Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: October 2016

Demanding Days

Email 31/10/16

Hello everybody,

Happy Halloween! I’m sure some of you are wondering if Halloween is celebrated in Spain. It is, but it’s definitely not as big of a holiday as in the United States. Let me explain: First, trick-or-treating isn’t a practice since the vast majority of people live in flats rather than houses. Next, only the more scary side of Halloween is celebrated; people only dress up as scary things, and there aren’t really the funner/lighter costumes you would find in the states. Finally, it’s a lot less commercialized than an American Halloween. For example, the supermarket we shop at only has very small section of special sweets that you could easily overlook if you weren’t searching for it.

Elder Catmull and I definitely had one of the busier weeks I’ve had in my five months (can you believe it!?) as a missionary. First, our mission just received the Area Book app for our iPads, so now we’re responsible for manually converting probably hundreds of teaching records from our paper area book to the digital one. So between figuring that out, lessons, meetings, and whatever else, we actually started the week having the majority of our proselyting time for the entire week actually filled with decent plans. That never happens!  

Accordingly, my body decided it was the perfect time to get sick. So, starting last Wednesday, and still affecting me today, I’ve been dealing with a sore throat, runny nose, headaches, drowsiness, and a cough. 

Not wanting to cancel anything, I decided that I would rest when I could and do my best to persevere during the other times. These words from the second verse of the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” flowed through my head throughout the week:

In ev’ry condition–in sickness, in health,

In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,

At home or abroad, on the land or the sea–

As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,

As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

I’ve sung these words countless times throughout my life, but look how applicable they are to me right now! I’m sick, poor, and living abroad by the sea, with every day demanding much from me. But more importantly, I know I’ve been succored constantly during my service as a missionary, especially during the more difficult times.

That’s why last week, despite being sick and having limits in what I could effectively do and say, everything turned out alright. To list a few bright spots: We taught Silvia for the first time, an investigator who has friends in the church, and she has already accepted an invitation to be baptized. Andrís, the investigator we started teaching only last week, has too. Yanet continues to come to church and grow her faith in the restored gospel. Maricarmen told us that now is the first time in many years that she’s starting to feel a connection to God again. And, that’s not even everything good that happened! Everybody we teach is progressing differently, but they’re all certainty doing so, and it’s so rewarding and such a blessing to be a part of this work. 

I know just as Heavenly Father has given me succor during a taxing time, he will give all of his children the same, not if, but when we need it. I promise all of you that divine assistance is always available for those who have faith and work to obtain it.

Love,

Élder Stark

Photos

1: With La Dama de Elche: Elder Stark, Diego, Elder Darrington, Elder Llavina, Elder Catmull; Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Garcia, Hermana Gibson, Hermana Gentry.

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2: Something exciting happening outside of our piso during daily planning.

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3: “Can you take a picture of me with the iPhone?”

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4: Breakfast 🍳 with Elder Darrington, Elder Llavina, and Elder Catmull

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5: Until next time.

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Not a Routine

Email 24/10/16

Hello everybody,

First, I want to express my deepest sympathies to family of Scott Maser. The news of his passing has saddened me deeply. Brother Maser was an important mentor, teacher, and leader during my teenaged years. When I was receiving my Eagle Scout award, he was the immediate first choice in my mind to give a mentor pin to because in reality he had taught me so much throughout the years, not just about scouting or the gospel, but he has always been a great example to me of the kind of person I want to be, and I know he will be missed deeply.

Exactly the opposite from the previous, this week was just about as normal as they come on the mission. There were no special meetings, exchanges, interviews, baptisms, or whatever else. Because of this, I was initially having trouble coming up with anything to write about in this email. I’ve been in Elche for around three and a half months now and am pushing five months as a missionary, so going out and teaching and working everyday has started to feel a little like nothing more than a regular routine. But it’s not! 

As President Uchtdorf said in his last general conference address, referencing our attitudes towards the “eternal and soul-expanding doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ”: “It seems to be human nature: as we become more familiar with something, even something miraculous and awe-inspiring, we lose our sense of awe and treat it as commonplace.”

Although there is often a tendency for me to feel this way, there is nothing commonplace about being a missionary! Looking back, there are so many things I experienced during the last week alone that were incredibly special. There was the lesson that Elder Catmull and I had with Andrís, a new investigator who had been so prepared and excited to learn about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. There was the moment where we were guided to the far corner of our area for seemingly no logical reason but ended up running into  Samuel, a less active member in the street, who wants to start meeting with missionaries again. There was the lesson we taught to Maricarmen where she kept continuing, more and more, to open up and understand the things we were teaching her. 

All in all, there were so many little moments, so many non commonplace experiences, for which to be grateful this week. I’m so happy to be a missionary and be able to experience firsthand, again and again, day after day, the power the Gospel can have in a life.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Videos

1: Mayor of Strike City

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2: How the British celebrate birthdays 

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Photos

1-2: We went bowling again last week for P-Day! Elder Llavina, Hermana George, Hermana Gentry, Elder Darrington; Elder Catmull, Elder Goates, Elder Stark, Elder Larsen, Hermana Prior, Hermana Sanchez, and Hermana Giraldo.

