Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Category: Spain Málaga Mission (page 1 of 9)

Work of God

Email 20/11/17

Hello everybody,
This was a stressful week, but a rewarding one, too. Here’s the day-by-day breakdown of what happened:
On Monday, the four missionaries from El Puerto de Santa Maria came to Sanlúcar for preparation day. It was really fun; we played paddle ball and ate Chinese food. Really, it was just a normal Sanlúcar p-day, just with more missionaries. That evening, we went to Antonio Bernal’s house, who’s a menos activo. He had invited a friend, Domingo, to come over to meet with us which was cool. Except he seemed more intentent on proving us wrong than anything, but he was a really nice guy. We’re going to meet the with him again this week.
We had district meeting on Tuesday in Puerto. After arriving back in Sanlúcar, we met with Alfonso and taught him all of Lesson 5. That took a while, but it was a good lesson. We also figured out that our chapel didn’t have any baptismal clothes in it, which is pretty unusual. Additionally, Alfonso is a bigger guy, and finding big white pants in Southern Spain isn’t very easy. Over the next few days, we called up all of the other missionaries in our zone, and nobody had anything. It was pretty stressful trying to figure out where we were going to get the pants, but luckily a member in Jerez was able to lend some to us, so all was well.
I had to go to Chiclana on Wednesday for a medical cita. It took 2.5 hours to get there between the two busses and train we had to catch, and the cita only took 10 minutes. On our way back, we took advantage of the mall being next to the train station in San Fernando and bought The Good Burger. That evening, we had a cita with Antonio. He is a menos activo that we just established contact with who was baptized about 20 years ago and has been inactive most of that time, but he really wants to come back and feel more of the peace that he felt when he was living the gospel. We’re really excited to start working with him. That evening, we also went over to Mike’s house for a bit and had a lesson about repentance with him.
Thursday mostly revolved around a branch Noche de hogar that we had planned. It was about the Book of Mormon, and we did an activity where we gave everyone a peace of paper and a pencil, and told them to write down all of the things in their life that were most important and precious to them. Basically the things they’d want their descendents to know what mattered to them. We then had them hand their papers to us, and we tore them up and threw them on the floor and made the example that that’s basically what we do when we don’t appreciate the scriptures. Un poco fuerte. (A bit strong.) They were written by ancient prophets about the things that mattered the most to them specifically for us. As the prophet Mormón said to us, “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing” (Mormón 8:35). We then showed clips from the talks from the last General Conference which were about reading the Book of Mormon everyday. I think it went really well.
Something we discovered on Thursday was that the hot water in the chapel wasn’t working, which is a pretty big problem when you’re trying to have a baptism in a few days. Fortunately, one of our members was able to figure out the problem and fix it, but haha, that was a lot of stress.
On Friday morning, we had to go to Puerto because we were still stressing out about where we were going to get pants, and the missionaries in Puerto had some pants that sounded promising, so we went and got them. Later in the evening, we had a little bit of time between citas, so we sat down and started making some calls to some future investigators. There was this guy, Alejandro, who we contacted in the bus station a month ago, and up until Friday, he had never answered our calls. He ended up living really close to where we were calling, so we were able to meet up and have a 15 minute mini-lesson and set something up for next week. He told us he’s made a lot of bad choices in this life and is interested in knowing how to repent and improve his life. Luckily for him, that’s the heart of what we share, The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On Saturday, we were able to meet with Alba and María for the first time in two weeks. We brought Raquel with us. She is the only (active) YSA (Young Single Adult) in the branch. It was really cool because two of Alba’s sisters, Sarai and Ana were there, and we ended up teaching them, too. So far it’s been difficult to get any of them to come to church, but we’ll keep inviting.
Sunday was a very good day. Elder Kassing and I were in with the Primary children again, helping them out with their rehearsals for the Primary Sacrament Meeting Program. Aurora’s granddaughter, Yissenia, had called us the day before and told us she wanted to come to Primary again which was super cool because she’s only 10, not a member, and her mom is less active. She happily stayed for all three hours of church. After church we had a lunch with Alfonso and the Hermanas from Puerto while we were getting things ready for the baptism. AND THEN ALFONSO WAS BAPTIZED!! It was a really good service, and Alfonso gave a really good testimony about baptism after the ordinance was preformed. I’m so happy for him. Also, Mike and his family came to the baptism!! We had invited him on Wednesday, not really sure if he would actually come, but he did!! They had to come late and leave early, but they were there for the most important part. Then, right after the baptism, I attended the first mission call opening I’ve been to since I was at BYU. It was for Raquel, the aforementioned YSA. She got called to the Córdoba Argentina mission, speaking Spanish (claro), entering the Argentine CCM in February. She’s going to be a great missionary. And then, after all of that, we went to Aurora’s house to give her the sacrament as we do every Sunday. Yissenia was there too (she had also been at the baptism/mission call opening), and was like, “I want to be a sister missionary too one day!” and Aurora said to her, “Well, you know what you have to do to do that: listen to the missionaries and be baptized,” and so now we’re going to start formally teaching her and getting her ready for that important step.
Well, it was a really good week, albeit a really stressful one too. We definitely felt the opposition against Alfonso’s decision to be baptized, but everything worked out. That’s because “the works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught…it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men” (D&C 3:1, 3). I’m happy to be on the Lord’s side and on His errand.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: District P-day
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2: Chichlana vibes
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3: The Good Burger
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4: The playa (beach)
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5: Atlantic Ocean
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6: Future missionary
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7: Alfonso’s baptism
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8: Raquel’s mission call
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9: Until next time
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It is the same

