Monday, August 31, 2015

SWEDEN WEEK 22

Hello again!! 

This week has gone by super fast for me and lots of traveling has been done!! More to come as well. Elder Thacker and I are driving down with the Delgados to Stokcholm today due to a zone conference tomorrow. Super excited to come back to the big city and see some missionary friends and others! But anyway, here's what has been going on!

Last Monday we did the normal P-Day things and just kind of hung out at home and did a little more recreational shopping. The Iguarans had us over for family home evening as usual, fed us, and we watched a talk from the late Elder Perry, then a movie called "The Work and the Glory" in Spanish. Hahaha that was fun; Bro. Iguaran just laughed at us and joked about how we didn't understand what anybody was saying. 

Tuesday was a highlight of the week. We spent a day out with Bro. and Sis. Karlsson, who live an hour or so away in a small farm town community. They have their own farm, but it is one like none other. Extremely clean, very effeciently run, and powered from heat below the earth. It is very large, with several buildings built centuries ago. The Karlssons are completely self-sustaining and have cows and other animals, plenty of equipment, plants, vegetables, everything! They make their own food, including dairy products, meats, just awesome. I can't really put in words the amount of work they do, and yet they are so happy with their lives and are so loving. They really know how to live. Elder Thacker and I got a tour as well as did some service by picking rubarb, berries, and pulling up plants. Sister Karlsson is actually American, from Utah, and Bro. Karlsson is a native Swede. They both had previous marriages and children before they met, and by chance they met online and knew it was meant to be. They have been happily married for the last 8 years. They both are getting up there in their years, but they are very loving, kind people. Sis. Karlsson is so nice and loves when missionarys get to come and spend a day helping out on the farm. We had a delicious fresh dinner at the end of the day with the Delgados as well before going back home. Two words. Home-made ice-cream....

Wednesday was also rather eventful; after a district meeting in the morning in Umeå, I went on splits with Elder Nelson and stayed there for the day. We had a good time, doing some tracting and contacting, and had a good lesson with one of their investigators. Elder Nelson is from McAllen, TX, so we had a good time talking about Whataburger and HEB's. 

I got back into Ö-vik with Elder Thacker Thursday morning, and we went with the Delgados to Kramfors. They visited Eddy and Basara, and we had another lesson with Kliti. He is doing alright, still isn't ready to live the Word of Wisdom yet, but we talked about the Sabbath and committed him to pray together with his family. After our teaches, we and the Delgados headed back to Ö-vik, we dropped them off at an appointment with a less-active, and we trracted some farming homes out from the city. After an hour, we picked the Delgados back up and they took us home.

Friday was rather simple, just weekly planning as usual and english class. Elder Thacker and I did do a couple hours of contacting around the city, and we got a few phone numbers from that and some BoM's handed out. English class was fun, played some games, and then the Delgados treated us to Subway for dinner to close the night. 

Saturday and Sunday was the big District Conference for all the branches in the Umeå (Norrland) District. We drove up with the Delgados Saturday afternoon and basically were at the Umeå chapel for the whole day. President and Sister Beckstrand came up, did some missionary interviews, and we attended a couple of the meetings. An Italian Elder from the Seventy came and spoke at the general meetings and shared some good words about reaching out to the one and always inviting others. Elder Thacker and I and some other missionaries spent the night at the Zone Leaders's place Saturday night, and we went back to the chapel Sunday for some more meetings. Eddy and Basara came on Sunday to the general meeting, and then Basara was able to get interviewed by Pres. Beckstrand so that she could get her temple recommend! Yay! We drove back into Ö-vik early Sunday evening, then Elder Thacker and I got packed up for our trip today. 

Looking back this week, I think we were in a car at least for an hour everyday except Friday and Monday. It was a good week though, and I learned some good things from the Area Seventy at the Conference. I enjoyed feeling the unity and strength of the Umeå District as members from all over Norrland traveled up with their families to attend the conference. It will be a great day when a full stake is created up here in Northern Sweden. It can and will happen in the Lord's time. As members, its important that we always do our part, hold fast to our testimonies, and reach out to those around us. 

I hope you all have a fabulous week and remember that the Savior is always there to bear your burdens. Until next week!

Vänliga Hälsningar!

Äldste Reed

Monday, August 24, 2015

SWEDEN WEEK 21

Hello one and all! Pretty eventful week, with some new mission "firsts" and other fun experiences. 

Last Monday was pretty calm. Elder Thacker and I explored the bustling city of Örnsköldsvik (cough), looked through a bunch of shops, and explored the local mall. That evening we had family home evening with the Iguaran family and ate some yummy dinner too. 

