Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: December 2016

Noche de Luz, Noche de Paz

Merry Christmas from Motril

Merry Christmas from Motril

Email 26/12/16

Hello everybody,

Well, another transfer has passed and a new one is upon us. Neither Elder Jarvis nor I are being transferred from Motril, so it will be great to be able to hit the ground running this week without having to worry about the adjustment period necessary that comes with a change of companion or area.

This was an interesting and busy week. We were already planning on making the journey from Motril to Málaga on Thursday for the Christmas Zone Conference when we received a call Tuesday night informing us that Elder Jarvis had to be in the mission office there on Wednesday morning to do his residency. That required waking up at 5 AM, taking a 2.5 hour bus ride and an hour long train ride, and then spending the night there to attend the conference the next day. Definitely an adventure. I should have pictures from this within a few weeks.

With Christmastime naturally comes singing a lot of Christmas songs. As part of our Zone Conference, we went to a park in front of a really busy commercial center and spent around 15 minutes singing for those who were walking by to hear. While singing “Noche de Luz” (“Silent Night,” or literally translated, “Night of Light”) the third verse stuck out to me a lot:

Noche de luz, noche de paz; (Night of light, night of peace;)

Ved la luz de Su faz. (See the light from His face.)

Es el alba de la redención; (He is the dawn of redemption;)

Dios, por Él, nos dará salvación. (God, through Him, will give us salvation.)

¡Oh bendito Jesús! (Oh blessed Jesus!)

¡Oh bendito Jesús! (Oh blessed Jesus!)

It was our loving Heavenly Father who created a perfect plan to allow us to progress in this life and return to Him through His son Jesus Christ. Although Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Christ, this was neither the beginning nor the end of his role of salvation in our Heavenly Father’s plan. Christ accepted this calling in the pre-mortal life, came to this world to suffer through pains and temptations, carried out the Atonement to save all mankind from their sins, and defeated the bands of death that we may be able to do so one day, too.  All of this was done out of love. I know that the Savior has a perfect love for each of us and if we turn to Him, that love does become an apparent force in our own lives. 

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Old people are cool

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2: Branch Christmas party

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3: Paella ✨💫

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4: Birthday party for Presidente Izquierdo feast. The family of the former Elder Johnson.

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5: Our dinner for La Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) the following night.

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6: We couldn’t figure out where to buy firewood for our fireplace (our house actually has a fireplace in it), so these 40 candles to celebrate Christmas was the next best thing.

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7: Merry Christmas from Elder Stark and Elder Jarvis

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8: Skyping the family ❤

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9: Until next time

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Casi Christmas

Email 19/12/16

Hello everybody,

As I indicated in my last email, for the previous weeks p-day, we traveled to to visit Ahlambra, the centuries-old caste-fortress, located in the mountains of Granada. It was really cool; I have attached a number of photos from our trip. Because of the already large number of photos that are in the email, there are some pictures of things that happened this week that I will send in the next week’s email.

I can’t believe that Christmas is already this week. I remember being in the CCM and celebrating it being halfway to Christmas and feeling like it would be ages until it came, but already, here we are. Some of you might be wondering how they celebrate Christmas in Spain. I’m not sure if this is constant throughout the entire country or only in Andalusia, the part of Spain that I’m in right now, but Christmas isn’t a very celebrated Holiday. There’s lights that the city puts up in the main streets of the city, but generally nothing besides that. People have Christmas trees that are usually somewhat small and not put up until sometime with in past two weeks or so. Christmas is seen more as  a religious holiday, so Belénes (Nativity Scenes) are very common to see. The main gift giving day, however, doesn’t come until January 6, which is the Día de Reyes, a celebration of the three wisemen visiting the baby Jesus. So, a “token gift” might be received on Christmas from Santa, but the Three Wisemen have the main cargo of gift giving in January.

