Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 22 2009

Happy Father's Day! This is the third consecutive Father's Day I have been away from home, and I don't know if I will ever be home for another. But I hope you had a great day Dad.
Congratulations Brooke! Before I left, I predicted 2 new babies and one in the oven. So far, I think I am doing pretty well.
I enjoyed reading about the trip to Italy. The pictures are gorgeous. It made me laugh thinking about you on the trains that you thought were gross. I imagine the buses in Mexico are probably pretty similar. Did you have to sit next to any chickens or a woman breast feeding?
This week I want to thank Clint for the advice he gave me. He told me that if I ever got really angry at my companion to iron his shirts. Well, I hadn't been getting along with my companion very well, but I thought I would just tough it out until the changes then I would leave and all would be well. But I ended up staying, and I think we were both kind of disappointed. Anyways, it was the first day of the second transfer, and my companion was sleeping in a lot later than usual. I thought he had given up, and I was just sitting in my chair getting angry. Then as I saw my companion's clothes hanging up in the other room, I remembered what Clint said. I ironed his two white shirts while he slept, and then I hung up one of my shirts with his.
He never said anything, but I noticed things were different that day and the following days. We talked a lot more during the day, and we actually contacted and worked. I hope it lasts. If anyone ever wants to give me advice feel free to do so.
Elder Wiggins is now my zone leader. I'm excited about that, but I still haven't seen him.
The rainy season started here. Before, it rained occasionally in the night, but now it rains every night and often during the day. I really like it. The rain isn't hot like it is in Texas. It's been much cooler lately. The other day I wore my long sleeved shirt for the first time since the MTC. When we left in the morning it was in the 60's. But it turned out to be a bad idea becasuse later in the day the sun came out and it was in the 80s.
I will respond to a couple of Dad's questions. I would definitely say that the people of Mexico have greater faith. We always begin the first discussion by asking if they believe in God, and so far nobody has ever said no. God is very much a part of the culture here. The problem is that everyone has faith and believe in God, but that doesn't mean that they keep his commandments.
One cultural difference is time. I have yet to get out of priesthood meeting on time. In fact it usually ends about thirty minutes late. Last week it ended about 45 minutes after church. Those 30-45 minutes can be a long time on a fast Sunday. Also when we visit people, it is expected that we stay for hours. We are not supposed to do that, but that is the way the people think and the way my companion thinks.
The people here also look for any reason to get together. There is a huge party for every occassion. For example, if my cousin's baby has a birthday then I have to go to the party. Also, the women have a relief society activity every week, and the once a month enrichment meeting is a pretty big deal. For the enrichment meeting last month pretty much the entire branch came including the men and children.
Ok well good luck with the house search. I will keep you all in my prayers.
Mom, if you can, try and update the blog. My fans are getting anxious. If you don't have time give the assignment to Jenny or Brooke.
Here's a picture of the road to one of the pueblos. Everything used to be yellow, but now it is green and pretty. I had to take a picture of the Texas sticker I saw on a mini van.

