Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Sanlucar

Email 19/2/18

Hello everybody,

Well, as the title of my email suggests, we got transfer calls yesterday, and I’ll be staying in Sanlúcar for the rest of my mission! Which means when all is said and done in 12 weeks, I’ll have been here for 6 transfers, or about 9 months. Elder Clark and I are going to be together for a third transfer too, which we’re both happy about. Sanlúcar has really become my home and the great people here have really become my family, so I can’t think of a better place to be.

This week was pretty rough. Monday started out good with a nice tranquilo preparation day and a good visit with one of our menos activos, Antonio Bernal, who sounded certain that he’d come to church on Sunday. (He ended up not being able to due to a death in the family, but promised us this week he’d be there.)

Things took a turn for the worse on Tuesday when we got a call in the morning that Lola died. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Lola before. She was Aurora’s elderly aunt, and was always in her house, on her same chair by the window, every time we passed by to give Aurora the sacrament or have a Noche de Hogar. She was 88 and basically, it was just her time to go. We went to the funeral home on Tuesday to go to the viewing. It was an odd feeling seeing her dead body there, but comforting know that she was “…taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). We also were in the funeral home on Wednesday for the small Catholic mass before her cremation, and really it was just the ideal place to be on Valentine’s Day. Okay, we were happy that we were able to be there to support Aurora, but it was still super depressing.

Also, somehow there were a lot of things dependent on Lola being alive. The good news is that now Aurora can start coming to church on Sundays, but the bad news is that Maru, our investigator, had employment and was always in Aurora’s house because she took care of Lola. So now that she no longer needs to be in Aurora’s house and has already found a new job taking care of someone else, we’re unsure of when we’re going to be able to teach her.

Thursday is kind of a blur because Elder Clark ended up getting sick and was throwing up, but we still had to go put on a branch Noche de hogar thst basically nobody came to, so that was a sad day too.

Friday morning was nice because while Elder Clark was resting, I woke up with a ton of energy and was able to deep clean some parts of the Piso. And by the evening, he was back to feeling good, so we were able to go out and try to pass by a few people and then clean the chapel.

There was a guy that we met in the street on Monday evening named José, and he seemed really interested in English Classes. So interested that he started messaging us on WhatsApp right after we met him on the street. That was a good sign, or so we thought. It turns out that he just thought my companion was guapo and was trying to flirt with him, so we ended up blocking him. Men are pigs.

Then Saturday came around. Nothing really of note happened on Saturday, although it was probably the most decent day of the week.

So, all in all, this week kind of sucked. These words of Alma have become a source of peace and encouragement:

“O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people…

“O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.

“Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee” (Alma 31:31, 34-35).

I’m still working to have my afflictions “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38), but it is comforting to know that He is always standing shoulder to shoulder with us in the fight.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Carnival lights. I forgot to mention Carnival. I’m not sure what the purpose of it is, but it was a holiday they had this week thst was basically like a second Halloween. People were getting pretty crazy for the past few days.

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2: We made a stop by Carlota’s birthday party. Carlota’s the two year old daughter of Frank and Ana Belén.

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3: Oh yeah I live in Spain

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4: The funeral home is in the middle of nowhere

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5: Roadblock

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6: Mikeing it up with Mike

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7: A picture of some chairs that I took

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8: Go away, future José

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9: Until next time

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Here a little, and there a little

Email 12/2/18

Hello everybody,

Here we go again.

Last Monday, it was really cold and we didn’t feel like doing much for preparation day, so we just played a lot of chess. It was really fun. We had our customary Noche de hogar that evening and taught Maru and Ángel and Yessenia about the Word of Wisdom. They all loved it and were quick to commit to living it. #GrandesTesoros Since the previous day was Elder Clark’s birthday, we had a mini-birthday party for him too. People are really nice.

Tuesday was an interesting day because we had district meeting in El Puerto de Santa Maria in the morning and then had to go to Jerez immediately afterwards for intercambios with the zone leaders. I worked with Elder Wood for the night, and nothing that exciting really happened. That’s just the boring reality of missionary work sometimes. You go out hopeful that you’ll find that one person or help that investigator make that one breakthrough, but more often than not, it’s just more of the same: talking to people who aren’t interested in learning about the important message we have to teach them or investigators getting tripped up by the same doubts or failures to keep commitments. I guess that’s just the way things are supposed to go: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…” (2 Nephi 28:30). I’ve seen investigators firmly keep commitments and overcome their doubts. There are people who are interested in what we have to say. Our hope is not in vain. It just takes a lot of patience.

Well, the Wednesday morning part of the intercambio was pretty much like that too. When we got back, we went again to the dog shelter to help out one of our members. It’s such a relaxing service project because all it involves is being around friendly dogs and cleaning out their cages.

We had to go back to El Puerto de Santa Maria on Thursday to take a district photo. We were informed on Tuesday evening (after we just had district meeting earlier in the day) that we had to take a photo as a district with some type of gratitude for President and Sister Andersen shown in it, and have it sent in by Friday. We went there, took the photo, did weekly planning in their chapel, and then came back to Sanlúcar. That evening we went back to Augustine’s house, but he wasn’t there, and apparently doesn’t have a phone, so we’ll see when we can see him again.

Friday was a decently productive day. The morning was spent passing by a few people with whom we’ve been trying to get in contact, as well as fixing the WiFi in the chapel. Our first cita that afternoon was with Daniel. We went with him and his family to a park and talked to him while his daughters played with his wife. We went over the program for quitting smoking, and he seems determined to do it. Apparently he’s done it before, too. We also taught his 10 year old daughter, Rosalia, a bit about prophets and the Book of Mormon. It was a good little cita.

