This week was a busy one. As normal, each individual day seemed to go on forever, but the week has finished in the twinkle of an eye.
Monday was a chill Sanlúcar preparation day. In the evening, we had a Noche de Hogar with Frank and Ana Belén. Frank gave a really good lesson about obedience to God. We were joking around with him that he was doing it just to Machacar us, haha, but that obviously wasn’t the case. After, we decided to stop by Javi and Loli and see how they’re doing. They are members of the branch who left in January for Pamplona to take care of some work related items, but are needing to stay there longer in order to keep receiving treaatment for some health problems there. So, they were just in town for this week only. We shared a short message with them and their grandchildren, who aren’t members.
Tuesday was a festivo, El Día de Los Trabajadores, which is the Spanish equivalent of Labor Day. We were scheduled to have interviews with President Andersen in San Fernando. It requires taking a bus and a train to get to San Fernando from Sanlúcar. Bus and train schedules are really limited on festivos. Thus, we had a small window of time to be able to be in San Fernando before we had to start heading back to Sanlúcar in order to keep our citas for the evening. President Andersen was also running a few hours behind on his interview schedule. So my interview just lasted five minutes and consisted of renewing my temple recommend hahaha. But it doesn’t matter, I will be having my exit interview with him next week. We did have to run to the train station to avoid missing our train. It was worth it though becsuse our citas ended up turning out well. One was our Noche de Hogar with Aurora. Ángel and Charo, a menos activa that we’ve started working with, were both there. We talked about temples and family history work and the spirit was super strong. After, Virginia, a member, invited us over for dinner to meet her non-member husband, Antonio, and that ended up being really good as well.
Most of our work Wednesday revolved around having a Noche de Hogar with the branch. In case you can’t tell, we really like Noches de Hogares. A lot of members were able to come, and even a few investigators! Mike came with his two kids (but had to leave a bit early to attend to a family thing) and Leticia was there too. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned who Leticia is before. She’s been coming to our English classes for the past month and was introduced to us by Nina, another member of English class. Anyways, Leticia has shown interest in learning more about our message, and this Noche de Hogar was really our first opportunity to teach her. We shared about the plan of salvation as our message, and she really liked it and do had some good questions.
Thursday consisted of a lot of planning. First we did our weekly planning session, and then later we met with Miguel Ángel, the branch mission leader, to have our correlación meeting and also to plan Ángeles baptism. So, this day involved a lot of planning, but it definitely payed off.
Friday was another whirlwind day as we went to Sevilla to have zone conference. They talked a lot about the baptismal goal and not wasting time on Facebook and stuff like that. In the mission, every missionary that’s going home at the end of the transfer gives their “dying testimony” during zone conference, and it was my turn to do that. It felt weird. I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing out here haha. It was also cool to see and catch up with Elder Pack for the first time in a long time. Companions are really one of the best blessings of the mission. It sucks being around someone else 24/7 for an extended period of time, but you really grow to appreciate them and learn a lot from them. I am forever indebted to my wonderful mission companions, from Elder Krummenacher in the CCM to my trainer, Elder Pesce, and Elders Catmull, Jarvis, Pack, Moffat, Liza, Kassing, Clark, and Castillo.
“And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God” (D&C 42:6)
Saturday morning was very stressful, but also fantastic. It was Ángel’s baptism!! We got to the church three hours before it was supposed to start and the hot water heater wasn’t working. This was despite our branch mission leader successfully testing it the day prior and promising to us that it would work. Well, after some frantic phone calls, he came over to the chapel, and got it working within a matter of seconds. I guess he must have the magic touch. But, the font was filling up really slowly, and the baptism started 40 minutes late. Also, the Puerto Hermanas wanted to come and bring an investigator with them. But when telling them what the bus schedule was, I messed up and told them a completely wrong time. So after an hour of them waiting for a bus that was never going to come, I got a phone call from them, realized my mistake, and thankfully Dani was able to go pick them up. Murphy’s law especially applies to baptisms. So despite all of those bumps, it was great! I got to baptise Ángel, Nina and Leticia and Charo and a lot of members were there, all of us missionaries that were there threw together a last-minute musical number of “I’m trying to be like Jesus,” and Ángel got baptized!!! After the ordinance, while I was changing into dry clothes, I just felt so thankful for God’s hand in making this happen, and for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which truly let’s us become freed from our sins.
