After Christmas, we geared up for the biggest group of incoming missionaries so far, twenty. Combined with the fact that only 6 went home (we really do not like that part as I've mentioned before, though facebook is a wonderful thing and its fun to stay in touch with our missionaries at home, whether home be here in Mexico, Latin America, or the U.S.) Don't worry kids, now I have lots more people to fb stalk. Getting more missionaries than leave makes the transfer even more complicated as new areas must be opened to the extra companionships. While in the States you would never hear of a ward or branch that didn't have a set of missionaries, or at least one for every builiding, not the case here. So, which areas to open, finding housing (which our district leaders and zone leaders are quite adept at) and then deciding who goes where is a crazy week or two. Also in January the Mexico City Temple has closed for 18 months. It's sinking. Sinking not stinking, and they are having to do something with the foundation to keep it from falling apart. Good news for our mission office as lots of couples who volunteered in the temple were looking for something else to do. Jerry has a goal of only senior couples in the office so our full time missionaries can do what they do best and teach people interested in the Gospel. Since we haven't quite reached that goal we have two very capable new office Elders. Elder Faz and Elder Uchytill, they just replaced Elder Martinez and Elder Olsen who were so good at keeping things organized and moving along that El Presidente had a hard time letting them go. Poor Elder Martinez has been in the office since we arrived in July. I'm pretty sure he feels like he just got let out of prison. Elder Olsen is so amazing that whenever I would ask him about something, it was already done. But, he is having some amazing success now that we set him free also. I miss both of their faces, but still get to see them regularly. It was tougher still to release one of our assistants, Elder Tovar. El Presidente was seriously crying about this and needed some hand holding to send him back in the field. He gave him a district with only sisters, hence a new nickname "Brigham". While I'm on the subject of nicknames, it has been necessary to give several elders nicknames as we have multiples with the same last name. Our new assistant Elder Perez has a cousin in the mission, yes, also Elder Perez, so the one that is not the assistant is now code named Primo (cousin for you non Spanish speakers) We actually have another set of cousins, both last named Smith and if that wasn't complicated enough we just got another Smith in this last group of new missionaries. Sometimes Jerry has to explain them to me, some are easy, such as Tall Elder Parker (we have three elder Parkers). So the other day, Jerry asked his assistants what nickname the Elders have given him....yeah, they haven't fessed up yet, but come on, we all know he has one, right?
The next week was Interview week, well actually more like 10 days, this time I went with Jerry to all of the zones but the last one and spent the day getting to know all of the missionaries better, it was a great chance to practice Spanish, much to the amusement of most of our missionaries. They forgive me because I bring them brownies. We've talked alot about the parable of the talents, I've come to realize I really only have one, and it's baking, and it opens lots of doors and lots of mouths. Nuff said. The days are long but filled with lots of funny and sweet moments as I get to know them one by one.
So, two weeks after this huge group we get an email, hey we have to advanced Spanish students, so in two days will you be at the airport to pick them up from Provo. One sister, Sister Robinson from Murrieta, and the now tallest elder in the mission at 6'7" Elder Andersen from Alpine, Utah. He has been a luger since the age of 11, on the national team. Why did I think someone that did that would be small to get around those turns? Most definitely wrong. They are both great. In her first letter home, Sister Robinson told her parents that they have an interesting way of heating water for a bath....they fill a bucket with water, then turn on their iron and drop it in the bucket. Needless to say I got an email that night from her parents. As sister Kusch from the Cuernavaca mission said, "Really I couldn't make up the stuff that they do". As the daughter of an electrician I have a healthy respect for electrocution and made a call to tell them to stop that and that our senior couple that is in charge of housing would be over to figure out what is wrong with their water heater, they do actually have one. I suggested heating water in their microwave would be a safer alternative to electrocution. The next day at our monthly leadership council I asked if other missionaries were doing this. About 18 sheepish faces looked back at me, then one elder told me that yes, lots of them did. Did being the operative word I hope.
