Email 1/1/18

Hello everybody,
Happy new year. It’s crazy to think that I just spent the entire year of 2017 as a missionary in Spain. It’s even crazier to think that 2018 is the year that I finish.
Well, Christmas was on Monday. We spent most of the day in Puerto, chilling in the capilla with the Hermanas. Because there was nothing better to do, we ended up watching a few old church movies and playing a ton of Monopoly Deal. We also were able to Skype our families. It was the third time talking to mine. It’s weird to think that the next time I talk to them on Mother’s Day, it’ll be four days before I go home haha. After Skyping, we had to walk for an hour to get out to where the Shaw family lives, who had invited us over for Christmas dinner. It was such a great American feast. I have been really grateful for all of the hospitality shown to us during the holiday season.
Then, on Tuesday, things went back to normal, so we had district meeting that morning. Everyone had brought a different type of fruit to the meeting, so after, we had some traditional Christmas Smoothies together! They were probably some of the best Christmas Smoothies which I’ve ever had in my life. That evening was our weekly Noche de Hogar in Aurora’s house. Ángel and Yessenia were both there, but Maru thought it was on Thursday, so she didn’t end up being there for the lesson. That was almost better, because it really helped us focus the lesson almost entirely on Ángel, and we were able to better figure out how much he’s understanding of what we teach him and how he’s feeling about it. In the end, in turned out really well.
We decided to do our weekly planning session on Wednesday morning since there was a future in Chipiona who said he could meet on Thursday (which didn’t end up working out). While we were planning we heard coming from outside a long honk, followed by a crash. There was a little car accident on the street right in front of our Piso, so that was exciting. After planning, we went to eat lunch with Matilde, our “Mamita.” She needed some help moving a refrigerator from a Piso on the other side of town to her house. So, we all went to the piso where the refrigerator was and had to carry it down a flight of stairs, load it in a van, and move it into her house. Facilito. Later in the day, we had a great cita with Paco and Paqui, some less active members of the branch. Paqui’s dad was actually the first branch president of Sanlúcar, but she and her husband have been living in Las Palmas for the past six years, and just moved back to Sanlúcar this summer. It was heartbreaking to hear that they feel like the members of the branch are completely indifferent to them which I guess stems from some personal problems they’ve had with other members in the past. Well, luckily we hit it off really well with them and they invited us to come back, so hopefully we can help things become reconciled.
On Thursday morning, Dani asked for a hand moving some glass display shelves than he made from his house to Bibi’s store. The rest of the morning was spent helping to arrange them and then scrape glue off of them, so it was another good service opportunity. We even went back a little bit on Friday morning to help finish up.
Then, on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, we had an intercambio with Elder Wood and Elder Wilding in Jerez. It was a really, really good one. The other Elders in Jerez had found someone named Bryan in their area book, that they passed to the zone leaders because he lived in their area. He’s a Spanish-American, born in Nashville, lives in Jerez, and works as an airplane mechanic on the Naval base. We had a cita set for 5:30, but when we got to his house, only his dad, just your basic old Spanish man, was home. He was nice enough to invite us in, and we tried sharing something with him, but it didn’t really end up going anywhere haha. Luckily, Bryan was just running a little late, and when he came in, we were just explaining to his dad a little bit about what the Book of Mormon is. The first thing Bryan said was, “Dad, do you know what this Book is? It’s incredible!” He then went on to perfectly describe what the Book of Mormon is and the importance of it. Turns out that someone on base gave him a copy in English about six moths ago, and he’s been reading it ever since. We went on explaining a bit about Joseph Smith, and Bryan’s dad asked, “So basically, what you’re just telling me is that Joseph Smith made his own church.” Bryan responded by saying, “No dad, he restored the church of Jesus Christ to the earth. That’s why this book is so important.” Bryan gets it. So, we committed him to being baptized in February. That might have just been the most prepared new investigator I have met on my mission. At the same exact time we were with Bryan, our companions were at another new investigator’s house and committed her to being baptized, too. The rest of the intercambio was honestly pretty uneventful, but that didn’t matter, because we found Bryaninstantly making it the best intercambio ever.
Yesterday, Sunday, was an odd day. Half of our branch wasn’t at church, and I guess nobody bothered to plan much of the meetings, because five minutes before church started, I was asked to give a 20 minute sacrament meeting talk. Then, I was also asked to teach the combined third hour priesthood/relief society class right before it started. Luckily, if there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do on the mission, it’s how to give sacrament meeting talks and other random classes without any preparation, so everything went over well. That’s not to say it wasn’t stressful though haha. To celebrate New Years Eve, Elder Clark and I had a very nice meal of Pollo Asado and French fries. For dessert, we had a pumpkin pie that I got my hands on thanks to connections with the military base. Then, we promptly went to bed at 10:00 as we always do, and amazingly enough, we woke up in another year.
One of my messages in church yesterday revolved around this passage of scripture from 3 Nephi 12, verses 13-16:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
I love this passage because it shows us how the Savior uses us to spread His light thoughout the world. The more good we do, the more of His light we are spreading. 
Élder Stark


1: Skyping home
2: Christmas Smoothies
3: Car crash
4: The big-screen District
5: Our phone got stolen this week
6: Otro día (another day)
7: Otra comida (other food)
8: Until next time