Wednesday, May 29, 2013


We got an SD card in the mail yesterday!  Wow- that was a ton of fun.  He sent hundreds of photos and many videos.  It was like Christmas for us!  We all raced into the computer and stood there and watched them all right then.  So great!!

Preston has always been obsessed with swords and knights, along with his brothers.  He caved and bought a sword and this is a companion 'knighting' him.  I guess the toilet paper roll is his crown?

Real Madrid stadium. 

We knew Preston was a small-ish missionary, but seriously? 

I think he took this to show us that his luggage alone took up the entire top shelf of the train.

In Jerez!

This is so out of character for Preston!

His companion- Elder Pardo!

He sent hundreds.  There are so many of the buildings and people there.  I'll post a couple videos as soon as I remember how. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 71- Loving it!

I'm loving his letters- he sounds so happy.  I still miss him insanely bad- but other than a few very difficult days here and there- I am doing just fine.  It is beyond rewarding to hear some of what he says in his letters. 


Life here is just fantastic. I love Jerez, and everything right now. My companion and I have had some arguments lately, and I think we irritate each other, but I just love that too!! I need to learn to swallow my irritation and love my companions. What an eternal principal. I am just amazed sometimes at how beneficial every single thing a missionary has to do is for the rest of his or her life. I think my eternal companion will be grateful and how good I am going to get at ignoring my irritation and trying to look with love. It is so much better to just let things go rather than lose the spirit in our companionship. I had to get some letters out last week so that they would arrive in time for some birthdays, and my dear companion didn't want to walk by the mailbox on the way home but decided it would be better to just wait for the bus. I was pretty irritated. And he told me to forget about my family and all this stuff and it wasn't good. The spirit definitely left us. We didn't speak till the next morning. But it provided a lot of time to reflect on what was happening. If my letters are late, that is ok. What isn't ok is us not having unity. So after that we have had a few other irritating things that happened, but I have tried so hard to simply smile and say ok. And it is working. I think I will get pretty good at it by the time I get home. What a beautiful thing to learn!!! Wow. I am so fortunate to have this amazing opportunity to learn and grow. I am slowly beginning to see why it is that we missionaries change so much and learn so much.

Anyway. CARD. DONT DO ANYTHING. I have it now and it is fine. So if you haven't done anything with it, that's good. Money issues. I am quickly learning how to budget. My food expenses have gone from 45 euros a week to fifteen. I am getting way better at planning what to eat and buying only what I need. Also I just had a lot of personal growth this week. And it is amazing how much better I feel. I am not going to blow all of my money on european clothes before I leave. That's so stupid. Ugh. Haha. It's unbelievable how foolish I am sometimes. I should spend money on things that matter. And clothes don't matter. I just had a wonderful week, and it's mostly because of thought processes that I have had.

One thing that was interesting was when I was sitting in a members house. This family is a little...weird. Different. But we were in their house and there was this distinct smell that I COULD NOT place. It was so strong, and so familiar. It was a gross smell. After about ten minutes it dawned on me!! Their home totally smelled like the goats did. I don't know why it does. They have birds and a dog but there was no doubt in my mind that their home smells exactly like the goat barn. It was gross, but also kind of nostalgic. Not that I miss milking goats. But it is a part of my childhood that I like looking back at. Hahaha. The other elders think I am some kind of hick when I tell them that I used to milk goats every week.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that no one can pronounce my name correctly. It's Cha-ap. Soft ch, and a british sounding a. Like chaap. And they hold out the ch/sh for a while. It's quite entertaining, actually. Haha. Some people don't even try and just call me "tiburon" which is sharK in spanish, or "algudo", which is sharp/intelligent.

So I am doing really well. I feel a little sick sometimes though. I think it's because I am having withdrawals from Mexican food here. We went to a taco bell and it was a disgrace. I don't even like Taco Bell at home, but this one wasn't even close to Mexican food. There was nothing on the menu that was the same as the states. So sad. I really need a refried bean recipe. Please. I can't go much longer. The first meal I eat when I get home is going to be mexican. No doubt about it. And if it means we go to cafe rio, then great. I am jealous of Tean when it comes to food. The food is good here. But I would be happier with beans and rice everyday. One can only go so long without rice and beans.