Last Wednesday all of the Mission Presidents and their wives flew into Mexico City for the bi annual mission presidents seminar. Wednesday night through Friday afternoon. We all stayed at the Marriott connected to the airport, it's really handy that it's attached, nice job on that location Marriott international. Dinner Wednesday night was fun, met everyone that I didn't meet in October when it was held in Huatulco, and I was in SLC in the hospital. Made some funny connections with friends of friends, saw friends that we came out with and was looking forward to the next day. 3:30 am I wake up with the stomach flu. Jerry had it on Monday and Tuesday don't know why I thought I wasn't gonna get it. Oh, I know, cuz I had a flu shot. Epic fail, or maybe there are different strains here than in the US where I got the shot. It did save me from having to give the prayer at the opening session (and yes everything is in Spanish, they do have a translator for some of the women that are still learning the language but I am to stubborn to use them) So the second day we have a morning of meetings with Elder Oaks (a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for my non lds friends) Elder Christensen a member of the presidency of the Seventy (who actually set me apart for this calling) and their wives along with Elder Johnson, Elder Valenzuela, and Elder De Hoyos from the Area Presidency here in Mexico (who we know already quite well) It was a great morning, I still felt a little queasy, passed on the lunch but met some more of the other presidents and wives. Fun meeting a pair of sisters from Mexico who are both serving with their husbands as Mission Presidents. They both speak really good English and we had a great time getting to know them. One of them has Cabo in their mission (just a little jealous not gonna lie) and the other is in Merida, so they have the Carribean. They argued throughout lunch about whose home town was cooler Quertaro or San Miguel de Allende. We have a date to come and visit and settle the argument after our mission. On Saturday, Elder Oaks and Elder Valenzuela and our Area Seventy Elder Miron (who is the greatest guy in the entire world, he and Jerry are the best of friends and I love his wife) with our mission and the Mexico City Sur mission which sent missionaries to help create our mission. President Valadez and Sister Valadez were at the airport to meet us in July and are the nicest couple ever. I know their old missionaries were so happy to see them. So, we were on the program to speak, yep, maybe I didn't really have the stomach flu....and I thought I had to go first. Ended up Jerry went first and then me. One of the lessons I've learned is to prepare what you want to say, then have the faith that you'll say whatever it is that God wants you to say. I have scriptures ready and a theme, but then I get up and rely on the the Holy Ghost to help me in more ways than one. Speaking Spanish, I would never be able to convey my thoughts without Divine intervention. So I spoke, I finished, evidently no great errors because the missionaries didn't laugh and I sat down. I was so glad it was over. Enjoyed the other talks immensely. After the meeting was over, Sis Oaks came over and asked Sis Valadez and I if we would mind speaking in another meeting that afternoon, say what? We both thought we were done for the day, but what are you gonna do and she said just a brief 2 min testimony. As we are waiting for this meeting to begin Sis Valadez reaches down, picks up her iphone and flips to the stop watch, she holds it out to me and I do the same with mine, we smile and say at the same time "solamente dos minutos" She's great, and even though shes fluent in the language she was not any more comfortable than I. But the weekend wasn't over yet, we were asked on Wednesday night if we would both speak at a special missionary stake conference in our mission on Sunday morning. We've spoken at several stake conferences, ususally a testimony is all they want from me, and that's fine. But that morning there were more people in that building than I have ever seen in a church meeting. No fire marshalls in Mexico Every seat taken, the stage full, standing all along the sides, filling up the pews on the stand and every room full, and people left when there was no more room. Elder Valenzuela was the main speaker and he and his wife did a great job (he spoke in last Oct General Conf in you want to look him up) And you could have heard a pin drop. I was just a little nervous but again Divine intervention and the words come that don't come when I'm just at the grocery store or talking to the gardener. I always sit down wondering if anything I said made sense, and Jerry assures me that it did and does. The Spirit teaches, we just have to live to have it with us. Love these people here, they are faithful, humble, and loving. I feel so blessed to hear their stories and see their lives change. It was a long 5 days and I was tired on Monday, but not Jerry, he was up and out of the house to meetings all day at the office. It's not easy living with the Energizer Bunny. Good thing he knows I'm the weak link and doesn't expect me to keep his hours. Love you all, miss you, if you see a weird phone number some day that starts with 55 it might be me so don't hang up!!