Big Events


About the only excitement we had the first part of the week was that we ate a Burger King hamburger and fries. It was the first fast food we’ve had since we got here. We saw it when we came out of Chedraui from grocery shopping and were hungry. We’re enjoying all the good Mexican food we get here, but it was nice to have a bit of a taste of something from home.

Thursday was Thanksgiving—in the United States. They don’t celebrate it here, so we spent the morning in the office. However, we left at noon, made mashed potatoes, and went with the Wrights and the Alsops to the temple complex. The missionary couples there organized a Thanksgiving dinner for all the senior missionaries. We went early enough to do a temple session before dinner, my first one in Spanish. The dinner was a full, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, and all the works, and it was fun to visit with all the other senior missionaries.

Friday afternoon Gustavo picked us up. Then we met Lucero and Kate Lloyd at the airport and headed out to Puebla. Kate is from Salt Lake and is an international communications manager who works with Gustavo. We’d met her online before, but this was the first time in person. The drive to Puebla took a little under two hours, so we got there early evening. Gustavo planned to take us to a restaurant in the historic center of the town for dinner. However, we missed the exit. Lucero was navigating on her phone and said we could take the next exit. We did, but the route we were going through took us through streets that kept getting narrower and a neighborhood that kept looking rougher. Gustavo kept saying, “I don’t know about this." 

We reached a point where Lucero said to turn right. Gustavo turned, then slammed on the brakes. We all looked out the front window and burst out laughing. The road in front of us went almost straight down. It was cobblestone, which we had been on already, but this was in rough shape with big patches where weeds were growing through it. After a moment,

Gustavo took his foot foo the brake, Lucero put her hands in the air and said, "Wheee" like we were on a roller coaster, and down the hill we went. When we finally got out of that neighborhood, Gustavo said, "I think that was not an area we were approved to travel in."

The historic center of Puebla is beautiful, with wonderful old buildings, a huge cathedral, and a lovely plaza. We walked right past our restaurant because we were enjoying looking at it all so much. Of course, we eventually walked back to it. Puebla is known for its good food, and the little of it I was

able to sample bears out that reputation. I’m always careful to make sure what I order isn’t very spicy (though I am getting used to a little more spice) and sometimes that makes me feel like I’m missing out. Not in Puebla. Even though what I ordered wasn’t spicy, it still had good flavor. That evening we ate at a restaurant called Mural de los Poblanos, which had a fun mural of famous people on one wall. The next day before heading back to Mexico City, we ate lunch at a restaurant called El Sombrero. Both places had really good food. Since Ron and Kate were okay with sharing tastes of each other’s food, I got to try several dishes. However, there is one dish I didn’t get to try. It’s called Chiles en Nogada. Gustavo said, “It tastes like Christmas in your mouth.” Sadly, Mural de los Poblanos only serves it in July, August, and September, when the poblano peppers are in season. I guess that gives me a reason to go back and eat more of Puebla’s delicious food.

One of the murals at Mural de los Pablanos

Bacalao, a traditional Christmas dish with fish, olives, and
small potatoes and which we had at El Sombrero

Saturday morning, we had a training meeting, which was the reason for the trip. It involved two Co-ordinating Councils, each of which includes about ten stakes. The Stake Presidents and Stake Communications Specialist were all invited. We had about twenty-five there in person and about ten to fifteen more on Zoom. The people there were so warm and welcoming. Hermana Lechuga and Hermana Ruiz are the Communication Directors for the Co-ordinating Councils and helped set up the meeting. Hermana Ruiz was a real talker. Ron said it was hard to keep up with her even being fluent in Spanish, but she was so excited and happy to have,us there. I tried to tell her I don’t understand Spanish very well, but that didn’t stop her. She kept talking to me anyway. She said she told her two sons we were coming, and they sent us gifts. They were bookmarks for our scriptures. That was so sweet! I always feel a bit guilty when these people treat us like we’re something special, because in reality, they are the wonderful ones. Gustavo, Lucero, and Kate did the training. Ron and I were just there as part of the team. The training was mainly on how communication works in the church but also a little to help them get ready for the temple which will be completed there in a little over a year. I hope we are still here when that happens.

