Tuesday, October 13, 2009

September 27, 2009 Weekly update from Delwyn

Another week has pretty much flown by – we’re still alive and well. We received the package with the digital picture frame (took 6 days enroute), got it set up in the office and have seen some of the pictures (it’s on Flo’s desk so she may have seen them all but I haven’t). Thanks so much to all of you – sending heavy stuff is an expensive venture so we don’t want you to do much of that! It costs us 0.78€ (ca. $1.15 at today’s exchange rate) to send a letter home so we’re glad we have email to help us communicate. We’ve had a pretty busy week in the mission – a conference for each of the four zones we have and the normal activities as well. Flo went to the mission home again Monday to make more hamburger stew as the main course for the conferences and says it went a lot smoother this week than last. We attend only the Bilbao zone conference (that was Thursday in the Bilbao chapel – a good experience for us) but do quite a bit of stuff to help get ready for all of them - especially Flo. She puts together boxes & sacks of stuff for each of the zones which include orders from missionaries for Books of Mormon, booklets and other supplies plus the mail that’s come for the missionaries since the last trip that was made to the zone. It means that it can be several weeks between the time a letter is sent from home, if it’s sent thru the mission office, and when it actually gets into the missionaries hands. We had a letter come recently that had a postmark of nearly four years ago sent from a missionary in our mission to his brother in Kenya. It had some pictures in it so we tried to find an address for the Bilbao missionary at home but the mission doesn’t keep those records very long and my searching in RM sites didn’t turn up anything for the name – we don’t know what to do with it. We had about 10 baptisms in the last two weekends and, after a baptism, the missionaries send the recommend to the office and we put it into our system that in turn gets it into the membership record system. Nearly each one that comes in has something missing or some other discrepancy (e.g. a mother & daughter were baptized together and the mother’s name was spelled differently on her recommend than it was on the daughter’s recommend). But I’ve been frustrated by one that came in with only a street and number for the address. I can’t even find the street with Google, I don’t know for sure which city it’s in, I’ve talked to the elders several times and they promise to get the info but I’m still waiting for the phone to ring on that one. I finally had to pull it from our system so I could send the rest of the batch to SLC and will enter it again when I get the address. A strong majority of the convert baptisms here are among immigrants from South & Central America and eastern European countries – they just seem more willing to listen to the missionaries. Maybe that Israelite blood runs a little stronger in their veins than it does in the natives here. There are a lot of converted, faithful people here (we have quite a few Spaniard missionaries) but some of them are pretty new in the church. We received a baptism recommend this week on which the brother doing the confirmation put down, as his priesthood office, ‘2nd counselor in Stake Presidency’ – sure makes me more appreciative of my heritage in the church. One of my responsibilities in the office has been to activate temple recommends as they come to us – most go smoothly and it’s a short process. But, with the creation of the new stake, responsibility for recommend activation for those units within the stake becomes a stake function and, early in the week, they weren’t able to activate. So Pres. Del Molino came to the office and we worked together to active 30-40 recommends mostly from printouts of email derived from scanning the pages of the recommend book – some of those were very difficult to read and we spent a couple of hours working on it. On Friday, Pres. Del Molino sent a page with all the numbers clearly printed but when I went to enter them, the names and numbers of the members in the stake are no longer in our mission database – I guess the transition has happened. We had an interesting experience Friday with a car inspection. In Spain, passenger cars, at the conclusion of their fourth year of registration, must have what’s called an ITV inspection and display a current sticker in the windshield. Obviously I’d never been thru one nor had the other elders in the office but Miguel had assured me it was no big deal – just go do it. Elder Anderson finally got an appointment with an inspection station (we were a month overdue) and we set out to find the station. The Google map took us across the Puente Colgante so that was a first for me. We waited in a line of cars and, as I pulled into the lane to enter the air ferry, it filled up. An attendant backed us back into the street and we waited for the next cycle to come around. When the cars had unloaded from the other side, we pulled in as close to the edge as we could get (there was a metal gate in front of us), cars filled in behind us, an attendant came by to collect 2.10€ and it took just over a minute to reach the other side of the river. When they opened the gates we drove off and spent the next 15-20 minutes driving the narrow, hilly streets following the Google directions. We had a couple of false turns but made it okay, parked the car and went into the office for instructions. They did the paperwork, extracted about $60, told us where to drive and we approached a station much like the emission testing sites in Arizona (large bays open on both ends). Someone took our paperwork, we drove to a station of equipment and they began shaking the car up & down and from side to side – they did that for front & back. He had me turn the steering wheel back & forth, brake hard, have it in & out of gear and run some switches (lights, wipers, etc.). Since I understood little of what he called out, my reaction occurred only after the Elders understood and translated the instructions. But he was patient with us, sent us out the opposite door to wait and, in a few minutes came out with the stamped document and a sticker for the windshield (thank you, Lord). We returned to the Puente (did a little touring but I was just following instructions!), waited for our turn and rode back to our side of the river (another 2.10€, thank you very much). The Elders wanted the Spanish version of Rahmen noodles from a store near the Puente so I dropped them off and took the car to park it – someone again pulled out of a spot in the jammed parking lot and I dove into it. It’s become evident to us that school’s back in session here – we see lots of kids both morning and afternoon in uniforms. The uniforms vary but we wonder if it’s not that different schools have different uniforms because it seems that the kids getting on the same bus have the same uniforms. The one thing missing is that we don’t see schools anywhere we go. On our street is a building with a small sign saying ‘Colegio’ but we don’t know if it’s a traditional school, a church school or even a school at all. There’s no way all the kids we see (and some look to be 3-4 years old) are going to that school. And the buses they ride look more like tour buses than like our school buses at home. It’s one of the things I’m going to find out about when I can ask someone and understand the answer (we’ve asked the Elders – they don’t know). We slept in for a while Saturday morning - it’s starting to be quite a bit cooler here, especially at night – so it felt good to stay warm and just doze. I don’t feel like I work very hard physically but there are certainly times when I’m exhausted at night and would like to stay in bed in the mornings. I went downstairs to the little market next to us, got onions and a bell pepper and Flo fried potatoes and onions, scrambled some eggs and we added toast for our breakfast – it was almost like being in a campground! After we’d cleaned the piso and done some laundry we set off to take a walk – ended up getting some fruit which we brought back to the piso. But then we walked for over an hour along streets and waterfront that we’ve seen from the car but hadn’t walked before – we really liked it but commented that it’d be nice to have bikes to cover the ground faster. We’re intrigued by what appears to be older architecture of homes and buildings (some look like all residences, some might be offices and some might be both) and the landscaping in areas where building is less dense. We’re trying to walk more and made it out about half the evenings this week and hope to improve on that. When we returned to the piso Flo wanted a loaf of bread but the shops where we normally get bread were all closed for mediodía. So we wandered around a bit, saw a lady carrying a loaf of bread and guessed where she might have come from – Bingo! – there was an open shop. We had our dinner, did dishes and finished some of the tasks we had going. Our Spanish is such that we can see progress - it’s pretty exciting for us to be able to understand something we hear and it’s happening more and more. We know there’s a long way to go but are confident we’ll get there one day. We got letters from a few of you this week and want you to know that we really appreciate it. We love all of you the same amount but I’m sure we can tell which of you love us because you write to us (just a little humor found in the truth). We plead with all of you to stay true to the faith – it’s the Lord’s work and we’re so thankful to be part of it and a great family that’s faithful. Lots of love,E&H Belnap

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