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, December 30, 2011

Have we not reason to rejoice?

How great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started [this year] that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?
2 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?
3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren…were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.
4 Behold, [451] of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.
5 Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.

11 I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
13 Behold, how many… of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice?
14 Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell.

23 Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren [back home], we go up to the land of [Spain], to preach unto our brethren… and they laughed us to scorn?
24 For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the [people of Spain] to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the [people of Spain] of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are…? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language.
26 But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the [mission field] …with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.
27 Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren… and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.
28 And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have … traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.
29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills...
30 …and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.
31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

35 Now have we not reason to rejoice?
(Alma 26)

When we began the year, we set a goal to help bring 450 souls into the Kingdom during 2011. During the early months of the year, it seemed virtually impossible, but as we approached the last few months we all felt like the Lord had prepared these people. During the last 50 days, one companionship of missionaries fasted each day and all missionaries prayed daily that the Lord would lead us to these prepared people.

By the end of the last Sunday of the year (Christmas Day), we had seen 448 people baptized and confirmed during the year! And then, as if to remind us whose work this is, a few more miracles took place this week. A young girl in a small branch, whose mother is an active member but whose father had never allowed his daughter to be baptized, had a sudden change of heart and agreed to let his daughter be baptized on Wednesday night if she could be confirmed that same night (as he refused to attend Church on Sunday when the confirmation would normally take place). On Thursday morning, the membership secretary, who had been working on a missing membership record of a convert from early in the year, received the baptism record for this convert, bringing the total to 450. And on Thursday night, another baptism and confirmation, due to special circumstances, took place in Palma. It has been a year of miracles!

Elders Allphin and Bennington with Juan and Nancy.
This great couple, 2 of 451 converts this year, were baptized in November.
Their 12-year old is preparing to be baptized on January 7th.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A White Christmas in Barrio 2

Saturday there were four wonderful baptisms in Barcelona Barrio 2. Each of our three companionships working in the ward (the office Elders and the Ayudantes) had a baptism. The ward had set a goal early in the year to help 30 people enter the waters the baptism during the year; with these four new converts they exceeded their goal by 1!

Cindy, Ligia, Sebastian, and Carmen
Every convert is a miracle, and each of these four wonderful new converts has their own miracle story. The Elders found Cindy´s name in the Area Book. She is the niece of one our Filipino members and was taught about 4 years ago but her parents did not want her to be baptized. The Elders got back in touch with her and her family (her parents are still in the Philippines). She wanted to get baptized, talked to her parents, and they agreed to give her permission.

Ligia was found by the missionaries several months ago. They taught her and her friend, and her friend was baptized within a few weeks, but Ligia was out of town and then had a difficult work schedule, and only in the past few weeks were the missionaries able to again begin meeting with her.

Sebastian showed up at Church a few weeks ago with his wife who is an active member. They live in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, but spend a month each year in Barcelona visiting family and friends here. Sebastian had never been baptized because of a smoking habit, although he attends regularly with his wife in Bolivia. The Elders Quorum President here immediately befriended him on the first Sunday, heard his story, introduced him to the missionaries and asked them to help him prepare for baptism. The EQP and the missionaries gave him a blessing to help him overcome his addiction, and he asked if he could be baptized by the EQP before returning to Bolivia. He kept all of his commitments, was baptized on Saturday, confirmed on Christmas, and returns to Santa Cruz today where he will attend Church on New Year´s Day as a new member!

Carmen is a young university student from Honduras who recently came to Barcelona. In one of her first classes the instructor asked each student to introduce themselves, and when Carmen found another student from Honduras, Diosana, she immediately felt connected to her. Diosana is one of our great Young Single Adults, and invited her new friend, Carmen, to Church on Sunday. Carmen was baptized Christmas Eve and confirmed on Christmas. Her older sister, just arrived from Honduras, came to Sacrament meeting on Sunday to see her confirmed, so this story is not yet over.

We love miracles!

Christmas Conferences

Following the mission tour with Elder Causse, we made the rounds one more time to have Christmas lunch with all of the missionaries. We had our traditional pizza lunch, enhanced by Hna. Hinckley´s homemade chocolate chip cookies. Each missionary also received a small gift - a lighthouse ornament with "El Faro 2011" written on it. Most of the ornaments we purchased at the lighthouse in Tossa de Mar earlier this year.

The missionaries also had a little gift exchange - "something white" - and we concluded our get-together with a slide show of the year, the new Church videos on the birth of Christ, and testimonies. It was a wonderful time to be together and feel the spirit of Christmas!

We begin in the Lleida Zone, a short day-trip from Barcelona:

Next was a flight to Bilbao to meet with the wonderful missionaries of the Vitoria Zone:

And from Bilbao´s rainy skies, we flew to Palma where the weather was markedly better:

From Palma we flew to Valencia:

And from Valencia we took the train back to Barcelona, where we met with the combined Barcelona and Hospitalet Zones for our last conference:

Bon Nadal per a tots!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mission Tour

Elder Gerald Causse toured the mission from December 6 to 9. We met him in Bilbao the evening of the 6th and held a wonderful conference there with the Vitoria Zone on 7 December. We then flew to Valencia for a conference on the 8th, then took the train to Barcelona where we met with all the other missionaries (4 zones combined) on the 9th.

It was a wonderful three days of inspired instruction. Elder Causse concluded each conference with a special Christmas present - he played a piano solo for the closing song.

One of the aspects of the conferences was a clear message that we are entering a "second harvest" in Spain. The first great harvest occured in the 1970s, when missionary work was very productive and when most of the current leaders of the Church were baptized. We are seeing the beginning of this second harvest already - this year we have already seen more convert baptisms than we have seen in any year for the past two decades, and with fewer missionaries than in any year except 2010. Elder Causse encouraged us to think of Spain as part of Latin America rather than part of Europe! This is an exciting time to be a missionary in Spain!