Friday, October 30, 2009

Bret's Address For Sending Stuff His B-Day is Coming Up

Hi This is Bret's mom. His B-Day is Dec 1 and it takes forever for the mission home to distribute mail or packages. So...if you planned on sending a birthday card for his B-day or a Christmas card, now's the time. Don't send anything of value, it won't make it or will cost too much in tarrafs. Things he would like are: Photos, cards, letters, church CD's or appropriate music, rice chrispy treats (wrap in twos in plastic and then zip lock to keep butter inside), candy. I've found the US Post office to be the most user friendly for me. You may want to pay a little extra and get a tracking number.

Here's the address:

Elder Bret C. Hansen

Mexico Cuernavaca Mission

Ave. Palmira #35

Col. Palmira

Cuernavaca, Morelos C.P. 62490


9 Months - Still Barfing

This week I completed 9 months. That means if I began my mission as a zygote, I would now be a fully functioning human being. That's kind of weird to think about.
This week was kind of slow again. A lot of our investigators are kind of lame. In fact this week we dropped four of our baptism possiblities for this month. But I think this next week will be very busy. We have a lot of appointments scheduled. Tomorrow we also have the zone conference in Lazaro. That means we probably get to sleep on the floor of the church and leave at 5:00 am. Yay.

I found Clint's letter interesting. In our mission our Book of Mormons last us a while. We give them out on the second visit and only if they're not really lame. Finding them for a second visit cuts out like half of the new investigators, and those that read the pamphlet or are not really lame narrows it down to just a few every week. We have to be pretty careful with the stuff we hand out because they don't give us new stuff very often. Yes, we do find a number of people that have talked with the missionaries before. Pantla and Barrio Nuevo which is where the church used to be have been contacted to death by the missionaries. It seems like almost every one in Barrio Nuevo has talked with the missionaries before. But there are only 2 active families that live there.

I thought I didn't have any stories, but I just remembered a good one. So I thought it was kind of unusual that I hadn't thrown up for a while, but I think the Bomba cleaned out my system and gave me a sissy stomach again. Anyways, last Monday we were in centro of Zihuha. My companion was dragging me around to some stores, and I was feeling pretty sick. We went to the photo store, so he could print pictures. I started to feel really dizzy, and I ran outside. There was a lot of people outside, but I couldn't hold it in any longer. I found an empty spot between two parked cars and threw up a few times. Everyone was looking at me like "who is this drunk white guy throwing up in the street?" I'm sure the girl that was smashed up next to me on the bus on the way home loved the way I smelled. I felt sick the next day too, but I'm better now.

In response to Dad's questions:
This area is different from the last in that it is much more spread out. The houses are further from the church, so it is hard to bring people to church. But the people seem to be a little bit more receptive here. In my last area we got a lot more doors slammed on us. I say that figuritively, because most of the houses don't have doors.

We eat a lot of sea food. I've learned how to eat the fish that every one eats here. It has a lot of "espinas" (pokey things).
I still do eat frosted flakes or corn flakes in the morning. We have a mamita in our area. That means we eat with the same lady every day. If we have time, we also eat with her in the morning. But lately we haven't gone much in the morning. She cooks really good.

Yes, a lot of people work at the resorts. That is dream job everyone wants. But it is bad for us because they usually work on Sundays.
A lot of people are kind of familiar with the church. They know who the mormons are. They know we have "another Bible" and sometimes they throw out the name Jose Smith. But other than that they usually don't know too much.
Ok well that's all for this week.

I love you,
Elder Hansen

October 19 Secret Beach

Not too much happened this week. In fact, it was kind of a bummer week. None of our investigators came to church. And the church was pretty empty again. We had about 30 again. The biggest problem for us is getting people to the church. In the ward there are about 5 families that come every week. There are another 5 or more that come once every couple of weeks. Then there those that only come when the missionaries bug them a whole lot. And then there's the other half of the baptized members that never come.To me it's weird how there are people that have a testimony of the church but won't go to church or think they're good if they go once a month.
We finished six weeks here, but Elder Macias and I are still together. That wasn't a really big surprise.

