Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: September 2016

Coincidences Don’t Exist

Email 27/9/16

Hello everybody,

First, excuse the fact that this is a day late; we switched our p-day this week so we could have the chance to visit a Viking museum in Alicante; all of the museums are closed on Mondays. I’m sure I’ll have pictures from that next week.

Anyway, I try to keep my musical selections focused on mission-approved music, but I wrote the following last Friday night, lying on the couch in the piso, somewhat delirious from a fever:

You load 18 weeks,

and what do ya get?

Another day older

and sick in my head.

Saint Peter, don’t you call me,

’cause I can’t go;

I owe my soul

to this mission some more.

Well, putting my inaccurate (last week was only number 17 of the mission 😉), somewhat melodramatic, and poorly penned parody aside, I did come down with a nasty case of the flu last week. So, as one is somewhat forced to do in such situations, I spent the better part of last week quarantined indoors, trying not to die. Okay, I’m just being dramatic again; it really wasn’t that bad, but we didn’t have the opportunity to go teach anyone last week, so that was a little discouraging.

Somewhat ironically though, spending a week of suffering through sickness led me to do a lot of thinking about the tender mercies of the Lord, or alleviations of distress he gives during stressing times. Even though the Lord will give us difficult experiences, he can make our burdens lighter.

Last week, we had a lot of different lessons to teach and places to be. For example, on Sunday, I gave a talk in church. Then, I had the responsibility on Tuesday of giving a 30 minute workshop on developing patience during our district meeting. Later in the day, we had a cosecha (“harvest”) in the area for the Hermanas of the other ward. Was it a coincidence that I started getting sick on Wednesday morning, the day after all of those important duties were completed? I don’t think so. This week was truly the most convenient time to have that happen, and although being sick was not enjoyable, at least I had relatively little responsibilities to worry about not fulfilling. Definitely a blessing.

I’ll share another story. Apologies if I have shared this before, but I’m sure some of you remember the nightmarish experiences I had with air travel when I was coming to Spain. (Coincidentally, that was exactly four months ago, this Friday.) Between mechanical problems, weather delays, missed connections, and I don’t even know what else, I essentially spent a full day longer traveling than originally intended.

After my second attempt at a flight from Colorado Springs to Chicago landed an hour and a half later than anticipated due to a heavy thunderstorm, I had already missed my next flight and was stuck waiting for my gate checked luggage to be unloaded from the aircraft; all of the ground crew were taking shelter from the weather. My updated travel plans given to me by the gate agent would have required an additional 15 hours of travel time and layovers. I was informed that I could go to the customer service counter elsewhere in the terminal and that they might be able to figure out something better.

Acting on an impression to leave right then, even though I still had luggage on the aircraft, I made my way over to the service counter, had my plans amended to a much more reasonable time table, and made my way back in just a few minutes. When I returned to the aircraft, the weather had just lifted enough for them to get the luggage off of the plane. I didn’t realize that it was somewhat strange that when I stopped by the counter, there were ten free attendants and somehow I was the only patron needing help during a multi-hour period when everything and every flight was shut down and grounded. After getting my luggage, I walked past the counter less than 15 minutes after I had previously been there on the way to my new gate. Then, I saw a new line, appearing seemingly out of nowhere, which stretched through the maze of barrieres that I had walked through unmolested only moments earlier, filling the queuing area and stretching down the hall, bending past the corner so that I could not see its end. I don’t even want to think about the additional travel horrors I would have had to endure if I had ignored the prompting to leave when I did. Definitely a significant blessing during an otherwise discouraging time.

Some might call these experiences coincidences, but I promise all of you that coincidences don’t really exist. As Nephi promises us, “the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” I testify that his words are true. If we have faith on the Lord and call on Him during difficult times, he will bless us and provide a path for deliverance from whatever situation we’re in.

So, this week is already the last week of the second transfer in the field. The last week of training. I’ll likely be receiving a new companion, maybe even a new area assignment when transfer calls come later this week, so I will update you all next week once I know.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Welcoming “Hermana Llavina” into the area!

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2: We went bowling as part of our last p-day. I was a bit surprised that even though we’re an ocean away, it looked and felt exactly the same as any other bowling alley you’ve ever been to in the United States. Here, I’ve been to McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s, Taco Bell, the Apple Store, and other places that we have in America, and although they’re more or less equal to their counterparts in the States, they’re different enough that you don’t quite feel like you’re “home.” So, yes, I have grown accustomed to the differences of Europe, but it was still nice to feel some sense of familiarity.

