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!