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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mission Council

On Thursday and Friday we held a mission council with all of the Zone Leaders as well as a pair of Hermanas - las Hermanas Grimm and Konopinski. We began the council Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and met for two hours followed by another hour or two with the Ayudantes (assistants). Friday morning we had a great breakfast thanks to Hna. Hinckley and our wonderful helper, Carolina. We began meetings again at 10:00 a.m. and concluded about 4:00 p.m. (with breaks for snacks and lunch). All told we served 46 meals during the day. But we also had a great spiritual feast, reviewing much of what we learned at the annual Seminar for Mission Presidents held a week ago in Preston, England.

In England Elder L. Tom Perry emphasized the importance of teaching 20 leassons every week. We do this by teaching each progressing investigator 3 short lessons a week, continuing to teach recent converts, and teaching as many less actives (as suggested by the Bishop and the Ward Council) as the remaining time allows. Our missionaries have generally been teaching about 10 lessons each week, so this represents a substantial step forward. The missionaries are excited about increasing their teaching and about the increased involvement of ward leaders and members as they teach more less-active and part-member families. We are confident this will ultimately result in more of our Heavenly Father's children receiving the blessings of the restored Gospel.

Evidence of hard-working missionaries...

We had six wonderful baptisms in the mission this week. One of them was Hna. Rocio, a wonderful young sister whom Hna. Hinckley met in the metro a few weeks ago. She had been well-taught by Elder Jensen and Elder Mitchell, as well as Elder Lara who came into Barcelona from Menorca this week. Unfortunately, Pte. and Hna. Hinckley were in Zaragoza for the weekend reorganizing the Zaragoza 2nd Branch and could not attend the baptism, but we were able to meet with Rocio Sunday evening after returning to Barcelona. We had a wonderful visit as the newest member of ward told us of her baptism and her desires to go the temple in Madrid and perform baptisms for the dead.

Elders Jensen, Lara, and Mitchell
Hna. Rocio, Hna. Hinckley, Pte. Hinckley
In the living room of the mission home on Sunday evening after Rocio's confirmation

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Comings and Goings

Tuesday transfer days are busy days in the mission. They actually begin on Monday when the newly called trainers come to the mission home for dinner and orientation. This week we received the last large group of missionaries we expect to receive for some time. We have a remarkable group of trainers - including a former Assistant and former Zone Leader - as these new missionaries will set the tone for the mission over the next two years.

The new trainers pose with Pte. and Hna. Hinckley following dinner and orientation

The fun continues on Tuesday morning we go to the airport to meet our new missionaries, fresh from the Madrid MTC! After a few missteps getting all the luggage, the group was ready to head back into town.

At the Barcelona Airport

Before going to the office and mission home, we stopped by Montjuic, a high hill near the center of town capped by an old castle/fort with views of the entire Barcelona area and the Mediterranean. There the new missionaries saw a panoramic view of their new field of labor!

At Montjuic, with Barcelona and the Mediterranean in the background

Back at the mission home, the new Elders had a hearty lunch, received their debit cards, signed their residency papers, were briefed by the Assistants, and ultimately received their assignment and their new companion!

Elder Keller sees his assignment on the assignment board

Once the new missionaries were on their way with their new companions, we cleared the table and prepared to have dinner with the six wonderful Elders and three Hemanas going home. We had a delicious dinner, sharing stories and talking nonstop about the experiences of the past two years, then conluded with some final instruction from the President and testimonies. It was a memorable meeting, filled with many mixed emotions.

Following a long-standing tradition, we then hopped on the Metro and went to the Plaza Catalunya, where the other missionaries from the Barcelona area together with many local members, were singing hymns in the Plaza while some of the missionaries talked about the Church to people passing by. As the departing missionaries arrived, they sang "God Be With You
Till We Meet Again." It is a wonderful tradition which we call "cantando para los angeles" - singing for the angels. These departing missionaries are indeed angels! We will miss them, and it is only a knowledge of the strength and power of the newly arrived missionaries that enables us to let them go!

