Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Christmas and Seasonal Greetings to All!  

May you find joy this season and throughout the New Year!


As we write this Christmas message this year, we are so very thankful for each of you, for your thoughts, prayers and support.  Serving a mission for our church far from home and family is challenging, especially now that we are older. We just welcomed into the family a new granddaughter, Grace Anderson, but we had to do it by Skype! As our family grows and the grandchildren get older, we seem to miss them more and more. We realize that ‘family’ is a very critical part of our lives. We also value friends highly and are so grateful for all of you.  We look forward to being able to see you each again.

We have just less than five months remaining in our mission. The time has gone so quickly for us. We continue to be fully occupied in activities that support the Self-Reliance Initiative of our church in the entire country of Mexico. We work with many outstanding people and feel inspired in the work. It is an initiative aimed at providing support and resources to individuals and families that enable them to improve their temporal and spiritual self-reliance -- the ability to support themselves financially, with sufficient to help others with their time or other resources, as well.  It helps find better jobs for people, helps them get a better education, improve their ability to move forward in their current career, and helps teach principles to assist individuals in starting or growing their own business. It is a very comprehensive program and has had a tremendous impact in Mexico. It literally helps hundreds of people each month improve their lives. What could be a more fulfilling assignment than this?

Our wish is that each of you will have a wonderful Christmas and New Year Season this year, whatever your faith or family traditions may be.  May you be thankful and may you find joy in your life is our greatest hope. 
Craig & Bonnie Anderson
Pictures of us with Christmas trees.
This one is in the office of the Area Presidency

This one is with Elder Salinas and Esteban.  We work with them in Self-Reliance.  The tree is in the devotional room of the area office.


 This Tree is in a Restaurant in Hacienda Vista Hermosa. The building was built in 1529. It was a fun place to have brunch before visiting Tuxla. 
 This is in the visitors center next to the temple.
 This was in the parking lot of the temple.  Interesting tree.  And nearly a full moon
 We visited the temple grounds to see the lights.  We have another picture like this one in the day taken about one year ago.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This wonderful time of year

Greetings on a sunny day in Mexico City. Things have really started to slow down here. Many employees have already started their Christmas vacays and most of the rest will start next week. For two weeks, or even a bit more, little happens in the Area Office in Mexico. Even the Area Presidency is on vacay with family coming to visit, and such. This is the way it is in all Latin America at Christmas. The week of Holy week is the same. No business gets done by the Government, or virtually any standard non-direct service business, because it is traditionally a time for folks to be with family, travel somewhere for Christmas, or stay at home -- but not work.  This is something like our 17th Christmas in Latin America, and it is the same everywhere. Until after the New Year, many things grind to a halt!  Don’t know why I started all this but I am not going to delete it now!

Many of our fellow missionary couples (there are 10 couples of us, at present) have family members coming to visit for portions of the next two weeks. Those of us who do not, are planning a number of things together so that Christmas will be less lonely that it might be otherwise. We ALL miss our family members, for sure, so we will do next best and do things together. And, the senior couples of us who do not have family coming are getting together for dinners and movies and such. So, it will be OK. But, we do miss home and being with family and closer to those we love this time of year. Before retirement we did too, but not the same as now

Our Area Manager (boss) is among those who are gone now and has pretty much told us to take time to “smell the roses”, so to speak. We will be doing things at home, etc. many days, I think, including things for the office. I (Craig) have some success stories I need to write up in English, there is also an interview with a local service missionary to be transcribed. We did the interview months ago when visiting Puebla, and recorded it, but have not yet had the time to listen to it and get it on paper. It is her personal story as a service missionary, and is really a sweet story. We would like to preserve it for ourselves, of course, but also make a nice story of it to send to Salt Lake.

We do have a day trip planned to the old and famous colonial-era city of Tasco for Monday, Dec. 21. It is going to be great! It is a city that is super famous for silver mining, and naturally, the making of silver jewelry and other artifacts. I have personally wanted to go there since I heard about it when I was a missionary here years ago.

