The lighthouse at Formentor, Mallorca

The background shows sidewalk tiles - "rajoles" - that pave the sidewalks throughout Barcelona. They were designed by architect Puig i Cadafalch for the entryway of a home. Since 1915, they have been used by the city to pave sidewalks, and have become emblematic of the city. One of the city's most famous chocolatiers, Enric Rovira, produces chocolate bars in the shape and design of these tiles.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Now have we not reason to rejoice?"

We have just witnessed a miracle of substantial proportions. For some years, the Spain Barcelona Mission has had the goal of seeing 400 convert baptisms in a single year. In 2008, the mission had 265 baptisms/confirmations during the year. As of last Sunday night, we had 402 baptisms during 2009! This miracle is even more remarkable considering that we currently have 50 companionships compared to about 65-70 during 2008.

Like Ammon, we can say, "How great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started [this year] that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?... Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many."

We could not be more proud of our wonderful missionaries - they have been obedient, clean, diligent, prayerful, and full of faith. They have worked very, very hard, through the humid summers months when the heat was oppressive, and in cold, biting wind and rain in the winter. They have dealt with rejection daily. And they have been rewarded with miracles beyond their imagination.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers - they have been an important factor in this great miracle!

Maria - one of 402!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The First Day of Christmas

Bon Nadal, as we say in Catalunya! The celebration of Christmas in Spain really begins with a long family dinner on Noche Buena - Christmas Eve. In recent years Papa Noel has become more popular, and many families now have presents on Christmas Day delivered by Santa Claus. But the big gift event is Three Kings Day on January 6th, so we have just begun to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas.

Our Christmas morning began with a special present - we drove to the airport early in the morning to pick up our son, our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren!

In the afternoon we hosted an open house at the mission home for missionaries, recent converts and investigators. A good time was had by all!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Notes from the Field

We had every intention when we arrived six months ago to keep a careful record of the miracle stories that we see and hear from missionaries, but we were unprepared for the sheer quantity of miracles we would see!

Last week a pair of Sister missionaries reported three unusual events in three days. First, Their train was delayed resulting in a 30-minute wait at the station to make their connection home in the evening. They were tired and disappointed at having to wait. As they sat there, the man from the ticket booth came out and asked if he "could steal a few minutes from them." They thought he wanted to borrow their mobile phone, but he then asked, "Could you tell me a little bit about what you preach?"

The next day they were walking down the street and a gentleman called after them, "Aren't you Mormons?" They responded yes, and he then said he had once had a Book of Mormon and would like to know more.

The next day they were dropping some things off at the chapel and visiting with the Ward Mission Leader, a recent convert and an investigator, when another man stopped just outside the front door, peering inside. The Sisters went out and asked if they could help him with something. He said, "Yes, I was told you could tell me the true story of Jesus Christ here. Could you share it with me?"

Like most parts of the world, finding people to teach is the hardest thing missionaries do. But invariably, when they are working hard, the Lord sends his prepared children to them. We love serving in a time and place where "angels are declaring unto many at this time in our land... for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word." (Alma 13:24)

Keeping organized...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Conferences

!Bon Nadal! as we say in Catalunya. Or !Feliz Navidad! as we say in other parts of Spain. We celebrated the season with two special combined Zone Conferences this week, one in Elche and one in Hospitalet (near Barcelona).

We had some fun - each district had to prepare and then present a short skit, an exercise that revealed a wealth of hitherto unknown talent. We did a simple gift exchange among the missionaries and keeping with our theme of a White Christmas (the color of baptism clothing), we asked that the gift be something white. Some gifts were practical - a jar of mayonnaise - while others a little less so - where do I start?

We gave each missionary a special Christmas ornament as a souvenir of this Christmas in Spain, a handmade leather ornament with a drawing of lighthouse engraved on it, the name of the mission, and the year. These were all made by a member of the Church in Elche.

We had a catered lunch - pizza - supplemented by homemade chocolate chip cookies made by Hermana Hinckley (over 300 of them!) and fresh-picked oranges from the orange groves of Valencia.