About Spencer's papers. Well. I would tell him that GOING ENGLISH SPEAKING IS OK!!!! Really. You get to be effective right away if you go english speaking. Although learning a language is great, I would love to be able to teach and contribute and testify and learn and do everything that we do here in english. It will be four or five months before I feel truly fluent. I dunno. I feel like he should be as honest as he can and leave it up to the Lord. If the Lord needs him in another country, that is where he will go. But if he feels that he is "very confident" about learning a new language, then alright. But it is hard. Very very hard.

I was going to go to the Rock of Gibraltar today, but some things happened that it didn't work out. So we are going to go next week. It's the place where all the monkeys are and everything. Elder Pardo doesn't want to go, but this is the only thing I want to do while I am in Jerez!! So he finally agreed. This rich guy from our english class is going to take us. It's about 2 hours away. I want a sweet picture with a monkey on my shoulders. If it works out alright, next week I will send you one!!

When it comes to the work, we are having lots of success. Victoriano will be baptized (we're praying) on the 8th of June. Quincey's birthday!! I haven't told you about him, but we were on the bus a few weeks ago and I had the strongest impression to talk to the old man sitting across from me. Elder Pardo isn't a huge street contacter, so we don't do it a whole lot. But I couldn't ignore it!! It was my first time contacting someone like that in the field. So I started a super awkward conversation and somehow got his address and phone number. We ended up teaching him a week later and it actually went really well. He's a huge catholic, but he has felt the spirit and is super interested. When we walked out his door after the first lesson, Elder Pardo turned to me and said "he was your friend in the premortal life." I was like "what are you talking about??" And apparently the first day I was here I pointed to Victoriano's door as we walked down the street and said "we need to knock that place someday." And Elder Pardo had written that down in his planner. SO cool!! He has had almost all of the lessons now and has been to church twice so far. It's hard because he is so catholic, but I have lots of faith that he will receive his answer and join the true church. I had a distinct feeling that his ancestors are really trying to help him right now. Because they need his help. He is about 60 and has no kids and was never married, but is close to his siblings. Family is important to him. And I just know that his ancestors are there as we teach him, because they NEED their ordinances done. It's amazing to think that temple work and missionary work are exactly the same. So is family history work. It's simply the children of god that have been blessed with the restored gospel laboring to save the souls of the other children who don't have that knowledge yet. We're saving our brothers and sisters, and that's all that matters. I wish members put more importance on missionary work. There is a big conference coming up for all of the ward leaders, and ALL of the full time missionaries in the whole world. And I think it is because God needs us to work together. Please try and help the missionaries in Utah. This work is so important. And it's for everyone. Not just missionaries.

We have other investigators too. A teenage boy and girl that are dating. Pablo and Maria. They are related to a member. We are working hard with them. And Emilio and Rosario. They are finally married and we think that they will be baptized soon. Jose, Ana, and Jose jr. are just wonderful. So much faith. They have been taught for like four months. We are just waiting for them to get married so they can finally be members!! And others. The work has really picked up in Jerez. There wasn't a ward mission plan when we got here, but we finally launched ours last night. Basically the work is going well. I can't wait to finally have a baptism. I want to see someone be converted!! I wish every member of the church had to serve a mission. It is the biggest blessing and growing experience ever. I still don't feel like a contribute a whole lot. I teach but it is so simple and Elder Pardo always repeats what I say in better terms and expounds upon it. So I feel a little useless sometimes. But I know that I am learning quickly and will get better and better.

Today we are going to go to the zoo here in Jerez with other elders. I am sort of excited. I would rather write letters or go to Gibraltar, but I am going to have a good attitude about it :) We always hang out with these two other elders on P days, and they don't speak english at all. So I get to learn more. Which is nice. Life is just kind of rolling by. Rolling rolling rolling. So yeah. I loved getting the letters from the young men. Really. It was one of the highlights of my week.