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
“For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
“And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
“Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:10-16)
I am grateful for the souls I’ve been able to see come unto Christ through faith, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Sunday was also a busy day. First and foremost, Ángel was confirmed as a member of the Church!! He was just beaming the whole time. Secondly, there was a couple visiting from Germany, and I was translating for them all three hours. Lastly, our branch broke the fast together, and so everyone stayed in the chapel for a big pot-luck meal after. After all that, I had to do my district leader responsibilities of rendering Cuentas, so it was a mentally tiring Sunday for sure. But super good too.
Another week is a wrap. One more to go…
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1: Done with life
2: The office bought us first class tickets on the train
3: Post-baptism featuring Nina, Leticia, Vanessa, and Virginia
4: Post-baptism district
5: Pre-baptism Ángel
6: I went to relief society
7: With our German friends
8: Until next time
My, my, my. Time surely does pass.
On Monday, we had our classic Noche de Hogar with Ángel and Yessenia and Aurora and Domingo and Antonio. We have been focusing a lot on getting Ángel ready for his baptismal interview. He has some problems with his memory, so we have just been reviewing the basics to help him remmeber things a bit better.
Tuesday was our classic district meeting in Jerez. Between walking, buses, and trains, it takes about two hours to get from our piso to the Capilla in Jerez and then two hours to get back. But, there’s not much that we can do about that. There was some good that came out of it, though. Last transfer, Elder Clark and I contacted this guy named Adam, who’s from London, but lives here in Sanlúcar. Well, as we were waiting for our bus, Adam came up to us and was like, “Hey, you guys remember me?” And then we proceeded to teach him most of the restoration on the bus! Classic miracle.
In the evening, we had a classic cita with Antonio Bernal. Frank accompanied us; he was one of the missionaries that taught Antonio when he was a missionary serving here, so that’s probably the best member we could have with us haha. Rather classically, Antonio said he was going to come to church this Sunday and then didn’t come, so we will keep trying with him.
Wednesday morning was pretty uneventful, we were just doing the classic routine of passing by Menos Activos. None of them were home. We did pass by a future/former investigator named Dalila and invited her to church. She said she would come, but classically canceled the last minute. In the evening, we had a little visit with Bibi and talked about prophets for a minute, before heading over to English classes. We have about four solid students, three of them non-members, so I would say that they’re going pretty well.
We were in the chapel most of the day Thursday. In the morning, we had our classic weekly planning session, and then in the evening, we went back to help clean the chapel. Then, there was a mission-wide district leader training meeting over video conference. That was something like the fifth or sixth of those meetings that I’ve attended, and they are always exactly the same. Exactly. Classic. There’s always something new to be learned, but it certainly does get repetitive.
Friday evening through Saturday morning, we had our classic Intercambios with the zone leaders in Jerez. However, the other week, Elder Harris rolled his ankle pretty bad, and has been ordered to stay in Piso to be able to recuperate. For that, on Friday evening, while Elder Castillo and Elder Wood went out to work, Elder Harris and I stayed inside and played chess. Haha. Elder Harris is also from Colorado, from a town by Grand Junction named Montrose. On Saturday morning for exercise, we got all of the Jerez missionaries together and played Fútbol. A classic missionary thing to do. Then, Elder Wood and I did some classic missionary work for a few hours of passing by people who weren’t home. That was a wrap for another Intercambio.
Yesterday was a pretty classic Sunday, basically all of the members came to church and the chapel was looking pretty full. Our new branch president has a lot of positive plans for helping the branch grow, and all of the members seem more excited right now. Elder Wood and Elder Harris were here for a few hours on Wednesday to give a classic baptismal interview to Ángel, who passed it, and will be getting baptized on Saturday! More on that next week.
Well, after having completed 100 weeks in the mission and 34 weeks in this area, everything has just turned into a bunch of ritualistic routines. But I suppose that’s just what life has to be like sometimes. I found a classic talk this week by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin called “One Step after Another” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/one-step-after-another?lang=eng). He said:
“An old proverb states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
“Sometimes we make the process more complicated than we need to. We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be. We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.”
