Jared Stark

I do a lot of things

Author: Jared Stark (page 2 of 15)

Stake Conference

Email 12/3/18

Hello everybody,
This was a week of many meetings and much traveling. It went by fast, but at the same time, it feels like forever ago that I was writing my group email last Monday.
Speaking of last Monday, it was a decent preparation day. It was still raining all day (it rained pretty much every day this week, again), so we had some fun playing indoor Padle Ball. That night was our customary Noche de Hogar in Aurora’s house. We had fun teaching Ángel about our favorite topic, missionary work! Ha.
Tuesday morning was pretty busy, we went to Mike’s house and had a good lesson with him, and later, I helped Vanessa with her website some more. We had a really cool lesson that evening. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that we were trying to work a lot with less active members. One night, we stopped by this one Piso looking for one named Ana, but instead we met her sister, María. She told us to come back another day, and finally on Tuesday, our schedules coincided we went back. Not only was Maria that and ready to listen, but also Ana (the menos activa), her teenaged daughter (also named Ana), and the 84-year old mother of Ana and María. The member we brought with us was already acquainted with them, so that was an extra blessing. We taught them the restoration and they seemed sincerely interested and attentive the entire time we were teaching, so we’ll see if they’ll let us come back some other day.
Right after that cita, we had to get on a bus and go to Jerez to spend the night there since we had to catch an early morning train to Sevilla the next day. On Wednesday, we had our zone conference there. I realized that I was the oldest missionary in this entire tri-zone area. It was focused on the importance of The Book of Mormon and helping people make and keep commitments. Two of my favorite quotes from Preach My Gospel regarding these two subjects are:
“The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource in conversion.”
“When you ask for commitments as part of your teaching, you are inviting the investigator to repent.”
 
Helping investigators and others make and keep commitments and understand the significance and gain a testimony of The Book of Mormon are some of the most important parts of our work. The introduction in the Book of Mormon states: “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I know that this promise is true for I have done it myself and have received my own witness of the truthfulness The Book of Mormon, independent of the testimony of anyone else. I have seen others do the same. The Book is true, and through the Holy Ghost, God can confirm the truth of it to anyone who sincerely reads it and faithfully asks God for this confirmation.
Anyways, so after coming back from Sevilla, exhausted, we had a Noche de Hogar with the family of Miguel Ángel and María José, some members. We talked about The Great Apostasy that occurred as a result of priesthood authority being taken from the earth resulting from the persecution and death of the Apostles that Jesus called. I’m grateful this Apostasy happened because it paved the way for the gospel to be restored again to the earth in its perfect form through the prophet Joseph Smith. It’s amazing how available the gospel and the priesthood power to perform saving ordinances is throughout the world. Even though there certainly are problems and calamities in the world, we are so blessed to live at a time when The Church of Jesus Christ is so well established on the earth.
On Thursday, we had our normal weekly planning session in the morning, and then all of our plans for the evening fell through, so we spent some time trying to find more menos activos and knocking some doors. It was raining, so there was nobody in the street, but also nobody at home either, so I wonder where everyone disappeared off to.
We had interviews with President Andersen on Friday, so we had to go to Puerto for that. Those are always so good. He told us that one of the Hermanas in our district is being transferred to Chiclana this week because the companion of one of the missionaries there never went to the MTC at the beginning of her mission, and now needs to do her three weeks there. That’s a pretty weird situation. The rest of the Hermanas are going to be in a trio for the rest of the transfer.
Saturday was a good day, although we basically only did two things. The first was having a cita with Bibi, which are turning more and more frustrating because it seems like we just keep going in circles with her. Poco a poco, as they say. Then, the second thing was going to San Fernando for the priesthood and adult sessions of Stake Conference! Elder Paul V. Johnson of the seventy, who is also the Europe Área President, as well as the Madrid temple president, and President Andersen were all there and all gave talks. It was really, really, really, good, probably some of my favorite meetings that I’ve ever been to on the mission. I won’t go into all of the details about what they shared, but my favorite message came from President Andersen. He told of an experience he had several years ago when Elder Neil L. Andersen, then just a Seventy, visited their stake in Idaho. He made the remark that it’s such a privilege that the Lord lets us handle his fine china, and the fact that we’re even let into the door of the chapel is amazing given how imperfect we all are. He also talked about how having callings and responsibilities in the church is such a blessing. While President Andersen was relating this experience, it just hit me how much of a blessing the mission has been. Some of you know this, and others don’t, but I’ve had to deal with persistent depression for the majority of my time as a missionary, and I honestly have considered my calling as a missionary as a burden way more than a blessing. But when I was listening to President Andersen speak, I felt like my heart was opened up, and I could see and feel all of the ways that I have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bless the lives of others, and all of the way He has blessed me and will continue to bless me in the future because I decided to serve a mission and have been blessed enough to be able to make it this far despite my weaknesses and problems. I am so grateful to the Lord for doing that.
I love you all, and I sincerely thank you for the support that you send from afar, and I’m thankful that you all will continue to be by my side for these two months that I have left to “serve him with all [my] heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2).
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: The ocean destroying the beach
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2: El cuadro de compromiso. For a lack of other pictures during the week, I made this in personal study one day.
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3-4: Peter = Joseph Smith
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5: On the way to stake conference
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6: After stake conference
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7: Until next time
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It rained