On Saturday we went to visit an hermana that lives far away. It took us about an hour to get there, but it was worth it. She lives on a amazing beach. I found out where all the gringos have been hiding. The area is called Troncones beach, and it's apparently a pretty famous surf spot. The waves looked pretty sweet. There were a bunch of big houses owned by Americans. I saw two heavily tattooed white guys that run a surf school down there. At first I thought one of them was Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I read a little bit of Tanner's blog. I couldn't help but laugh hearing him complain about their car's mileage limit being reduced. Occasionally we get a ride in the back of the pickup, but for the most part it's lots and lots of walking in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity. I guess everyone has a different mission experience. He was way pumped to find 6 new investigators in one day. With President Gardner, we were required to find 5 new investigators every day. There have been days when we find 10 or 15 in one day. I think the difference is that here in Mexico a ton of people listen to us but nobody will commit to anything. So we can be really busy visiting people, but none of them are going to go anywhere.

I appreciate the letters. Brooke, I remembered your birthday, but I couldn't really do anything about it. Also, it seems likes old age is hitting Dad pretty hard. He can no longer stay awake through a tv show or movie or anything past 9:00 pm.

Ok well, I don't have much more news. Thanks for the letters. Cuidense. Les amo un buen.

Elder Hansen

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12 2009 Baptism This Week

Outside the church at Jose's baptism

Jose's Baptism

Happy Columbus Day! Happy birthday Zac!

Everybody seems to be complaining about the cold weather, but I'm pretty jealous. It's sooo hot. I'm wet from sweat all day long.

I guess I am pretty fortunate to be with all native speakers all the time. In this mission there are a lot more Mexican elders than gringos, and the sisters are all Mexican. So it is pretty likely that I will be with native companions my whole mission.

This week was pretty good. We had a baptism on Saturday. The baptism was cool, yet kind of sad at the same time. We have been teaching a family for a while and we challenged them for baptism on the 10th. It was going to be the dad, mom, and the two oldest kids. They all seemed to be way excited. On Friday, the day before the baptism, my companion and the district leader went to do the interview. The mom told them that she wanted to wait and that she wanted her kids to wait until they were older. But Jose, the dad, still wanted to be baptized.

The baptism went well. On Sunday he was confirmed. Later as I was teaching the gospel principle class, he started to tell me about the challenges he has had lately and he bore his testimony to me. I have never met a recent convert with such a strong testimony. I know that he is going to be a faithful member, and in time his wife will accept. I hope that one day he will have the opportunity to baptize his wife and children.

I will beging to answer Dad's questions. I am in a ward not a branch. This Sunday we only had 30 people in the church, but last Sunday we had almost 80. We don't have a chapel. We have a casa de oracion (house of prayer). It is a house turned into a church. It has a baptismal font behind it. And yes it is much more unified than the branch in my other area. (I forgot the word more in the other letter). The bishop is a convert of about 6 or 7 years. He's a good guy, but is a little awkward teaching a class. He tends to spit out every piece of information he knows which can kind of scare an investigator.

My companion is from Chihuahua, Chihuahua. He was baptized when he was ten, so I guess he is a convert. He said his family has been kind of off and on active and inactive, but since he came on the mission his family has remained active in the church. He is good at talking to people.

I'm glad to hear the cougars are doing well. I sing "rise and shout the cougars are out" to get my companion out of bed to have comp study. I don't think he understands, but it works.

Do we know if Kelli's is a boy or girl yet?

Les amo,
Elder Hansen

October 5 2009 La Bomba

¡Hola! I'm glad to hear everyone had fun on the vacation. Is everyone getting together for Christmas? It's weird how one week I get like ten letters and the next only one, but it's cool.

With respect to your vacation ideas to Ixtapa, I'm not sure if it would be that great. Ixtapa is pretty, but there is only one beach and not much to do. The town is new so there isn't that much stuff there. In fact, hardly anyone lives there. Everyone lives in Zihuatanejo, and Zihua isn't that tourist friendly. I've heard of some cool dive spots in the area, but other than that I haven't heard of much. I'd prefer going to Cancun or Cabo. But if the question is between Acapulco and Ixtapa, I would definitely pick Ixtapa. Acapulco is nasty. I was only there a couple hours, but the city is dirty, overly crowded, and from what I've heard pretty dangerous. I also heard the beach isn't that great. Ok well, I shouldn't think too much about these things.

