Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Still tirando paradelante

Email 16/4/18

This was more or less an average to mediocre week. It all started, like most weeks do, on Monday. We had an exciting Noche de Mike that ended up being a lesson on the Word of Wisdom. Mike is a slow learner, but he’s definitely learning.

On Tuesday, we had a fun visit with Bibi. It can be frustrating to teach her because she has a ton of doubts that need to be resolved and when we start trying to help her with one doubt, that just basically opens up the door for her to bring up even more doubts. I think that her main doubt is concerning the imperfectness of man. If man is imperfect, how can we trust what they wrote in the scriptures or what modern day prophets say? It basically gets down to that every time. I like what the prophet Wilford Woodruff once said:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”

Basically we are trying to explain that it is the Lord’s church, and it’s organization and doctrines are perfect even if the people always aren’t, but it’s going to take some time to get to that level of comprehension for Bibi.

We had our district meeting in Jerez on Wednesday. From the time we leave our piso to the time we get to the chapel, it’s about two hours. It was a good meeting, we have a good district this transfer. It’s also a pretty old district, everyone with one exception is over a year in the mission. In the evening, we had English classes, which are still going well. We have about one member and three nonmembers that come. We have a Noche de hogar planned this week after English class because some of the nonmembers expressed interest in coming. We’ll see what happens!

Thursday was a terrible day.

Friday was better, we spent a lot of time in the Capilla because we had to clean it, do weekly planning, have our correlación meeting, and teach some lessons. Pretty exciting.

Saturday was OK, we met with Manuela, a menos activa in the morning, and then in the evening, we spent a few hours walking around trying to make contact with some unknown members. That didn’t go that well. Most people weren’t home and the people who were didn’t want anything from us. Luckily, we met with Antonio Tomate who gave us a dinner, and then Ángel later that night, so the evening ended much better than it started. Ángel is on track to be baptized on May 5. We are reviewing all of the lessons with him one more time to make sure that he understands everything before the baptismal interview, but he’s excited, and the rest of the branch is excited for him, too!

In theory, we have a pretty good investigator pool right now, but ever since Semana Santa, it’s been hard to pick back up meeting with some people on a regular basis. And technically we have three other investigators besides Ángel who have baptismal dates for May 5, but due to various circumstances, we haven’t seen any of them for a looooong time. Life just gets so complicated.

Hopefully we see a bit more progress this week.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1-2: The Great Apostasy. We did this in a Noche de hogar to teach the great apostasy where everyone was given a minute to look at this beautiful drawing I made and then try to remember it without being able to see it. We can clearly see why the restoration was necessary.

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3: Mi amiga Yessenia

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4: With Sara. We took this picture to send to her twin sister, Raquel, who is on her mission in Argentina.

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5: Jerez District: Hermana Grover, Hermana Aguilar, Elder Castillo, Elder Wood, Elder Burnard, Elder Harris, Elder Darrington, Elder Stark

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6: District

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7: Another day

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8: Until next time

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More or less the same but a bit different

Okay.

This week was transfer week. I, not surprisingly, am still here in Sanlúcar de Barrameda for my sixth and final transfer. Who is not still here is Elder Clark. He was transferred to Cartagena. It was sad to see him ago, because in addition to us being together for three transfers, he was also my hijo (son). My new companion is named Elder Castillo. He is from Costa Rica, and in addition to speaking Spanish (obviously), he also speaks fluent English, French, and Italian. He’s a chill guy, so it seems like I said goodbye to one good companion and got another good one.

On Monday we had a good Mike de Hogar on which we talked about personal revelation. We showed him President Nelson’s recent talk concerning the matter. I can’t remember everything that happened in the lesson, but I have re-read this talk several times this week. There’s no one part of his address that especially stands out to me, because I love it all! I love his invitation to “increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.” It’s such simple counsel and yet so profound such that we may be able to “[sift] through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth…We must learn to receive revelation.”

