Friday, June 27, 2014

Transfers, Kickboxing, and Castles

Tuesday the missionaries traveled for transfers in the Spain Malaga Mission. It has led to some reflection on my part of comings and goings, people staying, and people moving on. This last transfer Elder Flint left the office and Elder Buckway joined us. It’s always a bit sad when friends move on, but I have really enjoyed getting to know Elder Buckway better and it will be sad when he leaves, too. In the next month or so my good friends the Castillos, who have been in the office with me since I came and are great people, will say goodbye as they leave Fuengirola for Malaga, about half an hour or so away. I’ll still see them occasionally, but it just won’t be the same. They’ll have others to engage with, and we will be getting a new office couple to do much of what they have been doing here.
Again, I know I will gain new friends and I celebrate that….  but still. And I miss my friends back in Oregon, too. We are all growing - developing new skills, talents, and character attributes, and goings… and staying too… helps us in becoming the people that God wants us to be. I think in the hereafter we will all rejoice with the good friends that we have had throughout our lives, which means that we never really lose anyone. And I thank God for Skype every week so I can keep up with how my grandkids are doing! (They grow so fast!) :)
Anyway, on to my news.  My nemesis the stairs has had a partial victory. My hips haven’t been doing all that well, and I was finally like, “Duh!  What did you think would happen with pounding down all those stairs???” Besides, I don’t LIKE them!  So I decided to do kickboxing in the morning (until the downstairs neighbor lets me know it wasn’t a good idea after all) MWF and minor muscles and some stairs (just not so many… at least that’s the plan unless the joints don’t improve) Tu and Thur. I know.. fascinating. But I DID improve enough to be able to walk to the local castle and climb up its hill. They don’t let us turistas within the walls, but the views are fabulous. 
The place with the swimming pool you can see is apparently the place the King stays when he comes to visit. Very beautiful. And pondering God’s great creations gives peace to my soul. It was a great P-day.
They don't let people go inside the
castle, but I shoved my camera inside
the crack hewn out of the stone for
the door hinges and got a peak :)
We got a new software program for the referral system, and with it a bunch of (really) old referrals that hadn’t been sent out showed up. That kind of made me feel bad, but we can only do the best we can do. I have helped bring greater enthusiasm for getting referrals to the missionaries, so I guess it evens out. And I love talking to the missionaries. They are awesome young people - this church attracts the cream of the crop, and brings out the best in them.  I feel really blessed to be part of this great work and this great mission!

Bonus picture - Fuen Fun!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Soooo..... how is that missionary stuff going?

The "Senior Missionary" Conference at the Mission Home
The Wiscombs, the Deeres, the Guffies, me, Hermana Chantrill, the Castillos, and the Wilsons.

AWESOME is how it is going!   President and Sister Deere are inspired and inspiring, we have terrific, hard working missionaries, and we have a great, fun to work with office staff who are fast becoming (seemingly) long-time close friends. Can you tell I love what I do?  I am staying pretty busy with the referral program, and English for Spanish speaking missionaries. 
This last week was a “finding” week and we more than doubled the referrals the missionaries called in to the office as of now, around 60 or 70. I type those into the computer, then send them to the mission (if not in ours) or area they belong to, and then call everyone that has an active referral in their area to see how things are going with them. That is probably the best part of the job as I get to talk to the missionaries, who are inveriably cheerful and eager to help. I also get to try out my Spanish with the English learners, which is a lot of fun. Sometimes we have to resay the phone numbers etc. several times to get them right (they trying out their English numbers and me trying out my Spanish). And it’s SO much fun when they come into the office and I get to connect the faces with the names I’ve been calling. Great young men and women!  I’m also sending out letters and emails to the Spanish speakers to encourage them to learn English. Some are really excited about it, which makes me excited too!  Then before they go home I administer a computer test that earns them a certificate that will help them with later employment. I really feel like I am making a difference, which is pretty cool.  
Some neat “tender mercies”:   
One investigator contacted is really interested, but has no idea how we got her contact information - she said that she didn’t know the person who referred her, and the only person she had given her phone number to was her sister in New York. Pretty crazy!  But if you’re ready, the Lord with find you!
Sometimes the referrals come close to home - missionaries who are referring their parents or other family who are not members. We try and keep close track of those to let them know how things are going - it helps me realize how very important every one of those referrals I’m sending out are. Not only will bringing them into the gospel bring them greater joy and peace in this life, it has eternal consequences too. There is absolutely NOTHING more important than that.