After which, we went to visit Bibi. We were really trying to help her understand the necessity of a Savior. We read out of Alma 42 and talked about how through Christ, God can be both just and merciful. I think we helped her clear some thing up and recognize better why Christ is important and how He saves us from both sin and death as we choose to follow Him. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

We had a smiliarly themed lesson with Mike that evening, and we watched “The Mediator.” (https://www.lds.org/video/book-of-mormon-visual-resources/2010-06-05-the-mediator?lang=eng) I love this video because it really helped me understand the Atonement of Christ when I was younger. It’s seriously such a good analogy. I would encourage all of you to go watch it.

On Saturday morning, we found ourselves in Puerto once more for the baptism of Abigail! This is the first time in five years that the American Military branch has had had a convert baptism (which isn’t really surprising considering that you can’t proselyte on base haha). It was a rally spiritual service, and we were all really happy for her. There was a big American lunch afterwards, that was really nice too. 

Yesterday, Sunday, was a decent day too. The only bad thing was getting a million WhatsApps from Daniel informing us that his family had been kicked out of their house and he was really stressed out trying to figure out where they’re going to live. Hopefully he’ll be able to find something soon. We had a nice gospel principles class about receiving personal revelation, mostly trying to help Maru gain a personal witness of the truthfulness of the Book for Mormón. On the way to church, I had remembered that Paco, the Elders Quorum President had asked me to give the lesson in priesthood meeting too, so I hastily threw together something based on the talk “Has the Day of Miracles Ceased?” By Elder Hallstrom (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/has-the-day-of-miracles-ceased?lang=eng). It turned out about as well as it could have. So all in all, I had to teach two hours of lessons yesterday. It was pretty fun in all honesty.

To finish, here’s a quote from President Joseph F. Smith that I came across in preparation for the gospel principles lesson.

“When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even of the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase”

Learning how to recognize the Holy Ghost is a lifelong pursuit. Helping others recognize this voice is one of the key elements of the work we do. Being able to listen to that voice ourselves is what permits us to do it. It takes patience and consistency, but I know that God does indeed communicate to all of us through the Holy Ghost. It’s just up to us if we choose to listen or not.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: I saw a pillar of light…

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2: Sanlúcar magic

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3: Thanks

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4: The district

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5: Stylin

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6: Antonio’s reading material for his grandkids

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7: Good morning, Jerez

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8: Until next time

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La Caida

Email 5/2/18

Hello everybody,

It was another normal Sanlúcar week. Here’s the important things that happened.

On Tuesday, we had a great Noche de hogar with Ángel, Yessenia, and Maru. We had invited them a while ago to be baptized on the 3rd of February, and obviously they weren’t quite ready yet. We reviewed the importance of baptism and they committed to a firmer baptismal date on the fifth of May. I believe that they could definitely be ready before then, but at least they’re committed to the idea of getting baptized. That’s the important part.

One of the members in the branch, Guadalupe, volunteers at a dog shelter once a week and has always told us that we’re welcome to come help her whenever we want. After somehow not taking her up on her invitation for something like four months, we finally went on Wednesday, and it was great! There’s about 15 dogs at this shelter and we were given the task of cleaning out their cages. It was hard work, but really fun and good service for the community. In the words of Elder Clark, there’s nothing like the unconditional love and attention that animals can give you. Well except for God’s unconditional love. But you know what I mean.

On Thursday morning, we were going to do our weekly planning until we got a call from Daniel, one of the antiguo investigators we’ve been trying to set something up with. Daniel is an interesting guy. He didn’t have the best examples growing up, and eventually got into drugs and did a stint in prison, but really wants his kids to have a brighter future than he did, and he knows that it’s the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can get him there. He’s got some problems he needs to get over before he can be baptized, namely smoking #alsoadrug but he seems really determined to get there. We set a baptismal goal with him for the fifth of May. At church on Sunday during sacrament meeting, while someone was bearing their testimony about their own fight giving up smoking, I saw him get out his phone, go to his calendar, scroll to May, and put down “Bautismo de Daniel” on the fifth. Seems like a good sign.

Later on Thursday evening, we went to Augustine’s house. He is the brother of Juan, one of our investigators. Augustine is also pretty crazy, and somewhat of a hoarder, and there was not a place to sit in his house when we dropped by. But, he told us to come back the next day and that he’d clean off one of his couches so we could sit and talk. We so did, and were able to share some of the first lesson with him, but it seems like his attention span is really short. He was really happy that we were there though. So we’ll see.

Friday morning was pretty crazy. Dani, one of the members, was going to take us out to visit Manuela, a menos activa. She lives in the Campo, so it’s necessary to take a car to get there. Dani just bought this 20 year old big cargo van the other week, and that was what he drove us to her house with. Well, we got to Manuela’s house and were inside giving her the lesson when her son came in and was like, “What happened to your tire??” None of us realized anything was wrong, but it turns out that the right right tire on the van was just utterly obliterated (see picture below). We’re still not sure how that happened. We then spent the rest of the morning helping Dani change his tire. That was a fun adventure.

