Saturday, May 28, 2016

No hay quinto malo - The fifth time is never bad

Dear Family and Friends,

Someone here in the office asked me if we would serve another mission.  I said that would be our 5th. He said that here in Mexico we say "No hay quinto malo." (in English) "The fifth time is never bad." Well, it is not the time to think about a 5th mission.

We expect to do this last post on the blog before we leave, and then a summary after we get home. We arrive home next week.

First I want to do something I have wanted to do for a long time - a little geography quiz about Mexico..  Without looking at the answers below, answer to yourself these questions.

Which is further North, Dallas Texas or Tijuana Mexico?
Which is further North, Miami Florida or Monterrey Mexico?
Which is a longer flight  from Mexico City - Tijuana or Salt Lake City?
Which is further North, Mexico City or Miami?
Which is further North, Mexico City or Cancun Mexico?

Then look at the answers
About the same
About the same - 4 hours direct flight
Mexico City

Kind of amazing.

Anyway, we got to go to the National Congress of Mexico. They call it the Chamber of Deputies or House of the people.  The Church here is helping organizing a Non-Governmental Organization to advocate for religious freedom and the family.

They had their first meeting in the building where the National Congress meets.  The Nation Senate meets in a different building.

Here Michelle and I are entering the building.

You can see the building in the background.  Then this is what the building looks like on the other side.

Always being interested in politics, I really enjoyed it.  This is one of the halls inside.

We didn't go where the deputies have their official meetings, but to one of the rooms in the buildings.

They were so well organized; 5 different religious leaders spoke,  They were openly against gay marriage and were very pro-family.

This says the first meeting of legislators and interreligious councils.  Below is the Church's director of public affairs being interviewed by some press.

Below is Elder Dallin H. Oaks; he was the main speaker.  All the speakers were introduced by a deputy from the Congress.  Elder Oaks was introduced by one of the leaders in the congress who is a member of the Church.

Afterward they served us a nice buffet lunch, and we ran into some people who know Michelle's family, like happens everywhere.

This is Marco Antonio Flores who was my brother John's classmate at the Church school Benemérito, and is close friend of the Wagner family.  His wife is the sister of Elder De Hoyos, our area president.

Oh, we had a talent night at our Senior Missionary FHE.  I wiggled my ears and played the boogie woogie on the piano.  (Not at the same time)

One of the missionaries, Elder Longhurst, played the saw.  Check out this short video.

One Mexican Mother's day - 10th of May - we were awakened by a group of missionaries serenading us, singing a traditional song, Las Mañanitas, and the group included the saw!

Rainy seasons is approaching.  We do have rain and hail.

We also went to visit Sara Osnaya Flores.  When Sara was 13 she went to the Colonies to go to the Academy.  A mission president here at the time made arrangements for 13 youth to go to the Colonias, learn more about the Church, and learn English.  Sara lived with Michelle's family for two years and later stayed with other people until she graduated.  Michelle's mother taught her to play the piano.  Here she is with her children.

Since she played the piano when she returned home, she has often played in church and all of her children play the piano.  Boy did they treat us great - wonderful meal! Like good Mexican hosts, they could not have been more gracious and kind and considerate.

They had a special basket for the ladies; that is Sister Longhurst with them.  And they also gave a large bouquet to each of the ladies.

Then we went to what they said was the first church built in southern Mexico.  And Sara's brother showed us many pictures of the early days and the first missionaries.

Including a picture of Michelle's Aunt Reah who served there years ago as a young missionary.

We do have some fun FHE times.  Onc the lesson was on being childlike, and afterwards we played some games children pay.  This is Michelle playing jackets.

And the Elders playing marbles.

We have been working on our "bucket list", things we decided we wanted to do before finishing the mission.  We went to the World Trade Center - Mexico.  It is a revolving restaurant at the top of the tall building that turns all the way around in an hour.

They made Michelle's salad table side.

The meals looked like this.

This is how I got my pina colada ice cream.

And now we are training our replacements, George and Judy Sloan from Mesa, AZ.  We picked them up at the airport.

Because Mexico City is very crowded and land is expensive, to expand the roads costs too much to go wide, so to get more traffic lanes, they go up--two story freeways.

And the final thing on my "bucket list" was to visit Chapultepec Castle.  This castle is on a hill in Mexico City.  The name in Nahuatl and means grasshopper hill.  They say the Aztec kings liked to leave the crowded center of their city on the island in the middle of the lake and come to this hill which was outside the city.

The Spanish leaders used it and Maximilian, emperor of Mexico set up by France, used it as his palace, and some Mexican presidents used it also  They say the Chapultepec park that surrounds it is the largest city park in the world.

e approached the park by going through the monument to the 6 children heros of Mexico.  The castle, which can be seen in the background, was used as a military academy during the Mexican - American war in 1846.  The US military entered Mexico City, and when the US was winning the battle for the castle one of the teenage cadets wrapped himself in the Mexico flag and jumped from the castle to his death to save the flag.  5 other cadets jumped and now the 6 cadets are heroes.  Thus the 6 spires in the monument.

