Friday, November 28, 2008

The Rest of the Story

The Open House for the rededication of the Mexico City Temple ended and on the last day, Saturday November 8th. Over 4300 people visited us at the Visitors Center and over 13,000 at the Temple that day. The final numbers over the three weeks were 91,000 visitors to the Temple and more than 21,000 to the Visitors Center. There were more than 9000 referrals from non-members, nearly 5000 requesting missionaries or materials or both. Reading the comments was really exciting, hearing so many testify of the spiritual experience it was for them and the peace and tranquility they felt in the Celestial Room. We are still very busy processing all the referrals. We have to look up their addresses on a map and figure out mission, stake and ward they belong to so that the missionaries can visit them.

On the last day of the Open House one of the PR people came in and said they had just received word that on the following Monday, after the open house was officially over, Margarita Zavala de Calderon, the first lady (Primera Dama) of Mexico would be coming for a visit. During her visit the Manzana was closed for about three hours. As expected, she arrived with much security. The tour started and ended at the Visitors Center. The Area Presidency and their wives and an LDS business leader who had arranged the visit acted as guides. Before starting the tour, they watched a film about the Temple. After going through the Temple she came back to the Visitors Center where she was given a copy of the Book of Mormon. We were working that day and enjoyed being observers. She was a beautiful and gracious woman. She was very warm and relaxed, taking time to pose for pictures and giving the usual Mexican kiss on the cheek to the women as she left. Her comments about the Church were very positive.

Elder and Sister Grow, Elder and Sister Tenorio, unknown lady, The Jones', The First Lady, Hna and Elder Mickelsen, unknown man

During the rest of the week we watched the gardners plant thousands of Noches Buenas (Poinsettas) around the Manzana. Then on Saturday we had a pizza party to thank the sister missionaries for all their hard work during the Open House and to bid farewell to the Steers, a VC couple who were leaving for home. We are certainly going to miss them. Sister Steers was "queen of the maps" and could find places none of the rest of us could. She was also an amazing crocheter and made hundreds of baby caps for our service project. Elder Steers was our "goodwill ambassador". He loved passing out invitations to the Visitors Center to taxi cab drivers and to all the people he met.

The hermanas enjoying their pizza (Elder Garvin and Foley tambien).
They really like to load them up with chili peppers

The Steers at their last mission event

After the pizza we were loaded onto a bus and off the Estadio Azteca for the grand Cultural Event. It has become Church custom to hold these events before every Temple dedication. It was amazing! There were about 100,000 people in the audience and 8500 youth performing. Of course the highlight of the night was having President Monson and President Eyring present. The youth were incredible. They did such a great job and looked so beautiful in their costumes. They recreated the history of the Church in Mexico and performed regional dances from all over the country.

We missionaries were also a part of the program. At the very end the missionaries from the four Mexico City missions as well as Cuernavaca and Puebla missions and all the missionaries from the MTC marched out onto the field. Each mission marched out single file with the senior missionaries in the lead. It was quite a sight. We sang "Called to Serve" (Llamados a Servir) as we marched out and then everyone waved their white hankies at the prophet. It was really a thrill. I am sure we will always remember it. There were over 1500 missionaries on the field.

During the course of the evening the Prophet spoke and even sang a Spanish song he learned as a youth. He said it was the first and last time he ever sang a solo in a conference. He told of growing up with his best friend Juan, who was from Mexico. He said they would be late for school each morning because Juan's mother would make him sit down and eat tortillas with them before they left. He gave wonderful encouragement to the youth and told them always to remember that night.

The hermanas on the long bus ride to the stadiumElder Foley and thousands of others waiting to get into the stadium

Elders and dancers heading into the stadium

Some of the performers in their colorful costumes

More excited performers

Our seats were right down next to the fence with a pretty obstructed view so we were glad for the giant screens in the stadium. We did take our binoculars which Heather gave us before we came so we could keep an eye on President Monson in the VIP box. The binoculars were also a big hit with the elders seated around us.

Not too good of a view from our seats!!

Elder Steers, the Thomas's and many elders from the Mexico City East Mission

Missionaries waving hankies to President Monson

The dedication the next day was a spiritual feast. We went to our Stake Center (next door to our apartment) and watched it. President Monson spoke again of the Mexican families in his neighborhood and his love for them. He said when he was a bishop they had a Mexican branch that met in their same building. He also said "I am just a simple man". President Pinon, the MTC president was translating for him and became quite emotional at that point; however, he recovered quickly. He did such a good job of interpreting. It was a very spiritually charged meeting. Both President Monson and President Eyring became very emotional during their talks. They really showed love for the Saints here. From our apartment window we could see all the beautiful Mexican saints lined up to go into the dedicatory sessions in the Temple.

We feel so blessed to be serving this mission, and especially blessed that we were here during this special time. It is something we will never forget.