The stake center in Elche, where we held the southern conference, is located within the largest grove of palm trees in Europe. It was not hard to visualize the wise men on the camels making their way through the trees in search of the Holy Child!

And we had a great spiritual feast. The missionaries shared some remarkable accounts of recent miracles, we sang Christmas carols, we watched a slide show/movie recalling events, places and people in the mission of the past year, and ended with a video presentation of the Christmas Story from the Bible.

It was the best Christmas ever!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Suprise Sister!

We had a special suprise last week. Hermana Bustamante from Rengo, Chile, who has been serving for six months in Chile Santiago East while waiting for a visa, received her visa and arrived in Spain on 3-days notice! We were beginning to give up hope that she would ever get a visa, but we are happy to say she is now in her assigned field of labor in the Spain Barcelona Mission.

Hna. Church, Hna. Bustamante, Hna. Hinckley, Pte. Hinckley at Montjuic

Hermana Church came up from Valencia to be Hermana Bustamante's companion. They are serving in the Barcelona 1st Ward - a new area for Sisters. The new Barcelona Stake Center is being constructed not far from their ward, and they will be able to take advantage of some of the publicity surrounding the new building (which we hope to occupy in March).

Even though they are starting a new area, they expect to have their first baptism next week. These Sisters are full of faith and are seeing miracles in their first days together. We feel it is a great privilege just to know them!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Been a Quiet Week...

Kind of.

After the flurry of a mission tour - two conferences and a mission council, plus meetings with three of the four stake presidencies, this has been a quieter week in the sense that rather than have meetings we have gone back to work!

And work the missionaries did! They have been meeting with every progressing investigator and with every former investigator who once had a baptismal date but was not baptized. They have been sweetly bold in inviting these people to be baptized.

And they have seen miracles. Two missionaries called this afternoon to tell us of a recent experience. They had been teaching a less-active woman who is now coming back to Church. Then they taught and baptized her niece and are baptizing the niece's mother this week. They have also been teaching a sister-in-law who became offended by something at Church and left angry, saying that she would never return. A few days later this same sister-in-law underwent medical tests for possible cancer, and requested that the Elders give her a blessing, which they did. Her heart was softened and she related that an angel had presented the missionaries to her in a vision or dream in a pillar of light. She is getting baptized next week!

Moroni teaches us that it is the office of angels "to call men unto repentance," and Alma noted that "angels are declaring unto many at this time in our land... for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word." (Moroni 7:31, Alma 13:24)

We love this work! Thanks for your continued prayers on behalf of our missionaries and their investigators.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


We had the best Thanksgiving ever - the entire day was spent with a General Authority learning how to be better missionaries! Elder Erich W. Kopsichke of the First Quorum of the Seventy and President of the Europe Area toured the mission this week, and it was a spiritual feast!

And we have much to be thankful for! November was the best month in the mission in anyone's memory. We were blessed with 49 baptisms (and when you consider that we have only 100 missionaries, that is a remarkable month)! We are twice blessed - we baptize like South America but we get to live in Europe!

We are exercising our faith - and works - to have an even greater December. Thanks for your prayers and faith!

Some conference notes...

"Thanksgiving Dinner" in Valencia - sandwiches and softdrinks during a break in the conference

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What We Do

In the Spain Barcelona Mission

Elder Laney and Elder Lee posing with Hermana Maria, one of our baptisms today. Hermana Maria saw a poster about English classes a few weeks ago and showed up at the chapel for the class. After the class the missionaries always give a spiritual message. She was touched, and today she was baptized.

Maria missed her metro stop on her way to Church on Sunday and so will not be confirmed until next Sunday. Not counting Maria, we saw 49 souls baptized and confirmed during the month of November with 100 full-time missionaries in the mission! We are proud of the great faith of our missionaries - and of their hard work which goes along with their faith. With their faith - and their picks and shovels - they can move mountains!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mission Tour

Elder Erich W. Kopischke of the First Quorum of Seventy and President of the Europe Area arrives in Barcelona this evening for a tour of the mission, with conference in Barcelona (including Palma) on Wednesday and Valencia (all southern zones) on Thursday, concluding with a mission council meeting in Valencia on Friday. We are excited for what will be a great spiritual feast!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Comings and Goings...

