A Call From A Prophet

In a letter dated 27/10/2009 we received a long awaited call to serve as full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to work in the Mexico City Temple Visitors Center, in the Mexico City East Mission. We were to report to the Missionary Training Center on February 15, 2010 and later serve for almost two years in Mexico City

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Welcome to Our Mission Blog

Leslie and I are really happy you are visiting our mission blog. We are having a great time here in Mexico City and we are happy to share some of what we are experiencing with our family and friends. The posts below will give you an idea of where we work and live. If you are are a first time visitor, I suggest you start at the bottom of the blog and work from the bottom to the top, it will make more sense that way.

In future postings we will show you more of Mexico City, take you on day trips to interesting places within a few hours of the city, and introduce you to colleagues and new friends.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baby Blanket Project

Several years ago senior missionaries from the Visitors Center began an humanitarian baby blanket project. A member from the US makes knitted baby caps, down here we buy fleece and cut it up for baby blankets. Since June Leslie has taken over spearheading the project. She and I go downtown and buy fleece about once a month.

She invites others to help cut the fleece and make
it into baby bundles with a blanket, cap, a poem, and an invitation to visit the Visitors Center. When we get together to do the project we have a great time and get a lot done in a hurry. Leslie also enjoys cutting fleece and making bundles by herself when it is not convenient to have a group activity.

Sometimes the men even get involved. Here we are making the bundles

These are bundles we made up to give away Christmas eve morning: white blankets, red a green hats.

Mexico City has an infants and maternity hospital for women of very modest means. At times these mothers have no clothes for their babies when they go home after a one day stay. The blankets and hats at least gives them something to take the babies home in. Normally we go to the hospital once or twice a month and give away between 40-60 per visit.

The hospital is about 15 minutes away (by taxi) from the Visitors Center. When we go we take two sister missionaries who actually give away the bundles. We stand out in the hall with the bags of bundles. The women are in rooms which hold 6 mothers each.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Christmas 2010 in Mexico City

Christmas is an exciting and happy time at Temple Square in Mexico City. The square is decorated with over 300,000 lights, red and white Poinsettias planted all over, and a life sized nativity scene. It makes for a very festive atmosphere. Leslie and I enjoyed warm evening walks to see the lights and people walking around.

During the season we have numerous choirs in the center to sing Christmas music. The decorations and music draws large crowds to the Visitors Center. The photo below gives you a little idea of the number of visitors. In a typical month we have 6-8,000 visitors. This December we had over 16,000 visitors. It was difficult yet exciting to serve such numbers. One Saturday we had over 3,600 people come with over 80 tourist buses. The parking lot was full and the buses had to park along the street (see photo below).

The Mexican people love a good party and we had several of them. To the right, is a Christmas party for a local congregation we attended during the fall. The main course was a local dish with shrimp, shellfish, chicken, pork, and beef over a flavored rice. It was wonderful. We all had a great time eating and talking.

On Christmas day Leslie and I treated the Sister Missionaries to a pinata filled with candy. We had a great time watching these young women take their whacks at the pinata. After that, we all had a turkey Christmas dinner and played several large group games.

We had a wonderful Christmas season. Our work, friends, and festivities keep us from getting too homesick, but it is hard not to miss all our family and friends at home. We hope each of you had a Merry Christmas and that you will have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mexico City, Old and New

Pictured above is a view of the city from atop the Castillo in Chapultepec Park.

The city is a mixture of buildings
from the colonial era and the
modern. To the right is the Palace
of Fine Arts, an ornate building
inside and out. It includes a
theater, art galleries, and a

This is a view to the south of the Palace of Fine Arts that shows commercial buildings built in the colonial era.

This is a city of monuments, and fountains

A monument to Christopher Columbus and the early priests who came to "civilize" the inhabitants of Mexico

A monument to celebrate Mexico's independence from Spain.

There are many small parks, ponds, statues of important national figures dispersed around the city, especially in the commercial, governmental,
and educational centers of the downtown area.

These photos show some of the more modern parts of town. Attractive buildings, tree lined streets, parks, monuments, water features adorn these areas. Many of these areas have a European flavor.

Shopping in the city is a mix of large modern malls like you would find in large cities in the US, small specialty shops, restaurants, and large open markets selling food, household goods, clothes,and artisan shops selling native arts and crafts.