I got the news that Silvia, one of my investigators from Elche, was baptized! Because I’m not in that area any more, I obviously couldn’t be there, but it was so great to see someone I had taught be baptized and take this very important step. I have a attached a photo.

This week, we spent a lot of time trying to follow up with many of the people whose doors we knocked on in the weeks past, said they were busy at the moment but that we could drop by in another day. It seems as though a lot of those people didn’t seem to think that we would actually return and follow up, and, well, let’s just say they tend to be less polite the second time we come by. There’s still many, many doors left to knock, so onwards we will go. We also have many solid future investigators that we haven’t been able to get ahold of yet, so there’s that too.

We had a lesson with Juan, an investigator. Elder Jarvis and I had planned a good message to share with him, but when we got there, him and his girlfriend, Jennifer, were arguing, their 5 year old son was acting out, and all in all, it was just an environment that was going to be very hard to bring the spirit into. I felt like we should save what we had planned for another day and simply read out of the Book of Mormon together. When we had finished reading a chapter, the environment was completely changed. The spirit of contention was gone, their son had completely calmed down, and Jennifer, who doesn’t usually participate, was sharing her own ideas and life experiences, and even wanted to say the closing prayer, which basically never happens. Is was all thanks to the incredible power that comes from reading The Book of Mormon.

To all of my friends and family, I want to share my testimony with you all that the Book of Mormon is a true and beautiful testament, written by ancient prophets, of our Savior Jesus Christ. I have received my own personal witness that it is true and as a missionary I have witnessed many others gain their own personal witness. The amazing thing is that all you have to do to gain your own testimony about it is read it and then pray and then the Holy Ghost will indeed confirm it’s truthfulness to you! I invite all of you to spend time this Christmas season “feasting upon the words of Christ,” and read it. No matter who you are, what you’re doing, or what needs you have, doing this will bless your life and give you happiness in ways you could never imagine.

Merry Christmas!

Love, 

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Baptism of Silvia with Elder Catmull (my last companion), Jamie (a member from Elche), Elder Catmull’s Companion, and Silvia.

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2: The Alhambra

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3-5: Some shots from inside Alhambr

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6: Snow on the mountains, something I thought I would go two years without seeing

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7: Looking out over Granada

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8: The perks of having a camera that is waterproof

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9: Missionaries in the Digital Age

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10: Myself, Elder Boston and Elder Köhler

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11: Directing 

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12: With Hermana Moore and Hermana Twede

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13-14: Inside of the chapel of the stake center in Granada. It’s by far the biggest and closest chapel to one in the United States that I’ve been in on my mission.

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15: Until next time.

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Working the Fringes

Email 12/12/16

Hello everybody,

I’m writing this sitting on a bus, taking the hour long bus ride that drives through the snow capped mountains that separate Motril from the big city of Granada. It’s a drive that we usually take on Tuesdays in order to get to our district meeting, but today, p-day, we’re going to the famed Alhambra, so prepare yourselves for pictures coming next week.

As far as how the previous week went, it was pretty normal. There’s an area a bit on the outskirts of Motril that we discovered where missionaries haven’t worked a lot in the past. So, we’ve been knocking a lot of doors, trying to find people to teach, and in this effort, we’ve been taking advantage of the #IluminaElMundo Christmas initiative, offering to share a quick message about Christmas, showing them the video if they’re interested, and then extending the invitation for us to return and teach them more. It’s been working pretty well so far, we’ve found a few people who we’re going to try to go back to visit again. 

As we were walking to this area one day, this guy stopped us in the streets, and asked, “Vosotros sois mormones, no?” (“You’re mormons, right?”), which, of course, we responded in the affirmative, and it turns out that he was meeting with the missionaries several years ago and decided that he wanted to learn more about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ again. It’s always a miracle worth sharing when something like that happens, so we hope and pray for the best.

