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Missionary Scripture

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

3-Months In The Mission - 28 January 2014

Chalco, Estado de México, México

On January 28th 2014, we completed three months since entering the Provo MTC. We participated in the normal Senior Missionary training on Preach My Gospel. We did not really associate with the younger missionaries as we were housed at the Marriot Hotel in downtown Provo the first week and then we moved (our first transfer!) to the Senior Missionary housing on the MTC campus.

We returned home for the weekend between the first week at the MTC and the second week when we received four days of training on the Mission Office. Our original call was to serve as Member and Leadership Support (MLS). I believe this the calling Senior Missionaries receive when they do not know what to do with us. This was confirmed when we arrived in the Mission and they did not know what to do with us. Prior to entering the Provo MTC, our assignment was changed from MLS to OFC (Office) as we anticipated working in the Mission Office a couple of days a week. This change in assignment allowed us to receive the second week of Office training while at the MTC. This training was a significant blessing since there was no one in the Mission who was trained on Office procedures.

We arrived in the México Ciudad de México Chalco Misión (México México City Chalco Mission) the evening of November 9th. This coming domingo (Sunday), February 9th, we will complete three months in México. We were introduced to our nice two bedroom apartment and then went with the Presidents to the Adult meeting of the Chalco Stake Conference and we have been on the move ever since.

I will start by summarizing my impressions of the México City area:

·         Dirty – I am not sure why, there is a lot of road construction, but there is always dust in the air and even the green foliage has a dusty look. Mexican dogs have the same dirty look and are basically ugly. We did drive up to the base of the volcanoes above the dust and it was really quite nice. Many of the Ward areas in the southern part of the mission are in or next to the volcanoes and are very pretty and a lot like the mountains in California.

·         Noisy – Between random fireworks and meandering street vendors there is never a feeling of calm and quiet. Everywhere you go there are people selling things or trying to sell. During the course of a day someone will pass on the street selling something the people need on a daily basis. They announce their wares with bells and loudspeakers. This is a very interdependent society. Everybody buys from everyone else. It seems to be their way of supporting each other. There are big stores, we often shop at Walmart, but the real commerce is in the streets, the flea markets, and corner markets.

·         Smelly – Sister Bird is more conscience of this than I am. In many areas, garbage is thrown in the streets and roadsides. A lot of this is wet garbage and matures over time. There are also areas of “agua negra” where sewage runs in the streets. These areas are mostly outside of the metropolitan areas. But there is a lingering smell.

These are not criticisms or complaining but a statement of the realities of living here in México.
The people are a different story. There are some dirty and unkempt, we had an “enjoyable” conversation with a drunk born-again Christian and there are some with serious physical problems but in general they are a wonderful and caring people. We always see couples with children walking together on the streets. The people who are from these areas seem to know everyone else. 

Occasionally we see people, usually older, who are clearly native Indians. Much of the people know of the “Mormons” and are a bit standoffish. Many times I will stand by the gate in front of the Mission Office and just watch the people walk by. They usually look straight ahead, avoiding any eye contact. However, as it says in Predicad mi Evangelio, talk to everyone, so I will make it a point to at least greet them with a “Buenos Dias” or a “Buenas Tardes”. It is fascinating to see the change. Most will immediately look with their eyes, smile a big smile and return the greeting. Sometimes the Spirit will prompt to say or talk more but in most cases it is simply to greet them so that the next time they pass they may ask about us.