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3: Until next time

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Simplify, Intensify, Testify

Email 19/9/16

Hello everybody,

On Tuesday, I had my first Zone Conference in Murcia. A zone conference consists of approximately half of the the 200 missionaries in the mission. They occur every other transfer cycle. Elder W. Craig Zwick, a General Authority Seventy of the church is touring all three of the missions in Spain, I believe, so we were privileged to be able to receive instruction and guidance from him.

One of his main focuses was encouraging us to “simplify, intensify, and testify” as we teach. He charged us to use “less words with more strength” because doing so is more conducive to inviting in the Spirit, a necessity for conversion. I still, not surprisingly, don’t have the linguistic abilities to express all of my thoughts and ideas in Spanish. But, that’s starting to feel like more of a blessing than a curse as I’m essentially forced to use simple language when I teach. In many ways, teaching about the gospel in Spanish is easier than doing so in English because teaching simply and plainly is the only way I know how to right now.

Speaking of teaching and the spirit, I actually had an assignment to give a 15 minute talk about missionary work during church yesterday! I decided to speak about the role of the spirit in conversion. Preparing and giving this talk has been a good way to reflect on these past 10 weeks in the field and consider how much the Lord has blessed me to help me learn and grown in such a short period of time.

We also had many opportunities for giving service this week. In one instance, we were helping a family move, and we were in the middle of moving boxes from their piso to their van in the street, when somewhat abruptly, we left what we were doing, got in the car, and drove out to the airport and started watching airplanes land and depart. It turns out that somehow the member knew that a new Boeing 787 was taking off and wanted to see it. I was a bit confused for a minute on why we kind of just dropped everything and left to go watch airplanes, but I guess that’s a good reason haha.

In another instance, we were helping a part-member family assemble some furniture from IKEA. That was so fun. Last week, I quoted President Monson saying that the Spirit can overcome the barriers of language, but I now know that the illustrations in IKEA instruction manuals have that same ability too. Okay, that’s a joke. But I still really enjoy making IKEA furniture.

Even with all of that stuff going on this week, we still taught several really good lessons to some of our different investigators and even had some come to church this week. One of them we had just taught the first lesson to the day before, so I was almost surprised she showed up on Sunday morning. It was so good to see that happen though.

This week was a hard and tiring week, but the good kind of hard and tiring. I know that this is truly the Lord’s work, and it is such a good feeling being able to be an agent in his hands. I never saw myself running around the streets of Spain, finding and teaching and talking in Spanish, but it’s such a blessing to have the opportunity to be doing this work here for two years of my life. By the way, next week my P-day will be on Tuesday instead of Monday.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: “Elder Stark and Elder Jarvis”

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2: Elder Pesce and I

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3: Approximately half of the Spain Málaga Mission during our Zone Conference this past week in Murcia. Seated in front is Elder Zwick and his wife and also President and Hermana Andersen.

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4: Just in case I couldn’t be found in the last picture. Being tall ain’t easy sometimes.

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5: Until next time

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Video: Airplane landing right above our heads (not a 787, sorry)

 

100 Days In

Email 12/9/16

Hello everybody,

I want to share a quote from President Monson. This was in the first presidency message from the June 1997 Ensign entitled “The Spirit Giveth Life” (coincidentally the same month and year that I was born in, I just realized). President Monson is describing a visit he made to the main Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah:

“I am told that on occasion when a missionary in training feels that the Spanish he is called upon to master appears overwhelming or just too hard to learn, he is placed during the luncheon break next to missionaries studying the complex languages of the Orient. He listens. Suddenly Spanish becomes not too overpowering, and he eagerly returns to his study.”

Well, let me just say that his observation is very correct haha, and let me just give a shoutout to my friends serving in Taiwan and Russia right now. Seeing their faith and hearing about their efforts makes me realize that I really have no right to complain or worry.

President Monson continues:

“There is one language, however, that is common to each missionary—the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart.”

There have been many mini miracles while I’ve been here, I think, that have shown to me the truthfulness of this profound promise. If I couldn’t use the power of the spirit in the work here and just had to rely on my own abilities, I’m sure I would have given up by this point. The fact of the matter is that the work here is hard and often discouraging; I don’t think that I could count all of the rejections and let downs that we endured this week alone. Not to mention that there’s so many weaknesses I have yet to overcome as well. However, these things are starting to matter less and less to me as I trust more and more in an outside source of power rather than myself. On Tuesday, I passed my 100 day mark of being a missionary. In these past months of training, perhaps that is the most important thing which I have learned.