Tuesday was the last district meeting ever for the Puerto de Santa Maria District. First, they closed my mission. Next, they closed the MTC. Now, they’ve closed my district. What’s next? The reason why they did that is because the number of missionaries that the church is sending to Spain is already decreasing, so there are a few less missionaries now in the mission then there were last transfer. One of the areas in Puerto was a pretty slow area and the Piso there had routine problems with bed bugs. So, that would naturally be a good area to close, and instead of having a four person district, the remaining set of Hermanas are in the San Fernando district and we are part of the Jerez district. I am once again the district leader. The Manwarings made us a nice American lunch, and we said goodbye to them because they also go home this week.

Wednesday morning, Elder Clark and I headed up to Jerez so he could catch his train to Sevilla. I spent the rest of the morning with Elder Burton and Elder Burnard waiting for Elder Castillo to get in. Once he did and we got back to Sanlúcar, we went right over to English classes. I don’t think I mentioned this last week, but we had a record-breaking three people come to it both last week and this week!! This past week, all three of our pupils were non-members, so that’s even better! It’s nice to actually have something work out for once.

On Thursday, we were able to meet with Alfonso and Antonio Sarmiento. Alfonso has been doing a lot better recently and we have been reviewing the commandments with him. This week was the fourth or fifth time that we’ve met with Antonio, and he seems really committed to coming to church on Sunday, but doesn’t make it. Poquito a poco.

Then on Friday, we went to Chipiona for the first time in a long time, trying to hunt down some less active members. Couldn’t find any. In his last area, Elder Castillo was teaching an investigator from Morocco who speaks French. We had a Skype lesson on Friday evening with the missionaries in Cáceres, a member there, the Investigador, Elder Castillo, and this one French Elder in our mission. It was cool but somehow even after taking three years of French class in high school, I don’t even know a single word in French. So I just sat there, but it was cool. I’m grateful for technology which makes teaching moments like this possible.

Saturday was an OK day. We met again with Alfonso and were able to resolve some questions and doubts about tithing, and we also gave our good friend Antonio Bernal a visit. We tried to visit Bibi, and she was in her store, but was throwing up like every fifteen minutes. So, we gave her a blessing of health. Hopefully she’s better.

Yesterday, Sunday, was another good fast and testimony meeting. Hearing the testimonies of the members of the branch made me think about 1 Nephi 14:14, which says:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”

Since there are not many members of the Church here, I really think that it makes being a member of the Church a lot harder. I really admire the members here in Sanlúcar and their strong conviction to live the restored gospel. Quoting President Nelson’s talk again:

“You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.”

I know that to be true. I know that the Lord has spoken to my heart and I have received my own spiritual witness about the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, the veracity of Joseph Smith, Russell M. Nelson, and all of the other prophets’ holy callings, and above all, about the reality of Jesus Christ. I am ever grateful for this time that I have been given as a missionary to help others understand the same thing.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Love u bag street

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2-6: These gardens outside of the ayuntamiento that we visited on Monday.

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7-9: Whoops

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10: Noche de Hogar

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11: With Elder Burnard, waiting for our new companions

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12: A Spanish cemetery

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13: Oh Rocío

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14: Storm’s a comin’

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15: Elder Castillo

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16: A semana Santa themed sucker

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17: Until next time

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Sixth’s Time the Charm

Email 2/4/18

Hello everybody,

“…Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). Our Heavenly Father is a “…God of truth, and canst not lie” (Ether 3:12). The Church of Christ is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20). The Lord has also declared, “whether [I speak] by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Thus, we can be sure that when we hear our living prophet and his Apostles speak, it is the voice of the Lord, and what they are saying is the unchangeable truth.

It was a wonderful general conference this weekend! Very historic. We went to the stake center in San Fernando to watch the sessions (at an eight hour time difference) and even though we were just in a small upstairs room, watching it in English, with a handful of other missionaries, the spirit was just as strong as if we were there personally in the conference center. I felt the unmistakable impressions of the spirit testifying to me that Russell M. Nelson is indeed God’s prophet, and I am anxious to review his instructions given to us over the coming days, weeks, and months.

Also, yesterday was Easter! In Spain, it’s not just a one day holiday, but a week long festivo. This involves losts of processions through the streets, including giant floats (not sure if that is the right word) of scenes from Christ’s last week, marching bands, and people dressed in the traicional (traditional) Semana Santa pointy cap robes. Yeah, the ones that look like what the KKK wears. I’m not sure what all of the symbolism behind it is, but I think one reason they’re like that is because the people in the parades are repentant sinners, participating as some sort of rite to receive forgiveness, and it’s something they do anonymously.