This in on the outside of the castle.

This is one of the rooms which has a grasshopper in the stain glass window.

Many of the rooms are like this.

There have been many remodelings over the years.  This is now kind of a sun room, with some of the Greek Goddesses depicted.

Personally, I like the gardens and being with my wife, she is kind of a modern beautiful goddess, no?

Then we walked through the Mexico History Museum which spirals down with many displays.

  This is the display of the Battle of the Alamo.

I really enjoy history and politics.

As I said, the name Chapultepec means grasshopper.  Well a few days later one of the couples that went with us to the castle brought me this, sauteed grasshoppers!  As we have said, we need to think of a mission as an adventure, so I ate one.  Salty and crunchy.  OK, but won't buy any to eat.

Well in summary, we have had a grand experience in Mexico.

When I (Elder Sandberg) came I had some expectations

1) Michelle would really enjoy it in Mexico.  That has been FAR better than I thought.  She has just loved being in Mexico, talking Spanish, meeting people,  SO MANY people know her family the Hatches and Lunts.  AND THE MORMON COLONIES - We have 8 anglo couples here in the office and in every couple either the husband or wife has an ancestor that lived in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico where Michelle is from.

2) I expected to enjoy working as an executive secretary to the Area Presidency.  That has been everything I expected and more.  I have heard about the very best things happening in the Church in Mexico which brought tears to my eyes.  But I have also heard about the very worst things happening in the Church in Mexico; that brought tears to my eyes too.  Glad, very glad, for the experience.

I understand my wife and Mexico better; that is good.

And finally, my testimony that God directs His work is stronger than ever.  I am inspired how sincerely and continuing the Area Presidency acts on directions from the First Presidency.  They take that direction as very important prophetic direction.  I wish I had done that more as a Church leader.  And I am inspired watching the presidency make decisions.  Sometimes they kind of go around and around, but then the inspiration comes, they make the decision, and they are always all in agreement.

This is the Lord's work, He can do and does do His work, sometimes I think in spite of us.

We love our family and friends and look forward to arriving home.

Elder and Sister Sandberg
(It will be sad to put away the name tags.)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Historical sites and Visitors part 2

Dear Family and Friends,

We had the chance to visit a town about 2 hours north of the city called San Marcos.  Some of the very early members of the Church were baptized there.  Michelle visited there when her father was mission president 62-65.

First we stopped in a small town call Conejos - which means rabbits.  I don't know the origin of the name, but some of the early members build most of the chapel there using local stones.


This is the side of the building.  The building has been upgraded over time, but the original rock is still there.

Inside the building is the same rock, and above the chapel door you can see they have some stones in the shape of rabbits.

Look at the black stone on the lower left just about the white ledge with the black sign.  From that black stone the first stone to right is a rabbit, a reddish color.   Along the ledge from that rabbit, the second stone is another black stone.  Above that is a second rabbit, also reddsh.  Interesting.

There are 4 wards in that little town now.  We just asked around until we found some members who went and got the key and let us get in.  They have a big, beautiful, modern stake center there also.

Then we visited an archaeological site in Tula.  It is very much a desert in this part of Mexico.

It is famous for it's large statues.  To notice the size, see the people in the picture.

They have lots of carvings of snakes eating skulls.

Some people speculate it represents the feathered serpent so common in carvings here.  Some members think it represents Christ and these carvings represent Chris overcoming death.

They had some big buildings there with many columns, reminds me of some buildings in Europe.

Then we sent to San Marcos.  Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales were early Church leaders there who were shot by revolutionaries in 1915 when they refused to deny their religion.  Elder Montoya who served with us in the Area Office is a descendent of Rafael Monroy.  We have met many Church members who are descendents of these two men.  They had a big reunion in San Marcos last year for  descendents of the two, 2015, 100 years after they were shot.

Michelle remembers visiting San Marcos several times and eating with the family, the Parra family, who lived above this store in San Marcos.

Sister Parra was a daughter of Monroy.  Benjamin, her son, was an assistant to Dr. Hatch was he was mission president.

They have a nice chapel there, built in 1951.

With an interesting door post.

And an interesting window in the chapel.

There have been many good and faithful members in Mexico for years, and now good members, multi-generational members.

AND we were very glad to have our daughter Kristin, husband Tyler, and children Tanner and Lindsey visit us,  Her 2 older children did not come, one is on a mission.

They climbed the pyramids and did many of the fun things we have put on our post before.

As we were visiting sites, as often happens, a young man came up and wanted to talk.  As part of his class at school to learn English they have to ask some questions to a North America.  Here is a  picture of a young man asking his assigned questions to the Pruetts.  Like, "Where are you from?" "Do you like Mexico?"

