Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: July 2016

Reality

I’ve spent a lot of time this week realizing how hard a mission is. It’s hard when you have investigators that aren’t keeping commitments. It’s hard when you have investigators who want to be baptized but can’t because other members of their family are preventing it. It’s hard when you have recent converts who experience relapses and start smoking again. Its hard not to get discouraged and disappointed with yourself when you feel as though you’re not progressing quickly enough with the language or acquiring good enough teaching skills. It’s hard to miss the comfort of home. It’s hard to be out in the real world, struggling to talk to and understand people in Spanish all day, every day.

I’ve always been told that missions are hard, and from my first two weeks in the field, I can attest to the truthfulness of that. There’s been times this week where I’ve just wanted to give up completely despite the fact that I’m in a great area with a great companion. Even though I know that once I get through these first few months in the field, and I can stop being stressed out by everything that’s new, new sources of stress will arrive.

I’m starting to realize that one does not simply turn into a functional missionary when they’re set apart, or handed a black name tag, or when they teach their first lesson. It’s a process, and it’s a process that takes a tremendous amount of time. Learning how to teach the gospel in a simple manner, speak a new language, and bless the lives of others are really difficult skills to acquire.

It’s been a hard week. But I’m still pressing forward. This hymn has helped me this week:

“Press forward, Saints, with steadfast faith in Christ, With hope’s bright flame alight in heart and mind”

Some quotes from President Nelson’s talk “Becoming True Millennials” come to my mind as well: “The Lord will ask you to do many difficult things… He will enable you to accomplish the impossible…. Pray for the courage not to give up”

So yes, it was a difficult week, and I know there are many, many more difficult weeks to come, but through Christ, we can overcome all challenges that we are facing and will ever face in life. Always, for anyone. I testify of that truth to you all.

With Love,

Élder Stark

Fashion emergency from last week.

Fashion emergency from last week.

Me and Elder Pesce in our new suits. He told me to tell my mom, "Look, mom, I'm fashion now!"

Me and Elder Pesce in our new suits. He told me to tell my mom, “Look, mom, I’m fashion now!”

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My district!  Elder Hammond, Elder Pesce, Hermana Prior (who arrived to the mission field at the same times as me), Hermana Butler, Hermana DeBoard, Hermana Moore, Elder Stark, Elder Brown, Elder Llavina, Elder Fumero

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On evenings during Wednesdays and Fridays, we teach English class, and then on Tuesdays and Thursday’s we play futbol. Very different activities, but both have the same purpose of helping people come unto Christ by getting them to know members of the church and the missionaries. This field is the Church’s, right next to our chapel.

This is one of our investigators, Paula. It was her birthday this past week, so we had a little celebration.

This is one of our investigators, Paula. It was her birthday this past week, so we had a little celebration.

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An old picture that I just got of when I first received my assignment and my trainer at the mission home in Málaga

An old picture that I just got of when I first received my assignment and my trainer at the mission home in Málaga

The Book of Mormon in many different languages.

The Book of Mormon in many different languages.

This picture is with (former) Elder Fillmore, who served with Elder Pesce around a year ago. He stopped by to say hi. When I received my mission call, someone in my ward at BYU told me to look out for him, and it turns out that she's super good friends with his sister who was also visiting, so it's funny how small the world is.

This picture is with (former) Elder Fillmore, who served with Elder Pesce around a year ago. He stopped by to say hi. When I received my mission call, someone in my ward at BYU told me to look out for him, and it turns out that she’s super good friends with his sister who was also visiting, so it’s funny how small the world is.

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Until next time.

Until next time.

Elche!

“If the Lord loves you, he’ll send you to Elche for your first area”

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A missionary who was finishing up with his mission shared that quote
with me last week. He said that his CCM president told him that. So
far, I definitely think that it is true. The city, the ward, and the
people are fantastic. Because I feel like I have so much to share,
I’ll just go through day by day since the last time that I emailed,
which was on Tuesday.

First, here’s some pictures from Málaga.

