Email 1/1/18

Hello everybody,
Happy new year. It’s crazy to think that I just spent the entire year of 2017 as a missionary in Spain. It’s even crazier to think that 2018 is the year that I finish.
Well, Christmas was on Monday. We spent most of the day in Puerto, chilling in the capilla with the Hermanas. Because there was nothing better to do, we ended up watching a few old church movies and playing a ton of Monopoly Deal. We also were able to Skype our families. It was the third time talking to mine. It’s weird to think that the next time I talk to them on Mother’s Day, it’ll be four days before I go home haha. After Skyping, we had to walk for an hour to get out to where the Shaw family lives, who had invited us over for Christmas dinner. It was such a great American feast. I have been really grateful for all of the hospitality shown to us during the holiday season.
Then, on Tuesday, things went back to normal, so we had district meeting that morning. Everyone had brought a different type of fruit to the meeting, so after, we had some traditional Christmas Smoothies together! They were probably some of the best Christmas Smoothies which I’ve ever had in my life. That evening was our weekly Noche de Hogar in Aurora’s house. Ángel and Yessenia were both there, but Maru thought it was on Thursday, so she didn’t end up being there for the lesson. That was almost better, because it really helped us focus the lesson almost entirely on Ángel, and we were able to better figure out how much he’s understanding of what we teach him and how he’s feeling about it. In the end, in turned out really well.
We decided to do our weekly planning session on Wednesday morning since there was a future in Chipiona who said he could meet on Thursday (which didn’t end up working out). While we were planning we heard coming from outside a long honk, followed by a crash. There was a little car accident on the street right in front of our Piso, so that was exciting. After planning, we went to eat lunch with Matilde, our “Mamita.” She needed some help moving a refrigerator from a Piso on the other side of town to her house. So, we all went to the piso where the refrigerator was and had to carry it down a flight of stairs, load it in a van, and move it into her house. Facilito. Later in the day, we had a great cita with Paco and Paqui, some less active members of the branch. Paqui’s dad was actually the first branch president of Sanlúcar, but she and her husband have been living in Las Palmas for the past six years, and just moved back to Sanlúcar this summer. It was heartbreaking to hear that they feel like the members of the branch are completely indifferent to them which I guess stems from some personal problems they’ve had with other members in the past. Well, luckily we hit it off really well with them and they invited us to come back, so hopefully we can help things become reconciled.
On Thursday morning, Dani asked for a hand moving some glass display shelves than he made from his house to Bibi’s store. The rest of the morning was spent helping to arrange them and then scrape glue off of them, so it was another good service opportunity. We even went back a little bit on Friday morning to help finish up.
Then, on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, we had an intercambio with Elder Wood and Elder Wilding in Jerez. It was a really, really good one. The other Elders in Jerez had found someone named Bryan in their area book, that they passed to the zone leaders because he lived in their area. He’s a Spanish-American, born in Nashville, lives in Jerez, and works as an airplane mechanic on the Naval base. We had a cita set for 5:30, but when we got to his house, only his dad, just your basic old Spanish man, was home. He was nice enough to invite us in, and we tried sharing something with him, but it didn’t really end up going anywhere haha. Luckily, Bryan was just running a little late, and when he came in, we were just explaining to his dad a little bit about what the Book of Mormon is. The first thing Bryan said was, “Dad, do you know what this Book is? It’s incredible!” He then went on to perfectly describe what the Book of Mormon is and the importance of it. Turns out that someone on base gave him a copy in English about six moths ago, and he’s been reading it ever since. We went on explaining a bit about Joseph Smith, and Bryan’s dad asked, “So basically, what you’re just telling me is that Joseph Smith made his own church.” Bryan responded by saying, “No dad, he restored the church of Jesus Christ to the earth. That’s why this book is so important.” Bryan gets it. So, we committed him to being baptized in February. That might have just been the most prepared new investigator I have met on my mission. At the same exact time we were with Bryan, our companions were at another new investigator’s house and committed her to being baptized, too. The rest of the intercambio was honestly pretty uneventful, but that didn’t matter, because we found Bryaninstantly making it the best intercambio ever.
Yesterday, Sunday, was an odd day. Half of our branch wasn’t at church, and I guess nobody bothered to plan much of the meetings, because five minutes before church started, I was asked to give a 20 minute sacrament meeting talk. Then, I was also asked to teach the combined third hour priesthood/relief society class right before it started. Luckily, if there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do on the mission, it’s how to give sacrament meeting talks and other random classes without any preparation, so everything went over well. That’s not to say it wasn’t stressful though haha. To celebrate New Years Eve, Elder Clark and I had a very nice meal of Pollo Asado and French fries. For dessert, we had a pumpkin pie that I got my hands on thanks to connections with the military base. Then, we promptly went to bed at 10:00 as we always do, and amazingly enough, we woke up in another year.
One of my messages in church yesterday revolved around this passage of scripture from 3 Nephi 12, verses 13-16:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
I love this passage because it shows us how the Savior uses us to spread His light thoughout the world. The more good we do, the more of His light we are spreading. 
Élder Stark


