Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: October 2017

Rock of Ages

Email 30/10/17

Hello everybody,
I spent most of this week being sick; I caught a cold from our branch mission leader and am just starting to finally recover. Nevertheless, the work of the Lord doesn’t stop.
On Monday, we met with Mike de Hogar again. We reviewed the restoration, and what’s great is that he has been keeping his commitments to read and pray, so all we gotta do now is focus on getting him to come to church. He’s got a lot of good potential. He’s what many would call an eternagator, having had a relationship with the missionaries for several years, but by comparing his teaching records in the past to the attitude and attention that he’s giving the gospel now, it seems like he’s taking things a lot more seriously.
On Tuesday, we had our weekly Noche de hogar with some of our members, Aurora, Domingo, and Antonio, and our investigator, Maru, was there again. We reviewed 1 Nephi 1 together and had a great lesson about modern day revelation and the importance of the scriptures (thanks Elder Holland).
I was feeling pretty bad on Wednesday, so about the only thing we did was take a bus up to Antonio Bernal’s house, who is a menos activo, and shared with him President Monson’s talk about the Book of Mormon. I love that man. I love that talk. I love that Book.
Speaking of the Book of Mormon, Elder Kassing and I devised a great plan to help the members of the branch share the message of the restored gospel with their friends. In a few weeks, we’re going to have a branch Noche de hogar devoted to the Book of Mormon and sharing the gospel. We’ve been visiting all of the members and giving them a copy of the Book of Mormon to hand out to a friend, family member, etc. before the Noche de Hogar. Everyone has been excitedly accepting this challenge, with some of them telling us, “I already know exactly to whom I’m going to give it,” and others finishing the challenge super quickly, sin miedo (see photos).
There were two big miracles we experienced this week. We’ve been having a hard time trying to sit down and teach Maria, Manolo, Alba, and Álvaro (the three investigators and one menos activo I’ve mentioned in previous emails), so we had called Maria asking when we could meet, and agreed on Friday evening. Except when we got to their house, they were all busy, but told us that we could come back the next evening. So we did, and finally, we had a lesson with them! As we were talking about the Book of Mormon, we shared President Monson’s talk with them, and they were all so excited to start following a prophet of God’s council and read the Book of Mormon. Seriously, their comments and answers were so spot on in that lesson haha.
The second miracle came with our investigator, Alfonso. All week, it seemed like he had dropped off the face of the earth, and by the time Sunday rolled around, we hadn’t heard anything from him at all. That morning, we decided to go to church 45 minutes earlier than usual to get some stuff done, and two minutes later, Alfonso walked into the chapel. He told us that since the day he agreed to be baptized two months ago, he’s felt a lot of opposition from the adversary, and was being tempted to give up going on that path as a result. But, he decided to come to church instead. Good choice, Alfonso! He’s gotten his excitement back and if everything goes according to plan, will be baptized on November 18th.
I had a most satisfying study this week about Jesus Christ being “my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (2 Samuel 22:2). He is “a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12). He is “a stone of stumbling and . . . a rock of offence” (Isaiah 8:14) against all sin, and unhappiness, and problems in life. He is the “Roca de Eternidad” (Himnos, 58). He was indeed “cleft for me” (Hymns, 111) and only “[He] must save, and [Him] alone” (Hymns, 111). All we must do is “come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32), because he’s already taken care of the rest.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Paddle in Black and White
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2: Drawing Elder Kassing did of me in Black and White
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3: Fútbol in Black and White
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4: Sunset in Black and White
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5: “Hi, missionaries, the three Books of Mormon have been given out. Goal met.” In Black and White.
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6: Until next time
jared

