Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Author: Donna Stark (page 2 of 8)

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

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

8:7A

2: Preparation day lunch

8:7B

3: Elder Liza, Carlos, Elder Stark, Olga

8:7C

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

8:7D

5: When district pictures go bad

8:7E

6: Goodbye Elder Rigby

8:7F

7-9: JAÉN

8:7G 8:7H 8:7I

10: Until next time

8:7J

Another One

Email 31/7/17

Hello everybody,

Another preparation day, another week, another month, and another transfer. Time keeps marching on.

On Monday, we went back to the pueblo of Úbeda to teach Olga again. We had a lesson with her about our relationship with Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ, and how we can communicate with them through prayer. We have another lesson with her tonight, and hopefully things will keep going well, poco a poco.

Besides that, the first part of last week consisted of helping Elder Moffat get ready and go off to his next area. Accordingly, on Wednesday, he left, and my new companion, Elder Liza, arrived. He’s from Peru but has been living in a city in the north of Spain named Pamplona for the past 11 years. He’s also a convert of about two years, so it’s been really interesting to see his perspective on missionary work after having been “on the other side of the the table.” I, and I believe all of the rest of the companions that I’ve had, were raised in the church, so there’s certain parts to the conversion process that we obviously can’t understand having not been in that position. I also had to say goodbye to my crutch of being able to speak English whenever I wanted to, which is probably for the best.

Things have been going really well so far. We were able to find two new investigators in the past few days. One of them is named Nabil, who is from Morocco, and is really interested in the precept of a modern day prophet. We taught him about The Restoration on Saturday, and should be meeting again with him this week. The other new investigator is named Jorge, who is from Mexico, and has had contact with the church and the missionaries in the past. He’s actually invited us over to dinner for the past three nights in a row, and we’re starting to reteach him the missionary lessons and respond to his questions and doubts about the church. In addition to them, we’ve been able to set things up with some menos activos that we’ve been trying to get into contact with for a while now, so yeah. Everything is going pretty good right now, even with the heat and the hills and everybody being out of town for vacations.

One of my favorite parts of the Book of Mormon has always been the story of King Limhi’s people, as found on Mosiah 21. Maybe I’ve shared this before in one of my previous emails, but it’s something that I had reviewed this week, and I’d like to share it again. At this time, the people of King Limhi were under the yoke of bondage of the Lamanites. It was a miserable position to be in. As the record states, “. . . they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the yoke of bondage, submitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies.”

Their response to this situation was to “. . . humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.”

Humility lead them to pray, although, “. . . the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.”

The Lord always hears and answers our prayers. Sometimes those answers are not what we were hoping. I’m sure that the people of King Limhi were praying in order to be delivered from bondage, but the will of the Lord was to keep them where they were. Nevertheless, the Lord began to bless them “. . . that they began to prosper by degrees in the land, and began to raise grain more abundantly, and flocks, and herds, that they did not suffer with hunger.”

From this, and from personal experiences I’ve had with prayer, I know that Heavenly Father listens to every prayer, from every one of his children. He always answers them too. Even though these answers may not be what we expect, or come in our timing, all we need to do is trust in the Lord, and trust in his timing. Prayer works.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos 

1-2: Elder Moffat, Elder Craven, Elder Rigby, Elder Stark

7:31A 7:31B

3: Snuck my way in

7:31C

4: Goodbye Elder Moffat

7:31D

5: Esperando

7:31E

6-7 At it again 

7:31F

7:31G

8: Jorge and Elder Liza

7:31H

9: Really wants to go home

7:31I

10: Until next time 

7:31J

Tirando

Email 24/7/17

Hello everybody,

May as well kick this email off with the transfer news. Elder Moffat is leaving here to go to Molina de Segura, and I’ll be staying here and getting a new companion on Wednesday named Elder Liza! I’ve never met him, but I believe he is originally from Peru, but his family lives in Barcelona now, so it’ll be great for my Spanish to have a native companion. I’m really excited for transfers, always bring a nice boost of energy.