1: Skyping home
2: Christmas Smoothies
3: Car crash
4: The big-screen District
5: Our phone got stolen this week
6: Otro día (another day)
7: Otra comida (other food)
8: Until next time


From our Christmas morning skype call
From our Christmas morning skype call


Email 25/12/17

Hello everybody,
Merry Christmas! It has been a very enjoyable second (and last) Christmas season on the mission, and I hope that all of you had happy holidays too.
We’ve been able to celebrate Christmas a few different times this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we were in Sevilla for the Christmas zone conference/talent show. That was a really enjoyable time. Then, last night, we went with all of the Hermanas in Puerto to the Fry’s house, one of the American families here associated with the naval base. We read the nativity story, we sang, we ate desserts, and we played jumbo jenga. Today, we’re spending the day in Puerto, and there’s another American family that invited us all over for dinner tonight. This was a very good place to be during the holidays, haha.
Our missionary work this week went really well too. Mike came back from the United States, so we’ve started back up with him again. Also, in our weekly Noche de Hogar with Ángel, Yessenia, and Maru, we talked about the importance of baptism, and established the Fecha of February 3 for all three of them! This is amazing because the last time we invited Maru to be baptized a month or two ago, she just kind of laughed it off, but this time, she was serious about it and seemed more dedicated to do her part in order to feel ready for that day. What was also amazing was that morning, I had the idea to invite one of the members, Virginia, to the Noche de Hogar, but before I got around to calling her, I got distracted by something and forgot about it. Well, right as the Noche de hogar was beginning, who should knock on the door but Virginia? She had decided to “randomly” stop by Aurora’s house while walking her dog, and ended up staying for the entire lesson and played a key part in it. That was a nice confirmation that the Lord is definitely in charge of His work.
Something sad happened this week in Chipiona. After being able to teach Carmen, Mari Carmen, and Jessica about the restoration this week, we were excited to see them again. However, when we showed up to their house in Chipiona, we found a note on the door that said that Mari Carmen’s husband found out that we had been stopping by to teach them, and he didn’t like that at all. So, they politely asked us to stop coming. It’s an understandable situation, but still sad. What help make up for it was meeting a Spanish-American family that runs an American bakery there and also this one other future that we got. So even though there are bumps in the road, the Lord’s work always progresses.
Yesterday in Sacrament meeting, I was assigned to give one of the talks. Here is the gist of what I shared:
Part of the nativity story is when Christ’s birth was announced by an angel to the shepherds. Luke 2:8-20 relates the following account:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
All week, I was thinking about why these shepherds were chosen to be the first to hear about the birth of Jesus. I have come to a few conclusions for why this could be so. They relate to the traits these shepherds had that we should emulate and to how Christ is, in fact, “The Good Shepherd.”
I believe that one reason why this angel appeared to those shepherds was because they were humble enough to value the news that was being given to them. This is shown through their immediate response to go into Bethlehem to search out Christ. Their response wasn’t postponed; they didn’t say, “How neat. We’ll have to go check that out sometime.” Rather, “they came with haste, and found…the babe…” Their humility and faith in the Savior was shown through their immediate response. Surely this is a trait to be emulated.
Additionally, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” I think that one reason why they were glorifying the Lord is because they recognized their dependence on Him. This is attribute that comes through humility. We read about this in Alma 26:12, which says: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.” Thus, what we can learn from these shepherds is to remember to glorify and praise God for His strength, which permits us to do all things.
Furthermore, the shepherds “made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” They wanted everyone to know about the Savior who had come to save the world. Similarly, Preach My Gospel teaches that, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the ‘great … importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth’ (2 Nephi 2:8).” We can see this principle clearly manifested in the examples of these shepherds.
However, the main reason why these shepherds are good examples to emulate is because they were emulating the best example of all: that of The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In John 10:14-15, He Himself declared, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The role of The Good Shepherd is further explained in 1 Nephi 22:25:“And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.”
President Uchtdorf shared the following about The Good Shepherd:
“To me, the parable of the lost sheep is one of the most hopeful passages in all of scripture.
Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows and loves you.
He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears.
It matters not how you became lost–whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your control.
What matters is that you are His child. And He loves you. He loves His children.
Because He loves you, He will find you. He will place you upon His shoulders, rejoicing. And when He brings you home, He will say to one and all, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
That is the Good Shepherd. That is who’s birth we are celebrating today. God gave the world the greatest gift through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gave the world His greatest gift through his humble submission to the Father’s will. The greatest gift we can give to Them is our hearts. And that’s what Christmas is all about.
Élder Stark ??


