Tuesday, June 9, 2015

May 30, 2015

Your dad and I just got home from a short trip to the region of Spain known as Asturias. It is east of the northern part of Galicia. We first stopped in Gijon which is a city right on the north Atlantic coast. We walked along the top of the sea wall and looked at the gorgeous blue waters of the Bay of Biscay, the beach, and the part of the city that lines the sea wall. The wind was blowing quite strongly so the waves were large and the water rough. When we arrived in Feb. of 2014 Gijon and other cities along the northern Atlantic were having furious storms and the water was coming up over the sea walls into the cities. We found a pretty good Mexican restaurant on the street facing the ocean and enjoyed the 2nd time we've had Mexican food in Spain. We stayed overnight in Oviedo which is about 20 miles inland and just walked around the city's charming old town, beautiful main park, and admired the quaint architecture up and down the streets. It was almost like being in Switzerland.

Our YSA group has been dwindling for a while but attendance is improving a bit. One of the young women in the branch turned 18 so we had a birthday/welcome to YSA activity for her. He older nonmember sister has been coming with her so that is nice. This girl had come to YSA for a while and then stopped so it's good to have her back. We also have a new YSA from Cuba that was just recently baptized along with her mother. She never misses anything. She comes to YSA, FHE, english class, and choir practice plus all her Sunday meetings. She is quite a wonderful addition to the group. This past Tuesday after watching a conference talk we took all the kids to get a frozen yogurt and had a nice chat with them as we walked and as we ate at the yogurt place. The sister missionaries are teaching a YSA age girl from Guatemala, although she works most evenings until 8 ,but we're trying to get her to an activity. Saturday is her only day off so she hasn't been able to come to church so that is very unfortunate. Such a hard life some people live with less choices than we're accustomed to having.

Three adults from our advanced english class have had the first missionary lesson as of last Friday. We went along with the elders to their home to be supportive and add any comments or testimony. One married couple and the wife's sister come to english twice a week. The sister's husband came to the lesson so that was a nice surprise. I think it went really well. The agreed to read the BofM and the sisters agreed to pray. One husband is agnostic but of very high moral character and the other believes but doesn't practice religion. We'll just have to see. They are such a good family with so much love for each other.They told us they were coming to our District Conference tomorrow in Santiago. (like Stake Conference) They came to the baptism of the mother and daughter a couple weeks ago. It's very exciting.
Pioneer Barbie

Last Saturday the Relief Society celebrated the anniversary of the founding of our great organization with a pioneer theme. We met two weeks before to make pioneer bonnets, aprons, and some made long skirts for the big day. Some of the ladies learned a line dance and performed it. Another group sang and 2 women and the RS president spoke. Everyone brought something to eat from appetizers to mains, sides and a few sweet treats. We have a lady from the Philippines in our branch and her sister delivered 100 spring rolls right as we began eating and there were none left on the plate after about 5 minutes. Luckily a lady sitting by me went and got some on a plate and shared with those around her so I got to have a couple. They were so delicious. I was asked to make a big red velvet sheet cake to serve everyone. It was a bit o
f a struggle to get it made, trimmed and frosted to look like only one cake, (I made two cake mixes in a big roasting pan and did that again and put both large cakes together)and then delivered to the church, but with the help of the elders to carry it in from the car we made it fine and it was a hit. I think the cream cheese frosting is the best part of the cake myself. It was a really well planned and fun activity.

We had a guest for a few days last week. He is a former missionary from this mission although he never served in Vigo. He has been writing a young woman whose family lives in Vigo and attend the branch. She goes to the a University in Madrid and lives in Alcala just outside Madrid and he served there which is how they met. They've gotten serious so he came to spend some time with her and then here to meet her family. We didn't see him much because he mainly just slept at our house and then was with her and her family the rest of the time. She's going back to the states to do the same for a couple of months. I don't think they are "officially" engaged but I know she shopped for a wedding dress while she was in Vigo. He is a great guy and she is a wonderful girl so I hope that everything works out right for them.

Larry is at the church for Priesthood Leadership meeting and then we have the adult session of conference following at 7 so I had better get going. I hope you all have a wonderful week and your families stay well.
Mom and Dad

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 15, 2015

It's time to get an email out to one and all. We had a wonderful two weeks so full of learning, service, travel, uplift, and fun. My last email was full of info about the visit from family and the Madrid trip. Since then we made another trip to Madrid. We left early Tuesday morning of May 5th to be at a mission conference that every missionary in the entire mission would be attending Thursday morning. The first time that has happened since the Canary Islands were added to the Spain, Madrid mission in 2010. Thirty missionaries flew in from the islands and the rest of the mission outside of Madrid took trains to be there. Elder Dyches, from the area Presidency, along with his wife, and Elder Allen, who is Managing director of the missionary dept. for the church and his wife, came to teach and train the elders and sisters about using all the tools at our disposal to do missionary work with a focus on the iPad as one of the newest tools. Two new manuals were given to all the missionaries "Missionary Work in the Digital Age" and "Safeguards for Using technology" The meeting was exceptionally informative and uplifting with an emphasis on the obedience, the trust that God has in us as missionaries, and our obligation to trust in the Lord so that we can better bring souls to Him.