“We don’t have to be fast; we simply have to be steady and move in the right direction. We have to do the best we can, one step after another.”
That certainly is good advice. The mission is certainly a journey of a thousand miles. I certainly have fretted about how long it takes and how hard it is. In fact, even though I only have two weeks left before I go home, in a way, it still feels like I’m going to be a missionary forever and that there is no end. But there is an end. Jesus Christ is the end. “…Have peace,” He said. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). That classic scripture is what has helped me trust in Christ to clear the obstacles that crowd my course. The only reason why I have been able to make it this far is because of Him, and He will help me, and each one of you, keep moving on, one step after another.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1: Going for a stroll in Jerez
2: More productive district meetings
3: “I am an older man, a widower without children. I need a lady no older than 55 or 60, who is honest and is nice to look at. It would not matter to me if you were a single mom. Both her an her children would have all of my care, love, and respect. I’m willing to get married if that were an option.”
4: Hamburguesa + Patatas Fritas + Bebida = 3€
5-6: Fútbol on the intercambio: Elder Harris, Elder Burnard, Elder Wood, Elder Darrington, Elder Stark, Hermana Grover, Hermana Villanueva, Hermana Matos, Hermana Aguilar
7: Views in Jerez
8: Until next time
Let us travel back in time to last Monday, when I was sitting on this same couch, also writing my weekly email. I had no idea what I would be expecting to happen during another week in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Oh wait, I have been here for 33 weeks, so I knew exactly what was going to happen, and for those who have read these emails the whole time I’ve been here, you too will not be surprised by anything I write here. Or maybe you will. It was a decent week.
We were invited on Monday to a Noche de hogar with Frank and Ana Belén and their perfect family. It was a good reminder of the importance of Noche de Hogar and how it brings families together. A family that does Noche de Hogar together stays together. On the other hand, a family that spends the day apart from each other and drinks all of the time in his little kiosk doesn’t have that promise. I’m talking, of course, about Fernando, who is an investigator that we visited later Monday night. We’ve been having some good lessons with him about obedience this week and how God’s commandments are for our protection, buttering him up to learn about the Word of Wisdom. He definitely needs some help. Now what’s left to see if he’ll take what we and the Savior both have to offer him.
Tuesday was another day, of course, and like almost every other Tuesday for the last two years, we had district meeting. If you look at the first picture, you can see just how productive it was. The theme of the meeting was taken from the seventh chapter of the Book of Jacob in The Book of Mormon, verses nine through eleven.
“And I said unto him: Deniest thou the Christ who shall come? And he said: If there should be a Christ, I would not deny him; but I know that there is no Christ, neither has been, nor ever will be.
“And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.
“And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.”
Simply reading the scriptures as pure text won’t lead us to understanding. What will is prayerfully meditating and applying them in our daily lives. That’s a hard skill to be learned, so as a district, we’re going to be focusing on teaching our investigators better that they may do that. That way, we can have the “…peace and the love of God…among [us as we] search the scriptures, and hearken no more to the words of…wicked men.” (Jacob 7:23)
Well, besides that smash hit of a district meeting, we also had Intercambios here in Sanlúcar. This is the first time that there has been other Elders in my district that I’m the district leader of here, so this was the first time we did Intercambios in Sanlúcar. Elder Darrington and Elder Burnard came. Elder Darrington and I were both trained in Elche at the same time and have been around each other for most of our missions, so we are good friends! We had a really spiritual cita with Tomas, one of the members who is going through a bit of a hard time right now. But wow, the spirit was so strong during that cita, and it was a really uplifting experience for everyone. I wish you all could have been there to feel it.
Wednesday was the day to finish up the intercambio. Elder Burnard visited Fernando for a few minutes and read Mosiah 2 with him and talked about how we can’t lie to God. Still buttering him up for our eventual Word of Wisdom lesson jeje.
So, Ana Belén had been talking us up about this one guy she knows from work named José and kept telling us that he really wanted to come to church or come to some church activities or something. We planned a Noche de hogar con la rama for Wednesday night mostly motivated by him. Not only did José come, but Olga, his girlfriend, did too, and we just got two new investigators thanks to some solid member missionary work!