1: 100 missionaries singing in Carrefour
2: Elder Jarvis
3: Chipiona
4: Christmas cinnamon rolls
5: Christmas fire (Hermana Pinkney, Hermana Bočková, Hermana Matsu, Hermana Walker, Elder Stark, Elder Clark)
6: Christmas jenga
7: Christmas tree
8: Until next time

Alfonso was confirmed

Email 18/12/17

Hello everybody,
Here we are again.
Finally on Tuesday, we were able to get in contact with Alfonso. As it turned out, the reason why he couldn’t come to church last week was because he was in the hospital due to a stomach ulcer! Fortunately, it’s all better now. And even more better, he was confirmed as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints yesterday! I was given the opportunity to be the one to carry out the confirmation, which was a neat experience. Alfonso is so excited to be a member and is looking forwards to receiving the priesthood soon. Actually, we were teaching him about the priesthood in Gospel Principles class, and he was asking when he’d be able to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. We told him that it would surely happen soon, but we weren’t sure what the branch president’s timetable was going to be. Well, as soon as we had finished the lesson, our branch president popped his head through the door and said, “Alfonso, you’re getting the priesthood today,” so we were like, “Good thing we just had that lesson haha.” But it turns out that they need to wait until his records are in the church’s system to give him the priesthood, so that’ll happen soon.
We were able to give some service to the members this week through decorating the chapel for the branch Christmas dinner, which happened on Friday evening. We were also inviting all of our investigators and other people to come. There’s this guy named Fernando that runs a little kiosko here. He’s Argentine, but lived in Seattle for a while, and speaks decently good English. He has an English Book of Mormon, and sometimes we stop by to read a chapter out if it with him (we also discovered that he really didn’t have a good understanding of what the Book of Mormon is, so we’re going to be working on that). Anyways, we invited him to come, and he did, along with his wife and son! While he was introducing himself to the members, he said he was “practically Mormón,” so maybe we can help him become actually Mormón now. Our investigator, Bibi, and her husband came too, so the activity was good.
Something else cool that happened this week was in our pueblo, Chipiona. There’s this family consisting of a grandmother (Carmen), daughter (Mari Carmen) and granddaughter (Jessica) who have been somewhat investigating for a while. In other words, every time we would go to Chipiona (usually once a week), we’d stop by their house and usually just be able to share a quick message in the doorstep or something to whichever one of them happened to be home. Well, this past week we were finally able to go in the house and teach them the full restoration lesson, to all three of them. That was great. It’ll be great to go back and see if they have been able to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and how that went for them.
And those were pretty much the exciting highlights of the week, everything else was pretty normal. We had a good lesson in Elder’s Quorum yesterday about following Jesus Christ and following His perfect example. That includes trying to do what he would do, trying to say what he would say, and following all of the commandments He has given us, including His perfect gospel of faith, repentance, and baptism. Here’s a scripture that was especially applicable to this week seeing as though Alfonso received the Gift of the Holy Ghost yesterday as part of the confirmation:
“And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do” (2 Nephi 31:11-12)
Élder Stark ??


1: Feliz Navidad
2-3: El distrito de la Navidad: Hermana Pinkney, Hermana Bočková, Hermana Matsu, Hermana Walker, Elder Clark and Elder Stark
IMG_5637 IMG_5636
4: Plaza de toros
5: Antonio at it again
6: The Branch Christmas Dinner
branch party
7: Alfonso after being confirmed
8: Until next time

Another week. Another email.

