It’s a new month and we’ve had another good week here in Spain. Weather-wise, it been really nice until Friday when fog hung over our area making it quite chilly to be outside – it’s the first time we’ve seen the fog here. And our schedule has been such that we could take a pretty long walk until Friday night so we’ve gone 45 – 1:15 on our walks along the water front (the warmer weather sure makes a difference in how many people are out walking in the evening). Flo spent quite a bit of time baking for activities this week and the upcoming zone conferences in a couple of weeks so her days and evenings were pretty filled. They’ve decided to give each missionary a loaf of homemade bread so they’re using small loaf pans, baking bread for about 80 missionaries and storing it in Hna Clegg’s freezer until it’s needed (Flo’s a little over half done).
It was transfer time in the mission this week and we had new missionaries come (this group of 5 is all from the US) and 6 missionaries finish their missions (5 from the US, 1 from Madrid) and went home. The Hermana from Madrid has become a very special friend to us – especially to Flo and we are sad to see her leave but are sure her family feels differently about that. She’s been here in Bilbao since we arrived and, between our trips to Bilbao and her trips to the mission offices, we’ve gotten to know her as well as any of the missionaries here. She’s a very pretty, gifted missionary with a terrific testimony and we’ll truly miss being around her. On Tuesday we left the office about noon, packed up the stuff we needed to take to the mission home where the new missionaries had been taken, I went for the car (it wasn’t that I got lost, I just couldn’t figure out how to get back to the piso in the car) and met Flo there. We loaded our stuff and drove without any wrong turns or errors to the mission home where we began preparing Navajo tacos for mediodía. We were ready on time, used a pan on the stove (rather than an electric fryer we’d used before) to fry the bread and it worked out very well – everyone appeared to have all they wanted (and we consumed a goodly amount of food). This time, as soon as we got things cleared from the table, the lady who helps with the housework at the mission home was there and insisted on doing the dishes and the rest of the cleanup so we came home. Flo resumed baking - apple crisp, batch of bread (small loaves), dinner rolls and ‘snake bread’ for various upcoming meals. I returned to the office to help but things went smoothly with getting assignments made and getting the missionaries prepared to leave for those new assignments.
Wednesday morning we went early to the Makro to buy a refrigerator that went on sale that morning – we didn’t want them to be sold out of the sale model. Flo got some grocery items while I looked for the refrigerator but couldn’t find it. Between my weak Spanish and the ad picture I told them what I wanted and they were helpful in trying to find out why they didn’t have one. A phone call provided an answer that they’d be in next week (not that we hadn’t heard that before) so they did some paperwork and we left. The next day we got a call at the office that our refrigerator was in but they were talking about the one we’d asked for over three weeks ago. They seemed a bit miffed when we explained that we’d ordered a different one and no longer wanted the first one. The anticipation of getting a nicer refrigerator coupled with the hassles we have with the old one make us hope mightily that they don’t take a long time getting the new model to the store. By Wednesday afternoon all the departing missionaries were in the office to say goodbye – we had lunch together at the office and they spent the night with other missionaries and were driven to the airport very early Thursday morning to fly to their homes. One, Elder Rodriguez, is from El Paso and plans to move to Phoenix in the near future and look us up when we get home – if he calls before we get home, be kind to him.
On Thursday, the mission secretary (E Strickland) began feeling sick and got progressively worse as the day wore on. By Friday he couldn’t make it out of bed to come in (and shouldn’t have even if he’d had the strength - no one else wants the stuff) but it caused some problems with the plans E Anderson had made for a Halloween mediodía for those of us in the office. Flo had made the ‘snake’ bread that they split along the top and filled with sauce & cheese, made brains (cauliflower in cheese sauce), eyeballs (deviled eggs with olive slices) and chicken entrails (chicken noodle soup). By the time we got E Anderson to the office nearly all the rest of us had eaten but it was a fun lift for us. Friday evening I went to the Elder’s piso to be with E Strickland (he slept the entire time; I didn’t even see him) while Pte Clegg went with E Anderson for a teaching visit – it was a pretty quiet time that I could work on my journal and this letter.