Saturday was a good day. We started the morning off with a visit to Bibi. Once we got there, we started talking about something that made us want to show her the Mormon Message “Life’s Drama.” (see here:https://www.lds.org/video/mormon-messages/2016-04-1000-lifes-drama?lang=eng) It was good that we were then taking about being personally accountable for our actions because halfway through the lesson, a Jehovah’s Witness decided to come into her shop and she started talking and got onto the topic of original sin. They believe that if Adam hadn’t eaten of the forbidden fruit, we would all still be living in a Garden of Eden like paradise. It was funny to see Bibi arguing with this testigo about this doctrine and really it made me feel grateful for the Book of Mormon, which explains so clearly that the Fall of Adam and Eve was a positive and necessary step forwards. As it says in 2 Nephi 2:22-25:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

This whole idea of man existing to have joy through “the Messiah [which] cometh in the fulness of time” (2 Nephi 2:26) came up during a baptismal interview that I gave on Saturday evening to one of the Hermanas’ investigators in Puerto. The name of this Investigador is Abigail; she’s English and is working as an English teacher here in Spain. She first came to know about the church four years ago when she was in college and missionaries knocked on the door of her house where she lived with five roommates. At first they had just invited the missionaries in for a bit of a laugh, but one of the girls ended up getting baptized and is now married in the temple and Abigail basically had a testimony of the gospel at that point too but never ended up getting baptized. Seeing the death of President Monson a month ago prompted her to reach out to the missionaries again, and this Saturday, she’s getting baptized! Anyways, something she said during the interview that really struck me was the fact that Christ did everything he did and suffered everything he suffered so that we could be happy. It’s up to all of us to choose to follow the source of all happiness. We follow Him by following his gospel and His commandments.

Church worked out well on Sunday; we had five investigators there and Manuela came for the second Sunday in a row. Alfonso was sick so he wasn’t able to come. All is well.

Well, as was officially announced by the church on Thursday, as of July 1, 2018, the boundaries of the Spain Málaga Mission are being absorbed into the Spain Madrid and Spain Barcelona missions. This is not a change that will have an effect on me personally as I finish before that date, and I really don’t think it’ll have that much of an impact on the day to day work that missionaries are doing in the areas anyways. There were some members at church yesterday who thought that meant they were taking all of the missionaries out of the south of Spain, but that’s obviously not right. Although there is an element of sadness with this change, it’s really not that big of a deal. This is the Lord’s work and it’s going exactly how He wants it to, for He is in charge.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Elder Clark turned 19 this week!

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2: Yessenia gifted us some gloves

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3: Perros (dogs

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4: Besitos (little kisses)

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5: Whoa

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6: “Somos en el campo” – Dani  (“We are in the field”)

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7: Until next time

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The Life

Email 29/1/18

Hello everybody,
Last Monday, we went to the mall to take advantage of rebajas. To refresh your memories on what rebajas are, they are basically these big sales that go on in every store for about a month twice in the year, once in the summer and once in the winter. Elder Clark and I both got some new suits (see below). We also almost lost our smartphone after less that a week of having it. We mistaking left it at the bus stop outside of the mall when the bus came and we were scrambling to pick up our bags and get on. Then, we didn’t even realize that it was gone until we got back to the church some 45 minutes later. Realizing what we had just done, we got back on a bus to go back to the mall, and even though about two hours had passed, the phone was still sitting there at the bus stop, right where we left it. Even at the risk of making us seem like fumbling idiots (which, let’s be honest, we are haha), I still wanted to share that story because it really was a tender mercy that we got the phone back as smoothly as we did.
That evening, we visited our menos activo Antonio. As I had mentioned in my last email, we brought Frank with us. That was a special opportunity since Frank served part of his mission here in Sanlúcar and was one of the missionaries who taught Antonio. It was really cool to see them reunite after years of not having seen each other. Not to mention that last time they saw each other, Frank was a missionary like us and now he’s a dad with two kids, so quite a bit has happened in between haha. Afterwards, we had a bit of time left, so we were doing a bit of contacting in the center street. There weren’t many people out so late on a cold January night, and we were kind of trying to figure out what to do . What we felt impressed to do was walk off on one of the side streets and stand in the middle of it until something happened. We did accordingly, and before we knew it, the door in front of us opened, and we started talking to the lady that came out. Turns out she’s the older sister of Andrés, the guy who cuts our hair, and she was willing to give us a listen. She works a lot, but we’ve been talking to her all week on WhatsApp. We clearly saw the way that the Lord had guided us to her.
Before district meeting on Tuesday, there was a Facebook Live broadcast from President and Hermana Andersen for the entire mission. We’re actually not allowed to say what they shared with us, but it’s a change affecting our mission that will be officially announced by the church on Sunday. The only other thing of note that happened on Tuesday was our Noche de Hogar with Ángel and Maru and Yessenia. We taught them about tithing. They’re all doing good, but obviously they’re not going to be making it to their baptismal date for this Saturday. We’re hoping to get in there this week and set a firmer baptismal date with them.
Wednesday morning was super foggy. We decided to go out to La Colonia, which is this big campo area with a lot of houses interspersed between the fields. There were some Antiguos and menos activos we were trying to find out there, and we weren’t able to get in contact with any of them, but we did talk to one of their neighbors who was actually gifted a Book of Mormon by one of our members not too long ago. She didn’t have much time to talk that day, but was open to having us come back another day. Anyways, it was just a really surreal experience walking around in all of this fog with fields and animals all over the place.
A lot of Thursday involved going to Jerez for the zone council meeting, where all of the district leaders meet with the zone leaders and sister training leaders. That evening it was raining a lot, and we didn’t take umbrellas with us, so we got a bit soaked. That’s just part of the life of being a fumbling idiot. Ha. Haha.
Friday was a really good day because we gave a chapel tour to Bibi. She’s been investigating the church for a while now, and her biggest stumbling block is that she never can come to church because she leaves town and goes to visit her parents in this little Pueblo up in the mountains every weekend. The reason why this church tour was so good was because the spirit was really strong and I think it gave her a lot of ganas (desire) to make the effort to be there. Let’s hope so. Chapel tours are something we’re going to be trying with some of our investigators who struggle with coming to church.
Saturday was also decent since we were able to meet with Juan and Antonia. They are probably some of the nicest people I have ever met. I think I’ve mentioned them in my emails a few times. We were able to teach a lot about the Plan of Salvation and how opposition in life helps us grow into better people. Juan admitted to us thant he hadn’t read the Book of Mormon since our last visit and that he probably wouldn’t have a lot of time to do it in the near future since one of his daughters just had a baby and another one of his daughters is about to have a baby. Well, we were sharing scriptures from the Book of Mormon as part of our lesson, and he was really getting into it. Then he started telling us about his brother and gave us his address to pass by and introduce ourselves to him. “If you go meet my brother,” he said, “then I’ll get into reading the Book of Mormon.” Sounded like a pretty good deal to us!
Something I’ve neglected to mention in my emails is how our recent convert, Alfonso, is doing. Things have been going really tough for him, he’s been experiencing a lot of health problems and has been in and out of the hospital several times within the past month. He hadn’t come to church since his confirmation last transfer. Luckily, it seems like he’s doing a bit better and was even able to come to church yesterday. That made it a good Sunday. What also made it good was the fact that we had interviews with President Andersen yesterday too in Jerez. That made it a bit of a long day, but interviews with President Andersen really are the best.
Some scriptures I shared in a talk in church yesterday are from John 6:51-53. They say:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
 
