchy (or messy) man."

In Mexico it is common to say welcome to our humble home; please feel like it is your house.  Or we might say, make yourself at home in our humble house.

This one says, Welcome to this humble house, which is not humble and is not yours!"

Disney characters were for sale everywhere.

We had heard about a special meal there which is available for only a couple of months when this special large Chile is available. The dish is Chile Enogado: the Chile is stuffed with meats and fruits with a special sauce poured over it.  It is garnished with parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds.

(It may be special, but I didn't like it).

Meanwhile back at the office, we are catching up on some things since July is a month of home leave for the general authorities.  In July, only one of the presidency comes into the office.  They still do email and talk a lot on the phone.

August will be very busy.  We have an orientation meeting with the 8 new mission presidents, an area council with the 19 Area Seventies, and the open house of the soon to be re-dedicated Mexico City Temple with several VIP days.  We will also have a week-long visit from another apostle.  In September we will have the cultural event and actual temple re-dedication, which we expect will include a visit by a member of the first presidency and several other general authorities and wives.

All of these things take MUCH planning and preparation by the people in the area office.  We help put together the agenda and travel plans for the area presidency for all these visits.

However, they still find time for fun.  One department has a crazy sock day once a month.

Well, enough already, now for somewhat of a special thought.

The Supreme Count of the US has voted 5 to 4 to make gay marriage legal all over the US.  I have thought a lot about that.  What does that mean for me, my family, the Church, and my country?  And what does it mean for other countries who tend to look to the US.  Should I move somewhere?

As I was concerned about that, I took note of the following when reading the July Church magazine Liahona. in a article by Apostle Cook taken from a talk called Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness given at the BYU Women's conference in 2014.  Elder Cook talks about an experience he and his wife had in San Fransico with some of the same concerns years ago, an area which has been a leader in the area of gay activity.

"My wife, Mary, and I had these concerns as we were beginning to raise our children in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, USA, in the late 1960s. The Latter-day Saint population was relatively small. But while the vast majority of people were wonderful, the Bay Area had become a magnet for drug usage and all manner of promiscuous and sinful conduct.

"The change in society was significant enough that a concerned stake president asked the leadership of the Church if he should encourage Church members to remain in the Bay Area.  Elder Harold B. Lee (1899–1973), then a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was assigned to address the issue. He explained that the Lord had not inspired the construction of a temple in our area only to have the members leave. His counsel to us was simple but profound:

1. Create Zion in our hearts and homes.
2. Be a light to those among whom we live.
3. Focus on the ordinances of the temple and the principles taught there.

We cherished Elder Lee’s counsel and tried to follow it in our family."

So this is my response to the court decision. 

We say to ourselves, our families, and others.
- We follow God's plan for families and happiness.
- Some people use tobacco and alcohol, but we don't.
- Some people watch pornography, but we don't
- Some people live together unmarried, but we don't.
- Some people marry people of the same gender, but we don't.

We strive to:

1. Create Zion in our hearts and homes.
2. Be a light to those among whom we live.
3. Focus on the ordinances of the temple and the principles taught there.

As President Hinckley use to say, "Things will work out."

We love you and miss you.

Elder and Sister Sandberg