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, September 28, 2009

The Hadleys Arrive!

A big welcome to Elder and Hermana Hadley who arrived last week! As a CES missionary couple, they will be working with the Institute in Barcelona.

Because of some last minute changes in the Hadley's itinerary, the Hinckleys were in the South doing interviews when the Hadleys arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday. By the time we arrived home on Friday night they had already had a training meeting with all of the Institute teachers and were hosting the Institute opening social. Knowing that the social would still be going strong at 11:00 p.m. on Friday when we arrived back in Barcelona, we jumped in the car as soon as we arrived home from the train station and drove over to the Insitute. There was, of course, no available parking on the street, but there is a 24-hour garage just a block away, so we pulled into the garage only to learn that the attendant was closing the garage in 15 minutes. They may be open for 24-hours, but apparently not in a row, so we were unable to attend the social.

So Saturday we took the Hadleys down to the Ramblas for some paella and sightseeing (and a lesson in how to use the metro system). We introduced them to the Boqueria, Europe's largest and most famous outdoor food market - the closest thing you'll find in the Western world to the Qing Ping market in Guangzhou. China.

Afterwards we drove up to the top of Tibidabo where they could get a view of the entire area and the Mediterranean Sea. It was a beautiful evening drive with spectacular views.

Elder Hadley, Hermana Hadley, and Hermana Hinckley work their way through the crowd at the Boquería

Candied fruits and candies at the Boquería

During the past week we interviewed 45 missionaries in our three southern zones, including missionaries in Valencia, Alicante and Murcia. We traveled 1200 kilometers by train over three days to conduct the interviews. As always, it was a great experience to visit individually with the missionaries. We heard of many miracles, and were once again impressed with the tremendous dedication, obedience, love and maturity of these great missionaries.

We are encouraging our missionaries to begin contacting people within four minutes every time they leave their apartment. They are beginning to develop this habit and are being blessed as they do so.

We continue to see many miracles, large and small. On Sunday Hermana Hinckley and I decided to visit the Hospitalet 2nd Ward, but did not know whether it met in the morning or the afternoon. Since we had a fireside out of town in the afternoon, we went over to the building for the morning block which, as it turned out, was the Hospitalet 1st Ward. It also turned out that our presence there was an answer to prayer - the Elders were working closely with the Bishop to increase missionary work in the ward, and the Bishop had asked the Elders last week if they could invite the mission president to come to Sacrament meeting to help launch this new effort. The Elders, knowing how crowded our schedule is, had been reticent to invite us to come, but come we did! The bishop also expressed thanks for sending a pair of sister missionaries to work in his ward. Through a series of events, we had brought a pair of sisters from the south up to Barcelona and eventually assigned them to work in Hospitalet 1 about two weeks ago. The bishop indicated that he had been praying for a pair of sisters to help in his ward, but had not expressed that desire to me or anyone else. But the Lord knew!

Sunday evening we took the train down to Tarragona, about one hour south of Barcelona, to speak at a fireside in the Tarragona Ward. Nearly 200 members and investigators attended. This is a great ward with great leaders and great members. Hermana Hinckley gave most of her talk in Spanish (the Bishop's wife translated one story for her) - ¡va aprendiendo! It was a wonderful evening meeting with members and investigators. We took the 9:30 train home and were back at our house by 11:00 p.m. - just in time for our 11:30 p.m. bedtime!

This week we will interview 54 missionaries in the north - three days of interviews but, mercifully, no travel. We look forward to meeting individually with these remarkable young men and women.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

District Conference in Palma

In the mission we have one mission district and three mission branches. This weekend the Baleares District held their semi-annual district conference. Elder Johann A. Wondra, an Area Authority Seventy from Vienna, Austria, presided.

The Baleares District consists of five branches: Poniente, Levante (both in Palma de Mallorca), Inca, Manacor (other cities on Mallorca), and Menorca (a smaller island east of Mallorca). The Balearic Islands of the Mediterranean are located between Spain and Italy. They are one of the main vacation spots of Europe, where nearly every royal family has a home. And with good reason: the sun is bright, the beaches are white, the sea is blue, and the cities are beautiful. But even more attractive and the wonderful Latter-Day Saints of the Balearic District!

Pte. Hinckley, Pte. Vadillos (2nd Counselor in the District) and two of his children (Marta and Jorge), Lemar Varella (about to submit his missionary papers), Elder Wondra, Pte. Alfonso (2nd Counselor in the Mission). [Note the High School Musical bag carried by Marta - they recently returned from Disneyland Paris!]

