Seven days later, here I am again. We figured out last night that I have been a missionary for 91 weeks—about the same number of days that Elder Clark has been in the mission field.
We found ourselves in San Fernando on Monday for the usual “preparation day with many missionaries from the Zone.” It was fun to see other missionaries and play Fútbol and email. That’s usually about it. The only downside is that we have to spend a few hours of our p-day traveling but it’s worth it to go every six weeks.
That evening was our normal Noche de Hogar with Aurora. We focused the lesson on reviewing the importance of baptism. As I indicated in my last letter, it’s been hard to meet with Maru due to her new employment, so she wasn’t able to be there. That allowed us to focus more on Ángel. The both have baptismal dates for the fifth of May, but Ángel is basically ready and willing to be baptized now. We tried to see if he wants to move the date sooner, but he wanted to keep the same date because he’d like to be baptized when Maru is. However, he told us thst if Maru, for whatever reason, doesn’t end up getting baptized thst day, he still will. That seemed like a good enough plan to us.
Tuesday afternoon was really special. Many of you will remember Raquel, our 19 year old member, who got her mission call to the Argentina Cordoba mission a few months ago. Tuesday was her setting apart and farewell. It was nice to see all of our members there supporting her, and you could feel the spirit so strongly as her, her father (who served a mission) and the Stake President shared a few remarks. When it came time for the setting apart, to our surprise, Elder Clark and I were asked to be in the circle, given that we both have the Melchezideck Priesthood. Helping to set apart another missionary was not something I had expected to do on my mission, but it was a great experience. So, for a short time on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, before she left for the airport, there were three missionaries in Sanlúcar! Haha. We also were able to see Maru (she came to the setting apart) and Alfonso that day, so it was good.
One of our big long-term projects for a few weeks now has been updating the branches member list. We spent some time on Wednesday passing by people who are on the list that we don’t know. Throughout the week, we’ve seen moderate success with this and there have been a some people who have invited us back.
Also on Wednesday, we had English class, but it turned into more of a web development class. You see, the only reliable student we have coming to English class right now is Vanessa, the branch Relief Society President. She is from Nicaragua and studied/worked in IT when she lived there. Because there’s not that many jobs in that field availble here in Sanlúcar, she’s been branching out and was looking for a way to get her hands on a domain name and hosting to make up a mock website for a client of hers (which happens to be Bibi, our investigator). I have been waiting my entire mission to use my computer skills to help someone, and I was even able to give her some space on my server and an unused domain name to help get her started. That was really cool.
Thursday, honestly, is just kind of a blur. Friday and Saturday too, for that matter. We were able to meet with Bibi somewhere in there. We’re still focusing a lot on helping her build Faith in Christ, because she believes that he existed, but I don’t think she understands very well what he did and what we need to do because of that.
“He [went] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…and he [took] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [took] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).
So, He did all that, and what he asks us to do in return is “repent, and be born again…therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7:14). This is the doctrine that we’re trying to get her to understand better so she’ll actually act on it. Poco a poco.
Sunday morning it was raining, which usually means a lot of people flake out of coming to church. Well they missed out. In the afternoon, we were able to coax Mike down to the chapel to give him a tour of it. This is the first time he’s really taken a comprehensive look at a Mormon meeting house. I think his favorite part of the tour was a singn of the Young Women’s values that he took a picture of. He said he was surprised at how organized everything was, like all of the different programs and classes and meetings. He seems a lot more interested in coming now.
Well, that’s another one. See you again next week, same time, same place.
Élder Stark ??
1: Te echaremos de menos, Hermana Valencia!
3: One of the member’s little daughters named this doll “Richard,” after my middle name
4: Another day, another car accident outside our house
5: Mission call letter from 1989
7: Us and Chimney
8: Until next time
Well, as the title of my email suggests, we got transfer calls yesterday, and I’ll be staying in Sanlúcar for the rest of my mission! Which means when all is said and done in 12 weeks, I’ll have been here for 6 transfers, or about 9 months. Elder Clark and I are going to be together for a third transfer too, which we’re both happy about. Sanlúcar has really become my home and the great people here have really become my family, so I can’t think of a better place to be.
