Sunday, August 25, 2013

The 50th


Hello everyone.  This is the fiftieth post on this blog. Wow! I would like to make it memorable but I expect it will simply be my meandering thoughts, as usual.  The photos for this week have made me thoughtful though.  I hope they make you think too.
This photo is from last Sunday.  Our sweet friend finally got baptized.  I won't use his name since I haven't asked permission.  We have helped teach him and we have known he has difficulties.  He seems to have some OC and probably other things.  Still, he deeply desired to be forgiven of his sins, a gift I am afraid I take way too lightly.  When the sisters asked who he wanted to have baptize him, he asked for Elder Castillo.  That was an unexpected blessing for Rod.  We had to borrow white pants and tie from a member as the supply in the closet was all too small and we didn't bring any.  The actual process of being baptized was very, very difficult for our friend.  He almost froze completely just getting in the water.  He was afraid he would be dropped, and he really didn't much like the idea of being in the spotlight, just to mention a few of the obstacles.  To make it even harder, the baptism was right after the Spanish ward's meeting so there were lots of people there.  Still, he persevered!' He was confirmed today.  I was touched by his willingness to do something that was so extremely difficult for him, in order to receive forgiveness for his sins.  To me baptism is a landmark event, a step in our progression, but not 'an Everest to climb', as it was for him.  Still he did it.  Here is hoping I can meet my challenges as successfully.
 

I don't remember exactly what day it was, but the sisters told us they wanted to make us dinner one evening.  We have fed missionaries regularly since we got here, and they are always complimentary and appreciative. However, this was the first time any returned the favor.  It was so sweet and thoughtful of them to even think of doing it.  They have such limited financial reserves that I thought of saying no, but, we are trying to learn to be gracious, so we just said thank you.  They came to our apt to fix dinner as we have more room, dishes, AC, etc.  When they got here and rang the bell, I buzzed them in, and opened the front door so they could just walk in.  They rang the doorbell anyway.  I thought, oh the door must have closed, but when I got there, this is what I saw.

I am getting choked up just remembering.  They were a little embarrassed about the sign but how sweet.  It is amazing what a little appreciation can do for the heart.  They came in and made us a delicious supper.  Three girls that had never met until a month ago, working as a team to teach the gospel,  I don't know of any work that is harder, and they take the time to 'care for' those who are here to care for them.  These are Saturday's Warriors all right, the cream of the crop. 


Don't worry, we are still ourselves and inclined to add a good bit of play to our work.  Rod remembers so clearly the trials of his first mission, how hard it was to be 'in the office' so he brings his spirit of joyful play to the Elders too.  This is the 'Winchester 300' we got for Elder Butler.  The sister had gotten a package from her best friend.  She told us that one afternoon some time ago she and her friend decided to build a bear and had sent it back and forth to each other through school and other adventures.  Our Sister had understood that the bear was lost though.  She was so tickled to receive the bear, dressed as a missionary, from her friend.  Elder Butler felt that a bear hunt was called for however, and so she was obliged to defend him. :)
Our President is so thoughtful and appreciative, but serving in the office is still a high pressure assignment, and not what a missionary expects his mission to be.  Rod has not only helped them deal with the stress, he has helped them find ways to continue to proselyte too, which is a major achievement.  Today in our Mijas branch, our Elders had 3 investigators attending.  Big Score!


 We know the blessings of service, right.  Well, one of the side effects is love.  You already knew that?  Okay, I may have known it too, but not like this.  Everyone has hard patches on their mission and this Elder was in one, but is the only member in his family.  Where do you go for support, sympathy and shoves in the right direction  without family?  We happened to be in the right place, and Rod was inspired with the right things to say and do to help him get over his difficulties.  Now he feels like family to us.  You can see the resemblance right?  You kids remember how often you had to ask if Dad meant you or his kids from school when he talked of his kids?  Well, I'm afraid there will be even more confusion when we get home because now 'our kids' are from all over the world.
 
 
Now to this week!  Our mission is having a special 'Week of finding".  Previously, the highest number of new investigators we have had in one week was just over 100. We generally don't have a huge emphasis on numbers, but this week, the zone leaders set the goal of 555 'news'  (new investigators) for the week.  The number is significant because that is the mission goal for number of convert baptisms for the year and we are rather behind the pace if we are to reach it. We started with a special fast and they have been working like crazy to reach their 'finding' goal.  One AP and one office elder decided to do a push-up for each 'new' found.  The first couple of days, they had to do over a hundred every day, and they are still going strong.  I haven't heard how close we came, but when I first heard the goal, I thought it was so out of range.  Now I am not so sure.  How often we set our sights too low.  Fear is our greatest enemy.
 