Last week was transfer week, always a very busy time in the mission. The typical comings and goings were a very untypical one: our daughter, Lizzie Davis, arrived for a one week visit!. We picked Lizzie up early in the morning at the airport, took her home, then went back later in the morning to pick up a new missionary, Elder Henrie, who flew in from the Madrid MTC. We are especially glad to have Elder Henrie since 11 misionaries completed their missions and returned home on Wednesday!

We also took Elder Hutchison to the airport Tuesday morning - he is going home for possible surgery to correct a medical problem. We hope to have him back in a few weeks!

Elders Sharpe, Lee and Hutchison in the Mission Home

We brought Elder Henrie home from the airport via Montjuic, where a thick fog obscured our views of the city, introduced him to his new companion, Elder Dillon, had lunch, and sent them on there way. In the meantime, we finished up final interviews with the departing missionaries, then had all 11 of them up for dinner and a farewell and testmony meeting. As is our custom, we then all went down to Plaza Catalunya where the other Barcelona-area missionaries and many members were singing hymns. This is a wonderful tradition which we cherish.

Elder Dillon and Elder Henrie contacting at Plaza Catalunya on Elder Henrie's first day

Departing Elders Malmstrom, Watson, Moyer and Speroni on the way to Plaza Catalunya

Wednesday morning it was back to the airport with four calls filled with missionaries and luggage and a last goodby to our departing missionaries. We look forward to seeing them again at reunions!

At the airport

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Farewell Breakfast

Elder Jensen and Elder Baugh, who have served in the office for the past several months, received new assignments this week: Elder Baugh is the new District Leader in the Barc 1/3 District in Barcelona and Elder Jensen is a Zone Leader in Valencia. We couldn't let them go without a little celebration, so we had a pancake breakfast in the Mission Home.

In the dining room

Elder Lee flips them high!

Elder Baugh washes his hands of the whole messy affair!

A Visit to the Lladro Factory Outlet

After completing interviews in Valencia last week, we drove by the Lladro factory outlet store and bought our Christmas present - a Lladro figurine of two Elders - which is now on display in a case in our entry hall. The Lladro family created this figurine a few years ago and it has been a popular piece. We especially like the fact that, on close examination, you can tell these are missionaries from the Spain Barcelona Mission: they have briefcases rather than backpacks!

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Elder Fiske and Elder Burton get into the spirit of the season in their piso in Elche

Traditionally, we begin celebrating the Christmas season as soon as we complete the last holiday which precedes Christmas. In the United States, that last holiday is Thanksgiving. But since there were no Pilgrim Fathers in Spain, there is no Thanksgiving holiday - so we begin celebrating Christmas as soon as Halloween is over!

Elder Romney and Elder Baugh assemble the Chirstmas tree in the mission home


As we begin to celebrate the Christmas Season, we continue to be amazed by the miracles we see. Earlier this week, Elder Brian in Valencia received a telephone call during his morning study time, and the caller asked "Are you named Elder?" Yes. "Of the Church of Jesus Christ?" Yes. "Good. I would like to be baptized into your Church."

This woman had been taught all of the lessons a few years ago in her native country of Columbia, but moved to the Island of Ibiza before being baptized. She was in Valenica visiting her daughter (who is a member of the Church) and wanted to be baptized before returning to Ibiza. Although we do not have a branch on Ibiza, we do have several members there who are part of the Levante (Mallorca) Branch. Her baptism is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Last week a young single adult woman called the Elders in Hospitalet and asked to be baptized. She had been given a Book of Mormon by her boyfriend in Sevilla, had read it, received a testimony, and sought out the missionaries. She lives in the area of Hermana Grimm and Konopinski who met with her last Saturday, began to teach her, and took her to stake conference on Sunday. Her baptism is scheduled for next week.

