Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Some Domestic Affairs

This is another blog update from the heart of Mexico!  To start with, we want to make sure you all know that we are well. Of course, we get headaches and other aches here and there, like anyone else, but we are doing great! Truthfully, things are pretty much a routine for us by now. Sundays we have church and rest. Then during weekdays we spend the day at the office, of course. We arrive about 8:30 a.m. and are there until about 1:00 p.m., come home for some lunch for an hour and then back to the office until about 4:00 or so. Monday evenings is Family Home Evening with the other missionaries. That is held in the conference room of the Area Office at 6:30 p.m. and is always nice. We take turns giving the lessons and providing a treat. Tuesdays following work, Bonnie and I generally get a taxi and go shopping, then grab a bite to eat after we are back and then rest. Well, Bonnie generally exercises for 30 minutes or so. Oh -- and I do my exercise work outs on Tuesday early morning, the same on Thursday. Bonnie exercises most every day. And, normally on Saturdays we end up doing quite a bit of walking. Wednesday evenings Bonnie and the other sister missionaries are doing various English classes at the church, and us guys get to stay home and rest -- or write blog updates or such! 


Thursday evening is our wash night. We are able to use the hotel washing machines starting at about 6:00 p.m., and we are always right there waiting so that we can get two loads in right away in two different washers. Sometimes we have to do a third. Now, this may sound easy but it is anything but easy and routine here! The machines (3 washers and 3 dryers) are all 1970’s vintage, or at least look that way!  We honestly don’t know how they keep running. Truthfully, every machine has its peculiar behaviors. By now we have them all memorized, naturally, so try to work with them as best we can. After about 2.5 hours minimum and 6-7 trips up and down the elevator for various reasons, the wash is complete. But, that also means that a good portion of it is hanging around various items in the apartment so it can finish drying overnight. We even bought a special rack for that purpose not long after we got here. So, that’s Thursday! Then Friday -- well, different things can happen. Often Bonnie and I try to have a movie night and invite some others over. That’s always fun and a good distraction and change of pace for us all.


So, thus the weeks go by, one day following another! But, we are enjoying it tremendously and we are so happy to be serving here in the capacity we are serving, supporting a program that endeavors to help others improve their lives. I am going to end this portion of the update now. However, I am going to do something different, too. Following are two sections describing how the Self-Reliance Initiative has helped specific people. I prepare short ‘stories’ like this to send to Salt Lake periodically, to keep them informed. We thought it would be nice to put some here for you all to see. Then, in the picture section, you will see a picture of the individual. I think I may do this in the next several blogs. It will help you see what we are really involved with here. OK. The first of what I call “Success Vignettes” follows.



Success Vignette No. 10 -- 3/26/15

Other CAS offices in the Monterrey have had success similar to what was summarized in Vignette No. 9.  Bro. Jaime Cerda Mares visited the Monterrey Anahuac Stake CAS looking for work that would provide economic stability to his family and also allow them to increase their level of self-reliance. He successfully completed the former “My Search for Employment” course offered by the CAS. Soon afterwards, he was also successful in gaining employment as a manager and promoter of a company called Natural Gas Company of Mexico (FENOSA). The CAS reported in March that in his new position as a manager, Bro. Cerda has utilized the Mitras, Valle Verde, and Morelos Stake CAS offices, in addition to Monterrey Anahuac, in searching among members of those stakes for new employees. They are needed to meet this company’s demand for personnel to work in the new colonies (neighborhoods) in the Monterrey area where the company is expanding. This has been a great resource for a number of members who were out of work. A picture of those contracted by the gas company is below. (see photo section)

Church members recently employed by Natural Gas Company


Success Vignette No. 16 -- 4/8/15

This interesting, inspirational, and cute little vignette comes from the Bermejillo Stake CAS, with additional information provided by the Regional SR Manager. It first came to our attention prior to General Conference, and we placed it on the Mexico Self-Reliance FaceBook page.  Since that time it was included in the CAS bulletin we received for April. Alma CastaƱeda is a 10-year old member in Bermejillo, Durango, one of some 6 or 7 very young members in the stake who, like many older stake members, have truly got on-board the new emphasis on self-reliance. Almita, as she is known by, has a business selling sodas, sweets, and chips and is attending the “How to Start or Grow My Own Business” group. She pays herself a salary, keeps business and personal funds separate, and pays a full tithe. The Regional Manager informs us that she is netting a tidy sum monthly! This is a great example of how even young folks are learning self-reliance principles at a very tender age. (I am adding here what I was asked not to send to SLC, and that is, Almita is averaging about $500 U.S. in profits each month!)