All of these processions naturally caused some interruptions to missionary work, making it harder to get from place to place and also not being able to meet with some of our investigators, but we managed to survive. There was even a procession that passed on the street right outside of our Piso one night, which we were able to watch from our balcony. Of course, I will attach pictures.

Some other news coming out of Spain is that the Spain MTC is closing at the end of the year. When they announced that our mission, The Spain Málaga Mission, was being dissolved into the Spain Madrid and Spain Barcelona missions, they made a big deal of reminding us that they’re not “closing” the mission, but “consolidating” it. I have had fun over the past few days reminding people to say that they are “consolidating” the MTC, not “closing” it, but I think my unfunny sense of humor was not understood by most haha. It is sad to see, but understandable as to why the church is making this decision.

In the sprit of Easter, we went to Frank and Ana Belén’s house to share the “SiempreAhí” message with them and encourage them to share it with their friends. They have these two daughters, Paula, age 4, and Carlota, age 2, that are just the funnest little kids to be around. Paula was playing with a Minnie Mouse doll and the “Richard” doll, named after me, that I sent a picture of in one of my previous emails. I ended up using the dolls to act out the appearance of the resurrected Christ to Mary Magdalena to her. So for the next half hour she was walking around the Piso with the Minnie Mouse doll saying, “dónde está Jesucristo?” I guess that means I explained the first part of the story pretty good but probably lost her on the second part haha. Oh well. It was cute. She’ll figure it out eventually.

We also had stopped by Tomas’s house one evening because he hadn’t been to church in a few weeks. You may remmeber him as being the father of Raquel, who left on her mission to Argentina several months ago. Well he was there, and so was Sara, Raquel’s twin sister, who is menos activa, and I feel like we had a good lesson with them and I definitely felt like I got to know Sara a lot better. It was a really positive interaction.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned María Ángeles, and her sister Ana María, and Ána María, the daughter of her namesake. They let us come back this week and teach them which was super good because we thought that they really weren’t that interested. None of them kept their commitment to read the Book of Mormon that we had left them, so we re-emphasized the importance of it, and invited them to do it again. Hopefully they do.

Also, we saw Alfonso a few times during the week. He’s still doing good. He was watching General Conference yesterday at his house. We’re going to be working our best to make sure he’s at church every week from now on now that he’s doing better.

Lastly, this is going to be my last transfer. I come home in six weeks! My trainee, companion for the last three transfers, and good friend, Elder Clark, is being moved to Cartagena. Elder Castillo from Costa Rica is going to be my final companion. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to him, but he’s been in the mission for over a year, so he’s breaking the trend I’ve experienced my entire mission of my companions progressively getting younger in the mission. (My trainer was at 1.5 years, my second companion at 14 months, my third companion at 1 year, my next at 6 months, etc.) It’ll be good to shake things up a bit.

More on this later.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: A scene from the Garden of Gethsemane

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2: Futbolito

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3: With Tomas and Sara

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4-9: Semana Santa on Bag Street

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10,13: Catholic roadblocks

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11: We met a pig

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12: Cool stripes

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13: Dani is French

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14: District meeting

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15: Until next time

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#SiempreAhí

Email 25/4/18

Hello everybody,

This is approximately my 30th week in and email from Sanlúcar de Barrameda. If all of my emails have been the same, that’s only a representation of real life.

Monday was a fun preparation day. We did all of the things that we normally do, namely, play Fútbol, eat out, play chess, and write home, but everything was just extra fun for some reason. In the evening, we had a really good lesson with Cintia, who you’ll remember is the daughter-in-law of Domingo. We were going to review what we had taught her about the restoration, but then she opened up and told us that she really worries about what happens when we die and why hard things happen in life. Isn’t it amazing that thanks to God communicating through prophets, we have the answers to those questions? It was a really spiritual lesson, and we even set a baptismal goal for May 5 with her. 