Email 5/3/18

Hello everybody,
This week was unusual because it rained pretty much all day, every day this week, with rain continuing today and through the majority of the coming week. In a place that’s known as “The Southern California of Europe” for how nice the weather usually is, a rainy week like this one always throws me off a bit. Notwithstanding my inadaptness to this weather, it was a good week.
Last Monday we were doing some more work trying to get in touch with menos activos, and we found this one guy named Manual, who is the brother of one of our active members. We had a good cita with him and read Moroni 6 together. Verse 4 is especially good because it talks about how we don’t forget about those who were baptized but have lost their way for whatever reason.
“And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”
After that, we went over to Mike’s house and taught him a little about temples since he had some questions about them from the church tour we have him the day before. It was a nice visit. It really made me miss going to the temple, though.
Tuesday was a productive day. It started off with our district meeting in Puerto that morning. The Manwarings, the senior couple assigned to military relations on the base, made us a nice, big American lunch. When we got back to Sanlúcar, we had a cita with Frank and Alfonso where we reviewed The Restoration. He’s doing OK, he still has a lot of health problems and it’s still hard to get him to church, but he’s doing better than he was a few months ago. Poco a poco.
We also got a call from Domingo (member) asking us to give a blessing to his granddaughter. So, we met up with Domingo and went to his daughter-in-law’s house. His four year old granddaughter has chronic bronchitis and it gets pretty bad in the winter. However, she thought that we were doctors there to give her a shot, so she ran away from us, crying inconsolobly. That made us feel like trash haha. After talking it over with Domingo and the mom, Cintia, we decided that we’d try coming back the next day in normal clothes to not freak Lola (the granddaughter) out.
We went the next day and even brought some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, but kids are smart and Lola still didn’t let us get anywhere near her. So, we just started teaching Cintia instead! We talked about the part of the Bible when Jesus instructs the Apostles to let the children come to him, which led us to showing her the part in the Book of Mormon where Jesus blesses the children one by one, which led us to teaching a bit of the restoration. She wants us to come back again, so that was a super cool way to find a new investigator!
The rest of Wednesday was pretty slow as it was a very rainy day and a holiday (Andalucia Day).
On Thursday, we went to Jerez for the “Zone Council” meeting with the ZL’S, SHE’S, and the other district leaders from the zone. It was a really fun meeting, part of it included playing “Knockout” with church trivia, and I won twice, which I was really proud about. (Mental note for myself: “beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39).) The big news from this meeting was that we are now known as the “Cádiz Zone” rather than being the “San Fernando Zone”, so the name coincides with all of us being missionaries in the Cádiz Stake of the Church. Then, we went to the Domino’s all you can eat pizza buffet, and life was good.
Friday all of our citas for the evening fell through during the morning, so we started working in the evening not sure what was going to happen, but it turned out really good. First we had a visit with Bibi that was supposed to be only 10 minutes but turned into 2 hours. Hahaha. We got her to commit to start reading and praying about the Book of Mormon every day again, so that was good. After her, we decided to pay Tomas a visit. His daughter, Raquel, is the one who left for her mission last week. We shared a few scriptures about how the Lord watches over his missionaries. Like these:
“And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.
 
“And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites.
 
“And it came to pass that Mosiah granted that they might go and do according to their reques” (Mosiah 28:6-8).
 
“Therefore they did not fear Ammon, for they supposed that one of their men could slay him according to their pleasure, for they knew not that the Lord had promised Mosiah that he would deliver his sons out of their hands; neither did they know anything concerning the Lord…” (Alma 17:35).
 
“Now we see that Ammon could not be slain, for the Lord had said unto Mosiah, his father: I will spare him, and it shall be unto him according to thy faith—therefore, Mosiah trusted him unto the Lord” (Alma 19:23).
 
The Lord really does protect his missionaries. As many are aware, there were four missionaries and an investigator involved in a head-on colision with a semi-truck this week. Miraculously, nobody died, and it seems like they are all going to make a full recovery.
Nothing that interesting happened on Saturday. Oh wait, I take that back. We got a call out of the blue from a menos activo, Antonio, with whom we had contact way back when but eventually we lost contact with him. We were able to meet in the chapel and he expressed with us his desires to come back to the church. That was nice.
Sunday we had like 5 people (investigators and less-active members) who said they were coming to church flake out. ;( Oh well, we will try again. That’s what we do.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: The weird things you start doing when you’ve been with the same comp for three transfers
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2: Chapita
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3: The District: Elder Clark, Elder Stark, Hermana Moncayo, Hermana Walker, Hermana Malcom, Hermana Pinkney
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4: Another photo with the Manwarings, who give us American lunch every once in a while
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5: Beach
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6: Domino’s
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7: Until next time
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Missionary2

Email 26/2/18

Hello everybody,

Seven days later, here I am again. We figured out last night that I have been a missionary for 91 weeks—about the same number of days that Elder Clark has been in the mission field.

We found ourselves in San Fernando on Monday for the usual “preparation day with many missionaries from the Zone.” It was fun to see other missionaries and play Fútbol and email. That’s usually about it. The only downside is that we have to spend a few hours of our p-day traveling but it’s worth it to go every six weeks.

That evening was our normal Noche de Hogar with Aurora. We focused the lesson on reviewing the importance of baptism. As I indicated in my last letter, it’s been hard to meet with Maru due to her new employment, so she wasn’t able to be there. That allowed us to focus more on Ángel. The both have baptismal dates for the fifth of May, but Ángel is basically ready and willing to be baptized now. We tried to see if he wants to move the date sooner, but he wanted to keep the same date because he’d like to be baptized when Maru is. However, he told us thst if Maru, for whatever reason, doesn’t end up getting baptized thst day, he still will. That seemed like a good enough plan to us.