We love this work!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Southern Tour - Road Trip!

What a week! We usually do interviews in the south by taking the train to Valencia, then Alicante, then Murcia, and doing all the interviews in those three locations. But last week we decided to go by car and visit the missionaries in their "pisos" and in the towns where they work.

KM 0: We left home about 9:00 a.m. with the TomTom GPS, a set of Google maps, and a road atlas (as missionaries we always have a backup plan), a case of mail to be delivered, car food, CDs from the 2009 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, and the two Ayudantes, and headed south on the Autopista del Mar Mediterraneo!

KM 110: Our first stop was Tarragona, one of the great cities of the Roman Empire, home of the Tarragona Ward, and the home of Elders Hancock and Hansen.

KM 300: Next stop was Castellon, home of the Castellon Ward, the Romanian Consulate, and Elders Harris and Roos.

Elders Harris and Roos in piso - nice table!

KM 375: From Castellon we drove along the Sea to Spain's third largest city, Valencia. There we interviewed the Valencia missionaries - Elders Boxx, Coons, Haymond and Brian, and Hermanas Diehl and Church - in the Valencia Chapel before retiring for the night at the Silken Puerta Valencia Hotel. The Silken is within walking distance of the chapel and our usual stopping point in Valencia, so they know us well. We never have to ask for our reservation - they get the room key ready when they see us walk in and welcome us back!

We left the Silken Valencia at 9:00 a.m. and headed for new territory: Alcoy.

KM 485: Alcoy is a beautiful city in the mountains between Valencia and Alicante. There has been a unit of the Church there for over 35 years, and only a few years ago there 6 missionaries in the city. Today Elders Cranford and Pynes are nearly lost in their large piso, but have the beautiful city and ward to themselves!

From Alcoy we wound down out of the mountains to the palm forests of Elche.

KM 560: The Elche Stake Center is one of the most beautiful chapels in Europe. It sits in a large palm forest which the city decided to develop into building lots several years ago; the church bought property for the chapel, and the city then decided against selling any more lots and has preserved the forest as a public space. In Elche we interviewed Elders Fiske, Burton, Miskin, Jacinto, Davis, Crofts, Hall, Niebergall, Millar, Christiansen, and Hermanas Walters and Brown.

KM 660: As darkness settled over the south we arrived at the ancient Roman port of Cartagena where, like travelers for two millenia, we spent the night. Except we spent the night at the Best Western Alfonso XIII.

After the traditional breakfast of cold meats, cheeses, scambled eggs, fruit, and pudding-like hot chocolate with churros, we sandwiched ourselves back in the car and drove to the Cartagena Chapel where we interviewed Elders Melgarejo, Worthen, Pena, Flores, and Hermanas Bowen and Merrell.

KM 715: After interviews in Cartagena, we headed up the coast to the resort town of Torrevieja. The Torrevieja Branch includes a number of English-speaking members who live in this Southern California-esque beach community. In fact, this town is so much like California it even has a drive-up window at the McDonalds, the first we have seen in Spain. We drove through and ordered Big Macs just because we could! Hermanas Woolf and Brown have a pretty nice assignment here!

KM 765: A short drive inland took us to Crevillente, a smaller industrial town, where we met with Elders Forsgren and Nelson. Because we have a number of deaf members here, many of our missionaries learn Spanish sign language.

KM 835: From Crevillente it was back to the coast and the famous resort town of Benidorm, a town of 50-story skyscraper condominium towers, home of the largest theme park in Europe, and the home of Hermanas Alfieri and Eberly who fed us and entertained us in their piso in the neighboring pueblo.

KM 900: We then headed up the coast to Gandia and Elders Lammi and Awerkamp. This is a strong ward with a long history of great missionary work, and Elders Lammi and Awerkamp are keeping the tradition strong.

KM 975: Another hour brought us back to the Silken Puerta Valencia with barely enough time to drag ourselves to the room before falling asleep!