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
 
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
 
When we partake of the sacrament, obviously we are not literally eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Savior. What we are doing is turning our attention towards Christ as we remember his great and infinite atoning sacrifice. According to this scripture, when we do not participle regularly in the sacrament, we do not have life in us. Christ gives us life, and he gives us strength. That is one of many reasons why the sacrament is so important.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: The bajas are real
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2: More fog
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3: Made a new friend
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4: Domino’s
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5: Until next time
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Peace in Christ

Email 22/1/18

Hello everybody,
Here’s another one of your favorite weekly rundowns of yet another week of being a missionary.
Last Monday was a normal Sanlúcar preparation day, which involved playing Padle ball, buying expensive and very disappointing Mexican food (I have never once have had satisfactory Mexican food in Spain), and playing chess. That evening, we went over to Frank and Ana Belén’s house to make a plan with how they could try sharing the gospel with two of their friends who might be interested in it. We made them sign a “contract” saying they’d do it, hahaha (see below). We’re trying to take commitments to a whole new level. I’m not sure if I mentioned this about Frank before, but he actually served in the Spain Málaga Mission, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda was one of his areas. We’ve seen his name as a missionary on various registros in the area book and tonight we’re going to go visit someone that he taught years ago as a missionary here. He also speaks really good English–the Queen’s English, I might add!
We were given permission to watch the special announcement on Tuesday afternoon about the reorganized first presidency. It is such a blessing to live at a time when God still calls prophets, and I know that He has called President Nelson to be the prophet today. That evening, in our customary Tuesday night Noche de hogar, we were able to teach Yessenia and Ángel about following the prophet. It was perfect.
Wednesday was a long day. We had our Zone Conference in San Fernando. This entire conference was centered around the new technology that our mission just received, namely Facebook and smartphones. In addition to our individual tablets, each companionship now has an iPhone X. Okay, I wish. In reality, every companionship has a Samsung Galaxy A5, which is alright. The best thing about having the smartphone is that now, like the rest of the European world, we have WhatsApp! That makes it a lot easier to communicate with everyone. Anyway, the conference was mainly focused on what we can’t and shouldn’t do with technology, so we’re still kind of scratching our heads and trying to figure out exactly what we can and should do with Facebook as a proselyting tool. Luckily, we’re prohibited from seeing the News Feed on Facebook, so that takes away a big distraction. But still, it’s unclear exactly how Facebook is going to be useful in our day to day work.
We spent most of Thursday in the church because we did our weekly planning there in the morning. That’s when we really started getting into using WhatsApp. There are a ton of people that have phones that don’t work but can use WhatsApp, so we were able to make some good contacts. Frank and Ana Belén invited us over for lunch and they live right next to the chapel, so we were just back in the chapel that afternoon to do studies. Later that night, we had branch Noche de hogar, so yeah. It was really just a whole day spent in the chapel.
The most notable thing that happened on Friday was having a lesson with Mike and the Erwin family. Mike is our American investigator and the Erwins are one of the families from the American branch. This is the second time we’ve done this. It went well. We talked about having Peace in Christ.
In Doctrine and Covenants 19:23, we read the following words of the Savior:
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.”
 
This passage of scripture describes what we must do if we want to feel the peace that comes from the Savior. This is peace, “not as the world giveth” (John 14:27), rather something more profound.
The first part to this pattern involves learning of the Savior. We learn of Him as we study His words, pray unto the father, serve others, amongst many other things. As we grow this faith in Him, it leads us to desire to walk with Him. In 1 John 2:6, we read: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” In other words, those who associate themselves as being disciples of Christ need to do as he would do and say as he would say. After all, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
By choosing to have an active faith in the Savior and working to walk where He has, we find peace in Him. I love the new 2018 Youth Theme Music, and especially enjoy listening to the lead track, aptly titled “Peace in Christ.” The chorus of this song reminds us that:
He gives us hope
When hope is gone.
He gives us strength
When we can’t go on.
He gives us shelter
In the storms of life.
When there’s no peace on earth,
There is peace in Christ.
 