Email 13/11/17

Hello everybody,
Another week in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Here’s an update on how everything’s been going:
On Monday evening, we had our customary Noche de hogar in Aurora’s house. Our investigators Maru and Ángel were there, and we taught a bit about the plan of salvation. Maru and Ángel (once again, they are both just friends of Aurora) both have been reading in the Book of Mormon, and thanks to the help of some of our members, were able to come to church yesterday! I’ve noticed that’s usually the hardest commitment for investigators to keep, so it’s always a good sign when they make that choice to come.
Tuesday was a tiring day. We had planned to meet with Alfonso in the afternoon and finish teaching him the commandments so that he could be ready for his baptismal interview with President Andersen that afternoon. However, during district meeting, he called us and told us that he didn’t think he’d be able to come because his legs were hurting, and he needs to walk a long way to get to the chapel in Sanlúcar. Luckily we worked things out by asking a member to drive him to the chapel, and we were successfully able to finish up what we needed to teach him. He also passed his interview with President, so Alfonso will be getting baptized next Sunday, the 19th! Since we had our interviews with President Andersen right after he had his, we were able to hear how it went. President said he asked Alfonso what was the biggest thing that the missionaries had taught him, and his answer was “Repentance.” He also said, “Never before have I felt so much peace in my life than I do now with the gospel.” We’re so happy for him.
On Wednesday, we had a lesson with Bibi about the importance of the day of rest and coming to church. It was a really good lesson, and she said that she really wants to come to church, but it always seems like something comes up at the last minute that prevents her from going. We all agreed to pray so that she’d be able to organize her life better so that she’ll be able to come to church soon. It seems like she wasn’t able to come yesterday, so we’ll see how it goes this week.
This Friday, something happened that I never ever thought would happen in my mission: WE HAD AN AMERICAN FAMILY HOME EVENING. MIKE DE HOGAR HAPPENED. Because of the nearby Rota naval base, there is an American branch that meets in the chapel in El Puerto de Santa Maria. One of the families from that branch, the Erwins, lives here in Sanlúcar, and they were kind enough to help us out with this. So, on Friday evening, us and the Erwins went to Mike’s house and had a very American family home evening. It was perfect because Mike’s kids are the same age as the Erwin’s, so they were all playing together and we were able to share a lesson about the difference between the Light of Christ / Power of the Holy Ghost / Gift of The Holy Ghost. Mike is really excited to come to Alfonso’s baptism this week in order to “see how it’s done.” Mike de Hogar was a success.
Church yesterday was really good. There’s a new young family that just moved into the branch from the Canarias with two young daughters, so everyone’s excited about that. Elder Kassing and I actually spent the last two hours of church with the primary because I’m now the primary pianist as they prepare for the primary program in a few weeks. There were like seven kids there yesterday, so that’s pretty good. Primary was super fun.
In preparation for the next Noche de Hogar, Elder Kassing and I spent some time yesterday looking through all of the talks from the last General Conference that talked about the Book of Mormon. There’s a lot of them! We were able to make a video of segments from each talk that reference the Book of Mormon and more specifically, the prophetic guidance that we have received to study it every day. I’m grateful for the words of these living prophets in addition to those of the prophets of old that are found in the scriptures. As the Lord Himself declared, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).
That’s it. Love you all. Have a great week.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Noche de Hogar in Aurora’s house
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2: Otro día (another day)
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3: Dani with Matilde
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4: At the carwash with Hermana Brantley and Elder Moon
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5: Carwash
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6: Domingo and Antonio
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7: Elder Kassing and I performing at the zone conference a few weeks ago
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8: The San Fernando / Sevilla / Córdoba zones
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9: Until next time
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Día por día

