Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Week - Semana Santa

It has been a cold and rainy week in Madrid, in fact most of Spain.  But that has not stopped the many parades and celebrations associated with Easter, or Holy Week as it is called here.  Spain's strong religious background, especially with the Catholic faith, has led to many rich traditions of celebrating Easter.  There have been many concerts and especially parades.  Every parish has its own traditional celebration which often involves taking the sacred or precious artwork of the local cathedral and shouldering it through the local streets and plazas of the neighborhood to music and various rituals.  Many people dress up in costumes and hooded robes and there are thousands of candles in the processions and lots of music.
Unfortunately we were not able to witness any of them first-hand because of a busy schedule (and bad weather; we're such wimps), but we definitely plan on seeing a lot more next year.
At the Stake Center here on Temple Square we had a concert last night, Good Friday, with a large choir and small orchestra where we performed works by Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Sibelius and several hymn arrangements.  The building was full and although it wasn't the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, it came off quite well.  Sister Margarita Bareto who directed, is a member in Madrid who has sung for many years with the National Choir of Spain.  Members had advertised by handing out lots of flyers in the neighborhood and we understand there were quite a few non-members.
It was fun to sing again in a choir and even though it was all in Spanish, it was all familiar musical material.  I've never attended such long rehearsals though.  Sister Bareto thinks nothing of a 4-hour rehearsal, or even longer.  In fact, last night before the concert at 7:30 we rehearsed from 4:30 until 7:00.  I really have to bite my tongue and say to myself, "Relax and take a deep breath.  This is a different culture than you're used to.  Try and contribute and not to criticize."  But it's hard.
For those parents of missionaries in the Madrid Missionary Training Center who may view our blog I just want to say "Thank you" for raising such incredible young men and women.  They are truly awesome and the spirit they carry is almost palpable.  I'm going to include several pictures, but if I happen to miss your son or daughter please forgive me; taking pictures is not my forte and even if I was good at it, there is almost no time in which to take a photo during the schedule of the day.
We currently have about 62 missionaries, which is more than double our normal number over the past year.  We are going to be up around 90-100 for the rest of the year and considering the fact that the MTC is only built to house 72 it's going to be "interesting" to say the least.

This is Brother Jack Tyndale (descendent of the brother of William Tyndale) from Malaga, Spain.  Recently returned missionary who is incredibly gifted on the piano.  He performed a solo arrangement of "This Is The Christ" at last night's concert.  Really fantastic.  He is coming to BYU to study piano performance and composition.  I think you may hear more about him in the future.

Here is Sister Sullivan with 3 of her "children" who have left the MTC and are all serving in the Madrid Mission. They were at the concert with investigators.  From left to right:
Sister Rica from Malaga, Sister Seastrand from Salt Lake and Sister Palomino (bilingual and a great sense of humor) from Salt Lake.

Sister Sullivan with Sister Benito who serves as Second Counselor in the MTC Relief Society.  She is a convert from England who came to Spain years ago at 17 and married a Spanish young man and convert named Javier Benito.  They are a terrific couple.

Vivienne and I with Sister Margarite Bareto after the concert.  I think she's about 4'11" in heels but has a HUGE voice.

Part of the orchestra after the concert.  There were about 50 singers in total.  On the far left is Sister Bareto's husband who also composed one of the numbers we sang.  We had violins, viola, flute and cellos.

Our MTC is dividing into 2 zones because there are so many.  Today we went with Zone 1 to Retiro Park, as we do every Saturday to allow them to do personal "street" contacting.  Most of them have only been speaking Spanish for 2 weeks, so it's exciting to say the least.  Zone 2 goes to a different location in Madrid, so we don't overwhelm the park-goers, and we switch the zones each week.  Below, we just exited the Metro and are getting ready to cross the street into the Park.  We spend about 1 1/2 hours contacting and then we end by gathering together at one of the main fountains and singing as a group, which always gathers a large crowd.  As we sing, several missionaries are assigned to go out into the crowd and contact those listening.  Then we come back on the Metro to the MTC, where we have an evening devotional/testimony meeting and share the experiences of contacting in the Park.  There are some amazing stories, even miraculous episodes almost every week.  If the missionaries are diligent and humble it's amazing to see what happens.  They almost always give out about 50 copies of the Book of Mormon and obtain about 25 referrals.  