I don't have time left to talk about some spiritual thoughts like I wanted to. Just know that the best part of my life right now is the spiritual growth that is happening to me. I love the gospel. So so much. It literally means... everything to me. Everything that I love in my life comes from this gospel. Everything I care about is part of this wonderful church. Family, purpose, just everything. The gospel is our life. And that is how it should be. It is the most important thing we have. It is so important that members of the church don't take it for granted. We are so blessed.

I love you all so much. The only thing you can do for me is give me a recipe for refried beans. PLEASE. MY life may just be perfect if I had refried beans. And a good recipe for spanish rice. Ironic I know cause I am in spain. But I still don't know how to make it. Love you all. Church is true.

Elder Sharp

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 64- We Passed the Two Month Mark!!

Loved Ones in Utah:

Things have been going really great this week. I have been writing down a list of things to say so I guess I will get started. Haha. I feel like there is so much I could tell you. But I don´t have too much time. So I will try and keep it short. I am proud of Spencer for graduating seminary and school. Now he just needs to get his papers in. I want him gone ASAP. Not that my opinion means anything with this, but I am rooting for him to leave as soon as possible. With or without the money!! I want a video of him opening his call. PLEASE don´t forget to send me that. That is how I want to find out where he is going.

First off, I wanted to tell you a little about the beautiful city I live in. I really really love it. Some parts are a little gross, but I absoltely adore Jerez. It´s been really cold this week. It seriously came out of nowhere, but I have enjoyed it. It´s like God gave me a little break. And now the heat is about to rage down hard. But with my little fan in hand, I can brave the storm. Everyone has a moped here. And a dog. There are seriously so many scooters. The mailmen have scooters. The policeman have scooters. The pizza delivery guys have scooters. I just wish the missionaries had scooters. But we can´t. Obviously. It makes me miss Bianca a tad. But not that much. And there are SO many trees here. A lot of citrus trees. So there are oranges and lemons all over the ground. But apparently you can´t eat them. Which is a little unfortunate but that´s alright. I have taken lots of pictures of Jerez. I love it here. It is just like the European place I have always wanted to visit. Sometimes we´ll be walking home at night and I will look up at the castle and the old churches and the courtyards and huge trees and shops and statues and fountains and just kind of laugh to myself. It´s weird to be in such a cool place. I don´t feel like this is my home. But it is!!

And one bad thing about serving a mission in Europe is the clothing. I had made some considerable progress with giving up my incredible...appreciation of clothing. But that went out the window here in Spain. It´s hard to pass by the shop windows and not stare at the clothing. The clothes are cheap here, and so awesome. They have these huge sales called rebajas, and lots of elders have told me that they leave everything here when they go home and come home with a new wardrobe of clothes they have purchased throughout the two years on P days. I wish I had more money. If you guys could let me know how much I have in my account (minus the three thousand dollars that is for my mission) I would appreciate it.

Next thing is my twitch. I don´t know what is going on with me, but in the past few days my flipping left eye has developed a twitch. I don´t know why. I think wearing my glasses helps a little bit. But it stinks. Investigators won´t take me seriously if I am trying to bear heartfelt testimony and my eye keeps twitching like I´m on drugs or something. It´s distracting. It is the top part of my left eye. Like the eyelid or something. So weird. I can´t stand it. Hahaha. It sounds so ridiculous I know. But mom I would love it if you looked up something about eye twitches. Maybe I can cure it with essential oils ;)

We have some weird investigators right now. Only two are literally crazy though. One is Maria, and she thinks I am God´s gift to mankind. She´s an old lady and she constantly will interrupt the lesson and tell Elder Pardo how much better I am than he is. Cause I really "listen and understand". Mostly I just look at her and nod cause I have no idea what she is saying. She thinks my hair is red. Which is weird. She has almost hit elder pardo a few times. I feel bad for the guy. But I think she´s hilarious.

The other is Manuel. And he´s so sweet. But literally crazy. We will show up to our meetings twenty minutes early sometimes, and he will be there waiting for us outside his house on the street. He once told us that Moses learned karate in the temple like Hercules and other warriors. Hahaha. I tried SO hard not to laugh. He doesn´t really understand what we teach him, but he wants to change his life so we are taking it slow. One point of the lesson each visit. He always hits himself and claps his hands really loud. It´s a little scary. He does drugs, but he seems to be quitting. He tries to anyway.

