An Apostle Comes to Mexico and Good Friends Leave

Elder Gong visited Mexico this past week. We had the privilege of covering five of the events he spoke at, including two in Monterrey. In Mexico City, we attended a devotional for the workers from the Mexico City Temple, A devotional for the Church employees, and a cultural celebration for the youth. In Monterrey, we attended a devotional for Young Single Adults and a devotional for women, which around 4500 women attended. All of this has left me feeling tired from a busy week. But then I look at Elder Gong’s schedule. In that same week, he spoke at all those events, plus held three leadership training meetings (one in Villahermosa, one in Mexico City, and one in Monterrey), spoke at a broadcast for bishops and their wives, held the area review, had a Zoom meeting with the mission leaders, travelled to Puebla to tour the temple being built and held a devotional there, and went to sessions in three different temples. Okay, I’m exhausted just writing that!

It was amazing to watch Elder Gong interact with the people. He just radiated love. At the end of the events, the security people would be trying to get him out the door, but he would reach for one more hand to shake, and then one more. The employee devotional was one of the smaller events, and he came to it a half hour early so he could shake the hands of every person there. We heard at the meeting for the bishops and their wives, he stayed for an hour and a half after it ended so that he could personally shake hands with and thank each one of them. He told them they didn’t have to stay, they could leave if they wanted to, but not a single one did.

Vicki Deaver took this photo of Elder Gong at the employees' devotional.

I took this photo of a screen showing Elder Gong shaking people's hands after the temple workers' devotional. You can see the security men hoovering around.
I sat by this darling girl at the cultural event, and we had a conversation in Spanish!

Here are links to a couple of articles I wrote about the events we covered. The site will translate them into English so you can read them, but the translation is sometimes a little wonky, especially on the pronouns. The pictures are fun to look at.

The Cultural Event

The women's devotional in Monterrey

On Wednesday, Elder Gong met with the Secretario del Gobierno of Mexico. Below is a link to an article in the Church’s newsroom about it. In it they’ve translated “Secretario del Gobierno” as “Secretary of the Interior.” For Americans, that title doesn’t portray the importance of this position. In Mexico, the  Secretario del Gobierno is the second highest position in the government, right below the president. In fact, if the president were to die, the Secretario del Gobierno would be the interim president until a new one was elected. So this meeting was a super big deal. Michelle and Gustavo arranged it, and it was a real coup for them to have it happen. As for us, our part in making it happen was formatting Elder Gong’s biography so it could be printed, putting together folders of information to be given to the Secretario, and praying the meeting would take place. A couple of years ago, Gustavo had an appointment for Elder Soares with the woman who at that time was in that position, and at the very last minute she cancelled. Because of that, we were praying right up until the minute the meeting took place. And one other thing, in the article you will read that Elder Gong presented the official with a statue of the Christus. Well, Ron is the one who orders the statues that are given to officials, and when we were preparing for the meeting, he was the one who climbed up on a chair to get it down from our cupboard. So yeah, we contributed to this meeting, albeit in a miniscule way.

Elder Gong meets with a government official

We had a crazy thing happen in Monterrey. As we were checking in at our hotel, another group came in. One of the women came over and started speaking with us and asking about our mission and where we’re serving. When we told her, she said, “Do you know Elder Jerry Wright?” It turns out this group was the Castanedas who the Wrights met on one of their trips for the project Jerry was working on. They told us all about the wonderful Castaneda family when they got back to Teca Once. The woman, Lupita Castaneda, found out we needed to go to the stake center by the Monterrey temple at the same time they were planning to go to the temple. They had six of them in a seven passenger van, but she still offered us a ride. She said, “In Mexico we say, if you start placing things right at the beginning, you can fit in everything you need to.” They gave us a ride to the stake center, then waited for us after they finished their temple session so they could give us a ride back to the hotel. Saturday when we were ready to go to the women’s conference, we went to the lobby to order an Uber. A couple of people were sitting there waiting for another woman to come. They struck up a conversation with us, and it turned out they were going to the devotional too. Helaman, the man who was driving them, offered to give us a ride to it. When the devotional was over, he came and found us to give us a ride back to the hotel, AND he offered to take us to church and the airport the next day! The friendliness of the people in Monterrey was amazing, and that’s saying a lot because the people in Mexico in general are very friendly!

