Sunday, September 29, 2013

The softball game that never was...

Remember The Softball Game?  The one that didn't happen?  The one that lead to a visit by the police?  Yeah, that one.  Well, second try was the charm, that and not trying to get permission, ...and some help from 'Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Scott' among others.
Just for those who were wondering, we did pay the multa (fine) but it wasn't bad at all.  It actually does 'add to the story' for my cute husband so worth every centimo. 
The second try had to be bigger and better of course.  Elder Castillo asked his sister if she had any old mitts she could lend send us.  We were just a little late, her old ones had gone, but she got some new ones and sent them to Utah for the Deere kids to bring back after their summer visit.
Then we found a 'vacant lot' so to speak and set up another game as a late Labor Day celebration.   We have a couple of first rate baseball players, but most of us are less than able.  Still, everyone had a good time.    See for yourself.
First we had to warm up of course

Some of us had to learn how to catch a soft ball.

Next we picked teams,  by month of birthday!

Sister Deere Rocks!

We were in someone's short cut.  I love that both modes of transportation use it.

Some people found this game rather amusing.

Okay, it was funny sometimes.

A good leader leads by example. Thanks Pres. Deere.


Apparently there were some free hats in one of the apartments.  They added a lot of comfort, if not fashion.

Watch out!

Go Team!

There goes another one!

It was a fun game

The guy in the tan shorts saw us playing and asked if he could join in... in perfect English. 
We got his number afterwards.  Not the first sports contact.
This is a Fig?  There was a fig tree in the outfield.

In order to avoid another visit by the authorities, President and Sister Deere invited us up to the mission home for our barbeque.
Our president is a man of many talents!

We had a wonderful And Uneventful time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The field is White

I'm Baaack.  Better late than  never, right?  We had another busy week so I am off schedule.  Since I love you all, and I know how much I enjoy every single photo and word that you post about your life, I am assuming you enjoy getting updates from us too, so here I am.
The big event of the past week is our baptisms.  Yes, that is plural!!!  This is one of the big miracles of this huge transfer.  One of the sacrifices that the missionaries make while in the office is a huge reduction in time for proselyting.  Rod has worked with the Elders to help them find ways to continue to squeeze in proselyting, but it is very hard.  The office will eat up every second if you let it, even in 'normal' times.  Soooo our office elders worked on keeping a balance and the Lord rewarded their efforts, as is almost always true, through the members.  An amazing Philippine couple in our branch shared their testimonies with some friends and now those friends are members of our branch.  Hey everyone, it isn't that hard!  Sister P was talking with her friend who is divorced, and her daughter who has had some serious health problems.  She offered her prayers and support during the daughter's surgery and invited the branch to join in those prayers.  Later, she shared with her friend the power and gift of faith in God that comes through this gospel.  As the missionaries taught her, the friend struggled with the idea of forgiveness, especially of the ex husband.  She was finally able to let go of that burden of anger and resentment toward him. Isn't the atonement amazing?  They were baptized a week ago Sunday, and confirmed this past Sunday.  Since Sunday is their only day off, the baptism had to be on Sunday and we had to wait to hold it till after the Spanish ward was done with their meetings.  During that 'wait time', we had everyone over to our house for sandwiches, which was fun.  It was especially nice because I always feel bad that they go for so long without a meal on Sundays.  The baptism was amazing because the daughter is deathly afraid of being under water, especially 'deep' water and of being 'pushed under backwards'.  We waited patiently and prayed while she got her courage up.  She was nearly in tears.  Finally, she gave our branch president the nod and was baptized.  I never even considered that the actual baptism would be so hard for people but it has been!  After they were baptized, they bore their testimonies.  You do know that 'public speaking' is the most common phobia among adults in the US.  I assume here too.  They bore beautiful testimonies then and again after their confirmations last Sunday.  We may have to learn Tagalog though.  For part of the time, the Philippine speakers outnumbered the English speakers.  I have noticed a visible change in Sister S 's face since her baptism.  She really does GLOW.  The darkness of her anger and resentment are gone now.  What a blessing!  We know how hard living the gospel sometimes is and I at least, used to feel reluctant to ask people to change their lives.  (It isn't us asking!) What we often don't realize is that living the gospel is so much easier than living without it.  We can leave our burdens in the Lord's hands.  We don't have to haul them around all the time.  We have confidence that He is In Charge, and therefore the trials we have to bear, while hard, will be worth it in the end. Others just endure day after day with no hope of ultimate success.  We Know He loves us.  The world feels lost and alone, trying to buy happiness in fun and diversion.  It doesn't work.  Only the Gospel brings that calm Joy that lasts. 
So...... Share it!
Okay, I can't keep up the spirituality for too long.  I'm getting better, but still not good. ???
We spent last Fri-Sat in Merida again.  We wanted to get together with the other Senior Couples and the rest of them hadn't seen it.  We are also hosting Flat Emma for my niece's daughter.  I have to admit I had a good time composing photos that would be fun for 2nd graders. That complex is still a stunning sight.  We almost stayed for an extra night. They were putting on' Carmen' in the Roman Theater.  If it had been something besides opera we probably would have done it, but it would have meant missing church Sunday or driving half the night, and starting the week tired out, so we decided not to do it.  Maybe another time.
Here are a few of the photos from the weekend.  (I didn't take any at the baptism. I guess I was distracted)