We have some other investigators. Three in particular that are progressing. They came to church with us this week. I will try to explain more about them later on.

I teach some african american recent converts. They speak english, or the african version of english. It is harder for me to understand them then the Spanish people!! But I love them so much. Peter and Abu. They have such big hearts and are so humble and close to the Lord. I am starting to love my mission. I just get to meet so many of God´s children and feel their Spirit. Everyone has different beliefs, but I just love hearing people talk about what God means to them.

Something people like to do here is raise pigeons. Which is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. I laughed when a member told me about it, but I quickly realized he was serious and I felt stupid. There are pigeons everywhere, and everybody is trying to raise the perfect pigeon. What that means I don´t know. They all look the same to me. I guess I just don´t have the eye for truly superb pigeons. Some people have peacocks for pets. We will be walking by a house and see a peacock in the front yard, just strutting around. Kinda cool.

Missionaries here play a game. We try to kick pieces of garbage through each others legs to score a goal. I am getting pretty good at it. And at soccer. It used to be the worst time of the week for me, when I would go out and play soccer with a bunch of spaniards and look like the biggest fool ever. But I found my nitch, and I am a good defender. So it isn´t so bad anymore. Which is good.

To make things a bit more serious, one things that truly makes me sad is some people here. I am starting to truly love our investigators. And a lot of the people. It breaks my heart when people will walk by us and then do a double take, and keep walking on as they shake their heads in disgust. Everyone looks at us as we walk by. I am used to turning heads by now. But sometimes people will look at us with the biggest loathing. Like we are just trash and they hate what we do. And it makes me sad. I think about missionaries in Utah and they way they are treated. Like heroes. They never pay for a meal and everyone loves them. People shout and smile when they see them riding their bikes. It is so the opposite here. People mock us and spit at us. They yell at us to ¨go get a real job¨ and insult us. Lots of people will pretend like they´re going to hit us with their car and then swerve away at the last second, and kids do the same thing with their bikes. Apparently people swear at us a lot, but I just have to take Elder Pardo´s word for that. Cause I don´t know any spanish swear words. I think about the different experiences that missionaries can have. And I am grateful for mine. I get to feel a small small small piece of what the Savior may have felt as he was spit upon and mocked as he accomplished the greatest act in the history of mankind. It breaks my heart to see the looks of disgust on people´s face as they see us when in reality we are trying to save them. We love them, and we only want to help them. I have experienced a small part of the emotion that the Savior did when the people he loved rejected him and mocked him as he saved the entire world. That must have been so heartbreaking. There is no way that a mortal could endure that much emotional pain. Jesus literally died of a broken heart, I think. Someone said that once. And I agree.

I don´t have much time. There is so much more to tell you. I will have to wait though. I would love a small white tape measurer, like the one we have at home. It rolls up and stuff. I would also love taco seasoning. And a recipe for how to make refried beans like grammie does. And whatever else you feel inspired to send me. I am so so grateful. I love you so much. My real address is Plaza de la Serrana N 5, 1B Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Espana.
Mom, could you print off all of my emails and keep them in a binder or something?? I write in my journal every night but I would really love to keep my weekly emails home when I get home. Anyway.

I love you all so much

Elder Sharp

Monday, May 13, 2013

SKYPE!!! Day 57

Best Mother's Day ever!!!  It was the hardest thing ever to hang up the skype call.  The part about the bidet in his letter had me laughing out loud.  Oh Preston!!  I love that boy! 

Dear Loved Ones,

I forgot to tell you Happy Mother´s day!! I just kind of forgot as soon as I saw your faces and started bawling. It was a little pathetic. But it has been so long for me. I was just overwhelmed! That was the best experience I have had so far on my mission. (hopefully that changes over time, and I know it will) I was so happy talking to you guys. Afterwards I felt sick. It was hard to just walk out of the lab and go back to normal life. But I am grateful for it. But anyway...