This week involved a decent amount of traveling. Several weeks ago, we received a reference for a lady named Olga who lives in a pueblo named Úbeda, which is about an hour away from where we live. We had tried a few times to get in contact with her and set up a time to meet, but nothing ever worked out, so we decided that we’d go over once and try to meet with her face to face before we stopped trying. Luckily, the one and only member that lives there, Vanessa, the Relief Society president, was able to come with us, and to our surprise, we were actually able to go in and have a super good lesson with Olga and her family! We have a return appointment for this evening. We also met a friend of Vanessa while we were there, and he’s had some interest in learning about the church, but has kind of been suspicious of us as missionaries, so he’s had a lot of reservations about meeting with us. The next day, Vanessa called us and told us that we made a big impression on him (all we did was just a few minutes of chit chat and offered him service), and showed him that we’re not just here to “force people to be Mormon,” but to serve and help everybody. 

On Wednesday, I had to go to the mission office in Fuengirola in order to finish my residency, so that I am legally in Spain until the end of my mission. This took up the entire day, most of it was spent in bus and train getting to and from the mission office.

For the afternoon on Saturday, we decided to go to a pueblo named Torredelcampo, which is only about 15 minutes outside of the city. We were just trying to pass by a few menos activos (less actives) that live there. It was pretty fun. There was one who lived in the next pueblo over, so we walked on this cool road that cuts through an olive orchard (which really, any road outside of the city cuts through an olive orchard because there’s so many olive trees in the province of Jaén). I think that by the end of the day, we had walked something like 10 miles. 

The last couple of weeks have been especially hard and stressful for me, for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into. I was feeling pretty dead by the time church came around on Sunday, but going really helped to recharge my batteries. In the priesthood class, we watched the talk “Songs Sung and Unsung” by Elder Holland (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/songs-sung-and-unsung?lang=eng). It reminded me that even though we all have different voices, there’s a place for each of us in our Heavenly Father’s choir. In Sunday school, Elder Moffat and I taught the gospel principles class about the scriptures, and I was reminded about the great power that comes as a result of a consistent study of the word of God. In Sacrament Meeting, someone gave a talk based off of the hymn “God Speed the Right” (in Spanish, “Dios da valor,” or literally translated, “God Gives Courage”) and it was a good reminder that God does indeed give us courage to get through the hard parts of life. Something that we always tell people is that “church is like a hospital for spiritually wounded,” and I felt a lot of that healing power of the Savior’s Atonement coming into my life yesterday.

Love you all,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

P.S. Over this past weekend, there was a baptism in Motril, my last area. I never knew the person who was baptized, but it was the first baptism there since 2014, so I was really happy to see that!

Photos

1: Off to Úbeda 

7:24A

2: José Castro

7:24B

3: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

7:24C

4: Aquí estoy (I’m here)

7:24D

5: Torredelcampo

7:24E

6: Until next time

7:24F

Intercambios

Email 17/7/17

Hello everybody,

This week was the week two of intercambios (exchanges). On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had them with Elder Rigby and Elder Craven, and since I’m the district leader, they came to our area to work. But, since they had citas set with some of their investigators, we actually ended up working in their area a bit. Which is fine, because we’re all pulling for the same team! So, on Tuesday evening, Elder Craven went to a pueblo called Mancha Real to teach an investigator named Juani who is a friend of Juan/Rabeca (who both were baptized last transfer), so things keep multiplying! Amazing! Elder Rigby and I spent Wednesday morning contacting and passing by some members, so that was great.

On Thursday and Friday, we had intercambios in Granada with the Zone leaders, Elder Ramirez and Elder Krummenacher. Elder Ramirez and I spent a nice night contacting, but what was super cool about this morning was being able to go with Elder Krummenacher the next morning and teach a lesson to one of their investigators. You may remember that Elder Krummenacher and I were companions in the CCM, and this week was coincidentally our one year anniversary of being in the mission field. It was super cool being able to be with him and see how much we’ve grown and changed within the past year. There, we would teach lessons to our “investigators” in the CCM just reciting pre written sentences out of the language books, and a year later, we were able to go through an hour lesson without even having to worry about the language, and just focus on the promptings from the spirit. I really wish that I could have seen that moment a year ago, because it was sure hard to ever see myself getting to this point in my mission. 

After all of these intercambios, I was just hit hard with feeling really tired and burnt out, and was just feeling really anxious and unsettled on Friday and Saturday. Luckily, we had a great service opportunity on Friday, helping a member move, and that service helped a lot. Then on Saturday, we took things a bit slower, and I’m definitely feeling better now, but wow, the mission sure takes it all out of you sometimes. 