Email 6/11/17

Hello everybody,
In 3 Nephi 13:31-34, Jesus Christ taught the following to the recently called twelve disciples:
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
 
“For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
 
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
 
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.”
 
Something which I’ve discovered about the mission is that it’s best lived día por día (day by day). I remember at the beginning of my mission, when I was about to leave the CCM in Madrid to go into the mission field, I was nervous about having to cook for myself. It seems so simple and easy to me now, but at that point in my life, I never had to take on that responsibility myself thanks to a loving mother and a meal plan in college. Thus, I was nervous about figuring out how to get it done. But, I remember reading this passage of scripture in the CCM, and feeling a confirmation in my heart that the Lord would help me figure things out. And so it happened that in my first area, we were often fed by members, and day by day, things just seemed to fall in place such that we never had to worry about food.
The principle of living día por día, taking “no thought for the morrow,” has been necessary for my survival in the mission. Being a missionary isn’t easy, and thinking about having two years or six months or however much time left on the mission can often make it seem like an impossible challenge. But, I’ve noticed that just keeping my mind centered on this specific day or even this specific moment has helped me better “seek . . . first the kingdom of God.” So, I’m thankful for the principle which the Savior teaches in this passage of scripture.
Anyways, here is what happened this week, día por día:
We had obtained permission from our mission president to go to Jerez for preparation day with Mike, our American investigator. We went to the mall there, shopped around for a while, ate lunch, and came back. It was fun. That night consisted of traveling to El Puerto de Santa Maria because we had to spend the night there in order to catch an early morning train up to Sevilla.
That’s where we had zone conference on Tuesday. There was a visiting area seventy from France there with his wife, Elder and Sister Bennasar. Also known as the guy from this “I’m a Mormon” video: https://www.mormon.org/matthieu. It was probably one of my favorite zone conferences. Elder Kassing and I had the privilege of participating by performing a musical number in the conference of “I Feel my Savior’s Love,” which was another custom arrangement. He sang and I played the piano. We were approached about doing some sort of musical number a week before, and were luckily able to get this arrangement worked out and ready in time. I wish there was a way to share it with all of you. Tuesday was a good day.
The next day, Wednesday, was a festivo in Spain, and our branch had planned an activity out in the forest! It involved food, sports, and being able to strengthen our relationships with the members. Some of our investigators wanted to come, but weren’t able too, but fortunately, there were a few less active members there that we were able to meet for the first time, so all in all, it went really well.
On Thursday mornings, we typically have weekly planning, and that was no different this week. But what was different was that there is now a new Chapter 8 in Preach My Gospel! We received it in the zone conference on Tuesday. The name of the chapter changed from, “How do I use time wisely?” to “How do I fulfill my missionary purpose?” and changes the process that we use to weekly/daily plan. I really like it. It focuses a lot on goal setting (for teaching investigators, finding new people to teach, ourselves, etc.) and setting plans to fulfill those goals. That evening, we played Fútbol as we normally do on Thursdays.
When we woke up on Friday, it was pouring rain. Really hard. We had planned to go out and visit a lot of members to finish extending them the Book of Mormon challenge that I’ve mentioned in my last emails. After visiting two members, having to go take shelter from a lightning storm, and wading through ankle-deep flooded streets, we wound up in the shop of Bibi, an investigator to dry off bit. We always teach her in her shop, and it’s sometimes difficult to do so because anytime a customer comes in, she has to pause the lesson and go help them, but since it was raining so hard, nobody was coming into her shop, and we had a really great lesson with her centered on the Doctrine of Christ. The big question she asked us right off the bat was, “Why was it necessary for Jesus Christ to suffer and die for our sins,” and we had an excellent discussion about Christ’s mediating role between us and God. She said she really was able to start understanding better the mission of Christ and the need to live by His gospel.
The Elders in El Puerto de Santa Maria have been working to set up a free carwash that we can do every Saturday to give some service and hopefully help them find some new investigators. Accordingly, we spent Saturday morning there helping them, and the only people that came were some members, but it was still great to give some service. That evening, we headed back to the house of María and Alba and Manolo and Álvaro, and had another lesson with them. They wanted us to review some of what we talked about the previous cita, about the restoration. During the lesson, although we hadn’t planned to do so, Elder Kassing and I both felt impressed to teach about baptism and invite them to be baptized. María and Alva both accepted the baptismal date for December 16th! Now we just need to help them get to church….
Sunday was another hectic day, but a good one. Alfonso came to church again, and even stood up in sacrament meeting and bore his testimony! We ended up teaching him a bunch of odds and ends during Sunday school and after church to get him ready for his baptismal interview which will happen tomorrow. There’s still a few things we need to cover before that, and we’ll for sure be on a tight schedule, but it seems like everything should work out OK. Vamos a ver. (We’ll see.) If all goes according to plan, he will be baptized on Sunday, November 19.
Well, that was more or less the week. I just took it dia por día, and everything turned out okay.
Love,
Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Preparation day with Mike
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2: El bosque (The forest)
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3: With the memebrs (members)
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4: Everyone
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5: Uno
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6: Waiting for the lightning to pass
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7: Dani’s painting of the Madrid temple
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8: Until next time
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Rock of Ages

