Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekly Report September 6, 2009 from Delwyn

It’s letter time again so I’ll try to describe our week to you. Our Area Presidency is coming (at least Elder Kopischke (Germany) and Elder Caussé (France) are coming; Elder Teixeiro (Portugal) didn’t come. BTW, a few years ago Pres. Hinckley told a conference of mission presidents that the day would come when the area presidency would all be Europeans and they’d all be General Authorities – since February, that’s what we have) to organize the first stake in our mission so it largely falls to our mission president to host them this weekend and although their office and our district president have made a lot of arrangements, our week has been filled with trying to get things planned, organized and ready for them to come. Hermana Clegg is responsible for feeding them (after they’ve called the stake president – they’re fasting until then) so you might guess that Hermana Belnap has been a major help in getting food planned and organized. In the early afternoon Thursday we followed the Cleggs to Makro (Spanish Costco) where Flo had been tracking some sale items (they send ads to the mission office) and I pushed our cart and we picked up a few things as we went along but the focus was to get food & supplies for this weekend onto the big flatbed that the Cleggs had – took us about 1.5 hours. We checked out and I went with them to the cars where I unloaded stuff for potato salad into our car, helped load the rest into their VW van and they left to go home (they were excited because, while we were there shopping, they’d gotten a phone call telling them their shipment from home – sent in early May – had finally arrived). I rejoined Flo in the store and we spent most of another hour shopping, had a long wait in line and finally left for home just before 7:00. Unfortunately we were driving (guess I should say I was driving) which, so far at least, pretty much equates to getting lost – you’d think we’d learn. We’d used Google to map out a simple, short route to the store and planned to take our GPS to help us but the Cleggs changed the plans when they arrived at the office so we didn’t have any of our crutches. I remembered enough from our map-making that we had to take a round-about to get on the street leading us home but (after checking Friday) I got out one exit too soon and, since we’d never been on the road before, we’d gone quite a ways before we realized we were lost. When we got near Mungia (based on freeway signs) we knew we’d gone in a very wrong direction (it’s like we were in Mesa when we wanted to be in Glendale). We turned around a couple of different times to back track, went in and out of the airport (where we asked for directions but didn’t understand the Spanish reply) and began recognizing things we’d seen before we knew we were lost. Suddenly, we were back to the Makro after who knows how many KM. So we tried the route we’re most familiar with (we’ve described some toll road horrors on that very route) but this time – for the first time – we made all the right turns and got home shortly after 8:00. We parked illegally (not unusual for here, just illegal) and got our cart and big bag to unload our groceries. After our first load to the elevator, Flo stayed with our stuff to hold the elevator while I hauled stuff from the car to the elevator. Unfortunately there’s a locked door (opens only with a key) between the car and elevator so I’d haul a load, set it down to unlock the door then haul it to the elevator where Flo packed it in. We got it all in, went to our floor and one of us had to hold the elevator door (we lost it one time and it took us all the way to the bottom before it’d go back up) while we unloaded and carried our stuff into the piso, all the time worrying that the local sheriff would write us a ticket – I was sweating like a butcher. When we’d gotten everything inside I drove the car to the lot where we park it – the place was more jammed than I’ve ever seen it. It’s only partly paved (all those spots were full) and the dirt part had cars parked between the two rows of cars that are normally there. I tried to drive around the dirt area hoping to find some spot but, three cars in front of me, a car was trying to park next to one of those ‘in between’ cars but that didn’t leave enough room to drive by it. He finally gave up and moved on followed by the other two cars. At that time a car backed out of a spot right in front of me and drove away so I parked in his spot – I don’t know whether to characterize it as dumb luck or a tender mercy but I was glad to park. I walked to the office to get my laptop then went home where Flo had scrubbed the potatoes and was getting ready to boil them. When they were cooking she put on a couple of pieces of salmon we’d gotten today (frozen salmon filets are probably cheaper here than at home). With all four stove burners