Sunday, February 5, 2017

1 week; 2 Countries, 2 Cultures, 2 Cuisines, 2 Climates

We started the week in southern Spain and finished in northern Italy.  Two contrasting but beneficial Self-Reliance experiences.  In Spain our focus was on helping unemployed priesthood leaders in Cadiz, while in Italy we were involved in a seminar for all the Stake Self-Reliance Specialists.  Food tastes are also very different in the two countries.  Even the weather differed, sunny in Cadiz, Spain and rainy in Milan, Italy.  

In front of the Milan Cathedral
View over the bay in Cadiz, Spain; Temperature in the 60s.

We finished our previous week, arriving from the Netherlands in our home just before midnight on Sunday evening.  Monday morning we were on the way to the airport by 10:00 am.  We traveled through Madrid and on to Jerez, Spain.  We were pleased to arrive to warm weather that felt like late spring.  What a delight!  We traveled with our Area SR Manager, Thomas King and were picked up at the airport by our Spain SR Manager, PAco Serrano.  From there we drove to Cadiz which is on the southern end of Spain.  Cadiz overlooks the Atlantic Ocean,   The following photos were taken as we arrived.

Panoramic View from the outside of the shopping mall where we ate dinner that evening
Evening shot of the bay

The purpose of our trip to Spain was to start working with one of the stakes that has very high unemployment.  The Area Presidency has asked us to help unemployed Priesthood leaders in Spain as our top priority.  We started with the Cadiz Stake.  They had identified over 20 priesthood leaders that were unemployed and many more sisters who are part of the ward councils.  We were able to have 11 of them come to a special accelerated job search effort on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  PAco asked me on Tuesday morning if I would facilitate the first lesson of the My Job Search Self-Reliance course.

Our name plates for the training
I believe that this worked out well.  With my limited Spanish, it was easy for me to facilitate and let the group members do all of the talking. That is exactly what a facilitator is supposed to do.  We sat around two tables and proceeded with two separate groups.  I asked the sister at the first table to facilitate as I tried to keep track of what was happening in each group.

One of the Job Search tables
I love the way that the materials are organized.  After doing a My Foundations lesson, we moved onto learning how to do a "Me in Thirty Seconds"  statement for each individual.  Following the pattern outlined in the course materials, each individual was to practice their "Me in Thirty Seconds"  with others.  Below shows the two groups sharing with each other on a rotating basis.

The second from the right is the second counselor  in the stake presidency and chairman of the SR Committee.

We than asked them to make a list of contacts and share their "Me in Thirty Seconds" with at least 10 of their contacts before returning the next morning.  PAco than taught them how to start accessing the hidden network of jobs through these contacts and the people that they know.  They also made their first contact that very morning by telephone to start their progress.  Only 9 more contacts to do after leaving the training.

As we were eating dinner that evening, PAco talked to one of the participants as his Action Partner and discovered that in one of his contacts, he was already offered a job teaching French in a school, beginning later in the year.  What a great beginning.

That afternoon PAco and Thomas King visited a company called "Quality People" and introduced the needs of our members.  This company hires 100 to 200 people each month in temporary positions often with potential full-time positions.  This appeared to be a wonderful resource to share the next day with those in our job search group.

That evening we met with the Cadiz Stake Self-Reliance Committee.  Thomas King asked me to share a doctrinal discussion on the spot.  Again in Spanish, I am less comfortable, but we were able discuss D&C 104:14-17 which is full of Self-Reliance doctrine.  The stake president counselor kept saying that he was understanding all of my Portunal (Spanish and Portuguese mixed).  They received overall training on the Self-Reliance initiative by PAco and then we discussed the effort to help the unemployed leaders.  

This committee was so engaged, especially the chairman of the committee and the senior bishop in the stake.  They knew the needs of the stake in detail, name by name.  They decided that they needed to start these job search groups in each of the wards the next week, including the individuals in our training.  To do that we suggested that we take time the next evening to train the ward specialists.  They felt that they could bring these specialists together for that training.

Stake Self-Reliance Committee with Visitors

The next morning we continued on with the second lesson from the My Foundation and My Job Search materials.  9 of the individuals returned, we lost two.  Each reported on his efforts the previous day.  Some exceeded the 10 contacts, others did less.  That is part of the process.  Each that made contacts reported on their experience.  The sister said that one of her contacts told her that if she would have contacted her a few months earlier, that she had a job available.  Others opened the doors to other possibilities. PAco reported on the resources that he had identified the previous day and shared it with each of them.

We then continued with lesson two, which focused on Using Time Wisely (from My Foundations) and preparing Positive Declarations (Power Statements) to use in interviews with employers.  Again, PAco followed with more detailed materials to help as they set up interview opportunities.

The entire group lined up practicing their Positive declarations

More practice of Power Statements 

Pondering and writing down commitments
That evening we met with 5 of the ward specialists and the stake specialist to give additional training.  Once again, the meeting was led by the stake committee chairman, the second counselor in the stake.  He had been with us on Tuesday morning, Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening.  His leadership makes all the difference in this effort.  We felt that, with his leadership, this two day effort could continue in the stake and bless the lives of many more members.  Of course, PAco will continue working closely with this stake as they move forward.