Elder Hansen

June 15 2009

It is kind of sad to hear that you are officially out of Sugar Land, but Wisconsin sounds pretty nice. I could go for some Wisconsin weather right about now.
Today we had transfers, but nothing changed here. I am still in the same area with the same companion. I was a little disappointed. I was pretty positive that I was leaving, and I even started packing my bags on Wednesday. It is a pretty unusual situation. Apparently, President Gardner doesn't normally keep missionaries in one area for a long time, and he usually doesn't keep two missionaries together for more than one transfer. But I think he is testing me. Thursday we had interviews, and president gave me a lot of praise and said he saw great things in me. I was kind of surprised. He proceeded to give me a blessing and promised me many great things. I think he feels that this second change will show if I've got what it takes.
At first I was kind of kind of depressed to be in the same area again with the same difficult companion. But I've realized that my life here isn't too bad, and I have a lot to be grateful for. My apartment is way nice even though right now we can't afford to pay for gas to heat the shower. But I've become pretty used to the cold water. President says it is the nicest house in the mission. We don't have to wash our clothes by hand, and our neighbors give us gelatin almost every night. We get food every day, and I still haven't received anything too gross. The food is usually pretty good. Also, I get to spend the majority of the summer in a place where it isn't too hot and only rains at night time. Ok, it is really hot, but at least it's not humid. I will try to remain positive throughout this change and not allow my standards to fall.
This week I spent two days on divisions with another Elder. It was a great experience. We worked way hard and I learned a lot.
I don't have much else to say so I will answer some of Dad's questions from last week.
The town I live in isn't very big. The highway runs down the middle of it, and it maybe has a thousand people. Our area includes the main town of Jonacatapec and four other pueblos. One pueblo is within walking distance and the other three we have to hitch hike or take public transportation to get to them. We usually work in the main town, because we have found that it is very difficult to get people to church that live in distant pueblos and don't have cars. But we still have to travel out there to eat three days a week.
The town is pretty quiet and relaxed. I couldn't imagine being a kid here. There is absolutley no forms of entertainment other than a couple soccer fields. If anyone wants to do anything they go into the city 40 minutes away.
I'm not sure if there really is a nice or bad part of town. The nice houses are put right next to the little run down shacks. But if have a nice house that means you usually have a 20 foot wall surrounding the house. Usually the wall has barbed wire or broken glass bottles on top. We live in the only apartments in town. There are only six of them, and they are right along the highway which is really convenient.
There are dogs on the streets, but I've never had trouble with them. Occasionaly at people's houses dogs can get territorial, but if you pick up a rock they run away.
The food we receive is usually pretty good. I don't really like the candies with chili on them, but maybe in time I will. I do like the pork rind chips with chili and lemon. I also really love apple soda. I'm not sure why apple soda doesn't exist in the US. Also, there is so much fruit here. Mangos are delicious, but I still can't eat them with chili powder.
I don't think tourists come to Jona. Most people that live somewhat near the church are familiar with it, but it is kind of hidden. The church is just over a year old and is way nice. It is definitely the nicest building in town. The Catholic churches are hundreds of years old, but I bet their jealous of our soccer/basketball court and air conditioned building.
I received Clint and Grandma Hansen's letters. I always enjoy a good river story, and I am working on learning that scripture for you Grandma. And happy birthday to Clint.
I'm not sure if you can send cd's across the border, but it would be nice to have some more music. If you could make a copy of the best two years cd and maybe a kenneth cope or something would be nice.
I included pictures of me and President and Sister Gardner, our district in which I am the only white guy, and Esteban and Arnulfa's wedding/baptism party.
Take care.
Elder Hansen