The Ayudantes took the early train home in the morning while Pte. and Hna. Hinckley took a short walk around Valencia then visited the Lladro factory outlet store located in a pueblo outside of Valencia. With our newly acquired Lladro of two missionaries safely sequestered in the trunk, we headed towards home. It was a lovely if long drive along the Pau Cassals Highway, past the orange and olive groves, and ultimately into the beautiful city of Barcelona.

KM 1325: Home at last. I don't remember if I actually took off my suit before falling asleep!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Week of Miracles

We held the final zone conference of this series in Palma de Mallorca. It was a beautiful day in Palma in every way. There was a great spirit in the conference, the missionaries are wonderful, and weather was spectacular.

The Palma Zone

As we enter the final two months of the year, we have felt impressed to exercise greater faith and to work even harder to bring more people to repentance more quickly. Nearly every week I conduct interviews with candidates for baptism that have had abortions, and I cannot get over the pain these sisters still feel over something they did decades ago. Even as they approach baptism, they feel that this pain is something they will still have live with the rest of their life. It is a great blessing to be able to talk with them about the power of the Atonement to heal them from the hurt of so many years. I feel like we cannot baptize these people soon enough!

So we are redoubling our efforts with a goal to baptize 400 converts in this, the 40th year of the Church in Spain. Our interest is not so much in the number 400, but in enabling as many people as possible to experience the joy of repentance and the power of the Atonement without letting another week go by unnecessarily. Our missionaries fasted together this weekend to plead with the Lord that we can bring the blessings of the Atonement to more more quickly. And already the Lord is blessing our efforts - this past week we saw more people receive the saving ordinance of baptism than in any week since last May.

Last week at the Hospitalet Stake Conference we met a wonderful family whose children were scheduled to be baptized on Saturday, October 31. The parents have been members for many years, but have been inactive for most of those years. Through a series of events in their life, they began to feel a need to return to the Church. The mother saw the missionaries in the metro a few weeks ago, contacted the, and asked that they come and teach her children.

Fernanda and Eduardo with their parents, Elders York and Gogarty, and Pte. Hinckley at stake conference

On Saturday afternoon Pte. Hinckley was able to offer the closing prayer at their baptism. Four weeks ago this was a part-member family with both parents less-active and their address unknown. Today they are a fully active family preparing to go to the temple! This is why we have such a sense of urgency about this work!

Last week we also had some very special visitors: Elder and Sister Clate Mask visited us in Barcelona. Elder Mark presided over the Spain Barcelona Mission from 1997-2000. He was released from the Seventy at October conference; and this week they begin their new assignment as president and matron of the Guatemala Temple. It was wonderful to have them back in the mission home! And even more wonderful to have them speak to all our Barcelona-area missionaries on Wednesday.

Gary and Katy Dewey with Sister and Elder Mask, sipping Spanish hot chocolate at 10:00 p.m.

This week we head south by car for the first time. We will be visiting many of the cities and towns where missionaries live but that we never see on regular zone conference or interview visits. We hope to visit Castellon, Alcoy, Benidorm, Torrevieja, Cartagena, and Elche, as well as the normal visits to the larger metropolitan areas. Let's all hope the GPS works!

Friday, October 23, 2009

October Zone Conferences

This past week we have held zone conferences in every zone except Palma. The week really started last Saturday with an early morning train to Valencia where we attended the Saturday sessions of stake conference (speaking in both the leadership and adult sessions). Then a quick exit to catch the train to Alicante, where we spent the night and attended the Sunday stake conference sessions of the Elche Stake (speaking in the special meeting for recent converts as well as the general session on Sunday). After conference we took the train further south to Murcia to begin a week of zone conferences.

The Elche Zone

The Murcia Zone

Monday we met with the Murcia and Elche Zones to kick off zone zone conference week. At the conclusion of the conference, we caught a train back up to Valencia where we spent Monday night and held Zone Conference on Tuesday.

