Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: November 2016

Motril is a Great Area

Email 28/11/16

Hello everybody,

I hope that all of you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, were able to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and spend time to appreciate all the things which we’ve been blessed with in our lives. Thanksgiving here in Motril was more or less the same as any other day, with the exception of the Thanksgiving dinner we had with our branch president. In reality, the only traditional Thanksgiving food that we ate was mashed potatoes, but it was still an enjoyable engagement.

Other than that, we spent a lot of time looking for people to teach, which was slightly difficult because it was raining almost all day, every day this week. During the four months that I was in my last area, Elche, it rained less than five times, so the rain is something I’m still learning how to work with as a missionary. Shoutout to my friends serving in places where the weather actually does things other than be sunny all of the time.

We knocked on a lot of doors this week, talked to a lot of people in the streets, and in return, received a lot of “No’s”. Almost exclusively “No’s.” So what can I do to avoid getting discouraged in the face of such widespread rejection? This was the question that I have been thinking of a lot during this transfer so far. 

Last week, during our district meeting, one of the other missionaries gave a taller (workshop) on humility. The opposite of humility is pride, of course, which we usually think of being something in the nature of lifting ourselves onto a pedestal and looking down on others. However, there exists another type of pride, more or less the opposite, a type of pride where we see the results of others’ efforts and look down on ourselves, feeling like we’re not measuring up. 

I realized that I was falling victim to that type of pride, thinking things such as, “there’s no way I’m going to be making difference in this branch that hasn’t had a convert baptism in three years,” or “why even bother knocking on this door since they’ll just say no anyways.” Something that I encountered this week was a quote more or less telling us that, “it is as easy to plan and expect [an area] to be great and productive and successful as it is to plan on it being challenging.”

So what it all comes down to is that humility and faith are directly intertwined. I have faith that there are still people in Motril waiting for the message of the restored Gospel, and it is a privilege to have the authority and calling to go out and find them. My six months (can you believe it!?) as a missionary has been an extremely humbling experience so far, and I’m extremely grateful that it’s keeping my pride in check and my faith intact. 

Love, 

Élder Stark 

Photos

1: An old church.

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2: Me standing in front of that very same old church.

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3: Our house…what you can’t see is the third story/balcony.

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4: Thanksgiving dinner with our branch president, President Izquierdo.

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5: The sun setting…you can just barely see the Mediterranean on the horizon. This was a 5 minute walk outside of the city where one can actually see more than just buildings.

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6: Old chimney in the middle of a field.

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7: Until next time.

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Gratitude

Email 21/11/16

Hello everybody,

Last week was a time of transition and change, which isn’t always easy. I had about a day and a half to pack my bags and say goodbye to the members and missionaries and investigators in Elche, and all of this I had to do sick. For those of you keeping count, that’s three times I’ve come down with a cold since September, and unlike the other two times, I didn’t really have time to rest last week, so I feel like that’s slowing down my recovery a bit.

On Wednesday, I took a seven hour bus ride, by myself (which was super weird being being alone for that long), to Granada, where I met up with Elder Jarvis and took another hour long bus ride to get to Motril. It turned out that two of the wheels on one of my suitcases had broken, and then while we were just kind of dragging the bag to our house, the carrying strap got ripped off too. Not fun.

But yeah, one of the cool things about being in Motril is that we live in this three story house. It has a garage, a fireplace, dishwasher, washer AND dryer, three bathrooms, three bedrooms, and all balconies too. So that’s really nice that we’re blessed with such comfortable living conditions (I’m especially grateful for the memory foam queen-sized mattress that I have after sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor for the last four months), but, as Elder Jarvis put it, the house just kind of compensates for the area that we’re in.

In Elche, we had two solid wards, good investigators, and a lot of good things to do as missionaries. Here, the branch consists of us, the branch president and his wife, and then like three other members who come on a regular basis (and then about 50 inactive members). So, during church, I was responsible for playing the piano in sacrament meeting (they told me I’m the first Elder who can play the piano that’s served here in over five years) and giving a talk, and next week I’ll have to do all of that and teach gospel doctrine class. We do have a really nice bajo that we meet in though, so that’s definitely a blessing.

As for the work here, there’s a couple investigators whom we’ve visited so far, so that’s good, but for the majority of time, we’ve been walking all over the place, trying to find less active members or new people to teach, but we haven’t been having much success. We’ve knocked on a lot of doors snd have talked to a lot of people in the last few days, but nobody has been interested in what we have to say.

They say that Motril is one of the hardest areas in the mission, and I believe that. The thing that has been helping me not to be discouraged, though, is gratitude. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, or what’s hard, I’ve found so far that focusing on being grateful for what I have definitely yields more happiness. As we read in Alma 37:37, “when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God.” By focusing my thoughts, prayers, and actions on recognizing the blessings that God has given me, it’s been much easier not to get down and discouraged because In reality, Heavenly Father has given us all so much even if it doesn’t always feel like it. So I hope that all of you will have a spirit of gratitude not only for this Thanksgiving week, but always.

Love,

Élder Stark

Photos

1: Last time being together with all of the Elche missionaries in the bus station. Elder Stark, Elder Goates, Elder Larsen, Elder Catmull, Elder Darrington, Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Prior, Hermana George, Hermana Gentry, Hermana Garcia, Hermana Gibson; Elder Llavina and Hermana Sanchez

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2: KFC with Hermana Prior, Elder Stark, Elder Darrington, Hermana Garcia, Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Gentry, Hermana Garcia, Elder Llavina, and Hermana George.