Happy Mother´s day Mom!! Talking to you made me so happy. I just love you so much. I have come to appreciate you in so many ways. Oh how I miss you. The good thing is that there is only one more mother´s day where I won´t be with my mother. Only one, and then that´s it and I will always be there. I am writing you a letter. I will talk about how much I appreciate you more in the letter. You look really good by the way. I loved your hair, and you just looked really good. Did you and Dad end up becoming vegans or something??

Well this week has been loads better than the one before it. I was pretty selfish that first week. I told you all about the five stages of missionary work and whatnot, so you know that it really helped me. The Abrupt Reality was so spot on accurate. Conor emailed me telling me about how he doesn´t lack for any comforts in the states and stuff. Which is definitely a blessing. But he will get to experience this when he gets to Argentina. And it will probably be worse for him. I don´t know how Ben and Quynn do it. Spain really isn´t that bad. I have been trying to count my blessings. And I have a pretty decent list going. I´ll share some with you all. This is just me trying to be more positive about the circumstances in Jerez. It won´t do me any good to go around complaining about how much better the US is compared to Europe. Or about how we have a better sewer (forgot how to spell that word) system in the US. Really it doesn´t matter. Anyway.

I have a really clean toilet. Not kidding. I scrubbed that thing with all my heart and it shows. It´s clean. And so is the rest of my bathroom. Everything that should be white. I love walking in there and looking at lots of white, clean stuff. There isn´t much of it here in Jerez. There is lots of porcelain in my bathroom. And it´s all clean. What a blessing. I have this weird water basin thing in my bathroom. At first I thought it was a weird way to wash feet. But it´s actually another way to clean yourself after using the restroom. It squirts water out and you sit on it and...well it cleans you off. I am not a huge fan. I just spend the money and buy toilet paper. But apparently most missionaries love it. Either way, it is white and clean. So I love it.

Another blessing is Elder Pardo!!! Wow what a champ. I talked to other new missionaries about their trainers and I lucked out. A lot of them are disobedient and lazy. And Elder Pardo works so hard. And he obeys exactly. Which is good. I want to learn from someone like that. In the mission field your trainer is your father. (or mother, for sisters). So my padre is Elder Pardo. And when I train, he will have grandkids. I have a step brother. But I have never met him. Elder Pardo also knows how to clean!! A lot of people don´t, but when we clean the kitchen he impresses me. I am so glad that he cleans well. Guess what else, he also knows how to load a dishwasher properly!! He scrubs everything off and then puts it into the dishwasher. I about died when I saw that. Hardly anyone knows how to do it right. I am telling you, we are twin spirits. He is my brown brother.

We have some good music between us. And that is a blessing. We are gonna share music too so that I will have his on my MP3 player for the rest of my mission. Good stuff.

I have a pretty good work out routine going. I only have a half hour every morning, but I make the most of it. And I feel really good about it too. So that´s good. I don´t want to be fat when I get home. But man I am gonna have some wicked tan lines. I was fine with being all white, but my face and arms are gonna get dark. Oh well though. There are worse things in life.

Oh and our electricity works again!! Such a blessing. It started working again yesterday. Which is nice because living without electricity is not fun.

The food here is good. I told you all about the muesli and the yogurt milk. Man I will miss that a ton. I have been cooking pretty well. I make lots of pasta, and I buy lots of spanish sausages. Those are good. Basically just like the italian ones at home. I bought beef but I haven´t used it yet. It is expensive. I am saving it. I buy chicken and jamon. Jamon is really really good. I buy a cheaper brand that is alright because the really good stuff is ridiculously expensive. I bought one slice (thin, like lunch meat) for 2 euros. But it was flipping good. They have nutella here. Which helps me get through this. No peanut butter which is in my top five worst things about spain. I am rationing out the ones you sent me because it is like liquid gold. Oh and mom, the milk here is radiated. Which sounds cancer causing. I figure if I go so far as to not even use anti perspirant because of cancer fear, I probably shouldn´t be drinking radiated milk. The fresh milk is more expensive. Will you research the radiated milk and let me know if it´s dangerous or anything?? I don´t even trust our government/FDA, so I definitely don´t trust the Spanish one. Anyway, the food is pretty decent. I haven´t eaten with members a whole lot, but we have 2 appts this week to eat with them. I will let you know how it goes. Hermana Deere gave me a recipe for making black and refried beans. You have to do it from scratch because they don´t sell beans like they do in the US. So I am gonna buy some dry black and pinto beans and do that. I am excited. I miss beans. I forgot to tell you that I really really miss going to El Rancho Grande with Grammie and Grandpa. Those were the days. Wow. I am gonna take them to El Rancho Grande when I get back from my mission.