This time we had lunch at the pyramids, in a cave.  Nice cave.

I am STILL blown away, even after seeing it several times. by the National Folkloric Ballet.  Now they start the program with the drums.

Our seats were just back of the center aisle, as part of the program they come out in the audience and dance in this aisle.  This video will show you the energy in most parts of the program.

It was fun to be with the grandchildren in this very large city,  Tanner wanted pictures of the traffic.

In the National Anthropology Museum there a large drawing of how they think Mexico City looked when the Spanish arrived.  It was on a island.

We read once that when the Spanish arrived they wrote things like, We have with us soldiers who have visited the greatest cities in the world, like Paris and Constantinople, and nothing was is as grand as this city.  And Cortez conquered it with several hundred soldiers.  He made allies with the tribes that the Aztecs had conquered who helped him, and the Aztecs at first thought Cortez was the Feathered Serpent God who had visited the Aztecs years ago and had promised to return.  So they did not fight at first. 

On the Mexico flag is a picture of an eagle with a serpent in his mouth perched on a cactus.

In the museum they had a large stone with the symbol of the eagle.  The story about the eagle is a very important part of Mexico history.

Can you see the eagle in the stone.  The story, legend, goes that years ago the Aztecs were looking, wandering around, looking for a new home and their "prophet" said where they found an eagle on a cactus with a serpent in it's mouth, that should be their new home.  They found that eagle on the island in the middle of the lake and that became there home and eventually they ruled most of central Mexico.  

However I am reading this book, almost finished, en Spanish.

It says the Aztec came from the North, Tula, where we visited and they originally arrived to be warriors for a local war lord and they did so well he gave them the island as a reward, not too good a place, needed boats to get there but the Aztecs built causeways.  The Aztecs were good warriors and started conquering their neighbors and later their former employer, the war lord.  Then to justify their conquering everyone, they invented the eagle story to justify their conquering, it was the will of the Gods.  Kind of like the US  Manifest Destiny if you remember that part of US history.

We also visited the National Cathedral in the main square.  Very large with several altars inside.

And for the first time we visited some of the ruins of the Aztec pyramid that the Spanish tore down to build the National Cathedral.

This picture is on top of the ruins, and you can see the current cathedral in the background.

They said that Hernan Cortez, the main Spanish conqueror, himself laid the first stone of the National Cathedral in the 1500's.

In these ruin  was a image of the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl.

And then we did something that is on my "bucket list" something I have wanted to do before leaving Mexico, visit the Presidential Palace, which is there on the main square.  The President does not live there nor does he come there except for special occasions.

This is a picture, not mine, of the outside,  Below the flag on the 3rd level is a balcony where the president leads the nation in the grito - cheer.  Viva Mexico - Hooray for Mexico.

This is what it is like inside.

It has many very large murals painted by the famous painter, Diego Rivera, telling the history of Mexico.

WOW, lots of detail.

 This one shows in the background the Mexico City of the Aztecs.

And we got to visit the old parliament chamber.  Notice how it appears like a European design.  Those are seats, two rows, along the edge of the room.

Later we actually got to visit the current Chamber of Deputies, the house of all Mexicans, as they call it, but that will have to wait for a later post.

I wanted to go up to the 3rd balcony, overlook the main square, the Zocalo, where the president speaks, but tourists were not allowed up to the 3rd level; is was a very interesting visit.

Then all too soon it was paletas, and the Pruetts were gone.

Well, time for a spiritual thought.

Supposedly President Hinckley once said that if you are unhappy with something going on in the Church, just wait awhile.  It will get better.  Don't know if he did say that, but my thought is based on the concept.

A few months back the Church had a broadcast for all the mission presidents and then a broadcast for ALL the missionaries in the Church.  You could read about it in the papers.  The theme of the meetings was Preach Repentance and Baptize Converts.

Recently I was in a class where the question was, what is repentance?  These were some of the responses.  In Mexico repentance is when you get married so you can get baptized.  Recognize, remorse, repent to authority, restore the wrong, repeat no more.  Repentance is what happens in the bishop's office, and we good guys wanted to stay out of there.  In Mexico repentance is when you go to the priest, confess, and he tells you what to do - often includes a certain number of prayers to Mary - and he tells you when you are forgiven. 

Where is Christ?

I was "unhappy with something going on in the Church" but not being in charge I "just waited awhile" and sure enough "things got better".  One of the points the instructor was planning on making was repentance is all about Christ and the atonement and daily repentance by everyone and taking of the sacrament.  It is all about Christ. 

So, my thought is if you are unhappy about something that is going on in the Church, wait awhile, it will get better.  It may not get better there in the same the class, but give it a little time.  We are all imperfect and God is working with all of us, or as it says in the Book of Mormon, aren't we all beggars before Christ?

Elder Gilbert / Sandberg / Dad / Grandpa

(I am not saying anything about going home - don't want to get trunki)