Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our First Visitors

 I am thankful this week that the post office has been so efficient.  We got the package from my mom without any problems.  It was just like Christmas!  Thank you post office, and thank you Mom and Karen for all of your efforts to get our package ready and sent to us. 

Then another miracle!  I had ordered five keyboards through a program that donates keyboards and books so that people who do not have pianos can use these keyboards in their homes to practice.  We have several teenagers at church who want to play the piano, and we need more pianists for our meetings.  The keyboards have been here on the island, in customs, since June 26th.  I was beginning to think that they would be sent back and I would never get them. But no, they were finally delivered! The young women will be so excited to get started with their lessons.  We are working on a schedule for September, when school starts.

This week seemed short because we didn't get back from our trip until Monday.  We were busy with our usual schedule of piano lessons, English classes and cooking.  Wednesday we had a good district meeting with our missionaries.  One of the messages that was shared was about the blessings that we have seen in our families because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I enjoyed hearing each of these missionaries talk about their own personal blessings.  There are so many challenges in our world today, and each of the missionaries shared how Christ's gospel gives them direction and helps them to strive to be better people.  The Lord has shown us the way to go and the path to follow.  These missionaries are happy to be inviting others to come unto Christ.  
 Elder Bybee, Wiltbank, Thunell, Gentry, Hermana Irigoyen, Grover, Elder Hansen, Dyer

We were in Vecindario on Wednesday night.  These two great young men are always at the church with a smile on their face.  They will be young adults next year.  We will enjoy having them in our group. Luis's sister, Irenis is serving her mission in Barcelona, Spain.  We have been emailing each other, and I send her letters as well.  This week I got a letter in the mail from her.  I love feeling of her spirit and the joy that she is experiencing as she teaches people about Jesus Christ.  

 We invited a couple of leaders to join us.
They felt old with our young group, but they are younger than us.  

Elder Larsen teases me that my blog could be entitled, "Cooking Adventures, " because of the adventures and near disasters that we have in cooking and transporting food.   This week, we had another adventure, and a little miracle.  We had sent texts to our young adults to get an idea of how many would be at our class and dinner on Friday night.  I fixed pasta salad for about 8 people, and had a batch of Jewish Sweet Bread.  I also had a small cake for dessert and I thought we were all set.  Then about 1 1/2 hours before we needed to leave, we got a call from the missionaries.  They said they would be coming to our meeting with an investigator.  Then I was concerned that I would not have enough food.  I quickly boiled some more pasta, and decided to make some banana bread, because the cake would not be enough.  When I opened the oven door to put the bread in, there was no rack in the oven.  I looked everywhere, but no oven rack.  Then I realized that I had probably left it at the church. I have to use it so that I can stack pans on top of each other in the small ovens, so that I can keep food warm when I take it to the church.  The clock was ticking, I had less than an hour to bake the banana bread that takes 65 minutes, and no oven rack.  Elder Larsen found this pan that fit on the shelf holders, but I couldn't bake the bread on that.  Then I remember seeing this other odd rack and the bread pan fit on it.  Wallah!  I was able to bake the bread, and it cooked in under an hour.  We arrived at the church 7 minutes early!!

And some of my favorite people were at the building.
 Hermana Grover, Elder Bybee, Elder Wiltbank, Hermana Irigoyen, Aida Cruz

The hermanas were there because they had two investigators that were going to come to our class. 
Now I was really glad that I had prepared extra food.  And then we waited.  Andres, Sara, Aida, and Omar came, and that was all.  The other four young adults who had said they were coming, didn't, and the investigators never showed up.  All the rushing around, making more food, fixing the banana bread had been unnecessary.  Oh the joys!  But the missionaries are always grateful for our leftovers.  I had fixed the chicken pasta salad for both groups on Wednesday, so Elder Larsen and I were tired of it. We loaded up two containers, sent all the leftovers home with the missionaries, and they were happy! More importantly, Elder Larsen gave a wonderful lesson and we had a really good discussion. Andres is investigating the church and Elder Larsen was able to answer some of his questions.  That is much more important than any of my cooking adventures.  

Elder Wiltbank, Omar, Andres, Elder Bybee

We have our first visitors at the old mission home.  Hermana Smith and her parents arrived Saturday night.  Hermana Smith is going home and her parents have come to tour the mission.  She served here on the island for 7 months, and she was here when we first arrived on the island.  They will be visiting members and some of the people who she worked with.  They came bearing gifts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, maple extract, almond extract, cream of tartar,and karo syrup.  It was like Christmas all over again!  I could list why each one of these ingredients is a precious, coveted item, but I will spare you the details.
The Smiths are a wonderful family and we have loved having them in our home.  Sister Smith is from North Carolina, so we have many things in common with our Southern upbringing.  How happy they are to be here with their daughter and how proud they are of her, for her devoted service!

We attended church in Vecindario.  Elder Thunell spoke and gave a good talk.  He has a great spirit about him and a desire to serve the Lord.