Pte. Hinckley with Elders Lee and Laney at the Murcia Train Station

The Valencia Zone

In the Valencia Chapel

The ayudantes getting some badly needed rest somewhere between Valencia and Barcelona

We returned home on Tuesday night after a very busy four days in the South, and took Wednesday to regroup before the Barcelona area Zone Conferences on Thursday and Friday.

The Hospitalet Zone

The Barcelona Zone

The Barcelona Nord Zone

Four down, one to go! After stake conference this weekend in the Barcelona Stake, we leave on Monday for Palma where we meet with the Palma Zone on Tuesday!

This has been a wonderful round of zone conferences, as we have focused on The Faith to Find - exercising our faith to find those who will receive us. We have heard many wonderful and miraculous stories of finding people whom the Lord has prepared to receive the Gospel, and we have faith that we will find many more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mission Council

Last week we began the new transfer cycle (6-weeks) with Mission Council, where we bring all of the Zone Leaders and a pair of Hermanas into the mission home for a day.

Tables set and ready for the missionaries

Tables and chairs are set up the night before. The Ayundantes arrive at 8:00 a.m. to help cook a breakfast of French toast, maple syrup, bacon, and orange juice. At 9:00, the doorbell rings, the Zone Leaders and Hermanas come in, remove their shoes, find a place for their books and bags, wash their hands, gather for a blessing, and we serve breakfast buffet-style ("Please take only two slices of French toast and two slices of bacon until everyone has been served.")

The Ayudantes and the President in the kitchen

At 10:00 we clear the table, shuffle the chairs, everyone finds a seat in the living room area, and "Concilio" officially begins. After an opening hymn and prayer, we recite "Our Purpose" from Preach My Gospel, then D&C 4, then have a couple of talks on D&C 4 (everyone prepares a 5-minute talk; two are called on).

The Ayudantes then give a brief report on the pre-Concilio meeting which they conduct the night before, the president's secretary gives announcements from the office, and then the council discussion begins. This time we had a lengthy and very interesting discussion about the "culture" of the mission - our beliefs, practices and habits. We talked about what elements of the culture we wanted to retain, and what we might want to change. It was a very interesting and productive discussion. You might be interested in some of the key elements of our mission culture - in the opinion of the mission council, these are common beliefs, practices and behaviors in the Spain Barcelona Mission:
  • In the Spain Barcelona Mission, we baptize converts.
  • We are an obedient mission.
  • We are “Preach My Gospel” missionaries.
  • We love the people.
  • We challenge on the first visit.
  • We are effective teachers.
  • We work hand-in-hand with members and leaders, and we help members become more effective missionaries.
  • We speak exceptional Spanish.
  • We always speak Spanish in the street.
  • We bring people to Church.
  • We build the Church by reactivating less active members.
  • We open our lessons with a hymn.We pray and testify before leaving the piso.
  • We are professional in our appearance, behavior and speech:
  1. We do not carry backpacks- we use briefcases when necessary;
  2. We part our hair (if at all possible);
  3. We never use slang or acronyms.
  • We work harder, as evidenced by shorter preparation days than other missions (because we get up an hour later, our preparation days are one hour shorter than in most of the world.

At noon we take a refreshment break - some vegetables and dip, bean and salsa dip, sliced oranges, crackers with cheese and ham.

We then moved into the second half of the meeting, where we discussed several issues about mission rules and norms. The council decided, for example, that we should continue and even enhance our practice of having regular "English fasts" where we speak no English among companions for several consecutive days. We discussed how to deal with the reality that as our number of missionaries decreases our proselyting areas become bigger. And we talked about what the focus of the next series of Zone Conferences should be. These missionaries are remarkably mature and thoughtful, and this council runs as well or better than most councils I have seen anywhere in the Church.

Following these discussions we had messages from Hermana Hinckley and President Hinckley, then heard testimonies from several of the missionaries before concluding.


At the conclusion of the meeting (about 2:30) we had a wonderful buffet lunch of baked potatoes with toppings and lasagna, took photographs, cleared the dishes, put away the tables and chairs and rearranged the furniture. The missionaries then put their shoes back on and went back to work!