Tuesday we stopped on our way to Madrid to visit the town San Lorenzo de El EscorialIt is one of the Spanish royal sites and functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. The building was impressive but the palace part was very plain and not as luxurious as other royal residences we've seen. Still the town was in a beautiful area among the hillsides outside of Madrid in a very picturesque and inviting location. Wednesday we went to see the city of Alcala de Henares that is also not far from Madrid in the opposite direction. This is the birthplace of Cervantes and also the location for the university of Alcala one of the oldest universities in the world. BYU has it's study abroad program located here now instead of Madrid. The city was charming and we enjoyed walking around and just observing the beautiful architecture, the small town feel of the center square, and the fun of seeing a new part of Spain. We met up for a little while with one of the sisters that had been in Vigo previously and had a good talk with her and her companion. It's so good to see familiar faces in unfamiliar surroundings. Later that night we had dinner with Elder and Sister Brown who work with the YSA in Oviedo. We enjoyed being with them and since they are having family come soon they wanted to get ideas from us as to what would be good to do in and around Madrid.

Thursday morning we were up early to have breakfast and to get to the stake center by 9 so we could help get the young missionaries seated by zones and just make sure everything was ready by 10. All went well and we were able to take a group picture after the 4 hour meeting and enjoy a lunch of Domino's pizza, soda and brownies. Feeding over 200 missionaries isn't easy or inexpensive. We've eaten a lot of Domino's pizza since coming to Spain and the young missionaries seem to love it.
Friday we drove straight back to Vigo and Saturday we settled back into the routine with English class at noon. Our advanced English conversation class is going really well and we have a few regulars that never miss. We have had some amazing conversations with these lovely people. Three of them are from the same family. The are intelligent, well informed, and such good people of high moral character. We have had some great religious discussions with them. We are all (6 Missionaries) invited to their house for dinner the first Saturday in June. They also said they would like to attend the baptism the elders are having this Sunday.  I really hope they come they are such good people. The elders are baptizing a mother and daughter, and the daughter is YSA age and has never missed any meeting since the elders started teaching her. She is great!

Sunday we had the elders and sisters over for an enchilada dinner and to skype with their families for Mother's Day. It was a long but fun afternoon. Choir practice started later in the evening to prepare for district conference the last Sunday in May. I can't believe it was a whole year ago we did this for the first time. It seems like yesterday.

Monday was Pday and the start of zone conference. The Jacksons and the AP's arrived later than expected because the Vigo airport was fogged in and they had to land in Santiago and take a bus to Vigo. We had to delay our departure to the Islas Cíes for an hour to give them time to get here. Luckily we had chartered our own ferry so we were able to ask for a later departure time. Instead of 11am we left the docks at 12:30. We had a 45 minute ferry ride to the islands and the young missionaries were all having a ball taking photos and letting the wind blow in their faces as we sailed across the bay. The islands are gorgeous with an amazing beach, crystal blue water, lots of hiking trails, birdlife, and two lighthouses. The islands were declared a national reserve in 1980 so only so many people are allowed on them at one time. We were the only ones there for a while and then about 3 sailboats came and so there were a few others on the islands during our 4 hours. We hiked up to the highest lighthouse and I was just astounded by the magnificent views all around us. Beauty everywhere we looked. I wanted to die about 3/4 of the way up the hill about when we hit the switchbacks, but I kept going and was well rewarded for the effort. After the hike it was soccer and playtime on the beach for the young missionaries and rest time for us and the Jacksons. A fun day.

Tuesday zone conference started at 10 but Larry and some of the elders went over to set up the room for the meeting and another room for lunch. We were in charge of lunch so that meant setting tables, ordering pizza, making a salad and ranch dressing, making brownies, and whatever other odds and ends go into pulling off lunch for 26 people. We have an elder in our zone who must eat gluten free so I was happy to find some gluten free pizza crusts at the store and I was able to make him two personal pizzas and I saved a rice krispie treat from the day before in lieu of a brownie for him. The messages during the meeting were as always timely and edifying. The assistants taught us about the importance of the covenants we have made and the consequences to be had as we honor those commitments we've made with the Lord. Sister Jackson spoke about the need to be bold as missionaries and use this boldness to teach the gospel. Or in other words recognize the authority we have from God as missionaries, that are set apart to preach the gospel, and use that authority humbly and confidently. President Jackson was very inspiring as he reminded the missionaries that these two years or 18 months are a once in a lifetime chance to serve the Lord in this manner. He encouraged everyone to do their best and "go for it."

It's been a good two weeks and we are feeling so blessed as a missionary couple to have had so many wonderful experiences packed into a short year plus. The Lord has been good to us and we have seen so many remarkable things come to pass as we have served. 

We love you all and pray for your well-being daily.