Overlooking Málaga and the sea.

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All of the new missionaries in Málaga. From left to right: Don’t know
his name, but he’s just here for one transfer on a “mini-mission,”
Elder Krummenacher, Hollowell, Stark, Hermanas Spencer, Bailey, Prior,
Clark, Wood, Richardson, and i think that the last Hermana is also a
mini missionary.

Wednesday, 13/7
After traveling all day on Tuesday, we had to once again arise early
on Wednesday. We took a train through Málaga for about an hour to get
to the bus station, and then it took two busses and around 6 hours to
get to Elche. Needless to say, it was a long day.

We arrived in Elche at maybe around 5 PM, and we went to the Piso
(apartment, or actually “flat” since this is Europe) to settle in for
a bit. Our piso is so nice. Surprisingly nice, honestly. As I had said
in my last email, it has two bathrooms, one for me and one for Elder
Pesce. We each also have separate rooms just for our suitcases,
clothes, and stuff. And, there’s another room with just an iron in it
haha. There’s also a bedroom, a kitchen, and a living room.

So the bedroom has a bed in it, but that’s Elder Pesce’s. I have to
sleep on a mattress on the ground. It’s not the best mattress in the
world, honestly, but neither were my mattresses in the CCM or at
school. So it’s fine. The scary thing, though, was that I got there
and asked if there were any sheets, because the pisos are supposed to
have sheets, and my companion said that they just sleep on the
mattress with no sheets and just blankets. Thankfully though, the
other missionaries serving in our ward, the hermanas, had extra
sheets. For that, I’m so happy.

Here’s some more pictures of the piso:

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Looking out the other side of the piso.

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Our kitchen. Currently missing a microwave since the piso is new to
the missionaries and they haven’t given us one yet 🙁

living room
Living room

So after going to the piso for a bit, I had to go teach an English
class! For an hour, I helped out 60+ year old Spaniards with there
English. Even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying super
well in Spanish, I still thought that it was really fun.

After English class, I got “K-baptized.” In Spain, there’s a ton of
Kebab restaurants which are really just kind of a Greek gyro. But
they’re really good, and the missionaries love them.
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Thursday, 14/7
Most of Thursday was spent in our piso doing some in field training
and planning and whatnot. But Thursday, I began to realize how helpful
the iPads are in missionary work and in learning the language. For
example:

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Google translate can work offline, so whenever I need to figure out a
word or something, I can just pull it up and learn it immediately. Not
to mention that I really only need to carry my iPad on me and not have
to worry about having several sets of scriptures or other books.
Additionally, I can receive and read emails any time that I have wifi
throughout the week, but I can only respond during p-days on Mondays.

We had our correlation meeting with the ward mission leader on Sunday.
It was at the chapel. The chapel is its own building and its in the
middle of a field full of palm trees.

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Friday, 15/7
Friday was the day that we really started going out and visiting
people. We have a really good pool of investigators and less actives
that we visit on a regular basis. So, most of our proselytize time is
spent visiting with people.

One of our investigators that we taught on Friday suffered a stroke
and now has really impaired physical movement and speech. The lesson
that we were teaching was about resurrection, and how thanks to the
Atonement of Jesus Christ, all persons will relieve a glorified and
perfected body. As we were teaching, I felt the spirit so strongly as
I know that she will one day have a body without any of the problems
that she’s dealing with now. Incredible.

It’s really difficult for me to understand people when they talk
because of how fast they do so. So this week, I’ve really been working
on listening and trying to understand what people say. Even though
it’s still an ongoing challenge for me to communicate well and
understand, I feel as though I still am connecting with our
investigators and the members, and that’s a really nice feeling, that
the language barrier isn’t all encompassing over any form of
connection.

Saturday, 16/7
Elche is a cool place to be. But because the city is basically all
just blocks and blocks of apartment buildings, it’s easy to feel boxed
in sometimes since you’re surrounded by walls all day. On Saturday, we
had the chance to get out of the city and eat lunch with the older
50+) single adult members in the area. Here are some pictures from
that:

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So good.