It is only within the last two weeks that we have really found our place here in the Mission. As I indicated previously, the Mission President really did not know what to do with us. We attempted to visit with and motivate the younger missionaries but we seemed to be in conflict with what the mission leadership wanted. We attempted to serve in the Office but we did not have a clear responsibility nor were we empowered to get things done. Sister Bird was organizing her Curso de Accompañamiento (Keyboard Class) for the members and missionaries but my role was still unclear.
Finally, the Spirit nudged me in the right direction and we realized two things:
- We are to really organize and run the Mission Office and to get the younger missionaries out of the Office and into the field.
- We are to organize the Senior Members in the Wards and Stakes to serve as missionaries from their homes in their respective wards and stakes
We are the only Matrimonio Mayor (Senior Missionary Couple) in the Mission. The Mission was organized in July of 2013 and there has never been an Office staff. Several Elders had been serving in the Office with Finances, Visas and Recording Ordinances. The Presidents had not been trained on what an Office should be like and the Elders simply did what they did in other Missions before they became part of this new Mission. There seems to be an assumption within the Church structures that there are always two couples assigned to the Mission Office. As a result there was no knowledge of Policies and Procedures. I became the Office Coordinator (jefe) and started to organize and change things. This has been almost a 24-hour a day project. Days have been spent calling the Church Offices and researching what a Mission Office should look like and how it should function. This week we have begun to put in place the policies and procedures and helping the Presidents and the young missionaries learn how the Office should work. It has been both rewarding and frustrating.

On the 12th of January we had a short meeting with the Stake President of the Chalco Stake asking him what he would like us to do for the Stake. He asked us to help the wards contact the “names on the lists.” About two months ago, Elder Valenzuela of the Seventy held a special conference with the all the Ward Councils in the six Stakes in the mission. During these conferences, Elder Valenzuela conducted an exercise with the Councils to brainstorm and compile a list of all the menos activos (less active members) that they personally knew within their respective wards. In three different sessions, taking no more than 15-minutes each time, they collected over 2000 names of persons and families they knew that needed an invitation to return to activity within the Church. Each ward had a list with 40-50 names but very few of them had done anything with the names. The problem is really they do not know what to do with lists this big. So, the Stake President asked for our help.
While we were preparing to serve our mission, we asked permission to serve one day a week in the México City Temple. Just before we arrived in México we learned that the Temple was closing for 18-months to 2-years. This was a great disappointment and we did not understand the “Why?” As we were thinking about how to help the Chalco Stake, the Spirit revealed why, at least one of the reasons, the Temple was closing at this time.

In México, there are about 1.3 million members of the Church of which 200,000 are active. That means only one in seven members are active. What has been hard for us to comprehend is the strength there is here in the Church. There are some fourth and fifth generation families and these members are strong. Many had been serving as Temple Workers, many are former Bishops, Stake Presidents and Missionaries. All of the Temple Workers were released on Jan 6th when the Temple closed. Most of them do not have callings. All of them are feeling the “emptiness” that Temple Workers feel when they are no longer able to serve. All of these need to be “kept close” so that they will be able to return to the Temple when it reopens. Many of them are seeking ways to serve.
What the Spirit told us was simply this: These Matrimonio Mayores are some of the 144,000 available and prepared to serve in México at this time and in this place. They are to serve their families and friends from their homes. I judge there is a message here for many other areas of the Church.

We are searching and finding these Matrimonio Mayores in every ward we visit. They are asking us how they can serve. We are inviting them to serve as Matrimonios Mayores as missionaries in their own wards and stakes. We have two couples training in the Mission Office right now as we figure out how to get them called as missionaries. We have two other couples who want to serve in their wards. We have a senior sister preparing to serve as a missionary in her ward and in the Office (she is also a dentist). We have lists of many released Temple Workers needing to serve. This is really exciting and marvelous. There is also a lot of opposition. I can only imagine where this will lead but we are on board and running with it.

There is a new Church website called: La Obra de Salvación (the Work of Salvation). It is really a renewed vision of missionary work with members of the Church. It is nothing new. The program is contained in Preach My Gospel, chapter-13 and in Administration of the Church, Manual-2, chapters 4 and 5. It is the way for missionaries and members to work together and prepare a people to receive the Lord.

Our service in the Fredonia Branch in New York while we were serving at the Temple prepared us and gave us the plan and pattern to follow here in México. It is fascinating to see how the Lord orchestrates his work and how he prepares us.
We do not know what the next three months we bring. We do know it will only grow as it will grow at home.