Gustavo on the left, Lucero third from the left, Kate on the right,
Hermana Ruiz next to Kate, and Hermana Lechuga next to her

We had to hurry home from Puebla because of our “Light the World” kickoff at the temple on Sunday. We knew we’d be involved with it most of the day, but we didn’t realize how early in the day our involvement would start. As we were getting ready to head to our 9:00 church, Ron asked if I thought he should take our church cell phone. We usually don’t need it on Sundays, at least for the time it takes to go to church. However, that day I said, “Maybe you should take it. Gustavo might call.”
  Sure enough, as the first speaker was just getting started, the phone rang, and Ron had to jump up and rush out of the meeting. It was Gustavo giving us a list of things he’d decided we needed from the office for the event. We live right across the road from the office, and he lives an hour away, so we were the obvious choice to go get the stuff. We’d planned on leaving after Sacrament meeting anyway, but instead left right then, hurried to the office, got the stuff (which took quite a bit of time), ran home, changed, caught an Uber and got to the temple complex by 1:00. Then we spent the next few hours helping get everything organized.

The event was actually three events in one. The main event was a Christmas program with music and speakers, one of whom was Elder Ochoa of the Area Presidency. The program was followed by the official lighting of the Christmas lights on the temple complex. Crews have been working for weeks putting up all the lights. They say they get thousands of people a night through the holiday season going there to see the lights. They didn’t have the official lighting program last year because of COVID. Two years ago they had so many people come that the city complained of the traffic congestion it caused. Because of that, this year people were required to have a ticket to go in person, and it was broadcast over YouTube, Facebook, and the church’s website in Mexico so people could watch without being there. If you want to watch the lights going on, click here.

The other two events were before the program, both were receptions, and they were both going on at the same time in the same building. That made it a bit of a juggling act. One was for influencers, mostly people who write popular blogs. The other was for VIPs—government officials, leaders of other churches, etc. We had food and gifts for both groups.

The events went really well, but I can’t say they went off without a hitch. The biggest one was that the caterers showed up late. They were just getting the food ready when the guests began to arrive. The

My sister Gaigh likes pictures of food,
so this is for her

receptions officially started at 6:00, but people came a little early. The young sister missionaries from the visitor’s center acted as hostesses. The plan was for the people to be welcomed at the entrance to the visitor’s center and directed into the area with the Christus. They would mingle there for a while and then be directed to the area their reception was being held. (Determining who went to which reception was a bit tricky, but Lucero had it figured out.) As guests began to arrive at about a quarter to six, Ron spoke with the caterer, who was moving rather slowly. He asked if the food was going to ready on time. She said yes, but as they continued speaking, it came out that she thought the event started at 7:00. That was the time the program was supposed to start, not the receptions. Ron told her, no, it starts at 6:00. She said to give her five extra minutes. In the end, it was more like fifteen. By then the guests were getting a little restless about being kept at the front of the visitor’s center, but when they got to the reception areas, things were very nice.

The turnout both for the receptions and for the program, which was held at a large stake center on the temple grounds, was very good. The estimate is that there were about 1200 people there for the program. Ron, Kate, another missionary couple, and I stayed in the visitor’s center until all the guests who had been at the receptions had moved to the stake center. Then we went to find seats for the program, but the building was almost full, and more people were coming. So we went back to the visitor’s center and watched it on Kate’s phone while we ate hors d'oeuvres from the VIP reception. The caterer kept putting more food together and straightening the room, so we messaged Gustavo to tell the VIPs they could come back and get more food after the program. I didn’t think many would, but I was wrong. It was like we had a whole second reception then, so it was a bit of a late night for us.

One really special thing happened in connection with the temple lighting. We got tickets for the Teca Once missionaries who wanted them. One couple changed their minds, so Ron had two extra tickets. He gave them to Layla, a twenty-something girl who works at Teca Once, and told her if any of the staff wanted to go, they could have the tickets. That was the last we thought of that until after the program when I got a text from Pat Wright. They went to the program and said when they got out of their Uber, there standing on the sidewalk outside the temple fence, not ten feet from them was Layla.

They were surprised to see her, but she told them “The Searles gave me a ticket to come. So what do I do now?”

They said, “You come with us.” They took her in, had her sit with them through the program, then walked around and looked at the temple lights and grounds with her afterwards.

Pat said Layla’s comment about the event was, “Everyone here is so happy!”

With 1200 people attending, I do not think it was just by chance that Layla and the Wrights arrived at the same spot at the same time and ran into each other. The Wrights didn’t know we had given Layla a ticket, and they weren’t looking for her, but they were where they needed to be when they needed to be there. Being a part of that sweet little experience made the evening much more meaningful to me than did the big VIP reception. The whole event was about inviting people to focus more on Christ and feel his light in their lives. Layla makes me think we might have been successful in doing that.


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