Cantando para los angeles, Plaza Catalunya

Wednesday morning we were up early to drive the departing missionaries to the airport and say a last goodbye. We will miss them!

Having a wonderful time; wish you were here!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Church in Europe

Pres. and Hna. Hinckley in Preston, England, where the Gospel was first preached in Europe

Hna Hinckley and I have just returned from a remarkable Mission Presidents Seminar in Preston, England where we were instructed and edified by Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, and the Area Presidency. It was both a spiritual feast and a source of numerous practical ideas to help us become more effective in building the Church in Europe. There was a clear expression by the Brethren that Europe is about to enter the most exciting period of missionary work here since the work began in 1837.

At the River Ribble where the first baptisms in Europe took place

It is of note that convert baptisms in the Spain Barcelona Mission are running about 40% ahead of last year, in spite of the fact that we have significantly fewer missionaries. Although our missionary force is shrinking in numbers, they are growing in power and there is a great spirit moving across Spain and Europe. This is an exciting time to be a missionary in Spain!

We continue to see miracles daily and weekly. Last week a pair of Sister missionaries were trying to get in touch with a family but were unable to reach them; late one evening they were about to give up, realizing that they needed to hurry back to their apartment to be in on time. They headed home with a prayer in their heart, and the family they were hoping to see walked around the corner towards them! Another pair of missionaries reported that they had 9 investigators at Church on Sunday, all of them brought by ward members! Another pair of missionaries were riding the tram to an appointment when a woman approached and asked them if they believed in the Old and New Testaments. They replied affirmatively and added that they also believed in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Christ. She asked if she could buy one, and they told her they would give her one for free the next day if she came to Church. She showed up at Sacrament Meeting, received her free Book of Mormon, and is now being taught. This is just a sample of what we experience every week!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Zone Conferences

This past week we have held Zone Conferences throughout the mission, something we do every six weeks. We have eight zones:
  • Barcelona
  • Barcelona Nord
  • Hospitalet
  • Zaragoza
  • Palma
  • Valencia
  • Elche
  • Murcia
The Palma Zone Conference was held on Friday, 7 August 2009 (see prior blog). Then on Monday we met with Barcelona and Barcelona Nord; on Tuesday with Hospitalet and Zaragoza. Wednesday we traveled south and met with Elche and Murcia on Thursday and Valencia on Friday. It was a wonderful week. Did you ever see a better looking group of missionaries?!

Barcelona Zone - 10 August 2009

Barcelona Nord Zone - 10 Aug 2009

Zaragoza Zone - 11 Aug 2009

Hospitalet Zone - 11 Aug 2009

Valencia Zone - 14 Aug 2009

Elche Zone - 13 Aug 2009

Murcia Zone - 13 Aug 2009

Even though our missionaries were busy with Zone Conferences this week, we were blessed to see seven investigators enter the waters of baptism. We are excited for these new members and proud of our wonderful missionaries!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Why We Love Spain in August

August is vacation month in Spain, which makes it the best month of the year for missionary work. Our calling to is find the elect, and this is easier in August since most of the "non-elect" leave town, making the finding much easier. Furthermore, the elect have the month off and so we have time to teach them.

Hermana Rocio is a great example of this. Last week we mentioned that Hermana Hinckley met a woman in the Metro who came to Church the next day. She had met missionaries earlier, but didn't have time to meet with them. Since she is on vacation this month, the Elders were able to teach her this week. Thursday night she called the missionaries to say she had just been reading the Book of Mormon - they had asked her to read 3 Nephi 11 - and when she got to verse 23 she was overcome by a strong desire to repent and baptized just as the Lord had invited the Nephites. The feeling was so strong she began to cry, and had to call the Elders and tell them about it. Needless to say, the Elders were pretty excited about the call! This evening we went to a baptism service and Rocio came as well. She recounted the entire story to us, and added that the Elders explained to her that that feeling was the Holy Ghost. She is excited to come to Church tomorrow and to continue learning and preparing for baptism.