It might be interesting for all of you to learn about two nice things that have occurred here recently for us. The first has to do with Bonnie and her work to -design a new website for Self-Reliance Mexico. When we came, there was an existing site, but it was very inadequate and incomplete, lacking a lot of important material and information, and even nice pictures to accompany things and make the site more interesting. Bonnie began taking on this task after getting settled in and getting to know the program well. It needed a lot of attention and work and she has been truly dedicated to completing that task, in addition to the other normal duties she performs. After many hours of design, review by the Area Manager, re-design, re-review, more redesign, and so forth, the go-ahead was finally given. Everything then had to be vetted by the Area Communications Manager. Only specific individuals are allowed to actually upload pages to the internet for the Area, and that took some time, as well. But …. The Website is finally complete and is on-line! You can see the product of Bonnie’s effort at the following:

The other nice thing is that has occurred is that the main Self-Reliance Office, in Salt Lake, of course, has been writing back to me more and more about how much they enjoy the Success Vignettes I send them. I call them Success Vignettes because they are fairly short little stories that highlight some sort of success the SR Initiative has had, or is having, in Mexico. Most of them focus on a person or persons, and they highlight the changes that have occurred in their lives, both temporal and spiritual. So many individuals are benefitting from the courses that are currently being offered. If they follow what is presented in the 12-week courses, and complete the weekly commitments they are supposed to fulfill, they learn many, many principles that guide them to success. I wish I could go into more detail, and perhaps I will in a future post, to really give you readers an appreciation for it. But, we receive monthly reports with many stories of how people have followed what they have learned and how it is making their lives better. So, I pick a variety of these and make a story of them for Salt Lake. It is not obligatory, but is something I started doing early this year as a way of informing the main office about the impact in Mexico -- and they have become quite popular! It has been amazing!

Well, this is perhaps sufficient for now. Of course, there are pictures to follow. And, next week, we will post our Christmas message to all, separate from this post. We pray that each of you is well, and that you have joy in your hearts, particularly at this time of year. Know that we think of you often, and miss everyone, both family and friends.
Packing posters for Christmas gifts for all the Self-Reliance Service Missionaries in Mexico.  Over 600 posters sent

President Whitehead carving the Thanksgiving Turkey.  All the Senior Missionaries were invited to have Thanksgiving Dinner at the Mission Home.
 Next two pictures are of the missionaires at the Mission Home.

 Nursery children painted the stables for their nativity made of popsicle sticks.  They thought it was great fun.  Bonnie has been working in the nursery for about 3 months.













Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 2105 news from Mexico

Time again to let you know how we are doing. It seems we are writing less and less, and we apologize for that. However, things are progressing for us, and time seems to go by more quickly, as well. In fact, some weeks just fly by -- like the first two weeks of this month!  We keep busy tracking success stories and other statistics as we are assigned. And, in the middle of last week, on Oct. 7, we did something totally new and very exciting. More about that later in this report update!  

A few weeks ago we had to change our office location.  We are now located in a real office with windows and a door! We are still on the 11th Floor, which in the building is the designated Pent House, though it is just offices like everything else. But, the Area Presidency and a lot of other office directors are on that floor. We have a super view, too.  When the day is clear we are able to see the beautiful mountain volcanos around Mexico City. It is sometimes hard to make such changes, but we have learned to flow with it and we quite enjoy our new location. 

The self-reliance group from our own ward that we had been helping Elder Salinas facilitate finally had its graduation ceremony, on September 29. There were 12 that started the group and 9 that finished, which is pretty good.  We had a nice little program and the passing out of the certificates -- from LDS Business College, no less! They really like having certificates here, so they were all proud of their accomplishments as they well should be. It was a real effort for the members to keep coming week after week, so to see their efforts rewarded and their businesses improve because of the class was a great satisfaction to them, and to us. Most important of all, they all expressed in their short testimonies that their faith had grown as well.  That was the real benefit of the class. Now, the ward in on the verge of starting a new round so we are likey to be well-involved again. But, this is what we came here to do, we fell, not just sit in an office all day! We get the chance to actually help members in a very direct and impactful way. It is very satisfying.  

