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.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Barcelona Stake Conference: 40 Chairs

"And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities, which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat."
Joshua 24:13
First eight missionaries in Barcelona, October 1969
Last weekend we attended the stake conference of the Barcelona Stake. The conference was held in the beautiful new Barcelona stake center, a three story building which has been open for just about six months. Outside of the Madrid Temple, it is probably the most beautiful Church building the country.

In the Sunday session, as I stood at the pulpit and looked out over the congregation - chapel, cultural hall, and onto the stage - I was reminded of the beginning of the work here in Barcelona. In October of 1969, eight missionaries traveled from Madrid to Barcelona to open the work. They arrived early on a Saturday morning so they would have time to find a place to stay that night. They held the first sacrament meeting on the beach early on Sunday morning, presided over by Elder Michael Duffin who served as the zone leader and branch president. They soon located space on the second floor of a building near the Sagrada Familia and hired a contractor to build some partitions for classrooms. They then petitioned President Smith B. Griffin of the Paris France Mission (which included Spain) for 40 chairs for the new little chapel. President Griffin questioned the need for so many chairs when the little branch consisted of only eight missionaries and two or three investigators. But the elders promised that they would fill the 40 chairs.

As I looked over the congregation in the stake center on Sunday, I noted that we had at least 40 chairs on the stage at the back of the cultural hall! We owe a special debt of gratitude to those first eight elders - in so many ways, we are the recipients of their pioneering work.

Early missionaries in Barcelona

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why We Love this Work

Elders Allphin and Bennington with Juan and Nancy
Elder Bennington provided this summary of the recent baptism of Juan and Nancy:

 "One afternoon in late September we were walking down the street after our morning meeting.  As we were walking we began to talk about the upcoming month of October, and what we wished to see happen in our area.  Elder Allphin began to express that he had a feeling that there was a family that we were meant to find and baptize in the month of October, and moreover a family that would be going to the temple in a year’s time.  As we began to talk about the idea, we both began to feel a confirmation that that is what the Lord wanted in our area in the month of October.

"Looking over our potential families that we were teaching, the future looked bright.  We wondered if it was one of these families, or if it was someone that we had yet to meet.  We came together and prayed regarding this goal, and kept it in mind as we went out everyday to work.  If a stroller came down the street, our goal flashed into our mind.  If a reference we received was connected to a family situation, we were again reminded.  We were blessed with so many opportunities to dedicate ourselves to our purpose. But when the answer to our prayers came, it came through an unexpected medium.

"Margarita was a less active member from Paraguay.  She was the only member baptized in her family. During her baptismal process she began to receive harassment from her family, and even began to feel discouraged regarding her new faith.  Nevertheless, she persevered and received a calling in the church and continued to grow in the Gospel.  Around the age of 18, Margarita took her belongings and moved to Spain.  Upon arriving she was faced with trial after trial, testing her faith time and time again.  With the necessity of work growing more and more apparent in her life, she began to sacrifice her religious backing and started to work on the Sabbath.  From that point on she struggled to make it back to church for roughly 6-8 years.  As she saw the missionaries from time to time, she felt a longing to speak to them and to return to the richness of the Gospel. 

"One afternoon walking down the street Margarita spotted you and Hermana Hinckley.  She finally mustered up the courage and began a conversation.  You then passed her information on to us, and we began to teach her.  Upon teaching her we quickly realized that Margarita´s testimony was still as strong as ever.  From that next Sunday on she has yet to miss a Sunday.