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3: A picture of the Elche chapel to show you all that “seasons” aren’t really a thing here. The never ending summer continues…

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4: Just because you’re serving a mission in Spain doesn’t mean you can’t eat French Toast.

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5: Until next time.

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Quite the Week

Email 17/10/16

Hello everybody,

It has been quite the week. Here are some of the reasons why:

First, we had our monthly Zone Meeting on Thursday. That’s more or less an all day event since it warrants a train ride to Alicante. It also rained on Thursday which is only the second time it’s rained during my three months in the field (every other day has just been sunny and clear with pleasant temperatures 😎). Then, after the Zone Meeting, Elder Catmull had to leave to go to Málaga until Saturday evening to renew his residency for Spain, leaving me with the other Elders in Elche for a couple of days. On Friday, we had our bi-transfer interviews with President Andersen, and then we had to go back to Alicante on Saturday and Sunday for stake conference. More or less, everything out of the ordinary that could happen in a transfer basically happened between Thursday and Sunday, and now it’s p-day again and It almost feels like these past few days have just kind of been a dream.

Even with all of that going on, we still managed to have a pretty solid week in terms of finding and teaching. Last Monday, one of the Hermanas here was telling me a story of how she and her companion were trying to get to the mall and how things kept delaying them, causing them to arrive much later than originally planned. But, when they arrived to the mall, they encountered a potential investigator who they had contacted on the street a few days before and were able to set up a lesson with her. While she was sharing this with me, I couldn’t help but think in my head that those experiences, those “mini miracles,” if you will, seem to never happen to me.

Once P-Day ended and we began proselyting again that night, Elder Catmull and I had a cita set up with a menos activa from the ward. When we arrived at her building and rang her bell, she didn’t answer. So, we called her, and luckily, she was only running late; we had a lot of citas cancel on us during the past couple of days, so I was initially afraid that it was happening again. Luckily not though. She told us to return in half an hour, so we were going to quickly stop and say hi to a different menos activa during that time.

We were walking down the street to her piso, and seemingly out of nowhere comes up to us a man holding a Book of Mormon in his hands. His clothes were a bit tattered, his hair somewhat unkempt, but any preconception of craziness or homelessness I had initially felt about him left my mind when he started talking about the stories and the prophets in the Book and how he had faith they were true. We ended up having two lessons with Him in the days after, and he had quite the wealth of knowledge and faith in the Book of Mormon, telling us things that I hadn’t even learned until my religion classes at BYU. Sadly, he lives in the north of Spain and was only in Elche for the week,  but this experience was such a manifestation to me that miracles happen every day. God has his timing for everything. Although sometimes it feels like we go out and work all day to no avail, I know that as long as we try our best, the difference will be made up. I know that if we have faith and if we demonstrate it through diligent work, people will be placed in our paths for us to find and teach.

Always have faith. Always believe, and “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27).

I hope all of you have a tremendous week.

With Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: The new Elche Zone! Elder Llavina; Hermana Garcia, Hermana Gibson, Hermana Prior, Hermana George, Hermana Sanchez, Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Gentry; Elder Stark, Elder Larsen, Elder Catmull, Elder Goates, Elder Darrington

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2: ¡Distrito Loquísimo! 

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3: Picture of the “real” Zone of Alicante from the Zone Meeting

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4: ¡Que loca nuestra zona!

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5: This picture is from the Zone Conference last month with Elder W. Craig Zwick of the 70, but I just got these pictures now, so here they are.

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6: Myself with Elder Hollowell, one of the other two Elders who arrived to the mission at the same time as me.

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7: Until next time 

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I Didn’t Die

A surprise email from some Americans visiting Spain. "Thought you might like a surprise photo in your email. We had a fun visit with these missionaries in Elche, Spain today. They seem to be healthy and happy and enjoying Spain."

A surprise email from some Americans visiting Spain. “Thought you might like a surprise photo in your email. We had a fun visit with these missionaries in Elche, Spain today. They seem to be healthy and happy and enjoying Spain.” 

Email 10/10/16

Hello everybody,

Between transfers and me switching from the training schedule to the normal one and some other things, there have been quite a few changes which have occurred this week. My new companion, Elder Catmull, is a really good missionary. He has just over a year in the mission. He also speaks Spanish really well, so that’s definitely a relief for me. Even though we’ve only been together since Thursday, I can tell we’re going to be able to work well with each other, and that this should be a good transfer.

Notwithstanding, this was a tough week. I’ve definitely felt the full weight on my shoulders of the responsibility of being the missionary who knows the area. That means that I’m the one who figures out where to go, what to do, and with whom to meet and talk. It’s stressful. Additionally, it seems as though every plan I made this week ended up falling through at the last second, so that added even more stress into my life.

