28 February 2013

Tax Notice

The above property tax notice was found in our entryway this week. We have always believed that the Mexicans are kinder and gentler than most of the human race, but this tax notice confirms it. Loosely translated (since English can't make it sound as gentle as it really is) the paper states:
[Skipping all the personal info]

Allow us to take this opportunity to greet you and to also recognize and thank you for the efforts you have made over time to make your property tax payments on the property number 37-318-005 in a timely manner. We are sure that for causes outside of your control you have not had the opportunity to cover the corresponding tax for the present year of 2013--two thousand thirteen, during the past month of January; however, we invite you to make the payment during this current month of February in order to take advantage of the 10% reduction in your total tax bill for the year.

You may access the following website for clarification or doubts:
Or even better call the following telephone numbers: 8130-6565 ext. 6376 and 6051

NOTE: In the event that you have already paid your tax please pay no attention to this notice.


Municipal Palace of Monterrey

Now we ask you, wouldn't anyone want to pay this type of bill? 

20 February 2013

300,000 Baptisms

We met a young man named Eric this week, who had come to the temple to receive his endowment prior to leaving for his mission in the Mexico City Northwest mission. He was not new to the temple. From the time he was eligible at 12 years old, he has been coming frequently, very frequently, on his own, to perform baptisms and confirmations for (are you sitting down) over 300,000 people, performing as many as 2000 baptisms in one day. He did this under significant opposition. He comes from a broken family. His siblings and parents have been non-exemplary, to put it mildly. He attended church alone all those years, but was nurtured by a loving member of the temple worker staff, who took this fellow under his wing early on and gave him love. He was also nurtured by a kind bishop and loving ward members, who saw in him great faith and a desire to improve his situation. Eric had already begun his mission some years ago; however, since his announcement to serve a mission and engaging in those preparations, some of his siblings and his mother have begun to soften toward the church. Good people have involved them directly, since Eric has been too ashamed to mention his difficulties at home. Perhaps they are recognizing the great contribution he has made to their family and are now aware of some of the things he has done on his own. Can you imagine his heavenly reunion with all those people on the other side! We wish we could follow him to the mission field and watch him teach. Powerful stuff!

17 February 2013

La Huasteca: Rock Climbing Heaven

"I never met a rock I didn't like." (Lincoln Hoffman)

La Huasteca is a huge, sheer, limestone rock face on the backside (western) Sierra Madre mountain range. Elder Lilywhite and his wife are serving in the West Mission offices and he is a mountain climber/rescuer, so he was dying to see a world class climbing area. Being the supportive bunch that we are, all the senior missionaries and the mission president & wife decided to drive out there on our preparation day and have a picnic.

Our first stop was on what we called the "rocky plains"--and we are not kidding when we say rocky. Try to imagine acres of land covered with these natural river rocks. A couple of miles into the park, someone convinced the President that he should go off of the road onto these rocks so we could check out the mountains up close. About 50 feet into the journey, his van sank down into the rocks and came to a dead stop. Everyone jumped out of both cars to see what we could do to help. Elder Lilywhite had brought along his very expensive climbing rope--you should have seen his face when we asked if we could use it to pull the van out of the rocks! With the car empty and a few old missionaries pushing, it slowly emerged from the sink hole. A new route was chosen with more success and off we went to the real mountains.

The following are "real" mountains:

Soon, on a foothill of a "real mountain" an odd collection of old people wearing name tags were found eating a picnic lunch in the greenest, most comfortable area we could find. In spite of there being no restrooms within 20 miles, the conversation was good and desserts were plentiful. What more could you want on an adventure? 

As the old people partied, the younger generation kept trying to find a way to get to the top of the mountain. There was an actual rock climbing school giving lessons, as well as experienced climbers trying new routes. 


#1 Climbing

#2 Climbing

#3 Climbing

#4 Climbing
#5 Climbing

It was a holiday, so there were hundreds of cars and dune buggies zipping up and down the dirt road. A few of them stopped to rest in the shade of a cave while others were busy filling up their trucks with rocks.

