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 Escorial. It 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