Email 11/12/17

Hello everybody,
This was a pretty basic week. Besides a trip to Jerez on Friday morning for Consejo de la Zona, nothing too out of the ordinary happened. There were two festivos this week and it seems like people were just a tiny bit more flaky because of those. Nevertheless, we have helped move the work of the Lord forward a week more.
Our investigators Maru, Ángel and Yessenia are the ones we are probably seeing the most to progression with. We had a Noche de hogar with all three of them on Tuesday and all three where at church on Sunday. On Tuesday, we were talking about faith, and Maru made the comment that she wasn’t sure if she had seen the hand of God in her life before. So on Sunday, we were able to take advantage of gospel principles class to teach about recognizing the hand of God in our lives. The conclusion we came to is that this recognization usually comes looking backwards and recognizing all of the small and simple things that perhaps seen like coincides but really are parts of Heavenly Father’s divinely designed and personalized plan for each of his children. Yessenia is also going to be asking her mom this week for permission to be baptized (her mom is a less active member), so the hope is that her mom will consent to her being baptized.
We found a new investigator this week named José Antonio. He was this guy we contacted sometime last week who is really smart, but really really likes to talk haha. We met up with him on a bench in the center of town and were trying to teach him about the Restoration, but were having some issues keeping the lesson focused on, well, the lesson. We saw one of our members walk by and we flagged him over, and he joined us in the lesson which really helped it stay more focused. All in all, we got through the whole thing, and he committed to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, it was definitely work to get to that point to haha.
Besides that, everything was pretty normal. Alfonso has disappeared off the face of the earth since a few days ago, so he still hasn’t been confirmed. Surely we’ll be able to get ahold of him soon and help him with whatever has been preventing him from coming to church and being confirmed.
Yesterday in sacrament meeting, I was asked to give a talk, and was given tema libre. So, I choose to talk about faith and how that relates to believing that God and Christ have the power to do anything, but in the end, choosing to accept their will over ours. Elder Bernar explained in this way in an Ensign article titled “Accepting the Lord’s will and timing” (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/08/accepting-the-lords-will-and-timing?lang=eng):
“Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in moving mountains–if moving mountains accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in healing the sick, deaf, and lame–if such healing accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Thus, even if we have strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed. If all opposition were curtailed, if all maladies were removed, then the primary purposes of the Father’s plan would be frustrated.”
President Uchtdorf summed up this principle with the following words: “No, the purpose of faith is not to change God’s will but to empower us to act on God’s will. Faith is trust–trust that God sees what we cannot and that He knows what we do not” (Two things that faith cannot do, Ensign March 2017). Developing this type of faith takes practice and patience. It is a principle I am still working on developing. When things don’t go as I wish they would, I have the tendency to think, “if only I had more faith, than this thing would have happened.” What I should be thinking instead is, “if only I had the faith to accept more easily what God is having happen.” Faith is all about accepting the Lord’s will and timing, and being empowered to act accordingly.
Élder Stark ??


1: Just read the dang Book, okay?
2: View from the top of the castle. We live somewhere down there.
3-4: Visiting the castle
5: Our district = Un equipo
6: By the beach
7: Underpass in Jerez
8: Until next time


Hello everybody,
Good day to you all. This week was a long one, but a good one.
On Monday, we went to Sanlúcar Fernando for zone p-day. It was a bit crazy because that evening, I had to take a train to Sevilla to spent the night, and Elder Kassing went to Jerez to stay with the Elders there. I caught a train early Tuesday morning to get down to the mission office, where all of the missionaries that were training were, and they gave us the trainer’s training. After which, we were driven up to the mission home where all of the new missionaries were waiting to get their trainer assignments. I think that we were more nervous than they were haha. I was assigned to be companions with Elder Clark, from Moses Lake, Washington. Training him has been a really good experience so far. We’re been getting along really well, and it seems like it’s going to be a great two transfers. Although it was sad saying goodbye to Elder Kassing, it’ll be a good experience with Elder Clark.
Wednesday mostly just involved traveling back to Sanlúcar. It was pouring rain most of the day. It always seems to rain hard on transfer day. It had rained enough that parts of the train line from Sevilla to Málaga were flooded out, so we were sent on a long, cramped bus ride to get there instead. Later in the day, we actually found out that there was a train from Málaga to Sevilla that had left right before ours was scheduled to leave that derailed and had injured 35 people, so it was good that neither us nor any other missionaries were on that train. There’s actually another companionship in our district that is pinkwashing / training in one of the Puerto areas, so we were with them the entire journey. Needless to say, it was a relief when we finally made it back to Sanlúcar.
Every Thursday, we play a game of Fútbol. Lately, attendance has taken kind of a nose dive. after showing up to play and it being only us and two other guys that came, we played for a little while, and then spent some time walking around in our Fútbol clothes, contacting jóvenes in the street playing Fútbol. It sounded like a lot of them that we talked to were down to come. We even walked past some of them last night, and they recognized us and were confirming where and when it is. It’d be great if we had a higher turnout this week.
Then, on Friday, we had interviews with President Andersen. Which is unusually early into the transfer. Also super soon for the new missionaries who just were interviewed by him two days ago. It was really good though, as always. It’s not unusual to see President only 2-3 times a transfer, but last week, I saw him four out of seven days.
Well, the work here continues chugging along. There were a few minor setbacks this week though. First, Alfonso, was baptized two weeks ago, still isn’t confirmed because be couldn’t come to church yesterday due to a family situation. Second, we’re having a difficult time figuring out when we can visit Alba and María and their family, because we haven’t been able to teach them in over two weeks now, and that’s been kind of frustrating. Also, we called Alejandro, who I think I wrote about last week, and he told us that he probably won’t be able to meet with us again for a few more weeks. Furthermore, a few other of our investigators are out of town at the moment. But, on the bright side, Maru and Ángel were able to come to church yesterday, and both keep progressing little by little. Yessenia couldn’t come, but she’s doing good too. And, the schedule for the coming week is already looking like it’ll be a good one. So we’ll see.
We’ve been having a fun time trying to incorporate #IluminaElMundo #LightTheWorld in our every day work, and it’s been going well so far. Although really everything that de do for missionary work is service already, it’s been nice having an extra charge to do more things we probably otherwise wouldn’t do. Go to http://mormon.org and see for yourself what you can do to make the difference in someone else’s life.
A nice quote I found this week comes from the book, Adjusting to Missionary Life. It says: “Using these resources will enable you to rely on the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement. He is the ultimate source of help in dealing with the demands and stresses of missionary life.” I like that because it is true that there are a lot of good things out there to help us cope with the trials and hardships that come to us all in life, but Jesus Christ is the ultimate source of help. I like the way that President Nelson said the following in his April 2017 General Conference talk, Drawing the power of Jesus Christ into our lives. He said:
“When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him–when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life–you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.
“When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you.
I know that promise is true for I have felt it in my own life. And, I can’t think of any better time to stretch towards the Savior than this time of the year when we celebrate his birth.
Love you all,
Élder Stark ??