Tuesday was another good day. We had our district meeting in Puerto. I’ve lately been planning meetings that revolve around one theme, and this theme was the Doctrine of Christ, or in other words, the things that Jesus asks us each to do: have faith in Him, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. It’s always good to focus on the basics. In the evening, the stake presidency was here and wanted to do some visits to less active members and investigators with us and the branch presidency. I ended up going with one of the Stake Presidency counselors and the Elders Quorum President to visit Bibi. It was a really good visit, and slowly but surely, we are helping her overcome her doubts. Then, we did our normal Noche de Hogar and taught Angel about how the Priesthood is power. He’s definitely getting baptized on May 5.

Wednesday was the day when we finally got around to fixing the lock with the key stuck in it. Dani, the old French member, got the key unstuck in like 30 seconds, and then we just had to take it to a locksmith and get a copy. It was super simple to fix. We headed out to Chipidog to help out cleaning the dog cages, and taught another English class to Bibi’s husband, so we put in some good service that day. We also had a really good visit with Mike, who is such a nice guy but not the fastest learner, so we reviewed The Restoration and it seemed like he got it a lot better than times in the past. The Spirit was also super strong in the lesson, and he said a really sincere prayer asking if the Book of Mormon was true.

On Thursday, we did our weekly planning in the morning and then headed to Jerez to do intercambios with the zone leaders. I never look forward to doing intercambios, but they always turn out OK. I was with Elder Harris, who is also from Colorado (Montrose). He also just finished serving in my old area in Jaén, so that was cool. We finished the intercambio up on Friday and then headed back to Sanlúcar. Antonio Sarmiento called us again, wanting to meet. He wants to come back to church, but I guess it’s really hard after not coming for 20 years, so we’re trying to be really positive and as welcoming as possible with him.

Saturday was good, too. We had an OK cita with Bibi in the morning and then went and stopped by some investigators and Futuros with whom we set up citas for this coming week. Hopefully we will be having some good lessons with them. We also met with Alfonso, who is doing a lot better right now and is working and seems a lot happier than he has been for the past few months.

Sunday was an interesting day. It was the Sanlúcar branch conference, and a ton of people from the stake and their families were visiting, so the chapel was completely full. They also released our branch president and called a new one, which I don’t think anyone was expecting. It will be exciting to be the first missionaries to establish a solid relationship with this new president. The funny thing is that our last president is named Daniel and is from Jerez, and the new president is also named Daniel and is from Jerez.

Lastly, with this week being Semana Santa aka Easter, the church has given us a fun new initiative called “Always There.” I’m pretty sure it’s a Europe-only thing. I really like it, it is such a good message about how Christ is always there for us. Just as D&C 84:88 says: “…I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” You can all see the video associated with this topic at http://lds.org.uk

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: District. Elder Clark, Elder Stark, Hermana Malcolm, Hermana Moncayo, Hermana Walker

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2: Jerez

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3: Some cats

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4: Burger King haha

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5: With Paco and Presidente García after our visit to Bibi

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6: Intercambios with Elder Harris and Elder Wood

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7: There’s trouble ahead

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8: Until next time

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I fear no man

Email 19/3/18

Hello everybody,

Well, well, well.

We live in a Piso in the centro of the city, in a building with about 10 apartments total. We are the only tenants which live here full time as the other pisos are either summer homes or up for sale. Normally it’s very nice because we basically have the entire building to ourselves most of the the time, but yesterday we ran into a major problem. There are two doors that you need to use in order to enter into the building, each having a separate key. There is one giant set of wooden doors that lead to the street, and at the end of a short corridor, a locked gate. As we were going back to Piso last night, our key broke off inside of the giant outside doors, and because nobody else lives here, there was no way for someone to just buzz us in. We were getting really stressed about it, but luckily for us, our across the street neighbor, Dani, is a great guy, and he showed us how to break into these types of doors using nothing but a credit card to get in. So we still need to get the lock fixed and the key copied, but we were almost in a pretty sticky situation yesterday.

Besides that, yesterday was an average Sunday. It was raining really hard in the morning, so a bunch of people didn’t come to church, as normal, but we helped out with a primary lesson about missionary work, so that was pretty fun.