On the same day that Hermana. Hinckley met Rocio, she also contacted a woman by the name of Doris walking down our street. Doris came by the office in the afternoon to follow-up, and the Elders set an appointment to teach her on Tuesday night. We invited her to our home for the lesson, and the missionaries were kind enough - and brave enough - to let us teach one of the principles. We had a wonderful experience. At the end of the lesson, this sweet sister bore her own testimony - telling Sister Hinckley that it was not just by chance that she had stopped her on the street but that she had been sent by God to her so that she could learn about this church. Doris and her husband, Ramon, came to Church today and meet again with the missionaries tonight.

These are just a couple of miracles that we have seen personally this week. We hear about many more every day from the great missionaries of the Spain Barcelona Mission.

On Friday we had Zone Conference with the Palma Zone. Palma is the major city of Mallorca (or Majorca) in the Balearic Islands of the Mediterranean, and is a major vacation destination of the rich and famous. The official summer palace of King Juan Carlos of Spain is in Palma, and many other royal families have summer residences there. We have a district in the Islands with five branches and 12 missionaries. They are an amazing group of missionaries! Two of them are the only missionaries on the island of Menorca, and they essentially are the Church on Menorca. They had a baptism two weeks ago and other one this weekend, and are having great success in building up the Church in this little outpost in the middle of the Mediterranean. We can report that the Palma Zone is doing great, and that every missionary in the zone is working hard!

Lunch at the Palma Zone Conference:
Eating the famous kebabs of Palma

This week we have zone conferences in the remainder of the mission - we will meet with the four zones in the north (Barcelona, Barcelona Nord, Hospitalet and Zaragoza) on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday we will drive down South (a 6-7 hour drive) and meet with the Valencia, Elche and Murcia zones on Thursday and Friday. We look forward to a great week of meeting with missionaries!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer in Spain

Last weekend we were blessed to see eleven people baptized in the mission. This weekend we saw another eight baptisms. We are experiencing a wonderful year and have been privileged to see the work continue to grow in Spain. In fact, a remarkable resurgence is happening across all of Europe, where convert baptisms have increased 30% over a year ago.

During the past week we conducted interviews with each of our wonderful missionaries serving in the Valencia, Elche, and Murcia Zones. Without exception, they are dedicated, hard-working, and spiritually mature missionaries. It is hot in the south - temperatures in Murcia have exceeded 120. We adjust the daily schedule somewhat in the summer to allow the missionaries a little more time in the morning, and a little less time during the heat of the day; and we encourage them to drink a lot of water and Gatorade. While this helps, it is still hot! But our faithful missionaries continue to work, to teach, to testify, and to magnify their calling. We are proud of all of them!

The photo at the right is the mission home and office. It is located in a quiet, leafy neighborhood in upper Barcelona, just a block from the metro and few blocks from the belt route that links us to the major highways in the mission. The office is on the ground floor (actually slightly below ground), while the home is on the first floor (what we would call the second floor in the United States).

We continue to witness many miracles. A few weeks ago a woman was walking down the street in Lérida and picked up a slip of paper from the sidewalk which advertised English classes being offered by the Elders at the chapel. She came to the class and stayed for the spiritual message which the Elders offer at the end of each class. The Elders spoke briefly about the the plan of salvation, and this woman's heart was touched. She asked if they would come and teach her more. Two weeks ago she was baptized; the Elders are now teaching several of her friends.

Saturday evening Sister Hinckley was lost in the Metro and approached a woman to ask directions. The woman pointed excitedly at Sister Hinckley's name tag, and when Sister Hinckley pulled out a pass-along card to give her, the woman reached in her purse and pulled out a card that had been given to her previously by a missionary. They exchanged telephone numbers and this morning she came to Church. We love this work!

This week we begin Zone Conferences, starting in Palma on Friday. We look forward to seeing all of our missionaries again at these conferences!