Here are three of our young adults.   Jenny just got her mission call to London, England, Kimberly was just called today to be the rep for the young single adults, and Ruth just got baptized in April.  These are three great young women that we are privileged to be with.
Jenny, Hermana Larsen, Kimberly, Ruth

After Elder Larsen taught a good Sunday School lesson to the young adults, we drove to Las Palmas because Elder Larsen had a meeting.  I was able to visit with some our young adults.  These young people make me smile.  
Sara and Sara

I truly feel blessed to have this opportunity to serve the Lord.  I am reminded daily of the blessing that I have in my life because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  True joy comes from following the path back to Him.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Senior Couple Conference in Vigo

This week I am grateful that when I twisted my ankle on our way to the temple on Wednesday, that it didn't prevent me from doing all the walking and stair climbing that I needed to do for the next five days to be able to enjoy our trip.  I take that as a tender mercy from the Lord.

We spent our P-day (preparation day) doing laundry and getting ready for our trip.  When we got to the church for piano lessons, four of my favorite people were there.  They had just finished playing ping pong and were starting up a game of Scrabble.  It's nice for them to relax a little on their P-day before they start their teaching at 7:00 p.m.

Elder Wiltbank, Hermana Irigoyen, Hermana Grover, Elder Bybee

Then we went to a Family Home Evening with some of the members.  Some of our young adults had invited us.  Sara gave the lesson, and she used the talk that Elder Larsen had taught on Friday night.  It was nice to know that it had been meaningful enough to Sara that she wanted to share it that night.  She has here mission call to Brazil and she leaves in October.  She gave a great lesson and I could just imagine her teaching as a missionary.  

Singing at Family Home Evening

 I loved watching these two little ones play video games.  They are adorable.

After the lesson, we had some delicious food.
 Jonaton eating some of Gabriela's good cooking.

 Gabriela and JosuĂ© 

 Incredibly delicious arepas.

 Thank you Maria, Leo, and Gabriel for having us in your home.

Tuesday we finished packing, got ready for English classes and piano lessons, and we had the opportunity to visit Irenis' family.  We had a very nice visit with them and we were glad that Gabriela woke up before we left.  She is the cutest little thing.

After English class, Elder Larsen had a High Council meeting, so I got to visit with our four wonderful Las Palmas missionaries.  I sat in on a short visit and blessing of one of the investigators of the Elders.
I love and admire these young people.  They always have a smile on their faces and they face each day with such a positive attitude.  They are an inspiration to me.

We flew out Wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m., which made for a very short night's sleep.  President Jackson picked us up at the airport and we had a late breakfast with the Jackson's.  We always enjoy visiting with them.  They are wonderful people who are giving their all to their calling to serve the Lord.  It was while we were walking from the parking garage to the temple that I twisted my ankle.  It hurt so bad when I was laying on the concrete that all I could think was that we would just have to go back home and miss our trip.  I said a little prayer and the pain began to subside.  It was definitely tender and I knew I had hurt it, but I was able to keep going.  Every night I had to prop it up to sleep and actually had more swelling once we got back home on Monday.  I am feeling very blessed.  
We enjoyed being in the temple and then had dinner with President and Sister Lovell, who are serving as the president of the Missionary Training Center in Madrid.  I forgot to take pictures.  I had wanted a night shot of the Madrid Temple, so I posted one of the missionary's photos.  It really is beautiful.
Elder McWhorter is now in Madrid and this is his view out of his apartment window.

President Jackson had told us that there was an extra mission car that we could drive to Vigo.  As if his schedule is not busy enough, he had taken one of the cars to wash and vacuum it out for us.  While washing the car, he realized for the first time that the bumper was taped on and the tape had started coming untaped.  He tried to reapply the tape, but on his way home, it started hanging down and people were honking at him and pointing to the back of the car.  He decided this would not be a good car for us to take, so he washed the other car.  When we got outside to leave Thursday morning, President was checking the oil and he looked like the good father trying to have the car ready for his teenagers to do a road trip.  So we get in the car, ready to go, and turned on the air conditioner.  It stunk like something had died.  It was terrible.  We couldn't drive for hours with that smell.  So, President Jackson retaped the car, gave us a roll of duct tape and a roll of packing tape, and sent us on our way.

The Tape Job
The office missionaries, Elder Ward and Elder Franklyn, had just gotten there 
when all this was transpiring.
They posed for the picture, 
but claimed they had no part in causing the damage.
And we were blessed again with no problems
for the entire trip.

Our first stop was the Coca Castle.  It was built in 1453.  The castle is amazing and the views were incredible.

The countryside was covered with sunflower fields.

Next we drove to Medina del Campo to see La Mota.  It was first built as a fortress in the 12th century and in the 15th century alterations were made.

The further north we drove, the more trees there were, and the greener everything became.  It was just so beautiful.  These are photos I took while we were driving and they do not begin to show the beauty.  