I had a pretty special experience in church yesterday. Before sacrament meeting started, we had scoped out a seat near the back of the chapel, but felt like we should move forward to one of the front rows. So, we did, and sat next to an older member of the ward who was sitting alone. When we sat down, she turned to me and said, “Thank you for coming to sit by me. I’ve been feeling really lonely lately, and I’m happy that you chose to sit by me. It’s a miracle.” That was a very humbling experience to know that the spirit had directed us to go sit by her. There’s a part of one of the youth theme songs that says, paraphrasing President Monson:

I can’t think of anything more sweet

Than to follow where the spirit leads

Be the answer to someone else’s prayer

A lot of the times, we, in the words of President Hinckley, “never know how much good we do.” If we’re living our lives in harmony with the commandments to be worthy to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and if we follow the impressions which we receive, we are literally the hands of God, carrying out his purposes and helping out his children in need. So, that experience in church was a very special manifestation of that.

I love all of you, and hope you all have a great week!

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: My companion was trunky

7:17A

2: Going for a ride

7:17B

3: With my angelito Elder Krummenacher 

7:17C

4: The views

7:17D

5: The views 2.0

7:17E

6: The views 3.0

7:17F

7: Until next time

7:17G

El bautismo de Pablo, el que fue un milagro

Email 10/7/17

Hello everybody,

Last week started out kind of bad. From Sunday through Wednesday, Elder Moffat and I were both sick with some sort of stomach flu, so we were stuck in piso for a few days, dying. It was pretty miserable. The worst part was that we had to cancel a few teaching appointments, but it was a definite necessity to rest. Hopefully we’ll be able to get those appointments arranged again for this week. One of the appointments we had to cancel was for our investigator Bernardo, whom we haven’t seen in a month, so that one was especially sad to have to postpone. But, it is what it is.

After our fun sick fest, we went down to Málaga. Thursday evening, there was a training meeting for the district leaders of the Granada and Málaga 1 and 2 zones, and then Friday was Zone Conference! One really cool thing that we did during the meeting was that every companionship stood up and shared a miracle that they had seen happen recently. You see, for the last fast Sunday, we had a special focus as a mission during the fast to have the missionary work go well and also to help us to be able to meet the mission goal of 22 baptisms during the month of July. There were so many miracles that happened as a result of this fast! 

The thing that really struck me about the miracles that everyone shared was that they were all about individual people or families. “So and so came to church for the first time in months,” or, “our investigator committed to baptism,” and other great things like that. A quote in the book “Adjusting to Missionary Life” says that, “You [as a missionary] have a front row seat to the greatest miracle of all: the effect of Christ’s Atonement on individuals and families.” The work of salvation is truly a “one-by-one” experience. Our Heavenly Father knows us all individually and we can all have a personal relationship with Him and with our Savior Jesus Christ. The best part of the mission definitely has been all of the people that I’ve met and have seen change through the Atonement of Christ. The miracle of change is real.

On Saturday, we helped out with a youth fundraising activity in order to help the youth in our ward earn money for a stake campout. We spent the afternoon helping them wash and clean the member’s cars, who in turn donated money to the camping trip fund. It was a really fun service opportunity!

And finally, yesterday, Pablo was baptized! He’s going to be confirmed next week, so it’s not all done yet, but the baptism yesterday went really well! Pablo may be only 14, but he’s one of the most solid people in the gospel that I’ve met. Although really any missionary could have been the ones to “officially” teach and prepare him for baptism, it was a special privilege to be one of the missionaries who did just that. Him being baptized was for sure one of the biggest miracles I’ve ever seen.

Needless to say, the mission is going great!

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Somewhere outside of Málaga

7:10A

2: Elder Darrington!!!

7:10B

3: Santiago, or, The Realest OG

7:10C

4: All of us missionaries with Jesús, our ward mission leader who is moving back to his country this week, sadly.

7:10D

5: With Jesús

7:10E

6: Elder Stark, Pablo, Elder Moffat, Carlos

7:10F

7: With Pablo, Jesús, and the Bishop haha

7:10G

8: Until next time

7:10H

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