We took this photo with a cute family we met at the women's devotional and the two women we rode with. Helaman was taking the photo, and we didn't get a picture with him. The photo above is with Lupita and her niece.

We were able to do a little bit of sightseeing in Monterrey on Saturday morning. It is a modern city with a lot of industry in it. The center plaza of Monterrey is called the Macroplaza and is the largest plaza in Mexico and the fifth largest in the world. It is long and skinny with a large, old government building at one end, where most zocalos have a cathedral. All through it are museums, statues, and fountains. One of the museums sits at the head of a manmade river which runs through the city. We walked a little way along it, and it reminded me of the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. It was lined with restaurants, parks, etc. And like the River Walk, you could ride a boat along this one. We planned to do that, but then we got a message from Gustavo asking us to help get some things printed and delivered to the leadership meeting Elder Gong was holding that morning. Since we are in Mexico as missionaries not to be tourists (I know from reading my posts, you may not believe that) we skipped the river boat and went looking for an OfficeMax.

The fountain of Neptune in the Macroplaza

A group was performing a dance in the macroplaza. From this and the cultural event, we saw that when you get into northern Mexico, the outfits for the "traditional" dances are pretty much what we'd call western wear in the United States. 

One of the boats on the river in Monterrey.
Although we didn't have time to take the boat ride, we did walk a little way up the river to see what it was like.
The Monterrey temple with the mountains in the background.

The temple from another angle.

Monterrey has about 1.1 million people in it. However, after being in Mexico City for so long, it didn’t feel that big to me. I mean, it was big, but not as overwhelmingly gigantic as Mexico City. I’ve been trying to figure out how to portray the massiveness of this city to you. I looked up a few things, and this is what I came up with.  If you want to get a feeling for the greater metropolitan area of Mexico City, take an area the combined size of Bingham and Bannock counties in Idaho. (It would actually be a bit smaller than this, but for our purposes, this will work.) Now, into that area put the entire population of Idaho, the entire population of Montana, the entire population of Wyoming, and the entire population of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. Then we would still have to put into that area 80% of the population of Arizona. That is Mexico City!

I now have to write the sentence I have been dreading: Jerry and Pat Wright went home today. They have been our friends and cohorts on most of our adventures here, and saying good-bye to them was hard. Interspersed with all the events of last week were multiple farewell dinners for them. They have touched so many people here, and everyone wanted to tell them good-bye. The final dinner was last evening at Teca Once. We held it on the fifth floor where there are only two apartments—ours and the Davises’—so we could set up the tables in our place and serve the food in the Davises’. Pat Frandsen came home from the office early yesterday afternoon. She told Leila, who is the manager of Teca Once, about the dinner and invited her to it. Leila called Abram, who is her boyfriend and who works security here, but who wasn’t on duty. He travelled 3 hours just to come for the dinner! He wanted to tell the Wrights “good-bye” and “thank you.” At the dinner, we each shared a memory we have of the Wrights. Most of them had us laughing, but Abram’s had us in tears. He came to Teca Once a little over a year ago, and he was sullen and unhappy—not a pleasant man. We have since learned his story and understand why he was that way. The change in him since then has been miraculous! He is now open and friendly, and he smiles! Last night he spoke about this change. He spoke about how the missionaries always greeted him and spoke to him. He shared one incident in particular where he was impressed by Jerry’s example. Speaking for himself and Leila, he said, “We want to be like you. We want to have what you have.” Being able to witness, and to some degree influence, the change in Abram has been amazing! If it was the only thing we accomplished in Mexico, it would be worth it.



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