27 December 2012

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

Christmas Eve Day with the Monterrey Mexico West Mission:

2012 brought us the best surprise and the best present ever in all of our very, very long lives. There were about 100 missionaries lined up in the Mitras Chapel waiting for their Christmas gifts from President and Sister Swapp. As the line diminished, we were told to take our places at the end of the line. Since we had wrapped or made all of the gifts, we were content to meander along slowly while the missionaries enjoyed their exciting moment. Finally, we arrived at the big moment and received our miniature version of Spanish Preach my Gospel and a popcorn ball ... (guess where they came from!)

... and an envelope with our names on it. Assuming it was a form letter from the Mission President, we didn't even bother to open it--in fact, most of the young missionaries didn't open their letter's either.

After a few moments, President Swapp announced that it was time to leave the gifts and to quietly open the envelopes. All attention moved to the envelopes and the room became perfectly still. You can't imagine our surprise when we discovered four letters inside: one from each of our sons. It is impossible to express our joy at having personal, printed letters from our kids on Christmas Eve--the traditional night of gathering for our family. As we read them, we were filled with gratitude and deep joy for the thoughtful, loving, tender words from our children. We have read them over and over--and will continue to read them many more times throughout the year. Thank you, dear sons, for  creating something so meaningful--we feel very loved! It is a Christmas that we will never forget.

We send our gift in return--but the grandkids might have to decode it for the grown-ups:

The missionary talent show was "divertido" (fun!). There were choirs, bands, stories, piano duets, nativities, angels and even Santa showed up. There was even more food than the missionaries could eat (that could be considered a miracle).


Christmas Eve Night with the Monterrey Mexico East Mission

Christmas Eve night we were invited to President and Hermana Walker's home for Family Home Evening and dinner. President Walker's beautiful wife, Inez, has a twin sister, Beatriz, who is married to a dear friend of ours, Pablo Abrecht. Both the Walkers and the Abrechts are old friends of ours from Buenos Aires. It had been way too many years since we had seen them and it was a joyful reunion.

Inez and Alan Walker, John and Linda Hoffman
John first met the Sulei family in San Nicolas, Argentina when he was a counselor to Tony Bentley in the Buenos Aires North Mission. Lincoln and Carter were friends with Alan's brother, Hernan. Linda visit taught Alan's mother, Cristine and sister, Cynthia. The Walkers finish their mission in July and hope to go back to Mexico City where he was working before the mission.

Pablo and Beatriz Abrecht, Linda and John Hoffman
 The Abrecht's were also living in Mexico City during our mission in the Visitors' Center there, but left to study Urban Planning in London for a year. As his thesis project, he chose Oaxaca--perhaps the most ungovernable state in the world with 3,000 municipalities, hundreds of languages, and uncountable tribes who are often at war. The state receives lots of money to "help" the indigenous people, but most of it is siphoned off by disreputable contractors. In comes Pablo, to save the day. He has a plan, clear vision, patience, energy and believes he can change centuries of practice. If anyone can do it, Pablo can--and the government of Oaxaca has hired him as a consultant to do just that. His job is to get water, sewer, drainage, power, telephone, health services, etc. to the millions of people in that area.

The Abrecht's have four gorgeous children who loved the disappearing sins activity. They also liked the jump-for-a-star activity that started on the trampoline and ended with putting Luke 2 together in the right order--the adults really liked that one, too! These missionaries are going to be great parents.

Disappearing Sins Activity

Ines on left and Beatriz on right putting together Luke 2

Pablo reminded us of how he came to join the church. He was 19 years old and had finished two years of a four year degree in economics. He decided to backpack through Europe and so took a break from his studies. After he had been wandering hither and yon for three months, he decided to pop into Paris and visit an aunt that was living there. When he arrived, she said that she was leaving the next day for the Orient (she was an artist), but he was welcome to stay in her apartment while she was gone. He was there for six months. Finally he returned to Argentina and finished his degree. He said, "I had promised myself that when I finished my degree I was going to do two things: read the Bible and do my genealogy." So, when he graduated, he immediately began to look for genealogy resources. He discovered an LDS Family History Library near his home and decided to go see what he could find. He walked in the front door and found himself in a "Ward Open House," complete with the Bishop, missionaries, and the family history people. They showed him around and told him about the beginnings of the church. He thought it was pretty weird, but was intrigued. He asked the missionaries if they would come by his house and tell him more. They visited with Pablo, and as they were leaving he asked if he could get a Book of Mormon. They gave him one and he began to read. He asked the missionaries back again and asked if he could go to church. His comment was very interesting. He said that they never asked him to do anything. He was the one moving it all forward. In fact, he had to ask them if he could be baptized! It eventually all came together and the clueless missionaries did get his baptism arranged. He eventually did do his family history back to the 1400s and served a mission in Salta. We met him after his mission when he was clever enough to invite his future wife to attend institute with him. He said it was the only way to get together with her because she was working all week and in San Nicolás on the weekends. He said that thanks to those two nights a week at institute, it finally all came together.

These wonderful people and their families have blessed our lives in so many ways, and we are grateful that they continue to do so now.

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