"One Sunday Margarita told us that she wanted to bring a friend that she was really excited for us to meet.  The next Sunday she came with Nancy and sat with her through all three hours of church.  At the end of church Margarita came up to us and told us that Nancy was really excited to start meeting with the missionaries and had already expressed her desires to become a member of the church.  We scheduled a first visit for the next night, right after the Noche de Hogar activity that we had with the ward.  When Nancy came the next day she brought her husband Juan.  We sat down with them after the activity and asked how they liked it.  Juan immediately began to tell us how he felt something amazing as he was in the church and how much he liked the people that were there.  We taught them about the gospel of Jesus Christ and why it is so important to apply in our life.  As we invited them to be baptized we had not even gotten though the invitation when Juan began to shake his head, tears in his eyes saying, "YES, this is exactly what my family needs right now.   We have finally found what we are looking for."  Nancy looked at him very surprised and with tears in her eyes also accepted and committed to be baptized on the 15th of October.  It was three weeks away but from the time they accepted to be baptized to the 15th everything went perfect.  They had no problems with any of the commandments; in fact they loved every time we taught a new commandment because it always seemed like something they had been wanting to change in their life.  They were the most prepared family that we have ever met and it has been such a blessing to see the gospel work in there life.

"The day of their baptism Juan and Nancy showed up more excited than ever.  As Margarita showed up, she revealed that she had brought a laptop with her.  As we walked back into the room after attending to something, we walked in to see Juan and Nancy equipped with a headset excitedly talking to their two children and Nancy´s mother on Skype in Paraguay.  It was a very special moment to see them interact and explain what was about to be taking place.  As the daughter saw her mother dressed in white she said, 'Mom I want to wear a white dress like that too!'  With tears in her eyes Nancy responded, 'Don´t worry, when you and your brother come you will both be baptized too!'

Preparing for baptism
"Nancy´s mother and two children watched the entire baptism from start to finish.  Nancy´s mother became overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry during the moments of Juan and Nancy´s baptism.  It truly was a special experience to see this family together in Spirit.

"Their children will be flying over to reunite with the parents at the end of November.  Matias will be baptized by his father in the beginning of December, and then middle of December they are planning to attend the trip with the ward to the temple to do baptisms for the dead.  There main goal at this point is to make it to the temple a year from now to be sealed."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Every Week is Transfer Week...

...or almost every week, but we are always grateful to receive new missionaries whenever they can come! On Friday, 21 Oct 2011, we were blessed to receive three young missionaries and one couple - the long-awaited Elder and Hna. Church!

At Estació Sants

Hnas. Dalton and Smith as we they get in the van 

Elder Timmig (center) pointing to Cornellá where he will serve
with Elders Manotas and Egan

Hna. Martín and Hna. Dalton point to Valenica!

And Elder and Hna. Church will serve in Zaragoza

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview Road Trip

This week's road trip for interviews took us to Martorell and Vilafranca. Great visits with four great missionaries doing great work! We have six investigators in these two branches preparing for baptism in the next few weeks.

Elders Roberts and McKinnon during weekly planning in Vilafranca

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Columbus Day 2011

Letter from President Hinckley to All Missionaries:

Christopher Columbus
and the Opening of the Last Dispensation
As the sun sank below the western horizon of the Atlantic Ocean on the evening of October 11, 1492, it left three small wooden ships surrounded by the gathering darkness. The ships were located at latitude of 24 degrees, slightly south of Key West, Florida, and a longitude of about 73 degrees, about  3500 miles west of San Sebastian, The Canary Islands. In all of recorded history, there was no known record of any ships sailing so far west from land, certainly not in the broad Atlantic.

The two smaller ships, the Niña and the Pinta, were captained respectively by Vicente Yañez Pinzon and Martin Alonso Pinzon, two brothers from Sevilla Spain who were experienced captains. The third and largest of the ships, sometimes known as La Gallega (having been constructed in Galicia) but named the Santa Maria by her devout captain, was under the command of a 45-year old Genoese seaman who used the Spanish version of his name, Cristóbol Colon. In English speaking countries he is known as Christopher Columbus.

As darkness set in, the ships were at full sail in gale force winds, traveling due west at about 9 knots. It had been 35 days since they had last seen land – the small port of San Sebastian in the Canary Islands where they had repaired a damaged rudder on the Niña. The voyage had already become the longest known journey through open ocean.

