Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: August 2017

Love Comes Back

Email 28/8/17

Hello everybody,

This week flew by, which I attribute to having basically two days dedicated to intercambios here in our area with the other elders and two days which were spent in Málaga due to the Zone Conference.

The intercambio that we had with Elder Craven and Elder Trowell went really well, and we saw a lot of the fruits from our work. On Tuesday evening, as Elder Trowell and I were out proselyting, one of our plans involved trying to figure out where one of our future investigators lives. We have her name and the street she lives on, but not the exact address. Because her street is very short, we figure that we could simply go there and figure out where she lives by knocking doors and talking with her neighbors. When we got to her street and we were trying to figure out where to start looking, I feel impressed to knock on this one door in particular. Thinking it might be her house, I was somewhat disappointed when a man answered and informed us that he was not sure where she lived. However, we kept talking to him and started sharing about what we do as missionaries, and although he was reluctant to talk about religion, he still let us into his house (mostly to show us his sword collection haha). As we kept talking with this guy, Miguel (who’s actually from Amsterdam and speaks English), he opened up to us and was expressing how even though he “has this” and “has that” in his life, he knows that he’s missing something and by the of the conversation, he was even saying that “maybe this thing is God.” He also came to our futbol activity the next day and is going to keep coming every week, so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to keep building a good relationship with him and help him realize the happiness and meaning that a belief in God and Jesus Christ brings into one’s life. We still haven’t found that one future investigator that we were looking for, but it seems like Heavenly Father had different plans for us that night.

Elder Liza and Elder Craven also had a good evening because they taught the Paraguayan family that we met last week, and apparently it went really well, but that’s their story to tell. Elder Craven and I had a good time working together on Wednesday morning. He’s actually going home tomorrow, a week before the normal transfers, for studying motives. That means that Elder Liza, Elder Trowell, and I will be together as a trio for the rest of this transfer, but more on that next week.

And then on Thursday, we left for Málaga because we had to spend the night there as there isn’t a bus that would get us from Jaén to there in time for the conference on Friday morning. I was able to spent a bit of time on a mini-split with Elder Apodaca in their area in the centro of Málaga. It’s a great tourist area (we walked past the birthplace of Pablo Picasso), but apparently not the best for missionary work since most of the people on the streets there don’t actually live there. The conference itself was really good. We talked about a lot of things, with a lot of focus on the importance of Preach My Gospel, and finding people to teach. It was also super fun being able to catch up with a lot of my friends from throughout the mission (s/o to Elder Pack).

This week, we also encountered a lot of hecklers. They were doing things like saying rude things to our faces, pointing and laughing at us from a distance, etc. Although people usually don’t want to stop and listen to our message, they’re polite with their rejections instead of the outright disrespectfulness that we’ve been experiencing. But being rejected and being mocked in the Lord’s service is clearly nothing new. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni expresses his concern to the Lord that, “the Gentiles will mock at these things” (Ether 12:23). The Lord’s response was to give him the assurance that, “fools mock, but they shall mourn” (26) and the reminder that, “faith, hope, and charity bringeth unto me” (28). What this says to me is that the most important thing to do when somebody is being rude or disrespectful is to remember the council of the Master to, “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use and persecute you” (3 Nephi 12:44). Even though it can be surprisingly hard to “turn the other cheek” in such situations, I tried to do so, and in the end, it made me feel much better.

That’s about it. I hope that all of you are doing well as summer ends, school starts, and life continues onward.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Another day in Jaén

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2: Fite me feat. Miguel

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3: Lunch after the intercambio

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4: At the Zone Conference with Elder Placencia and Elder Liza

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5: Clouds

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6: More clouds

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7. Thanks for the picture Francisco

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8: Some food (no, I didn’t eat that whole thing)

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9: Until next time

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Prophets

Email 21/8/17

Hello everybody,

It has been another good week in the Lord’s work. Everything is going well with finding and teaching. Those who we have been teaching already have been progressing bit by bit, and we’ve found a few more people to add to our teaching pool, including a family from Paraguay: we met them on Monday night, invited them to come to a ward activity the next day, and they came! We also went to Granada to have intercambios with the Zone leaders, Elder Krummenacher and Elder Darrington, both of whom are good friends of mine, and it went really well. We saw a lot of miracles and a lot of fruit coming forth during the intercambio. Also, speak of fruit coming forth, Juani, the other elders’ investigator, was baptized on Saturday and confirmed yesterday! I was able to act as one of the witnesses for the baptism, so that was great! All in all, it was a busy and solid week.

