Saturday, November 21, 2015

Work - Coyoacan - Monterrey

Dear Family,

The big news on the mission is the pending change in Exec. Secretaries.  The Montoya's, who have been here longer than we have and have been so good to us, have been called to be mission president, and we are working to let them go home 6 weeks early to get ready for their mission in July 2016. They will be Spanish speaking, but they don't know which mission yet.  We have relied on them so much; now we are going to have to step up.  Their replacement couple will be here next Monday, so things are going to really change.

We continue to have new challenges arrive in our office all the time.  A new challenge is that the US used to take 3-4 months to issue a visa for a Mexican missionary to go to the US.  For some reason, it is now taking twice that long.  The missionary department doesn't want them to just sit around, so they are assigning them to do temporary missions here in Mexico.  We currently are making available to the missionary department 7 "slots" in 6 missions close to Mexico City.  But now we are looking for more "slots".  These temporary missionaries, waiting for their visas are a challenge for the mission presidents.  They come on short notice, can leave anytime, if they need to learn English they have to go to the MTC in Provo, and some of the temporary missionaries go to the mission with no MTC experience.  Bless those good mission presidents who take them and train them.

Many of the things we deal with in the area office we can't tell you, so we tell you about our outings.

Some of the senior missionaries recently went to Coyoacán, an area of Mexico City visited by many tourists and locals.  We  went on Oct 31st, Halloween or Day of the Dead in Mexico.  In Mexico they celebrate the Day of the Dead by such things as going to the cemetery, taking the dead relatives' favorite food, and eating there by the grave and singing the dead's favorite songs, etc.  A skeleton is not scaring but funny.  I will show some pictures.  It was interesting to learn about some of the different ways they celebrate here.

The stores sell lots of things for the Day of the Dead like these candles.

And a special bread - the secretaries at work even brought it into the Area Presidency meeting.  It tastes pretty good, light and white, with sugar.  It comes in this size, two hands, or VERY LARGE.

We went to the artist park where we had been before, called San Angel.  This is the first thing we saw.

They decorate lots of things with yellow flowers.  Notice the smiling skull on the wall.

They decorate the churches as well, including the altar.  We found it very interesting to see all of this.

But maybe the most interesting thing I saw was this in a church; notice the skeleton in the middle,

or this, in the cathedral.  The man was lighting candles.

In the stores the attendants were often dressed up.

They often look like "Catrina".  She is a character of the Day of the Dead.  It is part of the tradition to laugh at death.  She is often dressed as a rich and elegant lady, but a reminder that death comes to all equally.

We saw couples there walking around willing to have you take pictures with them. No money asked.

They had a nice church there.  We went in.  Here is Michelle giving something to a man in need.  That is part of her make up, very willing to give to others.  Good lady.

This is a lady waiting to have her child baptized.  I didn't see the father.  When the Spanish came to America they did some really bad things, but they brought Christianity and Christ here, and it is deeply rooted.

The priests came out and talked to her for awhile. They promise to raise the child in the Catholic Church, some take it very seriously.

They he, the priest, walked into the church to the altar, and he sang as he went, a beautiful voice.

We went to Monterrey Mexico last weekend.  The Area Presidency wants to try some large women's gatherings, women's conferences, in Mexico and the first one was there.  The Presidency wanted to be there for the opening Sunday evening and the closing on Monday evening but did not attend during the day Monday so we had our weekly Area Presidency meeting there on Monday.  The Exec. Secretaries went and we paid for our wives tickets and they attended the conference.

Monterrey is about a 1 1/2 hour flight north of Mexico City.  It is a large city, a major center of commerce and technology.  We stayed in the hotel next to a GREAT BIG convention center.  It is located next to a large steel mill that operated from about 1900 to 1960, I think by a German company, who gave the whole mill area to the city if they would use it for the benefit of the city.  The city made it into a wonderful park with a river walk.

They have kept the old ovens and buildings.  It reminded me of Geneva Steel in Orem, Utah.

This is part of the river walk.  Notice the large bucket pouring out water, like the old steel buckets did.

The weather was cloudy with drizzle most of the time we were there.  They say the city is surrounded by large impressive mountains, but we did not get to see them, only a little bit, on the last day.

The first thing we did was attend the Monterrey Temple.  There was a beautiful chapel right there on the grounds.