Less Than the Dust of the Earth

Email 23/10/17

Hello everybody,
The theme of Elder Kassing’s and my week was, “We’re not sure whether to laugh or cry right now.” You’ll see why.
We had another lesson with Mike, the American, on Monday evening. Noche de Mike. Mike home evening. We were going to try showing him the Joseph Smith: Prophet the Restoration movie in order to review that lesson, but because he had already seen it, we settled on watching Meet the Mormons. What we are trying to do is set up a Family Home Evening with a family from the American branch, but that probably won’t end up happening until the coming week.
On Tuesday, we were finally able to teach our investigator, Maru, again. It had been about a month since the last time we had taught her, so she didn’t really remember anything. We ended up teaching her about the restoration again, and it seems like we’ll be able to start meeting with her on a more regular basis, so hopefully we can help her start progressing.
Wednesday is when things started to get weird. As some of you might remember, we have an investigator named Jaime, and we have been over to his campo a few times to help him out there. To make a long story short, he was being really creepy when we went over. There were a lot of red flags popping up when we were with him. What also was fishy was that we could not find any records on him in our area book. For someone who had known the missionaries before, it was weird to not find a teaching record or a mention or a progress record, or anything. We were left scratching our heads trying to figure out what to do.
On Saturday, we were trying to meet with María and Manolo, some of our other investigators, and it ended up not working out because there wasn’t a man in the house. Our backup plan was trying to find a menos activo named Diego that kind of lived out in the boonies. After an unsuccessful search for his house, we ended up trying to call him. After dialing his number, we were shocked when “I Jaime” came up as the person we were calling. In other words, Jaime is actually named Diego, is a member, and when we told the members about him, they were all like “tened cuidado con él.” (“Be careful with him.”) So I don’t think we’ll be going back to his Campo, it was all a weird and stressful situation.
On Friday, we went out to Chipiona, which is the Pueblo that’s part of our area. We were able to teach about the Book of Mormon to Jessica, someone we’ve been trying to have a lesson with for a while, so that was great. That evening, we had a lesson with Laura, who is our most progressing investigator right now. The lesson went really well, but the complicated thing is that we found out she’s probably a prostitute, and she’s about to leave for a month to go to Belgium to “work,” so uhhh. She’s so nice, and really wants to follow Christ, so I hope we can help her do what’s right.
On Thursday (sorry I’m jumping around so much here), we had our monthly branch Noche de Hogar, for which we wanted to show the Elder Ballard youth broadcast for the Europe Area, but that didn’t end up working, so we just watched Meet the Mormons again haha. Elder Kassing and I made Arroz Con Leche for everyone.
I was asked on Sunday to teach the Young Men’s class, and was given exactly 15 seconds of preparation time. I chose to talk about the priesthood and the need for obedience to qualify for priesthood power. Heavenly Father has given us the great gift to have the restored priesthood on the earth. The priesthood literally is his power, and we need to be in the right place, doing the right things, if we want to be qualified to bless the lives of others with it. I shared this scripture as part of the lesson, in Helaman 12:6-8:
“Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
 
“O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
 
“For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.”
 
The point I made with this scripture was that man is the only thing that can choose to disobey God. Even the dust always obeys His voice, and we become “less than the dust of the earth” when we choose to disobey Him. So basically, let’s just try to be better than dust and keep the commandments and do what God wants us to do. Only then do we qualify ourselves for receiving blessings thanks to God’s restored priesthood power on the earth.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Castillo
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2: Campo
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3: Templo
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4: Noche de Hogar con la rama
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5: Neblinoso
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6: Atardecer
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7: Atardecer
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8: Sara, Raquel, and Tomás. Noche de hogar.
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9: Until next time
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But Jesus Drank Wine