This week was pretty rough. Monday started out good with a nice tranquilo preparation day and a good visit with one of our menos activos, Antonio Bernal, who sounded certain that he’d come to church on Sunday. (He ended up not being able to due to a death in the family, but promised us this week he’d be there.)
Things took a turn for the worse on Tuesday when we got a call in the morning that Lola died. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Lola before. She was Aurora’s elderly aunt, and was always in her house, on her same chair by the window, every time we passed by to give Aurora the sacrament or have a Noche de Hogar. She was 88 and basically, it was just her time to go. We went to the funeral home on Tuesday to go to the viewing. It was an odd feeling seeing her dead body there, but comforting know that she was “…taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). We also were in the funeral home on Wednesday for the small Catholic mass before her cremation, and really it was just the ideal place to be on Valentine’s Day. Okay, we were happy that we were able to be there to support Aurora, but it was still super depressing.
Also, somehow there were a lot of things dependent on Lola being alive. The good news is that now Aurora can start coming to church on Sundays, but the bad news is that Maru, our investigator, had employment and was always in Aurora’s house because she took care of Lola. So now that she no longer needs to be in Aurora’s house and has already found a new job taking care of someone else, we’re unsure of when we’re going to be able to teach her.
Thursday is kind of a blur because Elder Clark ended up getting sick and was throwing up, but we still had to go put on a branch Noche de hogar thst basically nobody came to, so that was a sad day too.
Friday morning was nice because while Elder Clark was resting, I woke up with a ton of energy and was able to deep clean some parts of the Piso. And by the evening, he was back to feeling good, so we were able to go out and try to pass by a few people and then clean the chapel.
There was a guy that we met in the street on Monday evening named José, and he seemed really interested in English Classes. So interested that he started messaging us on WhatsApp right after we met him on the street. That was a good sign, or so we thought. It turns out that he just thought my companion was guapo and was trying to flirt with him, so we ended up blocking him. Men are pigs.
Then Saturday came around. Nothing really of note happened on Saturday, although it was probably the most decent day of the week.
So, all in all, this week kind of sucked. These words of Alma have become a source of peace and encouragement:
“O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people…
“O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.
“Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee” (Alma 31:31, 34-35).
I’m still working to have my afflictions “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38), but it is comforting to know that He is always standing shoulder to shoulder with us in the fight.
Élder Stark ??
1: Carnival lights. I forgot to mention Carnival. I’m not sure what the purpose of it is, but it was a holiday they had this week thst was basically like a second Halloween. People were getting pretty crazy for the past few days.
2: We made a stop by Carlota’s birthday party. Carlota’s the two year old daughter of Frank and Ana Belén.
3: Oh yeah I live in Spain
4: The funeral home is in the middle of nowhere
6: Mikeing it up with Mike
7: A picture of some chairs that I took
8: Go away, future José
9: Until next time
Here we go again.
Last Monday, it was really cold and we didn’t feel like doing much for preparation day, so we just played a lot of chess. It was really fun. We had our customary Noche de hogar that evening and taught Maru and Ángel and Yessenia about the Word of Wisdom. They all loved it and were quick to commit to living it. #GrandesTesoros Since the previous day was Elder Clark’s birthday, we had a mini-birthday party for him too. People are really nice.
Tuesday was an interesting day because we had district meeting in El Puerto de Santa Maria in the morning and then had to go to Jerez immediately afterwards for intercambios with the zone leaders. I worked with Elder Wood for the night, and nothing that exciting really happened. That’s just the boring reality of missionary work sometimes. You go out hopeful that you’ll find that one person or help that investigator make that one breakthrough, but more often than not, it’s just more of the same: talking to people who aren’t interested in learning about the important message we have to teach them or investigators getting tripped up by the same doubts or failures to keep commitments. I guess that’s just the way things are supposed to go: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…” (2 Nephi 28:30). I’ve seen investigators firmly keep commitments and overcome their doubts. There are people who are interested in what we have to say. Our hope is not in vain. It just takes a lot of patience.
Well, the Wednesday morning part of the intercambio was pretty much like that too. When we got back, we went again to the dog shelter to help out one of our members. It’s such a relaxing service project because all it involves is being around friendly dogs and cleaning out their cages.