Thursday is kind of a blur. It was just more teaching repentance and baptizing converts, probably. That’s what we’re out here to do.
Friday was also a pretty uneventful day because I woke up sick and rested all morning. In the evening I was feeling much better, which let us do our weekly planning session and have a Mike de Hogar. Same old, same old.
Saturday was a crazy day. Matilde is a member. She is La madre de toda España. She is about 70 years old, and is the only member in her immediate family. As a gesture of goodwill, she invited us to her grandson’s first communion on Saturday. She had also invited some less active members we were trying to make contact with, so that seemed pretty good: go sit in a Catholic Church for an hour, go eat lunch somewhere else, and subtly do some missionary work in between. The service in the church was at 11, and then lunch wasn’t served until 1:30. Which means they just started an hours-long binge fest of eating plate after plate after plate. Suddenly, it was 5:30, we had to go, and the main dish wasn’t even served yet haha. And then the menos Activos we were trying to get in touch with didn’t even come. It was an adventure, but I was happy to get out of the Spanish party environment when we did. We had good lessons with Sara (another menos activa) and Ángel, and all was well.
Yesterday was the most typical Sunday I’ve ever had in Sanlúcar, so I won’t even bother to detail things. I was asked to give a 20 minute talk right before the sacrament meeting started, but even that is typical of the Sanlúcar branch, so you probably already knew that happened even before I mentioned it.
See you next week.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
P.S. Only Sanlúcar kids will get the subject of this email.
1: Power board in District Meeting
2: Intercambios with Elder Darrington and Elder Burnard
3: Looking at the pine tree
6: After the comunion
7: The “Cero-Cero” club
8: Old French guys r dumb
9: With my best friend Paula
10: Until next time
This was more or less an average to mediocre week. It all started, like most weeks do, on Monday. We had an exciting Noche de Mike that ended up being a lesson on the Word of Wisdom. Mike is a slow learner, but he’s definitely learning.
On Tuesday, we had a fun visit with Bibi. It can be frustrating to teach her because she has a ton of doubts that need to be resolved and when we start trying to help her with one doubt, that just basically opens up the door for her to bring up even more doubts. I think that her main doubt is concerning the imperfectness of man. If man is imperfect, how can we trust what they wrote in the scriptures or what modern day prophets say? It basically gets down to that every time. I like what the prophet Wilford Woodruff once said:
“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”
Basically we are trying to explain that it is the Lord’s church, and it’s organization and doctrines are perfect even if the people always aren’t, but it’s going to take some time to get to that level of comprehension for Bibi.
We had our district meeting in Jerez on Wednesday. From the time we leave our piso to the time we get to the chapel, it’s about two hours. It was a good meeting, we have a good district this transfer. It’s also a pretty old district, everyone with one exception is over a year in the mission. In the evening, we had English classes, which are still going well. We have about one member and three nonmembers that come. We have a Noche de hogar planned this week after English class because some of the nonmembers expressed interest in coming. We’ll see what happens!
Thursday was a terrible day.
Friday was better, we spent a lot of time in the Capilla because we had to clean it, do weekly planning, have our correlación meeting, and teach some lessons. Pretty exciting.
Saturday was OK, we met with Manuela, a menos activa in the morning, and then in the evening, we spent a few hours walking around trying to make contact with some unknown members. That didn’t go that well. Most people weren’t home and the people who were didn’t want anything from us. Luckily, we met with Antonio Tomate who gave us a dinner, and then Ángel later that night, so the evening ended much better than it started. Ángel is on track to be baptized on May 5. We are reviewing all of the lessons with him one more time to make sure that he understands everything before the baptismal interview, but he’s excited, and the rest of the branch is excited for him, too!
In theory, we have a pretty good investigator pool right now, but ever since Semana Santa, it’s been hard to pick back up meeting with some people on a regular basis. And technically we have three other investigators besides Ángel who have baptismal dates for May 5, but due to various circumstances, we haven’t seen any of them for a looooong time. Life just gets so complicated.