Getting ready to cross the street into Retiro Park

The Park is huge and filled with fountains, statues, benches, play areas and gardens.  Down one of the paths today I happened to find this little sign by a species of tree.  I discovered this is the exact species of tree Stradivarius used to create his violins and other stringed instruments.  I was fascinated. 

This is the tree.  He used only the straightest and most perfect parts of the trunks.  Scholars have often speculated about why those particular instruments are so special; certainly part of it is the wood used.

Two Sisters contacting.  The one on the left is Sister Kercheruk (not sure I spelled that right) from Russia and going to Moscow, and Sister Kunz from Idaho going to Malaga

Sister Griffin from Albuquerque going to Madrid with a companion I can't identify

Elder Day from California going to Madrid with Elder Curtis from SLC going to Malaga

Getting ready to Sing

Elders Day and Curtis contacting

Elders Day and Curtis - the family was Jehovah's Witness; the Elders got an earful, but they survived.
Not everyone is ready, but surprisingly many are.  Our job is to give everyone a chance to hear the message.  On average, it takes 7 contacts with the Church before and investigator joins.
Well, it's time to head to the MTC for our evening devotional and testimony meeting.  We hope you all have a very meaningful, thoughtful Easter season.  What a wonderful opportunity to remember the Saviour.  As President Hinckley used to say, "Without Easter, there would not be a Christmas to celebrate".

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nana and Bubba's Hall of Fame

Here's what we get to look at every morning when we're having breakfast.  What a great looking bunch of grandkids and future missionaries!
New pictures are welcome, and when each of you grandkids get an email account, please drop us a line; we love hearing from you.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Life is Beautiful

Today is the last day for all of the missionaries currently in the Madrid, Spain MTC.  Tomorrow they all ship out for their various assignments in the 3 different missions in Spain, Barcelona, Malaga and Madrid.  For a few hours on Tuesday the MTC will be completely empty of missionaries before the first tidal wave of the "new" era of missionary work arrives.  55 missionaries arrive Wednesday, which will be the smallest amount we have in the MTC for the rest of this year.  In a few more weeks, we will be closer to 100 missionaries where we will stay.  The tricky part is that the MTC was only built to accommodate 72 missionaries, maximum.  We'll learn how to make it work, like where they are going to sleep, how they will have shower and toilet facilities, when and where they will eat, where we will hold classes and what we will do about Sunday Services.  
To help in this the Brethren of the Area Authority in Frankfurt, Germany have called another counselor in the Mission Presidency, so now there is a full Presidency with President Sitterud, me as First Counselor and Brother Javier Benito as Second Counselor.  Brother Benito is an awesome convert to the Church, a native of Spain, whose wife, also a convert, is from England.

Our current assignments in the mission are:
1.  Counselor in Mission Presidency of the Madrid MTC (Bruce), and Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency of the Madrid MTC (Vivienne),
2.  Advisors to the Young Single Adults of the Madrid Spain Central Stake (a few hundred of them scattered around Madrid and neighboring cities)
3.  Advisors to the Madrid Institute located on "Temple Square" in Madrid.  Kids come from all over to the to Institute.  They have classes in the evenings Tuesday thru Friday.  Brother Faustino Lopez is the instructor.  He's an Area Seventy and a wonderful man.  We have "Family Home Evening" every Monday night at the Institute with a lesson and then refreshments (cooked and prepared by Vivienne; you can't believe how these kids love to eat her food) and an activity on Fridays after classes which again includes lots of refreshments.  If any of you have any great recipes for treats made with ingredients available in Spain we would love them.  We had no idea we would be spending so much of our time on our mission fixing food for young adults, but we love it.
4.  Temple workers on Thursdays for 1/2 day.
Other than that we really don't have a lot to do........LOL.  