Almita selling chips and more!
Craig is enjoying the wonderful grapefruit here.  
 The grapefruit seem to be available year round.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Semana Santa and more from Self-Reliance

Greetings! I think it’s time that Craig took a stab at writing the first draft for a blog post, so here I go! Last week was Easter week and that is called “Semana Santa” all over Latin America -- Holy Week. It is a time when the many people are involved in special things related to the last week of the Savior’s life. A lot of the Catholic churches carry out reenactments of His death and crucifixion. We did not see any of these because most often this is done in areas that are more rural in nature than we are here in the west portion of greater Mexico City. And, in addition, Saturday and Sunday were, for us LDS, is our semi-annual General Conference. Bonnie and I pretty much stayed right here in our apartment both days and watched conference over the internet. What made it nice is that I hooked up my laptop to our new TV via an HDMI cable and so we put the TV up on a table and pulled the chairs in front of it. It made for great viewing, and in Saturday, we watched all the World Report and such that is offered in the two hours between the morning and afternoon sessions. I had set up the TV similarly the Saturday before, for all the sister missionaries to be able to come to our apartment and watch the Women’s Session, which they did.


We also were able to view quite a few of the new Bible Videos on the TV screen. If you have not seen any them, we invite you to do so. They are wonderfully done. Everything about them is superb, from the acting to the settings to the costumes, music, and videography. The dialog is all straight from the King James version of the New Testament, not made-up. They have been made to reflect the teaching of the Savior as found in the Bible, and not to represent any religious stance, other than pure Christianity.  I have been viewing these videos since they first started to come out and I truthfully tell you all that they have strengthened by testimony of Jesus Christ and his life. They make me feel as if I am right there, witnessing the events first-hand. Take the time to see them and I believe they will do the same for you. I am putting the link to them here to make it easy for any of you who would like to open and enjoy something truly uplifting.  https://www.lds.org/bible-videos?lang=eng


This past work week was exciting for Bonnie and me. We have spent considerable time this week in activities that support and share some of the many successes of the Self-Reliance Initiative in Mexico.  Let me explain two of them. . While we were in the few days of training about the initiative before we departed for Mexico, we were gently asked by the leaders of the effort to write to them periodically, to tell them how we were doing, including our reflections and feelings about the work. So, shortly after we arrived, and seeing some of the real results that were being reflected in the monthly bulletins (reports) coming to us from the stake Self-Reliance Centers (CAS is the acronym in Spanish) I decided that I would write about some of them and include them once in a while in a nice email to the office in Salt Lake City, as they had requested. I call them “Success Vignettes” because as see them as little glimpses, not full success stories, per se. For me, this has turned out to be a very exciting activity and it has grown to take a fair amount of my time every week, because I have begun to write about more and more of them. Oftentimes I need to get a bit more information in order to flesh out the ‘story’ because the monthly reports are quite short, a total of one page and they have to reflect some data, a picture, and other things beside a ‘success’ of some type for that month.


I think we have also indicated before in this blog that we started a FaceBook page for “Self-Reliance Mexico”, and it has become quite popular, actually. Bonnie primarily handles putting up new postings, but I feed things to her sometimes and also make sure things are in correct Spanish. We also use other things that people send to us and so it has come to now be a real joint effort as we to 2-3 updates every week, with pictures,  and also monitor the ‘likes’ and comments and such by others. The Self-Reliance Manager for the Area is really thrilled with how well the page is doing and being viewed by people around the country. Anyway, these are the two things that we spent a good share of time with this past week. Yu can go see the Mexico Self-Reliance page (it’s all in Spanish, of course, but go, see it, and like it!) at the following:

Saturday afternnon lunch at Sanborns
Craig during recent outing with fellow missionaries.

Unique plant for our apartment
Angry face on plant flowers 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Our Ward


Hello Everyone!

This time we thought it might be interesting to tell you a few things about the Ward that we attend.  For those who don’t know what a ward is, it the place where we attend church. We will also mention the members that attend there.  The ward is a designated geographic area and all the members of the church within that area attend belong to that ward. Each ward has a building to meet in, which we often simply refer to as the ‘chapel’ or ward house Two or more ward congregations usually attend services in the same building, which helps reduce costs and helps in that new buildings don’t have to be built as often.  We attend the Spanish speaking ward, although there happens to be an English-speaking ward that meets in the same building.  We meet on Sunday morning for our 3-hour block of meetings and the other ward meets on Sunday afternoon. We switch times with the beginning of each new year.