It was also really rainy on Saturday evening and we decided to stick with our plan of passing by some menos Activos before the citas we had later in the evening, and we got absolutely drenched. We did find this one family who was sealed in the temple and everything, but left the church because of a fight they got in with some of the members. It’s frustrating that it seems like every menos activo that we’ve met stops going to church because of some stupid feud with another member of the branch! Aren’t forgiveness and charity supposed to be the basic facits of Christianity? It reminds me of the Lord’s chastisment to Joseph Smith after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon, which is found in D&C 3:6-8 (emphasis added):

“And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.

“For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words–

“Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.”

Anyways, that’s been a pretty annoying pattern we’ve seen several times as we’re trying to help out these less active members. If I sound frustrated, that’s only because I am. We’ll see what more can be done to help them.

On Friday, we had a decent cita with Mike. He’s doing pretty good. The only thing that was holding him back from coming to church this week was potentially being too hung over after a party on Saturday night, so I guess that’s what must of happened because he didn’t come.

We also had a cool finding moment, where we had about an hour in the morning between citas. We had planned to stop by this one antiguo investigator but as the morning went on, I stated to second guess that decision because it was kind of far and we didn’t have a ton of time. Well, something kept telling us to go there, so we did, and the guy wasn’t home. But, we contacted this lady outside of the building that was super nice and super interested in having us come back. One of her daughters was actually an investigator from a few years ago who stopped metting with the missionaries just because they lost contact, it seems. We’re headed back on Wednesday, and we will see what’s there.

There was a district leader training meeting on Thursday evening in Málaga. But due to technology, we were able to connect through the meeting through an app called Zoom. It’s a cool idea, but honestly wasn’t that good in practice because the audio was really bad so it was hard to understand anything, and it just felt weird to participate from the other side of a screen. So, I probably would have gotten more out of the meeting had I been there in person, but it was an interesting experiment at the very least.

Wednesday was a good day because we were able to go to the dog shelter with Guadalupe and work a bit cleaning out the dogs’ cages. There’s nothing like the unconditional love that lonely dogs can give haha. We also taught Bibi’s husband in English class and had a fun Noche de Hogar.

Tuesday was a pretty normal day. We had district meeting in the morning and our Noche de Hogar in the evening.

And then last Monday I can’t even remember, everything just fades together.

So, the moral of the story is the following: once you “have experienced a change of heart, and…have felt to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26) and have “laid down the weapons of…rebellion”(Alma 23:13), do not become like the Nephites of old and “turn from…righteousness, like the dog to his vomit” (3 Nephi 7:8). Please.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Just a field and some clouds

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2: The District eating lunch

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3: Futuro misionera

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4: Castle at night

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5: Suited up, weapon in hand

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6: People here are really Catholic and really into Fútbol

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7: The future of missionary work?

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8: In December 2016, I made a goal to sing every hymn in the Spanish hymn book at the beginning of companionship study. I finally finished on Saturday.

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9: Until next time

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Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Stake Conference

Email 12/3/18

Hello everybody,
This was a week of many meetings and much traveling. It went by fast, but at the same time, it feels like forever ago that I was writing my group email last Monday.
Speaking of last Monday, it was a decent preparation day. It was still raining all day (it rained pretty much every day this week, again), so we had some fun playing indoor Padle Ball. That night was our customary Noche de Hogar in Aurora’s house. We had fun teaching Ángel about our favorite topic, missionary work! Ha.
Tuesday morning was pretty busy, we went to Mike’s house and had a good lesson with him, and later, I helped Vanessa with her website some more. We had a really cool lesson that evening. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that we were trying to work a lot with less active members. One night, we stopped by this one Piso looking for one named Ana, but instead we met her sister, María. She told us to come back another day, and finally on Tuesday, our schedules coincided we went back. Not only was Maria that and ready to listen, but also Ana (the menos activa), her teenaged daughter (also named Ana), and the 84-year old mother of Ana and María. The member we brought with us was already acquainted with them, so that was an extra blessing. We taught them the restoration and they seemed sincerely interested and attentive the entire time we were teaching, so we’ll see if they’ll let us come back some other day.
Right after that cita, we had to get on a bus and go to Jerez to spend the night there since we had to catch an early morning train to Sevilla the next day. On Wednesday, we had our zone conference there. I realized that I was the oldest missionary in this entire tri-zone area. It was focused on the importance of The Book of Mormon and helping people make and keep commitments. Two of my favorite quotes from Preach My Gospel regarding these two subjects are:
“The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource in conversion.”
“When you ask for commitments as part of your teaching, you are inviting the investigator to repent.”
 
