Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Author: Donna Stark (page 1 of 8)

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?
10:16A
2: Or looking up Mormon Messages?
10:16B
3: It was Elder Cox’s birthday
10:C
4: The district: Hermana Matsu, Elder Cox, Elder Moon, Elder Stark, Hermana Brantley, and Elder Kassing
10:16D
5: Globos
10:16E
6: Working hard or hardly working?
10:16F
7: Until next time
10:16G

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
10:9AA
2: Dogs
10:9A
3: Birds
10:9B
4: Calls
10:9F
5: Lunch
10:9C
6: Watermelon
10:9D
7: Until next time
10:9E

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 

10:2A

2: Some crabs and dirt

10:2B

3: South Bay in San Fernando

10:2C

4: Hamburguesas with Domingo 

10:2D

5: Elder Cox is the best

10:DE

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

10:3F

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

10:3G

8: Until next time

10:3H

On Tour

Email 25/9/17

Hello everybody,

I think this is my 70th weekly email that I’ve sent out. I wonder if anyone still reads these. But if not, it doesn’t matter, because I’ve written in anyways, and even if it just sits in your inbox for the rest of eternity, doesn’t matter either because I’ve done my part.

Well, on Tuesday, we had a Zone meeting in San Fernando, which continued on our streak of having to get up early and travel places for the meetings and conferences that was going on the previous week. At the conference, Elder Kassing and I preformed an arrangement of “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “Nearer My God To Thee” that I made. He sang and I played the piano. After the meeting, I was able to eat the Dominos all you can eat pizza buffet for the first time since February, so that was pretty nice. 

On Tuesday evening, we had a nice noche de Hogar with three of our members and two investigators, Maru and Angel. (That makes it sound like they have some sort of relationship, but they don’t — they’re just two friends of one of the members.) We taught them about the restoration, and it went really well. Noche de hogars are the best!

At one point this week, a member fed us “menudo,” which is a dish where the main ingredient is tripe. Or in other words, cow stomach. It was actually pretty decent, as long as I wasn’t thinking too much into it.

On Saturday, we went over to El Puerto de Santa Maria because the hermanas there were having a baptism! Apparently what happened was they had invited Manuel, their investigators, a few weeks ago to be baptized on the 23rd and asked him to think about and pray for that date to accept the invitation, because I guess he hesitated accepting it or something. Anyways, they had a lesson with this past Wednesday, and he surprised them by asking, “so, am I still getting baptized this Sunday?” So, they organized a baptism for him really quickly, and Manuel was baptized on Saturday! Elder Kassing and I were the witnesses for the baptism. There’s nothing better than a surprise baptism.

Elder Kassing and I also preformed our musical number there, and after the service, one of the Zone leaders asked us to play it at one of their upcoming baptisms, and we’re going to do it in sacrament meeting here sometime too, so we were joking around that we’re just going to change our assignments and go on tour now, but I guess we are only a one hit wonder, so maybe that’s not very wise yet.

Also this week, we had a cita with a member, an older man named Antonio, who was baptized a few years ago. He told us the story of how he was introduced to the restored gospel and why he decided to let the missionaries in to talk to him. He said that one day, he was walking down the street in Sanlúcar, and saw two Mormon missionaries walking down the street at a normal, brisk, missionary pace. Also walking down the street was an older lady who’s grocery bags suddenly broke. Even though the missionaries had already passed her some time ago, they turned around, and helped her out with her things. This simple act of service is what convinced Antonio to listen with the missionaries when they showed up on his doorstep sometime later. Obviously, we don’t serve other people to look good in the eyes of men, but miracles certainly do come from serving and helping others. 

As the hymn “Have I Done Any Good?” says:

Have I done any good in the world today?

Have I helped anyone in need?

Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?

If not, I have failed indeed.

Has anyone’s burden been lighter today

Because I was willing to share?

Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?

When they needed my help was I there?

Then wake up and do something more

Than dream of your mansion above.

Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,

A blessing of duty and love.

Don’t forget to serve! Also, don’t forget to watch General Conference this weekend. It’d be kind of stupid not to, for as the Lord has said, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38), and who wouldn’t want to be taught by the voice of the Lord?

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Elder Kassing and I saying goodbye to Hermana Gibson, who went home this week

9:25A

2: La Zona De San Fernando 

9:25B

3: Sunset

9:25C

4: Not quite the full mission, but Elder Holland is in this picture 

9:25D

5: Here I am

9:25E

6: This is the full mission, just without Elder Holland (we took a group picture before and after the conference because a number of missionaries arrived late, but Elder Holland couldn’t stick around for the second set of photos)

9:25F

7: That’s me 

9:25G

8: Chillin 

9:25H

9: Until next time 

9:25I

“I am famous for going crazy”

Email 18/9/17

Hello everybody,

I think that I always start my emails saying that it was a crazy week, but this week was indeed an insane one. So I’ll just kind of go through it day by day.