The temple experience was very good.  My impression was the temple workers were younger than in Mexico City.

Sunday morning we took a cab to the Central Ward meetings, the oldest ward in Monterrey which I think was formed in the 1940's.  The state of Mexico there, Nuevo Leon, has a new governor.  They call him El Bronco - or the bronco - he is an independent, not part of any of the political parties.  He refuses to live in the official residence, a high rent home of a former politician, but lives in this apartment building and walks to work.

Some people say he will run for president.

The chapel is an older one, one long building with dividing curtains.

It was their ward conference so the stake president, Daniel Taylor, son of Dan Taylor from the Colonies, was there presiding.  It was fun to visit with him.  The stake president is acting bishop because there are no good candidates to be bishop right now.

Now to the women's conference.  This was their logo.

It says Fill our Homes with Truth and Light - Women's Conference.

Like I said it was a HUGH convention center with several events going on at the same time including a sex therapist meeting and a Comic Con, a convention where people dress up like comic book or movie characters.  We walked around a little in the comic con area.

Took a few pictures.

It was Sunday, Michelle said she didn't even want to be there.  Some pretty immodest things.

We did check out the conference room which was on the top floor.  They had expected 3000 sisters but in the end put up 4000 chairs.  I think they used at least 3500 of them.

Michelle writing now:  This was a momentous and unprecedented occasion--the largest gathering of LDS women outside of the USA.

It was a beautiful sight, seeing hundreds of sisters pouring into the huge convention room--women of all ages and stages of life.  One thing they all had in common, the light of the gospel in their eyes.

Our visitors from Salt Lake City were Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, and Sister Denise Lindberg (originally from Cuba and Puerto Rico) of the Young Women General Board.
What inspiring talks they gave Sunday night and closing remarks Monday afternoon!!
(I will write more about that in a separate letter.  If you don't get it and want it, let us know.)

Here is Sister Burton with three young women ushers who wanted their picture taken with her.

Sunday night was a general meeting and Monday morning were excellent classes taught to 6 groups of over 500 each.  The huge room was divided into 6 rooms by folding curtains and the presenters rotated.  Then we had a long break for lunch.  Most stakes provided lunch for their sisters, but there was also a buffet for those who wanted to purchase food.  After lunch we were all back together again and a  great song and dance program was presented; it was quite professionally done with the backdrops changing to match the theme of the dances and songs.  Note the famous saddle mountain, landmark of Monterrey in the background.

Following the program was a panel discussion answering questions that had previously been asked by assorted sisters.  And following that were very touching and inspiring comments by leaders and visitors.  The day ended with the large choir of over 100 sisters and congregation joining in singing the theme song for the conference, written for the conference.  There weren't many dry eyes as we all stood and sang together.

The chorus is, "Llenemos nuestro hogar de luz y de verdad; la mano del Señor nos guiará."
"Let us fill our homes with light and truth; the hand of the Lord will guide us." (repeated twice)

I was very impressed by the whole conference; every detail was so well planned, prepared and presented.  It was amazing!  But even before the first session began, I was inspired.  When we entered the building at 4:30 Sunday afternoon before the 6:00 opening we saw sisters entering the building on the ground level and being confused by the sight of many people dressed in all kinds of costumes for comic con.  It was a bit overwhelming, even a little frightening.  But stationed in strategic places were priesthood brethren showing the way to go.  It was easy to recognize them by their suits, white shirts, ties and calm dignity.  They kindly pointed to the stairs and escalators that would take us to the next level.  It seemed symbolic.  Even on the second level there was an interesting mix of crowds--those going to comic con and those going to the women's conference.  The difference was that now most of the sisters seemed to know where they were going.  The crowds divided as those in costume headed towards the noisy music on that floor and those in Sunday dress pressed on up to the third floor. Again symbolic!  On that level, even though the congregation was probably larger, there was a spirit of calm, peace, love and joy.  There were smiling ushers all along the way welcoming and directing the sisters to their seats--much like in the temple.  I felt that not only was I experiencing a momentous occasion, but a sacred one. So grateful I could attend!

This is Gilbert - So that is the spiritual thought - rise up to the upper level.  Leave the dress and cares and confusion of the world..  Follow our leaders.  Not the first level, don't stop in the second, rise up to the 3rd.  Up, up, to the best, the highest.

Elder and Sister Sandberg