Occasionally we find time to clean our apartment and do our laundry (which, without a dryer is a real adventure) and do the grocery shopping.  We carry our groceries from the store to our apartment in this little cart.  Everyone has one.  It holds about 5 days worth of food, but that's all that will fit in out tiny kitchen anyway, and since it's not possible to physically carry any more than that, we go shopping a couple of times a week, rain, wind or whatever.  We bought a lovely purple one.  KareBear, you would like it:

Our frig after shopping today.

Hey, there's veggies in the veggie tray; it's not just soda pop, really.

Below I'm fulfilling my promise to carry Vivienne's "Little Black Bag" of medical supplies on our misson.  We had to go help one of the sisters with a problem.  I look good as a nurse's assistant, don't you think?

 Part of Viv's baking for our activities this evening, Monday, March 19 (which by the way, for all you Americanos, is St. Joseph's Day in Catholic Europe, or El Dia de San Jose, as they say here.  It's a holiday for the patron saint Joseph, the father of Jesus and husband of Mary.  Some interesting historical legends about Joseph and Mary that I've discovered since living in Spain.)

Tonight is also "Despedida" or farewell  to our missionaries that are leaving, as mentioned above.

Here's our whole group of missionaries last Sunday singing in the early evening on the steps from the Temple going onto the public sidewalk.  People stop and listen as we sing; it's fun and the missionaries love getting outside on Sunday when they sit in so many meetings.  We have music conducting class with them, we teach them (some of them) how to sing and then we go outside and practice on the people!

Below, left to right, are Sisters Peterson (from Sweden going to Barcelona Mission), Norton (from Colorado going to Madrid Mission) and Seastrand (from Salt Lake, also going to Madrid Mission)

Some Institute Young Adults watching a movie last Friday.  They went through about 5 dozen cookies and 9 bags of popcorn
 Last Friday at institute.  Those not watching the movie were playing games.  They love the 2 Foosball tables.
  Sitting with Mariam Nalbandyan.  Parents are Armenian.  They joined the Church in Spain.  Mariam is getting ready to put her missionary papers in.
 One of the many fountains in Retiro Park where the missionaries from the MTC go tracking every Saturday.  I've blogged about this previously.  At this fountain we meet from all over the park at 4:00 PM and sing several songs from the hymn book.  The Russians sing in Russians, the Italians sing in Italian, the Americans sing in Spanish (mostly), and Spaniards and Latinos sing in Spanish, the Portuguese sing in Portuguese.  We all take turns with the language on a verse and then we all sing together in Spanish.  It usually gathers quite a crowd and some of the missionaries mingle and talk to the people while we're singing.  We get dozens of referrals and hand out about 50 copies of the Book of Mormon every week.  This park is gigantic.
 One of the other many areas of the park with fountains and ponds.  We saw 13 peacocks strutting about at this pond the week before.
 Our Russian teachers. 5 of them.  We're getting ready for the onslaught of Americans coming here to learn Russian on their way to the mission fields in Russia.  The missionaries are scheduled, for the most part, to begin arriving at the end of July, so the teachers are here getting trained.  They are really awesome.  They were singing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in Russian during our talent hour on Sunday evening last night.
We love the work here.  I don't really know how to explain what it's like for us on this mission.  We're much busier than I thought we would be and it feels like we're still sort of figuring out what we should be doing.  But every day it seems we have wonderful spiritual experiences, and it just feels "happy" almost all of the time, even when I'm exhausted.  I recommend it.
We plan on doing a little site seeing around Madrid tomorrow after the missionaries leave and before the tsunami of missionary arrivals starts on Wednesday.  So maybe next time I'll have pictures of some of the more "touristy" things in Madrid.
Saludos a todos!