Email 17/4/17

Hello everybody,

This past week was the Semana Santa, or Holy Week, here in Spain. Yesterday, of course, it was Easter, but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are commemorated for an entire week here instead of a single day. Elaborate processions took place during the week which included pasos (a large, ornate float with sculptures depicting Christ), marching bands, and a ton of people wearing capirotes, which are large conical hats which are resemblant of the ones worn by members of the KKK, although completely unrelated. We saw parts of a few of these processions since there was at least one happening every evening during the week, and I’ve attached some pictures below. 

When Jesus called two fishermen, Peter and Andrew, into the discipleship, his invitation to them was, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:19-20). As missionaries, we are also “fishers of men,” with the purpose of finding and inviting others to come unto Christ. 

This incident happened at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. After His death and resurrection, which we commemorated this week, Peter, along with a number of the other disciples, went fishing at the sea of Tiberias. During that night of fishing, they caught nothing. The next morning, the Savior appeared and instructed them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and when they did that, they caught so many fish that their nets were on the verge of breaking. 

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot recently, and the meaning that it has personally for me. It’s definitely been one of those weeks where it feels like I’ve been “casting my net over” and over again without having the desired results. I imagine how the apostles felt, many of them fishermen by trade, after having spent an entire night on the water without a single catch. I suppose that’s the same thing which I’ve been feeling recently.

Last Monday, we had a really great lesson with Miguel and Jessica. We talked about temples and eternal families, and they shared with us their desires to keep progressing to the point of baptism and so forth. A few days later, after having a lot of difficulty getting ahold of them to work out a time for another lesson, they just kind of shrugged us off, it seems: “Oh, we don’t know when we’ll have time to meet again, but we’ll give you a call when we do.” I’ve been a missionary for long enough to know that very rarely will somebody actually do that, so I guess we’ll see what happens. Elder Pack and I are scratching our heads, trying to figure out what we should do now.

We spent a lot of time contacting during the week and trying to share the pass along cards and video for the #PríncipedePaz Easter initiative. On Wednesday, we met a woman named Yvette. It turns out that we had given her mother a pass along card the night before, and Yvette, who had met with the missionaries some 15 years ago, actually stopped us in the street one evening, expressing her desire to meet with us and learn more. So, we ended up talking for a while with her in the streets, and then even went to her house and finished up the lesson there. We also found out that her mom’s sister, or rather, her aunt, is actually our neighbor who we’ve talked to several times. This all seemed great! But, flash forward a few days later when we went back to our return appointment, and we were somewhat bluntly informed by Yvette that she really wasn’t interested at all in changing or the message. I think that’s the quickest turnaround from new investigator to former investigator that I’ve seen on my mission so far. 

Another potential investigator that we picked up while contacting was a young man named Filipe. On the determined day and time that we set with him to meet, we showed up at the address he gave us and found out that it’s the local chapel of the “Luz del Mundo” church. Awkward. Undaunted, we rang the doorbell, and we were invited in to have our lesson with Filipe and Juan, another member of the Luz del Mundo church. Juan already knew a bit about Joseph Smith, the Restoration, and the Book of Mormon, and we have a return appointment set to teach them the restoration again. Although they were respectable and kind during that lesson we had, it remains a bit dubious their motives for meeting with us. We’ll be finding out if they just invited us back to be able to “teach us the truth” or if they’re really interested in knowing about the message of the restoration, but whatever is going to happen, I just don’t want it to turn into a Bible bash or anything negative like that.

A month and a half ago, we contacted a couple in the street, Monica and Miller. At the time, they lived in Valdepeñas, a city in our mission, but quite a long ways away from Motril, so we had sent their contact information to the missionaries there (one of them being my good friend Elder Darrington, actually). A few weeks ago, we received the news from Elder Darrington that Monica and Miller were moving to Motril, and that they still had a desire to meet with the missionaries! We were going to have a lesson the other week, but they had to cancel the appointment at the last minute because their family from Valdepeñas came down to surprise them. So, we were trying to call them back the other day to arrange another time to meet, and, well, long story short, a prostitute answered the phone instead of our potential investigators. We even called the next day from a different number to make sure that we weren’t being duped, but yeah, I guess that Monica and Miller got a new number and a prostitute picked up their old one. So, now we have no way to contact them.

In short, things didn’t work out quite as we planned this week. But, as we learn from this story with the disciples, the “catch” will come in accordance with the Lord’s timing. I’m sure that the apostles would have liked their first catch of the night to have been the final big one, and not the other way around, but certainly it was worth the wait, for all good things are worth waiting for. The Lord has called us to be fishers of men, and we know from these accounts that He watches over his fishermen. Although I would say that everything in terms of the progression of the work here isn’t quite going in the way that my mind wants it to be going, I take a lot of solace in knowing that it’s going in the way that God has planned it to go as I try to align my will more with His going onwards. I know that “[Christ] is risen, as He said,” and that his marvelous work is still taking place today.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: One of the pasos

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2: More of the procession

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3: Happy Easter

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4: Part of another procession 

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5: In the outskirts of Motril

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6: Motril Sunset 

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7: Until next time

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