Sunday, May 4, 2014

We're Here!

We started our flight to Spain on Monday, April 28th, from Salt Lake City at 11:00, had a one hour layover in Atlanta, and arrived in Madrid at 8:35a.m., Tuesday, April 29th.  Elder and Sister Hatch flew in at the same time, but on a different flight.  They will be serving on the island next to us, Tenerife. President Jackson and his wife, the president of the mission,  picked us up at the airport and took us to the mission home, where they were having a Zone Leader Conference with thirty of the young missionaries.  They were an amazing group of missionaries, and their excitement and enthusiasm for their service to the Lord was very inspiring.  We look forward to our opportunity to serve with some of them.

Sister Hatch with all of our suitcases.

We dropped off our suitcases at the hotel and were grateful to not have to lug them around.  Then we went back to the mission home and we were able to take a nap to try to help us through our jet lag.
The Jacksons are just wonderful, so friendly and welcoming.  The mission home is in a beautiful suburb of Madrid.
President and Sister Jackson
Backyard of the Mission Home
The perfect Spring Day for eating outside.

That evening we went Retiro Park, which is 350 acres.  It was so nice to walk around, see the beautiful sites and to enjoy visiting with the Jacksons, Hatchs, and also the Buhlers, whose place we are taking on the island.  
The Jacksons, The Larsens, The Buhlers, and the Hatchs

Puerta de Acalá

The next day, we slept in, trying to conquer the jet lag.  Because we had a kitchenette in our hotel room, we walked across the street and bought a few groceries at a German store named Lidl.  It was just like shopping at Aldis, for all of our friends who are familiar with that German chain that is in the United States.  Then we had training with Paco Serrano and his wife.  He and his wife are wonderful. They have served tirelessly in Spain.  They are full of energy and enthusiasm and their love for the Lord and desire to help others is inspiring.  They both have amazing conversion stories.  It was wonderful to meet with them.  Brother Serrano works for the church and is over employment. Unemployment in Spain is about 30% and on the island, it is higher than that, especially among the young adults that we will be working with.  The church has a 3 day course to help people with resumes, job searching, interviewing, networking, etc.  Then there are weekly follow up meetings.  People who have taken the course and put forth the assigned effort do find jobs.  We will be making sure this program is being used here in the island, and could possibly be teaching these classes.  It could be a great help for our young adults.
  Dinner with the Serranos

The Hatchs, The Larsens, and The Serranos

Thursday morning we were able to attend a session at the Madrid Temple.  There is a beautiful complex there with the temple and two other buildings that house the MTC, Institute, Distribution Center, and hotel rooms for those who come long distances to attend the temple.  The temple is a beautiful building.  Cody is delighted to see the growth of the church in Spain since the time he served in 1976-1978.  He could never have imagined a temple in Madrid.  
Cody outside of the Madrid Temple

After attending the temple we were able to visit Kenny and Susie Lovell.  Kenny is the new president for the Madrid Missionary Training Center.  They will be serving here for two years.  We took the bus downtown, ate at an Italian restaurant (which was unheard of when Cody was here) and then took a quick walk through Retiro Park.  Cody and Kenny grew up together in Bartlesville and roomed together one year at BYU.  Cody and Susie worked together at Phillips when Cody was working summer jobs while he was in college.  It was so fun to reconnect with these wonderful people.  We are grateful for their service.  
The Lovells and the Larsens

Friday morning, the big day had arrived.  We flew to Las Islas Canarias.  The Hatchs flew out at the same time to Tenerife.  After spending the past three weeks with them, it was sad to say goodbye. 
This is actually their third mission.  They are a great example of those who are willing to serve the Lord.  We will be attending a zone conference on Tenerife in a few weeks, so we will be able to see them then.  
A view of Gran Canaria from the plane.

The Stake President picked us up at the airport.  He dropped us off at the house we will be living in.  It is located in a smaller town in the mountains, about a 20 minute drive from Las Palmas.  The views are amazing, and it is much greener in this area.  The house is a story all of its own, so I will save that for our next post.  We spent Saturday getting settled and bought a few groceries.  We were not able to find fresh milk and I was not brave enough to by the kind that sits in a box on the shelf.  We will have to try another store this next week.  
Elder Beuden,  Nielsen, Cody and Cheryl Larsen, Hermana Smith,  Caballero, Elder Brewer, McWhorter

We attended church at the ward in Las Palmas.  There were about 160 people in attendance.
Everyone was so friendly and they all came up to introduce themselves.  All the females gave me a kiss on each cheek.  That is their way of greeting each other.  I was a little discouraged because the people speak very fast and clip off the ends of their words.  I had a very hard time understanding them.  But, I am determined to get better.  Cody is doing very well with the language and I am so glad that he can communicate with everyone.  
Cheryl and Cody wearing their pin and tie.

To help unite our family while we are far away, we purchased matching ties for all of the guys and little boys, and the girls all have matching pins and hair clips for the little girls.  We will all wear them on the first Sunday of each month.  So, our first Sunday away from home was a first Sunday of the month and here we are wearing our pin and tie.