Monday, April 16, 2018

Another busy week, with lots of "stuff" going on at the CV.  However, the big item was
Tom's birthday yesterday.  Since we are in Mexico and far from anywhere to actually go shopping, there were no birthday presents.  We did go to L'Ecatroz (the panaderia that is close to our apartment) and buy two pasteles (cakes) to share with the Sisters.  AND we invited them all to have cake with us on Sunday evening when the Center closed.  Sunday got off to a slow start--which is OK--but quickly went into high gear as the Stake President was in our Ward to release the 2nd Counselor in the Bishopric and call him as the new Elder's Quorum President.  After that, he spent quite a bit of time instructing the Ward in how the new changes would affect them, like not going to the Bishop with every little problem!  Tom spent a LOT of his time as Stake President trying to teach the same thing!  We decided that what President Nelson did during Conference was give some teeth to what was already in the Handbook of Instructions.  Now we hope people will pay attention.  From there we went to the VC, where we had a steady stream of investigators.  It was actually a lot of fun.  We had a visit from a member of the Area Presidency--who arrived with friends from the States, a visit from an entire Primary, visits from several Missionaries with investigators, etc.  No two days are ever the same in the VC!  We then had a great dinner with the new Senior Couple (Office) the Johnsons, along with the Tanners and Johnsons (Pres. of the Temple Johnson).  We finished the day with our celebration with the Sisters--and how much fun!  We told them this was not a party, just sharing birthday cake--but they went all out and made Birthday cards that were precious!  We are saving all of them in our scrapbook!
As for the rest of the week....  It is past and gone!  We had multiple calls with Salt Lake about our struggling technology, and they are now doing all repairs remotely so they can keep track of the issues.  We found out our new Senior couple will not be staying on the temple square--that apartment was given to the new office couple.  We lost a lot of sleep over that one, because it is dangerous to walk the streets around the temple after dark, and that is what they will have to do.  The office couple will NOT have to be our of their apartment after dark.  Since we were promised that they would be on the square (and safe) we were really upset.  However, we are adjusting and are working out ways to keep them off the street.  It will mean readjusting everyone's schedule, but it will be OK.  AND, we got a Pday this week!  Even though Elder Cisneros continues to struggle with his health, the Sosa's called and volunteered to take an extra day.  We spent the day in the Temple.  It was a great break!  Enough for now, we have an apartment to clean and errands to run.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