Tuesday was rather chill as well; we visited Inger as usual and shared a Liahona message with her, then went out and did some street contacting while there were still people out. We did run into an old investigator by chance and got his number, so here's hoping to see him again. That evening we also visited with the Bustamante family and shared a message with them, then we picked up the car from the Delgados who came back from visiting Eddy and Basara that day. I took a whirl at the wheel and can now say that I have driven in Sweden!!! Honestly did not ever think I would be behind the wheel on my mission; it felt pretty comfortable, just like riding a bike, you never forget. 

We took a road trip out to Kramfors listening to Truman G. Madsen lectures on the way to visit Kliti again, this time to talk about the Word of Wisdom with him. He struggles with this commandment, and admitted that he can't commit to living it right now. He understands it and knows it is right, but he as of right now can't commit to living it a hundred percent. We understood and know that he will eventually make the decision, just has to come with time. That evening, we made a quick stop at the Iguarans for dinner (they are too nice), then we went out to another family in the ward to help the husband, Blue, with some computer stuff. He broadcasts an internet radio show out of his home and has a bunch of cool equipment and stuff. 

On Thursday we drove out with the Delgados to Umeå for district meeting, which turned out very well. I am blessed with a focused and awesome district; makes my job easy haha. We went out to lunch, and then Elder Thacker and I initiated companion exchanges with the Zone Leaders, which meant....Elder Kapp and I were reunited!!! Father and son back together again for 24 hours!! We went back to Ö-vik with the Delgados, and got to try some free surströmming samples outside of a grocery store. It was both Kapp and I's first time trying the infamous pickled herring, and needless to say it wasn't the most pleasant thing to eat. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined, just extremely salty and the texture is slippery and slimy. Now I am a real Swedish Missionary!! After that cool experience, Kapp and I went out to do some swing-bys, and ended up getting two new investigators. We just tracted into this Iranian couple who let us in, and they are Christian and were interested in our message. They thought we were Jehovah Wittnesses at first :) We had a good chat with them and scheduled a lesson for the coming Sunday. We continued to have a successful night, getting into contact with some old investigators and getting some good contacts. It was just like old times in Stockolm, except not quite the same. 

The next day, we had studies together in the morning, then exchanged back with our actual companions. Elder Thacker and I just spent the day doing weekly-planning, then had our weekly english class at the Church. We had a lot of people come too! Laurent, Ole, some other member youth, and Sineth all came, and it turned out pretty good. Thacker and I were worn out from it when we got back home that night.

Saturday was spent doing some less-active swingbys with the Delgados, and then Thacker and I ourselves swung by some investigators. We ended up sitting down with a bunch of Africans who were having a grill party and talked to a couple of them for a couple hours about missionary work and about the Gospel. The day was finished with the weekly ward youth activity; we played Kubb and another game I hadn't played yet called Bränball (or as Poo mingh likes to call it, fake baseball). 

Sunday was super cool! Remember that african guy Akilu? He called us in the morning randomly and said he was coming to church!!! And sure enough, he rode the bus into the city and came!! PLUS, Eddy and Basara and Kliti, yes Kliti, came to church!!! Sooo awesome!!! Good sacrament meeting and second hour. We had our lesson with the Iranian couple as well that evening, and taught about the Restoration. We forgot our persian Book of Mormon, but we will definitely have it next time. We relaxed at the Delgados for dinner and that concluded the day. 

This past week as we were out and about, a girl in about her twenties saw us and asked if we believed in God. We of course said "Yes" and stopped and talked with her. She then asked, "Why?" That has stuck with me this last week. Why, exactly and personally, do I believe in God? I realized I didn't have a concise answer, so I did a self-evaluation during one of my personal studies. I had a lot of answers; family, having prayed and felt something, having read the scriptures and felt something, and some other reasons. That question was one that I had taken for granted and wasn't expecting. It made me think of one of my favorite scriptures in Alma, chapter 30, verse 44: 

    "But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."

He really IS there, and we have the proof all around us. How can there not be anything? I'ds like to pose the question to all of you: Why do you believe?

Have a wonderful week, and may the Lord bless you all with safety and protection. Until next time....

