“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.

kitchen
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