 I will report next week!  (since push-ups are out of our range, we are climbing a step for every new investigator found, but I am behind)

Today was 'munch and mingle.  One of the advantages of a small branch is that we can all get together in someone's home.  It is so fun, we get to taste food from other cultures and just visit with each other.  It is an opportunity to invite neighbors too. Today it was at our house. 
 We have had a pair of visitors from Russia for about 2 months.  It is a Mom and her 14 year old son.  Our one young man was so glad to have someone else in his class.  The fun was trying to have lessons with him, he has very little English.  You know Rod though, he was able to do it.
We have grown very close to them in the last two months and hope they will be able to visit again next year.  We now have someone to visit in St Petersburg some day.   They are the 2 in the middle.
It gives me some hope in a way.  My heart has stretched enough to feel love and admiration for these people from all over the world.  It isn't just the 'hey we're friends' kind of love.  It is a deep, abiding love and concern that stretches around the world.  I may be able to develop the same love  the Savior has for the people of this world in the hereafter.  How blessed we are in this gospel.  One of the investigators I talked to today told me that she really had started with little interest in God and religion, but the people kept her coming back.  With all our faults and failings, we still have the light of Christ.  Someone told a story about the negotiations made when they were building the Jerusalem center, the ban on proselyting  was all arranged.  Then one of their leaders said something to the effect that it was all well and good, but what would they do about the 'light in their eyes'? We really do have that light and are a beacon to the world.  So just  Let it shine! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Misteri D'Elx

See the title?  That is in Valenciano, a dialect of Spanish spoken in Elche or Elx (well, it is spoken in Valencia which is where Elche is). It means the 'Mystery of Elche'.  You now know the title of Elche's rather famous mystery play. I am sure you feel smarter already!  You see  it has been performed since the middle ages, even after the council of Trent outlawed such performances inside the cathedrals, and is performed in Valenciano.  The legend is that a casket washed up on Elche's seashore containing the script and music for this play and a statue of the virgin.  It has been performed ever since. The play recounts  that at the end of her life, Mary  asks God to see the apostles once more before she dies.  They come, singing some really beautiful songs I might add, she dies, and then is taken up to heaven (the top of the basilica) in the company of angels and music, and the statue depicting her is sent back down.   My husband had studied this play and wanted to see it, so We Did!
Ummmm..Warning! If you have a lot to do today, you might want to save this for another time. 
There are lots of photos.  Just know that, as usual, I didn't use even half of what I kept.

We had been wanting to do apartment checks and haul supplies to that neck of the woods anyway so it was a perfect opportunity.  When we do apt checks, we not only see that they are clean, we also check safety supplies, and I have been taking the opportunity to teach the missionaries how to use extinguishers, where to place smoke detectors, etc. I think we will have to go back because there are still a lot of apts we didn't get to see and there are no couples up there.

They mostly did very well in keeping  things clean.  Of course that meant that we had to go out to eat! The Chinese buffets are very good here.  The missionaries really enjoy the 'all you can eat' part.


This is the Fa├žade of the Basilica.  We actually got to go in one of these huge doors.


God and Christ crowning Mary Queen of Heaven

I loved the ivy on this column.

St Peter(?) slaying the dragon.

Street contacting.

A rather interesting fountain.

There are phrases about women, in many languages.
This is the interior of the basilica before it filled with people.

The virgin.

They opened these windows about a 1/3 of the way through the play.

I think that door is at least 50 feet up.

Here are dignitaries entering. Note the fans.  Paper fans were passed out to us as we entered and we all used them the whole time.  It was warm and there were lots of folks.


Mary and the angels enter here.  We were very near the main aisle. Those poor angels had to wear (hot) wigs. James met 2 other apostles and they sang their trio standing right next to us.  Their songs were gorgeous and their wonderful voices blended perfectly.
That is our Mary.   

She sang a lot and it was all memorized.  She had to stay still for about an hour like this.  She did have a hanky that she wiped the sweat off with though. 

The angel is about to enter.


Here is the Archangel starting his descent.  It took about 8 minutes for him to arrive.

The organ music was wonderful. We couldn't see if from our seats so this was taken at intermission.  There are 2 sections of the play which are run on consecutive nights but we got to see the whole play in one sitting.
 In the 2nd half the Archangel comes with the 2 angels you can see, plus 2 cherubim kneeling at the base of the framework playing lutes.  The only parts of any of  them that moved during their 'flight' were their mouths and strumming hands.  I kept wondering how they didn't start spinning.

