Going through customs was actually a breeze. I was living in fear of it based on all the instructions and warnings we had received on what to pack, what NOT to pack, how to pack it, when to pack it, what to say to the customs officials if they asked any questions, etc., etc. The reality was, we didn't even have to see or talk to any customs officials. We just picked up our bags off the baggage return, stood in a very short line to get the stamps in our passports, pushed our luggage carts through the doors.....and just like that we were in Spain. Of course the process of getting our residence status OK'd takes 3 more months, but it's nothing to worry about. Just bureaucracy. Same everywhere. Maybe a little slower in Spain, but not much. It's just that they're not quite as technologically advanced but the style of work looks and feels pretty much like a government official anywhere I've been in the world.
Our flight arrived 1 hour early because of a 130 mph tail wind. Not bad. But no one told President and Sister Jackson or the missionaries with the van, so we had to wait an hour in the airport lobby. They were a welcome sight. After a short ride, about 30 minutes, we arrived at the Mission Home where President and Sister Jackson reside. It's probably the nicest residential area in all of Spain. Antonio Balderos (or whatever his name is), "Zorro", has a home just down the street. Of course in this area it's all gated and walled homes. We had a little welcome greeting from the President and then were given and chance to rest up in some bedrooms (the mission home has about, I don't know, maybe 7-8 bedrooms) and then we were treated to a very nice meal.
Next we all piled into the cars and drove to the largest park in the city, called Retiro park. Every Saturday the missionaries from the Madrid MTC go to the park for several hours to "practice" tracting, and then at 4 PM they gather at a large fountain near the center of the park and sing. It's really a lot of fun and Vivienne and I joined in with them. People gather around to watch and listen and the missionaries "meet and greet" and hand out copies of the Book of Mormon and pass-along cards. It was interesting because in the Madrid MTC right now are 10 Italian and 5 Russian speaking missionaries. No Spanish. And few of them speak any Spanish. So before they went to the park they got about 2 hours of Spanish. It's amazing to see what happens. One of the Russian Sisters managed to find people speaking Russian and gave away 2 copies of the Book of Mormon in Russian. By the way, our missionary choir sounded awesome. They were very happy to have 2 ex-members if the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with them (I was just going to type the initials, but realized that in the church, MTC means more than one thing)
Finally we arrived at Temple Square Madrid. It's a "mini" Temple Square and what a wonderful sweet oasis it is! We love it here. There's a large stake center on the complex as well as the Missionary Training Center, a large Institute, an employment office and Church distribution center. The MTC takes up floors 4-6. Floors 1-3 are housing and offices for the Temple and then the ground floor is reception, distribution center, employment office and entrance to Young Adult Center and Institute.
For Bishop Milne, I haven't found Daniel yet to convert him but I'm working on it.
Our calling has been changed; we're now in charge of Young Single Adults for the city, which has 3 stakes and about 1500 young single adults on the rolls. Our job is to find them, feed them, fellowship them, get them on missions and then get them married in the temple. Sort of like the old 3-F Club at our house, only now it's 5 nights a week instead of once a month. We could use some help if anyone reading this is interested. We've also been assigned to be part of the Church's employment center here in Madrid. As you might know, the national unemployment rate in Madrid is over 25% right now, and among youth ages 18-30, it's actually over 50%. It's really unbelievable. I've never seen anything quite like it in my lifetime. Challenging as it is, we need to find a way to make the youth more "employable" and teach them how to find decent jobs.We have loved our time staying at the Madrid MTC with these Italian and Russian missionaries. They are really incredible young people; so dedicated to the Gospel. Way ahead of where I was at their age. And I must say, in my opinion, ahead of many of the American missionaries we saw at the Provo MTC.
Waiting to meet with Dr. Lago, Honorary Spanish Consul, at UVU to get our visas.
There were 50 visas that come through for Spain all at once.
Dr. Lago. Convert to the Church.
Daughter currently in Provo MTC
Our plane out of Atlanta to Madrid
Finally on out way. 6 missionaries
Waiting at the airport
President and Sister Jackson
Dinner at Mission Home with Jacksons
At Retiro Park.
Very large park with
With Jay and Joan Sitterud, my old boss
at Beneficial Financial.
President of Madrid MTC
The Madrid Temple
from our dormitory window
Overlooking part of Temple Square
from our dormitory