I am wearing normal clothes right now!! How wonderful is that!? First time in two months. Usually we don´t on P days. Apparently we are going bowling today.

There are lots of other good things. I just can´t remember right now.

Get this, last night we were teaching the guy that owns our piso in our ward, and he told us that there was ac in our apartment. I was about ready to hit someone. So we get home and I look for it frantically and realize that it is in the mold room. That is the big room that we keep locked all the time because it´s dangerous to breathe that air. So lovely that the only air conditioned room in the house is the mold room. The air conditioning system is different here. It is done room by room with a small little machine on the ceiling. So I am just going to buy a fan. I dunno what to do because President told me to move but Elder Pardo doesn´t to because we need to work and it will waste time. We´ll see what president says. The same guy that owns ours has a brand new piso for rent in the nice part of town. I want it so bad. But the location isn´t very good when referring to our investigators. I need to remember that I´m here for a purpose. And it´s bigger than my personal comfort.

So I forgot to tell you that I have WAY too much stuff. Everyone else has a small backpack and two suitcases, but I have three suitcases and a duffel bag. I would recommend not doing that simply because it makes transfers so hard. I would leave one suitcase in the mission home but we can´t because they get sick of elders using the mission home as a garage for two years. They let me leave my sword there though. Because everytime I would try to get on a train with my luggage, I would put my luggage through security scanners and an alarm would go off and they will look at me and say "¿tiene una...espada???" and I am always having to explain that yes, I do have a sword and I have to pull it out and explain that it is a souvenir. So annoying. So I finally just brought it to the mission home last week and begged President to keep it there. He said he´s gonna keep it under his bed. Which is a little weird. I felt silly. But grateful.

I teach an english class every friday. Which is kind of cool. It was weird at first. But I am used to it. I basically just speak really slow english for an hour. It´s nice.

I really really loved being able to talk to all of you yesterday. It helped me in so many ways. Everytime I think about when Spencer started singing for me, I just cry again. I miss our family so much. I miss everything about it. We have it so good. We have such a wonderful family. I was so happy to hear the voices of Quincey and Lincoln. Oh I just want to hug them. It will be seven months before I get to see you again. And Spencer may not be there. I don´t know how we´ll work that out but we may need to do a three way skype or something. And maybe even a four way skype when Brigham gets out. If that´s even possible. It was therapeutic for me to see your faces and hear your voices. Mom and Dad...I cannot wait to see you again. Some of my brothers were complaining about doing yardwork but I would LOVE to pull weeds with Dad again. Or shovel bark into a wheelbarrow. I miss it. I am not opposed to you sending Brigham to Spain without me knowing it. I would be so happy. Haha. I miss Brigham a lot. I miss just being with all of you. Nothing has changed. Clayton seemed a little down. Which was sad. Hopefully he´s alright. I surprised myself. I did not expect to be so emotional. I have been doing better lately but after yesterday and tear up a lot again. I was glad you guys knew I wanted Grammie and Grandpa there. I just assumed they would be but I panicked when I realized last week during the week that maybe they wouldn´t. But they were. And I was so thrilled to hear their voices. I miss them so much. I really really hope Spencer gets called here and I get to be his trainer. That would make my life. But so unlikely. Haha. A guy can dream though.