1: Que awkward
2: Train station
3: Showing up early to trainer’s training
4: The mission home
5: With Elder Clark!!
6: The hermanas from my group went home ?
7: Some clouds
8: Until next time

Then the full corn shall appear

Hello everybody,
First off, the transfer news. Elder Kassing is leaving to go to Alicante, and I’ll be training a new missionary next transfer. So that’s going to make things a bit crazy, but I’m really excited (and nervous) for this opportunity. More on this to come. This is also home the week that all of the Hermanas in my group go home, so that’s odd. I guess it really has been a year and a half.
This week was pretty fun. Although Thanksgiving is a strictly American holiday, we still had a fantastic celebration on Thursday. That’s the advantage of being in the only part of Spain where there’s an American branch. The president of that branch invited us and the Hermanas over to their house for Thanksgiving, where there were a ton of other Americans there too, and only American food from the Navy Base, so I ACTUALLY HAD A REAL THANKSGIVING THIS YEAR. It was something I was not expecting to experience on my mission, but the Lord must really love me.
Speaking of gratitude, here’s the words to one of my favorite Hymns, Come, Ye Thankful People (Hymns, 94). It is an excellent song for this time of the year.
Come, ye thankful people, come;
Raise the song of harvest home.
All is safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield,
Wheat and tares together sown,
Unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade, and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear.
Lord of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.
It’s important to be grateful for the bountiful harvest of blessings that the Lord always provides us with.
Alfonso was supposed to be confirmed yesterday, but woke up super sick and wasn’t able to come to church. So that will be happening next week. President and Hermana Andersen even came all the way from Fuengirola to be there for it. So it’s unfortunate that he got sick, but that’s just the way things go. Yesterday was also the primary program. Elder Kassing and I have been helping out with that, with him singing with the kids and me playing the piano. It went really well. They even gave Yessina, our 10 year old investigator, a part in the program, which was really cool. We taught her the first lesson at her grandma’s house that night too. Good stuff.
We hosted a branch breakfast on Saturday morning to kick off the #IluminaElMundo / #LightTheWorld Christmas iniciativa de servicio. I would encourage all of you to check out http://mormon.org and see how you can follow the example of Jesus Christ and serve others this Christmas season.
We found some new investigators this week, named Alejandro and Mari Carmen. Alejandro I mentioned in my email last week, and Mari Carmen is his sister. We taught them both about the Restoration, and they were loving it. We committed them to baptizim on the 30th of December. It’ll be nice to work with them, they’re super prepared for the gospel.
Besides that, más o menos It was just another week of missionary work. All of the craziness with transfers is about to start, so that’s it for today.
Élder Stark ??


1: Embarking on another day
2: American Thanksgiving
3: American food
4: American missionaries eating American Thanksgiving food
5: Lighting the world
6: Happy birthday Miguelito
7: Until next time

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.
Élder Stark ??


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

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 ??


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

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.
Élder Stark ??


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

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.
Élder Stark ??


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