Hälsningar,

Äldste Reed

Monday, August 17, 2015

SWEDEN WEEK 20

Its been an exciting week over in Ö-vik!! As a side note, I reach my 6 month mark tomorrow; crazy to think I've been out on my mission this long. It still feels like yesterday I arrived here. But cliche feelings aside, here's what happened in short this past week:

Monday, Elder Thacker and I hung out with some non-member youth and did some exploring of Ö-vik's "mountains". We got some awesome pictures and got to see some awesome views of the city below us. That evening we had family home evening over at the Iguaran's, a Columbian family, where we celebrated their son Helaman's fifth birthday. Yummy cake and ice cream was eaten. 

On Tuesday we visited Inger again with the Delgados and watched the "Finding Faith in Christ" movie together. Afterwards, we did some old investigator swing-bys and also visited the Bustamante family. The wife is originally from Cambodia, and they have a couple kids who I have already met the previous week. We shared a good message about blessings and positivity with them. 

The next day we took a road trip with the Delgados and went out to one of the sub-communities/towns here in Örnsköldsvik called Kramfors. The Delgados are working with an Albanian part-member couple, preparing the wife for the temple and preparing the husband for baptism. While they visited them, Elder Thacker and I visited another Albanian family, and taught one of the most humble investigators I have met since I have been out here. The man's name is Kliti, and he is friends with the Simonis (the couple the Delgados visit). He has only been taught a few times now, but he feels the Spirit when we teach him and wants to change and have a more Christ-like life. He reads the Book of Mormon daily and has watched the Restoration video multiple times, to point where he can quote from it. Its a little hard to teach him however, due to a slight language barrier, but he understands a lot. We taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ and read some 2 Nephi 31 with him. He wants to come to church badly, but cannot due to how far away he lives (Kramfors is about an hour outside the city of Ö-vik), and he has no car, or enough money to make the travel. He is so positive and we pray that we can find a solution soon. After our respective visits, the Delgados and Elder Thacker and I headed home and stopped by a very nice restaurant on the way home for dinner. 

Thursday we had zone training up in Umeå, and that went very well. This zone is a lot smaller than Stockholm, but it is filled with hard working missionaries :) It was cool to meet everyone and then have lunch afterwards together. Once we got back into Örnsköldsvik, Thacker and I visited an old investigator named Tim, a mid-twenties aged Swede. He mostly just wants to talk and hang out with us, but he does want us to send him scriptures periodically so maybe we can get some progress made there. 

Friday morning we helped the Iguarans move a recently purchased wardrobe closet to their home, and they rewarded us with lunch afterwards. Later that day we visited another old investigator named Sebastian, probably one of the nicest Swedes I have met. He is interested in our church and comes from a Pentecostal background, and was intrigued by the Book of Mormon. We basically got to know him and checked his status, and unfortunately is not willing to go further as far as baptism or progressing in the church. He said we are welcome to come over and chat and discuss things together, but he doesn't really want to make commitments right now. We left him with the Restoration movie and told him to watch it, so maybe he will have a spiritual awakening after he watches it and will want to progress further. Unfortunate, but at least his is welcoming and nice. That evening we also had english class and got some of those non-member kids we hung out with on Monday to come. 

Saturday wasn't too thrilling, just organizing the area book and making calls for weekly planning, then the weekly youth activity in the evening. We played the classic game of Kubb. 

Yesterday was fairly nice. Elder Thacker gave a great talk about the Book of Mormon in Sacrament meeting, and a guy named Ole (who really isn't an investigator but has apparently come to church at least four times now) showed up. We talked to him after church and I introduced myself. He is kind of in the same pickle as Sebastian, just enjoys our company and interested in what we do as missionaries, but not interested in making commitments. Very nice guy, very thoughtful, quiet, and inquisitive. He says he will keep visiting church, and said he will come to English class as well. 

Overall it has been a good week. I learned a lot of good things in Zone training that I can improve upon, and Elder Thacker and I are continuing to trudge on and get in contact with people. We handed out a couple more Books of Mormon yesterday after church before going over to the Delgados for dinner, so that was good. I was reading in the Howard W. Hunter 'Teachings of the Presidents' manual and came across something he said that I thought was incredibly profound:

    "If our lives and our faith are centered upoon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right."

So true. Though things may go well for us if we aren't living the principles of the Gospel, those moments do not last forever. It is only through the Savior and his teachings that we can expect any lasting success or joy. Those are the things that are eternal and everlasting, where we need to "lay up our treasures". What great counsel from a former prophet of God. I love you all and love hearing from you. May the Lord bless you and guide you this new week and may you be happy.