Rock Collectors: Are they building or selling? 

As we prepared to leave the area we discovered that further along the road it is greener and quite scenic--but the road was washed out during the the hurricane of 2010, so we must postpone that part of the adventure. We will leave it to the horses and riders for the moment.

La Huasteca Park--January 2013
Nuevo Leon, Mexico

(There are 7 actual climbers on the mountain if you count the 1/2 man on the left of photo #2)


Our first Sunday in Barrio Central we sat behind Nicolasa during Sunday School. She is originally from Puebla and encircles you in love from the first hello. Nicolasa was sitting next to another sister, who shortly into the Sunday School class turned to Nicolasa and asked for her scriptures. Nicolasa, who is a very gentle person, graciously handed over her scriptures. The other sister looked up the scripture that she was interested in and then continued to use Nicolasa's scriptures for the rest of the class, ignoring the fact that now Nicolasa couldn't follow the lesson. When we realized that Nicolasa wasn't going to get her scriptures back, we passed her one of ours and we shared. At the end of the meeting, the other sister nonchalantly handed the scriptures back to Nicolasa without so much as a smile or a thank you. When Nicolasa returned our scriptures after the meeting, I told her that she was one of the kindest and most charitable people I had ever met to so willingly and patiently let someone else use her scriptures when she wanted so much to follow the teachings of the class herself. That experience bonded us totally and now we can't wait to see each other every Sunday.  

10 February 2013

Gong Xi Fa Cai

We are celebrating Chinese New Year this year simply because we can. We have found all of the most important food ingredients and so are sharing it with friends from the temple who have made life here very comfortable: Presidente and Sister Machuca and Elder and Sister Jones. They love spicy food and this is a new kind of "picante" for them. The hunt for the food and supplies has taken us all over the city and entertained us for several weeks. This is what you could be eating today, if you were here: 
  1. Rice cracker snacks and horseradish peas (chopsticks only)
  2. Chicken and cilantro potstickers
  3. Joe Saw's fried rice with shrimp
  4. Spicy cucumber salad
  5. Chicken Satay with peanut sauce
  6. Beef and broccoli with white rice
  7. Spicy green beans in oyster sauce
  8. Mandarin oranges (two each for good luck)
  9. Fortune cookies
It is the year of the snake, known for intelligence and cunning. The 12-year cycle is represented by 12 different animals. Legend says that the order of the animals was determined by a race across a great river. The snake was not a very good swimmer and so he secretly hitched a ride on the hoof of the horse. When the horse was just about to cross the finish line, the snake jumped off and scared the horse, thus winning sixth place in the calendar.

Will the Mexicans like this food? The chopsticks? The oyster sauce?* Whether they do or not, we wish you all Chinese good luck for 2013: Gong Xi Fa Cai!

*They inhaled the food, loved the oyster sauce, and hated the chopsticks. All went home with goodie bags and tired jaws from story telling--it was a perfect afternoon. 

Happy Old People

Saturday we had another couple from our ward go through the temple. They are in their sixties and are the typical Mexican conversion story. The Hermanas found them and taught them the gospel, wherein they realized that they needed to get married. After having lived together for decades, they were married one year ago, and then baptized the next day. He is presently serving as the ward secretary. Their sealing was supported by 24 people from their ward--very sweet. After they were sealed, one of the missionaries that taught them was proxy for their deceased daughter who was sealed to them. The Relief Society President, who went through the temple for the first time a month ago, said the ceremony was the sweetest thing she had ever seen and that she "had never imagined anything so beautiful." The ward took advantage of the event to have a big party for them afterwards--wedding cake and all.

03 February 2013

Food, Glorious Food!

Lest you get the wrong idea, this didn't all happen in one week. It has taken us three months to find these wonderfully colorful places. After all, you have to do something on "P" day besides clean! 