It’s a tremendously comforting message, and has already helped me through many difficult moments. I’d invite you all to listen to the song here: https://www.lds.org/youth/theme/2018?lang=eng&cid=YS-M-youththeme
Honestly the rest of the week was pretty non exciting and I don’t really have the ganas (desire) to keep writing this email. So I hope you have enjoyed what I have written.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: These members are now contractually obliged to bake their friend cookies and give them a Book of Mormon.
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2: The district: Hermana Pinkney, Hermana Bočková, Hermana Moncayo, Hermana Walker, Elder Clark, Elder Stark.
Every companionship in this district is in training right now. It is a very young district; I am over a year older in the mission than the next oldest missionary in the district.
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3: Again
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4-5: Some fog
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6: Us with Mike and Brother Erwin
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7: Our new first presidency wall. We’re not sure what happened to our big picture of President Oaks, so we just cut a little one out of The Ensign.
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8: Until next time
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Service

Hello everybody,
Last Monday was the preparation day in San Fernando with many missionaries from the zone. It was fun, mostly we just played fútbol and emailed all day. We had a cita planned for that evening, but it ended up falling through at the last minute. Luckily, we were prepared and I think our backup plans turned out even better than our original plan would have. There were some cookies we had made the day before with the intention of giving them to a few specific people. One of them was Dani, who is our neighbor and also the boyfriend of Yessenia’s mom. He’s a really nice guy and we always stop and talk to him when we see him, but Monday was the first time that we were really able to talk about religion. He was really interested in the Book of Mormon and graciously accepted a copy.
Something which we have been attempting to do with all of the members in the branch is having a Noche de hogar with each of them to teach about “going about doing good.” That way, we are challenging them to think of people in their lives that could be benefited by an act of service because serving others is one way to open their hearts to learn about the restored gospel. One quote from Preach My Gospel that we’ve been sharing with the members as we teach them about this is:
“Your consistent efforts in serving and teaching as many people as you can is one way God prepares His children to eventually receive His servants. He often reaches out to His children through you. Even when people do not accept the opportunity to learn the gospel, your service and words are evidence of God’s love for them and may plant seeds that future missionaries and members of the Church will harvest.”
We’ve been sharing that story of Dani to illustrate this principle. No, he’s still not an investigator, but thanks to the kindness and service of other missionaries in the past, we were able to start introducing him more directly to the gospel. Service, even something as simple as kind words or a smile, is one of the most powerful ways to teach.
Larter on Monday evening, we stopped by Juan’s house. He’s a guy that I’ve taught once or twice before, but never really went anywhere, so we hadn’t been by his house in months. Well, it was a good thing that we went over because we were able to teach him and his wife and one of his daughters about the Restoration, and it seemed like it went over really well. We shared about how the Book of Mormon answers the great questions of the soul, and they were really interested in that. We also were able to get the address of one of his other daughters who just had a baby so that we can go bring her cookies. Truly there are many miracles in bringing people cookies haha.
So it turns out that I wasn’t quite done being sick and was basically without a voice for the entire week. That’s really hard when all missionary work involves is talking with other people. On Tuesday, we had district meeting, but then on Wednesday and Thursday morning, we just rested. We had stuff planned all of those nights, so we still went out and worked, but I just came back home dead every time. It was all good though, we had a good Noche de Hogar with Ángel and Maru on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we taught Saraí, a new investigator from a while ago we haven’t been able to see because of the festivos and such.
On Wednesday, we also got an email from President Andersen announcing that we are now a Facebook proselytizing mission, and that we were to download Facebook and get our accounts ready for training on it during Zone Conference this week. So that is why some of you might have noticed more activity on my Facebook account than normal. We’re also going to be getting smartphones and WhatsApp at this conference too. Out of all of this new technology, the thing that I am most excited for is to have WhatsApp, as that is the de facto mobile messaging service here. I must admit that it has been super weird figuring out how to use Facebook again after almost 20 months of not using it, but it’ll be good to see how this can help us in our missionary work.
Friday was an interesting day. We had piso checks in the morning. Luckily we keep things clean around here, so those went off without a hitch. After that was over, we decided to pass by this one family of menos activos that are preparing to move to Málaga right now. It was a good thing that we passed by when we did because they really needed some help moving their bedframe down a flight of stairs. They gave us jamón and cheese as a token of their appreciation. That evening, we were given permission to watch President Monson’s funeral. It was a really nice tribute to a great man.
Saturday was also a good day because I was more or less better by then. We were able to teach Bibi and later in the day Maru and Ángel and Yessenia again. Those are all of our investigators with baptismal dates. Bibi just needs to come to church. Maru and Ángel and Yessenia are still progressing well, we’re working our way through the commandments with them right now. Maru and Yessenia came to church on Sunday (Ángel was sick), and we were able to talk about following the prophet. This is a really interesting time because of President Monson’s recent passing. It’s really helping the idea that God still calls prophets really come alive to those we are teaching. There was also an American family in our branch on Sunday, so I had to translate sacrament meeting for them. If only they had know about the American branch that meets is 20 minutes away from our chapel haha.
Well, there you go. That’s about it.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: District language study
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2: Sanlúcar
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3: Noche de Hogar
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4: There’s some weird stuff going on here
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5: Until next time (Don’t worry, it’s not alcohol!)
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Misionereando