The webpage that Bonnie has been working is almost ready to go live!  It respresents the culmination of a lot of work by Bonnie! She did a absolutely wonderful job of getting it all organized, get all the permissions requied for pictures and such, just EVERYTHING CREATING AND PRUDUCING A WEBPAGE REQUIRES! It has a few little kinks to work out.  Why do all these things take much longer than one thinks they should?  But when the final product hit the web, it will be super. We will send a link in the update following when it finally goes live, for you all to see. 

Craig has recently had success in contacting a member he baptized in Tampico in January 1968! It was a young couple, at the time, the Altamira family. The husband passed away 22 years ago. It was quite interesting how locating Sister Altamira came about. She has an unusual first name and almost by chance we located someone that works for the church in Tampico that knows her, and one of her three daughters.  Craig spent some time talking with the daughter and getting more information, then on Saturday, Oct. 10, he spoke with the Sister he taugh and baptized all those years ago! They talked for more than ½ hour on the phone. We have learned that she and her husband went to the Temple in Mesa, Arizona a few years after being baptized, and were sealed. She is now 74 years old and remains active in the church, along with 2 of their 3 daughters and their families.  The oldest grandson just returned from a mission and another is preparing to go.  It was a dream come true for Craig to see that some of the ‘seeds’ that he planted many years ago, have developed strong roots in the gospel.  He continues to look for members he baptized, but just this one has brought him great joy.

Now, a bit about what we did that was special on Oct. 7. Since I previously wrote about the experience to someone else, I am just going to paste that in at this point, so enjoy!

“On this past Wednesday, just 48 hours ago, Bonnie and I were at the office of the Southeast Mexico City Mission. After a tasty lunch of pizzas from Domino’s, (side bar here -- there were about 20 elders around, plus the Mission President and his wife, and we polished off something like 14 or 16 large pizzas!) we gave a presentation to 16 Elders who are going home between now and the end of the year, about Self-Reliance. They were all Elders because no Latin sisters are leaving in that time period.  I had prepared the presentation, all in Spanish of course, specifically for that occasion and audience. Bonnie chipped in, and the Mission President and his wife did, as well, with their real-life experiences. We wanted to help them learn about self-reliance, the doctrine behind it, and the resources that are available to them when they return home soon. They were all Latin Elders. About half were from here in Mexico and the other half from Ecuador, Chile, Dominican Republic, and I think one other country, as I recall. Oh, and one from Spain, too.

The afternoon with them went very well. They were interested, they paid attention and participated with questions and discussion and it was, altogether, a wonderful afternoon. We finished up around 4:00 p.m. and they had arranged for a member in that part of the city, who owns a taxi, to take us back home. Bonnie and I felt so very good. We felt like we had really been missionaries! It was a missionary-like activity, and we taught and shared the gospel and one of the greatest programs offered by the Church today, in these countries. We had sort of thought, before we came here, that we would be performing more service of this type, but it just has not been that way, so far. I think they will invite us again, for a new group of returning missionaries, in a few months’ time, which will be great, and perhaps other missions in this area will also get the spirit and also ask us. Our leader thinks it is great”! 

So, with that little story to end on, we will once again say, “Adios” for now. May the Lord bless you, each and every one, with his love and peace in your hearts and minds. We miss you but are happy in the work in which we are engaged.

Bonnie & Craig
3 pics - Teaching returning missionaries  about self-reliance in the Mexico City Southeast mission.

 Self-Reliance Group Graduation, Palmas Ward - We helped facilitate the course.