We live in the ‘Palmas’ ward.  Our ward our house building actually used to be synagogue! It was purchased by the Church several years ago, renovated, and converted into an LDS chapel.  It has 3 floors. The main floor has the chapel (the large meeting room where all meet together for some meetings) with a multi-purpose room behind it.  We also have a baptismal font in a small building beside the multipurpose room.  That is important because we have several baptisms in our ward each month.  Just last month there was about 10.  The Relief Society room is also on the main floor. 

The upstairs of the building houses the Primary and the Young Women and there is a small library, with a number of smaller class-rooms.  The building also has a downstairs, but you have to go outside to get to the classrooms there, and the Bishop’s office is also located in the back.

The chapel meeting room has been decked out with all the audio visual equipment needed in these modern days. The front of the chapel has a screen that comes down from the ceiling to show church videos and other audiovisual programs.  The projector also is built into the ceiling to project the video, with a panel on the wall to control the equipment, so it is fairly easy to access and use.  High tech has arrived!!

The chapel is really just a short walk from our apartment.  It takes less than 10 minutes to walk, but it is totally up hill on the way, thus downhill on the way home.  Uphill is a little hard for Craig to do, though we have walked home a few times after church, but only one-way.  Bonnie walks, of course, when she goes to attend things that Craig doesn’t attend. For example, the sisters (the women) of the senior couples are involved in helping teach English to interested ward members. There are a number of them interested in learning English right now. Bonnie and other sisters walk to that class once a week in the evening.  Thank goodness for the doctor and his wife, who have a car full time and take us to church on Sundays on a regular basis. Otherwise it would be a taxi drive, at least one-way.

We have a lot of really good members in our ward.  Several of them work for the church, and there are several international families in the ward, people from other countries who live here because of their business or company they work for. There is also an American diplomat family that work for the embassy, similar to our own situation before retirement. The man works for DEA and they have 6 children.  They are darling kids who are just learning Spanish and doing quite well with it.  His wife went on a mission to the Canary Islands and so she speaks Spanish.  There is also another American family in the ward who are here with a US tech company.  It is a small world because her sister lives in Larry and Liz’s ward in Virginia!  Their home in the U.S. is in the ward that shares the same building as the Virginia Anderson branch!! 

There are other families in the ward who are not Mexican but are from Latin American countries, like Argentina, Peru, Uruguay (our Bishop).  We also have a member from Spain. It just happens to be that many of them, as well as several local ward members, speak at least some English, and several are quite fluent.  As you can all see, we definitely have a diverse ward. 

In many other regards, however, our ward is like most wards, and not so different than at home.  For example, the same people consistently bear their testimony every month, with others mixed in, just like at home.  We don’t have a regular choir, but there are some really good singers who sing when they need a special choir number.  There are amazing teachers who prepare their lessons well in all the organizations.  It is good to know that wherever you go in the world you can see the hand of the Lord in all things and that you can have the same spiritual experiences no matter where you are.  We are grateful for this experience to serve a mission and be involved in His work.

This past Sunday (yesterday) Bonnie was asked to speak in our Sacrament Meeting. She did a fabulous job and received many kudos from members of the congregation afterwards. Her topic was “The Family and Its Importance”. She gave it considerable thought, practice, and her delivery (in Spanish, of course) was super! I (Craig) was very proud of her!

One final note! Many have written emails to us and wondered which of us is the blog writer! Well, actually, we both are. Generally, Bonnie has done a good first draft, then Craig edits and embellishes (sometimes too much!), so it is truly a joint effort! We don’t claim to be the most original of writers, but we will try our best to keep it interesting and informative. If anyone has any suggestions or would like to know about something specific that we have not presented so far, please let us know. Believe us, we would appreciate the ideas!

We close by sending our very best regards to each of you, our family and dear friends! We love and miss you all! 


 Our Chapel

Craig making friends with an gentleman in Tlaquepaque, he was getting the scoop on the best places to shop

Temple in Guadalajara at night after we finished a session
 Bonnie is always looking for shoes, here she is in Leon with Sister Stevens and they try to find slippers.
An 84 year old member who finally finished primary school with the help of his stake Self-Reliance center.  He is with his Bishop and the Stake Specialist who helped him reach this goal.
In contrast, this 10 year old young member girl is learning self-reliance by starting her own business by selling sodas and chips in her local Mercado. Amazing what a little faith and ingenuity can do to bless our lives.