We had to go back to El Puerto de Santa Maria on Thursday to take a district photo. We were informed on Tuesday evening (after we just had district meeting earlier in the day) that we had to take a photo as a district with some type of gratitude for President and Sister Andersen shown in it, and have it sent in by Friday. We went there, took the photo, did weekly planning in their chapel, and then came back to Sanlúcar. That evening we went back to Augustine’s house, but he wasn’t there, and apparently doesn’t have a phone, so we’ll see when we can see him again.
Friday was a decently productive day. The morning was spent passing by a few people with whom we’ve been trying to get in contact, as well as fixing the WiFi in the chapel. Our first cita that afternoon was with Daniel. We went with him and his family to a park and talked to him while his daughters played with his wife. We went over the program for quitting smoking, and he seems determined to do it. Apparently he’s done it before, too. We also taught his 10 year old daughter, Rosalia, a bit about prophets and the Book of Mormon. It was a good little cita.
After which, we went to visit Bibi. We were really trying to help her understand the necessity of a Savior. We read out of Alma 42 and talked about how through Christ, God can be both just and merciful. I think we helped her clear some thing up and recognize better why Christ is important and how He saves us from both sin and death as we choose to follow Him. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.
We had a smiliarly themed lesson with Mike that evening, and we watched “The Mediator.” (https://www.lds.org/video/book-of-mormon-visual-resources/2010-06-05-the-mediator?lang=eng) I love this video because it really helped me understand the Atonement of Christ when I was younger. It’s seriously such a good analogy. I would encourage all of you to go watch it.
On Saturday morning, we found ourselves in Puerto once more for the baptism of Abigail! This is the first time in five years that the American Military branch has had had a convert baptism (which isn’t really surprising considering that you can’t proselyte on base haha). It was a rally spiritual service, and we were all really happy for her. There was a big American lunch afterwards, that was really nice too.
Yesterday, Sunday, was a decent day too. The only bad thing was getting a million WhatsApps from Daniel informing us that his family had been kicked out of their house and he was really stressed out trying to figure out where they’re going to live. Hopefully he’ll be able to find something soon. We had a nice gospel principles class about receiving personal revelation, mostly trying to help Maru gain a personal witness of the truthfulness of the Book for Mormón. On the way to church, I had remembered that Paco, the Elders Quorum President had asked me to give the lesson in priesthood meeting too, so I hastily threw together something based on the talk “Has the Day of Miracles Ceased?” By Elder Hallstrom (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/has-the-day-of-miracles-ceased?lang=eng). It turned out about as well as it could have. So all in all, I had to teach two hours of lessons yesterday. It was pretty fun in all honesty.
To finish, here’s a quote from President Joseph F. Smith that I came across in preparation for the gospel principles lesson.
“When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even of the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase”
Learning how to recognize the Holy Ghost is a lifelong pursuit. Helping others recognize this voice is one of the key elements of the work we do. Being able to listen to that voice ourselves is what permits us to do it. It takes patience and consistency, but I know that God does indeed communicate to all of us through the Holy Ghost. It’s just up to us if we choose to listen or not.
Élder Stark ??
1: I saw a pillar of light…
2: Sanlúcar magic
4: The district
6: Antonio’s reading material for his grandkids
7: Good morning, Jerez
8: Until next time
It was another normal Sanlúcar week. Here’s the important things that happened.
On Tuesday, we had a great Noche de hogar with Ángel, Yessenia, and Maru. We had invited them a while ago to be baptized on the 3rd of February, and obviously they weren’t quite ready yet. We reviewed the importance of baptism and they committed to a firmer baptismal date on the fifth of May. I believe that they could definitely be ready before then, but at least they’re committed to the idea of getting baptized. That’s the important part.
One of the members in the branch, Guadalupe, volunteers at a dog shelter once a week and has always told us that we’re welcome to come help her whenever we want. After somehow not taking her up on her invitation for something like four months, we finally went on Wednesday, and it was great! There’s about 15 dogs at this shelter and we were given the task of cleaning out their cages. It was hard work, but really fun and good service for the community. In the words of Elder Clark, there’s nothing like the unconditional love and attention that animals can give you. Well except for God’s unconditional love. But you know what I mean.