Elder Salinas(r) and Raul Campos (l) preparing to hand out certificates at graduation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Temple Rededication and a little more

The past couple of weeks have been full of special experiences.  On the 5th of September we were able to attend a reunion of missionaries from the Northern Mexican Mission serving during 1966-1968.  This is the time period when Craig was there. As you imagine, they were mainly Mexican missionaries from that time in attendance, since we are in Mexico.  Craig and one other person who is serving as a Mission President here in one of the Mexico City missions were the only Americans in attendance.  During 1966-1968, only 8% of the missionaries that were Mexican.  It was a small reunion because it was mainly ex-missionaries from the Mexico City area, and the ones that the organizer knew about. There were about 10 in all attending, plus spouses.  Seven others were invited but unable to attend for one reason or another. It was the first time they had been together since the mission, as a reunion.  They had met each other at different times through the years and a few had worked together. But this was the first time Craig remembers actually meeting them. In those years, the mission was very large with only about 110 missionaries to cover it all, so it was truly impossible for most missionaries to cross paths with numerous others during their two years of service. 

It was a nice afternoon and the reunion was at a stake center next to the temple.  It was the last day of the open house before the rededication of the Mexico City temple, too, so it was crowded.  There were many people who were curious about the reunion and rather impressed.

We had food, took pictures, looked at books President Ruiz had brought from when he was serving his mission, and chatted together and at the end, everyone bore their testimony and sort of told about their family and what they had done in their careers.  Of the missionaries in attendance, there were 4 again serving missions with their wives at the moment.  One was a Mission President and one other had been a Mission President.  One was serving as a bishop and another one, Pres. Ruiz mentioned above, is the 2nd counselor in the Temple Presidency.  He was the person who pulled the reunion together.  We had a nice afternoon and they hope to be able to meet again next year. We will not be here attend the next reunion if they wait a whole year.  We will be home.

Then, this past weekend was the rededication of the Mexico City temple.  For those of you who read this and may not be members of our church, a temple is one of our most sacred houses of worship. The temple in Mexico City has been closed for nearly two years for extensive renovations on the infrastructure as well as some esthetic changes.  They also redid the white wash on the exterior and tried to give it more of an Aztec appearance.  It is beautiful inside. After renovations were complete, it was open for three weeks for the public to see. Now that it has been rededicated only the worthy members can enter.  A member of the Church Presidency, President Eyring and Elder Holland of the 12 apostles of our church were here to dedicate the building.  The night before the dedication there was a cultural pageant which told of church history in Mexico.  It was held in a theater downtown and was very well done.  The story intertwined several stories together which in the end told of how families can be eternal when sealed in the holy temple.  At the pageant, the dancing and singing were super, with lots of folkloric dancing from different regions of Mexico.  The costumes were bright and colorful, just as one would expect from Mexico.  It was a special evening an uplifting message. 

Then on Sunday we attended the dedication.  That was a special treat, as we don’t get to attend temple dedications very often in a lifetime.  Now the temple is again open, we plan to attend a number of times before we complete our mission. We say that only because Mexico City is so large, we live quite a ways away from it, transportation to and from the temple is an issue for us, and so all of this requires time and planning. But, we will make it work. It makes us truly appreciate how accessible the St. George Temple is f4rom our home!

This week, on September 16, (today, in fact!) is Mexico’s Independence Day.  We have a day off work. We were told we would hear lots of loud firecrackers, which can sound like cannons, but we have not, so far, at least.  All the festivities, we are told, actually start on the 15th at about 11:00 pm. The President goes out on the balcony of the Presidential Palace and does the “Grito” (shout), which is “Viva Mexico!” Of course, that means, ‘Long Live Mexico!”  Then all over the country everyone shouts the same in remembrance of the occasion. Then, on the 16th, there is a big military parade downtown. We decided to avoid the crowd, which is huge, and stay home and relax. So many things are closed today that it is difficult to do anything special. Most other holidays, things go on as normal, but not Sept.16, which is like July 4 at home.