Hälsningar,

Äldste Reed 

Monday, August 10, 2015

SWEDEN WEEK 19-Örnsköldsvik

Well everybody, I made it safe and sound up to Ö-vik! The bus ride was a little long but overall not bad. Last Monday I was with a big group of missionaries taking a walk around Stockholm and Gamla Stan, and then in the evening Elder Aabo and I went to the Heidenberg's place and had a delicious fish dinner there. Tuesday was spent packing up for my departure, but also we had the chance to welcome the new greenies as they came in to the YSA Center! A large group of 13 fresh ones, half tired out of their minds haha. I got to take one of them out contacting for his first time; it was odd to be on the opposite side of that, because not too long ago I was in his position! Turns out this Elder, Murri is his name, is from Texas and is in fact in my District up here as well. He is being trained by Elder Nelson (also from Texas) in Umeå. Tuesday night, I got one last dinner with the Guerras and said a farewell to them. But now, onto my start in Ö-vik...

I arrived Wednesday and was greeted by my new companion, Elder Thacker, who comes from South Jordan, UT. We got picked up by the hilarious senior couple that also works in this area, the Delgados, who took us out for dinner that evening. They dropped us off at our place afterwards and there I spent the remainder of the night unpacking and getting settled in. 

I had my first District meeting on Thursday, and surprisingly it went rather well. Our District comprises the two sets of Umeå Elders, the Delgados, and me and Thacker, so smaller than what I am used to. After our meeting, we went out to eat lunch before the Umeå Elders had to catch their train headed back to their area. Elder Thacker and I headed to the church after lunch and did some language study time and organizing area information. The church is two minutes in walking distance away from our apartment, so its very convenient to get there. The church membership here is organized into a branch; there is no actual chapel building per say, we meet in on the floorplan of an apartment building that has been repurposed into a chapel and a few classrooms. Very cozy. We went out later and did some swing-bys on old investigators in the area, doing some trackting and contacting as we went. We did end up meeting a nice african woman, who we ended up talking to for a quite awhile and eating some food with her. Since she was alone we just sat outside the door of her apartment; we got some strange looks from the passing tennats haha. 

On Friday, we shared a message with a new convert named Inger and had some tea with her at her place. We also did some weekly planning and then later had "English class" at the church with the Mong kids. They are a very active Cambodian family (one of the three/four that really hold the branch together), and their children are super funny. Kim is 16, Sovann is 14, and Poo minn is 12. They all speak fluent Swedish and nearly fluent English. We played Uno with them and they welcomed me to the Ö-vik branch. 

Saturday was a pretty successful day. We got riding on our bikes and did a bunch of tracting and old investigator swing-bys. We were able to get into contact with one old potential investigator who saw us coming out of an apartment building, and we told him the address to our church and he was very excited to come on Sunday. We handed out two Book of Mormons, one of which was given to a random guy on the street who saw us biking and asked if we were Christians. He said he was looking for a better life so we quickly gave him a Book of Mormon and the address to the Church. Tender mercies of the Lord right there, he puts the prepared people in our path. After a long day of hunting down old investigators and riding around on bikes, we played soccer with the youth of the branch that night. Of course these kids are super good at soccer and we had a lot of fun. 

I got to experience my first Sunday in a branch yesterday. Because the branch is so small, we only have two hours of church, sacrament, and then a second hour meeting for young men and young women, relief society, and priesthood. I gave a talk on prayer in sacrament meeting, and in priesthood it was just me and Elder Thacker and the Delgados. After Church meetings, Elder Thacker and I did a ton of old investigator swing-bys and got in touch with some again. We had dinner over at the Delgados place that evening and we helped them do some Indexing too. 

This area is going to be a huge change for me. I'm not the city missionary anymore; real Swedish small town for me for the next while. Things are so quiet here, and this area is so large that it is hard for lots of people to come to church. There is lots that needs to be done here, and I hope and pray that I can do some good and boost the work in this area. I know there is reason for my being here, and hopefully I can find it and strengthen the Lord's kingdom here in Ö-vik. I wish you all the best, and leave you with this scripture which I shared in my talk yesterday: 2 Nephi 33:3. Follow the example of Nephi and pray for others. We are blessed more when we put the welfare of others ahead of our own. 

Love you all! Have a wonderful week!

Äldste Reed

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

~ACTION PACKED TRANSFER EDITION!!~ (SWEDEN WEEK 18)

Hello True-Believers!! Its the news you have all been waiting for: Transfers!! Go ahead and read on to see where I will be going...

Tuesday was very exciting for Elder Aabo, who received a Trainer's packet in the mail that morning. He is pregnant! And it's a boy!! Haha. The rest of the day, we went over to Gåshaga and tried to swing by a potential, but ended up doing some tracting since he didn't answer. People were less than nice that day, but hey that happens. You can't always have it good over in Lidingö.

