Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Traditions and enjoying Mexico

Dear Family and Friends,

Traditionally in Mexico Christmas gifts were not given on Dec. 25th by Santa Claus but on Jan 6th, the day of the Kings.  Traditionally this is when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem and brought gifts to the baby Jesus.  I think more and more now in Mexico things are moving to a Dec 25th tradition.

One of the traditions in Mexico is to eat a special bread on the day of the kings.  This is called Rosca de Reyes.  It looks like this.  They say the round shape represents the kings searching for Jesus.

They say the figs, cherries, dried fruit, etc on the bread represent the jewels of the wise men.

The secretaries brought some into work on the 6th, all the stores sold it,  and the senior missionaries had it here in the hotel.

Pretty tasty.

Inside of the bread is usually a little plastic doll. Being inside it represents the protecting of Mary and Joseph of baby Jesus, and they fled to Egypt for protection from King Herod.  (Sometimes there is more than one little doll).

Michelle got a doll this year, so we had to provide Tamales on Feb 2nd.  That is the tradition.  Here in Mexico they are wrapped in corn husks.  They are made with corn meal and usually have meat and chile (hot peppers) inside.  Sometimes they are sweet and made with pineapple or strawberries.  They are steamed in large pots to cook them and served hot.  

Traditionally you drink a hot a drink call Atole when you eat tamales.  We had quite a spread at family home evening to celebrate - fruit, etc.  Fun.

 I don't know if I mentioned this tradition.  In the office there was this nativity scene set out.

Then we noticed that baby Jesus was missing.  Someone stole the baby.  BUT then on Christmas day the baby was back in the manager scene.  The tradition is that he arrives on Christmas eve!

In December the other executive secretary, Elder Montoya and his wife, left and so we and the new couple are trying pick up everything thing.  One of the big things is the area plan.  I am so inspired by the vision statement of the plan.

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.

So part of my responsibility was to send the 2016 version of the plan to all the temple, mission, and stake presidents and the Area Seventy.   Well, I didn't send out the most recent copy.  I had to do an update.  That was to about 300 people, kind of embarrasing.  And then we had a transmission to all those leaders and who ever they wanted to invite.  This was the scene as we were getting ready.

I met a stake president the other day, and he said, "Oh, Elder Sandberg, the man with all the letters."

I have really enjoyed the weather; cool evenings and warm sunny days.  One day we could even see from the office building the two famous volcanoes, with snow no-less.

And it gets down into the 30's, not freezing but there has been frost on the casino roof outside of our window.  (Yes, our hotel is next to a casino.)

Sometimes it is cool in the office.  This is our only heat,  But it is enough.

And when the sky is clear, we get great views--like this sunrise.

So this is winter here, mid February, and yet on the way to the office what what do I see?

VERY, VERY rarely do we see green grass anywhere at this time of year.

During the day, and even in the evening as it gets dark, we can see this tennis court out our office window on top of one of the big buildings!

I was surprised to see this on the side of a milk carton we bought.

You could register and win tickets to the US Superbowl.  I went to a dentist to get a cavity filled.  He lived in LOVELAND, COLORADO, as an exchange student!  Anyway, his son flew up to Denver to watch the final play off game there!  I am afraid the US has a huge influence on Mexico.  Supposedly one Mexican President said years ago.  "Poor Mexico, so close to the US and so far from God."

On fast Sundays all the senior missionaries get together for a meal after our church meetings.  Our numbers are growing.

Every mission president BEGS for senior couples.

For Valentine's Day I got the best car from Uber - Uber Black and we dressed up.

We went to a nice restaurant and talked about 50 years ago when we were dating.  And roses.

A big deal here was the visit of the pope for 5 days.  Big crowds.  This is outside the Basilica where they have the cloak that the young man Juan Diego wore when the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Guadalupe, appeared to him and put her image inside the cloak.

Huge crowds along the roads.  This is what the cloak looks like.

This is the most Catholic visited site in the world and the internet says the 3rd most visited religious site in the world.  The pope went inside and sat in front of it and just meditated for about about 15 minutes.  Some of the Cardinals on the outside of the window got tired and sat down.  This is him as we saw on TV, meditating.