Hopefully we see a bit more progress this week.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1-2: The Great Apostasy. We did this in a Noche de hogar to teach the great apostasy where everyone was given a minute to look at this beautiful drawing I made and then try to remember it without being able to see it. We can clearly see why the restoration was necessary.
3: Mi amiga Yessenia
4: With Sara. We took this picture to send to her twin sister, Raquel, who is on her mission in Argentina.
5: Jerez District: Hermana Grover, Hermana Aguilar, Elder Castillo, Elder Wood, Elder Burnard, Elder Harris, Elder Darrington, Elder Stark
7: Another day
8: Until next time
This week was transfer week. I, not surprisingly, am still here in Sanlúcar de Barrameda for my sixth and final transfer. Who is not still here is Elder Clark. He was transferred to Cartagena. It was sad to see him ago, because in addition to us being together for three transfers, he was also my hijo (son). My new companion is named Elder Castillo. He is from Costa Rica, and in addition to speaking Spanish (obviously), he also speaks fluent English, French, and Italian. He’s a chill guy, so it seems like I said goodbye to one good companion and got another good one.
On Monday we had a good Mike de Hogar on which we talked about personal revelation. We showed him President Nelson’s recent talk concerning the matter. I can’t remember everything that happened in the lesson, but I have re-read this talk several times this week. There’s no one part of his address that especially stands out to me, because I love it all! I love his invitation to “increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.” It’s such simple counsel and yet so profound such that we may be able to “[sift] through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth…We must learn to receive revelation.”
Tuesday was the last district meeting ever for the Puerto de Santa Maria District. First, they closed my mission. Next, they closed the MTC. Now, they’ve closed my district. What’s next? The reason why they did that is because the number of missionaries that the church is sending to Spain is already decreasing, so there are a few less missionaries now in the mission then there were last transfer. One of the areas in Puerto was a pretty slow area and the Piso there had routine problems with bed bugs. So, that would naturally be a good area to close, and instead of having a four person district, the remaining set of Hermanas are in the San Fernando district and we are part of the Jerez district. I am once again the district leader. The Manwarings made us a nice American lunch, and we said goodbye to them because they also go home this week.
Wednesday morning, Elder Clark and I headed up to Jerez so he could catch his train to Sevilla. I spent the rest of the morning with Elder Burton and Elder Burnard waiting for Elder Castillo to get in. Once he did and we got back to Sanlúcar, we went right over to English classes. I don’t think I mentioned this last week, but we had a record-breaking three people come to it both last week and this week!! This past week, all three of our pupils were non-members, so that’s even better! It’s nice to actually have something work out for once.
On Thursday, we were able to meet with Alfonso and Antonio Sarmiento. Alfonso has been doing a lot better recently and we have been reviewing the commandments with him. This week was the fourth or fifth time that we’ve met with Antonio, and he seems really committed to coming to church on Sunday, but doesn’t make it. Poquito a poco.
Then on Friday, we went to Chipiona for the first time in a long time, trying to hunt down some less active members. Couldn’t find any. In his last area, Elder Castillo was teaching an investigator from Morocco who speaks French. We had a Skype lesson on Friday evening with the missionaries in Cáceres, a member there, the Investigador, Elder Castillo, and this one French Elder in our mission. It was cool but somehow even after taking three years of French class in high school, I don’t even know a single word in French. So I just sat there, but it was cool. I’m grateful for technology which makes teaching moments like this possible.
Saturday was an OK day. We met again with Alfonso and were able to resolve some questions and doubts about tithing, and we also gave our good friend Antonio Bernal a visit. We tried to visit Bibi, and she was in her store, but was throwing up like every fifteen minutes. So, we gave her a blessing of health. Hopefully she’s better.
Yesterday, Sunday, was another good fast and testimony meeting. Hearing the testimonies of the members of the branch made me think about 1 Nephi 14:14, which says:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”
Since there are not many members of the Church here, I really think that it makes being a member of the Church a lot harder. I really admire the members here in Sanlúcar and their strong conviction to live the restored gospel. Quoting President Nelson’s talk again:
“You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.”