In Mexico, Santa Semana is a two week vacation.  Schools are dismissed for two weeks, families head out to visit extended family or to head to the beaches.  The weather is beautiful, warm and dry.  And the streets are virtually empty (relatively speaking).  We thought that Santa Semana would bring us a quiet week in the Visitor's Center.  We were wrong.  Our weekday numbers doubled and tripled as families who were vacationing in Mexico City headed to the Temple to sightsee or visit.  It was a lot of fun to talk with people from all over Mexico who were here on "vaciones".  More fun that they came as families.  And not all were members--a lot were people who just wanted to know more. 
We took advantage of the light traffic by getting brave enough to drive to Costco Lindavista and stock up.  It took us about 20 minutes to get there, but only about 10 to get home.  That is thanks to one way streets and the Circuito--which is always crowded.  We did manage to find some hollow chocolate easter eggs there, and bought two huge bags to share with the sisters for Easter Sunday.  We looked all over for other easter candy, but Mexico doesn't do easter candy, so we had no luck.  I finally ended up finding a recipe for Reese's easter eggs, and made that up.  They didn't look anything like Reese's easter eggs, but they tasted great!  We had planned on taking our 6-week pictures of the sisters on Wednesday morning, but they pleaded out (hair not done, needed better outfits, etc.) so we postponed that until Sunday morning.  The rest of the week was pretty normal--with significantly higher numbers of visitors.  On Friday night we did an encore presentation of the Messiah by the Tabernacle Choir.  It was a real chore to get the AV set up for streaming--but we finally got that done and had about 15 people join us for the sing-along.  Saturday started Conference weeked.  We watched at the desk (in English), while the Sisters watched in the Teatro Grande in Spanish.  We didn't do tours, just invited everyone to join us in listening to a prophet's voice.  It went great--all weekend!  Sunday morning at 8:45 we took our pictures.  It was really fun, because after the pictures, the sisters started taking pictures of each other.  It was kind of a hoot to watch them capturing each other on film!  I'm attaching the April picture below...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I keep thinking life can't get busier, then it gets busier!  This week was a case in point.  The week started off as always, with a "slow" Monday--only this week slow (normally 25 people) turned into almost 100 people who visited the VC by the end of the day.  Each subsequent day reflected the increase  We're not quite sure what the cause was, but it was great to welcome so many to the Center and have the chance to talk with them and show them around.  On Wednesday we had our training meeting broadcast from SLC via Skype, which of course wouldn't work.  We sent the Sisters to their district meetings (which they usually hold after training), then brought them back once the system was up and running.  As always, the training was great and got the sisters thinking in different ways about what they are doing.  On Friday we had scheduled a live broadcast of the Messiah with the Tabernacle Choir, unfortunately the sound would NOT work!  I thought it would be just Tom and I, but we actually had 15 people show up--and they all left disappointed.  About 8:30, Tom got one theatre up and running (of our 3 theaters!) and we played 1/2 hour of the broadcast.  We promised everyone that we would reshow the broadcast--so we need to get that going this week-assuming SL can get the announcement in Facebook in time.  That all happened on top of our losing our Pday, since our substitute couple for the morning (the Cisneros family) ended up in the hospital.  It made for a long day!  Wednesday night we had dinner with the Tanners, Winwards and Johnsons one floor up from our apartment.  It was a fun chance to speak English and just get acquainted.  Saturday dawned bright and early and we opened the door to 20 busloads of people who were there for the temple.  We had two Stake Primary groups, two Stake YM/YW groups and a performance by the Ballet Toyolotl Masaeua (an offspring from Benemerito's dance group).  The Center was hopping all day long!  The Ballet group was GREAT!  We are promising ourselves to attend all the Ballet Folklorico groups that come to visit!  We had about 175 people in attendance at the Ballet, and another 1800+ at the Center for the day!  This is turning out to be a lot of fun!
I wanted to talk about the Zarate's .  Elder and Sister Zarate are from Oaxaca, have 12 children, and are pretty humble people.  They are quiet, and do any and everything asked of them.  They were assigned to serve an 18 month mission at the CV, and arrived 3 months before we did.  They are also AMAZING missionaries.  We learned the first week here, that they were not happy at the CV because they didnt' have enough to do.  They had actually asked the President to be reassigned!  He gave them permission to work in some of the Sister's areas when they were not "on" at the CV.  As a consequence, they now go out every morning and walk the streets, handing out pass-along cards and invitations to come to the CV.  Any referrals they get are passed along to the Sisters, but thus far (after 6 months), the Zarate's have had more than 6 baptisms--with several more scheduled.  That's better than most full time missionaries!  The rest of the Senior Couples are pretty much in awe of them!  They are quietly magnifying their CV calling and showing the rest of us how to be missionaries!  We LOVE the Zarates!  By the way, they have now asked to have their mission extended to 2 years!  Sister Zarate is also an expert embroiderer, and is currently working on embroidering a whole dress Oaxaca style.  She has been watching me embroider the quilt I am making with the Sister's names embroidered over their signatures.  She is fascinated by the "new" stitches she has never seen before (like feather and backstitch).  I can hardly wait to see her dress, because those will be new stitches for me.
One last item, the Jacaranda and Magnolias are in bloom!  We have several magnolias right outside the CV, and they are wonderful to see!  I have missed Jacarandas and magnolias!  The picture below comes from one of our trees!  Next week I'll look for a jacaranda!

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!