The same weekend an apostle and one of the 7 presidents came to do an area review of the Church. The apostle said our area president should accept the invitation to attend a reception with the pope instead of traveling with him.  There were like 500 people at the reception in the presidential palace and maybe 10 or 20 non Catholic leaders.  The Vatican is technically a country.  Here is the symbol of the 2 countries on the invitation.

 I thought it was pretty neat.  The president of Mexico hosted the event.

We had the chance to go to the Anthropology Museum yesterday.  Just a couple of interesting things our Mormon guide showed us.  An early Spanish priest asked some local native Indians to draw up a picture of how their ancestors got here.  This is what they drew.

They said their ancestors came across in boats like caves; they said they were tight like a dish. This is their picture of their ancestors coming out of their boats. Then our guide read to us from Ether 2: 17.

 17 And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.

Then our guide said, maybe it is just a "coincidence."

This part was called the smiling displays, everyone seemed happy.  The guide says the women has on an apron and some kind of head covering.  He said notice how she is holding her hands.

He said there are MANY stone boxes found in Mexico and Central America, like this one.  Some were VERY large.

I can see this being a box like the one that Joseph Smith opened.

Then he showed us a gold plate they had found.  He says it is not pure gold but an alloy that the ancients made that looks like gold but was much lighter, like easier for Joseph Smith to carry.

Then he quoted from the testimony of the 8 witnesses: "which have the appearance of gold."  We call them the gold plates but the 8 witnesses did not say they were of gold.

It is fun when we have visitors from SLC and they speak to an employee devotional in the area offices and they like to shake our hands.

Now for some type of Spiritual thought.  This is what I used for my spiritual thought in the meeting of the Area Presidency.

My thoughts are from this scripture.  Alma 37:6-7.

6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
 7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.

I emphasize these last words: “and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.”  Note VERY SMALL.  Two experiences to share.

One of the visiting authorities told us this experience.  His wife always cut his hair, but when she died he needed a barber.  He looked up the cheapest haircut, $6.  He went there and sat down a chair and got his hair cut.  He got the card of the barber and made appointments for return cuts.  One day when they were alone in the shop, the barber said he wanted the authority to know he used to be a member.  He had been excommunicated for child abuse.  He said he was discouraged and had given up, but he had decided to go see his bishop.  As time went on the barber was re-baptized.  After about 6 years the barber died and the authority was on assignment and could not attend the funeral, but later he went to see the family who thanked him for going to get his haircut by their father.  It had helped him get re-baptized and helped the family in getting back together.   The authority said, “This shows someone up there loves you.”

Here in the hotel where the senior missionaries live we met a man from Monterrey living in the hotel for a time while he works in Mexico City.  Some missionaries exercise with him in the mornings and Michelle invited him to attend Church.  He wanted to go in English so we were getting ready to walk up with him at 8:30 in the morning.  As we were getting ready, I thought maybe we will decide to go to the meetings 9-12 in English and maybe we will stay for the Spanish meeting starting a 1:00.   As I was going to the door, I thought maybe I should take something to eat, so I turned around, and put a granola bar in my pocket.  Our friend attended sacrament meeting, sang the hymns, and partook of the sacrament.  After the meeting he was invited to stay for Sunday School.  He said he would like to stay but he not eaten any breakfast, his stomach hurt, he wanted to know if there was somewhere he could buy something to eat.  (There are no stores close to the chapel).  So I took out my granola bar and said “As I was leaving this morning I felt inspired to put a granola bar in my pocket.” I took it out, he ate it, had some water and stayed for SS where he made some comments and agreed to let the missionaries teach him this evening.  Who knows where it will lead?

VERY SMALL THINGS – choosing a barber, following a prompting to put a granola bar in the pocket.  But the scriptures says “by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.”

My thought; we better always be ready to respond to promptings, even for very small things, or so they seem.

Hope you enjoy the post.  We always like to hear from you.

Elder and Sister Sandberg

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