Sunday, April 23, 2017

Searching for Jobs, Shellfish, and Squid in Spain

We just finished a week in Northwestern Spain, helping to prepare unemployed leaders and members to find jobs as part of their Self-Reliance training.  We were in the Santiago District, which is located in a beautiful area on the western coasts of Spain, just north of Portugal.  This region is also noted for some of the best shell fish and octopus cuisine in the world which we were able to personally verify.

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Vigo, in Northern Spain 

The purpose for our trip to Spain was to participate in a special emphasis on helping unemployed leaders in the Santiago District.  We were scheduled to start on Monday morning, so after our Church meetings on Easter Sunday, we traveled by car with our manager, PAco Serrano.  On the way we stopped and visited with the District President in the Leon District to discuss self-reliance efforts in his district.  This included helping him prepare for the self-reliance event that will be held throughout Spain on May 6.   All wards and branches in Spain are to hold a self-reliance devotional on this day.  Since this is the date for the District conference, we confirmed plans to hold these same devotionals in his district on May 20.

Meeting with the Leon District President and our manager, PAco Serrano
After about 6 hours of driving, we arrived in Vigo, Spain later that evening.  The time was well used as we had meaningful discussions with PAco about the preparations and plans for the nationwide May 6 SR devotionals, the special emphasis on helping unemployed leaders in Spain, current and future missionary couples and anything else that came up.  He has a vision of involving the ward councils as the owners of Self-Reliance groups that could prove to be significantly impactful.  He feels like members of the ward councils should sponsor different groups, being responsible to assign and train facilitators and follow-up on group progress in each ward council meeting.  We love the vision and will be very interested how successful he is in getting this level of involvement in the May 6 activities.  He has also printed the tent card invitations for all priesthood leaders to share with members.  They should have been distributed through home and visiting teachers during the month of April.

On Monday morning we began our first session of the accelerated My Job Search in Vigo, Spain for the southern portion of the District.  We had 8 participants, including a translator for Sister Rueckert and the District President.  Two more joined us on Tuesday morning for the second session.  The 8 job seekers, including two unemployed priesthood leaders all returned for the third session on Wednesday morning.  In total we covered the first five lessons of  My Job Search in a group format, including daily reporting of goals.

First 8 participants of the Accelerated Job Search practicing their  Me in 30 seconds on Monday morning
Tuesday morning group, including two more participants, absent the translator (District President translating)
No translator for Sister Rueckert, but a young child to entertain, she keeps busy
Additional practice with continuing participants
 As we completed the five lessons, the group committed to continue meeting weekly going forward, beginning the next Tuesday morning.  We felt that they got started in developing and applying job search skills and have hopes that they will see results for their efforts.  The district president participated in the first two days and got a clear understanding of the self-reliance group process.  He is ready to fully support this initiative.

On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, PAco and Elder Rueckert visited some local organizations that work with job seekers, including temporary employment opportunities.  We introduced our materials and our members (conceptually) with these organizations and were positively received.

Our Monday and Tuesday evenings were open so we took time to explore.  On Monday we walked along the promenade near the beach and on Tuesday we went to the ancient fortress on top of the mountain and were able to get a great view of the city and the coast.  We were also able to taste some local shellfish and octopus on Tuesday night.  This region is known for these delicacies, we partook and we agree.

Along the beach, Atlantic Ocean behind us

Elder Rueckert couldn't resist going down into the water
View of the promenade, public swimming pool to the right

Evening view from above the promenade, with a local seagull

At the entrance of the fortress

Near the top of the fortress, Atlantic Ocean behind us

Sister Rueckert and our Spain manager, PAco
Overlooking the city and the ocean

A relaxing moment in the park within the fortress

Near the exit to the fortress

As we saw the marker below, referring to 136 individuals assassinated on this location 80 years ago, we received a history lesson from PAco.  He described the civil war in Spain that occurred in 1936 and led to 39 years of dictator rule which ended in 1975, closely aligned with the Catholic Church.  That dictator rule was a solution to extreme right and left positions.  Finally, in 1975 Spain returned to a democracy and our Church was allowed to be established.  This covered the period of World War II which Spain essentially missed.  Franco, the dictator, appeared to be sympathetic with Hitler, but did not feel his country was able to participate in World War II, having just finished their own civil war.  We always enjoy a little more history lesson as we see different locations in Europe.