We really did enjoy the play.  One of the ladies in front of us shared her program with us during the 2nd half and that had the words in Spanish and Valenciano .  It really made understanding much easier.  All the parts are performed by natives of the city rather than professionals.  We also realized how much of the symbolism we don't get because we don't know the Catholic saints. A neat experience.
  For the whole week prior, people randomly toss firecrackers or those little poppers at other people. We heard random booms  during the play as fireworks were shot off. 

 
After the play we wandered a little down town.  This is one of the bridges over the river that runs through the city.

This was on that bridge.  Those are racks of  fireworks.  There were at least 3 other bridges, also filled with fireworks.

We returned to our hotel to rest a bit, then met up with the missionaries at a member's apartment building.  We went up on top and watched from about 10:30 pm till midnight as fireworks were shot off from all over the city.





Notice how little smoke there is in the sky at this point.

I hand held the camera and tossed most of the photos that showed movement, but I kind of liked this one.




Remember the rockets on the bridge?  They were shooting them off one after the other for about 15 minutes solid.  See the smoke in the sky?
For the finale they shut off power to the center part of town and shot a huge one like this. They call it a palm (like the tree).  Elche is famous for all it's palm trees.  Last year the final huge rocket misfired, hit the ground and burned the crew, killing one of them. This year's display was dedicated to him.  At the end you could hear people all over the city singing their anthem. 
I found it interesting that this day to honorthe Virgin is celebrated with fireworks, hundreds of thousands of euros worth, I would guess. The gospel brings a quieter, eternal light in the darkness of people's lives.  How blessed we are to have that light.  What a joy to get to share it!


 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lessons

Today in  church, Rod spoke, and I presented the lesson in Relief Society.  They both went pretty well, but it got me thinking about lessons.  In the mission field 'lessons' usually means the lessons you have taught to investigators.  We had a very nice one this week on the atonement with our little odd guy.  He was hung up on the idea that you have to ask forgiveness of those you have wronged and since you often can't contact them, you are stuck.  Rod had him read in Alma where Alma Jr describes his repentance,  how it felt to know  the bitterness of his sins, how if felt to know he was forgiven.  He hadn't had the chance to ask forgiveness from those he had wronged at that point, but he was still forgiven, through the atonement.  I never noticed that before.  It truly is one of the miracles of the atonement though. 
Last Sunday, none of our Philippine members made it to church.  It is a very long way for them to come by bus.  I think they have to catch the first bus around 7 am to get here in time for Sacrament meeting, so it is hard, but they are so very faithful and almost always make it. Right now, many of the families they work for have visitors and so they must stay at work to clean and cook for everyone.  We missed them so very much last week.  They often don't say a whole lot and rarely give lessons, but their faith is a tangible force.  Today one couple said they finally finished work at 1 am this morning, but  they still made it to church.    I am such a wuss.  Anyway, during the lesson I gave in RS today, I asked Lydia to share her feelings about the difference the church had made in her life.  She had mentioned to me at the end of Sunday School the joy being a member brought her so she explained that again for us in RS and wow, what a difference she brought to 'my' lesson on 'Faithful Energetic Service in the Kingdom of God'.  She told how being a member brought her such joy and comfort.  Her friends ask why she goes to Fuengirola for church?  They say there are lots of churches close to by so why go so far.  She told them that this church brings joy to her heart and she can see and feel it in other members, even in a group where she doesn't know the people.  The things we take for granted!!!  Lydia is the only member in her family and she is supporting her kids back in Philippines so they can get good educations, by cooking and cleaning here.  Not only does she come to church, she brings friends with her.  By plain and simple things great works are brought to pass!  Soooo in teaching 'the lesson' I learn a greater one.  As Always!
Another lesson I am always having to relearn.  The more time and effort I put into my daily scripture and language study, the more satisfied I am with my work and efforts here on the mission. I sorely miss my kids.  I long to hug and play with my grandkids.  My friends are far away. I keep wishing I could go to a studio and practice making ceramics.  I miss my house and garden. But...all these things bother me so much less, when I am working to do the things missionaries should do. Seniors don't really have the same rules as the young missionaries, but I need to live closer to what they do to get the blessings.  As I said, I am relearning this lesson.
The past week was a 'normal' week.  We had 6 missionaries (the overflow that don't fit in the mission home) stay with us Monday night while they were here for meetings.  We sent off Elder Jackson  Thur morning at 3 am.  His sister is leaving for her mission very soon after he arrives home so he finished his mission outside of the usual release schedule.  We will head off to Elche tomorrow.  We are doing apartment checks and then seeing the passion play there.  It is centuries old.  That is my companion.  He always finds cool things to experience.  We are also looking to buy some leather and that is the 'leather capital' of Spain.  Sooo expect  photos next week.  Meanwhile, have a wonderful week