Tuesday afternoon was really special. Many of you will remember Raquel, our 19 year old member, who got her mission call to the Argentina Cordoba mission a few months ago. Tuesday was her setting apart and farewell. It was nice to see all of our members there supporting her, and you could feel the spirit so strongly as her, her father (who served a mission) and the Stake President shared a few remarks. When it came time for the setting apart, to our surprise, Elder Clark and I were asked to be in the circle, given that we both have the Melchezideck Priesthood. Helping to set apart another missionary was not something I had expected to do on my mission, but it was a great experience. So, for a short time on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, before she left for the airport, there were three missionaries in Sanlúcar! Haha. We also were able to see Maru (she came to the setting apart) and Alfonso that day, so it was good.

One of our big long-term projects for a few weeks now has been updating the branches member list. We spent some time on Wednesday passing by people who are on the list that we don’t know. Throughout the week, we’ve seen moderate success with this and there have been a some people who have invited us back.

Also on Wednesday, we had English class, but it turned into more of a web development class. You see, the only reliable student we have coming to English class right now is Vanessa, the branch Relief Society President. She is from Nicaragua and studied/worked in IT when she lived there. Because there’s not that many jobs in that field availble here in Sanlúcar, she’s been branching out and was looking for a way to get her hands on a domain name and hosting to make up a mock website for a client of hers (which happens to be Bibi, our investigator). I have been waiting my entire mission to use my computer skills to help someone, and I was even able to give her some space on my server and an unused domain name to help get her started. That was really cool.

Thursday, honestly, is just kind of a blur. Friday and Saturday too, for that matter. We were able to meet with Bibi somewhere in there. We’re still focusing a lot on helping her build Faith in Christ, because she believes that he existed, but I don’t think she understands very well what he did and what we need to do because of that.

“He [went] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…and he [took] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [took] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).

So, He did all that, and what he asks us to do in return is “repent, and be born again…therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7:14). This is the doctrine that we’re trying to get her to understand better so she’ll actually act on it. Poco a poco.

Sunday morning it was raining, which usually means a lot of people flake out of coming to church. Well they missed out. In the afternoon, we were able to coax Mike down to the chapel to give him a tour of it. This is the first time he’s really taken a comprehensive look at a Mormon meeting house. I think his favorite part of the tour was a singn of the Young Women’s values that he took a picture of. He said he was surprised at how organized everything was, like all of the different programs and classes and meetings. He seems a lot more interested in coming now.

Well, that’s another one. See you again next week, same time, same place.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Te echaremos de menos, Hermana Valencia!

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2: 🌴

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3: One of the member’s little daughters named this doll “Richard,” after my middle name

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4: Another day, another car accident outside our house

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5: Mission call letter from 1989

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6: Chimney

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7: Us and Chimney

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8: Until next time

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Sanlucar

Email 19/2/18

Hello everybody,

Well, as the title of my email suggests, we got transfer calls yesterday, and I’ll be staying in Sanlúcar for the rest of my mission! Which means when all is said and done in 12 weeks, I’ll have been here for 6 transfers, or about 9 months. Elder Clark and I are going to be together for a third transfer too, which we’re both happy about. Sanlúcar has really become my home and the great people here have really become my family, so I can’t think of a better place to be.

This week was pretty rough. Monday started out good with a nice tranquilo preparation day and a good visit with one of our menos activos, Antonio Bernal, who sounded certain that he’d come to church on Sunday. (He ended up not being able to due to a death in the family, but promised us this week he’d be there.)

Things took a turn for the worse on Tuesday when we got a call in the morning that Lola died. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Lola before. She was Aurora’s elderly aunt, and was always in her house, on her same chair by the window, every time we passed by to give Aurora the sacrament or have a Noche de Hogar. She was 88 and basically, it was just her time to go. We went to the funeral home on Tuesday to go to the viewing. It was an odd feeling seeing her dead body there, but comforting know that she was “…taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). We also were in the funeral home on Wednesday for the small Catholic mass before her cremation, and really it was just the ideal place to be on Valentine’s Day. Okay, we were happy that we were able to be there to support Aurora, but it was still super depressing.

Also, somehow there were a lot of things dependent on Lola being alive. The good news is that now Aurora can start coming to church on Sundays, but the bad news is that Maru, our investigator, had employment and was always in Aurora’s house because she took care of Lola. So now that she no longer needs to be in Aurora’s house and has already found a new job taking care of someone else, we’re unsure of when we’re going to be able to teach her.

Thursday is kind of a blur because Elder Clark ended up getting sick and was throwing up, but we still had to go put on a branch Noche de hogar thst basically nobody came to, so that was a sad day too.

Friday morning was nice because while Elder Clark was resting, I woke up with a ton of energy and was able to deep clean some parts of the Piso. And by the evening, he was back to feeling good, so we were able to go out and try to pass by a few people and then clean the chapel.

There was a guy that we met in the street on Monday evening named José, and he seemed really interested in English Classes. So interested that he started messaging us on WhatsApp right after we met him on the street. That was a good sign, or so we thought. It turns out that he just thought my companion was guapo and was trying to flirt with him, so we ended up blocking him. Men are pigs.

Then Saturday came around. Nothing really of note happened on Saturday, although it was probably the most decent day of the week.

So, all in all, this week kind of sucked. These words of Alma have become a source of peace and encouragement:

“O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people…

“O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.

“Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee” (Alma 31:31, 34-35).

I’m still working to have my afflictions “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38), but it is comforting to know that He is always standing shoulder to shoulder with us in the fight.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Carnival lights. I forgot to mention Carnival. I’m not sure what the purpose of it is, but it was a holiday they had this week thst was basically like a second Halloween. People were getting pretty crazy for the past few days.

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2: We made a stop by Carlota’s birthday party. Carlota’s the two year old daughter of Frank and Ana Belén.