Foreigners in the Temple

John was waiting for me to change and a young man came up to him and asked if he had a car and could take him back to his hotel on the other side of the city. He was here translating for some car companies that are considering setting up manufacturing plants here. His name is Hidéaki Hamada. He is Japanese and has 8 siblings--a huge family by Japanese standards. His mother lived next door to the Church in Osaka, Japan and was taken in by the young people.  His dad was looking for answers to life and went looking for a church to join. He "miraculously" found the missionaries and the rest is now history. He says that he always tries to find a temple wherever he is because he knows he will find peace and helpful people. 

Brother Hamada went to BYU, where he studied languages: English, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese (and of course, his native Japanese).  He came by his Spanish through his wife, who is from Chiapas, Mexico where they live with their three children and his ill mother, whom he cares for, pretty much single-handedly. He runs a translation business out of his home in Chiapas (Tuxtla Gutierrez), but is finding most of his business elsewhere in Mexico since that area is not exactly a hotbed for business translation services. He was hoping to do some graduate work in the USA after BYU, but their visas were denied. After a short time in Japan, they decided to move to Mexico. He was so happy to meet folks who speak English--but more importantly, people who would listen while he spoke English. He said that he almost never gets to speak it in Chiapas. We were inspired by his drive and determination to care for his family while advancing his career under difficult circumstances. He told an interesting story of a brother who is serving a mission in Tokyo who was recently moved into a new area--the area where one of their brothers lives who is not participating in the church. Brother Hamada and he had been corresponding about how the gospel could help one sort out life's problems and questions. Brother Hamada believes that the reassignment of his missionary brother is a miracle because the mission president is encouraging him to contact his brother and the brother is receiving him. 

We have run into several other foreigners in the temple here, mostly gringos.  Some have married locals and are living here permanently. Others are people traveling here on business or as Corporate Security people making sure that their people can travel here safely. Many have come to Monterrey with the intent to stay six months or so and then return home; but because of the skills they bring, their companies are reluctant to have them leave. Monterrey has suffered some in its service businesses, for sure, due to the drug and associated problems. However, most manufacturing business are still doing quite well, especially in this traditionally industrial area, provided the companies can avoid having their managers kidnapped...... 

Hermana Ester

Our little ward has been busy preparing people to go to the temple. The Relief Society president (María) and her first counselor (Ester) went through two weeks ago. The ward secretary and his wife are going through this weekend. The day after Ester went through the temple she shared some thoughts about her experience in sacrament meeting. She said that she has been very happy in the church during the last year-plus that she has been a member, but worried that she might not stick with it. In the back of her mind she always thought that some day she might leave this church as she had done with others. She explained that she would always hear people at church say they "knew" the church was true and that she couldn't say that. She said, "I believed it was true and liked how I felt at church, but I didn't 'know' like the other members and that bothered me." Then she squared her shoulders and looked out over the congregation and continued, "Hoy, estoy de fiesta (today, I am celebrating). After my time in the temple yesterday, I can now say that I know that this is the true church. I know that Jesus Christ is the head of this church and that everything I have learned about the scriptures and the gospel is true. I now know that I will never turn away. How grateful I am for the temple!" Those who heard her also know that she knows--her conviction and testimony touched us all.

01 February 2013

La Fuerza Civil (Super Police!)

La Fueza Civil is the state of Nuevo Leon's version of a super police force. The direct translation is "Civil Forces" and is described as a "new force of heroes made up of valiant, intelligent young men and women who are prepared to protect the most precious thing: the security and tranquility of the family."   They are a powerful presence in the city patrolling neighborhoods, highways and shopping centers and are often on the side of the road pulling cars over to check for who knows what. Most of the time they are wearing the face masks to prevent the bad guys from finding out who they are. 

Christmas Patrol at Walmart & Sam's Club

Fuerza Civil at our Supermarket

The trucks are the most frequently seen, but they also patrol on foot in the downtown area. The trucks always have one person driving and two to three riding standing up in the back with their machine guns. You really don't want to mess with these kids. 

So, besides these high visibility troops, there is also a State police force, a police force for Monterrey City, and the army of the country. They are very serious about returning Nuevo Leon to it's "glory days" of peace and prosperity.