Thursday, June 30, 2016

Temple, Tour, Travel and "Train"-ing in Spain

Just arrived home from our trip to Spain to work with our new Self-Reliance Couple, Elder and Sister Kimball.  We had a wonderful trip that included so many activities in just 5 days.  We felt that our visit was a success.  We were able to include a visit to the Madrid Temple on Saturday.  More details follow.

In front of the Madrid Temple, wonderful opportunity to attend the temple during our visit to Madrid

We arrived in Spain on Friday, June 24 and spent some time in the afternoon meeting with Elder and Sister Kimball who had arrived on their mission the week prior.  They will be serving with our Self-Reliance Services manager, "PAco" Serrano who took care of us during our visit.  Elder Kimball served his young mission in Mexico and speaks very good Spanish.  Sister Kimball served a young mission in Italy and will be able to transfer to Spanish without significant challenges.  They both have great attitudes and a wonderful spirit.

During our initial planning and getting to know you meeting we decided to include a trip to Barcelona in our plans so that we could participate in a graduation ceremony and My Path devotional that Sunday.  After the planning session, we attended a ward My Path Devotional on Friday night at the Alcala Ward.  The attendance was small at the devotional but two small Self-Reliance groups were formed.  After the devotional we went to the Miguel Cervantes plaza in Alcala, which is the home to Miguel Cervantes, the writer of Don Quixote, inspiration for  the Man of La Mancha.  This has always been a favorite movie of ours. We have been so inspired by the song "The Impossible Dream" from this play and movie.

Below are some of the photos that we took around the Miguel Cervantes plaza.

By Don Quixote and his side kick, Sancho in front of the home where Miguel Cervanvtes was born.
In front of the status of Miguel Cervantes
Storks on the top of one of the Church landmarks.  Storks are plentiful in this city and they make their nests everywhere.
Eating dinner at 11:00 at night with PAco Serrano and his wife Susi and Elder and Sister Kimball.  Spaniards only start thinking about eating after 9:00 pm.

On Saturday morning we went to a grocery store across the street from our hotel to buy food for breakfast and our meals on Sunday.  As we went to get a shopping cart a young man asked us what Christian church we were.  We tried to explain what Church we represented, but he wanted to know if we were Catholic or Evangelical.  Finally we got him to listen to a very brief explanation of the restoration.  He was pretty negative about religion because of his tough  circumstances.  We then told him that he was loved by the Savior.  He is from Nigeria and he says he is legally in Spain and Europe but does not have work, even though he is educated.  He serves in the parking lot, hoping for tips or assistance from others.  As our discussion continued, he became more positive and we told him about Self-Reliance  efforts that could help him to obtain employment also.  As we left the supermarket, he was much more positive.  We shared a pass along card with him and got this information so that missionaries could contact him.  We were able to share that information with missionaries the next morning.  We hope that something comes of it, he seemed to be sincere.

After eating our breakfast, we went to the temple for an endowment session with Elder and Sister Kimball.  Once again we had some wonderful insights.  Sister Rueckert is finding that some of her best self-reliance impressions come in this temple.  We than had a late lunch with PAco and his family.  We shared spiritual thoughts as all missionaries should do when asked to eat with a family.  We also watched a wonderful video of Elder Bednar, sharing his feelings about Self-Reliance in a recent question and answer event.  That evening we attended a talent show in the Alcala ward, which was a lot of fun.

The next morning we went to Sacrament meeting at the Madrid 6th ward and then got on a "fast" train to Barcelona.  Although 600 km away, we were able to arrive there in about 3.5 hours.  Speeds were up to 300 km per hour during the trip which did make a few stops along the way.

Sister Rueckert and Elder Kimball on the train

Sister Rueckert with the Kimballs next to the train, in the train station in Barcelona

When we arrived in Barcelona, we got checked into our hotel and then went onto the Badalona ward where the devotional would be held.  First we participated in a training of 5 ward facilitators, followed by a graduation ceremony for 38 Self-Reliance graduates and then a My Path devotional for two wards that meet in Badalona, a little north of Barcelona.  We were really impressed with this stake and this devotional.  It was presided over by the counselor in the stake presidency who is also the chairman of the stake self-reliance committee.  The devotional was facilitated by the stake specialist who is amazing.  The high councilor conducted the graduation ceremony and also was very active in the devotional.  We thought that this was incredible support by the stake committee.  It shows, as almost 40 individuals from the wards participated and joined Self-Reliance groups.  In this stake it is "cool" to participate in Self-Reliance activities.

Facilitated by Inés, our stake self-reliance specialist

Stake Presidency counselor helping participants in the devotional

High councilor, stake presidency counselor and bishop all supporting the participants in this devotional

Stake President's counselor joining in the facilitating.  He really understands the doctrine and the process.

After the devotional, the chairman of the committee took us to the stake center in Barcelona to show us where they want to establish a self-reliance resource center and gave us a tour of this beautiful building.

Barcelona Stake Center in the middle of Barcelona.  Unique style with the full facade appearing as our normal chapels.

With Elder and Sister Kimball in front of the stake center.  The Church logo is in Catalan, the local original dialect

We were so impressed with this Stake Self-Reliance committee.  They are powerful, we would love to see all stakes led in this fashion.  Sister Kimball had wondered about our quick plans to come to Barcelona but she became a believer very quickly through this experience.

We didn't arrive in our hotel until 10:00 pm.  We got up the next morning and took a three hour tour bus to see Barcelona before returning on a train to Madrid shortly after noon.  The following are photos from that tour:

Beaches that were cleaned up and established for the 1992 Summer Olympics

Other view of the palm trees and the ocean behind

Famous "bullet" building constructed with unique colors appearing in the reflections of the sun

We stopped at the Sagrada Familia site.  This is an amazing Church that has been under construction since 1882.  It was the dream of the architect, Antoni Gaudi.  Gaudi died in 1926, but construction has continued with the hope of being completed by 2026 on the 100 year anniversary of his death.  This is a very unique building, with heavy gothic portions and other very modern styles all intermixed.  We would have loved to take the tour inside which is supposed to be amazing, but we just didn't have time.  We are just glad that we were able to see what we could.

Model of what the Church should like like when it is finished

Side View

Sister Rueckert and front view

Another view from the side

Under construction, rear view

Together in the front of the "Familia Sagrada"

German engineering at work in Barcelona

We returned to Madrid on the "fast" train again, arriving shortly after 4 pm.  We continued on meeting with PAco and the missionaries on Monday evening and all day on Tuesday.  This included our monthly video conference with all of the senior Self-Reliance missionaries and a one hour meeting with President and Sister Pack of the Madrid mission.  We also gave special focus to the PEF Loan Fund, which is active in Spain. Elder and Sister Kimball will be the specialists for this loan fund in Spain.   Finally on Wednesday morning early, we left for the airport and returned to our home in Germany.

We believe that we learned a lot and hopefully were able to share and inspire.  We feel really good about the future of the Self-Reliance work in Spain and know that the Kimballs will be a great blessing to the Spanish members of the Church.

Photo of Sister Rueckert in the airport with one of the Spanish bulls.