I know that to be true. I know that the Lord has spoken to my heart and I have received my own spiritual witness about the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, the veracity of Joseph Smith, Russell M. Nelson, and all of the other prophets’ holy callings, and above all, about the reality of Jesus Christ. I am ever grateful for this time that I have been given as a missionary to help others understand the same thing.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1: Love u bag street
2-6: These gardens outside of the ayuntamiento that we visited on Monday.
10: Noche de Hogar
11: With Elder Burnard, waiting for our new companions
12: A Spanish cemetery
13: Oh Rocío
14: Storm’s a comin’
15: Elder Castillo
16: A semana Santa themed sucker
17: Until next time
“…Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). Our Heavenly Father is a “…God of truth, and canst not lie” (Ether 3:12). The Church of Christ is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20). The Lord has also declared, “whether [I speak] by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Thus, we can be sure that when we hear our living prophet and his Apostles speak, it is the voice of the Lord, and what they are saying is the unchangeable truth.
It was a wonderful general conference this weekend! Very historic. We went to the stake center in San Fernando to watch the sessions (at an eight hour time difference) and even though we were just in a small upstairs room, watching it in English, with a handful of other missionaries, the spirit was just as strong as if we were there personally in the conference center. I felt the unmistakable impressions of the spirit testifying to me that Russell M. Nelson is indeed God’s prophet, and I am anxious to review his instructions given to us over the coming days, weeks, and months.
Also, yesterday was Easter! In Spain, it’s not just a one day holiday, but a week long festivo. This involves losts of processions through the streets, including giant floats (not sure if that is the right word) of scenes from Christ’s last week, marching bands, and people dressed in the traicional (traditional) Semana Santa pointy cap robes. Yeah, the ones that look like what the KKK wears. I’m not sure what all of the symbolism behind it is, but I think one reason they’re like that is because the people in the parades are repentant sinners, participating as some sort of rite to receive forgiveness, and it’s something they do anonymously.
All of these processions naturally caused some interruptions to missionary work, making it harder to get from place to place and also not being able to meet with some of our investigators, but we managed to survive. There was even a procession that passed on the street right outside of our Piso one night, which we were able to watch from our balcony. Of course, I will attach pictures.
Some other news coming out of Spain is that the Spain MTC is closing at the end of the year. When they announced that our mission, The Spain Málaga Mission, was being dissolved into the Spain Madrid and Spain Barcelona missions, they made a big deal of reminding us that they’re not “closing” the mission, but “consolidating” it. I have had fun over the past few days reminding people to say that they are “consolidating” the MTC, not “closing” it, but I think my unfunny sense of humor was not understood by most haha. It is sad to see, but understandable as to why the church is making this decision.
In the sprit of Easter, we went to Frank and Ana Belén’s house to share the “SiempreAhí” message with them and encourage them to share it with their friends. They have these two daughters, Paula, age 4, and Carlota, age 2, that are just the funnest little kids to be around. Paula was playing with a Minnie Mouse doll and the “Richard” doll, named after me, that I sent a picture of in one of my previous emails. I ended up using the dolls to act out the appearance of the resurrected Christ to Mary Magdalena to her. So for the next half hour she was walking around the Piso with the Minnie Mouse doll saying, “dónde está Jesucristo?” I guess that means I explained the first part of the story pretty good but probably lost her on the second part haha. Oh well. It was cute. She’ll figure it out eventually.
We also had stopped by Tomas’s house one evening because he hadn’t been to church in a few weeks. You may remmeber him as being the father of Raquel, who left on her mission to Argentina several months ago. Well he was there, and so was Sara, Raquel’s twin sister, who is menos activa, and I feel like we had a good lesson with them and I definitely felt like I got to know Sara a lot better. It was a really positive interaction.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned María Ángeles, and her sister Ana María, and Ána María, the daughter of her namesake. They let us come back this week and teach them which was super good because we thought that they really weren’t that interested. None of them kept their commitment to read the Book of Mormon that we had left them, so we re-emphasized the importance of it, and invited them to do it again. Hopefully they do.
Also, we saw Alfonso a few times during the week. He’s still doing good. He was watching General Conference yesterday at his house. We’re going to be working our best to make sure he’s at church every week from now on now that he’s doing better.
