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, January 28, 2011

Zone Conferences - Part 2

This past week we had three more zone conferences. Monday we were in Bilbao with the Vitoria Zone; Tuesday we held our first zone conference in the new Barcelona Stake Center with the Barcelona Zone; and Thursday we were in Valencia.

The Vitoria Zone in the Bilbao Chapel

The Barcelona Zone in the new chapel - carpet, pews, and behind the folding wooden doors at the back, a basketball court with wood floors!

Thus ended a wonderful series of zone conferences to begin the new year. We are excited for what lies in store. We were blessed with a very successful year in 2010, and we are confident that as we rededicate ourselves even greater blessings are in store!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

First Baptism in New Barcelona Stake Center

The new Barcelona Stake Center opened last Sunday; and today we had the first baptism performed in the new building. Hno. Alfonso was baptized by his new friend, Hno. Jorge. Jorge was baptized just two months ago.

Alfonso had had some contact with the missionaries some time ago, but on January 2nd a friend of his brought him to church on Sunday. After church they invited him to come to an open house at the mission home (for recent converts and investigators), and we met him that Sunday afternoon at our home. Over the next three weeks he was taught by Hnas Johns, Fuentes and Culverwell. Hna. Johns completed her mission last week and returned home, so was not able to be here for the baptism, but it was a joyous day for all involved!

Hnas. Culverwell and Fuentes with Alfonso; Jorge is the second from the left.

Standing in front of the font in the new stake center

The stake center itself is a beautiful new building and finally provides us with a good presence in the city of Barcelona. On this particular Saturday night there was a primary activity in the Primary room, a baptismal service in the Relief Society room, and a large group of young single adults playing basketball in the cultural hall (a full court with a wood floor!). The building is being well used just a few days after opening!

Friday, January 21, 2011

More Help Arrives

On Friday morning Elder Call arrived on the train from Madrid. He is the first of our missionaries scheduled to arrive on 11 January to actually receive a visa and arrive. We are excited to have him here!

This afternoon he will board an airplane and fly to Bilbao, where his new companions will meet him at the airport. He will be serving in Bilbao with the zone leaders, Elders Awerkamp and Bajaña, in a trio for the next few weeks until we receive some additional missionaries.

Elders Awerkamp and Bajaña are glad for the help - when I called them this morning they told me they currently have seven investigators with baptism dates scheduled!

Elder Call points to Bilbao with Elders Keller and Jacinto (acting as proxies for his actual companions, Elders Awerkamp and Bajaña).

Hna. Hinckley Visits the Basque Country

On Tuesday, Hna. Hinckley flew to Bilbao for the day and had a productive visit, including lunch with the Hnas. in their piso. Among other things, she learned that the hermanas had been without hot water for two weeks, a period of time which they described as "an adventure." (The hot water has been repaired and is now working fine).

Hnas. Bennion and Boone enjoy a hearty pizza lunch in Bilbao, although Hna. Bennion seems a little unsure about the quality of the food!

January Zone Conferences: Lifting Our Vision

January Zone Conferences! This week we held zone conferences in Palma, Hospitalet, and Lleida. We had wonderful conferences. Each conference began with a reading of the names of every convert baptism in the mission during 2010, which brought back a flood of memories as we read aloud hundreds of names and were reminded of the marvellous miracles we saw during the past twelve months.

Unfortunately, neither Hna. Hinckley nor her camera made it to Palma on Tuesday (she was in Bilbao for the day tending to the needs of missionaries there), so we do not yet have photo of the Baleares Zone. 

Wednesday we met with the Hospitalet Zone at the Hospitalet Stake Center. This is our largest zone, and we had a wonderful day together.

From the Hospitalet Stake Center we drove directly to Lleida (about two hours) for zone conference there the next morning. This was the first conference of the newly-created Lleida Zone and the first time we had held a conference at the Lleida chapel.
Next week we hold conferences in Bilbao, Barcelona, and Valencia!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Help Arrives!