We held a priesthood leadership session on Saturday afternoon, with a simultaneous session for auxiliary leaders (at which Hna. Hinckley was the only speaker). We then had a refreshment break where the District Relief Society provided an enormous buffet of Mallorcan "tapas" - empanadas, pizza, and the famous Mallorcan ensiamada! We then had a wonderful adult session before returning to out hotel.

Hna. Hinckley with the family of one of our leaders.

For the Sunday meetings the District had rented a larger hall, set up chairs, brought in hymn books, and had everything ready to go. We met at 10:00 with the recent converts (and at least one investigator), then had the general session from 11:00 - 1:00 p.m. Pte. Alfonso conducted the business (a change in one of the counselors in the district, two young men to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and a change in one of the branch presidents), followed by the choir singing the 23rd Psalm. Pte. Gomez, the District President spoke, then one of his counselors, then a sister was called on to bear her testimony, and then Hna. Hinckley spoke. After an intermediate hymn, Pte. Hinckley spoke and then Elder Wondra took the balance of the meeting.

The Palma Missionary Zone. (Elder Reynolds is behind Elder Groves...)

The choir provided the closing hymn: "Come Thou Font" - but in Spanish the lyrics are the words from "Oh My Father." It was a wonderful arrangement, beautifully performed with piano and a small choir.

In the "wrap-up" meeting with Elder Wondra, the District leaders voiced two concerns: reverence and the fact that there were many who should have been in attendance but were not - further evidence that the Church is the same all over the world!

Hna. Diehl, Hna. Bentley, Isabel, Hna. Hinckley. Isabel is a 17-year old member who was in England on study abroad during the summer, and enters the University in Madrid this fall. She is an example of some the great youth we have in the this part of the world! (Elder Groves is smiling in the background!)

Hna. Hinckley with some of the Young Single Adults.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"God has not ceased to be a God of miracles"

A few weeks ago at Church two of our missionaries met Amada, a 71-year old Spanish widow who had come with a friend who was a member of the ward. They set an appointment to visit her on the following Saturday. Knowing that she had recently lost a son, the Elders taught her about the plan of salvation. There was a wonderful spirit present during the lesson, and the Elders asked her if she would be baptized. She responded, "Of course I will. I have no doubt that this is what I need to do!" They asked if she would prepare to be baptized the following Saturday, one week later, and she agreed.

The next day at Church as they were talking with Amada and her member-friend, the Elders asked how long they had known each other. They looked at each other, then back at the Elders and said, "15 days."

"What?" the Elders asked. "Yes, 15 days," was the response. Fifteen days earlier this sweet investigator had been walking down the street, saw another lady (the member) walking down the street, and had a strong impression to talk to her. Amada recounted that she felt very strongly, "I must meet that woman. I have to talk with her!" She followed her prompting and began a conversation with the ward member. They became immediate friends and the member shared her testimony and invited Amada to Church.

Amada was baptized on 29 August 2009, 21 days after stopping a stranger on the street in response to a prompting. She is preparing to go to the Madrid Temple where she can perform the baptisms of her husband and son.

"Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes?" (Mormon 9:16)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"In the not too distant future"

Pte. Bleda (Valencia), Elder Lopez, Pte. Rodriguez (Hospitalet), Pte. Herraiz (Barcelona), and Pte. Hinckley

On May 20, 1969, Elder Marion G.Romney dedicated the country of Spain for the preaching of the Gospel. In a small meeting that morning in Casa de Campo he prayed,

"That there may be established here in this land,
in the not too distant future, wards and stakes."

Three weeks later, Elders Jose Luis Barco, Craig Ward, Robert Haws, and Clark Hinckley arrived in Spain to begin missionary work; there were two Spanish members of the Church in the entire nation.

Last Saturday we held our regular Coordinating Council meeting with the stake presidents under the direction of our Area Seventy, Elder Faustino Lopez. The photograph above shows the literal fulfillment of Elder Romney's prayer: three (of the nine) stake presidents, Elder Lopez, and Pte. Hinckley in the living room of the Spain Barcelona Mission home. It was, for me, a remarkable event, to live to see the fulfillment of this prayer.

As we went into the metro station this morning to run some errands downtown, we discovered four handsome missionaries:

Elders Lindsey, Cranford, Young, and Langston on the L6 bringing home a case of Libros de Mormon. they are carrying their lunches in the plastic shopping bags.