Many of you are aware that there was a lot of terrorist activity in Spain this week. From what I know, all of this happened in the Barcelona area, which is not a part of my mission and far away from where I live. Nothing about our missionary work was affected or changed at all by those events. My heart and my prayers sure do go out to those whom were affected by the attacks. Spain has been my home for over a year now, and it saddens me to see these things happening both here and throughout the world.

By coincidence, on Thursday afternoon, I just happened to be reading the words of President Hinckley in the general conference following the September 11, 2001 attacks. In a talk entitled, “The Times in Which We Live” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/the-times-in-which-we-live?lang=eng), he gave us advice on how we should live in times of terrorism and wars and insecurity:

“Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps. 46:10).

“Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us.”

Those words are just as applicable today as they were sixteen years ago when he said them. More recently, President Monson reminded us in his talk “Kindness, Charity and Love” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/kindness-charity-and-love?lang=eng) to “. . .examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable.” 

A loving Heavenly Father has always called prophets to guide and warn his children, and that is as true today as it has been at any other time throughout history. The words that our modern-day prophets share, combined with those found of prophets of old in the scriptures, should be our guideline for how to survive these tumultuous times. Just like the hymn says, “[I] thank thee, o God, for a prophet, to guide us through these latter-days.”

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

P.S. Happy 90th birthday to President Monson!

Photos

1-2: We were schooled by the Castro family in the art of making tortilla de patata last preparation day.

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3: Ecco’s

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4: “We’re not afraid of hills either.”

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5: Hallway

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6: With Elder Krummenacher and Elder Darrington during our intercambio

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7: Found Superman (he’s a member)

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8: Dinner with the family of Bishop and the family of Carlos

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9: Until next time

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Perseverar hasta el fin

Email 14/8/17

Hello everybody,

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about less active members of the church, or in other words, people who had been baptized and joined the church, but have stopped attending meetings regularly, or even completely. I was told by my mission president that in places like the United States, it’s common to have around 70-80% of members who are on the church’s rolls attend on a regular basis. This number is about 20-30% in Spain and other places throughout the world (to which I’m sure that many of my missionary friends around the world can attest to). In other words, the majority of members on the church’s rolls where I’m serving right now don’t attend church meetings basically ever. Therefore, a lot of our work as missionaries revolves around finding these people, getting to know them and their needs, and helping them return to activity in the church.

This past Monday, we were stopping by the houses of some less active members, and we found a family who has not been attending church for decades. The 84 year old mother was baptized when she was younger, and her two sons, both in their fifties now, were baptized as children. Although they are very, very nice people, it’s sad to see that they had completely forgotten all of their knowledge about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and had even stopped believing in God altogether. What was once something important in their lives has now become but a memory. We also met this week with another less active member, who was active in the church growing up, but stopped doing so when he was a young adult. He has desires to come back to activity, but is afraid of the changes and work that it’s going to require.

During our interviews with President Andersen on Wednesday, I talked to him about this topic, and in our discussion, he read the following about enduring the end from Preach My Gospel:

“Faith in Christ; repentance; making, renewing, and keeping covenants; and being cleansed by the Spirit become a pattern of living. Our actions in daily life are shaped and governed by these principles. Peace and joy come by following this way, and we gradually grow in Christlike attributes.”

This is to say that becoming a member of the church is more than just being baptized. In fact, baptism is just the starting point; conversion comes bit by bit on the path of enduring to the end. I’ve seen time and time again throughout my own life and through experienced on my mission that those who stay active in the church are those who ultimately end up the happiest. Those who do the simple things like reading the scriptures and praying every day and attending church on a regular basis are those who have firm and stalwart testimonios that lead them to having lasting peace and joy. It’s all about patterned living and consistency. This is the type of living that leads us to the highest level of peace and joy that we can obtain. As it says in Preach My Gospel:

“Eventually, as we follow this way and “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ … and endure to the end,” we are promised, “Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).”