Helping investigators and others make and keep commitments and understand the significance and gain a testimony of The Book of Mormon are some of the most important parts of our work. The introduction in the Book of Mormon states: “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I know that this promise is true for I have done it myself and have received my own witness of the truthfulness The Book of Mormon, independent of the testimony of anyone else. I have seen others do the same. The Book is true, and through the Holy Ghost, God can confirm the truth of it to anyone who sincerely reads it and faithfully asks God for this confirmation.
Anyways, so after coming back from Sevilla, exhausted, we had a Noche de Hogar with the family of Miguel Ángel and María José, some members. We talked about The Great Apostasy that occurred as a result of priesthood authority being taken from the earth resulting from the persecution and death of the Apostles that Jesus called. I’m grateful this Apostasy happened because it paved the way for the gospel to be restored again to the earth in its perfect form through the prophet Joseph Smith. It’s amazing how available the gospel and the priesthood power to perform saving ordinances is throughout the world. Even though there certainly are problems and calamities in the world, we are so blessed to live at a time when The Church of Jesus Christ is so well established on the earth.
On Thursday, we had our normal weekly planning session in the morning, and then all of our plans for the evening fell through, so we spent some time trying to find more menos activos and knocking some doors. It was raining, so there was nobody in the street, but also nobody at home either, so I wonder where everyone disappeared off to.
We had interviews with President Andersen on Friday, so we had to go to Puerto for that. Those are always so good. He told us that one of the Hermanas in our district is being transferred to Chiclana this week because the companion of one of the missionaries there never went to the MTC at the beginning of her mission, and now needs to do her three weeks there. That’s a pretty weird situation. The rest of the Hermanas are going to be in a trio for the rest of the transfer.
Saturday was a good day, although we basically only did two things. The first was having a cita with Bibi, which are turning more and more frustrating because it seems like we just keep going in circles with her. Poco a poco, as they say. Then, the second thing was going to San Fernando for the priesthood and adult sessions of Stake Conference! Elder Paul V. Johnson of the seventy, who is also the Europe Área President, as well as the Madrid temple president, and President Andersen were all there and all gave talks. It was really, really, really, good, probably some of my favorite meetings that I’ve ever been to on the mission. I won’t go into all of the details about what they shared, but my favorite message came from President Andersen. He told of an experience he had several years ago when Elder Neil L. Andersen, then just a Seventy, visited their stake in Idaho. He made the remark that it’s such a privilege that the Lord lets us handle his fine china, and the fact that we’re even let into the door of the chapel is amazing given how imperfect we all are. He also talked about how having callings and responsibilities in the church is such a blessing. While President Andersen was relating this experience, it just hit me how much of a blessing the mission has been. Some of you know this, and others don’t, but I’ve had to deal with persistent depression for the majority of my time as a missionary, and I honestly have considered my calling as a missionary as a burden way more than a blessing. But when I was listening to President Andersen speak, I felt like my heart was opened up, and I could see and feel all of the ways that I have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bless the lives of others, and all of the way He has blessed me and will continue to bless me in the future because I decided to serve a mission and have been blessed enough to be able to make it this far despite my weaknesses and problems. I am so grateful to the Lord for doing that.
I love you all, and I sincerely thank you for the support that you send from afar, and I’m thankful that you all will continue to be by my side for these two months that I have left to “serve him with all [my] heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2).
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: The ocean destroying the beach
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2: El cuadro de compromiso. For a lack of other pictures during the week, I made this in personal study one day.
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3-4: Peter = Joseph Smith
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5: On the way to stake conference
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6: After stake conference
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7: Until next time
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It rained