Lastly, this is going to be my last transfer. I come home in six weeks! My trainee, companion for the last three transfers, and good friend, Elder Clark, is being moved to Cartagena. Elder Castillo from Costa Rica is going to be my final companion. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to him, but he’s been in the mission for over a year, so he’s breaking the trend I’ve experienced my entire mission of my companions progressively getting younger in the mission. (My trainer was at 1.5 years, my second companion at 14 months, my third companion at 1 year, my next at 6 months, etc.) It’ll be good to shake things up a bit.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1: A scene from the Garden of Gethsemane
3: With Tomas and Sara
4-9: Semana Santa on Bag Street
10,13: Catholic roadblocks
11: We met a pig
12: Cool stripes
13: Dani is French
14: District meeting
15: Until next time
This is approximately my 30th week in and email from Sanlúcar de Barrameda. If all of my emails have been the same, that’s only a representation of real life.
Monday was a fun preparation day. We did all of the things that we normally do, namely, play Fútbol, eat out, play chess, and write home, but everything was just extra fun for some reason. In the evening, we had a really good lesson with Cintia, who you’ll remember is the daughter-in-law of Domingo. We were going to review what we had taught her about the restoration, but then she opened up and told us that she really worries about what happens when we die and why hard things happen in life. Isn’t it amazing that thanks to God communicating through prophets, we have the answers to those questions? It was a really spiritual lesson, and we even set a baptismal goal for May 5 with her.
Tuesday was another good day. We had our district meeting in Puerto. I’ve lately been planning meetings that revolve around one theme, and this theme was the Doctrine of Christ, or in other words, the things that Jesus asks us each to do: have faith in Him, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. It’s always good to focus on the basics. In the evening, the stake presidency was here and wanted to do some visits to less active members and investigators with us and the branch presidency. I ended up going with one of the Stake Presidency counselors and the Elders Quorum President to visit Bibi. It was a really good visit, and slowly but surely, we are helping her overcome her doubts. Then, we did our normal Noche de Hogar and taught Angel about how the Priesthood is power. He’s definitely getting baptized on May 5.
Wednesday was the day when we finally got around to fixing the lock with the key stuck in it. Dani, the old French member, got the key unstuck in like 30 seconds, and then we just had to take it to a locksmith and get a copy. It was super simple to fix. We headed out to Chipidog to help out cleaning the dog cages, and taught another English class to Bibi’s husband, so we put in some good service that day. We also had a really good visit with Mike, who is such a nice guy but not the fastest learner, so we reviewed The Restoration and it seemed like he got it a lot better than times in the past. The Spirit was also super strong in the lesson, and he said a really sincere prayer asking if the Book of Mormon was true.
On Thursday, we did our weekly planning in the morning and then headed to Jerez to do intercambios with the zone leaders. I never look forward to doing intercambios, but they always turn out OK. I was with Elder Harris, who is also from Colorado (Montrose). He also just finished serving in my old area in Jaén, so that was cool. We finished the intercambio up on Friday and then headed back to Sanlúcar. Antonio Sarmiento called us again, wanting to meet. He wants to come back to church, but I guess it’s really hard after not coming for 20 years, so we’re trying to be really positive and as welcoming as possible with him.
Saturday was good, too. We had an OK cita with Bibi in the morning and then went and stopped by some investigators and Futuros with whom we set up citas for this coming week. Hopefully we will be having some good lessons with them. We also met with Alfonso, who is doing a lot better right now and is working and seems a lot happier than he has been for the past few months.
Sunday was an interesting day. It was the Sanlúcar branch conference, and a ton of people from the stake and their families were visiting, so the chapel was completely full. They also released our branch president and called a new one, which I don’t think anyone was expecting. It will be exciting to be the first missionaries to establish a solid relationship with this new president. The funny thing is that our last president is named Daniel and is from Jerez, and the new president is also named Daniel and is from Jerez.
Lastly, with this week being Semana Santa aka Easter, the church has given us a fun new initiative called “Always There.” I’m pretty sure it’s a Europe-only thing. I really like it, it is such a good message about how Christ is always there for us. Just as D&C 84:88 says: “…I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” You can all see the video associated with this topic at http://lds.org.uk
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1: District. Elder Clark, Elder Stark, Hermana Malcolm, Hermana Moncayo, Hermana Walker
3: Some cats
4: Burger King haha
5: With Paco and Presidente García after our visit to Bibi
6: Intercambios with Elder Harris and Elder Wood
7: There’s trouble ahead
8: Until next time
Well, well, well.