On Monday, we decided to go to Él Puerto de Santa Maria and have a district preparation day. Puerto is an interesting place because there’s an American Naval base really close by, and a couple thousand of Americans that live in the city. In fact, Puerto is home to what I believe is the only English-speaking church unit in Spain, which is the military branch. We mostly just played fútbol and ate at Burger King and emailed.

Tuesday was mostly a normal day. We had a noche de Hogar with a member and a few of her friends who want to know more about the church, and it doesn’t get much better than doing missionary work with the members.

On Wednesday, we met with Alfonso, who is an investigator. He had been meeting with the missionaries some time ago, stopped for whatever reason, but had recently called them back up desiring to meet again. We were able to have a super good lesson with him about the Plan of Salvation, and he accepted a baptismal date for October 7th! So let’s hope that keeps going well!

On Thursday, we had to go back to Puerto to have our district meeting. Then on Friday, we had to go back to Puerto for a third time that week. I just realized that three times is a lot of times to go to Puerto in a week. On Friday, we spent the night there so that we could wake up super early on Saturday morning to catch a bus to go to Málaga because of our mission conference with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles!

It was such a blessing to be able to have an Apostle of the Lord visit us, and it was also super cool to have the entire Spain Málaga mission together — all 180+ missionaries — for the first time in years. To give a recap of what happened at the meeting, Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy (and President of the Europe Area) was also there with his wife, and they both shared some remarks with us. Looking back on my notes, they both talked a lot about love and how, in the words of Elder Johnson, “the real power of the Gospel of Christ is in love and in truth.” Then, we were able to hear from Elder Holland. The subject line of my email is a comment he made referring to what generally happens when he visits missions with problems with disobedience or other things. Haha. Luckily, he said that he his eyes we have “a good and loyal mission” and that “the mission seems in good shape,” so we were spared from the caña de Holland. I mean, he only pounded the pulpit four times, so that’s a pretty good sign, right? His remarks touched on a lot of the things related to the importance of sharing the gospel in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ, working hard and “swimming ’till the last stroke” of the mission, and the importance of teaching about revelation! We also all got to shake his hand. It’s a shame that this Conference only lasted two hours because the spirit was in such a rich supply there, but it’ll certainly be an experience that I will never forget.

Then yesterday, Sunday, we had to get up early again because it was stake conference here in the Cádiz stake. This involved taking another bus ride, this time to San Fernando. One of our eternagators, Moisés, came with us mostly because he has a man crush on the Stake President. Unfortunately, due to some disagreements he’s had with some of the members, things ended up going super badly and now we’re kind of worrying about how to fix things up, but things always end up working themselves out.

That’s all from Spain for this week. I love you all.

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: District preparation day in BK

9:18A

2: Always clouds

9:18B

3: Atlantic Ocean

9:18C

4: Party bus

9:18D

5: Not so party bus

9:18E

6: Las preguntitas: Hermana Brantley, Elder Kassing, Hermana Gibson (who was in my district in Elche), Elder Moon, Elder Cox (who was in the Granada district with me), and Elder Stark

9:18F

7: Stake conference with Moisés

9:18G

8: Until next time

9:18H

Roca de Eternidad

Email 11/9/17

Hello everybody,

Transfer weeks are always a crazy blur of saying goodbye to the familiar places and faces and being thrown into the midst of a brand new world. As stressful as it can be, more than anything, it’s exciting to be able to be somewhere new and to have new experiences. 

This week, I left Jaén and am now here in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in the Cádiz province in the southwest corner of Spain, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s part of the San Fernando Zone in the mission (I realize I may have said San Francisco Zone in my last email, but that’s wrong haha). It’s good to be back in a pueblo. This is a super Spanish place, like everything just has a super Spanish feel to it. Everything here is also super flat, and I am not missing the hills in Jaén. This part of Spain is also known for having the súper think Andalucian accent of death where they basically cut the last half off of every word, but I’ve been managing pretty well so far. The branch here also seems super good, with about 25-30 active members, which is much nicer than the last branch I was in (Motril) that had like six active members haha. I’ve been able to meet a lot of the members, investigators, and other people that we’re going to be working with here, and all in all, it seems like a great area. My companion is Elder Kassing from Gilbert, Arizona, and he just finished up his training, so I’m greenie-breaking him. (On a side note, my greenie-breaker, Elder Catmull, who is also from Gilbert, finished his mission this week, so it was nice being able to talk to him for a bit before he left.) So, it seems like it should be a good transfer.