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3: Oh yeah I live in Spain

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4: The funeral home is in the middle of nowhere

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5: Roadblock

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6: Mikeing it up with Mike

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7: A picture of some chairs that I took

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8: Go away, future José

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9: Until next time

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Here a little, and there a little

Email 12/2/18

Hello everybody,

Here we go again.

Last Monday, it was really cold and we didn’t feel like doing much for preparation day, so we just played a lot of chess. It was really fun. We had our customary Noche de hogar that evening and taught Maru and Ángel and Yessenia about the Word of Wisdom. They all loved it and were quick to commit to living it. #GrandesTesoros Since the previous day was Elder Clark’s birthday, we had a mini-birthday party for him too. People are really nice.

Tuesday was an interesting day because we had district meeting in El Puerto de Santa Maria in the morning and then had to go to Jerez immediately afterwards for intercambios with the zone leaders. I worked with Elder Wood for the night, and nothing that exciting really happened. That’s just the boring reality of missionary work sometimes. You go out hopeful that you’ll find that one person or help that investigator make that one breakthrough, but more often than not, it’s just more of the same: talking to people who aren’t interested in learning about the important message we have to teach them or investigators getting tripped up by the same doubts or failures to keep commitments. I guess that’s just the way things are supposed to go: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…” (2 Nephi 28:30). I’ve seen investigators firmly keep commitments and overcome their doubts. There are people who are interested in what we have to say. Our hope is not in vain. It just takes a lot of patience.

Well, the Wednesday morning part of the intercambio was pretty much like that too. When we got back, we went again to the dog shelter to help out one of our members. It’s such a relaxing service project because all it involves is being around friendly dogs and cleaning out their cages.

We had to go back to El Puerto de Santa Maria on Thursday to take a district photo. We were informed on Tuesday evening (after we just had district meeting earlier in the day) that we had to take a photo as a district with some type of gratitude for President and Sister Andersen shown in it, and have it sent in by Friday. We went there, took the photo, did weekly planning in their chapel, and then came back to Sanlúcar. That evening we went back to Augustine’s house, but he wasn’t there, and apparently doesn’t have a phone, so we’ll see when we can see him again.

Friday was a decently productive day. The morning was spent passing by a few people with whom we’ve been trying to get in contact, as well as fixing the WiFi in the chapel. Our first cita that afternoon was with Daniel. We went with him and his family to a park and talked to him while his daughters played with his wife. We went over the program for quitting smoking, and he seems determined to do it. Apparently he’s done it before, too. We also taught his 10 year old daughter, Rosalia, a bit about prophets and the Book of Mormon. It was a good little cita.

After which, we went to visit Bibi. We were really trying to help her understand the necessity of a Savior. We read out of Alma 42 and talked about how through Christ, God can be both just and merciful. I think we helped her clear some thing up and recognize better why Christ is important and how He saves us from both sin and death as we choose to follow Him. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

We had a smiliarly themed lesson with Mike that evening, and we watched “The Mediator.” (https://www.lds.org/video/book-of-mormon-visual-resources/2010-06-05-the-mediator?lang=eng) I love this video because it really helped me understand the Atonement of Christ when I was younger. It’s seriously such a good analogy. I would encourage all of you to go watch it.

On Saturday morning, we found ourselves in Puerto once more for the baptism of Abigail! This is the first time in five years that the American Military branch has had had a convert baptism (which isn’t really surprising considering that you can’t proselyte on base haha). It was a rally spiritual service, and we were all really happy for her. There was a big American lunch afterwards, that was really nice too. 

Yesterday, Sunday, was a decent day too. The only bad thing was getting a million WhatsApps from Daniel informing us that his family had been kicked out of their house and he was really stressed out trying to figure out where they’re going to live. Hopefully he’ll be able to find something soon. We had a nice gospel principles class about receiving personal revelation, mostly trying to help Maru gain a personal witness of the truthfulness of the Book for Mormón. On the way to church, I had remembered that Paco, the Elders Quorum President had asked me to give the lesson in priesthood meeting too, so I hastily threw together something based on the talk “Has the Day of Miracles Ceased?” By Elder Hallstrom (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/has-the-day-of-miracles-ceased?lang=eng). It turned out about as well as it could have. So all in all, I had to teach two hours of lessons yesterday. It was pretty fun in all honesty.

To finish, here’s a quote from President Joseph F. Smith that I came across in preparation for the gospel principles lesson.

“When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even of the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase”

Learning how to recognize the Holy Ghost is a lifelong pursuit. Helping others recognize this voice is one of the key elements of the work we do. Being able to listen to that voice ourselves is what permits us to do it. It takes patience and consistency, but I know that God does indeed communicate to all of us through the Holy Ghost. It’s just up to us if we choose to listen or not.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: I saw a pillar of light…

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2: Sanlúcar magic

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3: Thanks

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4: The district

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5: Stylin

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6: Antonio’s reading material for his grandkids

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7: Good morning, Jerez

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8: Until next time

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La Caida

Email 5/2/18

Hello everybody,

It was another normal Sanlúcar week. Here’s the important things that happened.

On Tuesday, we had a great Noche de hogar with Ángel, Yessenia, and Maru. We had invited them a while ago to be baptized on the 3rd of February, and obviously they weren’t quite ready yet. We reviewed the importance of baptism and they committed to a firmer baptismal date on the fifth of May. I believe that they could definitely be ready before then, but at least they’re committed to the idea of getting baptized. That’s the important part.