The Elders doing a 'Vaughn'!

Oh Sisters what, what shall we do?

We visited the hippodrome for the first time.  On your Mark!  I want to see Ben Hur now.

The olives are getting ripe now.  I still am amazed at how many acres of trees there are and new ones being planted all the time.  These Spaniards love them their olive oil
Love you all!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Be Still and Know That I Am God

Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands: be still and know that I am God (D&C 101:16)

I believe in a God of miracles.  I have been blessed to have been raised by a mother who taught me to recognize them, both big and small.  For the small ones, I have removed my hat, looked heavenward and simply said, "Thank you, Sir."  For the large ones, words fail and I can only "be still" and thank God in silence.

The week of September 1-7, 2013 has been filled with miracles.  In May we received the WAVE, the arrival of 30 missionaries(with a few stragglers later in the week) In June, we welcomed the wavelet; 20 new missionaries, July followed with 21, but September continued to swell, until the TSUNAMI of 38 arrived on Tuesday, September 3, 2013.  The logistics of welcoming, training, transporting ,feeding, housing and storing the luggage of 38 new missionaries, their companions, office staff and Mission  President and family can get to be overwhelming.  Add in a multiple-step process to obtain their residency papers and the need for detailed planning becomes essential.

If everyone would have arrived at the same time and the same place and/or if everyone was returning to the same place, the process would have been greatly simplified, but then we would not have qualified for degree of difficulty points or seen the hand of God so plainly.

Four days before the tsunami was due to hit, we received word that 6 of the missionaries did not receive their visas and would arrive at a later unspecified date.  We offered a 5 minute fast and prayer and were delighted that it was answered so quickly.  At 11:30pm Spain time, received our first miracle,-- 3 of them received their visas and would arrive on Tuesday but four hours later than the large group from the Spain MTC.  We called President and asked him for the names of three more trainers and where they would be serving.  To update the logistics required a fifth 2am work  night.  At 11:30 the next night we received Part II of the previous miracle---3 more missionaries received their visas.  Rinse, lather and repeat, we spent a sixth night working till 2am.

The addition of 6 new companionships required renting four more apartments.  Our contingency plans had 4 of them "in the pipeline," but we needed two more immediately.  The process of leasing an apartment in Spain generally takes 5-6 weeks.  On Monday, September 2, Large Miracles were manifest.  We leased two apartment in 15 hours.  The miracles required an adjustment to the logistical plan, as we now had one less office Elder to help since he needed to go and sign papers and furnish the apartment, so once again we burned the midnight oil, the 1 am oil and 2 am oil.