So that is what has happened and what is coming in the next few days.  We hope all of you are well and we are grateful that each of you are part of our lives.  It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of 2015. Time goes quickly when we are engaged in a good cause. Our very best to all!
1966-68 Northern Mexican Missionaries at reunion
Pageant scene showing eternal families

Colorful costumes for typical folkloric dance from Chiapas region

Depiction of Christ in American from the Book of Mormon 

More colorful dancing
 Mexico City Temple with Mayan influence

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Past the mid-point!

We have hit the ½ way point of our mission.  Time is moving along. We have enjoyed the work in Self-Reliance and the success of many members is inspiring.  Brother Davis who was visiting last week from SLC reminded us that Self-Reliance is “the way for members to live the gospel in real and practical ways.”  The groups that meet to learn how to grow their business, get a job or get a better education are just tools to help them.  The real blessings come when they exercise faith, are obedient, and preserve to the gospel truths. This initiative to help the members and non-members (we have had several graduate from groups) create good habits will help them temporally but, more important, spiritually.  People of all ages are improving their lives.  That is what is giving us the most joy in this service.

A few Saturdays ago, we visited the ruins of Tula, just about an hour outside Mexico City.  We went with the Stevens and met up with 3 other couples (they are Mission Presidents in Mexico City).  They are relatively small ruins and have the big tall columns, which you have probably seen in pictures.  The tall columns are on top of one of the pyramids, but were originally found down in the main plaza, a sort of “gathering place” at the foot of the temples/pyramids. These ruins are from about 700 AD – 1150 AD when Tula was the capital of the Toltec Empire during its most active period.  It was a nice little flat walk from the parking lot to the ruins, so it was doable.  We even climbed up the pyramids, which aren’t too tall, just quite steep.  Craig needed assistance, of course, but we have good friends who are always willing to provide that.assistance. Here is a little trivia for you from what we have learned so far in Mexico as we have visited several ruins with pyramids. In Mexico they were built, sometimes generation building on top of generation, as places of worship (in the flat areas on top). None are of the size of the pyramids in Egypt, at all, and of course, the Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for the pharaohs. 

Speaking of temples, only this time modern one, the Mexico City Mormon temple renovations have been completed and so this past weekend we attended the open house, which is still on-going. It was a nice experience.  We had our taxi driver with us and he was very interested, so we took him on the tour with us. At the end, he filled out an investigator card and will listen to the message of the missionaries, who will call him.  He wants to take his family to see it.  Mid-September is the rededication of the temple. After that we will be able to attend once in a while.  It is at least an hour drive from where we live and serve, sometimes more depending on traffic (which is the 2nd worse in the world in Mexico City, according to Forbes), so we will have to plan trips to go. Being out at night isn’t what we want to be doing very often, so we will likely plan to attend the temple on a day when we can do it in the afternoon instead of being at the office. It makes us think about how close St. George Temple is to our house (2 miles), which is so convenient when we are back home. 

Now today, Saturday, August 29, 2015. This morning, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, who is here in Mexico doing several things, at present, presided at a grand meeting of all the missionaries in the Mexico City West Mission, which is the mission we technically are part of. It was at one of the Stake Centers that are in the mission. So, we were invited to be there with all the Elder and Sister missionaries. It was a very nice experience, which started with taking a picture of us all, using the stage in the recreation room and floor in front of it. That picture will come later, as we do not as yet have the copy. Then we all met in the chapel for a spiritual meeting. It was a special experience and one we enjoyed greatly. I am certain the young missionaries will never forget it. Several leaders and their wives briefly spoke, then Elder Christofferson. He was pretty informal, said a few humorous things, and also had a question and answer session for a bit. He left a very nice spirit with all, and bore a strong testimony of the Savior and that he leads the church “actively”, in his words. Oh, between the photo and the beginning of the meeting, we all the chance to file past and meet Elder Christofferson and his wife. Both of them speak Spanish. She was on a mission somewhere in Mexico and he was a missionary in Argentina, then later when he was a Seventy, they were here in Mexico as an Area President. This was something like 20 years ago, apparently. Anyway, both of them being able to speak in Spanish was a great thing for the missionaries, we think. No translators were needed, which is always nice.

