20 June 2010 Dear family & friends,
As we sit to report another month of experiences in Spain we hope all is well with each of you. We appreciate very much the letters we receive and apologize that we sometimes don’t respond to them. Know that we receive them and love to hear from you. On the health front, things are going well. I did a little internet research and found a cardiologist within a block of the office and went to him for a checkup. It turns out that he’d studied at Harvard Medical School and speaks English very well. After the first couple of minutes the conversation was virtually all in English as he asked me about health history and the angioplasty procedure. He put me on a table for an EKG then wheeled up another machine for an echocardiogram and told me my heart was working very well - 200€, no credit card, thank you very much
We had an unusual experience one Monday this month that left us shaking our heads about the system here. Two of us took Pte Clegg’s van to an auto service shop for a brake job and oil change. At the service desk they told us it’d take till 3:00 but Elder Holmes argued for faster turn around and they told him they could do it by 2:00. We basically killed time until just after 2:00 when I suggested we check on the car and, as we walked toward them, a technician signaled that he was on his way for us. He returned with the invoice and advice that the rear tires would soon need to be replaced – nonsense, they’re nearly new Michelin tires. At the checkout counter Elder Holmes presented the mission Visa card and was told they couldn’t accept it because it didn’t have his name on the card. They’d accepted payment with that very card last week for about 420€ for a pair of new tires but steadfastly refused to accept it for today’s 170€ bill. In retrospect, at that point we should have told them to restore the old brakes and oil and we’d go someplace else. We didn’t and Elder Holmes argued in vain so I offered to pay with my credit card, they processed it and we left. We drove from the store parking area to the mall exit at which point a police car turned on the siren and the officers directed us to turn and park. One officer came to the window, asked for the vehicle papers and Elder Holmes driver’s license who asked why they’d stopped us – no meaningful reply. They processed the papers – including an insurance document – and, while they were doing that, Elder Holmes heard my name come over their police radio. The second officer came to the window and asked for my ID so I gave him my AZ driver’s license. In a few minutes they returned with all our documents and said the license plate for our car had been run thru their system and showed a January expiration date for the insurance (it expires Sept 30th) so they’d stopped us. But when E Holmes began asking questions about why my name had come over their radio and they’d wanted my license, the officer became defensive and evasive and the second officer appeared to be trying to disappear. They drove away without explaining what had really happened to cause them to stop us so we were left to speculate as we headed back to the office. We don’t know why the auto shop had called but clearly they’d called the cops – that’s the only way they could have gotten my name – but we don’t know whether it was an attempt to harass us or something legitimate. Tuesday, during a test drive with a driving instructor, they asked about our experience with the police and the instructor told them what had happened was illegal and that the officers must tell a driver why he was being stopped – that didn’t answer my questions about what happened.
A couple of weeks ago Elder Holmes called our landlady to discuss the closing of the mission and get a reading from her about the lease for our piso which, technically, runs into August. She told him she wouldn’t have any problem with our leaving at the end of June to move to Barcelona. We committed to be here until June 30th to take the Cleggs and some family to the airport for their flight to Málaga, finish loading the van with our stuff and drive to Barcelona that day. We don’t know what we’ll be doing there but are making our plans to live there. We’ve had phone conversations with the senior missionaries in Barcelona (Lund & Hadley), looked at a realtor’s web site to see piso rentals and the Hadleys visited a specific piso that’s available and sent us some photos by email. It’s close to the other couples, has 3 bedrooms (two are quite small), a nice living/dining area, a washer & dryer, even a fireplace (probably useless to us) and rents for 1000€/month. Based on the other inputs we’d had about housing in Barcelona, we think that’s a good deal so we responded that we’d like to have the piso but haven’t heard anything back about a deposit or what we’ll have to do to hold it until we arrive – we hope nothing. There are some things we don’t know yet but at least we have reasonable prospects of having a roof over our heads when we drive into Barcelona – we’ll keep you posted. In a short meeting with our landlady she identified the things that are hers and was very accommodating in letting us have our choice of kitchen things to take with us – all except the new refrigerator (actually the best appliance in the piso) and she doesn’t want it.
We’re still trying to decide exactly what we have to do before they haul away the computers and furniture from the offices. A church man (Jose) came from Madrid last week and essentially shut down the financial operations for the mission office by deactivating the cards they’d used to buy things – we’re now operating via petty cash to operate the postage account and buy a few of the things we need. When he finished his work in the office, he talked to me about the car situation, we had conversations with Miguel and he drove one of our five cars back to Madrid where they’ll probably put it on a dealer’s lot to sell. This coming week is when packers come to pack the stuff in the offices and the next day movers come to load it for transport to Madrid or Málaga (mostly furniture for the Cleggs). I called to ask what we’re supposed to be telling missionaries about where to send convert baptism recommends and was told that everything after June 13th was to be sent to the new mission they’re in. When they announced that the mission would close the end of June, I expected it to be the 30th – it’ll be a memory by then.
