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.

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!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day in Barcelona

At 2:00 a.m. on October 12, 1492, 517 years ago today, Christopher Columbus and his crew sighted land 71 days after sailing westward from Palos de la Frontera. This discovery, by a young captain sailing under the flag of Spain, helped set in motion a great series of events that made possible the restoration of the Gospel over 300 years later. The great voyage of discovery undertaken by Christopher Columbus was of such importance that it was shown to Nephi in vision 2600 years ago:

And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” (1 Nephi 13:12)

Columbus himself gave fervent testimony of the influence of the Spirit upon him:

With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail and he opened my will to desire to accomplish the project… this was the fire that burned within me… Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit…urging me to press forward?” (Cristóbal Colón, Libro de las profecias)

At the end of his voyage of discovery, Columbus returned to Barcelona where he reported on his voyage to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. A monumental statue of Columbus stands at the foot of Las Ramblas to commemorate the opening of what is now called the Age of Discovery. A short distance away one can still see the baptismal font in the old Cathedral where the native Americans brought back by Columbus were baptized.

That same fire that burned within Columbus burns within us in the Spain Barcelona Mission. Like Columbus, we are on a great voyage of discovery, bringing light and knowledge to the people of Spain. As we go about our work, we too can say, “Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit…urging me to press forward?”

Happy Columbus Day from Barcelona!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This happens every six weeks

It has been transfer week again in the mission. It is a time filled with many mixed emotions as new missionaries arrive, missionaries whose time has been completed return home, and many missionaries receive new companions in new areas. This week we welcomed 4 new missionaries and said goodbye to 3 missionaries - this set in motion a domino effect that resulted in changes in 23 companionships (out of 54). We try to keep a missionary in the same are for 6-8 months so that they can build a strong relationship with the members and ward leaders, but this is not always possible.

On Sunday we announce the changes by telephone to all the Zone Leaders who, in turn, contact the missionaries in their zone. On Monday those missionaries who are moving pack up and travel to their new assignments. Those called as trainers of new missionaries come into the office where we meet with them for a dinner and a training session on Monday evening.

Our new trainers: Elders Worthen, Harris, Paolinelli, and Morales, with the Hinckleys

Tuesday morning we are up early to go to the airport to pick up the new missionaries. This is always an exciting moment. With four missionaries coming in we took two cars - our large van and our Toyota. On the way home from the airport we stop at Montjuic, a castle high on a hill overlooking Barcelona and the Mediterranean, from where they can see much of the mission field.

At the airport with Elders Kusseling, Ramirez, Colinas, and Roos, along with los Hinckley and Elder Lee

At Castell Montjuic

On the ramparts

At the transfer board

After lunch at the mission home and a brief orientation, the new Elders were on their way with their new companions and it was time for the President to have a final interview with the three missionaries going home. We will miss Hna. Henderson, Elder Majc, and Elder Kempkens more than we can say. They were wonderful missionaries who contributed to the great spirit of the mission and we diligent to the very end - all of them baptized in the last two weeks! Following our final interview we had a lovely dinner and a testimony meeting, then all went down to Plaza Catalunya for one last time where the other missionaries from the area and many of the members gather to sing hymns and bid farewell to these wonderful departing missionaries.

Cantando para los angeles: Hna. Henderson smiles for the camera at the Plaza Catalunya

Early Wednesday morning the office staff drove Elder Kempkens to the airport where he boarded a flight to Germany. He would be home with his family in Duisburg in time for lunch! Pte. and Hna. Hinckley drove Hna. Henderson to the airport a couple of hours later where she began a longer trip - all the way to Pocatello, Idaho. Elder Majc is from Slovenia, and his family drove over to pick him up. We had a wonderful visit with this remarkable family before they headed back home.

Thursday we breath. Friday we hold our regular Mission Council with the mission leaders, beginning with a breakfast at 9:00 a.m. and concluding about 4:00 p.m. This is a great work!

Today, Thursday, Pte. and Hna. Hinckley celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary. What could be better than living in Barcelona with 112 of the greatest young missionaries on the planet!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Hna. Hinckley calls each missionary on their birthday to wish them a happy birthday, and tries to contact their parents as well. But the missionaries often plan their own celebration. When Elder Jensen and Elder Lee celebrated their birthday on the same day last week, Elder Mitchell put together a lunch for the entire office staff at a restaurant near the port. A good time was had by all!

General Conference

The missionaries were very excited for General Conference. In our ward (Barcelona 2), the broadcast is available live in both English and Spanish (the English version is broadcast in the Institute room), so the missionaries were able to hear conference in their native language. It was a much aniticipated and wonderful event. We saw the Saturday morning session live (at 6:00 p.m. local time), then had a between-sessions get-together at the mission home for brisket and ice cream. Since the Saturday evening session was from 10:00 to midnight, we saw it, as well as the Priesthood session, on Sunday, followed by the live broadcast of the Sunday morning session.

Conference social in the mission home

Dining on the deck

It was a wonderful spiritual uplift for members and missionaries alike! We are grateful for the technology that makes this possible!