My mission prep teacher at BYU, Brother Goodman, always used to say to our class after we turned in an assignment that was initially presumed to be difficult, “See? That wasn’t so bad….Nobody died…..” and I don’t know why, but I kept thinking of that quote last week. Sometimes it feels like the mission is just one long disappointment after disappointment, but I know that as long as I go out and try my best, hour and hour and day after day, that’s what matters. After all, I can’t control the actions of others, but I can control mine. As President Hinckley is to have said on occasion: “all the Lord expects of us is to try, but you have to really try!” I know that as long as I keep trying, and believing, and persevering, my spirits or my desire to work won’t “die.”

There were still many good moments this week despite the difficulties. We have an investigator named Yanet, with whom we haven’t been able to meet for some time now. On Saturday afternoon, we called her and invited her to come to church the next morning, but she told us that it conflicted with her schedule. However, when Sunday morning came around, we were very surprised when we saw her sitting in the chapel! That was a little moment of joy that I experienced, and if that’s all I can get, I’ll take it and be grateful.

I hope you that you all have a good week in school, at work, on your missions, or wherever else you may be.

Love, 

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Elder Pesce and I with Jamie and Fina, some really nice members of the ward.

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2: Photo of the “Elche Zone” before the transfers. Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Prior, Hermana Butler, Hermana Gentry; Hermana Højholdt, Hermana Moore, Hermana Gibson; Elder Llavina, Elder Pesce, Elder Goates, Elder Darrington, Elder Stark, Elder Fumero

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3: Final photo with the district: Hermanas Prior and Butler, Elder Pesce and Me, Hermanas Højholdt, Gibson, and Moore

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4: Trying to be like the Blues Brothers with Elena, a menos activa.

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5: Elder Pesce and I with our noche de hogar (family home evening) friends

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6: Look at that paella….Elder Catmull and I ate like kings on Saturday

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7: Until next time

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General Conference as a Missionary

Email 3/10/16

Hello everybody,

I hope that all of you have had a good start to the month and that all is going well with your school, work, missions, or whatever else you might be doing.

Today is already the first day of my third transfer in the mission field. For a lot of reasons, these past few weeks have been difficult and discouraging and very trying on my patience, so I hope and pray that perhaps things will improve during these coming six weeks. At the time that I’m writing this on Monday morning, we still haven’t received our transfer calls, so I don’t yet know if I’ll be leaving Elche, who my new companion will be, etc., but I’ll wait to send out this email until I know. 

Anyway, the significance of the third transfer is that means I am no longer technically in training. The mission has really been something that I’ve been preparing for all of my life, but I’ve been in formal training for pretty much this entire year: first was my mission prep class at BYU, then my six weeks of training in the Madrid CCM, and the first twelve weeks in the mission field. But, just because I’m not “in training” doesn’t mean that I’m done learning and that now I know everything I need to. Not at all. So, I am looking forwards for the opportunity to keep learning and keep growing, to keep trying to become a better disciple of Christ, to keep developing into a more consecrated missionary, to keep improving my language and teaching skills, and so on.

I was so grateful for the opportunity to listen to the divinely inspired words from General Conference this past weekend. I feel as though the opportunity to hear guidance and counsel from living prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ has taken on a whole new significance and meaning for me. We are so blessed to live not only at a time when the original church of Jesus Christ and the associated authority has been restored to the earth, but that we have the opportunity to so easily and readily access these things through modern technology. I’m grateful that I have the ability over the next weeks and months to go back, review the talks that were given, and work to better implement the principles taught from them into my missionary work and life.

Okay, I’m writing this in the afternoon. I am indeed staying in Elche for at least one more transfer. My new companion is going to be an Elder Catmull. I actually found out before the transfer calls came. Some of you will remember that Elder Krummenacher was my companion in the CCM. He emailed me this morning, talking about how much he likes my new companion, but he never said his name haha, so it took a while to figure that out. But I’ll have more on this next week.

Love you all,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: We had a baptism last week! Okay, not quite, just an 8 year old in the ward being baptized, but his parents had us come over and teach him about the importance of baptism, so that counts for something, right?

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2: We went to a Viking exhibit during p-day last week, but in reality, it was just a bunch of old pots.

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3: Enjoying the cool, fresh weather of the Mediterranean coast

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4: The “Elche Zone” during our p-day last week

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5: Celebrating Elder Goates’ one year mark in the field; Hermana Giraldo, Elder Stark, Elder Darrington, Elder Llavina, Hermana Prior, Hermana Butler, Hermana Gentry; Elder Pesce, Elder Goates, Elder Fumero

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6: Our General Conference setup. We had the opportunity to watch it in English, thankfully. We watched the Saturday Morning Session live (which was at 6 PM here haha), then we watched the Priesthood and Saturday Afternoon sessions on Sunday in addition to the Sunday Morning Session live too. I have yet to watch the Sunday afternoon session.

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7: Until next time

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