So that’s how we spent our mediodia on Saturday. And wow, I just
realized that I never talked about our schedule.

Our mission has a very different schedule than basically every other
mission in the world. See here:

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So basically, we eat a normal breakfast, heavy lunch at 2 PM and then
a light dinner when we get back to our piso at 10:30 PM or so. Since a
normal mission runs from 6:30 AM – 10:30 PM, our days are completely
different than the normal.

Sunday, 17/7
The two wards here in Elche are both so good. I think there’s probably
around 80-100 active members in each. It was great being able to go to
church and have so many things be the same as at home, even if I’m in
a different country trying to understand a different language. I even
stood up at the pulpit in front of the whole congregation and
introduced myself and bore my testimony all in Spanish. I’m not going
to lie though, my brain was absolutely fried after the three hour
block.

That night though, we had the opportunity to attend the baptismal
service of a girl in the Elche 2nd ward. Not a convert, just an 8 year
old, but it was still great being able to witness that ordinance being
performed.

Monday, 18/7
P-Day! In Elche, there are 8 missionaries: 6 Elders and 2 Hermanas; so
two companionships per ward. This morning, us and some of the elders
from the other ward went to the house of a member to get our eyebrows
done haha. I didn’t think that’s how I would be spending my p-days.

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Right now, I’m sitting in a KFC in a mall, finishing up this email. I
just bought a new suit at Zara for super cheap because basically every
store in Spain are having rebajas, sales, right now. Seriously every
store, even the chinos.

I feel like there’s so much more I could talk about and probably a lot
of important information I’ve neglected to mention, so just let me
know if you have any questions.

And finally, some more pictures from Madrid and some more from here in Elche
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Churros and Chocolate. I emailed about this a few weeks ago.

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Me and Elder Krummenacher

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Churros and chocolate: Elder Krummenacher, Stark, Hermanas Gonzalez,
Richardson, Pitcher, and Clark

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Elder Gerratt and I at the Royal Palace of Spain

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On the way to get our residency cards

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Getting our residency cards

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Me and Hermana Gonzalez

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With Hermana Bailey

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My CCM District, one day before we all left the CCM. Four to Málaga, 2
to Barcelona, and 4 staying in Madrid.

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Me and the Russian teachers at the CCM. Bro. Bozev and Bro. Cunski

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Elder Calio and me. He’s from Italy and is supposed to be serving in
Mesa Arizona, but is waiting for his visa.

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All of us Elders leaving the CCM. Hollowell, Braser, Calio, Fernandez,
Stark, Krummenacher, and Jensen
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Leaving Madrid, leaving the temple for two years 🙁

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Sunset at the mission home in Málaga

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Me and Elder Pesce

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Until next week

Love,

Elder Stark

Almost to the real world

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Elche, Spain (from google images)

Today’s been a great day. It started really early this morning as we
had to take a train from Madrid to Malaga. The ride lasted for around
three hours.

When we arrived in Málaga, the mission president, his wife, and some
missionaries from the office were there to meet us. After interviews
with the president in a nearby church building, we went to a lookout
where we could see the better part of Malaga and even over the sea
into Africa.

Then, we went to the mission home where we received our area
assignments and trainers! My new companion is Elder Pesce. He is a
native Spanish speaker from Chile, so I’m sure that it will help
tremendously with my Spanish. Not to mention that he seems like a
tremendous missionary. We will be serving in Elche, which is kind of
in the southeast corner of Spain.

We’re spending the night in the mission home tonight and then taking a
bus out to our area in the morning. I’m still trying to figure out
what to expect in terms of the level of work in that area, but I am so
ready to jump right into what’s going on. Also, I know that our
apartment has air conditioning, two bathrooms (!!!), and we already
have meal appointments set up. So that all will be nice. A downside is
that we won’t be able to drink the water in that area straight out of
the tap, pero esta bien.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have much more exciting news next week.