We appreciate all of you for all your prayers and support. Miss you all!  Craig and Bonnie
At Temple exit with our driver friend after Open House tour.
The next 5 photos are at Tula.
This photo is of the three Mission Presidents and their wives.

 Bonnie on the Plaza
 Craig on the Plaza in front of a pyramid.
 On top of the main Pyramid with huge monoliths behind
 The plaza from on top of Main Pyramid.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tuxla Guiterrez

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Tuxla Gutierrez in southern Mexico. We were sent there to visit an NGO named “Cause for Hope” which has an office there. Cause for Hope is financed and operated by a group of members of the church who live in Utah. Their purpose is to work in a few poor countries in Latin America to help enable people to become more self-reliant, but they focus heavily on developing and using savings by the people they work with. So they share a similar principle of helping people that the Church’s Self-Reliance Initiative has. They have offered to help mentor the members who are taking the church’s self-reliance classes. They are able to give more one-on-one service to the members who need it. So, our Area Manager decided to do a pilot trial, working in conjunction with Cause for Hope in a few stakes in Tuxtla Gtz.  It is a poor area that needs a lot of assistance. We have been given the assignment to monitor the pilot and see how it works, and how we could adapt Cause for Hope’s mentoring style with members in the self-reliance work.

We were able to visit with the employees of Cause for Hope (from now on only CFH) and with some of the members that they were working with to see how they are approaching this pilot program. We visited some members following a group meeting and some others in their homes. Some of the situations were very humble, and we sincerely hope that the pilot is successful and will ultimately help elevate their life circumstances.

We were grateful for this opportunity to meet with the church members in that part of Mexico and we hope to be able to go and visit them in the near future as we continue to monitor the program. It will be such a blessing for these members when they feel they don’t have to worry about whether they will even be able to eat tomorrow! To some there, this is a real concern!  When that is not a preoccupation for them, then they will be better able to help others and serve the Lord.

Tuxla Guiterrez is an area of Mexico with a large indigenous population, so we were excited to go work there and see that part of Mexico. It is generally quite hot there, but when we were there it was overcast the entire time, so we lucked out on not having too much heat. Besides doing the work that we were sent there to do, we were able to visit some of the interesting natural sites in that area, and some local rural communities. We visited the Sumidero Canyon, which was quite amazing. It is a huge, very deep canyon, with a river running through the bottom. We didn’t go down to the water, but viewed it from the look-out sites above. The sides of the canyon are so steep it is amazing, solid rock faces for what must be several thousand feet. We will be putting up a picture or two so you can see what we mean.  You can take a “launch” and travel down the river. We didn’t have time, nor does Bonnie really want to because there are alligators in the river. Definitely NOT Bonnie’s idea of fun, if faced with one of those creatures! We were also were able to visit a very famous small town named San Cristobal. It is an indigenous community whose inhabitants are more like Guatemala than northern Mexico. The women wear skirts made from black goat skin. It is like they just skin the goat and make a skirt, nothing refined. They had a lot of embroidered fabrics in bright colors that are used as tops, however, so it is a very colorful place. So, we had a great time. We worked hard but enjoyed the opportunity tremendously. The Self-reliance Manager for that region, Elder Jose Luis Isaguirre provided our transportation and was our guide, as well. On the trip to San Cristobal, two of his sons even came along. We had a good day, ate pizza and shopped a little besides enjoying the ambiance of the village. We had a good chat with the boys, who liked to practice their English, though they know very little!  By the way, the pizza we got that day, our treat, was amazing! Made in a real wood-fired oven. Delicious!

