Hello again to our dearly beloved family. We’ve had a couple of Skype calls this week – 1 with Danette and 1 with Heidi. From those calls we think we can conclude that things are going pretty well in their families and hope the same is true of all the rest of you. This week we want to pass along birthday wishes to Alisa and Angela – ¡feliz cumpleaños! And we got a letter from Blair telling us Kason has remembered he has family so we’re much relieved at that news.
The announcement that I alluded to last week and about which we’re now free to communicate is that they’re closing our mission. The Spain Bilbao Mission will be merged into the Barcelona & Madrid missions effective July 1st. Our president, Pte Clegg, will become president of the Spain Málaga Mission (Pte Miller returns home after his 3-year term). The boundaries of the three remaining missions will be altered significantly with things like the Canary Islands moving to the Madrid mission, some of the Barcelona mission moving to Málaga and our mission being split with the Vitoria Stake going to Barcelona and our two districts going to Madrid. Of course the first question that popped up for us was ‘where do we go’. There was discussion about going with the Cleggs to Málaga, possibly going to Madrid to work in the temple or whether or not there’s need in either of the other missions. On Friday, Elder Joseph Wirthlin (son of the late Joseph B.), who’s currently serving as Director of Facilities in Europe, came to the office with the Cleggs to try to evaluate what it’ll take to close the office. He didn’t have many answers to specifics but suggested maybe they’d move us to Germany to serve in the distribution center in Frankfurt. Friday night and early Saturday, Elder Caussé (counselor in the Area Presidency) came to town to meet with Pte Clegg and went thru a long list of questions that he’d been asked to address. His decision relative to us is, unless going to Barcelona presents a financial hardship for us (we’re told it’s significantly more expensive), that’s where we should go. Pte Clark Hinckley (Barcelona) has told Pte Clegg that he’d be happy to put us to work in the office there so it appears there’s something to do. We’ve spent a little time thinking about the issue and, based on what we now know, think we can afford the difference and would enjoy the experience there. Pte Clegg has mentioned a couple of times that they might need us to stay here for a while after the mission termination to help with the closing so we’re thinking we’ll propose that we stay thru July. That will allow us to complete the terms of our piso lease (we sure don’t want to forfeit a $1200 security deposit) then move to Barcelona for our final 6 months. If they’d let us use one of the mission cars for the move, it’d make things simpler for us empty our piso and would be a way to get one of the cars to that mission. Of course, most of this is our speculation so we’ll have to see what develops as time passes and plans become more solid.
We were at our zone conference 10 days ago when Pte Clegg got the phone call telling him of the plans to close our mission and move him to Málaga. He told the office staff the next day and asked that no one talk about the announcement until he’d had the opportunity to meet face to face with all our missionaries to tell them. A day later he got an email from a young man in the US with a call to the Bilbao mission asking what it meant to him to have our mission being dissolved. Someone did some investigative work and discovered that a Málaga missionary, on receiving the announcement, had immediately sent email to family to tell them, who in turn had told a friend, who told a friend who is president of the called missionary’s stake. The president told the young elder who wrote to Pte Clegg even before the Pte could tell all the missionaries who are here. We can’t get much home teaching done in the church but we sure can spread faith promoting rumors! We were told the church will officially announce the changes – similar things are happening in Germany and Italy and maybe other countries here – on the 13th. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s anything new in the announcement. Pte Clegg has meetings in Germany in the upcoming week so if anything new develops, we’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, there still are pisos to clean in our mission. Elder Hansen came with me to Sestau to finish some repair work we wanted to make before vacating that piso and that afternoon the landlady came to the office happy about the condition of the piso and to return the security deposit. We cleaned two more in Vitoria last Tuesday and spent 2-3 hours in each working mainly in the kitchen and making repairs to door hinges. We have a chronic problem with doors falling off cupboards and closets – the screws work loose, no one is paying attention to it and soon the door falls off stripping screw holes. And most of the screws we see in these problem areas are slot-head screws so it’s difficult to work with them and get them tightened down like they should be. We go to Logroño Monday morning to clean two pisos there – it’s about 4 hours of driving and 2-4 hours in each piso so it’s going to be a long day for us. Then we begin visits to the pisos in the western part of our mission – most of those we’ll do a couple of pisos, stay overnight and do a couple more the following day before returning home. I’m easily able to contain my enthusiasm for this project, especially given the inputs we’ve had in the planning. We’ve really enjoyed meeting and working with the missionaries to improve their living conditions – they’ve all been very willing to help but haven’t thought about what it takes to get things really clean. And when we’ve finished, they’re very grateful for what’s been accomplished. If, on any given Monday morning, you don’t have our letter in your inbox, rest assured that it probably has been written but we might not have internet access to send it.