Sometimes it’s discouraging to see how many people have stopped living in agreement with the covenant they made at baptism. But, all we can do is worry about our own salvation, what we have control over, and help out those who are lost. Another quote from Preach My Gospel says: 

“A few members do not endure or remain fully active. However, enduring to the end is a personal responsibility. We “work out [our] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), and we serve and love those whose faith has grown weak through inactivity.”

I know, with all of my heart, that this church is true. Just like Joseph Smith said, “I [know] it, and I knew that God [knows] it, and I [cannot] deny it.” Living a patterned life following the example Jesus Christ gave us is the only way to find lasting happiness in this life and in the eternities after. 

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photo

1-5: We hiked up to the Castillo de Santa Catalina last preparation day

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6: Elder Liza and I

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7: A horse

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8: Jesus Street

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9-10: The District of Jaén: Elder Stark, Elder Trowell, Elder Liza, Elder Craven

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11: With our recent convert Pablo

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12: First time making cookies

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13: Until next time

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Lift Up Your Voices

Email 7/8/17

Hello everybody,

Last Monday, as we were enjoying preparation day in the chapel, we got a call from President Andersen informing us of an emergency transfer in the mission affecting the other set of elders here in Jaén. The next day, Elder Rigby left to go to Ciudad Real and Elder Trowell came from Huelva to be companions with Elder Craven. That provided a sufficiently crazy start to the week.

Also on Monday, we had another lesson with Olga. She’s doing good, progressing little by little. We have been able to get through 2/3 of the Restoration with her so far, so it’s definitely going a bit slower than “normal,” but she has been keeping her commitments to pray and read, so it just goes to show that everybody has their own pace of learning.

We’ve still been keeping in touch with Jorge this week, but he has been a bit busy with moving, so we really haven’t been able to see him too much, but we’ll probably be able to see him a bit more this week. We ate lunch with him on Wednesday, and that was about it.

This week I was able to do a baptismal interview for Juani, an investigator of the other Elders. Those interviews are for sure some of the most spiritual parts of this work. She hopefully will be getting baptized this week, but has to go to France for a few days, so it’s still a bit up in the air what’ll happen.

One night last week, we were contacting in the street, and we were stopped by a lady named Lola. She approached us saying things like “you guys worship Joseph Smith, don’t you, etc.” Of course, we tried to set the record straight with her, found out she was a Jehovah’s Witness, and ended up talking with her on this street corner for over half an hour. She told us that she thought we were really sincere young men, and wanted to keep talking to us, but somewhere a bit calmer. So she told us to follow her to a park by her house, but she wanted us to follow her at a distance so that nobody from her church would see her with us and judge her for talking to the Mormons. We ended up following her for almost 30 minutes to the other side of town, and she kept looking back and subtlety gesturing at us to keep following her. It was very bizarre, but super funny shadowing this old testigo lady at her request. Once we got to the park, we talked for a few more minutes and then set up another cita to meet there. When we came back for the second cita, she had brought some of the Jehovah’s Witness study material, and our understanding was that she would share a little bit about her church with us and we’d be able to share our beliefs with her. Unfortunately though, once she had finished sharing her thing, she indicated she had no interest in “listening to our lies” and unfortunately, that was that. 

I think that my favorite part of the week was our lesson with Nabil, our investigator from Morocco. As we were teaching him, he stopped us and said, “There’s something that I feel like I need to tell you guys. That day when you contacted me on the street last week, I was praying to God to know if he even existed, and if there was more to life, and right when I finished my prayer is when you stopped me and talked to me. I took that as an answer from God to my my prayer.” He’s still finding out if what we’ve been teaching him is true and from God, but he’s accepted an invitation to be baptized, and I have no doubt that his prayers to find out the truthfulness of this message will be answered, too.

Here are some scriptures that were especially applicable for the mission this week. The first is D&C 123:12:

“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it–

Therefore, as it says in D&C 100:4-6:

“…I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls. Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.”

I testify of the truthfulness of this promise for I have seen it fulfilled time and time again. The Lord wants his children to know the truth, and he calls missionaries to communicate it. The work is true. Miracles happen every day, and God is the one who is directing this work.

Love you all,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Elder Liza cut my hair

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2: Preparation day lunch

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3: Elder Liza, Carlos, Elder Stark, Olga

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4: Elder Stark, Elder Craven, Elder Liza, Elder Rigby

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5: When district pictures go bad

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6: Goodbye Elder Rigby

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7-9: JAÉN

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10: Until next time

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