And then there are the people who seek our missionaries out - those are pretty sweet and very golden!  A missionary lives to teach people like this, and also friends and families of members.  Whether it is the close association with the fine members of the church that brings the readiness, or the fact that they are ready that leads the Lord to bring them in contact with church members, I don’t know. But I do know that the Lord is actively gathering those who love him, and providing them with as much truth as they are willing to accept.  All we have to do is keep our eyes open and “ears” peeled to hear the messages the Lord is trying to send us. Pretty cool.

This last week we had a "Senior Missionary Conference" at the mission home where we got together to learn more about what we can do to support the younger missionaries, and to have a bit of fun. We went to Malaga to the car museum, which was pretty cool as they not only had lots of vintage cars, they also had period women's dresses to go along with them. It was a lot of fun!
I’ll end with a random “Spain Holiday” -      One night we were sitting around when all of the sudden there was a LOT of whinnying outside of 
our balcony. Random whinnies are fairly routine as there are quite a few horse-drawn carriages running around, but this was way more than normal. So we ran out onto our balcony, and there on the street that intersects ours was a small “parade” of gypsys, horses with riders in costume, a couple of decorated wagons, and a bunch of costumed riders. I hurried to get my camera, but didn’t get much. This will give you 
an idea though!  The impromptu “parades” aren’t always the best though…  the World Cup (Futbol - or Soccer) is on now, and Spain lost Friday 1-5, the worst loss by a champion in the preliminary rounds ever. Then last night (Sat) there were shouting people with banging drums and I think even a trumpet about every hour  down the same street because a game turned out that gives them a better chance. Needless to say I spent a lot of time nodding off in church today!  Ah well. Comes with the territory.  

I’ll end with one last picture - there was a reddish full moon (or close to it) Sat, so I ran down to the beach and took some pictures. They aren’t nearly as impressive as seeing the real thing, but still, it shows how blessed I consider myself at being able to serve the Lord here is Spain. It’s simply, absolutely, and totally the BEST!!!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Jerez Horse Fair (Feria de Caballo) May 16, 2014

Last week I told you that I'd say some more about the Jerez Horse Fair and the Andelusian Horse exhibition we were able to attend the weekend of the 16th of May. Above is a picture of some of the stables. Yes, those are stork nests (with storks) on the chimney. Pretty cool. They also had a horse in the walker to cool
The horse walker
off, which was interesting. They didn't even have a halter on - he just walked between a set of vertical pipes (on a hinge so that if he actually stopped it would go right over him and high enough they wouldn't hurt him if he fell) which would periodically change directions, in which case the horse would dutifully stop, reverse directions, and keep walking.
Near the entrance
The grounds there were very well-kept and beautiful, as were the horses and riders.  In front of the stables was the outdoor exercise paddock, and we got to watch and take pictures of one of the horses practice his "moves", which was nice, because we later found out they didn't allow pictures of the actual show.
I'm putting in one more picture of him, just because he's so beautiful and
representative of his "Horse of Kings" breed. Finally we were able to enter the arena and take a few pictures there while waiting for the show. The show itself was very beautiful and impressive. First there was a single horse and rider performing the passage and other moves, then teams doing the same to a routine set to beautiful Spanish music. Then unmounted horses (with handlers) came out and did the "airs above the ground" which involved high step trotting in place (which one horse did all by himself), rearing, "hopping" on their hindquarters, and one where they rear, jump upward, then kick their rear legs out
The arena
(backwards) along with a lot of other moves. They also had horses hitched to traditional carriages performing routines and "steps" - first
Elders Dansie and Flint, and Hna.
Chantrill and Hna Castillo.
a single carriage pulled by two horses, then groups of 4 or 5 carriages, pulled by 1, 2, or 4 horses. All in all it was very impressive and enjoyable. The horses beautiful and very compact and muscular (such strength!), the riders dignified and disciplined. Like I said before, I was very grateful to be able to go!  Thank you Castillos!
Next up was a walk through the "fairgrounds" where they had a parade of horses for the "feria de Caballo". There were carriages that you could hire to parade around in, individual horsemen and horsewomen, and a

favorite, horsemen with beautiful girls perched behind them sidesaddle
((sitting on the rump of the horse).  Almost everyone had on their
traditional Spanish dresses (with  matching flower for the hair and large earings), and suits (with hats of coarse)!  Even the children got in on the act :)  We had some traditional Spanish cuisine (delicious fish, shish-kabob meat and little sandwiches, strolled the streets a while,
 peered in on another show (an outdoor venue) the Andelusians performed, then it was back to Fuengirola (oh, and I also got my first look at the Rock of Gibralter this trip), where it was actually raining!  I'm glad it was so nice at the horse fair!  Anyway, a wonderful trip. And as always, having a great time in Spain, even when I'm not tripping around the country!

Thanks again, Hna Castillo for this and the "gentleman" pic!