Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas 2014

We hope that everyone had a good Christmas and we wish you the very best in the New Year!

Our Christmas was a little unusual this year, in several ways.  Gifts were not so much a part of the day.  We spoke to all our children, and seeing how the grandchildren were excited for Christmas was fun for us.  We had a progressive Christmas dinner with the other missionary couples that serve in the Area Office, as well.  We all serve in different capacities but we live in the same building, so Christmas was a great chance for us to associate with our new friends.  We also thought of our many friends throughout the world and how grateful we are for their association and friendship.  Naturally, Christmas also gave us a chance to reflect often on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his great mission on the earth.  His birth, life, and atonement is the greatest of all the things that has ever happened on the earth and we are so grateful to have that knowledge firmly instilled in our souls. 

While I was preparing for the Christmas dinner, I was baking some cookies.  It was the first time I did any baking in the little oven we have in our apartment. As I was taking out the last batch of cookies, the oven door fell off!  Craig had gone out for a walk, so our neighbor came with some duck tape to keep things in place until something can be done about the oven after the holidays. In Mexico, pretty much everything is on “hold” during the Christmas season, until after January 6.  So we are without an oven, for the present!  I really haven't felt much like baking since our arrival, anyway, but not having an oven makes it seem worse. Since virtually everyone is on vacation, it will be well into the New Year before we can use the oven again.  In the meantime our two burners will have to do. (Eating out is also a very good option)!

We had the opportunity of attending a wedding reception on December 26th.  The Manager of the Self-Reliance Office in Mexico, who we work with closely, is an Area Seventy, Elder Netzaualcoyotol Salinas, and one of his sons got married. (Everyone just calls him Netza, for short!) The wedding was actually performed in the Salt Lake City Temple on Dec. 22, and the reception was planned to be held here.  The bride’s family is from Costa Rica but had lived here for a number of years because the dad works for the Bayer chemical company. So, the bride and groom met and knew each other here. Now, they both are attending BYU and started to date, and the rest is now history.  The reception here was a really fun event.  We arrived there a little early and that gave us the chance to help set up the table decorations. There was an MC, short speeches by both the fathers, and music and dancing! We were served freshly cooked tacos for dinner and they were yummy.  We had a great evening chatting with and getting to know others in attendance and are happy to see two exceptional young people start off life together.

Both last week and this current week are slow times in the office, due to the holidays and so many of the area office employees taking vacation. So, we have had the opportunity to see some new things in Mexico.  Saturday, Bonnie and two other missionary wives went to a nearby open air market that is popular, for the first time since our arrival. She found the fruits and vegetables there to be really fresh and much less expensive than in the stores.  She hopes to be able to go there often in the future.  The market, known as the Tianguis market, reminded Bonnie of other vegetable markets around the world that we have been to over our years abroad. 

Well, that about wraps it up for this installment!  We truly wish you all much happiness, health, and success in the New Year.  May the Lord bless you in all of your endeavors.  We enjoy being in this service here in Mexico, and pray for much success for the good people here.

December 18-20 we were able to travel to Veracruz and attend the temple there.  Mexico City Temple is closed for renovations.  We did a little sight-seeing as well.  There will be more information about the trip later.  But here are a few photos.

At the old Spanish fort near the port of Vera Cruz,   It used to be used as a prison, and for storage, as well as a fort.
Bonnie at the fort.
Craig at the fort. 
 Us at Vera Cruz Temple
 Vera Cruz temple.  It is a small temple built of White marble.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Getting our feet on the Ground

We hope all who read this had a great Thanskgiving.  We had a very enjoyable time with other Senior Missionaries and the Area Presidency and their families, with all the fixings of  a traditional meal. As usual, we went away well satisfied with both the food and the interaction with friends, all of us away from home.

By now, we have had some time to get settled into our apartment and our missionary work.  We will elaborate on each a bit today.

We live in an apartment-hotel that is across the street from the Mexico Area Offices.  That makes it convenient for us to get to the office and back each day.  It is a small one bedroom apartment, but adequate for a missionary couple.  We have internet and TV to keep us entertained, when there is time for it.  The hotel has a small gym, with two treadmills and 2 spinning bikes, so we can exercise if we can get there when someone else isn't using it.  The same goes for the washers and dryers in the basement. There are 3 washers and dryers that are home grade, not commercial. We are able to use them after 6 p.m. and before 7 a.m.  Everyone in the hotel can use the washers and dryers so it is hit or miss if they aren't being used during those hours.  I think we have found a time when we can use them, Thursday evening.  But we have to be there right at 6:00 p.m. or will lose out. Sometimes the dryers get over-heated and shut off automatically before the clothes are dry, so we wait until the dryers cool down and then hit it again!  The dials on the washers and dryers are so worn that they hardly turn washers on, and with the dryers they don't work at all! You just have to push the start button. and hope for the best! For transportation, we primarily take taxis everywhere nothing is really close except the office and the distances are too far to walk, especially if carrying groceries or such.  We are grateful taxis aren't too expensive.  There are a few Area Office cars that some of the missionaries use and they are kind to give us rides when we need them. Perhaps later we will feel up to driving to favorite shopping locations ourselves, and request a car from time to time.

What we are doing in our calling, however, is much more rewarding, and is really the reason we are here, of course. We are assisting with the administration, throughout the Mexico area, of the Church's Self-Reliance Initiative. This initiative is managed directly under the First Presidency and, so far, is only active overseas. It is a new initiative that has taken the place of the former Employment Centers and includes the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) within it, as well. It is basically a whole new approach to assisting people to become more self-reliant in every aspect of their lives, with emphasis on temporal as well as spiritual self-reliance. It has been active in Mexico now for basically one year and a lot has been achieved. For example, in that time, 95% of the 265 stakes and districts in the Mexico Area have a self-reliance center located in the Stake Center. The program shares space and equipment on alternating days with the Family History Centers. Getting this effort to the point that has been achieved has been a daunting task, but the Mexico Area Presidency has been behind it 100% and see this initiative as the primary means through which the Church in Mexico can become self-reliant, in a literal sense. That is their goal.  We are establishing the data bases and other means for tracking a number of important items, for example: the stake specialists, service missionaries, and volunteers who serve in each of the 260 S-R  center, hours of operation; all the S-R equipment in the centers;  and so forth. We will also be updating and keeping current the Area Office webpage and Facebook page and helping the Area S-R Director and Operations Manager (the only two Church employees in the Area Office who manage the effort, in organizing the weekly web-based meetings and other duties as they come up. So far Craig has done a number of translations that were needed very quickly and Bonnie has used her computer skills to create charts and tables for collecting and reporting data. We will include more about the S-R initiative in following posts, but for now, we close by stating that Self-Reliance will help the members, as well as nonmembers who seek assistance, obtain employment, become self-employed, or provide education or skilled training that can lead to good employment. Once people can adequately provide for themselves and their families, they will be able to serve in the church to a higher capacity, and will not be worrying about where their next meal will come from. Again, this initative is almost world-wide, Outside the U.S. and Canada) but our focus is in Mexico.  The goal for Mexico is to be totally self-reliant in just a few years.  We are excited to be part of that.

We look forward to seeing for ourselves how the results of this program bless the lives of the people of Mexico.

We would like to share this link with you this Christmas season.  Let us not forget the real reason for celebrating Christmas. Our love to each of you!!!


At Palacio de Bellas Artes to see Ballet Folklorico
 Chapel in Northern Mexico City
 Our Apartment, we are on the third floor
 At a Stake Self-Reliance Center