One of the members in the branch, Guadalupe, volunteers at a dog shelter once a week and has always told us that we’re welcome to come help her whenever we want. After somehow not taking her up on her invitation for something like four months, we finally went on Wednesday, and it was great! There’s about 15 dogs at this shelter and we were given the task of cleaning out their cages. It was hard work, but really fun and good service for the community. In the words of Elder Clark, there’s nothing like the unconditional love and attention that animals can give you. Well except for God’s unconditional love. But you know what I mean.

On Thursday morning, we were going to do our weekly planning until we got a call from Daniel, one of the antiguo investigators we’ve been trying to set something up with. Daniel is an interesting guy. He didn’t have the best examples growing up, and eventually got into drugs and did a stint in prison, but really wants his kids to have a brighter future than he did, and he knows that it’s the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can get him there. He’s got some problems he needs to get over before he can be baptized, namely smoking #alsoadrug but he seems really determined to get there. We set a baptismal goal with him for the fifth of May. At church on Sunday during sacrament meeting, while someone was bearing their testimony about their own fight giving up smoking, I saw him get out his phone, go to his calendar, scroll to May, and put down “Bautismo de Daniel” on the fifth. Seems like a good sign.

Later on Thursday evening, we went to Augustine’s house. He is the brother of Juan, one of our investigators. Augustine is also pretty crazy, and somewhat of a hoarder, and there was not a place to sit in his house when we dropped by. But, he told us to come back the next day and that he’d clean off one of his couches so we could sit and talk. We so did, and were able to share some of the first lesson with him, but it seems like his attention span is really short. He was really happy that we were there though. So we’ll see.

Friday morning was pretty crazy. Dani, one of the members, was going to take us out to visit Manuela, a menos activa. She lives in the Campo, so it’s necessary to take a car to get there. Dani just bought this 20 year old big cargo van the other week, and that was what he drove us to her house with. Well, we got to Manuela’s house and were inside giving her the lesson when her son came in and was like, “What happened to your tire??” None of us realized anything was wrong, but it turns out that the right right tire on the van was just utterly obliterated (see picture below). We’re still not sure how that happened. We then spent the rest of the morning helping Dani change his tire. That was a fun adventure.

Saturday was a good day. We started the morning off with a visit to Bibi. Once we got there, we started talking about something that made us want to show her the Mormon Message “Life’s Drama.” (see here:https://www.lds.org/video/mormon-messages/2016-04-1000-lifes-drama?lang=eng) It was good that we were then taking about being personally accountable for our actions because halfway through the lesson, a Jehovah’s Witness decided to come into her shop and she started talking and got onto the topic of original sin. They believe that if Adam hadn’t eaten of the forbidden fruit, we would all still be living in a Garden of Eden like paradise. It was funny to see Bibi arguing with this testigo about this doctrine and really it made me feel grateful for the Book of Mormon, which explains so clearly that the Fall of Adam and Eve was a positive and necessary step forwards. As it says in 2 Nephi 2:22-25:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

This whole idea of man existing to have joy through “the Messiah [which] cometh in the fulness of time” (2 Nephi 2:26) came up during a baptismal interview that I gave on Saturday evening to one of the Hermanas’ investigators in Puerto. The name of this Investigador is Abigail; she’s English and is working as an English teacher here in Spain. She first came to know about the church four years ago when she was in college and missionaries knocked on the door of her house where she lived with five roommates. At first they had just invited the missionaries in for a bit of a laugh, but one of the girls ended up getting baptized and is now married in the temple and Abigail basically had a testimony of the gospel at that point too but never ended up getting baptized. Seeing the death of President Monson a month ago prompted her to reach out to the missionaries again, and this Saturday, she’s getting baptized! Anyways, something she said during the interview that really struck me was the fact that Christ did everything he did and suffered everything he suffered so that we could be happy. It’s up to all of us to choose to follow the source of all happiness. We follow Him by following his gospel and His commandments.

Church worked out well on Sunday; we had five investigators there and Manuela came for the second Sunday in a row. Alfonso was sick so he wasn’t able to come. All is well.

Well, as was officially announced by the church on Thursday, as of July 1, 2018, the boundaries of the Spain Málaga Mission are being absorbed into the Spain Madrid and Spain Barcelona missions. This is not a change that will have an effect on me personally as I finish before that date, and I really don’t think it’ll have that much of an impact on the day to day work that missionaries are doing in the areas anyways. There were some members at church yesterday who thought that meant they were taking all of the missionaries out of the south of Spain, but that’s obviously not right. Although there is an element of sadness with this change, it’s really not that big of a deal. This is the Lord’s work and it’s going exactly how He wants it to, for He is in charge.

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Elder Clark turned 19 this week!

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2: Yessenia gifted us some gloves

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3: Perros (dogs

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4: Besitos (little kisses)

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5: Whoa

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6: “Somos en el campo” – Dani  (“We are in the field”)