Email 5/3/18

Hello everybody,
This week was unusual because it rained pretty much all day, every day this week, with rain continuing today and through the majority of the coming week. In a place that’s known as “The Southern California of Europe” for how nice the weather usually is, a rainy week like this one always throws me off a bit. Notwithstanding my inadaptness to this weather, it was a good week.
Last Monday we were doing some more work trying to get in touch with menos activos, and we found this one guy named Manual, who is the brother of one of our active members. We had a good cita with him and read Moroni 6 together. Verse 4 is especially good because it talks about how we don’t forget about those who were baptized but have lost their way for whatever reason.
“And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”
After that, we went over to Mike’s house and taught him a little about temples since he had some questions about them from the church tour we have him the day before. It was a nice visit. It really made me miss going to the temple, though.
Tuesday was a productive day. It started off with our district meeting in Puerto that morning. The Manwarings, the senior couple assigned to military relations on the base, made us a nice, big American lunch. When we got back to Sanlúcar, we had a cita with Frank and Alfonso where we reviewed The Restoration. He’s doing OK, he still has a lot of health problems and it’s still hard to get him to church, but he’s doing better than he was a few months ago. Poco a poco.
We also got a call from Domingo (member) asking us to give a blessing to his granddaughter. So, we met up with Domingo and went to his daughter-in-law’s house. His four year old granddaughter has chronic bronchitis and it gets pretty bad in the winter. However, she thought that we were doctors there to give her a shot, so she ran away from us, crying inconsolobly. That made us feel like trash haha. After talking it over with Domingo and the mom, Cintia, we decided that we’d try coming back the next day in normal clothes to not freak Lola (the granddaughter) out.
We went the next day and even brought some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, but kids are smart and Lola still didn’t let us get anywhere near her. So, we just started teaching Cintia instead! We talked about the part of the Bible when Jesus instructs the Apostles to let the children come to him, which led us to showing her the part in the Book of Mormon where Jesus blesses the children one by one, which led us to teaching a bit of the restoration. She wants us to come back again, so that was a super cool way to find a new investigator!
The rest of Wednesday was pretty slow as it was a very rainy day and a holiday (Andalucia Day).
On Thursday, we went to Jerez for the “Zone Council” meeting with the ZL’S, SHE’S, and the other district leaders from the zone. It was a really fun meeting, part of it included playing “Knockout” with church trivia, and I won twice, which I was really proud about. (Mental note for myself: “beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39).) The big news from this meeting was that we are now known as the “Cádiz Zone” rather than being the “San Fernando Zone”, so the name coincides with all of us being missionaries in the Cádiz Stake of the Church. Then, we went to the Domino’s all you can eat pizza buffet, and life was good.
Friday all of our citas for the evening fell through during the morning, so we started working in the evening not sure what was going to happen, but it turned out really good. First we had a visit with Bibi that was supposed to be only 10 minutes but turned into 2 hours. Hahaha. We got her to commit to start reading and praying about the Book of Mormon every day again, so that was good. After her, we decided to pay Tomas a visit. His daughter, Raquel, is the one who left for her mission last week. We shared a few scriptures about how the Lord watches over his missionaries. Like these:
“And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.
 
“And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites.
 
“And it came to pass that Mosiah granted that they might go and do according to their reques” (Mosiah 28:6-8).
 
“Therefore they did not fear Ammon, for they supposed that one of their men could slay him according to their pleasure, for they knew not that the Lord had promised Mosiah that he would deliver his sons out of their hands; neither did they know anything concerning the Lord…” (Alma 17:35).
 
“Now we see that Ammon could not be slain, for the Lord had said unto Mosiah, his father: I will spare him, and it shall be unto him according to thy faith—therefore, Mosiah trusted him unto the Lord” (Alma 19:23).
 
The Lord really does protect his missionaries. As many are aware, there were four missionaries and an investigator involved in a head-on colision with a semi-truck this week. Miraculously, nobody died, and it seems like they are all going to make a full recovery.
Nothing that interesting happened on Saturday. Oh wait, I take that back. We got a call out of the blue from a menos activo, Antonio, with whom we had contact way back when but eventually we lost contact with him. We were able to meet in the chapel and he expressed with us his desires to come back to the church. That was nice.
Sunday we had like 5 people (investigators and less-active members) who said they were coming to church flake out. ;( Oh well, we will try again. That’s what we do.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: The weird things you start doing when you’ve been with the same comp for three transfers
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2: Chapita
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3: The District: Elder Clark, Elder Stark, Hermana Moncayo, Hermana Walker, Hermana Malcom, Hermana Pinkney
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4: Another photo with the Manwarings, who give us American lunch every once in a while
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5: Beach
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6: Domino’s
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7: Until next time
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Missionary2

Email 26/2/18

Hello everybody,

Seven days later, here I am again. We figured out last night that I have been a missionary for 91 weeks—about the same number of days that Elder Clark has been in the mission field.