One of life's greatest pleasures is realizing that one is in the right place at the right time, fulfilling a unique purpose.  Hermana Deere, our mission president's wife, commented that she wondered how the mission would have coped without Elder Castillo's logistical planning----and our detailed colored coded spreadsheets.  I realized then, the reason why our own visas had been delayed four months.  In September of last year, there was already an office couple and would have been no need for us to serve there.  Likely, we would have been assigned to an struggling area of the mission.  We would not have been in place to help welcome these awesome young missionaries.  To trust God means to trust in his timing.  I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be permitted to be part of this work. 

On Tuesday morning I sent a text to the office team, that these are our days and these are our times, our opportunity to make a difference; give thanks and watch the hand of the Lord be manifest.

Seeing those missionaries walk down the platform will be one of the defining images of my mission. Even now, my eyes tear up and I am filled with a silent, unspoken gratitude.  Unlike usual teenagers, they did not high five each other, they did not bump shoulders.  They did not exit from the train in pairs or small groups and gradually make their way towards us.  They waited everyone was off the train and then boldly marched to the gate.  They came forward with purpose, courage and faith.  I knew how Antipus must have felt when those stripling warriors marched in. A train station of people stopped and watched. I can't wait to hear the soundtrack for that entrance. It will be way more awesome than all those sports movies when the underdogs get off the bus and walk into the stadium.  It will have to have lots of French horns to do them justice.

Stripling warriors!!!
The next 24 hours were filled with a whirlwind of activities, not least of which were multiple runs to the airport,and a small, contained fire in the Stake office which required the evacuation of the chapel (fortunately, this happened after President had finished interviewing ALL the new missionaries, and after they had eaten supper).  At 11:30pm that night,  President sent us the list of which new missionaries would be going with which trainers to which areas.  We finished the last of that ticket buying frenzy at 3 am. and prepared the residency documents for the 12 missionaries who would be traveling 8-10 hours to get to their areas.  They would stay an extra night.

 We witnessed small miracles Thursday morning---although after multiple days of very late nights, all miracles seemed huge.  Normally we are able to process a maximum of 8 new missionaries.  We needed to register 12.  Usually, if you miss your preregistration slot, you go to the end of the line and they close promptly at 1 pm---regardless if there are still people waiting. The Lord's hand was manifest again and again that morning. First, we were able to get an additional 4 pre-registration slots that very morning---not 48 hours in advance.  Repeatedly in the past, if a document is missing, the standard response was "come back tomorrow."  As Elder Butler was in one governmental office getting the first required document, I was with the missionaries in the other office waiting for our first appointment, knowing, that if we didn't have the documents from Elder Butler in time, we would not be able to register our missionaries.  Ten minutes before the office opened, I told the missionaries to pray, and I ran to the other office, to find that Elder Butler had just barely been admitted.  I asked the worker if she would process the first four papers and let me have them.  Miraculously, she agreed.  I sprinted back to the other office to find they had problems that delayed their opening--another miracle, as we had technically, missed our appointment.  As the worker was fingerprinting the first four, I handed him  the documentation for the remaining 8.  As he looked over the papers, he noticed that one document was missing for each missionary.  I explained that they were on their way, and expected to hear, 'come back tomorrow."  Instead, he smiled (a government bureaucrat worker smiling is a small miracle in any country) and started processing the paperwork.  The first four finished before Elder Butler returned with the missing documents.  The workers in charge of fingerprinting  commented that they couldn't start without the missing paperwork.  Again I expected to hear 'come back tomorrow' or 'go to the end of the line', but instead, the first worker told the others to go ahead and start.  Another unheard of miracle.  Elder Butler arrived soon afterward and so we were able to process all 12 missionaries, and had them on their buses with 15 minutes to spare!

Thursday's meal with new missionaries and trainers.