This week, not too much happened. We were allowed to go the priesthood and Sunday sessions of conference. I enjoyed it a lot. I was able to understand a lot better that the last conference. The Spanish translater doesn't put much emotion in his voice. I could tell Elder Holland was speaking with a lot of emotion, but the translator was pretty monotone. It is true that the Spanish speakers record their own voice.

I got to go on divisions this week and I was senior companion for the first time. It didn't seem too hard. I don't know if I mentioned, I'm the only gringo in the Zihuatanejo area. So now even on p-day I have to speak spanish all day. It's not hard, but I miss having people that could keep me up to date on sports and news from the US. For example, I didn't know about the tsunami until today.

I am currently in the process of taking "la bomba" or the bomb. It is a series of 6 pills that are taken every six months to clean out the system of parasites. I've heard it can have some pretty intense side effects. Day one hasn't been too bad so far.

Alright well, I'm out of things to say. If you have questions about the area or anything feel free to ask.

Elder Hansen

Sunday, October 4, 2009

9 27 09 Burning Roof

Sorry if I make grammar mistakes. I write these letters really fast. I think I'm still pretty far from "going native" or forgetting English. My Spanish still isn't that great. I'm actually surprised how it is for me. In the MTC, I felt like I was pretty far advanced, and I learned to understand really fast. I've gotten to the point where I can understand pretty much everything when I read or listen, but I still speak awkwardly.

Thanks for all the letters. I enjoy hearing from everyone. I especially liked Mom's story. I will write Kelli back in Spanish next week so she can grade me. I don't have much time right now.

This week was great. I will share a cool experience. On Wednesday we went to visit a family that we had taught a couple times. When we went we felt like they were beginning to die on us. We decided to fast for them. The day of the fast while going to their house, it was especially hot and we couldn't get a ride. We walked for over a mile on the side of the road singing hymns as we went to keep our minds off of our hunger. Finally we got a ride. We arrived and the whole family was there. Right off the bat they started questioning us about why an angel would tell Nephi to kill someone. Eventually we resolved that issue and were able to move on. We testified a lot and the spirit was very strong. After almost 3 hours with them, they were committed to come to church and to pray that night. On Sunday we came to pick them up for church and they were ready. That's something that doesn't usually happen. They invited us in and told us that the day before their house had caught fire and burnt a hole in the roof and burnt their Bible and Book of Mormon. I think Satan really doesn't want this family to get baptized. But they had a great attitude about it, and were even joking about the sky light in their house. The whole family came to church and stayed all three hours and are excited to come to general conference next week.

The week ended great when Hermana Vasquez made us tacos al pastor with hand made tortillas. I finally saw the beach today when we went to Ixtapa to eat Domino's pizza. The beach here is gorgeous. I recommend Ixtapa for a vacation destination. I took pictures, but in this internet place I can't upload. I'll send them next week. Ok well, I don't have much time. Thanks for the letters and take care.