Well, there’s not much to say than that. Sorry that this email isn’t too specific, I’m typing this on a bus to El Puerto de Santa Maria to have our preparation day with our district, and I’m getting kind of dizzy. I’ll just say that this week has been significantly less stressful than the past few, so I can’t really complain. Also, it seems like the promise found in Helaman 5:12 is true:

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Goodbye, Pablo and Pablo

9:11A

2: Goodbye, snake 

9:11B

3: Goodbye, familia Castro

9:11C

4: Goodbye, Barrio de Jaén

9:11D

5: Goodbye, Carlos

9:11E

6: Goodbye, familia Saborido

9:11F

7: Goodbye, Elder Trowell and Elder Liza

9:11G

8: Hello, Sanlúcar

9:11H

9: Hello, lawn

9:11I

10: Hello, sun

9:11J

11: Hello, castle

9:11K

12: Hello, Antonio and Elder Kassing

9:11L

13: Until next time

9:11M

Surprise Update

Email 4/9/17

Hello everybody,

This was an unusual week. On Tuesday, we said goodbye to Elder Craven, who was going home a week early in order to be able to start college in time. Because transfers aren’t until this Wednesday, Elder Trowell has been with us since Tuesday and will be with us until his new companion, Elder Newman, comes on Wednesday. It’s been interesting being in a trio, even if only for a week. Contacting and teaching were pretty awkward at first, but we quickly got into the swing of things, and the week went by fast trying to balance our time between the two areas here in Jaén. 

Speaking of transfers, I’ll be staying in Jaén for a fourth transfer, and it’ll be my second one with Elder Liza. When this transfer ends in six weeks, I will have been in Jaén for roughly six months, and in the Granada zone for a few weeks shy of a year. ¡Que locura! 

What’s something nice is that summer is finally ending: the temperature has been significantly cooler this week, people are coming back from months-long vacations, school is starting up again, the university students are coming back to town, and everything is going back to “normal.” The chapel yesterday was the fullest that I think I’ve ever seen it. I also was able to translate for a family from Germany who was visiting in order to drop their daughter off for the semester at the university. But anyways, I’m just hoping that some of this normality will be helping our missionary work a bit. We don’t have any progressing investigators right now, and the investigators that we do teach have been a bit flojo recently. For example, we haven’t been able to go to Úbeda to see Olga for a month, Bernardo sent us a text message on Tuesday telling us that he’s becoming an international truck driver and that he won’t be able to keep meeting with us, Ambrosio went out of town for a while, and Shirley and her family too, and we haven’t been able to find any new people to teach for a while. So yeah, hopefully things will pick back up again.

This was also an incredibly hard week for me personally, and I spent the better part of the week walking around as if I had a very dark cloud hovering over my head. In fact, by the time Thursday rolled around, I was so exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually, that I could barely get out of bed, and spent 24 hours straight sleeping. I felt better after that, but it was definitely like I had 15 months of unrelieved mission stress weighing me down. But, this is a new week. Hopefully something will change. As the third verse of the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light” says:

So long thy pow’r hath blest me, sure it still

Will lead me on

O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till

The night is gone.

And with the morn those angel faces smile,

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Heavenly Father is always there helping. He’s always there, in the good and especially the bad. He’s always helped me before, and there’s no reason why he would stop now.

Surprise update: After having written this whole email (and spending 40€ on groceries for the transfer), I got a surprise call from President Andersen this morning telling me that I’m being transferred to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the San Francisco Zone. So effectively half of my email from today can be ignored, but now you all know. I’m just too lazy to go rewrite what I’ve already written, so, sorry. More on this next week.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Got caught in a downpour last preparation day 

9:4A

2: Preparation day 

9:4B

3: Bye bye Elder Craven

9:4C

4: Three man district

9:4D

5: Another day on the job 

9:4E

6: Fútbol 

9:4G

7: Out of the City

9:4F

8: Until next time

9:4H

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

8:28A

2: Fite me feat. Miguel

8:28B

3: Lunch after the intercambio

8:28C

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

8:28D

5: Clouds

8:28E

6: More clouds

8:28F

7. Thanks for the picture Francisco

8:28G

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

8:28H

9: Until next time

8:28I

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.

8:21A 8:22B

3: Ecco’s

8:21C

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

8:21D

5: Hallway

8:21E

6: With Elder Krummenacher and Elder Darrington during our intercambio

8:21F

7: Found Superman (he’s a member)

8:21G

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

8:21H

9: Until next time

8:21I

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

8:14A 8:14B 8:14C 8:14D 8:14E

6: Elder Liza and I

8:14F

7: A horse

8:14G

8: Jesus Street

8:14H

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

8:14I 8:14J

11: With our recent convert Pablo

8:14K

12: First time making cookies

8:14L

13: Until next time

8:14M

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