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.

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!