Our errands today took us down the Boqueria, Barcelona's great outdoor market. It is always a colorful place to shop.

Shopping at the market - these are the cheap Iberico hams at 30 Euros/kilo, still well out of our price range

In the produce section of the market

Our shopping included a stop at Dulcinea for a cup of thick hot chocolate. It is one of the greatest treats in Spain, and with cooler weather the last few days it was time to again relax over a cup of chocolate before returning back to the office. We discovered this little chocolate shop three years ago on a little alley in the old medieval section of Barcelona, and it is a favorite.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We completed another round of Zone Conferences this week: Barcelona and Barcelona Nord on Monday, Hospitalet and Zaragoza on Tuesday, Elche and Murcia on Thursday, and Valencia on Friday. Wednesday was a travel day - 7 hours on the train from Barcelona to Murcia.

Valencia Zone

Zaragoza Zone

Hospitalet Zone

Barcelona North Zone

Barcelona Zone

We had a wonderful round of conferences. Much of the conference was spent in further discussion of the instruction from Elder Perry to teach 20 lessons every week, starting with our own investigators and new converts but filling in by teaching less-active families selected by the ward council. As an experiment, we asked the Elders in Alcoy a couple of weeks ago to implement the suggestion of Elder Perry. The work had been slow in Alcoy and they were only able to get 5-6 teaching appointments during the week. Two weeks later they taught 19 lessons. They demonstrated clearly the power of following the counsel of a member of the Twelve!

Last week we taught 679 lessons throughout the mission. We believe we can increase this to over 1,000 lessons per week. Our goal, of course, is not just to teach but to be instruments in the hands of Lord in conversion. Our purpose is to fulfill the great mandate given by the Lord to "teach all nations". In the Spanish language Bible, this scripture is somewhat clearer: it reads, "make disciples of all nations." (See Matthew 28:19-20, especially footnote "a" in verse 19).

Hna. O'Neill, Hna. Hinckley, and Hna. Church in Valencia

Elder Laney and Elder Lee in Valencia

Without exception, we have marvelous missionaries. They work very hard, they strive to teach with power and authority, they are wise beyond their years, and they are motivated by love.

The Lord continues to bless us with many miracles. Thursday night in the train station in Murcia, we were able to give a pass-along card to a women. Upon doing so, another woman sitting behind us turned around and asked if she could have a card, too. She has an uncle in Bolivia who is a member of the Church, she is here in Spain with her daughters, and wanted to know if she could learn more of the Church. She is living with her daughter and was unsure of name of her street, but Elder Laney used to work in her area and from her description was able to remember the name of the street! She agreed to meet with the missionaries as soon as she returns home. We love being part of these miracles!

[Note: Photos of the Murcia and Elche Zones are missing, as Hna. Hinckley and her camera were not at these conferences. We should have some photos of these zones in another day or two...]

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Conferences and Miracles

The Palma Zone - September 2009

Zone Conference lunch in the Palma Zone - as always, feasting of the famous kebabs of Palma!

We started another round of zone conferences this past Friday, as we are anxious to share with the missionaries much of what we learned in the recent Seminar for Mission Presidents. As is our practice, we began with the Palma Zone out on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Palma is one of the prime vacation spots of Europe - it is a beautiful city of tree-lined boulevards and narrow alleys, situated on a picturesque bay. We have two branches in Palma, two additional branches on the same island, and one small branch on the island of Menorca. Twelve remarkable missionaries serve here, and they are all dedicated, faithful, hardworking servants of our Father in Heaven. We love them and are proud of them!

Pte. Hinckley and the assistants, Elder Laney and Elder Lee, in the Barcelona Airport
after returning from Palma

We continue to see miracles every week all throughout the mission. A few days ago Hermana Hinckley met a woman named Gloria not far from the mission home, and invited her to walk down to the office to learn more. As it turns out, Gloria is a less-active member who has not been to Church in some time. Saturday night we were attending a baptism in our local ward (the fourth baptism in four weeks in our ward), and Gloria came in with the pair of missionaries she had met in the mission office. When she saw Hermana Hinckley, she exclaimed, "I'm here, just like I promised you I would be!" She is living with some family members who are not yet members of the Church, and has asked that the missionaries come over and teach them all!

We are privileged to serve in a beautiful country filled with beautiful people!
The famous Gaudi serpentine benches at Parc Guell, Barcelona