Blessings from heaven, or at least from Indiana: Elder Littlefield had been serving in the Indiana Indianapolis Mission for several weeks waiting to receive a visa. We are happy to announce that on Friday evening he made it Barcelona!
Elders Sommerfeldt, Harris, Littlefield and Keller at the station
Elder Littlefield is working with Elder Harris in the ancient and beautiful city of Gerona. These are two outstanding missionaries and we have no doubt they will see much success in Gerona! Welcome, Elder Littlefield!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Fire that Burns Within Us

We held our first mission council of the year on Thursday and Friday, 13-14 January. Because this was the first council of the year, we started early and took a little field trip to help us appreciate the way in which God fulfills prophesy. At the Columbus statue (at the foot of Las Ramblas), we read the account of Nephi's vision:

“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
We rehearsed the history of Columbus - how his proposal to sail west to reach the East was turned down as foolish nonsense by Portugal (twice), Genoa, Venice, and Spain. But how he persisted in lobbying the Spanish court for seven years until the monarchs finally granted him some funding. And how, after 30 days at sea he had already doubled the record for consecutive days sailing out of sight of land, and how finally after 70 long days at sea, a young lookout on the Pinta sighted a small strip of land on the far western horizon, changing the course of history and setting in motion a series of events that ultimately led to the restoration of the gospel.

And then we read Columbus' own description of why he pursued his vision with such tenacity against almost unsurmountable odds:

“The Lord opened my understanding with a hand that could be felt, so that I knew it was possible to sail from here to the Indies, 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 who encouraged me...urging me to press forward ?”

We walked through the medieval city to the old royal palace, where in April of 1493 Columbus entered the royal plaza, Isabel and Ferdinand seated on their thrones at the top of steps to greet his entourage. We climbed the same steps that Columbus climbed to greet the monarchs.

The palace by night

The steps of the Royal Palace
The story of Columbus is a story of the fulfillment of prophecy: Nephi prophesied of a man "wrought upon" by the Spirit of God; Columbus testified that the Holy Ghost was like a fire that burned within him urging him to go forward.

We concluded with other, more recent prophecies about the work in which we are engaged:

“There are tens of thousands of people in Europe being prepared. The great days of the harvest are ahead of us, not behind us.”
And we noted, that like Nephi's prophecy of Columbus, these modern prophecies will also be fulfilled by men and women - young missionaries of the Spain Barcelona Mission - within whom that same fire burns.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hasta luego...

It was transfer week again, and a somewhat unusual one - six amazing missionaries returned home in addition to the incredible Belnaps - and not one of the missionaries scheduled to arrive has actually received a visa yet!

As has been the custom for many years, we went to Plaza Catalunya on Tuesday night with the outgoing missionaries where we sang hymns with other missionaries and members and made contacts.

As always, this was a bitter-sweet event for everyone. We will miss these wonderful elders and hermanas, and we will struggle to survive without the Belnaps (who will clean the pisos, move the furniture, maintain the cars, prepare the mission history, and feed the five thousand?). ¡Hasta luego!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Year of Miracles

2010 was a wonderful, miracle-filled year in the Spain Barcelona Mission! With the combination of visa delays for U.S. missionaries, the change in mission boundaries, and the reduction in complement of missionaries, we dropped as low as 78 missionaries at one point in the year (compared to 120 in July 2009). Overall, we averaged only 48 companionships during 2010, down from an average of 60 in 2009. But even with this very reduced complement of missionaries, the Lord blessed us with 336 wonderful new converts during the year - a significant increase in convert baptisms per companionship from prior years. Photos of a few of these miracles are shown below.

We are grateful for the faith, dedication, and hard work of our wonderful missionaries. They worked through the hot, humid days of summer, the cold rains (and snow) of winter, they worked through rejection and disappointment, they kept themselves worthy and demonstrated their faith through obedience, and they were blessed! Thank you for your continued prayers on behalf of the many people in Spain searching for the truth!