When the Olympics were in town last year, all the world had its eyes on the kaleidoscopic city of Barcelona, Spain. But what do the LDS young women of Barcelona have their eyes on?
You’d be surprised.
During the 1992 Olympic Summer Games, you may have heard a lot about Barcelona’s amazing architecture and design, its food, colors, and culture. But those are not the first things the LDS young women want to tell you about. What they really want to talk about is sharing the gospel.
It’s not that they don’t appreciate their city’s uniqueness. It’s just that it’s a part of their lives they almost take for granted. The LDS girls have a million other things to occupy them—things like sharing the gospel, because they know what a profound difference the gospel has made in their lives.
“The youth of the Church are almost always happy, and that is really different from those outside the Church,” says Merixtel Tomás, 15. She is a convert, like the rest of the young women in her stake. Most of them were introduced to the Church by their friends or by missionaries who were tracting. “Here I learn that if I follow the commandments, that makes me free, and that makes me happy.”
You do note a sense of inner happiness about these girls, if you can catch them. Their schedules are staggering. They have to be up for seminary at 6:30 A.M. School goes from about 8:30 to 2:00; then they come home for mediodiá. That’s when their mothers have usually prepared the biggest family meal of the day, and a nap can’t help but follow. But at 4:00 it’s back to school for another two hours. Then, when they get home at 6:00, they need to tackle the mountains of homework they’re almost always assigned.
There’s not a lot of free time on weeknights—but every now and then they go out proselyting with the missionaries. Church activities and special events are usually held on Saturdays.
Busy schedules lead to what many say is the hardest thing about being LDS in Barcelona—keeping the Sabbath day holy. With Church meetings, projects, and activities on Saturdays and Sundays, there’s not much time for recreation. The rest of the city is attending sporting events and concerts on Sunday. Church members miss out on those things and often have little time to spend with non-LDS friends.
But the young women in Barcelona do their best to make up for it by introducing non-LDS friends to the Church. “When I’m walking down the street with my friends and I see the missionaries, I always say hi to them and start talking to them,” says Nuria Jiménez, 14. “My friends ask, ‘Who are those guys? Do you know them? Are they weird?’ Then I have the perfect chance to explain.”
“A perfect chance to explain” is never lost on these girls. They even take advantage of local holidays to share the gospel. For example, April 23 is “Día de San Jorge,” which is very similar to Valentine’s Day in other countries. It also happens to fall on the anniversary of the death of Cervantes, the great Spanish writer. So the tradition in Catalonia, the part of Spain where Barcelona is located, is for men to give women a rose on this day—and for women to give men a book.
The LDS girls in Barcelona adapted the tradition. They made roses out of crepe paper, inserted them in copies of the Book of Mormon, and helped the missionaries give them away. No one turns down a book or a rose on April 23rd.
The joy of sharing the gospel more than makes up for the other things strong LDS young people might miss. In fact, these girls like missionary work so much that every one of them will tell you that their future plans include serving a full-time mission. “I think it’s important for everyone to go on a mission,” says Montse Bermúdez, 17. “You learn a lot in the mission field, and it helps you prepare for life.”
It’s important to the young women in Barcelona that the world has a chance to find the truth. But it’s also important to them that the world knows the truth about the people in their area.
“When people think of Spain, they think of bullfights and flamenco dancing,” says Duneia Cabrán, 17. But that’s not what Catalonia is all about. Even their Latin-based language, Catalán, is distinct from the rest of their country, although almost everyone speaks Castilian Spanish, too.
The food they eat is distinct from the rest of the country as well. Each region of Spain has its own stew, made with different combinations of sausages, beans, and vegetables. But the favorite snack food you’ll find on any of these girls’ plates, morning, noon, or night, is pan con tomate, or slices of white, crusty Spanish bread brushed with tomato sauce, and sometimes a dash of olive oil.
And, of course, there’s the architecture that sets Barcelona apart from the rest of Spain. It’s daring, it’s bold, it’s unique—not unlike the religion the LDS girls have embraced.
There’s a spirit of boldness here—courage to do something wonderful, even if it is out of the ordinary. You see it reflected in the buildings of Barcelona. And you see it reflected in the lives of the girls who are bold enough to do something wonderful by accepting and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.