Email 16/10/17

Hello everybody,
It’s another transfer week. Elder Kassing and I are both staying here in Sanlúcar. In fact, our entire district is staying the same, so I guess life will just keep going like it has been.
We’re starting to see good progression, bit by bit, with our investigators. Last Monday, we went to Mike’s house. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned him before, but he’s half American and half Spanish, was born in Spain and served in the US Navy, and ultimately considers himself American. What’s funny is that when he talks to his wife (who’s Spanish), she’ll talk to him in Spanish and he’ll respond in English haha. Same with his kids. Anyway, we had invited him to read 2 Nephi 31 during our last cita, and he said he had done it and that he “felt good with God” while he was reading it and interpreted that at first as thinking that he needed not to be baptized, but we had a good lesson about the Doctrine of Christ and I think we cleared things up a bit. We’re going to see him tonight, and what we’re going to be trying to do is setting up a Family Home Evening with a family from the American branch.
We went back to Jamie’s Campo to give some service, and he gave us a ton of Granadas. In other words, grenades, which is what they call pomegranates. It’s also the zone where Elder Stark spent 10 months of his mission. Who would have thought that I’d now be eating it.
We were supposed to meet with Alfonso twice last week, but he kept having to push our citas back, and before we knew it, the week ended and we never saw him. Hopefully this week we will be able to.
Laura, one of the new investigators we got last week, has been progressing really well! We were able to teach her both about The Restoration and The Plan of Salvation, and they were probably some of my favorite teaching opportunities I’ve had a missionary! She’s been doing a great job to keep her commitments to read and pray, and even came to church on Sunday! When we invited her to be baptized, she said she would, but there were two problems. The first being that she’s planning on traveling to Brussels in a little while, but is using one of those unpredictable last-minute bargain airplane ticket websites, so she’s not sure when she’s leaving, how long she’ll be there for, or when she’ll come back. (On a side note, things like this always seem to happen when you find a golden investigator.) The second problem was that there were some things that she said she needed to clear up with God, and we had a great, emotional discussion about the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and forgiveness for our sins. She told us that we helped her clear a lot of things up for her and feel a lot of relief. So pray for Laura, please!
One of the investigators of the Puerto elders, Juan Pablo, was baptized on Sunday. It was a great service, and I’m glad that Elder Kassing and I were able to go. After the baptism, someone had brought a prepackaged desert to share. We quickly figured out that it contained both coffee and alcohol, and we were trying to get it off the desert table before people starting eating it. As we were trying to explain why we shouldn’t be eating this desert, someone objected and said, “But Jesus drank wine.” (“No, it was grape juice.”) We eventually convinced them to stop eating it, but this experience reminded me of the following excerpt, taken from a conference talk that was given in 1916 by Elder Orson F. Whitney. It’s a bit long, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to work this into one of my weekly emails for a while, so here it is:
“Many years ago there came to Utah a learned prelate of [another] church. … He had been to a “Mormon” sacrament meeting and had much to say in criticism of our method of administering the Lord’s Supper, particularly our use of water instead of wine on such occasions. He said it made him shudder when he saw the people sipping the water; and he pointed out the fact, for it is a fact, that according to the Bible, the Savior, when He instituted the sacrament among the Jews, used wine, declaring that it was His blood or that it represented His blood. I could add that the Book of Mormon also states that the Savior used wine when He introduced the sacrament among the Nephites.
“My … friend, whether he knew it or not, had hit upon the great distinguishing feature that differentiates God’s Church from all other churches under the sun–in this, that while they are founded upon books and traditions and the precepts of men, this Church is built upon the rock of Christ, upon the principle of immediate and continuous revelation. The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to be printed in a book [of scripture]. They do not do things because God told the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything because of instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites.
 
“Whatever is done [officially] by this Church is because God, speaking from heaven in our day, has commanded this Church to do it. … That is the constitution of the Church of Christ. If we use water instead of wine in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it is because Christ has so commanded [see D&C 27:1–4].
 
“Divine revelation adapts itself to the circumstances and conditions of men, and change upon change ensues as God’s progressive work goes on to its destiny. There is no book big enough or good enough to preside over this Church.
 
“In saying this, I speak with all due reverence of the written word of God, that which is printed in the books, part of which may be obsolete, having fulfilled its purpose and been laid upon the shelf [such as animal sacrifices; see 3 Nephi 9:19–20], while the other part is virile, full of life, and applicable to our present state–our present degree of development. But even this part must be interpreted aright. No man ought to contend for what is in the books, in the face of God’s mouthpiece, who speaks for Him and interprets His word [see D&C 1:37–38]. To so contend is to defer to the dead letter in preference to the living oracle, which is always a false position.
 
“What the Lord said to the Jews and Nephites 2,000 years ago or what He said to the Latter-day Saints 50 or 60 years ago has no force whatever at this time unless it agrees with present-day revelation, with the Lord’s most recent instructions to His people through His chosen or appointed servants or servant; and they who ignore this fact are liable to get into trouble.”
 
