Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hail and Farewell

It's been quite a week!  On Sunday evening we closed the Visitor's Center early and held a quick despedida for Elder and Sister Maya.  They were at the end of the 18 month mission, and although not very healthy had stuck it out and completed their assignement.  They were a wonderful help to us in our first 2 months, helping us understand how things had been done in the VC before our arrival.  After having served with them for so long, they were favorites among the Sisters.  They were all excited when we told them we were going to close the Center and eat pastel (cake).  At 8:15, I went back to the fridge to pull the 2 cakes we had bought out and cut them.  Imagine my amazement to see 4 cakes in the refrigerator!  The sisters decided to add a few of their own--along with decorations, cards, etc.  You have GOT to love working at the VC with these sisters.  Anyway, the despedida went well.  Monday we had a steak dinner "feast" for all the senior couples who live on Temple Square.  We stayed in the VC and sent the Zarates over to celebrate with the Mayas and the Johnsons (office missionaries) who were also going home.  After an hour we were relieved, and joined in.  The steak was delicious, the company a lot of fun--both spanish and english speaking.  The Mayas were scheduled to leave that afternoon.  However, someone forgot to actually PAY for their ticket, so they were stuck in Mexico City until Thursday morning.  We talked with them about their disappointment, invited them to the Training on Wednesday morning, and were not happy that their return home was delayed.  Finally, on Thursday morning early, they caught an Uber to the airport and were off to Zacatecas.

On Tuesday afternoon our "site visit" team arrived from SLC.  John Boswell and Ben Metcalf arrived around 4 pm.  They spent next 3 days helping us (and the Sisters) understand better how to work with the Teaching Center.  Since was the first ever training that most of the Sisters had received from SLC, they were full of "Wows!" both days.  President and Sister Naumann were with us both days, a really great thing for the Sisters to see.  Both John and Ben were pretty overwhelmingly complementary about what we were doing at the CV.  Nice to hear!

Other happenings this week.  Sister DeLira from the Mexico City South Mission visited us!   So fun to see our missionaries!  Both of us got sick.  We had an American family visit and lose their credit cards and driver's licenses--that was fun tracking down!  We had several weddings, a lot of visiting CCM missionaries, a trip to the Temple, and the first time ever with the changed Pday schedule.  Changes just keep coming!  We are excited to see what is next!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Another week has passed, and "Oh, boy!" are we busy!  Weekdays at the Centro para Visitantes are relatively slow--few people wander in on Mondays.  Mostly, probably, because the Temple is closed on that day.  We have people who wander in off the streets--and they are a delight because they come in seeking to learn.  Mostly, that doesn't happen until the afternoon, when people are off work and on their way to Comida--the day's main meal in Mexico.  That happens sometime between 2 and 4.  As the afternoon progresses into evening, more and more people come--but seldom more that about 50.  That makes for a great opportunity to work on administrative "stuff", like working out calendars for everyone, ordering supplies, restocking our shelves, etc.  It gives me the chance to work on some Family History--which I don't get much chance to do otherwise.  We don't have Sisters at the CV on Mondays because they are on the Pday (at least for another week--but that is next week's story), so the Brailsford's start the day solo.  I usually main the front desk.  Tom either is in the office or sitting beside me--both of us with open lap-tops working away.  We are joined by the other Senior Couples as the day progresses, and finally head home around 3 pm.  Tuesday-Friday are a case of gradually increasing numbers of visitors.  By Tuesday, the temple is open, so we have a mix of walk-ins, usually double or triple the number for Monday--usually 150-200.  The number increases each day, culminating in Fridays.  Fridays at the Temple in Mexico City are a lesson in family time.
Buses from all over the Temple district start arriving before 7 am.  These are full-size touring buses, and are full of families--old to young.  Mom and Dads will take turns tending children while one of them attends a session, then trade off.  This goes on all day long.  Why bring young children?  Because they want them to feel the Spirit on the Temple Grounds.  And they want them to know that attendance at the Temple is important--regardless of the cost in time or resources.  As a consequence, we have entire families spread out over the grounds--dressed in their Sunday best--playing, eating, greeting friends, sleeping, whatever.  Of course, they all visit the Visitor's Center.  On Saturdays we (on a normal Saturday) see between 1,500 to 2,000 visitors.  At first we felt challenged by the sheer mass of people cruising the halls of the Center.  Now, we feel blessed to have so many here enjoying the opportunity to spend some time near (or in) the Lord's house!  We have started showing videos all day long, to help those who have to wait several hours passs the time.  All of this is in addition to the normal visitors who wander in, or are brought in by friends of missionaries.  Saturdays are a challenge, but they are also the best day of the week in the Visitor's Center
The Mayas
The Zarates
It is a joy to work with missionaries and Senior Couples who greet each day--and challenge with a smile.  We lose Elder and Sister Maya this week, they are going home to Zacatecas and a family who have sorely missed them.  We will now be the ones to sorely miss them!  They have served 18 months, and helped us "learn the ropes" when we got here--and are still doing so.  Sister Maya walked me to two different tianguis to be sure that I knew where I was going and who sold the best fruits, vegetables and meats (the pork loin was great--not so sure about the chicken--I'll probably stick with Costco's frozed bag of chicken breasts!)  Besides leaving us short-handed, they will be leaving a large hole in the lives of all of us who are serving here.  We are having a despedida for them tonight, and expect a lot of tears.  Then there are the Zarates who arrived a few months before us.  They are from Oaxaca, and a little Puebla at that!  They are the parents of 12 children, and are about the most humble people you would hope to meet.  Never equate humility with lack of ability.  Both of Zarates are tireless workers.  They are not satisfied with working 6 6-hour shifts each week, they go out early in the morning on their Pday to work the streets, handing out pass-along cards, invitations to the Visitors Center, and setting up appointments to teach.  Elder Zarate has already had 4 baptisms after only a few months.  The two of them put the rest of us to shame!  Not really, because we are doing what we were called to do, but we have come to love and really appreciate the Zarates!  During the last spate of earthquakes, which hit their puebla, they took it all in calmly, telling us that in Oaxaca the earth shakes all the time and that they and their children were fine.  I pushed them to contact the family--they reported the next day that everything was OK, just like they'd said. 
The word that comes to mind is "unflappable", unmovable in their faith.  Sister Zarate has undertaken to help me with my Spanish, which is fine by me.
Our Sisters are marvelous!  We have changed a few things since we got here, not many.  Each change, though, is difficult because they are accustomed to doing things the way they were taught.  And the way they were taught was good.  Fine tuning, however, sometimes requires changes.  They have (not always cheerfully) embraced each change and made it theirs.  What a miracle to have such a spirit of obedience!  This week the change was one requested by the Mission President in our first conversation--a change in Pday.  After the inital confusion, they are adjusting and working it out.  The idea is to give them the opportunity to attend the Temple on their Pday.  Previously all Pdays for the Sisters were on Monday, when the Temple was closed.  Now half of the Sisters have Pday on Monday, half on Tuesday--leaving the VC staffed all week, and the Sisters with the availability to attend the Temple. 
We are looking forward to a visit from Salt Lake next week.  We are anticipating the possibility of more changes then.
Until next week!