After we’d cleaned the piso Saturday morning we got ready to go out of town with Pte Clegg to visit León – a city in the central part of our mission that has a relatively small branch and the only branch with a missionary serving as branch president. We loaded our suitcase and another batch of bread loaves into the car and soon were confronted with a new adventure. Right after we hit the freeway the gas warning light came on and I could tell from the gauge that it shouldn’t be ignored so we got off and went to the gas pumps at Makro. We’ve been here 3 months now and I hadn’t even looked to see where the gas-fill opening is. We waited in a short line, pulled to a pump and I wasn’t sure which hose to try or how to operate the pump – self-serve but no place to put a card with two black handles and two green handles. I finally went to the little booth, asked if she spoke English (of course not!) and told her I wanted gasoline not diesel. She motioned that I’d have to move to a different pump so we did (it looked exactly the same as the first) and the labels seemed to indicate the green handles were gasoline and the black ones diesel – I went against by experience, filled out of the green handle and Flo paid at the window (cost us 40€ for 37+ liters, over $6/gal). I asked the Cleggs and they confirmed that green is gasoline and black is diesel (they have two grades of each) but it’s very difficult to tell from the labeling on the pumps. We made our way to the correct freeway going the correct direction and arrived at the Clegg’s. We loaded our stuff in their car, put bread in the freezer and drove into Bilbao where we met the Assistants at a Chinese Buffet and had dinner. It was an interesting place – the food stations had both prepared and raw food and the grills were set up for stir-fry or frying. You choose what food you’d like and if you want it cooked, you take it to the grill you’d like it cooked on. The food tasted very good – I didn’t get very adventurous and others discovered there were a few imposters (onion rings were really breaded calamari) but, overall, it was a delightful experience and, when we go again, I might try some known commodities and have them cooked up. It took a little over 3 hours to drive from Bilbao to León, we checked into a nice looking hotel and asked for directions to a cathedral in the city. It was only a few blocks so we walked to it and spent much of an hour walking around and thru it – I was very impressed that they could build such an edifice (started in the 1200’s) at a time we refer to as the dark ages. Someone had some engineering skills and they certainly were applied in that project. We couldn’t take pictures inside but Hna Clegg took a few of the outside (we’ll try to get them on the blog soon) and I’ll try to describe in a subsequent letter some of the things they have inside – it’s amazing.
There were a couple of items in the Elder’s piso that I needed to assess (the primary reason we went) so, Sunday morning, we met the Elders there (4 of them live together) and we developed a plan to take care of a broken bed frame and a way to repair some stripped screw holes in a door to one of the rooms. If we can find replacement legs to the bed frame, both problems can be solved. We went from there to the branch for church, had a glitch as we started the sacrament hymn and discovered there was no bread for the sacrament (had testimonies then the sacrament), Flo and I attended the gospel doctrine class (taught by a sister who had been a nun for 11 years, felt, without knowing why, that she needed to leave the convent, found our church 18 years later and has been a member 17 years) and understood more of what was taught than in any class I’ve been in and finished with RS & PH meetings. The members are so warm and loving – they seem to thrive on association with any other members and delight when someone new is in their midst and it was a great experience for us. We’d brought stuff to make sandwiches for our lunch as we traveled so we had a nice drive back. The Cleggs had recently received CD’s of their mission presidents training seminar they’d attended just before leaving so we got to listen to several of the brethren teach mission presidents as we drove. I can tell you that the Lord has raised up some terrific leaders to serve as apostles in building His Kingdom in our day and time – they are marvelous!
Well, it’s time to be done with the letter for this week. We got some very nice emails last week and appreciate very much that you take the time to write to us – we love it. We hope and pray that things are well with each of you, know that the gospel is true and are happy to be a part of the effort to give God’s children the opportunity to choose or reject that gospel. May he continue to bless each of us.
Love, E&H Belnap