One observation is that there are few skyscrapers. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the city is in a serious earthquake zone. In 1985 a large earthquake destroyed large parts of the city and killed close to 100,000 people. Second, much of the city, down the hill from the more modern area we are now looking at, was built on a old lake bed and buildings there are constantly sinking. The area around the temple is on this lake bed. A great deal of technology and engineering is used to keep it level and to limit sinking.

The photo below shows some colorful apartment buildings and the horrendous traffic in Mexico City. The city has over 20 million inhabitants, 5 million cars, and an inadequate highway system.
Interestingly, there are over 120,000 taxis and a good metro system. The metro carries 5,000,000 passengers daily. We use the metro when we can because it is faster than going by taxi when traveling downtown. Normally the cars are filled to capacity. It is safe if you travel in daylight hours, but you must guard your valuables from pickpockets. When necessary we take taxis, they are cheap (a 10 minute ride will cost you 2 dollars), easy to find, and generally safe. I say generally, because there are few accidents, especially considering the lack of the use of traffic laws and the daring way they drive - it has to be experienced to be understood and believed - and since they license the taxis we use, assaults and robbery are rare. We've had no difficulty.

The Castillo at Chapultepec Park

The park is the largest in the city and contains world class museums, a zoo, large areas of grass, trees, bushes and flowers, and on top of a hill the Castillo. Above Leslie and Sergio, our taxi driver and guide walk up the hill to the Castillo. To the left, we are at the entrance.

The building began as a military academy for young men to prepare to be military officers. Later it was converted to the residence for the country's rulers and presidents. About 50 years ago it was converted to a museum with the first floor containing historical artifacts, and artistic representations of the country's development. The second floor shows how it looked when rulers and presidents lived there. The edifice is beautiful and elegant.

This was the dinning room for entertaining visiting dignitaries. It is elegant and opulent. Other parts of the living area give a good idea of how the wealthy lived a century ago. Pictured below is the rooftop garden area. It is spectacular in two regards: the gardens, statuary, buildings and patios are beautiful; and because of its location the view of the city is spectacular. The photo showing the overview of the city, at the beginning of this post, is taken from this rooftop area.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Neighborhood Businesses and Vendors

Mexico is a country of small businesses and street vendors. Outside of the downtown, neighborhoods are a mixture of small businesses, residences, and street vendors. Businesses are often very small (less than 100 s.f.) and often specialize in one thing. They usually do their car and large truck repairs right on the parking areas on the side of the street.

One day a week many neighborhoods have an open air market called Tianguis (different days of the week for different areas). To hold the market they often close down a street to traffic for the day. In a Tianguis you can find fruit,
vegetables, fresh meat, cooked food, clothes, makeup, shoes, trinkets, flowers, pottery, CD/DVD (often pirated), small appliance repair, etc.

The quality of fruit and vegetables is usually good and the price reasonable.

Above right, I am buying some fruit. It is sold by the kilogram (2.2 pounds per kilogram) and the price is usually posted. If the measure is close to a unit they usually throw in an extra piece. If there is no price posted it is haggle time.

To the right Leslie is searching for momentos to use to celibate Mexico's 200 anniversary of its independence from Spain, September 15, 2010.

Here is a vendor selling cooked food. It usually smells great but we do not buy cooked food off the street or Tianguis, nor fresh meat at Tianguis. Too much of a risk of serious digestive repercussions.

In addition, we soak all fresh produce (no matter where it is purchased) in a bleach water solution before we eat it.

Along the streets you will street vendors everywhere. Most sell food or drinks, for example, in the first picture below the person is selling fresh squeezed orange juice. In the second picture below the person is selling snow cones on the street in front of the temple. You will also find people selling clothes, magazines and newspapers, flowers, etc on the sidewalks. Close to where we live we have seen people in the street (literally walking among the cars in traffic) selling bread (a one legged fellow on crutches sells the bread), soft drinks and water, candy, fruit, newspapers, performing acts such as juggling or playing music, and washing car windows. It is really very interesting to see. These folks are real salespeople, and with other kinds of work hard to find, enterprising in finding ways to make a living.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This is a house across the street and is typical of an average dwelling. This one has a store on the bottom floor (very common) with living units around the patio and in the upper stories. The housing and commercial areas are all intermixed on the same block. The street is bordered by sidewalks (usually in pretty bad shape) and then the dwelling. there are no front yards. You can't see into the houses or yards. The lot and dwellings are surrounded by walls with a patio in the middle.