I love what that says so much, as modern day revelation is at the heart of the Church and the message that we share as missionaries. God still talks through prophets. We actually had the opportunity to participate in a meeting yesterday that was held for the entire Europe Area that was presided over by Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Aside from a ton of technical difficulties that we were having with the broadcast, it was really, really good. He talked a lot about believing in miracles. It was like a nice, bonus session of general conference.
Well, that’s it. I love you all.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Playing video games?
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2: Or looking up Mormon Messages?
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3: It was Elder Cox’s birthday
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4: The district: Hermana Matsu, Elder Cox, Elder Moon, Elder Stark, Hermana Brantley, and Elder Kassing
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5: Globos
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6: Working hard or hardly working?
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7: Until next time
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By Divine Design

Email 9/10/17

Hello everybody,
In this recent general conference, a talk that I really liked was given by Elder Rasband. The title, “By Divine Design” is to say that in the Lord’s work, there aren’t any such things as coincidences. Elder Rasband quoted Elder Neil A. Maxwell’s thoughts on the subject, saying:
“None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings ‘coincidence.’ This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by ‘coincidence’ but … by ‘divine design.’”
 
Elder Rasband then made the following analogy:
“Our lives are like a chessboard, and the Lord moves us from one place to another–if we are responsive to spiritual promptings. Looking back, we can see His hand in our lives.”
As I look back on the past week, I can see how the Lord was truly directing mine and Elder Kassing’s path and using us as his “chess pieces” in order to complete his objectives. Here’s some of what’s happened:
On Monday morning, we had set some plans for the evening to pass by some people that lived close to our piso and then take a bus out to the house of a menos activo which had a cita planned with. However, at the last moment, we decided that it would make more sense to use that time before our cita passing by some people who lived up closer that menos activo sense it’s kind of a hassle to get out to that area. Accordingly, we took an earlier bus up, and started working there instead. One of the places we passed by was the house of María and Manolo, some antiguo investigadores who haven’t had contact with the missionaries in years. They graciously let us in, and while we were asking them if that had remembered anything about what the missionaries had taught them, María said, “Oh, I still have The Book of Mormon! I was holding onto this treasure, waiting for the day you guys would return.” Because our time was limited, we had to end there, and promised that we would return the next day.
On Tuesday, we went back to their house according to plan. We were greeted warmly at the door by María and invited to enter, but couldn’t as there wasn’t a man who was in the home. That seemed disappointing, but it was made up for because we were able to meet María’s daughter, Alba. Alba excitedly told us that her boyfriend, Alvaro, was a member of our church. However, neither me nor my companion knew who he was, but we later figured out that he was a less active member that was baptized a few years ago, and the contact information that we had for him was outdated. Luckily though, we were able to get his current phone number from Alba.
Later in the week, we decided to give Alvaro a call. He seemed excited and eager to meet with us, and told us that he was going to ask Alba if she wanted to come too, and then he’d let us know when we could meet. But, we didn’t hear anything back from him. Then, on Sunday, halfway though sacrament meeting, him and Alba came! We were able to teach both of them (and a friend that a member brought to the church for the first time) about The Restoration in Gospel Principles class, and it went really well. Alvaro gave a super powerful testimony and closing prayer in the class, which was just amazing. He said that he knew it wasn’t by coincidence that we showed up on the doorstep of Alba’s parents the same evening that he was sharing a bit about the church with her. I knew that it wasn’t coincidence either.
Here’s another experience: Last week, we got a call out of the blue from this guy named Jamie. He had contact with missionaries several years ago, and was looking good for some help out in his campo. Élder Kassing and I had been praying for service opportunities, so it was pretty amazing to see one just fall into place so easily. We went out to his campo (where he has a million Lemmon trees and like 20 dogs) and helped pull weeds for a while. We were able to have a good lesson with him afterwards too. That random call out of the blue was not out of coincidence!
I mentioned a bit about one of our investigators, Alfonso, in my email from about a month ago. Basically, he was an old investigator who basically just called the missionaries up and said, “I want to be Mormon, can you help me do that?” We had set a baptismal goal with him for October 7th, but unfortunately, due to a lot of reasons, we weren’t able to meet with him for almost a month. On Friday, we met with him and he shared with us that he’s “more convinced than ever” that he needs to be baptized. Accordingly, we set a baptismal goal for November 11th, and outlined a plan for getting there, and he seems really dedicated to do it! Not a coincidence!
One morning this week, we decided to stop by one of our member’s houses to ask some questions about some references she had given to the missionaries in the past. However, when we got there, she told us that she wasn’t doing well, and asked for a priesthood blessing, which we were able to give her. While sharing about this experience in fast and testimony meeting, we learned that she had been praying to God for helping right at the moment when we showed up to her house. Again, not by coincidence did we go there when we did!
While traveling to district meeting on Tuesday morning, we ran into a future investigator that Elder Kassing had met several months earlier, named Laura. That “chance encounter” helped us be able to meet later in this week and start teaching her about the Christ’s church. Another not-coincidence!
Lastly, one of our members has been eager to introduce us to his adult daughter with the hope of helping her have more of an interest in the church. This same member, named Domingo, tore a ligament in his leg at our weekly fútbol game this week, and hasn’t been able to leave his house much after that. By “chance,” we decided to pay him a visit on Saturday night, which was the perfect opportunity to meet his daughter who was giving him a visit at the same time. “Coincidence? I think not!”
Well, after writing all of those stories down (and those experiences weren’t even all that I could have shared), it dawned on me that there were probably so many more things we did during the week that helped to move God’s work along that we didn’t even notice. Whatever the case is, it’s always very humbling to see so clearly how the Lord uses us as His hands. This was probably one of the most fruitful weeks on my mission, and I am extremely grateful to the Lord for all of the great experiences that he blessed us with this week. I sure hope that we will keep seeing progress and miracles happen with the people mentioned in this email, but either way, I know that the Lord was helping us do our part in his vineyard.
Love you all,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Africa
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2: Dogs
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3: Birds
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4: Calls
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5: Lunch
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6: Watermelon
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7: Until next time
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B.O.M. (b)