Email 8/1/18

Hello everybody,
Well, well, well. Here we are again. We got transfer calls yesterday, and unsurprisingly, I’m staying here in Sanlúcar to finish training Elder Clark. I’m happy for that.
It was sad to receive the news of President Thomas S. Monson’s passing this week. As Elder Clark and I were walking around last evening and talking about how to help some of our investigators and members, inadvertently, half of the things that were coming out of our mouths were just strait President Monson quotes. I know that He has not only had an impact on my life, but on the entire world through his prophetic ministry.
Last Monday was a really boring preparation day because everything was closed and when we tried to go play a little bit of Fútbol at 10:00, people who were still sleeping were coming out of their houses to yell at us. So we spent most of the day in the chapel playing chess. That night we visited Frank and Ana Belén, the perfect young family, and had a Noche de Hogar with them about service. This is something we’re trying to do with all of the members in the branch because it seems like an effective way to get member referrals. The cool thing about Frank is that when he was a missionary, Sanlúcar de Barrameda was one of his areas. We’ve even been able to look in our area book and find old registros with his name on them.
On Tuesday, I woke up sick. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad, so we were still able to go to district meeting and go to the Noche de Hogar at Aurora’s house with Maru, Angel, and Yessenia. I was still feeling not well on Wednesday morning, so we just stayed in Piso. That evening, we made a stop where Marí and Alba live because we haven’t been able to see them for a while. That was really good, because not only were they there, but they invited us in and told us that they really like it when we come by to share la palabra de Dios with them.
Thursday was kind of a weird day because that was the evening of the parades for El Día de Los Reyes. We had planned to play our weekly game of Fútbol that evening, but only us and one other guy showed up because that was the exact time when the big parade was going on. Luckily, the parade passed right by the high school where we were playing, so we were able to watch it for a bit. Basically it was just all of these kids on floats throwing candy at the people watching. And then after the parade, everyone went to the center to party in the bars. So, the rest of our night was spent contacting the few people in Sanlúcar who weren’t in the center. We met this old guy from Boston. It still blows my mind how many Americans are in this little corner of Spain.
On Friday morning, we went to go teach Fernando, who is this Argentine guy that also speaks English. We read through the restoration pamphlet with him in English, and it seems like he understood everything, but is just a bit afraid of commitment. We thought it was still a good lesson though. In the evening, we had a really good lesson with Bibi. We read 3 Nephi 11 with her and talked about following Jesus Christ. After a lot of negotiation (haha) she agreed to be baptized on March 3, assuming that she’s prepared by then. So that’s what we’ll be helping her do.
The first thing that Christ talked about in His visit to the Nephites was His doctrine: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. These are the things that He asks us to do to follow Him. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon, which explains this doctrine so well and so clearly. As it says in 3 Nephi 11:37-41:
“And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
 
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
 
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
 
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
 
Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.”
Saturday was Él Día de Los Reyes, which is the main gift giving holiday in Spain, rather than Christmas. Basically the only noteworthy thing we were able to do was go visit Mike in the evening. He’s having a lot of various problems happening to him right now, so he’s really looking for the peace that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give.
Yesterday was a pretty normal Sunday. Ángel, Maru, and Yessenia all came to church. Ángel says that he has been reading and praying everyday, and feels like the Book of Mormon is true. Maru has been doing a good job reading, but still needs to pray. Yessenia is still 10 years old, but she still knows what’s good. We’re really happy with all of their progression.
Love you all,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1-5: Here are some belated photos from the Christmas Zone conference
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6: El Día de los Reyes
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7: There was another car accident right outside of our Piso
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8: Until next time
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1.1.18