Good luck!!

Elder Stark

Leaving Madrid

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Jared and Melvin in 2013

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RIP Melvin

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“Got another haircut lol. Probably looks really bad in this pictures, but whatever.”

It’s crazy that I’m emailing again so quickly, but I guess that I’ll have to get used to doing this on Mondays since that will be preparation day for the remainder of my mission.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be leaving Madrid by train at around 7:30AM and arriving in Málaga or  Fuengirola, or wherever the mission home is approximately four hours later. Where I’m going after that, I don’t know. Who my trainer is, I don’t know. If I’ll be able to email again after I learn this information or if I’ll have to wait until next Monday, I don’t know. Haha, the adventure!

I had a really good experience in the park last week. Elder Krummenacher and I were companions as they put you with your “main” companion for the last week in the park. We spent a lot of the time having good conversations with people (all in Spanish!), but weren’t really getting anywhere with any of them.

But with the last woman that we talked to, we were sharing about the Book of Mormon, and I felt like I wanted to share a verse from it. I had no clue what, so I opened the Book of Mormon up and immediately turned to Moroni 10:8, which was absolutely perfect given that we were talking about gifts from God right before. I know it’s true that God will give you the words you need in the very second you need it, because that just what happened to me.

Well, I have to make this email short because I don’t have a lot of time. Good luck.

Also, RIP Melvin. That was sad news.

Love,
Elder Stark

Greetings from the CCM!

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Here are the highlights from this past week in the Madrid CCM:

Last week, we went to the royal palace of Madrid. It’s a very ornate, very beautiful building with a lot of history behind it. I have some pictures of it, but as always, don’t know when I’ll be able to send them out.

We also went to the “Chocolateria San Gines” last week, which is famous for having the best chocolate and churros in Madrid. It’s one of those restaurants that’s been around for ages and has pictures of famous people who visited there all over the walls. Very good churros and very good chocolate, although I honestly felt a bit sick after because I ate so much.

The highlight of last weeks preparation day was the temple, of course. We’re going again today in a few hours, and everything is going to be in Spanish this time.

Speaking of Spanish, I feel like it’s coming along well. For example, in the park this week, my companion was Elder Bedke, who is from Idaho, going to Moscow, and he doesn’t speak any Spanish. All of my weeks in the park, except for one, I’ve been with a companion who doesn’t know the language here, and every time, things have worked out okay. But this past week, I had a really long conversation in all Spanish with someone about the church and why the Book of Mormon is important, and the incredible thing to me was how easy I felt the language coming out while I was speaking. There’s still a lot of grammar principles that I need to learn so many words that I still don’t understand, but comparing where I was a month ago, coming to Spain knowing only the phrase “Puedo ir al baño,” to where I am now, it’s amazing. I know that there’s no way I could have seen that level of progression without the gift of tongues, which is an amazing gift from God, and something that I have to work hard for every day, but I know that it is real.

Mine and Elder Krummenacher’s teaching is also getting better. Every Saturday after the park, we teach a “TRC” lesson, which is when we’re given a certain situation and have to teach a 30 minute lesson around that situation. After we were done teaching, the teacher who was acting the part of our investigator told us that it was one of the best lessons he had received in the CCM because even though our language is obviously far from perfect, he said he felt the spirit when we were teaching. That’s all that matters because it’s the spirit who teaches, not us. Anyway, that was a very reassuring compliment to receive.

And reassurance I need! On Tuesday, I leave the comfort of the CCM and everything that’s familiar in Madrid. We’re leaving at around 6AM, taking a four hour train ride to Málaga, and from there, I won’t know who my new companion is or where I’m going until I get there. I’ll miss the people and the teachers here, but I’m definitely ready to get out into the field and get to work. My mission is truly about to begin next week, and I hope that I’ll have a smooth transition into the field.

I think that I’ll be able to email one more time before I leave the CCM, but I don’t know when the next time after that will be, so good luck to all of you until then!

Elder Stark

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