Mom and Dad

Friday, May 1, 2015

May 1, 2015

Since last writing Grant, Diane, and Joyce have made their visit to Spain and we all had a wonderful time seeing the sights here in Galicia and Madrid. They arrived Friday morning around 11:40 at the Porto, Portugal airport without their checked in luggage. Grant's and Joyce's luggage was in Madrid and hadn't made it on to the plane because of a short layover but Diane's never left NYC. We did all that could be done at the airport to make sure the luggage made it to the hotel in Vigo and then left to have an afternoon of sightseeing in Portugal and with the further goal of keeping the travelers awake so they could adjust to the time change more quickly. We hit Valenca, Portugal where we saw the old walled city and had lunch at an Italian restaurant. Then we went to A Guarda and walked among the Celtlc ruins of Santa Tecla and then climbed the steps to the top of the hill for an amazing view. We went through Baiona, Spain, a lovely beach town and on into Vigo where we dropped the tired travelers at the hotel Palacio De Vigo. 

We got a later than planned start Saturday because it's hard missing a complete night of sleep. But after finding a delicious bakery restaurant for breakfast and a stop to buy a charger for a mobile we were on our way to Santiago. We had a great day of driving, seeing the cathedral, the resort town of  LaToja. We weren't very adventurous as far as eating and ate at the mall in Santiago at Foster's Hollywood. Grant and Joyce's suitcases made it to the hotel early Sat. morning but Diane's didn't arrive until early Sunday. Everyone attended church Sunday morning then we had lunch at our house after that we saw some sights around Vigo before we flew to Madrid in the evening. 

We checked in to the Senator hotel on Gran Via and hit Puerta Del Sol and Plaza Mayor. We started Monday morning with churros and chocolate at San Gines, a famous spot for this traditional Spanish fare. We went to see the temple, my old residencia, walked to Retiro Park and the Prado museum then took a taxi to Hard Rock Cafe for a late lunch. We tried to go to the national palace but it was closed so we shopped and walked around the downtown area and found a great gelato place for an end of the day treat.

Tuesday we took the hop on hop off bus tour of New Madrid. We saw so much of the modern areas of Madrid and many other sights along the way. Wednesday was the Old Madrid hop on hop off tour and again we enjoyed the marvelous sights of the magnificent city. We spent a couple of hours at the Prado museum and saw a temporary exhibit of Goya paintings and also some Picasso's. We did some browsing of the permanent collections and enjoyed our time there. We ate at a random Spanish restaurant we found as we walked towards Puerta del Sol. We did some shopping and had churros and chocolate again to end a great day. 

Thursday we visited Toledo via the high speed train and saw the Alcazar, gorgeous Cathedral, and enjoyed shopping and walking the quaint streets of this old city. Friday we took the Ave to Segovia where we visited a medieval castle where Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand were crowned to unite Aragon and Castile, thus Spain began, visited another cathedral, and were amazed at the sight of  the ancient Roman aqueduct. What an engineering marvel was achieved back in a time when there was no access to more than human and animal labor.

Saturday morning the three returning to the USA were up early to leave for the airport. It was hard to believe our trip of a lifetime had come to an end. We certainly saw a lot of wonderful places but more enjoyable was spending time with each other and feeling the joy of strengthening family ties. I am so grateful for my siblings and the wonderful people they are. I feel so blessed that we were all able to share time together in Spain. We sure wish everyone had been able to come.

We flew home to Vigo around 3 and hit the ground running. Larry had to prepare a talk for Sacrament meeting the next day and we had a Sunday School lesson to prepare. It was good to get back in the swing of missionary work. I have been playing the piano for Sacrament meeting lately (not knowing ahead of time) so I came prepared Sunday morning with a list of songs instead of having to rush to pick out songs minutes before the meeting begins. I have prepared songs for the next month just in case. I sure wish my piano skills were better but I do take every opportunity to practice.

We met with our YSA Tuesday evening and had a despedida (good bye party) for Anghy, who is going to Canada for several months to work. We ordered Domino's pizza, wrote notes to be opened by Anghy on her flight and just enjoyed a fun night all together. Tairi had made a cute hanging arrangement of YSA activity photos for Anghy and I gave her a plane survival kit. We are going to miss her so much. There is a young woman that is YSA age investigating the church and she has been at our last 4 activities so as we loose some of our group we hopefully can gain a few more. We actually had 3 nonmembers at our activity Tuesday!

Wednesday we had our district meeting ,which our zone leaders visited because of intercambios. It was good to have those two great elders with us. We talked about tools we have to help us accomplish missionary work more effectively such as the the Spirit, prayer, members, pass along cards, PMG, Agendas, mobile phones and so many more. How blessed we are as missionaries to have so many sources of help and support that can be accessed to bless the lives of others as we try to do the Lord's work. We just found out our mission will be getting iPads for all missionaries within the week. The entire mission will be gathering in Madrid next Thursday to receive the devices and be trained how to use them. What a wonderful tool the iPads will be. It looks like we will be making another trip to Madrid. 

We miss all of you so much and are looking forward to a happy reunion in less than two months. We can't wait to meet our new grand babies and continue spoiling all of them. Love to you all.

Mom and Dad.