We met the family of Flo’s sister Edna at the Bilbao airport near the end of May – they’d come to try to find living relatives of Ramon’s grandparents who were born in Spain and more specifically, his grandmother who was born near here. We had dinner with them, visited for a little while and they drove to Lekeitio where they established a base and began visiting the small towns they’d identified thru family research as birth places for ancestors. The very first place they visited they ran into a fourth cousin and things sort of snowballed from there. In the five or so days they were here and looking for family, they had great experiences with family who welcomed them with open arms, exchanged family information & email addresses and had impromptu family reunions. They have met or now know of nearly 200 living family members whereas they didn’t know a single one when they arrived – they were overjoyed and thankful for the success they had. We drove out to meet them on the Saturday they were here (did a little touring en route), walked into a bar next to a church where ancestors had been baptized and asked a patron about names. He said ‘follow me’ and led us to a family that are relatives that talked with us for an hour, showed us pictures of children and grandchildren and were a delight to be around – it was fun.
We had our final ‘zone conference’ of the mission last week and our secretaries were able to turn it into a full mission conference by housing distant missionaries with close missionaries and using the buses and trains to get everyone to Vitoria. Flo went with others to get things set up on Wednesday then we all were there for the conference on Thursday – it was a bit emotional but the greatest emotion was happiness as missionaries saw and greeted each other. It was a good conference with more music than we’d had in past zone conferences and one of the highlights was a piano solo by Elder Driggs who’s a cousin of Flo’s and another was a violin duet by two of the elders. One feature of zone conferences has been the bearing of testimonies by those who are leaving at the end of the current transfer and this time we had 12 missionaries share feelings and testimonies – a lot of the past and present mission leadership was represented there. They served salad, lasagna, cooked carrots, bread and four different desserts for lunch and the only thing left over was a little bit here and there that had been left on a plate by missionaries – it was good food and the missionaries appreciated it. At the conclusion of the conference, we saw a slideshow that the secretaries had put together showing all the missionaries in their cities, the Cleggs presented each with a mission DVD and a t-shirt silk screened with ‘Spain Bilbao Mission’ and the missionaries presented the Cleggs with a book made from the responses of each missionary regarding their mission and the role the Cleggs have played in it – they were moved and grateful. They took some pictures of the entire mission then spent a good hour as missionaries said goodbye to each other and got pictures of small groups.
Flo & I and the secretaries returned to Vitoria the next day to move the Hermanas to a new piso and haul some equipment we’d used back to Bilbao. We spent about five hours cleaning, repairing and packing to vacate the old piso. The missionaries had been there for about 15 years and there hadn’t been much maintenance done in the place and there were a lot of ‘piso finds’ that we had to haul out. We repaired several things but ran into some other repair needs that we just couldn’t handle with the time, tools and parts we had. When we got the last load in the van it was so full five of us had to walk to the new piso where we experienced another tender mercy. A very short parking spot was open near the piso door but, because of a planter on the sidewalk, we couldn’t get the van completely out of the street. We got close enough that cars could go by us, began unloading and a city bus (which couldn’t get by us) came down the street. As we prepared to drive away, a man came out and asked if we’d like the spot in front of us where his car was parked – he moved and we had room to park while we unloaded a ton of stuff. It’s the kind of thing we’ve run into a lot as we’ve gone thru the pisos in our mission so we have much to be grateful for in our missionary work. At the new piso Flo did some checking in the kitchen and found that the stove, range hood, cupboards and drawers were as dirty as most of the pisos we’ve cleaned so we went thru most of the kitchen cleaning grease and dirt – it wouldn’t have been done otherwise. Last week we got a call in the office from the Hermanas we’d helped move. They’d returned to their old piso to get it ready for the walk-thru with the landlord, were defrosting the freezer but were using a hammer and some chiseling device to remove ice. They’d poked a hole thru the freezer wall and into the coils and called because they could hear hissing and smell refrigerant. Apparently our training to defrost with pans of hot water didn’t stick in some cases. We’ve offered that, as soon as we finish with our use of it, we have a refrigerator they can use as a replacement if they want it. I think we’re waiting word from the landlord about what we’ll have to do to solve the issue.
We love and appreciate you, hope things are going well and would love to hear from you. May you be blessed with all good things. Love, E&H Belnap