We stayed in a Marriott Hotel in Tuxtla Gtz. It is a nice hotel with a gym and good equipment. The rooms were comfortable, as well, with good beds. So we were happy when Elder Salinas told us he wants us to do a couple of follow up visits and really develop a mentoring program for all of Mexico and then to train the members on how to mentor. It seems now that this will be our main emphasis, or at least one emphasis, during the second half of our mission. We are looking forward to this project.

By the way, on August 3 we complete 9 months of our 18-month mission. The time is really flying by. Both of us are doing well. Our health is good, which is a wonderful blessing. We want you all to know we appreciate, and need, your continuing thoughts and prayers.  Thank you all so much. You are also in our prayers. Our fondest regards to all!

Group meeting
 Playing on their phones, even this is happening in Mexico
 Members we visited in their homes (next two pictures)

In front of the church at San Cristobal
Pizza at San Cristobal with Jose Luis and his sons.

Awesome views at Sumidero Canyon (next 2 pictures)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Area Office and Regional Managers

We would like to introduce you to the people that we work with.  They are amazing men with great ideas and are excited to help move the work of the Lord forward in Self-Reliance.  We have been sharing with you some of the stories we get from all over Mexico.  These are the men who are out in the field working with members and the stake self-reliance centers.  We are receiving their reports and compiling them.  We get the wonderful stories from what they and the service missionaries, and even volunteers, send us.

Meet Elder Netzahualcóyotl Salinas, he is the Mexico Area Self-Reliance Manager.  He is amazing.  He inspires everyone to do their best work and encourages them in every aspect, even when they are feeling overwhelmed with everything may be working against them.  He is also an Area Seventy here in Mexico.

Meet Esteban Vasquez, who is the Area Operations Manager for Self-Reliance. Only Netza and he are in the Area Office. Esteban is an Excel genius.  He can do anything with Excel and has written Excel spreadsheets for about everything that self-reliance does.  We work a lot with him, especially Bonnie, in her tasks. She helps manage his many spreadsheets.

All of the following brethren are Regional Self-Reliance Managers:

Meet Juan Gabriel Cardenas manager in Cuidad Juarez.  He is a tall quiet person, and a past mission president. Though he is quiet, when he says anything it is usually very well thought out.

Meet Edgar Flores manager in Cuernavaca.  He is a very spiritual man and manages a lot of stakes, which of course keeps him busy because he has to travel a lot, even in dangerous places.  He has an amazing voice, and at one point in his life, worked in radio broadcasting. Everyone admires that voice of his!

Meet Sergio Nieto, manager in Oaxaca. He lived in the states for several years and has very good English.  He is helping write a history of Self-Reliance in Mexico for the webpage that we have been developing. His wife is an American from Utah.

Meet Marco Antonio Varela, manager of the Moctezuma district.  He is a very nice guy and was asked to show us around when we first came.  He also had been swamped with work, but they just divided his district.  He has an amazing singing voice, and serenaded all of us at the seminar we had in January.

Meet Francisco Zapata, manager of the Monterrey East region.  He also has a huge region, with 21 stakes and districts, and is very busy trying to keep up with all this, and keep up their work in becoming Self-Reliant.  It is amazing how much territory he has to cover, as do many of the managers.

Meet Luis Jorge Topete manager of Culiacán.  He is young but very good at the job he does.  He also has a great sense of humor and is fun to have on the self-reliance team. He played the role of Captain Moroni at the January Seminary we held, and we featured it in a previous picture. His wife made the entire costume from scratch.

Meet Raul Campos, manager of Chapultepec region.  He also has a lot of stakes and districts, but the new manager is relieving him of some of those as a new region is being created from four existing ones. He has worked for the Church for 30 years and loves to talk English to us and is a Bishop in the MTC here, so he practices English a lot.  He has a sister that we have got to know that is a sweet friend.  He was one of our guides when we first got here as well, so he has become a favorite of ours.