Elder Hansen

9 21 09 Second Week in Pantla

Well, things are going great here in Pantla. I'm sorry my last letter was kind of negative. My first week was kind of rough, but the second went much better. We are working hard and we are seeing results. We have one investigator named Tomas that we visit almost daily. He has come to church 3 consecutive Sundays and we have himn scheduled for baptism this Saturday. He's still a little unsure, but this week we hope to get him excited. This week we also decided to check out a pueblo called Buena Vista that is like 10 minutes up the road from Pantla. In the first house we knocked, we found a way cool family. We taught them the restoration and left them with a Book of Mormon. They had a lot of questions, but we scheduled a visit for 2 days later. When20we came back on Saturday, nobody was home. We were kind of bummed. We then visited our other appointments and did some contacting, but it went pretty unsuccessfully. Then we knocked the door of this Jehovah's Witness. She was nice at first, but then started tearing us apart. My comp tried to fight back using the Bible, but the JW knew a lot more than him. After a long discussion, I finally got us to leave. We were pretty desanimado (depressed), but before leaving we decided to visit the first family again. They were there, but were working. The hermano told us he had already read through all of 3 Nephi and Mormon, he then invited us to eat with his family on Wednesday and have a discussion about the book. So we have a lot of cool investigators right now, and we are busy searching for more.
So, before I met my comp, a lot of people had told me some bad things about him, and I believed them. For the first week, I kind of judged him and I let his stupid stuff bother me. But this week I realized that as long as we are working I'm happy. I think he has changed a lot recently, and I need to be supportive and help him. He had a companion named Elder Snyder that really helped him a lot. When Snyder arrived, Macias was pretty dead and didn't want to do anything, But by the end of 6 weeks Snyder got him to work hard and have comp study every day, and they had success that change.& nbsp; How he did it was by becoming best friends with him. Macias told me that everyday at 9:00 Snyder would sit in his chair next to the bed of Macias and he would wake him up for comp study. Macias said would lay there, but Snyder would begin to read out loud from the Book of Mormon. Macias said he would pretend to be asleep, but he actually paid attention to what Snyder was reading. By the end of the change, they were having study time each change. The habits he formed with Snyder stuck with him, and now he wakes up at nine and we have comp study and we plan every night. It makes me wonder if I could have done the same thing with my first companion.
So, I will tell you a little more about the area and membership here. We have a ward here in Pantla. It was just made a ward about 2 months ago, and is pretty small. We have about 40 people on a typical Sunday. We don't have a chapel. We have a casa de oracion, which is a house turned into a church. I think we have to first fill this little house before they will consider giving us a chapel. What I like about the church here is that the members are much unified. It seems like almost every day there is some church activity. Last week, we had a Mexican Independence Day party in the church. The members drove around and picked up all the inactive members, and the church was full. We had over 80 people there. I20mentioned a little about the area last week. As I mentioned it is really hot, and unlike Houston air conditioning doesn't exist. It is a very coastal environment. There are palm trees everywhere. There are big hills that are full of dense, green forest. There are 2 big rivers that run through our area. We eat a lot of fish and seafood. Who would have thought that after 14 years in Texas I would eat my first crawfish in Mexico? The beach is apparently really close to Pantla, but I still haven't seen it. Oh well, maybe it's better that I don't. On Mondays we go to Zihuatanejo to use the internet, go shopping, and to have our district meetings. I occasionally see Americans here, which is kind of weird. Today I saw my first Asian person in six months. I have only driven through Ixtapa, but it seems pretty fancy. Right now it's pretty empty.
Alright well, this is getting long, so until next week.

Elder Hansen

9 14 09 Transfer To Guacamayas

Last week in Jona

Sorry my letters have been coming late. I've been writing every Monday. I don't know what the deal is with myldsmail.

Well, where do I begin? It's been a busy two weeks. I got transfered this week, so that's why I didn't write. I guess I will begin with my interesting transfer experience. The day started out good as we all met together in Cuernavaca with President. I got to see some of my friends from the MTC. It was fun to hear everyone's experiences in the past 6 months. One of my friends had been serving as a Bishop for several months. The Bishop had some serious medical problems and his senior companion was a bum, so after only a couple months in the mission and with limited Spanish ability he had to take over the responsibilities as bishop.

In Cuernavaca, I found out I was being transfered to the Guacamayas zone which is the farthest point in the mission. I took a bus ride to Acapulco with a bunch of other Elders. From there I was the only one going to Guacamayas. At 8.00 at night they sent me alone on a bus to Lazaro Cardenas. I was kind of nervous, but they assured me that someone would be waiting for me. I arrived at around 2:30 AM, and nobody was there. I waited and waited, and at around 4 I started to get pretty nervous. I searched my stuff for a number I could call on the pay phone. The only one I had was the number of our neighbors in Jona. At 5 I called them and asked them to wake up Elder Moscoso and have him call the offices and tell them where I was. He did, and they said the zone leaders would be there soon. I waited and waited until about 9:15 two missionaries showed up and told me I needed to get on another bus. I was apparently supposed to get off in Zihuatanejo, but nobody told me that. So at 11:30 after 2 days and 14 hours of bus rides I arrived in Zihuatanejo and found the missionaries.