On Thursday morning, we were going to do our weekly planning until we got a call from Daniel, one of the antiguo investigators we’ve been trying to set something up with. Daniel is an interesting guy. He didn’t have the best examples growing up, and eventually got into drugs and did a stint in prison, but really wants his kids to have a brighter future than he did, and he knows that it’s the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can get him there. He’s got some problems he needs to get over before he can be baptized, namely smoking #alsoadrug but he seems really determined to get there. We set a baptismal goal with him for the fifth of May. At church on Sunday during sacrament meeting, while someone was bearing their testimony about their own fight giving up smoking, I saw him get out his phone, go to his calendar, scroll to May, and put down “Bautismo de Daniel” on the fifth. Seems like a good sign.
Later on Thursday evening, we went to Augustine’s house. He is the brother of Juan, one of our investigators. Augustine is also pretty crazy, and somewhat of a hoarder, and there was not a place to sit in his house when we dropped by. But, he told us to come back the next day and that he’d clean off one of his couches so we could sit and talk. We so did, and were able to share some of the first lesson with him, but it seems like his attention span is really short. He was really happy that we were there though. So we’ll see.
Friday morning was pretty crazy. Dani, one of the members, was going to take us out to visit Manuela, a menos activa. She lives in the Campo, so it’s necessary to take a car to get there. Dani just bought this 20 year old big cargo van the other week, and that was what he drove us to her house with. Well, we got to Manuela’s house and were inside giving her the lesson when her son came in and was like, “What happened to your tire??” None of us realized anything was wrong, but it turns out that the right right tire on the van was just utterly obliterated (see picture below). We’re still not sure how that happened. We then spent the rest of the morning helping Dani change his tire. That was a fun adventure.
Saturday was a good day. We started the morning off with a visit to Bibi. Once we got there, we started talking about something that made us want to show her the Mormon Message “Life’s Drama.” (see here:https://www.lds.org/video/mormon-messages/2016-04-1000-lifes-drama?lang=eng) It was good that we were then taking about being personally accountable for our actions because halfway through the lesson, a Jehovah’s Witness decided to come into her shop and she started talking and got onto the topic of original sin. They believe that if Adam hadn’t eaten of the forbidden fruit, we would all still be living in a Garden of Eden like paradise. It was funny to see Bibi arguing with this testigo about this doctrine and really it made me feel grateful for the Book of Mormon, which explains so clearly that the Fall of Adam and Eve was a positive and necessary step forwards. As it says in 2 Nephi 2:22-25:
“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”
This whole idea of man existing to have joy through “the Messiah [which] cometh in the fulness of time” (2 Nephi 2:26) came up during a baptismal interview that I gave on Saturday evening to one of the Hermanas’ investigators in Puerto. The name of this Investigador is Abigail; she’s English and is working as an English teacher here in Spain. She first came to know about the church four years ago when she was in college and missionaries knocked on the door of her house where she lived with five roommates. At first they had just invited the missionaries in for a bit of a laugh, but one of the girls ended up getting baptized and is now married in the temple and Abigail basically had a testimony of the gospel at that point too but never ended up getting baptized. Seeing the death of President Monson a month ago prompted her to reach out to the missionaries again, and this Saturday, she’s getting baptized! Anyways, something she said during the interview that really struck me was the fact that Christ did everything he did and suffered everything he suffered so that we could be happy. It’s up to all of us to choose to follow the source of all happiness. We follow Him by following his gospel and His commandments.
Church worked out well on Sunday; we had five investigators there and Manuela came for the second Sunday in a row. Alfonso was sick so he wasn’t able to come. All is well.
Well, as was officially announced by the church on Thursday, as of July 1, 2018, the boundaries of the Spain Málaga Mission are being absorbed into the Spain Madrid and Spain Barcelona missions. This is not a change that will have an effect on me personally as I finish before that date, and I really don’t think it’ll have that much of an impact on the day to day work that missionaries are doing in the areas anyways. There were some members at church yesterday who thought that meant they were taking all of the missionaries out of the south of Spain, but that’s obviously not right. Although there is an element of sadness with this change, it’s really not that big of a deal. This is the Lord’s work and it’s going exactly how He wants it to, for He is in charge.
Élder Stark ??
1: Elder Clark turned 19 this week!
2: Yessenia gifted us some gloves
3: Perros (dogs
4: Besitos (little kisses)
6: “Somos en el campo” – Dani (“We are in the field”)
7: Until next time