Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bienvenida!! Welcoming 16 New Missionaries

On Monday we welcomed 16 new missionaries. These days are always a bit chaotic, but filled with great fun.

The day usually begins around 4:00 a.m. when my husband gets up to take the first group of departing missionaries to the airport. (That is the sad part of the day) It takes several trips before all the missionaries are on their way, and as the Mexican missionaries arrive around 10, he and the assistants stay there to wait for them.

I, on the other hand, am at home busily preparing food for the day. By noon Monday we had 9 hungry new missionaries from Mexico in my living room, being interviewed and eagerly waiting for something to eat.
(Most of these elders are only 18)

Lunch consisted of Cafe Rio Pork and Texas Sheet Cake
(A compromise between Mexican and American Food)

 After eating, a few of them tried to catch a couple minutes of sleep. Most had been up since 3:30.

Once interviews and lunch were over (and nap time:-) they were sent off to work with elders in the area and to spend their first night in the office. 

And we headed back to the airport to pick up 7 American elders who were coming in at 4.  It is always so much fun to see the first one come out of immigration. And this elder was actually the first one for everyone on the plane!! But then I learned from his dad that he is first in an even more important way. He is the first person ever with his last name to serve as a missionary for the church!! 
Unfortunately the elder pictured below isn't ours.  He went to the other Guadalajara mission. But we would have kept him! He is from our home stake and we have known his parents for 26 years!
 Here is most of our group getting the thumbs up from Elder M, the assistant.
 We got all the luggage loaded and then headed to our house for dinner--which unfortunately for the assistants who also ate lunch with us, was the exact meal same meal.

As part of the welcoming, I have a quilt I have all the missionaries sign. (Thank you Jean Moore!!)
 And then we eat. However, in the evening I don't have anyone in the house to help me get the food out, and since I was at the airport, everything needed to be done. So everyone was given an assignment. Here Elder M is warming up the tortillas
 While the other Elder M demonstrates how to fill them Mexican style!! See the jalapeños and two bottles of salsa on the end of the counter? They are all pretty hot. The assistants tell the missionaries that if they use one item, it will take at least three months to speak Spanish; two items, and they will be speaking in two months; and if they put on all three, in just a few weeks they will be fluent!
 And then we gather in front of the Tree of Life for a group picture--and to teach them that, Like Lehi,  they are to be partakers and sharers of the fruit.

After dinner and some cultural training, the American elders meet up with the Mexican elders in the office for their first night.

Early the next morning all the missionaries, their luggage and their trainers meet at the church building next to the temple for training.

For the first 90 minutes, the new missionaries meet with me and the assistants to be trained in health, language study, missionary manners, finances, and records. At the same time President Wagner meets with the trainers.

This is an exciting time for everyone. Here a few of the trainers eagerly wait in the foyer.

And here they all are, just before the announcement of who their "sons" will be!!

Following training, it is off to the parking lot for pictures. These are sent to the family members of the missionaries along with a note of where the missionary will be serving. 

After delivering all the missionaries to the different bus stations, we head home, where we crash!!(But only for a few minutes because then we have to start working on our next project.)

We are so excited to have all 16 of these missionaries here with us and look forward to great things from them!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

La Despedida!! You Will Be Missed

Nine of our missionaries received their final mission transfer. Tomorrow, September 24, 2012, 
they will head home.

Elder Jerson Rojas--Arequipa, Perú
Elder Fortino Gonzalez--Atotonilco de Tola, México
Elder Fidel Tapia--Cd. Juarez, México
Elder Jorge Perez--Tuxtla Gutierrez, México
Elder Eduardo Rodriguez--Matehuala, México
Elder Brandon Robertson--Memphis, Tennessee
Elder Marcus Burr---Alpine, Utah
Elder Angel Sánchez--Poza Rica, México
Elder Michael Black--Mapleton, UT

We wish them all the very best!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

To Tecuala!

This past Sunday we had the wonderful opportunity to visit a very small branch, very far away from Guadalajara. Although there are only a few members in this town, we loved worshipping with them and feeling their faithful spirits.

Our purpose in going was to call a counselor and a secretary to serve in the branch presidency. So first off we went by the house of the branch president (who has served faithfully for 10 years) and picked him up, along with his wife (who serves as the primary president) and their four children, one of which is named Joseph Smith. The road to their house and from their house to the church was a very muddy road, dotted with turtles and cows. So in other words, quite an adventure!!

Here is the branch president and his family, along with the district president in our car. Very few people in the small towns have cars so we give a lot of rides. Normally, however, they would either pay for transportation (which is a great sacrifice for poor families) or ride bikes.

When we arrived at the "Casa de Oración" (a house used for "prayer") we found one person waiting there. An investigator. His wife had been baptized the day before and now he was taking the discussions. His wife told me later that the gospel was a great blessing in her life. She was on the verge of divorce when her neighbor invited her to come to church. She went, listened to the missionaries, and knew the church was true. Now her husband is taking the discussions and is a very changed man. It was such an honor to meet her. I am sure she will be a faithful member. (Before leaving, she promised to bring an inactive neighbor next week)

I had to laugh at the missionaries though. Apparently there are very few men in the branch who know how to tie a tie, and so they bring them to the missionaries each Sunday, who tie them for them. I thought Elder H's idea of having a tie tying class was a good one!