and lights going, we blew the breaker – we finally had to turn off a burner to get the breaker to stay closed. Around 9:30 we had salmon, baked potatoes, frozen peas and fruit for our supper (we hadn’t had time to eat anything since breakfast) then Flo made lots of potato salad to feed people this weekend. We finally got to bed after midnight and were both totally exhausted but we did make it out of bed and into the office Friday morning. Since it’s end of month time, there are a lot of reports and wrap-up work that have to be done in each of our domains so I’ve been preparing and sending baptism, vehicle and piso stuff thru much of the week. Flo got a huge supply order Friday so she’s had that on top of her other work – it makes the days go by pretty quickly. The mission has transfers in 10 days that sends an Assistant and one of the office Elders back into the field so there’s been a lot of excitement and work associated with preparations for that – this really is a busy place most of the time. We’ve been asked a couple of questions I’ll try to answer. When we arrived, our first names were changed to Elder and Hermana – that’s E&H. Persianas are (mostly) wooden slat shutters that are integrated into the construction of virtually all the pisos that we’ve seen – they’re much like the shutters we have on some of the windows of our house. But here they’re built with the roll-up box inside the wall and the shutter goes down the outside so it’s much harder to slap one on after the place is built. There’s a spring-loaded box in the wall that houses the strap which holds the shutter in any position desired and we operate them by hand, pulling the strap down to lift the shutter and pulling it out of the wall to lower the shutter. As long as the shutter slides up and down in the track and the strap doesn’t break, they’re very nice. We have one on a narrow bedroom window that, either because of its light weight or a balky track, comes only about halfway down unless we reach out to pull it down all the way (which we nearly always do at night to cut down noise). Another unusual thing we’ve observed here is the pillow cases. Some are normal (if we accept those at home as being the norm) but others are just a long tube – mine’s about twice as long as my pillow – and open on both ends. So it has to be folded over to keep it resembling a pillow and would allow you to have two pillows in one case. On our double bed there’s no room for anything like that. On Saturday we did our cleaning and some errands, took a walk out a path that ends at an ocean inlet (lots of sailboats in the bay there), had our dinner and got ready for the adult meeting of the stake conference. We met the Elders near their apartment and rode with Elders Bingham & Anderson to Vitoria (I guess 50-60 KM away), finally found the hotel where the conference was to be held and sat in the back section for the meeting. There were several talks in Spanish, a choir and Pres. Caussé and Pres. Kopischke spoke in English with translators giving Spanish. It makes the talks longer but we liked it because we could understand the English and immediately hear the Spanish. There was a lot of excitement among the members about the stake organization and much anticipation about the new stake presidency. We hung around for a while visiting (several missionaries there) and all 7 of the office missionaries came home to Las Arenas in the mission van – everyone seemed very upbeat after the meeting. Sunday we rode a city bus to a university in Leioa (between Las Arenas and Bilbao) where the church had arranged for a large auditorium to hold the first general session of the stake conference – there were a lot of very comfortable seats and they were nearly all filled. In the meeting (first new stake creation I’ve ever attended) they presented several men to be ordained High Priests then released the District officers, sustained a new stake presidency, clerk, executive secretary and a high council (we’ve met one high councilor in Las Arenas – don’t know any of the others), had testimonies from outgoing and incoming officers, Pres. Clegg spoke then Presidents Caussé and Kopischke spoke (with a translator) and did some excellent teaching. After the meeting we met Pres & Sister Larkin who’d presided over the mission starting in 2000 and that was a delight for us. We rode with the Elders to the chapel in Bilbao where we met and served lunch to most of the brethren – all who were there to be set apart and instructed by the Area Presidency and Elder Camargo. They’re all very impressive people. Got home a little after 4:00 and relaxed to do some reading and computer work (must write those letters, eh?). That’s our week – how was yours? The Spirit bore strong testimony again today that this is the Lord’s work – we’re happy to be involved. May you all be blessed – we love you very much. E&H Belnap

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