About 10:00 o’clock in the evening, an hour before moonrise, Columbus was standing on the sterncastle of the Santa Maria, scanning the dark horizon, when he thought he saw a faint light in the distance. Not certain in the darkness if it might be land, he did not inform his crew, but he mentioned it to an aide, Pedro Gutierrez, who thought he saw it to. The little fleet continued to sail due west under full sail.

At 2:00 a.m. on October 12, Rodrigo Triana, a 23-year old sailor from Sevilla, was atop the lookout on the Pinta. In the light of the moon, he saw “something like a white sand cliff gleaming in the moonlight on the western horizon, then another, and a dark line of land connecting them” (Samuel Elliot Morrison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, p. 226). Recognizing land, he cried out to the deck below, “Tierra! Tierra!”

In that moment the world changed. One era – an era that covered nearly 4 millennia of recorded history – ended, and a new era began. The known world, which had consisted of Europe, Africa, and Asia, expanded to include a New World previously unknown, and the discovery would arguably have a more profound impact on the world than any discovery before or since. In the dim light of the moon on that fateful morning of October 12, 1492, Rodrigo Triana saw not just a slip of land on the horizon, but the dawn of a new dispensation and the fulfillment of prophecy.

The written story of Columbus begins nearly 2,000 years earlier in the deserts of Arabia, “in a valley by the side of a river of water” (1 Nephi 2:6). In this remote location, somewhere near the Gulf of Aqaba, Lehi and his family lived in a tent after leaving the city of Jerusalem. During their stay in the desert, the young Nephi was given a great vision in which he saw scenes from the history of his descendants as well as events leading up to the restoration of the gospel in the last days. Nephi gives us only a brief account of these latter-day events, beginning with this interesting verse:

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, emphasis added)

Columbus, of course, did not have access to Nephi’s prophecy, but by his own account his world-changing voyage of discovery was the result of being “wrought upon” by the Spirit:

With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be 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.
All who found out about my project denounced it with laughter and ridiculed me. All the sciences were of no use to me. Quotations of learned opinions were no help… Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit who encouraged me …urging me to press forward?  (The Libro de las profecías of Christopher Columbus, translation and commentary by Delno C. West and August Kling)
Like Columbus, you are engaged in a life-changing adventure. You may meet with many obstacles, as did Columbus, but the work you do will have eternal impact. Like Columbus, the learning of the world is of little use to you – it really doesn’t matter how smart you are, how talented you are, or how well you speak. What matters is the fire that burns within you, urging you to press forward!
May that same fire that burned in the heart of Columbus burn within every missionary in the Spain Barcelona Mission,

Pte. Clark B. Hinckley
Columbus Day 2011
Christopher Columbus Statue, Barcelona

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Menorca's First Missionary!

Pte. and Hna. Hinckley spent 24 hours in Maó (or Mahón) on Saturday and Sunday for a very special event: Pte. Hinckley set apart Eddy Perez Familia as a full-time missionary. Eddy is the first missionary to be called from the island of Menorca. He will serve in the Spain Madrid Mission.

The little Menorca Branch was organized in 2006 as several members of the Church from Latin American immigrated to the island in search of employment. With the current economic crises, many of those members have moved elsewhere in search of work, but we still have about 30 members of record in the branch and an average attendance of 12-15.

Elder Perez with members of the branch
Elder Perez moved with his family from the Dominican Republic about two years ago. He and some of his siblings had joined the Church in the DR, and Eddy immediately became  our "third missionary" on the island, working almost everyday with the pair of full-time missionaries assigned to the island.

Elder Perez with his mother following the setting-apart
Saturday evening we were able to interview Elders Keller and Plaskett in their apartment in Maó. These two wonderful missionaries are doing a great work in Menorca - they have several investigators working towards baptism and regularly teach 20 lessons a week.

Sunday morning we met together for sacrament meeting and Sunday school (with such a small branch, we have a shortened block), then everyone stayed for the setting apart of the branch's first missionary. The branch president's wife brought some food and we all stayed for a light lunch together.

It was a memorable and historic occasion!

The Port of Mahon is the second deepest natural harbor in the world