Grilled Octopus, served as an appetizer.  Very tasty!

A plate of assorted Shellfish, we ate it all

 After finishing our Wednesday morning session at 1:00 pm, we departed for A Coruña, at the northern end of the district.  We had lunch along the way and arrived in time to start a new group of job seekers at 5:00 pm.  Once again we had 8 job seekers, including 2 unemployed priesthood leaders.  The district presidency counselor also participated with us.  He is the chairman of the District Self-Reliance Committee.  Tom King, our Area SRS manager, also arrived and participated in the remaining activities.
6 job seekers, two SR facilitators, district counselor and one branch president, along with PAco, Sister Rueckert and Tom King

Practicing their Me in 30 Seconds

That evening the local branch hosted a local singing group who put on a concert, including Easter songs and other music in Spanish, German and English.  We decided to attend this event, since our travel plans had precluded any other Easter concerts. This concert included some hymns from our hymn book and allowed the congregation to participate in these songs.   This was a wonderful blessing to add to our efforts of the week.

Concert choir performing

A spiritual song with audience participation in the choreography

Closing song, showing the entire choir

We continued the training on Thursday morning.  Four of our participants could not participate due to work commitments, but we added one new participant.

Thursday morning group working on Power Statements
 The beautiful city of A Caruña is near the very northwest of Spain.  This view below is of the city and part of the beach and was taken near the meetinghouse.  We found the water to be amazingly blue.

Thursday evening we had facilitator training.  Three facilitators were present as were 3 members of the District Self-Reliance Committee.  We trained them using the new facilitator guide which has just been translated into Spanish.  This process trains facilitators in a group setting so that they don't just hear theory but experience the process.  We have found this to be extremely effective.

Facilitator training

After the facilitator training we participated in a District Self-Reliance Committee meeting.  This was presided over by the 1st counselor in the district presidency.  The second counselor also attended as did his wife, who is the district relief society president.  The new district specialist was not able to be in attendance as he had been called by his employer to work during our visit.  They were trained as a committee and discussed the upcoming May 6 devotional plans.  We then asked them why we had so few unemployed priesthood leaders in our training sessions.  The committee chairman knew the situation of every name on the list that had been submitted to us before hand.  It turns out that there are only about 6 unemployed leaders and 4 of them participated in our sessions.  There are many other underemployed priesthood leaders who desperately need this same training, but they all had work commitments during the day, similar to the 4 participants that had not continued from the Wednesday evening group. We felt better about the results and returned with much more understanding.

Santiago District Self-Reliance Committee
 Our meetings ended about 9:00 pm which is the perfect time to eat dinner in Spain.  Most restaurants are not even open until 8:00 pm.  We took advantage of our last night in Northwestern Spain to have some octopus one last time.  We had a variety of "Tapas" which are like appetizers, which are shared amongst the four of us (PAco, Tom King, E/S Rueckert).

Outside the restaurant in A Coruña
Octopus and Salad, part of our "tapas"

Friday morning we continued with lessons 4 and 5 of My Job Search.  As we had the participants report on their commitments from the previous day, we were pleased to get a very positive response form one of the unemployed priesthood leaders.  He had followed the commitments from the prior day and had contacted a work colleague from 4 years ago.  He was well received and learned that this contact is currently in a regional management position and may have a job opportunity for this leader.  He had started the course without a lot of hope.  Now 2 days later, he had a scheduled meeting for a job opportunity and several more identified contacts to make.  At the end of the meeting he had to take a call on another job opportunity.  This was a fitting completion to our week. We know that the materials that the Church have prepared will help members to find self-reliance, including jobs, if they will follow the steps outlined and keep their commitments.  When they do, the Lord steps in and helps them, for "He will provide for His saints".

Meeting from Friday morning session

We caught an afternoon flight back to Madrid, stayed in a nearby hotel overnight and returned to Frankfurt early Saturday morning.  This allowed us time to do our laundry and enjoy our time home in our apartment.  Sister Rueckert also found time to create new "flowers" for our door wreath, since the Easter Decorations were no longer appropriate.

Photo of our glass sink in the hotel in Vigo.  We add this to our collection of unique furnishings that we have seen in our different hotel stays.

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