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7: Until next time

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The Life

Email 29/1/18

Hello everybody,
Last Monday, we went to the mall to take advantage of rebajas. To refresh your memories on what rebajas are, they are basically these big sales that go on in every store for about a month twice in the year, once in the summer and once in the winter. Elder Clark and I both got some new suits (see below). We also almost lost our smartphone after less that a week of having it. We mistaking left it at the bus stop outside of the mall when the bus came and we were scrambling to pick up our bags and get on. Then, we didn’t even realize that it was gone until we got back to the church some 45 minutes later. Realizing what we had just done, we got back on a bus to go back to the mall, and even though about two hours had passed, the phone was still sitting there at the bus stop, right where we left it. Even at the risk of making us seem like fumbling idiots (which, let’s be honest, we are haha), I still wanted to share that story because it really was a tender mercy that we got the phone back as smoothly as we did.
That evening, we visited our menos activo Antonio. As I had mentioned in my last email, we brought Frank with us. That was a special opportunity since Frank served part of his mission here in Sanlúcar and was one of the missionaries who taught Antonio. It was really cool to see them reunite after years of not having seen each other. Not to mention that last time they saw each other, Frank was a missionary like us and now he’s a dad with two kids, so quite a bit has happened in between haha. Afterwards, we had a bit of time left, so we were doing a bit of contacting in the center street. There weren’t many people out so late on a cold January night, and we were kind of trying to figure out what to do . What we felt impressed to do was walk off on one of the side streets and stand in the middle of it until something happened. We did accordingly, and before we knew it, the door in front of us opened, and we started talking to the lady that came out. Turns out she’s the older sister of Andrés, the guy who cuts our hair, and she was willing to give us a listen. She works a lot, but we’ve been talking to her all week on WhatsApp. We clearly saw the way that the Lord had guided us to her.
Before district meeting on Tuesday, there was a Facebook Live broadcast from President and Hermana Andersen for the entire mission. We’re actually not allowed to say what they shared with us, but it’s a change affecting our mission that will be officially announced by the church on Sunday. The only other thing of note that happened on Tuesday was our Noche de Hogar with Ángel and Maru and Yessenia. We taught them about tithing. They’re all doing good, but obviously they’re not going to be making it to their baptismal date for this Saturday. We’re hoping to get in there this week and set a firmer baptismal date with them.
Wednesday morning was super foggy. We decided to go out to La Colonia, which is this big campo area with a lot of houses interspersed between the fields. There were some Antiguos and menos activos we were trying to find out there, and we weren’t able to get in contact with any of them, but we did talk to one of their neighbors who was actually gifted a Book of Mormon by one of our members not too long ago. She didn’t have much time to talk that day, but was open to having us come back another day. Anyways, it was just a really surreal experience walking around in all of this fog with fields and animals all over the place.
A lot of Thursday involved going to Jerez for the zone council meeting, where all of the district leaders meet with the zone leaders and sister training leaders. That evening it was raining a lot, and we didn’t take umbrellas with us, so we got a bit soaked. That’s just part of the life of being a fumbling idiot. Ha. Haha.
Friday was a really good day because we gave a chapel tour to Bibi. She’s been investigating the church for a while now, and her biggest stumbling block is that she never can come to church because she leaves town and goes to visit her parents in this little Pueblo up in the mountains every weekend. The reason why this church tour was so good was because the spirit was really strong and I think it gave her a lot of ganas (desire) to make the effort to be there. Let’s hope so. Chapel tours are something we’re going to be trying with some of our investigators who struggle with coming to church.
Saturday was also decent since we were able to meet with Juan and Antonia. They are probably some of the nicest people I have ever met. I think I’ve mentioned them in my emails a few times. We were able to teach a lot about the Plan of Salvation and how opposition in life helps us grow into better people. Juan admitted to us thant he hadn’t read the Book of Mormon since our last visit and that he probably wouldn’t have a lot of time to do it in the near future since one of his daughters just had a baby and another one of his daughters is about to have a baby. Well, we were sharing scriptures from the Book of Mormon as part of our lesson, and he was really getting into it. Then he started telling us about his brother and gave us his address to pass by and introduce ourselves to him. “If you go meet my brother,” he said, “then I’ll get into reading the Book of Mormon.” Sounded like a pretty good deal to us!
Something I’ve neglected to mention in my emails is how our recent convert, Alfonso, is doing. Things have been going really tough for him, he’s been experiencing a lot of health problems and has been in and out of the hospital several times within the past month. He hadn’t come to church since his confirmation last transfer. Luckily, it seems like he’s doing a bit better and was even able to come to church yesterday. That made it a good Sunday. What also made it good was the fact that we had interviews with President Andersen yesterday too in Jerez. That made it a bit of a long day, but interviews with President Andersen really are the best.
Some scriptures I shared in a talk in church yesterday are from John 6:51-53. They say:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
 
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
 
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
 
When we partake of the sacrament, obviously we are not literally eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Savior. What we are doing is turning our attention towards Christ as we remember his great and infinite atoning sacrifice. According to this scripture, when we do not participle regularly in the sacrament, we do not have life in us. Christ gives us life, and he gives us strength. That is one of many reasons why the sacrament is so important.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: The bajas are real
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2: More fog
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3: Made a new friend
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4: Domino’s
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5: Until next time
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Peace in Christ

