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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.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Third Epistle of Bird - February 1, 2014

From Chalco, Mexico

1. Elder and Hermana Bird, servants and missionaries of Jesus Christ, to all the saints, family and
friends, who cover many lands; we greet you from Chalco, Mexico, which shares great history of those who lived long ago. Many Lamanites walk here, as did their fathers before them at the coming of Christ to the Americas. Some recognize their great heritage and are very valiant in their faith; belonging to wards and stakes with as many as 100 participating each Sabbath day.
2. According to the spirit, being found by the Birds, two faithful senior couples living in the Chalco Mission area have been called to serve as full-time missionaries in the mission office, assisting the Birds. They have been recently released as Temple workers in the Mexico City Temple (which is now closed for a year and a half) and their hearts yearn to continue to serve the Savior. Many more, including other released Temple workers, are being prepared in their hearts to be called to serve in their respective Wards, searching for the lost sheep that are losing the blessings which they once knew.
3. In this land there is a peculiar thing. The police cars, ambulances, tow trucks, and any other vehicle with flashing lights, flash them all the time. It is said that this is to scare off would-be offenders, but how is one to know when there is a real emergency? Even when they turn on their sirens, people are confused, and since no one follows the laws, the emergency vehicles cannot get through!
4. And it came to pass that the people provided places where they could congregate and exercise and visit. Zumba, Hawaiando, kick boxing and karate seem to help with the stress of surviving on the streets, whether you are driving (crazy) or trying to walk across busy, lawless streets without being run down.
5. Everywhere you see young and old playing on their electronic games. A favorite sport for the adult group is wall ball. School is from 8 am to 2 pm and one often sees mothers walking hand in hand with their children, including teenagers. Grandchildren walk arm in arm with their grandmothers. The primary children sing the same songs, in Spanish. We are alike in many ways.
6. Be it known that even the faithful must endure adversity. One morning upon leaving for the office, the apartment keys were left in the lock – inside the door. There was no way back in, as we live on the third floor, and no way out of the gaited doors. Upon waiting for nearly five hours, in the cold garage downstairs, spare keys arrived. We immediately went to the locksmith and retrieved three more copies of the several keys required. They have been stored in various places in the event of a future need.
7. And it came to pass that there exists much cold in some parts of this land. We endure it well, since there are no furnaces; and it will be discovered in coming months, that there is no air conditioning either. Nevertheless, a Hawaiian Luau was organized by a sister missionary from the islands. She helped prepare Island food, Mexican style, and taught many members, young and old, various Island dances, which they performed to the delight and laughter of all.
8. And it shall be seen; every six weeks these senior missionaries take a trip away from the mission. The first excursion was to Veracruz, to go to the Temple, which of course, was closed for maintenance. We spent time sitting on the Getty watching the ships great and small pass by. We will return to the temple.
9. And it came to pass that Elder Bird saw the need for much organization in the mission office, thus with the mighty computer and his great abundance of knowledge, is organizing referral manager, which is of great importance for the work of the missionaries. And moreover he is preparing forms and requirements for the safety and housing of such missionaries. Two days ago, a missionary abode was broken into, thus a new and everlasting residence is required. Many new missionaries are arriving every six weeks and will be in need of safe dwelling places where the spirit can abide.
10. Notwithstanding, Hna. Bird knowing that the Lord calls upon the weak things of the world to bring to pass the needed things of the mission, is organizing the sacred supplies – pamphlets, Books of Mormon, and lists to make mission and missionary life less complicated. A place for everything and everything in its place provides wisdom in all aspects of life.
11. Then came unto Hna. Bird the call to arise and share with the members of the Chalco mission in their various six stakes and approximately fifty wards and branches, the praising of the Lord with singing and with music, because few play the piano. With the miracle of the church’s Keyboard Course and the provision of keyboards to those with great desire, many have been called and many have chosen to serve their wards through music. Approximately forty students, as young as nine years and as old as – well, old – are currently participating. In their first lesson, they played a hymn, using both hands!
12. Miracles, wonders and tender mercies of the Lord never cease. It requires one and a half hours to go to one of the wards to teach piano. Upon arrival, the gates were locked and no one was there, except two missionaries. We left the chapel sorrowful, but provided transportation to the missionaries who were following up on a referral. Being prompted, we returned to the chapel to find a group of members waiting at the locked gate to learn of the music of the Lord.
13. Wherefore, we pondered and sought help. When all seemed lost, the saddened members prepared to return to their houses, which were far, and they had only their feet to carry them. Hna. Bird remembered there were treats in the car and beckoned all to follow her. As they were all departing once again, behold, the two Elders returned, downcast that their referral was not there. Nevertheless, there was much rejoicing, because they had keys to open the gates! A miracle had occurred.
14. With renewed spirits, the students listened and learned and played like they had never done before. They now have four hymns to practice, in just three weeks, with no prior musical experience! God truly works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. The students will bless their ward with the spirit of music, and with an understanding that the Lord is mindful of each of them.
15. And now, I would that ye should know that in the January Liahona, at least in the Spanish edition, there is a special insert about Mexico. It is about my uncle, Eduardo Balderas. I read things I didn’t know about him. I always respected him as a great leader and translator, but I had no idea to what extent. I have talked to people in this land of Chalco who remember him and received their patriarchal blessings from him, or were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple by him. I am grateful for this great heritage.
16. There is work all around just now, including being approached by an inebriated man wanting to meet God, not in church, but when he goes to heaven. Elder Bird gave him an Article of Faith card to ponder when sober.
16. We greet you with love and fondness and pray the Lord send you peace and comfort, health and joy.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Elder and Sister Bird
Associated Pictures:
1. Mexico Veracruz Temple, with palm trees
2. One of many artistic wall paintings
3. Tepecoculco Keyboard Class


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.