For the Christmas season, my mom mailed me a letter containing little notes from some of my extended family members with the intention that I read one each day leading up to Christmas. First, a big thanks to all who were kind enough to write me something. It really means a lot to me. On Thursday, the note that I opened was from my cousin, Alexis, who shared Alma 37:37. (“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”) Flash forward to the evening when we were teaching one of our investigators and were trying to explain to him the importance of morning and nightly prayers, and boom, here was this perfect scripture that we were able to share with him to help him understand the concept that I probably wouldn’t have been able to think of off the top of my head. We used that same scripture two other times this week, so thanks to Alexis, and thanks again to my other family members for your notes of encouragement and inspiration.

Have a good week, good luck with finals, Merry Christmas, etc.

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: ///otril

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2: Glimpse of a sunset

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3: Invading Santa’s privacy

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4: A contrail scarred sky

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5: Until next time

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Service, Socks, and Stress

Hello everybody,

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, if you haven’t done so already, I would like to invite all of you to take two minutes of your time and watch the “#IluminaElMudno” or “#LighttheWorld” Christmas video that the church has released and participate in the activities to help us better follow the example of service that Jesus Christ has set for us. All of this can be found at http://Mormon.org.

Speaking of service, I had the rare opportunity this week to actually participate in some pre-planned service. During our intercambios with the District leader, Elder Egbert, in Granada this week, his companion, Elder Köhler, and I spent the morning helping to organize clothes that would be given to the poor and needy. Service opportunities can be quite difficult to find in this mission, so it was great blessing to be able to participate in one.

Speaking of the poor and needy, Elder Jarvis and I had a funny experience yesterday. We were walking to our branch president’s house to eat dinner after church, and a drunk, homeless man who was sitting on a corner begging for change called us over. He was from Britain, so we were speaking in English during this whole conversation. Of course, he asked us for money and we responded by telling him that as missionaries, we don’t have much money either, etc., so he said something to me along the lines of “Well, you can at least give me your socks then, I don’t have any,” to which I replied, “You could use some of this money you already have here to buy some socks,” and then he yelled, “I can’t do that, this is my beer money!” So at least he was being honest about where it was going. We invited him to our branch Christmas dinner, but he rejected it due to the fact of “being an atheist.” Although I don’t think there’s anything religious about fresh paella, it was still an amusing exchange.

Speaking of not having money, I have about 140 € worth of receipts to be reimbursed from the mission (for things like bus passes, train tickets, etc.) that appeared to have disappeared in the mail. That’s stressful. Additionally, we ran out of butane for our hot water heater this week and had to wait two days to get more. That was stressful. Elder Jarvis’s iPad broke and we had to go up and do our exchanges with the transfer about a week earlier than expected to he could give his iPad to the Zone leaders to take to the office to get fixed. It was stressful having to cancel all of our plans that night since it was really the only night this week that we actually had plans. Basically, just a lot of stressful things happened this week that reduced our efficiency and time we had to work in our area. So, we’re still putting most of our focus into finding activities like street contacting or knocking doors, and since this coming week should be more normal, I have faith that we’ll start seeing the fruit of our labors.

As Christ has said: “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” I know that as we follow His example and endure and work with faith, trusting in Him rather than ourselves, great things will happen. This promise isn’t only applicable in missionary work, but in any part of our lives from relationships with others, to work and school (good luck preparing for and taking finals, to my friends in college), and whatever other challenges we encounter. I hope all of you remember that.

Love,

Élder Stark

Photos

1-2: Auditioning for the new Book of Mormon videos.

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3: Elder Egbert and I kicking off the Christmas season with our festive sweaters during an exchange.

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4: One of many large Christmas trees that has been set up in Motril for the holidays.

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5: The Granada district (all of the other missionaries except for us serve in the city of Granada): Hermana Moore (who was previously in my district in Elche), Elder Boston, Elder Köhler, Elder Kröff, Hermana Twede; Elder Egbert; Elder Stark and Elder Jarvis

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6: We’re well-balanced missionaries.

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7: Until next time.

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