Email 1/1/18

Hello everybody,
Happy new year. It’s crazy to think that I just spent the entire year of 2017 as a missionary in Spain. It’s even crazier to think that 2018 is the year that I finish.
Well, Christmas was on Monday. We spent most of the day in Puerto, chilling in the capilla with the Hermanas. Because there was nothing better to do, we ended up watching a few old church movies and playing a ton of Monopoly Deal. We also were able to Skype our families. It was the third time talking to mine. It’s weird to think that the next time I talk to them on Mother’s Day, it’ll be four days before I go home haha. After Skyping, we had to walk for an hour to get out to where the Shaw family lives, who had invited us over for Christmas dinner. It was such a great American feast. I have been really grateful for all of the hospitality shown to us during the holiday season.
Then, on Tuesday, things went back to normal, so we had district meeting that morning. Everyone had brought a different type of fruit to the meeting, so after, we had some traditional Christmas Smoothies together! They were probably some of the best Christmas Smoothies which I’ve ever had in my life. That evening was our weekly Noche de Hogar in Aurora’s house. Ángel and Yessenia were both there, but Maru thought it was on Thursday, so she didn’t end up being there for the lesson. That was almost better, because it really helped us focus the lesson almost entirely on Ángel, and we were able to better figure out how much he’s understanding of what we teach him and how he’s feeling about it. In the end, in turned out really well.
We decided to do our weekly planning session on Wednesday morning since there was a future in Chipiona who said he could meet on Thursday (which didn’t end up working out). While we were planning we heard coming from outside a long honk, followed by a crash. There was a little car accident on the street right in front of our Piso, so that was exciting. After planning, we went to eat lunch with Matilde, our “Mamita.” She needed some help moving a refrigerator from a Piso on the other side of town to her house. So, we all went to the piso where the refrigerator was and had to carry it down a flight of stairs, load it in a van, and move it into her house. Facilito. Later in the day, we had a great cita with Paco and Paqui, some less active members of the branch. Paqui’s dad was actually the first branch president of Sanlúcar, but she and her husband have been living in Las Palmas for the past six years, and just moved back to Sanlúcar this summer. It was heartbreaking to hear that they feel like the members of the branch are completely indifferent to them which I guess stems from some personal problems they’ve had with other members in the past. Well, luckily we hit it off really well with them and they invited us to come back, so hopefully we can help things become reconciled.
On Thursday morning, Dani asked for a hand moving some glass display shelves than he made from his house to Bibi’s store. The rest of the morning was spent helping to arrange them and then scrape glue off of them, so it was another good service opportunity. We even went back a little bit on Friday morning to help finish up.
Then, on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, we had an intercambio with Elder Wood and Elder Wilding in Jerez. It was a really, really good one. The other Elders in Jerez had found someone named Bryan in their area book, that they passed to the zone leaders because he lived in their area. He’s a Spanish-American, born in Nashville, lives in Jerez, and works as an airplane mechanic on the Naval base. We had a cita set for 5:30, but when we got to his house, only his dad, just your basic old Spanish man, was home. He was nice enough to invite us in, and we tried sharing something with him, but it didn’t really end up going anywhere haha. Luckily, Bryan was just running a little late, and when he came in, we were just explaining to his dad a little bit about what the Book of Mormon is. The first thing Bryan said was, “Dad, do you know what this Book is? It’s incredible!” He then went on to perfectly describe what the Book of Mormon is and the importance of it. Turns out that someone on base gave him a copy in English about six moths ago, and he’s been reading it ever since. We went on explaining a bit about Joseph Smith, and Bryan’s dad asked, “So basically, what you’re just telling me is that Joseph Smith made his own church.” Bryan responded by saying, “No dad, he restored the church of Jesus Christ to the earth. That’s why this book is so important.” Bryan gets it. So, we committed him to being baptized in February. That might have just been the most prepared new investigator I have met on my mission. At the same exact time we were with Bryan, our companions were at another new investigator’s house and committed her to being baptized, too. The rest of the intercambio was honestly pretty uneventful, but that didn’t matter, because we found Bryaninstantly making it the best intercambio ever.
Yesterday, Sunday, was an odd day. Half of our branch wasn’t at church, and I guess nobody bothered to plan much of the meetings, because five minutes before church started, I was asked to give a 20 minute sacrament meeting talk. Then, I was also asked to teach the combined third hour priesthood/relief society class right before it started. Luckily, if there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do on the mission, it’s how to give sacrament meeting talks and other random classes without any preparation, so everything went over well. That’s not to say it wasn’t stressful though haha. To celebrate New Years Eve, Elder Clark and I had a very nice meal of Pollo Asado and French fries. For dessert, we had a pumpkin pie that I got my hands on thanks to connections with the military base. Then, we promptly went to bed at 10:00 as we always do, and amazingly enough, we woke up in another year.
One of my messages in church yesterday revolved around this passage of scripture from 3 Nephi 12, verses 13-16:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
 
I love this passage because it shows us how the Savior uses us to spread His light thoughout the world. The more good we do, the more of His light we are spreading. 
 
Love,
Élder Stark

Photos

1: Skyping home
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2: Christmas Smoothies
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3: Car crash
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4: The big-screen District
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5: Our phone got stolen this week
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6: Otro día (another day)
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7: Otra comida (other food)
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8: Until next time
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Shepherds

From our Christmas morning skype call

From our Christmas morning skype call

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Email 25/12/17

Hello everybody,
Merry Christmas! It has been a very enjoyable second (and last) Christmas season on the mission, and I hope that all of you had happy holidays too.
We’ve been able to celebrate Christmas a few different times this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we were in Sevilla for the Christmas zone conference/talent show. That was a really enjoyable time. Then, last night, we went with all of the Hermanas in Puerto to the Fry’s house, one of the American families here associated with the naval base. We read the nativity story, we sang, we ate desserts, and we played jumbo jenga. Today, we’re spending the day in Puerto, and there’s another American family that invited us all over for dinner tonight. This was a very good place to be during the holidays, haha.
Our missionary work this week went really well too. Mike came back from the United States, so we’ve started back up with him again. Also, in our weekly Noche de Hogar with Ángel, Yessenia, and Maru, we talked about the importance of baptism, and established the Fecha of February 3 for all three of them! This is amazing because the last time we invited Maru to be baptized a month or two ago, she just kind of laughed it off, but this time, she was serious about it and seemed more dedicated to do her part in order to feel ready for that day. What was also amazing was that morning, I had the idea to invite one of the members, Virginia, to the Noche de Hogar, but before I got around to calling her, I got distracted by something and forgot about it. Well, right as the Noche de hogar was beginning, who should knock on the door but Virginia? She had decided to “randomly” stop by Aurora’s house while walking her dog, and ended up staying for the entire lesson and played a key part in it. That was a nice confirmation that the Lord is definitely in charge of His work.
Something sad happened this week in Chipiona. After being able to teach Carmen, Mari Carmen, and Jessica about the restoration this week, we were excited to see them again. However, when we showed up to their house in Chipiona, we found a note on the door that said that Mari Carmen’s husband found out that we had been stopping by to teach them, and he didn’t like that at all. So, they politely asked us to stop coming. It’s an understandable situation, but still sad. What help make up for it was meeting a Spanish-American family that runs an American bakery there and also this one other future that we got. So even though there are bumps in the road, the Lord’s work always progresses.
Yesterday in Sacrament meeting, I was assigned to give one of the talks. Here is the gist of what I shared:
Part of the nativity story is when Christ’s birth was announced by an angel to the shepherds. Luke 2:8-20 relates the following account:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
 