We have 198 missionaries now serving in the Spain Malaga Mission.  Of those, 111 have been here for 4 months or less.  Over 50 per cent.  As we face the growing pains of such a young mission, I am not overly concerned; my "heart is comforted concerning Zion." As my mom taught me, God is in His heaven and all is right with world."  Sometimes to know God, all we need to do is be still.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The looming wave.

I should probably get my better half to write this post.  The trouble is that he won't have time and focus to even think about it for another month or two so you are getting me. 
This is the week we have been waiting, preparing, bracing for since we started working in the office.  Tuesday we will get 36 or 37 missionaries.  That's right! We still don't know if one has her visa yet.  As of last week it was just 31.  We were told this was all when 3 more visas came and made plans on Monday and then Thursday night found out that 3 more visas made it.  Poor President.  You do understand that he has to plan companions and transfers for all these contingencies.  Then we plan  housing and transporting, feeding, training for them, and getting residency done with them.  Thennnnnnn  our mission secretary buys tickets for all the trainers to come here, and all the missionaries to get back out and all the missionaries who are just changing areas to get from point A to point B.  That gets even more complex when you realize that some of our areas don't have direct bus or train service to Malaga.  They have to go through Sevilla or Granada or something else.  Throw in the need for companions for those who stay in an area, and arrival times that more or less match aaaand a meeting schedule, you see what a challenging jigsaw puzzle it is.
A couple of transfers ago we maxed out the credit card so many times that it quit working.  That was fun.  We did get a new one finally, so now many of the tickets can be purchased on line.  Another fly in the ointment is that for some tickets, you have to have the name and ID number of the passenger.  Not going to work if the assignment hasn't been made yet, which is the case of those new missionaries.  Sometimes we have to buy a 'bogus' ticket or that train or bus will be sold out.  Then we just cancel the bogus one and buy the right one when we know. That is yet another step added though.  Our poor office elders are doing a marvelous job.  Rod has been a great help making spread sheets with the assignments and reassuring everyone that it isn't because of some flaw in them that they can't get all this done within the office time they normally have. He even went this (Sunday) afternoon and bought tickets at the bus station.  We needed 15 and they had 17 places left.  Just in time!  We decided it was an 'ox in the mire' situation.  We have also made sure that they eat and take rest breaks.  It helps just to have another brain to say 'yes that is right' or 'no, we missed something here'. 
This past week we had a huge Zone and District leader training, so they just finished doing this for that.  We could use some of the same lists if only the meetings were at the same times.  Of course they aren't.
In a few minutes I will go with Rod to plan food with Sister Deere.  Monday we will notify the missionaries of the changes and send them their tickets, and Tuesday.... start the fun.

Today at church, we met a cute couple who will likely attend the Mijas branch.  Yea!  New blood!  He is a basketball player from Gilbert.  She is from Provo and  they are expecting twins, plus they have a 2 year old.  Double Yea!  We now have a primary.  They should be here for at least a year.  He wants to attend the Spanish ward, but I told her we needed them more.  We will see.  It has surprised me how many people spend half their time here and half in England, often in 2-3 month blocks.  I think I just have the 'North American' mind set that travel to another country is long and expensive.  It isn't here.  The countries are so much closer and smaller.  I keep forgetting.  They are intermittent Snow Birds.

I am playing the support role right now, which is fine with me.  Once this transfer is over, we will receive groups of 10 - 12 at a time.  A piece of cake.  I am getting more independent since Rod is so busy and there really isn't a lot I can do to help directly.  I drove some visitors to the airport all by myself and then yesterday I washed and fueled the car all by myself.   See how grown up I am getting.  You really do feel like a little kid again when you are back to needing help to get around and communicate.  I feel like my Spanish is doing pretty well most of the time, but if I was using it more, I think I would be fluent by now. 
Just in case you hadn't thought about it, one third of our mission is now past!  Yes, it went fast for us too.  Well, I will let you know how it went next week...  With His help, we can do anything!  Without His help, nothing we do is really worth while.