I want you all to know that this may be hard right now, but it is getting easier. Like I told you, I am beginning to love my investigators. I truly care about their lives and the things they do. I want the best for them and they are more than just a number. It´s hard right now because the work is so slow in Jerez. But we work hard. And now I just want to work harder. For some reason talking to my family just made me realize that I can´t waste my time being selfish. I have to try and help these people so that they can have what I have. An eternal family. The best thing anyone could ever have. Elder Pardo says that he was just like me in the beginning. He couldn´t stop thinking about his family and his girlfriend (who is now dating the old AP of this mission, she dear johned elder pardo poor guy, but she is serving a mission in the US in a few months, so who knows what will happen) but then after a while he threw himself into the work, and now that is all he thinks about. I have mixed feelings about it. I don´t want to get to the point where I don´t really miss my family that much. But I also want to love the work with a passion. I don´t know. I think with time I will stop thinking about my family so much and start loving the work with all my heart. But I will never stop missing my family. Heavenly Father is in charge. His plan is perfect and I know that he will mold me into what he wants me to be. And that´s all that matters. I can already tell that I am changing. And I can´t wait to change. I want to be a much better person by the end of this. I hope it teaches me selflessness.

Well I love you all. Thank you for yesterday. Thanks for all of the prayers. They helped a lot. Things are going better here. Blisters are healing. Walking is easier. Mosquitoes are pretty much solved. Our washer works most of the time. It´s gonna be alright. And although there is an astounding lack of peanut butter here, and drinking fountains, and toilet seat liners in public restrooms, I think I can live here for the next 22 months. Fingers crossed ;) Just kidding. It really isn´t that bad. I am blessed and I need to be more grateful. I love you all so much.

Love, Elder Sharp

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 50- Baptism by Fire

Hardest letter I've read yet. My heart just aches, and I feel helpless.  I've been praying so hard that he would love his companion, and I feel so grateful that he has him right now!  

My Family,

I am so glad to get to write you and read your emails. This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. Missionary work is so hard. So hard. I have been tested in a lot of ways. First off, I thought I knew when homesickness felt like but in all actuality I had no idea. I have never missed anything so much in my entire life. It literally hurts. I will start from the beginning.

Elder Pardo. A wonderful wonderful Elder. I love him dearly. We are so similar. He´s like a South American version of me. He was born in Bolivia and moved to Barcelona when he was six months old. He has a little brother that is 17 and a father. His mother left them when he was 7. He was baptized at age 11. He and his brother. He went to church by himself for his entire life. His brother went with him sometimes and although his dad is a member, he can´t keep the commandments and therefore chooses not to go. He has started going to church since Elder Pardo has been on a mission apparently. Basically Elder Pardo is my hero. He´s been out for seven months. He works hard and he loves the Lord. He loves enya, josh groban, and all the same music as me. We are really similar. We get along really well. He´s hilarious. It is frustrating sometimes with the communication barrier, but we manage. I am learning quickly. The Spanish in Jerez is ridiculous. The first few days were impossible for me. It is so different than the Spanish in Madrid. But in this area of the South the people speak weirdly, and I knew that before I got here. I am getting better though as the days go by.

Our piso is...alright. Now. On the three hour train ride from Malaga to Jerez I learned from Elder Pardo that there was mold all over the ceiling of our apartment (piso). Which was comforting. He said he tried to scrub it all off but he didn´t know how well it worked. So I walked in that night and was a little overwhelmed. It was filthy. And hot. And filthy. I finally had the chance to clean it this morning. So that was good. It isn´t all that bad when it´s cleaned. I still have lots to do though because there was hardly any cleaning supplies. I have to buy some. There are lots of bugs here. Jerez is a hot city. I wake up with mosquito bites everywhere. Even on the bottom of my feet. I don´t know what to do. I will die of heat if I close the window, but if I leave it open the bugs get me. I am going to try and buy a fan today. There is no dryer. So that is annoying. But we hang our clothes up and it´s ok. Except our washer flooded this morning. While I was cleaning the kitchen and washing the shower curtain. So that has to be taken care of too.