Email 22/1/18

Hello everybody,
Here’s another one of your favorite weekly rundowns of yet another week of being a missionary.
Last Monday was a normal Sanlúcar preparation day, which involved playing Padle ball, buying expensive and very disappointing Mexican food (I have never once have had satisfactory Mexican food in Spain), and playing chess. That evening, we went over to Frank and Ana Belén’s house to make a plan with how they could try sharing the gospel with two of their friends who might be interested in it. We made them sign a “contract” saying they’d do it, hahaha (see below). We’re trying to take commitments to a whole new level. I’m not sure if I mentioned this about Frank before, but he actually served in the Spain Málaga Mission, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda was one of his areas. We’ve seen his name as a missionary on various registros in the area book and tonight we’re going to go visit someone that he taught years ago as a missionary here. He also speaks really good English–the Queen’s English, I might add!
We were given permission to watch the special announcement on Tuesday afternoon about the reorganized first presidency. It is such a blessing to live at a time when God still calls prophets, and I know that He has called President Nelson to be the prophet today. That evening, in our customary Tuesday night Noche de hogar, we were able to teach Yessenia and Ángel about following the prophet. It was perfect.
Wednesday was a long day. We had our Zone Conference in San Fernando. This entire conference was centered around the new technology that our mission just received, namely Facebook and smartphones. In addition to our individual tablets, each companionship now has an iPhone X. Okay, I wish. In reality, every companionship has a Samsung Galaxy A5, which is alright. The best thing about having the smartphone is that now, like the rest of the European world, we have WhatsApp! That makes it a lot easier to communicate with everyone. Anyway, the conference was mainly focused on what we can’t and shouldn’t do with technology, so we’re still kind of scratching our heads and trying to figure out exactly what we can and should do with Facebook as a proselyting tool. Luckily, we’re prohibited from seeing the News Feed on Facebook, so that takes away a big distraction. But still, it’s unclear exactly how Facebook is going to be useful in our day to day work.
We spent most of Thursday in the church because we did our weekly planning there in the morning. That’s when we really started getting into using WhatsApp. There are a ton of people that have phones that don’t work but can use WhatsApp, so we were able to make some good contacts. Frank and Ana Belén invited us over for lunch and they live right next to the chapel, so we were just back in the chapel that afternoon to do studies. Later that night, we had branch Noche de hogar, so yeah. It was really just a whole day spent in the chapel.
The most notable thing that happened on Friday was having a lesson with Mike and the Erwin family. Mike is our American investigator and the Erwins are one of the families from the American branch. This is the second time we’ve done this. It went well. We talked about having Peace in Christ.
In Doctrine and Covenants 19:23, we read the following words of the Savior:
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.”
 
This passage of scripture describes what we must do if we want to feel the peace that comes from the Savior. This is peace, “not as the world giveth” (John 14:27), rather something more profound.
The first part to this pattern involves learning of the Savior. We learn of Him as we study His words, pray unto the father, serve others, amongst many other things. As we grow this faith in Him, it leads us to desire to walk with Him. In 1 John 2:6, we read: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” In other words, those who associate themselves as being disciples of Christ need to do as he would do and say as he would say. After all, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
By choosing to have an active faith in the Savior and working to walk where He has, we find peace in Him. I love the new 2018 Youth Theme Music, and especially enjoy listening to the lead track, aptly titled “Peace in Christ.” The chorus of this song reminds us that:
He gives us hope
When hope is gone.
He gives us strength
When we can’t go on.
He gives us shelter
In the storms of life.
When there’s no peace on earth,
There is peace in Christ.
 
It’s a tremendously comforting message, and has already helped me through many difficult moments. I’d invite you all to listen to the song here: https://www.lds.org/youth/theme/2018?lang=eng&cid=YS-M-youththeme
Honestly the rest of the week was pretty non exciting and I don’t really have the ganas (desire) to keep writing this email. So I hope you have enjoyed what I have written.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: These members are now contractually obliged to bake their friend cookies and give them a Book of Mormon.
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2: The district: Hermana Pinkney, Hermana Bočková, Hermana Moncayo, Hermana Walker, Elder Clark, Elder Stark.
Every companionship in this district is in training right now. It is a very young district; I am over a year older in the mission than the next oldest missionary in the district.
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3: Again
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4-5: Some fog
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6: Us with Mike and Brother Erwin
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7: Our new first presidency wall. We’re not sure what happened to our big picture of President Oaks, so we just cut a little one out of The Ensign.
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8: Until next time
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Service

Hello everybody,
Last Monday was the preparation day in San Fernando with many missionaries from the zone. It was fun, mostly we just played fútbol and emailed all day. We had a cita planned for that evening, but it ended up falling through at the last minute. Luckily, we were prepared and I think our backup plans turned out even better than our original plan would have. There were some cookies we had made the day before with the intention of giving them to a few specific people. One of them was Dani, who is our neighbor and also the boyfriend of Yessenia’s mom. He’s a really nice guy and we always stop and talk to him when we see him, but Monday was the first time that we were really able to talk about religion. He was really interested in the Book of Mormon and graciously accepted a copy.
Something which we have been attempting to do with all of the members in the branch is having a Noche de hogar with each of them to teach about “going about doing good.” That way, we are challenging them to think of people in their lives that could be benefited by an act of service because serving others is one way to open their hearts to learn about the restored gospel. One quote from Preach My Gospel that we’ve been sharing with the members as we teach them about this is:
“Your consistent efforts in serving and teaching as many people as you can is one way God prepares His children to eventually receive His servants. He often reaches out to His children through you. Even when people do not accept the opportunity to learn the gospel, your service and words are evidence of God’s love for them and may plant seeds that future missionaries and members of the Church will harvest.”
We’ve been sharing that story of Dani to illustrate this principle. No, he’s still not an investigator, but thanks to the kindness and service of other missionaries in the past, we were able to start introducing him more directly to the gospel. Service, even something as simple as kind words or a smile, is one of the most powerful ways to teach.
Larter on Monday evening, we stopped by Juan’s house. He’s a guy that I’ve taught once or twice before, but never really went anywhere, so we hadn’t been by his house in months. Well, it was a good thing that we went over because we were able to teach him and his wife and one of his daughters about the Restoration, and it seemed like it went over really well. We shared about how the Book of Mormon answers the great questions of the soul, and they were really interested in that. We also were able to get the address of one of his other daughters who just had a baby so that we can go bring her cookies. Truly there are many miracles in bringing people cookies haha.
So it turns out that I wasn’t quite done being sick and was basically without a voice for the entire week. That’s really hard when all missionary work involves is talking with other people. On Tuesday, we had district meeting, but then on Wednesday and Thursday morning, we just rested. We had stuff planned all of those nights, so we still went out and worked, but I just came back home dead every time. It was all good though, we had a good Noche de Hogar with Ángel and Maru on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we taught Saraí, a new investigator from a while ago we haven’t been able to see because of the festivos and such.
On Wednesday, we also got an email from President Andersen announcing that we are now a Facebook proselytizing mission, and that we were to download Facebook and get our accounts ready for training on it during Zone Conference this week. So that is why some of you might have noticed more activity on my Facebook account than normal. We’re also going to be getting smartphones and WhatsApp at this conference too. Out of all of this new technology, the thing that I am most excited for is to have WhatsApp, as that is the de facto mobile messaging service here. I must admit that it has been super weird figuring out how to use Facebook again after almost 20 months of not using it, but it’ll be good to see how this can help us in our missionary work.
Friday was an interesting day. We had piso checks in the morning. Luckily we keep things clean around here, so those went off without a hitch. After that was over, we decided to pass by this one family of menos activos that are preparing to move to Málaga right now. It was a good thing that we passed by when we did because they really needed some help moving their bedframe down a flight of stairs. They gave us jamón and cheese as a token of their appreciation. That evening, we were given permission to watch President Monson’s funeral. It was a really nice tribute to a great man.
Saturday was also a good day because I was more or less better by then. We were able to teach Bibi and later in the day Maru and Ángel and Yessenia again. Those are all of our investigators with baptismal dates. Bibi just needs to come to church. Maru and Ángel and Yessenia are still progressing well, we’re working our way through the commandments with them right now. Maru and Yessenia came to church on Sunday (Ángel was sick), and we were able to talk about following the prophet. This is a really interesting time because of President Monson’s recent passing. It’s really helping the idea that God still calls prophets really come alive to those we are teaching. There was also an American family in our branch on Sunday, so I had to translate sacrament meeting for them. If only they had know about the American branch that meets is 20 minutes away from our chapel haha.
Well, there you go. That’s about it.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: District language study
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2: Sanlúcar
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3: Noche de Hogar
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4: There’s some weird stuff going on here
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5: Until next time (Don’t worry, it’s not alcohol!)
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Misionereando