Trying to keep a sense of humor when we face discouraging situations always helps too. I was teaching a lesson this week and kept forgetting ‘olvidar,’ the verb ‘to forget.’ It was a bit frustrating because it was a word I thought I had already committed to memory, but regardless, I had a good laugh at the irony of the situation when I kept having to ask again and again what the word was because I kept forgetting it haha. I remember it now though, so all is well.

With love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

1: On the roof of this giant, ancient cathedral in Elche. Myself, Elder Pesce, and Elder Fumero.

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2: The exterior. I believe that this building dates back to the 1600’s.

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3: Elder Goates, Elder Darrington, Elder Fumero, Elder Llavina, Hermana Matsu, Hermana Giraldo, Elder Stark; Elder Pesce, Alejendra, Hermana Gibson, Hermana Højholdt, Hermana Moore, Jessica

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4: All of the missionaries in the Elche area, minus Hermana Butler and Hermana Prior.

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5: I’m not going to list all of the names again

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6: Diego, Elder Pesce and I riding in a bus.

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7: Until next time

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Craziest and Busiest Week Thus Far

Email 5/9/15

Last week, I predicted that this would be the craziest and busiest week of my mission thus far, and, well, it was.

On Tuesday, instead of our normal proselyting for the evening, the hermanas in our word organized a cosecha (“harvest”) for the evening where all of the missionaries were paired up with a member to go contacting in their area for a few hours. My companion was Antonio, our ward mission leader. It felt exactly like when we would go proselyting in the park in the CCM, but so much less terrifying this time haha. We actually had a lot of success finding and teaching that evening, and were able to get several good referrals for the hermanas.

At one point during the cosecha, Antonio was talking with someone and I started talking to another woman walking by, using my typical contacting techniques, but she was in a bit of a rush, so our conversation was super short. As it turns out, she was the wife of the stake president hahaha. It was seriously like that one scene in the Best Two Years.

On Wednesday, Elder Pesce had to go to Alicante for a district leader meeting, so Elder Goates and I were together in our area for the morning. I was a bit nervous since I never had to lead an area ever before and our plans for the morning ended up falling through at the last second, but I was able to actually call up a menos activo and arrange for a lesson with him at the last minute. So, Elder Goates and I went over to his piso, and had a really good and really powerful lesson about prayer, and I’m just so glad that the Lord blessed us and that things worked out okay.

Friday was our zone meeting in Alicante! We spent a good part of our day at the chapel and then we went to Domino’s Pizza after. Here, Domino’s has an all you can eat pizza deal for only 7 €, so definitely it’s a good use of our money, I think. After the zone meeting, we had exchanges with the zone leaders, Elder Barnes and Elder Beuchert. These exchanges lasted through the afternoon on Saturday, and I’m really happy that I had the opportunity to work, teach, and find with them and learn from their examples.

So that’s not even everything that happened this week, and it was definitely super busy and crazy, but I learned so much. I don’t think I could share one big takeaway from it all, but let me just share my testimony that I know with all of my heart that we are all children of a Heavenly Father and he loves us. I talked to, worked beside, and interacted with so many different people this week, and I know that He loves them all. I know that what we read in Alma 26:37, that “God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth,” is the truth. I am a child of God, as are all of you, and that knowledge and that identify gives me so much happiness and power in everything that I do.

1: “The Boardroom” – Hermana Gibson, Hermana Højholdt, Hermana Moore, Elder Pesce, Elder Stark, Hermana Prior, Hermana Butler

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2: Elder Goates, Elder Darrington, Hermana Butler, Elder Pesce, Hermana Prior, Elder Stark, Hermana Matsu, Hermana Giraldo, and Elder Fumero and Elder Llavina. The first picture is just our district, and the second is with all of the missionaries in the area, less the trio of hermanas.

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3: Us with the Maricarmen. Maricarmen is one of our investigators, but we always see a truck driving around that says Her name, and we were in the right place at the right time this week to get a picture of it that we can show to her haha.

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4: Alicante Zone of the Spain Málaga Mission

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5: Me, Elder Pesce, and Elder Fumero walking to our chapel. PC to Elder Goates

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6: Elder Pesce and I with Alejendra and Diego, some members from the ward.

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7: Until next time

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