The stake committee chairman sharing his feelings about the importance of the self-reliance efforts.
At times, my Spanish wasn't sufficient and Elder Diaz, a young missionary, helped with translation.  He also helped me understand some of what I was not able to capture.  He also acted as a member of the group. He will be well prepared as his mission finishes in 7 months and he returns to his home in the Canary Islands, off the coast of Spain.  His Companion, Elder Smithson, sat with Sister Rueckert and Thomas King and translated the proceedings of the training to them.  We love working with these young missionaries.  Their attitude is so positive and they are willing to serve in any way.

Elder Diaz (my translator) and Elder Smithson, who translated for Sister Rueckert and Thomas King during the training sessions.
View from the front of the stake center
The next morning we caught an early flight and returned to Frankfurt by noon.  We were able to go to the office and work on a  few priority items and prepare for our trip to Milan, Italy the next day.  We left home on Friday at 7:00 am to go to the airport for our next adventure this week.

We were met at the airport by our SRS manager, Ether Simoncini.  Unlike Spain, we had rain much of our visit in Italy and much lower temperatures.  We spent the rest of the day with Ether and his parents, who are our Self-Reliance missionaries in Italy.  We had hoped to visit with some PEF loan participants that day, but the only one that was able to be scheduled had to cancel due to illness.  We are always able to spend productive time with Ether as we discuss the Self-Reliance initiative in Italy.  We also were able to make final preparations for the specialist seminar the next day, including Elder Simoncini's translation of some of my presentation materials.

By 4:30 pm, we had completed our preparations.  With a little time available, we took the subway to the center of the city and visited the Milan Cathedral.  The following comes from Wikipedia.

Milan's Cathedral, built between 1386 and 1577, is the fifth largest cathedral in the world[69] and the most important example of Gothic architecture in Italy. The gilt bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, placed in 1774 on the highest pinnacle of the Duomo, soon became one of the most enduring symbols of Milan.

The subway took us right to the Plaza in front of the Cathedral.  

View of People and Pigeons on the Plaza

On the side of the Plaza, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

This area is full of interesting sites, but with limited time available, we focused on visiting the Cathedral.  Some photos while we waited in line to get entrance tickets.

Side view of the cathedral.  It is deeper than it is wide.

Interesting sign before entering with all of the things prohibited in the Cathedral.

We could take photos in the  Cathedral, just no selfie sticks or tripods.  This cathedral is an example of Gothic architecture and is enormous.  The Cathedral has many memorials to previous Arch Bishops, including Pope Paul VI, who came from Milan.  Some of our photos from inside:

Looking across the width of the Cathedral 

Looking diagonally across the Cathedral

From the middle of the cathedral

From the front of the Cathedral

With the length of the Cathedral behind us

Zoomed in version of the front of the Cathedral
We were able to hear someone playing the organ, apparently rehearsing with a choir.  We were pleased to once again experience music inside a cathedral.  As we came out, it was now dark, which gave us a night view.

Close up of the Cathedral with the Bronze Statue of the Virgin Mary

We enjoyed a very Italian meal that evening with Ether and his parents.

Ether, Elder and Sister Simoncini, Elder and Sister Rueckert

Saturday morning we began the Stake Specialist training.  9 of the stakes were in attendance with the remaining stake specialist joining us by Zoom.

Stake Specialists with one joining by video conference
I was able to share an overall view of Self-Reliance activity in Europe and compare it to the 2016 results in Italy.  Ether translated and added valuable content.  Ether also shared a powerful doctrinal discussion on self-reliance as taught by the Savior from Matthew chapter 22 and 25.

Elder and Sister Simoncini prepared a lunch for all.

After lunch, Sister Rueckert shared some European Success Stories and shared the elements of a good success story.  The Area 70 in Italy has asked for more success stories to help the priesthood leaders to be motivated by the successes around them. I was very impressed with the way that Sister Rueckert leads a discussion.   She brings a powerful spirit to our Self-Reliance activities.

Sister Rueckert sharing principles of Success Stories
Sister Simoncini than shared some successes in Italy.  Ether than held a Facilitator training session in group mode for all of the participants. It was wonderful to see all participating.  It appeared to strengthen the bonds between each of them.  At the end I challenged them to each facilitate a group session themselves.  They were also assigned another stake specialist as an Action Partner.

The remainder of the day included Elder Simoncini discussing materials that they should use and Matt Matthias (Our Eastern European SR manager) shared how one on one coaching was working in his area. Ether than finished up establishing next steps with each of the Specialists.

Some of these specialists were the same that we had met a year ago.  Whenever we meet people a second time, the bonds of friendship seem to increase.  We were pleased to participate in this seminar.  We can see the uplift that it gives to the participants.  We pray that this uplift can continue as they confront real challenges in moving this great initiative forward.

After attending Church in Milan, Italy we are on our way back home.  We are finishing this blog from the airport as we await our flight.  As we ponder about the contrasts of both visits this week, we need to share the contrasting foods that we also experienced:

An Italian Pizza, my Friday night dinner, thin crust no tomato sauce
Spain's favorite meal, Paella, Rice, Olive Oil, vegetables, meat