Email 30/10/17

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

Photos

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

Less Than the Dust of the Earth

Email 23/10/17

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

Photos

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

Email 16/10/17

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

Photos

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

By Divine Design

Email 9/10/17

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

Photos

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

B.O.M. (b)

Email 2/10/17

Hello everybody,

Yeah. Another week. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Obligatory cloud picture 

10:2A

2: Some crabs and dirt

10:2B

3: South Bay in San Fernando

10:2C

4: Hamburguesas with Domingo 

10:2D

5: Elder Cox is the best

10:DE

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

10:3F

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

10:3G

8: Until next time

10:3H

On Tour

Email 25/9/17

Hello everybody,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have I done any good in the world today?

Have I helped anyone in need?

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

If not, I have failed indeed.

Has anyone’s burden been lighter today

Because I was willing to share?

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

When they needed my help was I there?

Then wake up and do something more

Than dream of your mansion above.

Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,

A blessing of duty and love.

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

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

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

9:25A

2: La Zona De San Fernando 

9:25B

3: Sunset

9:25C

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

9:25D

5: Here I am

9:25E

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

9:25F

7: That’s me 

9:25G

8: Chillin 

9:25H

9: Until next time 

9:25I

“I am famous for going crazy”

Email 18/9/17

Hello everybody,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: District preparation day in BK

9:18A

2: Always clouds

9:18B

3: Atlantic Ocean

9:18C

4: Party bus

9:18D

5: Not so party bus

9:18E

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

9:18F

7: Stake conference with Moisés

9:18G

8: Until next time

9:18H

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