Meet Ranulfo (Fito) Cervantes, manager in Puebla.  We recently visited him in Puebla and spend t two days visiting several CAS units and talking with service missionaries, and even one recipient of the program who is a non-member but who will soon be baptized. Fito is very good to send us photos and stories for Facebook.

Meet Karim Del Valle manager in Querétaro.  He is really smart and has headed up some committees that Craig has also worked on.  He is a Stake President, and like the other managers, very spiritual. He is also very organized and can pull up information we need at a moment’s notice, so her responds quickly to our requests, generally first.

Meet Alejandro (Alex) Olguin who manages Guadalajara region.  He is a really good guy and you can tell that he really believes in the importance of Self-Reliance.

Meet Nicolas Castañeda, Torreón regional manager.  He is on top of all that is going on in the área.  Another very organized person, and he is an Area Seventy.  He also plays the piano very well, combining talent, good organization, and spirituality.  That all makes for a good person to have on the team.  He is always giving us great stories about the success of self-reliance in his region.

Meet Alfredo Hernández manager in Tampico.  He is a very sharp and thoughtful person. Craig has dealt a lot with him on a couple of special assignments, and he always prepares great things. Alfredo has a real challenge, as many of the truly unsafe areas in Mexico are in his region. But, we have seen one thing -- that this is the Lord’s work and it moves forward despite such challenges.

Meet Celso Candia manager in Tijuana area.  The only picture we have with him is with Bonnie.  He sends us lots of great success stories and it would be fun to meet some of these wonderful people who put their faith to work. Celso covers a large territory and many remote areas where there are members. He has a wonderful sense of humor, too!

Meet Jose Luis Isaguirre in Tuxla Gutiérrez. He is fairly new to the Self-Reliance office but is really doing a super job. It took him a bit to see up to speed, but once there, he has really moved the work forward. He is an Area Seventy and a very spiritual fellow. Both of us will be going to his region the first part of July (very soon!) to evaluate an experimental activity with several stakes there, something we will tell you about in a future post!

Meet José (Pepe) Hernandez, manager of the Mérida Region. We would love to visit his area because he has all the stakes in Cancun and the whole Yucatan! Sounds good to us! He does his work quietly but has amazing stories to share of the success of Self-Reliance in his area.

Meet Javier Gomez, manager in the Veracruz Region.  He is a good guy and like all the others stays busy getting the new groups up and going.  His region was one of the first to be fully implemented with groups.  He has been very busy.

Meet Victor Esparza our newest member of the regional managers.  He speaks really good English. He is here in Mexico City where several areas have been divided.  His area is called Netzahualcóyotl.  Yes it is the same name as the first name of our Area Manager, whom we all just call Netza, for short.
Meet also Joel Martinez. He is the latest member of the managers' team. A new region was recently created, named Saltillo, and he was hired. Joel is new as an employee of the Church, though he has a number of years working in the private sector. He is also an Area Authority, the fourth one in this group of managers, so as you see, we work with a lot of very fine gentlemen and super human beings!

We also have two people who work solely with Perpetual Education they are Alfred DeHoyos.  He is great at organizing events and enjoys doing so.  He manages PEF in Mexcio and Sofia Cedeño, the only female employee in Self-Reliance assists him with PEF..

Most of the men above have been or are in leadership positions such as Stake Presidency or Bishoprics. As you may have noticed, two of the regional managers are also Area Seventies. They are all spiritual giants and great priesthood leaders.  Self-reliance is directed by the First Presidency of the church, and is a Priesthood-led initiative. Therefore it is critical that the Area and Regional managers be faithful, solid Priesthood leaders themselves.

Just one last short paragraph to again say how proud we are to be associated with this wonderful initiative. We are now really beginning to witness the fruits of the program and how it is improving the lives of members. It is truly an inspired effort and we feel lucky to be part of it in this beautiful country. Our love and best wishes to all!