Here is a picture of the Relief Society. All the women were very kind and accepting of me, which I appreciated it. And sitting with them in their class was very humbling. I was impressed as they shared their challenges, (which were many) as well as strengthened each other.

The lady on the right was probably my favorite person in the room. She taught the Relief Society lesson and was very direct. Many were called to repentance (for very specific sins) and all of us were challenged to improve. I loved her!!

I also had to laugh at this. When the meeting was over, the oldest man in the room picked up the chairs!! (After a few minutes I asked a couple of the young boys to please help him.:-)

After the meeting while President Wagner was setting apart those with new callings, I went with the missionaries to check out their apartment for both safety and cleanliness. I was thrilled when I saw this jack fruit (Yaka) tree in their back yard!! I still have not had the chance to try it, but it was fun to see it close up.

Finally we returned the branch president to his home and headed home ourselves. But on the way we decided to surprise two additional elders with a quick visit to their little town.

All in all, it was a very fun day.
Next up . . . Mission Tour with Elder De Hoyos!!

Ringing the Bell For Independence!

September 16th is Mexican Independence Day. (I know everyone in the states thinks it is May 5, but it isn't.) At 11:00 p.m. on September 15, 1810  Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest, rang the church bell in a cry for freedom, which marked the beginning of the Mexican War for independence from Spain. Although it would take 10 years before Mexico would actually win its independence, September 15 at 11:00 p.m. everyone in Mexico celebrates "El Grito"and continues to celebrate through September 16.

This year the Lomas Stake in Guadalajara had a big celebration and invited us to attend. We were so excited to go and participate. The night began with a program in the cultural hall that included folk dances from all over the country, performed by the youth and primary aged children. This was followed by food booths and fun in the parking lot.

 Everyone got into the fun, including a bishop (left) and a member of the stake presidency (right)

It was a perfect opportunity for some very good missionaries to bring their investigators!

Each ward had its own food booth. This ward had corn (elote) which they served covered in cream, chili sauce and cheese, or mayonnaise.

Another ward boiled meat in this very large pan and served it in large rolls with chili sauce

Here the Relief Society Sisters work together so serve burritos
 It was a big night, and very well attended
I got a kick out of this picture of the missionaries watching the dance program in the cultural hall. 

 And although the picture isn't the best quality, I loved this one of two little girls, dressed in typical Mexican attire playing on the grass, while their parents ate dinner and visited. 
Not to be out done by our cute sister missionaries!!

 It was such a fun night. We were so glad to have been invited!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wonderful Weekend in Tepic and Vallarta!!

We left early Friday morning to make the two hour drive to Tepic for zone conference #8. When we visited this town two months ago, there seemed to be a lot of discouragement on the part of the missionaries due to some big challenges in the stake, but this time they seemed much happier. There are so many great missionaries in this area and we loved being with them.

Here are a few of the elders visiting after the conference

And they all LOVE to get packages and letters. Emails are good, but they all still want real letters!

Here is one of the new missionaries with his companion. He is still alive Mom!
(And no, the elders did not decorate the ceiling:-)
 And some more pictures of great men. 
 Two of the more mature missionaries, leading the way for the newer ones. 
 These two shared the scripture chase championship. I would have had a tie breaker question, but they were both so good that I thought they should both be rewarded. 
 Another of the newer missionaries with his companion. 
 And the sweet sisters! Love these girls!
Also the one on the left is from Peru and the one on the right is from Honduras. The two in the middle are both from Mexico. 
And all are great. 
 After the conference we loaded up the car and headed to Puerto Vallarta. We arrived around 9 at night, went grocery shopping to buy the food for the next day and then did a quick run by McDonalds. Not exactly health food, but late at night it had to do.

Vallarta is such an interesting place to visit. The road to there is narrow and winding and made me a bit sick to my stomach.

But I loved passing all the fruit stands and had to get a picture of the jack fruit in front. It is the large fruit hanging from the rafter that looks like a giant kiwi. I haven't had a chance to try them yet, but I am hoping to soon. We always are in a hurry when we drive by, or it is on Sunday and so we don't stop. But next month we will be back on a Saturday so I am looking forward to hitting the fruit stands then.

This was the road to the stake center. It had rained the night before and turned the road completely into mud, with a LOT of holes. 

 Here is a little quirky thing about some of the towns in Mexico.
If you want to make a left hand turn, you have to go to the FAR RIGHT lane.
(The one that is separated by the grass median in front of the OXXO)
Then, with a green arrow, you go across all the lanes of traffic to make your turn.
This threw us off a bit the first time!

Here are some pictures of the missionaries there.
For details on what we did at the conference you can scroll down to the older posts. 

 Practice, practice, practice!

The entire zone
Don't they look like a great group of missionaries!

We stayed over on Sunday to attend the Vallarta Stake Conference.
We loved this! The building was packed and all the people we met were wonderful. 

Here is a picture of the front of the building, proudly displaying the Book of Mormon. 
 The missionaries were in the lobby to greet the visitors and provide information to investigators. 
 One of my favorite parts of the conference was this choir. They sang beautifully!
And they sang two of my favorite hymns, "If You Could Hie To Kolob" and "Come Thou Fount"
Next week we are looking forward to a mission tour with Elder De Hoyos, a counselor in the Area Presidency.