What an awesome and crazy couple weeks! I made it to Barcelona! The past 6 weeks have FLOWN by, and I am going to miss the people at the missionary training center so much! Last Thursday we went to the Prada Museum in Madrid and earlier this week, when we went to the park, I was paired up with an Italian sister who hardly spoke any English. It was difficult talking to people, and a couple times it was heartbreaking, as they rejected us and our message. Some people have become so hardened, and I could see that they had no hope at all in a Heavenly Father who loves them. My purpose here is so important, to bring joy and the hope of the gospel to them. My testimony of that gospel has been strengthened so much over these past 6 weeks, and I have seen such a change in myself. Our MTC president said that “the greatest miracle you will witness is YOU. YOU are not to be who you WERE, but who you were BORN to be”.
Before we left for Barcelona, we were saddened to learn that our amazing district leader, Elder Larsen, had to go home. Last week he had a number of seizures, and it was scary for us, as we didn’t really know what to do. After many visits to the hospital and several phone calls, we discovered that he had to go home for further evaluation. He is doing well now, but I was so amazed by his attitude. He is one of the strongest, most inspiring people I have ever met. Throughout the ordeal, he was always focused on others, and what we needed and felt about everything. He continued to teach us about our Savior and that our Father in Heaven has a plan for each and every one of us. Our Savior is the Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep … and He never abandons His sheep. If we stay within His fold, nothing can harm us. Christ is willing to take on ANY and EVERY pain to keep us safe. Even if we leave Him, He will chase after us, guard us, rescue us, and bring us right back.
If you are in His fold, do not leave. If you are lost and don´t know where to go, look to your Savior, Jesus Christ. He will never leave you … ever. He has walked where you have walked and He has gone where you are going. Don´t ever give up. Through my experiences this past week I have learned so much about our loving Heavenly Father and His loving Son, Jesus Christ. The people at the Madrid MTC are pure charity in action and they have all changed my life. I can´t wait to share that love of Christ with all of Spain!
The past few days have been wild! Tuesday morning, Hermana Stott and I had to wake up at 4:00am to catch our early train! It was sad saying goodbye to everyone the night before, but we had an amazing testimony meeting with everybody! I am going to miss President and Hermana Lovell from the MTC so much! When we met with President Jackson (the Madrid mission president), he would joke around with President Lovell about switching me to the Madrid mission. He was so cool and I felt such an attachment to Madrid and a love for the people; and I didn´t know what to expect when I got to Barcelona and wondered how I would feel. After our three hour train ride, Hermana Stott, Elder Noovao and I met President and Sister Pace (the Barcelona Mission president and his wife) at the station.
From the moment I met the Paces, I KNEW this is where I belonged, and THIS is where I was called to serve. I cannot testify enough about how warm and welcoming it was when we arrived. After dropping things off at the mission home and getting some stuff done, we three new “misionerios”, the President, some of his kids and his two assistants, went to this old castle that looked over the city of Barcelona. It was breathtaking, and pictures do not do it justice! After that, we went back and had interviews with the President. He started off with the normal questions about my family. I talked about my parents and I told him about my dad’s conversion story. President Pace was very touched and said he could tell by my dad’s “fruits” that my dad must be an amazing man! He then asked me what I liked to do. I told him that I love to sing and dance, that I love photography and love to play sports. I told him all about my ACL, MCL, and meniscus injuries, and about 10 seconds later he was rolling up his pant leg and showing me his three scars!!! Haha, we were laughing pretty hard! He was vigorously taking notes as I was talking, and then asked me what I want to do after my mission and why I came on a mission. I don´t remember exactly what I said, but the Spirit was so strong. I went on to tell him that this is something I have prepared for my entire life … that I love helping people and that I couldn´t think of a better way to serve people. I told him that, most importantly, I wanted to share a message with people that would change their lives forever. I told him that I love people and I have been extremely blessed in my life; and I can´t imagine keeping these blessings to myself. I know that people want and need this message, and that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us … and that He loves each and every person in Spain. I’m just here to help, and when it came to deciding on whether I should serve a mission, it has never been a question of WHY, but rather, WHY NOT? How could I NOT serve a mission? When I finished, he looked up from his notes with tears streaming down his face. He looked at me and said "Wow … can you feel that spirit? You, Hermana Vance, are going to be an exceptional missionary. It is always heart wrenching for us when our sister missionaries are finished with their missions and go home. But new missionaries like YOU are the reason we rejoice. Just know that this is a great and marvelous work, and I cannot wait to witness all that you will accomplish. You will see miracles, because I know YOU will be a miracle to this mission. Thank you, thank you, thank you … for deciding to come. I could not be happier. You will be amazing, and you will change so many lives." It was incredible; and I now truly know that THIS is where I am meant to be.
After doing a lot of random things, we were paired up with temporary companions to go out and contact people. I was paired up with Hermana Reid, and Hermana Stott was paired up with Hermana Gillite. Hermana Reid was from the Valencia area and was awesome. We contacted in the street and knocked on doors around Barcelona … it was so fun! We went into this apartment complex and knocked on doors; it was fun to see who would answer and whether or not they would be interested in what we had to say. I felt really confident, and we would introduce ourselves and say we wanted to share a message about Jesus Christ. Many times the doors would open and there would be either a really big and scary dog barking at us like crazy or people who were half dressed or just woke up. It was a little awkward at times, haha. Behind one of those doors was an old man who answered and said, even after we introduced ourselves, that he already knew who we were. He said he was no longer active in the church and that he thinks the missionaries here don’t know he is in the ward. It was such a miracle that we ran into him and I was able to testify how important the gospel is in this life. He didn’t have time for a lesson but I asked if we could just leave him with a prayer. We did, and I hope he felt the spirit, even just a little bit, to remind him of the love that the Savior has for him and his wife. Missionaries are going to go back to visit him, so I hope that he gets somewhere!
We had knocked on the rest of the doors, where we didn’t have much success, and we were about to leave when I noticed that there was one door behind this little corner that we missed. There were little toys all over, and I knew there had to be a family inside. We knocked and this middle-aged woman answered. She had a few little girls surrounding her. She was so sweet, and we asked her about herself and she said she had actually met with the missionaries when she lived in Brazil, but since she had moved to Spain, she didn’t know where to find the missionaries. Perfect! We told her that we would set her up with some elders the following week. She was thrilled! I handed her two daughters a picture of Christ and they had the cutest smiles! What a blessing! Hermana Reid and I were so happy and had such a great night! By the time we left and looked at the time, we realized that we needed to be back to the apartment in 5 minutes and we were pretty far away. We were NOT going to be late! We took off and started booking it down the streets of Barcelona! We were running so fast and laughing, but we made it! Exact obedience REALLY does bring blessings!
The next day we found out who our companions were! I am with Hermana Reid and headed to Valencia, about 4 hours from Barcelona! I love my mission and the miracles it brings!!!