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3: Saying goodby to Fina, Paqui, and Jamie, some great members from Elche

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4: Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Prior, Hermana George, Elder Llavina, Elder Stark, Elder Darrington

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5: Hermana Prior and I have been around each other for our entire missions up to this point, including in the CCM, so it was kind of sad that we got transferred to different Zones.

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6: Roberto and I, a member in Elche, who made me those sandals we’re holding, right in front of my eyes, in only around an hour.

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7: Elder Jarvis and I just lounging around

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8: Until next time

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Adios, Elche

Email 14/11/16

Hello everybody,

Today’s email is going to be brief as today everything is already super crazy with the transfers that are happening this week. Already, Elder Catmull and I have parted ways as he is going to the mission home in Málaga to pick up the new missionary that he will be training. Accordingly, I will be leaving Elche and will be arriving in my new area, Motril, and stark working with my new companion, Elder Jarvis, on Wednesday. So, more on this will be in my email next week.

I honestly don’t think that it’s fully registered in my mind that I’m leaving Elche in less than two days. I’ve been here for four months, and it all feels like a blur that just barely started. I’m really sad to be leaving all of the members and investigators and the other missionaries here, but I trust in the Lord that there’s always good things to come. 

I think that more than anything, that’s what I’ve learned during these three transfers here in Elche: to trust in the Lord. The Lord can’t lie, and his promised blessings will always be fulfilled. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy what we’re asked to do, but it will always be possible. I promise you all that the what we read in Proverbs, to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” is true.

The highlight of this last week was teaching Silvia, one of our investigators who we’ve been teaching for several weeks now. She and her kids had been attending church for some time with a friend before we started teaching them, which we only started doing a few weeks ago. It’s amazing seeing how the Lord really does prepare people to hear the gospel. As she was offering the closing prayer after the lesson, the spirit was so strong, perhaps the strongest I’ve felt during my mission. I love being a missionary and being able to have such powerful experiences like that.

I anticipate that the work will be harder in Motril as it’s a much smaller city with only a branch, I believe, and as sad as it is to leave Elche, I’m looking forwards to seeing what’s in store next.

Love,

Élder Stark

Photos

1: There’s the sun. We made our way up into the mountains last week for P-Day.

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2: Elder Catmull and I. If we look cold, that’s because we were; the temperatures have definitely been a lot cooler (although not necessarily “cold”) throughout the week, but the humidity in the air slices through directly to the bone.

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3: (Almost) the entire Elche Zone: Elder Catmull, Elder Stark, Elder Darrington, Elder Llavina, Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Prior and Hermana George, Hermana García, Hermana Gibson, Hermana Sánchez, Hermana Gentry

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4: All you can eat Chinese buffet after the district meeting, with Hermana Sánchez, Hermana Prior, Hermana George, Elder Llavina, Elder Catmull, Elder Stark, Elder Larsen, and Elder Goates

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5: Nike store in Alicante with Elder Darrington, Elder Stark, Elder Catmul, and Elder Llavina

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6: A member let me borrow his trombone! It was enjoyable to connect back to my roots.

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7: Until next time

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In Contrast

Email 7/11/16

Hello everybody,

Another week has passed, and I am still here, as a missionary, serving in Elche. This is the last week of the transfer, however, so all of that could change very soon, but of course, we will never know for sure until next Monday.

In my last email, I wrote about having a very busy and successful week. This week was quite the opposite. Almost everything we had planned for the week ended up failing on us, making a very big contrast between last week and the one before. It was  disappointing, yes, but that’s just the life in the mission. We still had several of our investigators make it to church on Sunday, and we should hopefully be having a better week this time around.

On Friday, Elder Catmull and I had the chance to do intercambios with Elder Williams and Elder Dunham, our zone leaders. Unfortunately, they were having the same luck that we were having with appointments failing, so I had to spend about 10 hours street contacting that day. I’m not going to lie, street contacting is something that I really don’t like to do; it’s something I know should like to do, and I want to like it, but I guess I just haven’t completely reached that point yet. But, Friday, when I was working with them, it was actually something that didn’t seem as much of a burden as it had before. It was more enjoyable than it has ever been, and although I was absolutely exhausted, it still felt like a really good, satisfying, and successful day.

From 1 Nephi 13, we learn that, “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” I love this promise because it shows us that no matter what we’re put up against as missionaries, if we persevere, trusting in the whisperings of the Holy Ghost to guide us, and do our best to build up the Lord’s kingdom, we will indeed be blessed. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it when it comes to the Gospel.

I hope all of you have a great week with success in whatever you do. Also, if you have the ability and opportunity to vote in the upcoming election, I would encourage you all to do so. I stand with the First Presidency as they say: “As citizens we have the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy. Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future. We urge Latter-day Saints to be active citizens by registering, exercising their right to vote, and engaging in civic affairs.” We are incredibly blessed to be citizens of a country with such great liberties, but our individual participation in the political processes is so important to maintaining them.

With Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Mexico City South mission reporting…just kidding, we’re all wearing our sombreros backwards because Spain is most definitely not Mexico. Hermana Gibson, Elder Darrington, Elder Catmull, Elder Goates, Elder Larsen, Elder Llavina, Elder Stark, Hermana Garcia

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2-3: Secret door we found in the JAS Center (institute). There’s an entire half to the building just with nothing in it, but it was still really cool to find.

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4: Sunset from a roof

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5: “The Good Burger” with Elder Goates, Hermana Gentry, Hermana Giraldo, Hermana Sanchez, Hermana Prior, Hermana George, Elder Darrington, Elder Catmull, Elder Llavina, Elder Stark, Elder Larsen

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6: After a baptism that the other elders had

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7: Until next time

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