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Si tu te vas

This week has been generally quiet, thank goodness.  Our P-day last week got used up and it is surprising how much we felt the lack.  The tasks at the office were mundane and now that they are familiar, not such a challenge as at first.  That makes them easier to get done, but we have less  sense of accomplishment.
 Sunday evening we got to meet  Elder Valezuela's parents. He was one of the APs when we started. We visited with them a little and served them the strawberry pie Rod had made.  Of course then we had to say goodbye to him as they were taking him home with them  The nerve!

Some of you know why Elder Valenzuela is smiling so big.
Notice the name badges.  Spanish shirts don't have pockets so Rod copied Elder Valenzuela's solution,
 plus the hat was a gift from him to  'Elder Castillo'.


He is getting really good at strawberry pie!


There are plans to take at least Elder Valenzuela on a Havasupai hike someday so you may get to meet him.  A great young man and wonderful parents too!
We happened to have Elder Jackson in the office on his birthday (he had to come in for specialized training and his bus was the early one) so we had to celebrate, of course!
We were glad there is a bakery down stairs from us.
You can just see the end of one of our purchases in his other hand.   One of our office elders is a big golf lover and the other is a hunter, so to unwind after our last transfer, we found a golf set and some guns (nerf type) as gifts for them.  Rod  made 'targets' with photos off of the internet and hid them around the office for Elder Butler. We set up a 'water trap' and used silk plants from around the office for a golf course for Elder Norton.  Then we left early so they could enjoy them.   Those guns have appeared from time to time and a couple of the bullets have gone missing, as is the nature of such things.  These Elders are still just boys after all, and my dear Elder Castillo is very good at playing!  It is a skill I don't have, at least to his degree.  My grandkids will have to help me develop it when we get home.  It really is important to have fun in the midst of our work.  The harder the work, the more important the fun becomes I think.  We are beginning to do the preparation for the next wave already...we will get 37 new missionaries in Sept. and as of now, some of them will come from the US and some from the Spain MTC.  The ones that come from the states have to be handled a little differently (they are so tired after 14 hours in airplanes), and the timing is much harder to pin down as luggage and such can increase the time needed.  This will be our biggest group. That means lots of planning and preparation for us and President, plus he has to decide where he wants apartments and whether it will be a sisters area or Elders.  See?  Lots of work and lots of it is thinking. Hence the need for diversions!
After that things are slowing way down.  I think we only get 12 new ones in Oct.  A piece of cake!
We had our 'diversion' on Saturday.  As part of our anniversary present, Rod bought tickets to see Julio Iglesias and that was last night!  Some of you may not know, but I would guess that he has more name recognition worldwide than any other musician.  The note on the tickets said he has something like 300 million records sold. He has a smooth, crooner's voice even now as an old man.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The venue is rather cool too.  They built it in an old quarry. 
Driving to the concert we met the first traffic jam we have encountered here in our area.  The sun was really cool looking  though. This was at about 8:45.  The concert started at 10:00 PM  



We had a lady take a photo of us both.  We were on the back row, a good thing given the speakers and the age of our ears.

That is the stage and you can see the colored lights on the rock in the background.  They changed through the concert.

From that distance, and at night, not a bad photo!

I was impressed with his grace and graciousness.  He went directly to the music, there was little talking, and no 'cover act'. 


We had a really nice time.  We even ran into a friend of Bruna's that was at munch and mingle last Sunday.  The strangest things happen.
Today I helped in primary because I wasn't sure the 3 kids spoke fluent English.  They did though.  The family comes from Marseille and the Dad is French but the Mom is from Oklahoma and the kids are fluently bilingual except for the 3 year old little girl who really doesn't talk much.  That is usual for bilingual kids though.  I really enjoyed playing with them.  Next week I am back on deck to teach Relief Society.  I guess I will get to studying that now.  We are so blessed to be part of this international church.  It really is a world wide church and we really are trying to serve all mankind by raising them up one at a time.  There really isn't another way. The Lord loves each of us, so Keep up the Good Work!