Because 22% of our missionary force was leaving, including one Ayudante and six zone leaders, and only 10 new missionaries were arriving, nearly every companionship was affected (only six companionships remained unchanged). Elder Atkin, our faithful secretary, and Elder Parry, who is taking over the his duties, worked for weeks to plan every detail so that everyone would be with a companion while traveling or while left in the field. It was a complex and impressive piece of work. For their next project, I suggest they consider launching a satellite into space - it couldn't be much more complicated!
Because of the complexities of travel, we announced all of the transfers on Friday. Interviews with the departing missionaries were held on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Between interviews on Monday we also welcomed two young people from the Vitoria Stake serving "mini missions" this month. We are glad to have them here!
Hno. Cantos with his companion, Elder Pando - they are serving in Sabadell
Hna. Cabrejas in the office before heading south to Valencia to work with Hna. Snow
While the president was interviewing the returning missionaries, the office staff was doing their own short interviews of the missionaries and recording them to produce a short video of advice and counsel for the arriving missionaries.
Elders Raban, Ashby and Atkin taking a break at the piano between filming
The Ayudantes (including Elders Morales and Ashby, going to other assignments, and Elder Southwick who is newly assigned) prepare notes for their training meeting with the trainers and the new missionaries
Tuesday at noon we headed to Estacio Sants (the train station) to pick up the ten new Elders. Because of the tight schedule, we brought them directly to the office (rather than making our traditional stop at Montjuic) where the office staff was primed and ready. The Ayudantes had already had a training session with the Zone Leaders, and were training the new trainers. Elder Bowers collected the passports and began scanning them. Hna. Belnap had already made luggage tags for everyone. The Lunds directed traffic outside the office; the office Elders had already stored the luggage of outgoing missionaries in the spare bedroom of the mission home, leaving room (barely) in the office for the 40 pieces of luggage of the the arriving missionaries.
Storing luggage to make way for the arriving missionaries
The nuevos arrive and attache name tags to each piece of luggage. We used two vans and the Toyota to transport them back to the office.
Newly arrived on the AVE from Madrid!
Taking luggage out to the cars
We ushered the new Elders upstairs to the mission home where the tables were set and Carolina, with the assistance of Hnas. Lund and Belnap and the Ayudantes, served lunch. Lunch was followed by a brief orientation. The Lunds briefed them on finances and pisos, Elder Bowers walked them through the next steps in registering with the government, and the Ayudantes briefed them on some key guidelines in the mission. Meanwhile, President Hinckley conducted a brief interview with each of them and finalized their assignments.
The nuevos gathered in the mission home for lunch and orientation
The trainers gather in the hallway before coming in to meet their new companions!
Orientation continues with the nuevos and the trainers
After completing the interviews and orientation, President Hinckley announced the assignments, and the new companionships went down to the office for final fotos and prayer, and they were then off to their areas of service at 4:15, just 3 1/2 hours after arriving at the train station!
Thirty minutes later the next event of the day began: dinner with the 19 outgoing missionaries, followed by a meeting and testimonies. In total, Carolina orchestrated preparing and serving 35 meals during the day. She prepared the chicken enchiladas (nuevos) and lasagna (viejos) earlier, but each plate, as always, was set as a piece of art.
We had a wonderful final meeting with the viejos. As always, the office staff had prepared souvenir books for them (containing contact information, instructions on going forward with life, a place to write goals, and a copy of the transfer board card). The meeting concluded with each missionary sharing their testimony. It is always a somewhat bittersweet meeting - they are sad to leave and we are sad to see them go, but we know that while they may have had the best two years of their life so far, the best is yet to come!
The 19 viejos and Hna. Hinckley pose for one last foto
CANTANDO PARA LOS ANGELES
The conclusion of the day was the traditional "Singing for the Angels" at Plaza Catalunya. Missionaries and members from around Barcelona gather at Portal d'Angel to sing hymns, make contacts in the street, and say farewell to the returning missionaries. Three of our missionaries had parents in town to pick them up, and they met us at the Plaza for the singing. The missionaries made several contacts and had a chance to say goodbye to friends.
Missionaries and members singing hymns in front of the artists' shops on Portal d'Angel
Elder Cook writes down an investigators address while Elders Keller and Gerber continue teaching
Elder Ashby makes another contact on his last night
Elder Southwick explains the Restoration
Hnas. Patten and Johns teach on the street
Hnas. Oliphant and Roerig teaching in the street
Hnas. Diehl and Brown on their last night in Barcelona, teaching a shopper in front of Zara
Hnas. Brown and Diehl sharing the message
While at the Plaza, and email arrived notifying us that our 11th grandchild had just been born. We are excited and grateful for the safe arrival of little Tessa Charlotte Lesan!
After Singing for the Angels, all returned home for a few hours sleep: the three hermanas stayed at the mission home, nine Elders slept at the office (we have beds for six...), and four slept at a hotel just up the street.
Early (6:45 a.m.) Wednesday morning everyone was up, dressed, and packed. Elder Atkin had all the luggage in the entry to the office in alphabetical order, ready to take to the street and load onto the bus. We chartered a tour bus to take the missionaries - and their 64 pieces of luggage - to the airport. President and Sister Hinckley road in the bus while the Lunds and Elders Parry and Atkins drove a van (for us to return in). It was the first time we had used a bus (transfers are not usually this large) and it worked great - it got everybody and their luggage to the airport at the same time and was no more expensive than renting vans or taxis.
At the airport, it took about 45-60 minutes to get everyone through the line and luggage checked. We had a final farewell abrazo at the security line and said goodbye! We hope to see them all in a couple of years!
Today we have a few hours to clean up, wash sheets, put down the tables, and regroup. Tomorrow we drive two missionaries up to Andorra where they will spend three weeks in a little branch that hasn't had missionaries for over a year. Friday we have driving class (still working on getting our Spanish driver license, akin to taking the bar exam). Then on Monday we have Zone Leader Council followed by Leadership Training on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. In the meantime we continue to see daily miracles and wonderful baptisms!