June 8 2009

I can't help but think that today Teton High Adventure Base begins training. It is probably cold, rainy, and snowy there, but last year those were my favorite two weeks.
It is interesting to hear about Dad's fascination with turkeys. There are tons of them here, but I don't really like them. Maybe it's a little different when they are in forests and not walking down the road or in someone's yard.
Jenny, I hope you can make friends with the old people. As missionaries we talk to a lot of old people. Old people are usually in their houses during the day when we contact. Sometimes people don't want to talk to us, but will invite us in to entertain their old grandma.
Clint, it sounds we do a lot of the same things you did on your mission. We usually yell into houses saying, "Buenas tardes" (good afternoon). We teach a lot of first lessons but rarely a second one. People will set an appointment for us to come back and usually won't be there. Everyone always offers a cup of water and a lot of times food. You gave me some good ideas about having a group meeting in a neighborhood. I have learned a lot from my companion about the culture. I often wondered why everyone loves my companion when he is so lazy, but they don't like me. But I have begun to realize that he always relates very well to the people and he can always make conversation. I have started trying to speak more even though it makes me uncomfortable.
Brooke, I still want to hear about the Italy trip.
This week I had a weird experience. We went to eat with a member and before eating I felt fine, but after eating I felt terrible and threw up a few times. After throwing up I felt perfectly normal again. But Mexicans tend to overreact to such things. The family we ate insisted on driving me to the emergency room. Only in Mexico can someone go to the emergency room, receive doctor's consulting, get an injection, and a box of perscription pills for under five dollars. I was still kind of mad that I had to spend five bucks when I didn't even feel sick. I forgot to mention that the injection was in the butt. That was kind of awkward.
Yesterday I had a cool experience. We had just eaten with a family and we were sitting around. After a while of sitting I finally got us to leave. We went to visit a sister from the ward that hadn't gone to church in a while. She let us in and invited us to eat. What I didn't realize was that she invited us to an Herbalife salespitch meeting. We got some free smoothie things, and I got my body fat measured. I gained back a few pounds and I'm at what I was when I entered the MTC, but the man said I am still under weight. Anyways, the supervisor guy started talking to us, and the conversation turned towards religion as it often does with missionaries. We ended up giving a first lesson to the Herbalife guy, and he is really interested and wants to come to church. He asked when he could go to church before we even brough it up. I think finding this man was an answer to a prayer that I had made earlier in the day.
Yesterday we had two baptisms. It was a really cool experience. Esteban and his wife Arnulfa were baptized. Arnulfa's three daughters have already been baptized and are active in the church. Esteban and Arnulfa have been coming to church for over a year, but couldn't get baptized because they needed a divorce and then to get married. A divorce in Mexico is very difficult to obtain. But this week after much planning, a brother from the ward drove my companion, my district leader, and the couple three hours away to a judge that could get them divorced from their former spouses and married for a reasonable cost. The days leading up to the marriage were pretty hectic, but it was worth it in the end to see a family completed in the gospel. What was awesome was that everyone helped out. The elder's quorem helped pay for gas. Hermano Chucho volunteered his car and to drive them three hours to Guerrero and three hours back. Esteban is awesome. Every week he would come to church with his boots, big belt buckle, and nice cowboy shirt with the top two or three buttons undone. But yesterday after his baptism he wore a tie for the first time. I couldn't help but smile seeing an old tough cowboy wearing a tie. They are both so excited and are having a party to celebrate tomorrow. I was glad to be part of their baptism and I am appreciative of the missionaries that originally found and taught them over a year ago.
Ok well I'm running out of time, but it was nice to hear from you all.
Elder Hansen

June 1 2009

It is kind of sad to hear that I will never be going back to my house, but it will be interesting to see what Wisconsin will be like.
Today we hiked to the top of a mountain. I'm not sure if it is a mountain or a really big hill. At the bottom of the hill there are a few ruins, but they were kind of lame. But at the top it was pretty cool. There is a big metal cross on the top. From the top you can see Popocatepel which is a huge volcano near Mexico City. Either the first missionaries or a group of apostles climbed to the top of that mountain to dedicate Mexico for missionary work.
This week, we worked a lot with a few people to get them ready for baptism. On Wednesday, we are taking two people to get married and then they are getting baptized this Sunday. These people have been going to church for about a year and a half, and all their children are baptized. They couldn't get married before because they both needed divorces, and a divorce is very expensive here. But we found a judge in a town 4 hours away that knows the missionaries and will marry someone if they have been separated from their former spouse for five years.
They are both incredibly excited.
I will try to answer some of Dad's questions. This week we didn't have much success contacting, but there are a few people that we have been teaching for a while. We found them knocking doors. I haven't ever had success contacting in this area before. I still haven't had a new investigator come to church. We usually teach a few lessons each time we contact, but they usually don't want a second visit or aren't there. Some want us to keep coming back and like talking with us, but for some reason we can't get them to church. Sunday morning we pass by the houses of our best investigators to take them to church, but they are never there.
My companion is from Tobasco. He is twenty two years old. He was born in Veracruz, but when he was three he was sent to live with his aunt in Tobasco. The missionaries converted his family and he was baptized at 13. His older sister, which is technically his cousin, served a mission as well. He told me when he was 18 he began to loose interest in the church, and he became a heavy drinker. But throughout this time his aunt made him go to church every Sunday even if his was in just jeans and a t-shirt. He began to be very miserable as he was no longer allowed to take the sacrament and lived unworthily. But one day he realized the cause of his misery, and he quit drinking and started wearing his white shirt and tie to church again. After some time, his bishop called him one night and told him that he had noticed his progress and repentance and called him to be the ward secretary. A few months later, he put in his mission papers. He plans on returning from the mission and studying petrochemical engineering and aspires to work for pemex.
The branch president is a long time member and his brother is the first counselor. His family converted many years ago, and they make up a large part of the branch. I don't really know the story of the second counselor.
I attached some photos from the top of the mountain.
Take care.
Elder Hansen