My area is called Pantla, and we live about 20 minutes from Zihuatanejo. Pantla is another ten minutes from our house. This area is very different from my other area. The area is very big and includes a lot of barrios and pueblos that are located along the freeway. For some reason we don't live in Pantla, which is where the church is located and where about half of the members live. I hope we can changes houses soon. This apartment is pretty terrible in every aspect. First for the location. We start out every morning by asking rides from pickup trucks into Pantla. Also the apartment is probably a little smaller than my room in Texas. And in that room are two beds, 2 tables, a mini fridge, and some racks to hang clothes. We also have two folding chairs that don't fit in front of the tables because the tables are smashed against the beds. The shower works by pulling on a chain and water trickles down. I think I would prefer the bucket method.
This area is very wet, green, and hot. It rains a lot. Imagine Houston in August all year long. I have only seen the beach from the freeway, but it looks pretty cool. Ixtapa looks pretty fancy. It is kind of lame being in a beach town without being able to go to the beach.

My new companion is Elder Macias. He is from Chihuahua, Chihuahua. We've been working pretty good, but I think this companionship is going to be another challenge. With my last comp, we got along really well, but he didn't want to work. With this comp, we work more, but he kind of drives me nuts. Elder Macias is kind of famous in the mission. In just one year he has had 13 companions and 7 areas.

I will throw in a good story from this week. My first night here I woke up with rear end full of bug bites. After about 4 days they still were there, and in fact were getting more swollen. Last night we were with some members, and I explained my problem. The hermano inspected me in the bathroom. When I came out he was heating up some limes on the stove. I was kind of scared. He had me pull down my pants and he placed the hot limes on the insect bites. I don't know if it worked, but I think I need to go back for another treatment tomorrow. In the meantime, I am washing everything.

Ok well I have a lot more I could write, but I think that will do for now. Thanks for all the letters.
I included some pictures from my last week in Jona.

Elder Hansen

8 31 09 Still in Jona

I'm glad to hear my fame is spreading. If it requires eating more caterpillars to create interesting stories for my fans to read, I'll do it. I've been informed that Dad began advertising my blog on the family email, and that I have at least one lonely reader in Eager, Arizona.
I also would like to thank Grandma Wiggins for the nice email. It was nice to hear from her.
Thanks for the letter Jenny. I saw your post, and I would like to clarify something. The tamarindo candies are pretty good, and the water isn't too bad. I'm starting to like it more, but I still get a little disapointed when we go to eat and I see the brown tamarindo water instead of a delicious agua de pina, guayaba, guanabana, jamaica, melon, or limon. Even the agua de pepino (cucumber) is pretty good if it has enough sugar.
This week not too much happened. My companion is kind of dead again, but I'm trying to not let his mood swings affect me anymore. Yesterday he turned twenty-three. It's kind of weird that he's almost as old as Jenny. Not that Jenny is old, but she is married and graduated and stuff. I gave him the tie from Brooke's wedding. Ties are pretty much the only gifts among missionaries.
This week we went to Cuernavaca so my companion could donate blood for one of our investigators. I couldn't donate because I don't have an ID. In Mexico, before you can get an operation you have to get two people to donate blood.
Something interesting that I would like to point out about the Mexican people is that they are very superstitious and they believe whatever gossip or thing they hear on TV or see on the internet. This week we were talking with a family and somehow the topic came up about some weird fish that they found in a pond in Cuautla. They showed us the newspaper article, and it had a picture of the weird fish and said it was most likely extra-terrestrial and had reportedly already attacked several local residents. I began to laugh. They asked what I thought, and I said I don't believe in aliens. They looked at me as if I was crazy. They then proceeded to talk about witches and vampires and all the tv shows and internet videos they had seen that prove the existence of those things. I kept my mouth shut to not offend. Also, someone told me that they had seen a video that showed how aliens were responsible for destroying the twin towers.
Well, another change is about to end and who knows what the wind will bring. Next Sunday we will find out. I think it will be very shocking if I leave this place. For about 5 and a half months I have been here in the same pueblo eating in the same houses. The branch members have become like my family. I've been with the same companion for so long I've kind of forgotten what it's like to be with anyone else. But who knows. Maybe President sees another couple of changes out of me in Jona.
Sea feliz. Sea mormon.

Elder Hansen

PS Here's some pictures of the local scenery and some cows that were walking down the road while we waited outside of an investigators house.