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
 
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
 
All week, I was thinking about why these shepherds were chosen to be the first to hear about the birth of Jesus. I have come to a few conclusions for why this could be so. They relate to the traits these shepherds had that we should emulate and to how Christ is, in fact, “The Good Shepherd.”
I believe that one reason why this angel appeared to those shepherds was because they were humble enough to value the news that was being given to them. This is shown through their immediate response to go into Bethlehem to search out Christ. Their response wasn’t postponed; they didn’t say, “How neat. We’ll have to go check that out sometime.” Rather, “they came with haste, and found…the babe…” Their humility and faith in the Savior was shown through their immediate response. Surely this is a trait to be emulated.
Additionally, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” I think that one reason why they were glorifying the Lord is because they recognized their dependence on Him. This is attribute that comes through humility. We read about this in Alma 26:12, which says: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.” Thus, what we can learn from these shepherds is to remember to glorify and praise God for His strength, which permits us to do all things.
Furthermore, the shepherds “made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” They wanted everyone to know about the Savior who had come to save the world. Similarly, Preach My Gospel teaches that, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the ‘great … importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth’ (2 Nephi 2:8).” We can see this principle clearly manifested in the examples of these shepherds.
However, the main reason why these shepherds are good examples to emulate is because they were emulating the best example of all: that of The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In John 10:14-15, He Himself declared, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The role of The Good Shepherd is further explained in 1 Nephi 22:25:“And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.”
President Uchtdorf shared the following about The Good Shepherd:
“To me, the parable of the lost sheep is one of the most hopeful passages in all of scripture.
 
Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows and loves you.
He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears.
 
It matters not how you became lost–whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your control.
 
What matters is that you are His child. And He loves you. He loves His children.
 
Because He loves you, He will find you. He will place you upon His shoulders, rejoicing. And when He brings you home, He will say to one and all, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
 
That is the Good Shepherd. That is who’s birth we are celebrating today. God gave the world the greatest gift through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gave the world His greatest gift through his humble submission to the Father’s will. The greatest gift we can give to Them is our hearts. And that’s what Christmas is all about.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: 100 missionaries singing in Carrefour
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2: Elder Jarvis
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3: Chipiona
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4: Christmas cinnamon rolls
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5: Christmas fire (Hermana Pinkney, Hermana Bočková, Hermana Matsu, Hermana Walker, Elder Stark, Elder Clark)
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6: Christmas jenga
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7: Christmas tree
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8: Until next time
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Alfonso was confirmed

Email 18/12/17

Hello everybody,
Here we are again.
Finally on Tuesday, we were able to get in contact with Alfonso. As it turned out, the reason why he couldn’t come to church last week was because he was in the hospital due to a stomach ulcer! Fortunately, it’s all better now. And even more better, he was confirmed as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints yesterday! I was given the opportunity to be the one to carry out the confirmation, which was a neat experience. Alfonso is so excited to be a member and is looking forwards to receiving the priesthood soon. Actually, we were teaching him about the priesthood in Gospel Principles class, and he was asking when he’d be able to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. We told him that it would surely happen soon, but we weren’t sure what the branch president’s timetable was going to be. Well, as soon as we had finished the lesson, our branch president popped his head through the door and said, “Alfonso, you’re getting the priesthood today,” so we were like, “Good thing we just had that lesson haha.” But it turns out that they need to wait until his records are in the church’s system to give him the priesthood, so that’ll happen soon.
We were able to give some service to the members this week through decorating the chapel for the branch Christmas dinner, which happened on Friday evening. We were also inviting all of our investigators and other people to come. There’s this guy named Fernando that runs a little kiosko here. He’s Argentine, but lived in Seattle for a while, and speaks decently good English. He has an English Book of Mormon, and sometimes we stop by to read a chapter out if it with him (we also discovered that he really didn’t have a good understanding of what the Book of Mormon is, so we’re going to be working on that). Anyways, we invited him to come, and he did, along with his wife and son! While he was introducing himself to the members, he said he was “practically Mormón,” so maybe we can help him become actually Mormón now. Our investigator, Bibi, and her husband came too, so the activity was good.
Something else cool that happened this week was in our pueblo, Chipiona. There’s this family consisting of a grandmother (Carmen), daughter (Mari Carmen) and granddaughter (Jessica) who have been somewhat investigating for a while. In other words, every time we would go to Chipiona (usually once a week), we’d stop by their house and usually just be able to share a quick message in the doorstep or something to whichever one of them happened to be home. Well, this past week we were finally able to go in the house and teach them the full restoration lesson, to all three of them. That was great. It’ll be great to go back and see if they have been able to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and how that went for them.
And those were pretty much the exciting highlights of the week, everything else was pretty normal. We had a good lesson in Elder’s Quorum yesterday about following Jesus Christ and following His perfect example. That includes trying to do what he would do, trying to say what he would say, and following all of the commandments He has given us, including His perfect gospel of faith, repentance, and baptism. Here’s a scripture that was especially applicable to this week seeing as though Alfonso received the Gift of the Holy Ghost yesterday as part of the confirmation:
“And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do” (2 Nephi 31:11-12)
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Feliz Navidad
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2-3: El distrito de la Navidad: Hermana Pinkney, Hermana Bočková, Hermana Matsu, Hermana Walker, Elder Clark and Elder Stark
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4: Plaza de toros
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5: Antonio at it again
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6: The Branch Christmas Dinner
branch party
7: Alfonso after being confirmed
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8: Until next time
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