Email 8/1/18

Hello everybody,
Well, well, well. Here we are again. We got transfer calls yesterday, and unsurprisingly, I’m staying here in Sanlúcar to finish training Elder Clark. I’m happy for that.
It was sad to receive the news of President Thomas S. Monson’s passing this week. As Elder Clark and I were walking around last evening and talking about how to help some of our investigators and members, inadvertently, half of the things that were coming out of our mouths were just strait President Monson quotes. I know that He has not only had an impact on my life, but on the entire world through his prophetic ministry.
Last Monday was a really boring preparation day because everything was closed and when we tried to go play a little bit of Fútbol at 10:00, people who were still sleeping were coming out of their houses to yell at us. So we spent most of the day in the chapel playing chess. That night we visited Frank and Ana Belén, the perfect young family, and had a Noche de Hogar with them about service. This is something we’re trying to do with all of the members in the branch because it seems like an effective way to get member referrals. The cool thing about Frank is that when he was a missionary, Sanlúcar de Barrameda was one of his areas. We’ve even been able to look in our area book and find old registros with his name on them.
On Tuesday, I woke up sick. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad, so we were still able to go to district meeting and go to the Noche de Hogar at Aurora’s house with Maru, Angel, and Yessenia. I was still feeling not well on Wednesday morning, so we just stayed in Piso. That evening, we made a stop where Marí and Alba live because we haven’t been able to see them for a while. That was really good, because not only were they there, but they invited us in and told us that they really like it when we come by to share la palabra de Dios with them.
Thursday was kind of a weird day because that was the evening of the parades for El Día de Los Reyes. We had planned to play our weekly game of Fútbol that evening, but only us and one other guy showed up because that was the exact time when the big parade was going on. Luckily, the parade passed right by the high school where we were playing, so we were able to watch it for a bit. Basically it was just all of these kids on floats throwing candy at the people watching. And then after the parade, everyone went to the center to party in the bars. So, the rest of our night was spent contacting the few people in Sanlúcar who weren’t in the center. We met this old guy from Boston. It still blows my mind how many Americans are in this little corner of Spain.
On Friday morning, we went to go teach Fernando, who is this Argentine guy that also speaks English. We read through the restoration pamphlet with him in English, and it seems like he understood everything, but is just a bit afraid of commitment. We thought it was still a good lesson though. In the evening, we had a really good lesson with Bibi. We read 3 Nephi 11 with her and talked about following Jesus Christ. After a lot of negotiation (haha) she agreed to be baptized on March 3, assuming that she’s prepared by then. So that’s what we’ll be helping her do.
The first thing that Christ talked about in His visit to the Nephites was His doctrine: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. These are the things that He asks us to do to follow Him. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon, which explains this doctrine so well and so clearly. As it says in 3 Nephi 11:37-41:
“And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
 
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
 
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
 
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
 
Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.”
Saturday was Él Día de Los Reyes, which is the main gift giving holiday in Spain, rather than Christmas. Basically the only noteworthy thing we were able to do was go visit Mike in the evening. He’s having a lot of various problems happening to him right now, so he’s really looking for the peace that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give.
Yesterday was a pretty normal Sunday. Ángel, Maru, and Yessenia all came to church. Ángel says that he has been reading and praying everyday, and feels like the Book of Mormon is true. Maru has been doing a good job reading, but still needs to pray. Yessenia is still 10 years old, but she still knows what’s good. We’re really happy with all of their progression.
Love you all,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1-5: Here are some belated photos from the Christmas Zone conference
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6: El Día de los Reyes
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7: There was another car accident right outside of our Piso
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8: Until next time
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