We arrived in Vigo Thursday in time to go to dinner with everyone, but the Jacksons.
The Larsens, The Sullivans, the waiter, Hermana Lopez, The Hunts, Hermana Chapelle, The Riggs

  There was a beautiful park along one of the main roads where we walked from the hotel to the church.

Friday morning we met with the missionaries in the Vigo District  They gave us a wonderful lesson.  
They used President Jackson in an object lesson.  President does 50 pushups every morning.  Knowing that he had already done his pushups, they challenged him to increase his goal and to do 57 pushups. Because he had already done his pushups, he said he didn't think he could do 57 more.  So, they told him he could have someone on his team to help him, and he chose Elder Beuden.  President did 56 pushups before his muscle began to shake.  

 This is Elder Beuden helping him up for his last pushup.  What determination!

Elder Johnson and Elder Beuden
 It was so fun to see Elder Beuden again.  He is doing a great job as the district leader.  

 Elder Echegaray and Elder Mayah
It was also good to see Elder Echegaray.  He and Elder Mayah gave a powerful lesson.  He is a good missionary with a strong testimony.  Elder Mayah has an amazing story.  He has only been a member of the church for about 1 1/2 years.  He is from Camaroon.  He has a difficult family situation, but he knows they will be blessed for his service.  Because of his love for the Lord, he was willing to serve a mission so that he can share the same joy that he has found because of his Savior.  He had a great spirit about him.  

After the meeting, we enjoyed some very delicious Domino's Pizza.

That afternoon the Sullivan's drove with us to Santiago del Compostela to see the cathedral which was built in 1075.

 An example of the amazing 3D tile work.

 A highlight of our trip to the cathedral was visiting with these two women who are Sisters in the Catholic church.  They both live in England and had such giving spirits.  It was wonderful to hear about their work and the love they have for their Savior.

That evening we were able to get our exercise in as we walked along the boardwalk that was right in front of our hotel.  Vigo is one of the prettiest cities I have ever visited.  So beautiful!

This was the view from our hotel window.

Friday morning, we had our second meeting.  I really enjoyed President Jackson's talk.  He shared some ideas from a talk that President Eyring gave, "Rise to Your Call, " which went along with a thought that Sister Sullivan shared on Thursday.  She said that we can either "Sacrifice" or "Covenant" the time that we are spending here on our mission.  Of course, we are all sacrificing because we have left our homes and families to be here.  But, are we "Covenanting" this time and treating it as something sacred?  I want to look back on our mission after two years and know that I gave it my all.  I want to know that I was in tune with the Lord's spirit and that I was sensitive to His promptings.  I truly want to be an instrument in the Lord's hands and be directed by Him as I serve the people here in the Canary Islands.  

The Arjonas gave a presentation about working with the Young Single Adults.  They are over the YSA for all of Spain.  
The Arjonas

Then we had a very entertaining Talent Show.  
 Here are all the Elders singing "Besame Mucho" to their sweethearts.  

 Elder Larsen and I did a silly skit about Adam and Eve.

 My favorite part was President Jackson playing the accordion.  He is very good.
A man of many talents!

The Entire Group
The Arjonas,The Lopez,The Chapelles,The Jacksons,The Hunts,The Riggs,The Arnetts, The Sullivans

          Here is Sister Jackson giving all of the ladies a priceless gift, chili powder and brown sugar.  
                                                                   Oh the things we cherish!

Afterwards, we all went to an Italian Restaurant.  President Jackson played his accordion and this precious little one was just mesmerized.  She was so fun to watch.

That afternoon, a group of us drove to the Island of La Toja.  It is a little town right at the waters edge, known for its spas and a very unusual chapel.  We enjoyed the chapel and the amazing views, unfortunately the spas were not part of our trip.

 The Sea Shell Chapel

 Just look at the size of this hydrangea.

As we sat on the water's edge, under the shade of the palm trees, we were able to enjoy the conversion story of these two wonderful people.  They joined the church in southern Spain, in the late 70's and it is easy to see the Lord's hand in their conversion and throughout their lives.  They are amazing people and we feel uplifted from having met them.
Elder and Hermana Lopez oversee the100+ apartments that the missionaries live in.  

Sunday morning, we went to church in Vigo and then started our drive back to Madrid.  We drove through Salamanca and saw the outside of its Cathedral.

 Detailed artwork over the doors.  Christ's birth and Christ's presentation at the temple.

Some of the buildings of the University that was started in the 12th century.  It is one of the oldest, most renowned universities in Europe.

As we were driving along the highway, we saw a sign for Avila.  Elder Larsen, drawing on his memory from almost 40 years ago said, "It seems like there is a castle or something in Avila that we always wanted to go see, but were never able to.  And just then, we saw this amazing view of the Walls of Avila.  Construction of the walls began in 1090.

What a wonderful trip!  We enjoyed some beautiful landscapes, some historic sites, met some amazing people, and were spiritually fed.