I have never been so tired in my entire life. I feel like I am hiking King´s peak all over again. Every day. I had a hard time falling asleep in the MTC, but I am out cold as soon as my head hits the pillow here. The bus system in Jerez is awful and unreliable, so we have to walk EVERYWHERE. I probably walk 12 to 15 miles a day. I get home exhausted. Our schedule is 7:30am to 11:30pm, but we usually go to bed before that. The work isn´t going well here in Jerez. The members are great from what I can tell, but they aren´t too interested in missionary work. The bishop doesn´t like missionaries. Seriously. It´s weird but apparently it´s been that way for a while. There are about 80 good strong active members, and lots of inactive members. Our investigators aren´t progressing. It is so hard here in Spain because in order to progress, they have to go to church. They have to go to church at least twice in order to be baptized. But 60 percent of Jerez is unemployed, so the ones that do have a job work all the time. We have some investigators that would be baptized but are unable to progress because they have to work every single day. It is sad. And it also takes a really long time to get married here. We have two families that could be baptized but they are waiting for marriage papers and signing or whatever and it wont happen until september. So sad. And discouraging. We hope they won´t fall away in the mean time. A lot of people are only interested in the church because it helps them with food and stuff. So that´s another complication. All in all the work is hard right now. Haha. I am not complaining. I wouldn´t want to be doing anything else. But it´s hard. My shoes are filthy. And they hurt my feet. But apparently it doesn´t matter what shoes you buy, they will all hurt. Jerez is a city with lots of variety. Famous for wine and andalucian horses. There are some parts that are gypsy ghetto. Totally filthy and digusting with trash everywhere. I can´t imagine living in places like that. Other parts are pretty modern and nice, and remind me of the US. Other parts are super european, with cobblestone streets and tons of history and totally beautiful. Those are my favorite areas. Although the cobblestone is like a cheese grater on the shoes. Lots of cool water fountains. Honestly my biggest problem with Europe is the fact that they don´t have flipping drinking fountains anywhere. I can´t stand it. They need to make like the Americans do and install some drinking fountains. So that´s Jerez. We´ve eaten with members twice and that is pretty good, but awkward. But like I said, the members are wonderful. They just need a little more enthusiasm. I think things will pick up though.

Last night was the hardest night so far for me. Harder than Saturday. On saturday we didn´t do anything. All of our appointments fell through and no one would let us in and we walked all over the place and it was mostly in the ghetto part of town and it was really a bad day. But last night was harder. I was looking through my little recipe book and I just broke down. I had just finished taking the moleskin off of my blisters and put my sunburn oil (lavender I think) on my neck and face and arms and reapplied lavender on all of my mosquito bites (that took a while) and it was hot and our apartment was gross and we didn´t have any success that night and I started thinking about my family and everything that you have done for me and that was it. I literally sobbed on the floor of my bathroom. For the first time I asked myself why the heck I am doing this. And then I looked up at the picture above my sink (there is no mirror in my bathroom, so I put a picture instead). It is a picture of Jesus Christ. And I remembered why I am doing this. Not for me. Not for my family. Not for anyone but Him. It is the least I can do in return for what He did for me. It is hard. So so hard. I don´t know what everyone else experiences but this has been a difficult week. But I know my suffering is nothing in comparison. I have been thinking solely of myself these last six days and not of who I am serving right now. It isn´t about me. I need to get that through my thick skull. It´s for Him. All for Him. People will tell you that missions are hard and that it was the most difficult thing they have ever done, but you don´t really think about that until you get out and experience it for yourself. It is hard. And sometimes it downright sucks. But we grow so much during our missions. And I think that´s why. We suffer. We go through so much for Him. That´s what changes the missionaries. I wouldn´t trade this for anything. I am so glad that I get this chance.

I will try to write letters. I have some finished. But I want to send them all at once. Or maybe I shouldn´t. I dunno. I also went to the orthodontist. It will cost 200 euros. I feel like such an idiot. I don´t know when I will grow up and stop wasting so much money because of my carelessness. I am so sorry. I love you all so much. You mean the world to me. I miss you so much it hurts. Really. It is painful. More than my blisters or sunburns. Well I need to get off now. I love you. Thank you for everything. The best thing you can do is to keep in contact with me. Tell me about your lives!! I hope things are going well. I love you.

Elder Sharp
Elder Pardo and Elder Sharp (in Malaga, right as they were paired together.)

This is the whole group as they arrived in Malaga, straight from the MTC in Madrid. 
Lots of new missionaries.  (These photos came from the mission blog.)