Email 2/10/17

Hello everybody,

Yeah. Another week. 

On Monday evening, we went to teach our investigator, Mike, the American. He is half Spanish and half American, was born here in Spain, but lived in the States for a long time and served in the Navy. Being in his house feels like being back in the States. We had a really good lesson with him covering some points of the plan of salvation, and I tell you, the Book of Mormon really came in handy during that lesson. Probably because it contains answers to the great questions of the soul (Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Where am I going after this life?) and those questions are answered so amazing clearly in the scriptures.

On Wednesday, we went to go to our weekly noche de Hogar / correlation meeting with our branch mission leader, Miguel Ángel and his family, and we we got there his wife, María José, told us to come back in 15 minutes because her husband wasn’t back from work yet. So, we went to the house of this guy named Juan who lived pretty close, wanting to stop by and set up a time to meet with him later, but instead of finding him there, we met his daughter and son in law. We were able to teach them about the Book of Mormon with the little time we had, give them one, and set up a time to meet the next day. Although they weren’t there when we came back, it was a miracle enough being able to place that book with them.

On Friday, when we were on intercambios with Elder Cox and Elder Moon in Él Puerto de Santa Maria, Elder Cox and I had a really good contact where we taught this guy about the importance of the Book and why it sets us apart from other religions (i.e. continuing revelation). The Book of Mormon came in handy once again as a powerful witness of Christ and the restoration of His church on this dispensation.

Lastly, on Saturday and Sunday, we attended general conference. Multiple of the men who we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators gave powerful discourses on this magnificent book. In President Nelson’s words:

 “Something powerful happens when a child of God seeks to know more about Him and His Beloved Son. Nowhere are those truths taught more clearly and powerfully than in the Book of Mormon . . . When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word power. The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls.”

I want to share my testimony with all of you that The Book of Mormon is indeed God’s words, and I have felt it’s power in my life by reading and applying its teachings day by day. Because of this book, I know that God “shall consecrate [mine] afflictions for [my] gain” (2 Nephi 2:2). Surely the family of the late Elder Robert D. Hales is finding comfort that “that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise” (Alma 40:12). And certainty we all can benefit from following Moroni’s invitation to, “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32). What a perfect book.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Obligatory cloud picture 

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2: Some crabs and dirt

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3: South Bay in San Fernando

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4: Hamburguesas with Domingo 

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5: Elder Cox is the best

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6: When Elder Moon and I were stuck in a bus for an hour and a half 

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7: It was because of a bike race (I realize you can’t see bikes in this picture)

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8: Until next time

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© 2017 Elder Jared Stark

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