May 18 2009

The myldsmail keeps messing up so I'm using this one.
Happy belated birthday Jenny. I did receive the package. It was great. I haven't had good old fashioned American sugar in a while.No I did not loose my driver's license. I thought that my wallet story was pretty cool, but you guys seemed to not think so. For me it was a pretty big testimony builder of prayer, and proof that God's watching out over his missionaries. It's pretty impossible for it to just be chance of another member happening to find my wallet on a bus in Mexico.Well, I got my new companion. His name is Elder Moscoso from Tobasco, Mexico. He has eleven months in the mission. He has been entirely on the coast in Guerrero with almost six months in each area. Apparently he has developed a coastal accent. He is kind of difficult to understand. He talks really fast and doesn't annunciate, but we can communicate. His family are converts to the church and he was baptized when he was thirteen.We get along pretty good, but he is definitely different than my other companion. I kind of have to be in charge and keep us from wasting hours at people's houses. He's a good missionary, but he has his times of laziness. But I have noticed that the people are much more receptive now that I am with another Mexican. I think that's one reason why a gringo is almost always with a Mexican.I really enjoyed hearing that story about the Janke family. I didn't know there were cool stories like that in our own family. I would also be interested to hear about Dad and Clint's missions. I've never really really hear them talk about how the work was in Asia. Where was the most success found or whether there was much success at all or some stories about converts. Today I am writing a little later than normal because we went to this castle thing today with a bunch of people from the zone. It was just a giant huge, old Spanish castle with tunnels and stuff. You just pay ten pesos to go in and then you can climb all over whatever and explore the whole thing. It was covered with a lot of graffiti, but was still really cool. I have no idea about the history of the place. But it is called La Sienda and is located in Cuaixtla, Morelos.Yesterday we visited with a member and he told us his conversion story and I thought it was way cool, so I'm going to tell it. One night this man had a dream. In his dream there was a large river, and across the river was a really happy family. Also across the river was a large building with pillars. Out of the building came two personages dressed in white, with white beards, and white skin floating in the air. One of them asked him where he wanted to go. He replied saying that he wanted to cross the river and see how this family was so happy. The personage said it's not yet your time, and he woke up. For a while after the dream he had an unsettling feeling. Then, about a month or two later two missionaries showed up to his house gave him a Book of Mormon, sang a hymn, and left. When they sang the song all of his bad feelings went away. Months passed without seeing the missionaries again. He read the Book of Mormon one and a half times before he saw the missionaries again eight months later. He saw two missionaries sitting on the curb outside his shop and he approached them and told them his story. They told him that his dream meant he needed to be baptized and he was baptized that week. When he went to church that Sunday he was given the Gospel Principles book. In it he saw a picture of Joseph Smith's first vision, and he was able to identify the two personages he saw. Not long later, his entire family was baptized.Well, I will include some pictures of my adventures in Meixico.The computer is not working very well today so I could only upload one photo of the castle thing.
Love, Elder Hansen