We live in a Piso in the centro of the city, in a building with about 10 apartments total. We are the only tenants which live here full time as the other pisos are either summer homes or up for sale. Normally it’s very nice because we basically have the entire building to ourselves most of the the time, but yesterday we ran into a major problem. There are two doors that you need to use in order to enter into the building, each having a separate key. There is one giant set of wooden doors that lead to the street, and at the end of a short corridor, a locked gate. As we were going back to Piso last night, our key broke off inside of the giant outside doors, and because nobody else lives here, there was no way for someone to just buzz us in. We were getting really stressed about it, but luckily for us, our across the street neighbor, Dani, is a great guy, and he showed us how to break into these types of doors using nothing but a credit card to get in. So we still need to get the lock fixed and the key copied, but we were almost in a pretty sticky situation yesterday.
Besides that, yesterday was an average Sunday. It was raining really hard in the morning, so a bunch of people didn’t come to church, as normal, but we helped out with a primary lesson about missionary work, so that was pretty fun.
It was also really rainy on Saturday evening and we decided to stick with our plan of passing by some menos Activos before the citas we had later in the evening, and we got absolutely drenched. We did find this one family who was sealed in the temple and everything, but left the church because of a fight they got in with some of the members. It’s frustrating that it seems like every menos activo that we’ve met stops going to church because of some stupid feud with another member of the branch! Aren’t forgiveness and charity supposed to be the basic facits of Christianity? It reminds me of the Lord’s chastisment to Joseph Smith after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon, which is found in D&C 3:6-8 (emphasis added):
“And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.
“For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words–
“Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.”
Anyways, that’s been a pretty annoying pattern we’ve seen several times as we’re trying to help out these less active members. If I sound frustrated, that’s only because I am. We’ll see what more can be done to help them.
On Friday, we had a decent cita with Mike. He’s doing pretty good. The only thing that was holding him back from coming to church this week was potentially being too hung over after a party on Saturday night, so I guess that’s what must of happened because he didn’t come.
We also had a cool finding moment, where we had about an hour in the morning between citas. We had planned to stop by this one antiguo investigator but as the morning went on, I stated to second guess that decision because it was kind of far and we didn’t have a ton of time. Well, something kept telling us to go there, so we did, and the guy wasn’t home. But, we contacted this lady outside of the building that was super nice and super interested in having us come back. One of her daughters was actually an investigator from a few years ago who stopped metting with the missionaries just because they lost contact, it seems. We’re headed back on Wednesday, and we will see what’s there.
There was a district leader training meeting on Thursday evening in Málaga. But due to technology, we were able to connect through the meeting through an app called Zoom. It’s a cool idea, but honestly wasn’t that good in practice because the audio was really bad so it was hard to understand anything, and it just felt weird to participate from the other side of a screen. So, I probably would have gotten more out of the meeting had I been there in person, but it was an interesting experiment at the very least.
Wednesday was a good day because we were able to go to the dog shelter with Guadalupe and work a bit cleaning out the dogs’ cages. There’s nothing like the unconditional love that lonely dogs can give haha. We also taught Bibi’s husband in English class and had a fun Noche de Hogar.
Tuesday was a pretty normal day. We had district meeting in the morning and our Noche de Hogar in the evening.
And then last Monday I can’t even remember, everything just fades together.
So, the moral of the story is the following: once you “have experienced a change of heart, and…have felt to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26) and have “laid down the weapons of…rebellion”(Alma 23:13), do not become like the Nephites of old and “turn from…righteousness, like the dog to his vomit” (3 Nephi 7:8). Please.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1: Just a field and some clouds
2: The District eating lunch
3: Futuro misionera
4: Castle at night
5: Suited up, weapon in hand
6: People here are really Catholic and really into Fútbol
7: The future of missionary work?
8: In December 2016, I made a goal to sing every hymn in the Spanish hymn book at the beginning of companionship study. I finally finished on Saturday.
9: Until next time