We found ourselves in San Fernando on Monday for the usual “preparation day with many missionaries from the Zone.” It was fun to see other missionaries and play Fútbol and email. That’s usually about it. The only downside is that we have to spend a few hours of our p-day traveling but it’s worth it to go every six weeks.

That evening was our normal Noche de Hogar with Aurora. We focused the lesson on reviewing the importance of baptism. As I indicated in my last letter, it’s been hard to meet with Maru due to her new employment, so she wasn’t able to be there. That allowed us to focus more on Ángel. The both have baptismal dates for the fifth of May, but Ángel is basically ready and willing to be baptized now. We tried to see if he wants to move the date sooner, but he wanted to keep the same date because he’d like to be baptized when Maru is. However, he told us thst if Maru, for whatever reason, doesn’t end up getting baptized thst day, he still will. That seemed like a good enough plan to us.

Tuesday afternoon was really special. Many of you will remember Raquel, our 19 year old member, who got her mission call to the Argentina Cordoba mission a few months ago. Tuesday was her setting apart and farewell. It was nice to see all of our members there supporting her, and you could feel the spirit so strongly as her, her father (who served a mission) and the Stake President shared a few remarks. When it came time for the setting apart, to our surprise, Elder Clark and I were asked to be in the circle, given that we both have the Melchezideck Priesthood. Helping to set apart another missionary was not something I had expected to do on my mission, but it was a great experience. So, for a short time on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, before she left for the airport, there were three missionaries in Sanlúcar! Haha. We also were able to see Maru (she came to the setting apart) and Alfonso that day, so it was good.

One of our big long-term projects for a few weeks now has been updating the branches member list. We spent some time on Wednesday passing by people who are on the list that we don’t know. Throughout the week, we’ve seen moderate success with this and there have been a some people who have invited us back.

Also on Wednesday, we had English class, but it turned into more of a web development class. You see, the only reliable student we have coming to English class right now is Vanessa, the branch Relief Society President. She is from Nicaragua and studied/worked in IT when she lived there. Because there’s not that many jobs in that field availble here in Sanlúcar, she’s been branching out and was looking for a way to get her hands on a domain name and hosting to make up a mock website for a client of hers (which happens to be Bibi, our investigator). I have been waiting my entire mission to use my computer skills to help someone, and I was even able to give her some space on my server and an unused domain name to help get her started. That was really cool.

Thursday, honestly, is just kind of a blur. Friday and Saturday too, for that matter. We were able to meet with Bibi somewhere in there. We’re still focusing a lot on helping her build Faith in Christ, because she believes that he existed, but I don’t think she understands very well what he did and what we need to do because of that.

“He [went] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…and he [took] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [took] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).

So, He did all that, and what he asks us to do in return is “repent, and be born again…therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7:14). This is the doctrine that we’re trying to get her to understand better so she’ll actually act on it. Poco a poco.

Sunday morning it was raining, which usually means a lot of people flake out of coming to church. Well they missed out. In the afternoon, we were able to coax Mike down to the chapel to give him a tour of it. This is the first time he’s really taken a comprehensive look at a Mormon meeting house. I think his favorite part of the tour was a singn of the Young Women’s values that he took a picture of. He said he was surprised at how organized everything was, like all of the different programs and classes and meetings. He seems a lot more interested in coming now.

Well, that’s another one. See you again next week, same time, same place.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Te echaremos de menos, Hermana Valencia!

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2: 🌴

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3: One of the member’s little daughters named this doll “Richard,” after my middle name

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4: Another day, another car accident outside our house

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5: Mission call letter from 1989

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6: Chimney

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7: Us and Chimney

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8: Until next time

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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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