The weather has changed quite a bit for the better (except there was heavy frost the morning we had to be in Vitoria) and we’ve been able to do a little walking again. We’re still having quite a bit of rain but not as much wind, skies are sometimes blue and the temperatures get up to 50-60 degrees. We walked Friday evening and, as we came by the fruit/vegetable shop 3 doors from us, Marcelo waved us into his place, gave Flo half a melon he had and told us he’s closing down – Monday will be his last day. He told us his heart had been racing leaving him light headed and unable to function very well. He’s been very kind to us, has tried to help us with our Spanish and has learned a few English words in the months we’ve been here – we’ll miss having him so close-by.
Thursday, Flo had her first evening with the Young Women in our branch – she said it went pretty well. She baked a batch of brownies before going then made a batch with them for the activity. Apparently the Young Men came by to help as much as they could so it was a fun evening for them. One unusual thing about their mutual is that it doesn’t start until 8:30pm – we’re not sure whether that’s related to tradition or if leaders or YW aren’t able, because of work, to be there any sooner. I’ve needed/wanted some screws & washers for the piso repairs so Saturday, after my cleaning, I walked around looking for a hardware store. I’d been to one right after we got here but didn’t find it so I asked a man on the street and think he told me there wasn’t one that was open. I saw a parking cop so I asked him, he gave me a set of directions and I left trying to go where I thought he’d sent me. After going up and down the streets in the area he’d pointed to, I ran into him again and he led me nearly to the store before returning to his work. Turns out the store is on the same street in the same block as the office (it’s not the one I’d been to before) but I didn’t realize what they had (some of these stores are a little deceiving) – I was able to get most of the things I needed.
This morning (Sunday) we got up at 6:00, got ready for church and met most of our branch near the chapel to take a bus to the stake center in Vitoria. The announcement was ‘be here at 8:00; the bus will leave at 8:05’ but the bus didn’t leave till 8:35 and some had to run to catch it even then. But we arrived in Vitoria in plenty of time, had an opening conducted by a counselor in the Stake Presidency who announced the changes coming to our mission and the conference was a broadcast from SLC. The conference featured Elder Russell M Nelson who was preceded by three other speakers and, for some unknown reason, we couldn’t get the Spanish audio to work. Thru the first talk there was much noise and activity trying to solve the problem but that didn’t happen so one of the Assistants translated the second talk and the other translated the third. We were just fine with the broadcast but did feel a bit bad for the members who’d come but couldn’t understand what was being said. When Elder Nelson began, suddenly we had the Spanish translation and everyone settled in and heard his talk. We were told after the meeting that they had a room set up with the broadcast only in English but I wanted to hear the Spanish and think I understood most of what Elder Nelson taught. Maybe just maybe we’re going to get this language after all – at least enough to understand and give more meaning to our hand signals.
That’s all I can think of to tell you for this week. Where possible, always move into the lane farthest away when passing emergency vehicles. We love you all very much, appreciate your love and support for us and pray for God’s choicest blessings to always be with you. Love, E&H Belnap