Wednesday made up for the rejection the day before. We swung by our man Tiki, who didn't answer at first, but we ended up meeting with his friend Sharif outside their apartment building, when who comes down the elevator but Tiki! He invited the three of us up to his place, and we spent a couple hours there, watching Mormon messages with Sharif and teaching about the Plan of Salvation. Shoot, we even got a delicious dinner while we were over there! That night we had a interesting experience. Elder Aabo and I were at the center, when a random number calls and says that a friend referred our number to him. He was interested in what we do, so I told him, and told him we had a place to meet in Stockholm; he then says, "Okay, see you in about half an hour". I am completely shocked, one, that this was a middle-aged Swedish guy, two, that he randomly called us, and three, that he said he and his friends were coming. We waited, and sure enough, a dad and his three teenage kids show up. We sat down and were about ready to teach the Plan of Salvation to these guys, when we learn....they are members. Turns out they are a family from Karlskrona and they like to go around pranking missionaries. We had a good laugh, and chatted together for a while. Definitely made my night

We had district meeting on Thursday, then later we just walked around and did some street contacting and swing-bys. We were headed home that evening to change and go to Sports Night in Gubbängen, when we hear a guy shout "Hey Elders!", in English. Long story short, we ended up getting a free Subway dinner from a less-active family who live in the Väster Haninge area (near the Temple). The Father is a native Swede who served his mission in Scotland, and now owns three different Subways in the Stockholm area. Super cool unexpected meeting! We finished the night off with Sports Night, and had two Elders spend the night at our place due to the trainer's meeting the following the day.

As mentioned previously, there was a trainer's meeting on Friday where all the new trainers came and received some instruction. This coming group of missionaries is rather large, 13 brand new Elders, amd this meeting was the first of its kind. Usually, trainers have a little meeting right before they meet their Greenies, but starting now, there will be a longer training meeting a couple days prior to the arrival of new missionaries. So, while Elder Aabo attended that, I went on exchanges with an Elder Larson for a few hours and we went around doing some contacting. Later that evening, we taught Javid about some other commandments, specifically the Word of Wisdom and Tithing and Fast offerings. I will miss that guy alot; its been great teaching him, and being one of the first missionaries who established contact with him. 

Sooooo then comes Saturday, the long awaited Transfer call day. I had been anxiously wondering where I would be going, knowing that I would definitely be leaving my greenie area after being here for 4 months, and also that Aabo would be training here. I got the call from the ZL's while we were playing Soccer in Lidingö, and I will be transferring to Örnsköldsvik, up in Norrland! Its a small town located between Umeå and Sundsvall on the Eastern coast of Sweden. That's right, I said Umeå, where Elder Kapp is. Turns out he will be in my District, where I will be District Leader! Talk about spreading my wings and growing up. My new comp will be Elder Thacker, someone I have met before but don't know too well. I am super excited and looking forward to traveling up there!! I'll be taking an 8 hour bus ride on Wednesday morning and will arrive there at about 4 pm. So, that's the news! Pretty exciting, huh? Other things we did on Saturday were visit Karim, and weekly planning. 

Sunday was a little sad for me, knowing that it was my last Sunday in the Stockholm ward. I bore my testimony in sacrament, and said some "See you later"'s to a lot of members. This ward is truly a blessed one, full of kind, loving people who have shown me charity and care while I've been here. I've formed close relationships with many here, and I hope the Lord will continue to take care of them. Our Sunday after church was also very good too; I enjoyed a final visit at the Awesome Pence Clan's house, and had a delicious dinner with them. They have done a LOT for me, and I am eternally grateful for each member of that family. Elder Aabo and I had a very successful lesson with a brand new investigator Sunday night as well. This guy is named Nabeel, and he was a referral from our other friend, Kashif. We taught him the Restoration, and set up a baptism date with him right there for August 29th. What a great ending to an awesome transfer, and the ending of the first chapter of my mission. 

I have truly been blessed during my stay here. I have seen God's hand blessing me even when I felt like I didn't deserve it. I have gained a stronger testimony of so many principles of the Gospel while I have been here. It just goes to show that Heavenly Father IS there, and loves us very much.

To all my friends and family, I wish you the best! You'll hear from me next in the beautiful town of Ö-vik (official abbreviation). I am very excited, and can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for me there. Shoot, I'm just happy I'm going to a place that I know most of you don't know how to correctly pronounce :D hahaha Jag skojar bara, jag älskar er så hemska mycket!

Hälsningar,

Äldste Reed