You'll also find that nice places are mixed with those that are downtrodden. However, you can only know this if you get to look inside the gate to the place, or by noticing the condition of the outside wall by the sidewalk.

Many mom and pop small businesses (of all kinds) and vendors of food, flowers, etc. are found along side the road. You'll also see mechanic shops with workers repairing cars and trucks of all sizes on the streets and sidewalks.

Our Neighborhood

This is a photo of our neighborhood from the roof of our apartment building. The Temple Square is a fenced or walled area that has a continuous security presence. We are really safe here. Outside the square we feel safe during the day but we try not to be out there too much after dark. This is an impoverished area of the city. When the temple location was selected the President of the Church determined it should be placed in an area were the poor would have easy access. He said that those with money would be able to get there but the poor could not attend, or would feel uncomfortable being there, if it was built in the prosperous areas of the city.

Our Apartment

We have a very nice apartment with three bedroom apartment, kitchen, living/dinning room, bathroom, laundry room and patio, all fully furnished. The apartment has neither heating nor air conditioning. Why? the weather here is like eternal springtime with a range of temperatures of 50 to 85. Daytime temperatures usually range between 65-70 with little humidity. So those of you up in the upper 48 states, eat your heart out.

Some may wonder, what's up I thought you were in hot Mexico? Mexico City sits in a high mountain valley (7,200 ft. elevation) surrounded by mountains. We have two seasons, wet (May to Sept.) and dry (the rest of the year). Typically it rains in the late afternoon or evening.

Zarahemla Apartments

The building in the center is where we live. We live on the second floor on the right hand side. Looking at the first level of windows, ours are the three to the right of tree. All the missionaries that work in the Visitors Center live in this building. To the right of the picture is the front of the Visitors Center.

Mexico City Temple

This is the Mexico City Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the church visit during the week to worship and learn about God's plan for his children and to further prepare them to return to God after this life. It is the major building on Temple Square, an enclosed area which also includes the Visitors Center, a Missionary Training Center for Spanish speaking missionaries, and various support buildings.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spanish Speaking Sister Missionaries

These Spanish speaking missionaries come from various parts of the world: Mexico, Peru, and Argentina. They are bright, enthusiastic, energetic, and dedicated. Currently our number in the Center has increased to 12 with 6 others working in other areas. They rotate in and out of the Center so that they eventually spend 12 months in the Center. Left to right they are Sisters: Lara O., Cuevas, Obeso, Bobadilla, Lara P., Novoa, Vilca, Murga, Ramos, Aguilar.

Incredible Co-workers

We work with an incredible group of fellow missionaries. Going left to right: the Stewart's, he has been a businessman and mayor of the City of Provo, UT; the Lopez's, natives of Mexico who work one day a week as volunteers; the Acosta's, he was a career diplomat with the US State Department and has worked all over the world. The Acosta's and Stewart's are each on their third mission and both have served three year tours as mission presidents.

We have a great time together and ofter share dinners and excursions to interesting places near Mexico City. During our service at the Center a senior couple will serve with six younger missionary sisters. There are two work shifts per day and each shift is about 5 hours. We are open all week except on Monday when we are closed for cleaning.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mexico City Visitors Center

Our main assignment is to work in the Mexico City Temple Visitors Center. We generally work here four days a week for six hour shifts. We also have a one hour training meeting on Tuesday mornings. during our shift, Leslie and I supervise about 4-5 young sister missionaries (who take visitors on tours of the facility and its exhibits), greet people coming to visit, check any belongings they don't want to carry around on the tour, and take care of administrative duties. At times people in distress
come seeking help. It is my responsibility to talk with these folks and try to help them resolve their difficulties. It is a challenging yet extremely rewarding part of our ministry. In the first two weeks I met with an elderly man who was sick and needed a priesthood blessing, a man who was out of work and down on his luck, and a woman who was less active in the church and needed help getting back on track. Each left the Center feeling better and with more hope for the future.

Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC)

We spent 10 wonderful days (Feb 15-25) at the MTC. with about 40 other senior couples and over 2,000 younger (19-25 years old) missionaries. Our teachers and fellow missionaries were loving, inspiring, kind, and dedicated people. These missionaries were headed all over the world.

The MTC is an very efficiently run facility with world class instruction in effective teaching strategies and language instruction. At the same time it was able to take care of the spiritual and physical of all of us. Meal times were amazing. In an hour and a half between 2-2,500 people were fed good meals with much variety. Sunday meetings and devotionals were spiritual feasts.