Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Apartment in Sandnes

Hello Everyone!!

This week has been a week of growth . . . constantly stretching.  I became the 'Senior Companion' of my area.  It's the same area I have been serving in, since the start.  This time, we have moved into an apartment in Sandnes in order to be closer to our area and to cut all the travel.  Our apartment is really nice, Norway always has modern interiors.  It has still been an adjustment!!  My companion is a really tall Norwegian guy, we speak much more Norwegian on the streets . . . and in church on Sunday, I practically understood all of the meetings!  I also have started "scarring my R's" (something the West does when speaking Norwegian, and my French has helped me to already have the "scarred R" - I just sound like a French kid trying to speak Norwegian!).  It's a lot of fun!

So this week, we contacted a lot more people on the streets.  I feel more comfortable doing it!  I have a lot more confidence than I originally had.  It has been special for me to experience.  Not all of our investigators met with us this week; made it a little difficult - but we still filled our time.  Saturday night, we were able to stay up late because of the celebration of the days being so long (Santa Hans).  We were able to hang out with the members and build relationships with the youth.  I am completely in love with Stavanger, the people, the ward - everything about it will make it a difficult day when I get transferred to a different area.  When I was in the MTC - I looked at the map, heard that the West scarred their R's, and that Stavanger was a pretty warm place - I said that this is where I wanted to serve . . . and here I've been!  This whole mission experience has helped me to have a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have faith in Christ, I know that God really is there for us.  He is our loving Heavenly Father.  He knows us as His individual children.  He knows our concerns, and He knows what we need most.  When we exercise Faith in Him, real faith, we will receive miracles.

I have received many miracles, and I still continue to.  I know that it is not by chance that these things come to be.  I know that He knows me, and that He wants to help me.  I just need to be willing and ready.  So here I am in Norway, as His servant.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A New Companion and My Norwegian Heritage

Hello everyone!

This week was my 23rd Birthday!  I appreciate all the letters and support from everyone.  Many Gratulere Med Dagen wishes and some amazing gifts.  It's made my 23rd birthday really special to me being able to spend it in Norway!!  I got an external hard drive from my parents and a 23rd birthday book of some great memories I've had here so far, with an awesome member family!

I continue to love this place more and more. We just had a moves call, where my trainer and I are finally parting ways.  I am continuing to serve in my area (Sandnes) and will be getting my new companion Eldste Torjussen - he is Norwegian! (Originally from Kristiansand).  He will be the District Leader and I will be serving as Senior Companion, but the awesome thing about it is that he will be coaching me - so I'll be learning so much from an experienced, Norwegian-native missionary.  I forgot to mention he is 6'7 and I am 5'7, so that foot difference is going to be an awesome dynamic as we serve together.  It's going to be pretty awesome talking to people on the street with a short French kid and a tall Norske kid.  I love it!

This past week I received a letter from my aunt Mary, who lives up in Minnesota ('the closest you get to Scandinavia without being in Scandinavia').  She included a short history of my ancestors who had originally come from Norway.  They were a humble people who grew up working and trying to provide for their families.  They were God-fearing people.  They believed Jesus Christ to be their Savior – through all their trials they learned to trust in Him.  I am grateful to be from this amazing heritage.  I am grateful to represent them back in the land of our heritage.

We've had some good teaches this past week with investigators, less-actives, and members.  We enjoyed a nice traditional Norwegian dinner . . . with fried fish! I have to say that that was my first time eating a traditional Norwegian fish dinner and it was really really good.

The best part of my week was probably yesterday at church when I was able to see all the seminary students being recognized during Sacrament.  It brought back a lot of memories for me.  I used to wake up at 5:50 every morning during high school to attend seminary at 6.  My school didn't actually start until 9:30 - but every morning from Freshman year to Senior year we were at church at 6.  It led to some of the best memories I have, driving some of the kids home and being able to spend time learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day.  It led me to realize that the calling of seminary teacher would be a big sacrifice, but also a large blessing by helping the youth understand the importance of the Gospel in their life.  At times you take it for granted - all that you have, but then you start to realize the importance of it.  This Gospel is important.  It's special.  As we make the necessary sacrifices to strengthen ourselves spiritually, we allow ourselves to become immovable.  I often wonder how I have accumulated so much happiness as a missionary - and I realize it is because I have been able to sacrifice my life, give up what I had - to trust that God knows the best path for me.  Trusting that my Heavenly Father can lead me on a path to unlimited potential and happiness - it's brought a strength that I've never felt before.  I love this work, I know we can all trust in our Father in Heaven - and that He will provide us with pure happiness. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Growing Norway

Hello everyone!!

Another great week in Norway!  We were able to make great progress with investigators this week and to teach some effective lessons.  This week we taught the young man from last week who bore his testimony in church.  Great guy - we were accompanied by two sisters who are a couple of my most favorite people here in Norway.  It was great because I got to sit back and they basically taught him the lessons.  It's so nice to see the testimonies of the Norwegians, this is not an easy place to grow up - but they understand the doctrines of truth - and you just know that it has blessed their lives.  They are special people.

To add to that, yesterday at church there was a broadcast from Sweden.  It was a broadcast for all the Scandinavian countries with speakers (Bishop Causse, Elder Teixiera of the 70, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the 12 Apostles).  When I was in the MTC, M. Russell Ballard came and spoke to us.  That was a special moment for me because his presence in the room brought a spirit that was undeniable. You just know that the 12 Apostles called to lead and guide The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, are Apostles of Christ and that they really are prepared and called for this work.

Elder Ballard spoke on 'What Will Your Country Look Like in 20 Years'.  Norway has 4,000+ members here and I want to be fully engaged in the cause to help grow this place.  I instantly fell in love with everything here - the stubborn people - the infancy of the church.  Many things I can directly relate to - it also helps I have a special spot for Europe (my mother being from France) and my ancestors coming from Norway.  I know I was called to this exact place for many reasons, and I am enjoying seeing all of those reasons unfold.

Just this morning, I was reading a talk from Elder Andersen from October 2012 (I believe) called Trial of Your Faith.  It was not after my faith had been tested that I have received answers of why the Lord always desired me to serve a mission, but for many personal reasons it had to be 'at the appropriate time'.  I had never felt that appropriate time until about 10 months ago.  I was always told by members of the church 'you should serve a mission' or even asked the question, 'why haven't you served a mission?'.  I did not know why - I had a slight desire - but not the conviction I expected to have.  I know that when I want to do something it usually comes back with a determination and motivation.  That didn't come until 10 months ago - it really turned into the appropriate time.  So many blessings have come for me - a happiness I've never felt before.  A love for complete strangers that I never knew I could have.  A confidence in the Lord that through Him, I can accomplish unbelievable things.  It really has been my faith that has been strengthened.  It's been through diligent study of the scriptures - several prayers throughout the day - and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, which has lead me to where I am.

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, we have a living prophet today.  He receives revelation to lead and guide our church for our happiness and prosperity of God's church.  I know that the Book of Mormon is true - it relates to my life every day I read it and helps me learn to be a better person.  I know commandments are not restrictions, but guidance for our lives to help us receive a fulness of happiness.  I know Jesus is The Christ, and that through Him we can all find redemption.  I know that God loves us each individually and I hope for the world to have the same kind of assurance that can be found as a servant for this work.

I hope that everyone has an excellent week and I appreciate all the many prayers for missionary work!  It is well felt!

Eldste Holden

Monday, June 3, 2013

Love of God and Spirit of Christ

What a week it has been!!

I just first want to start off by saying, "This is the most fulfilling work I've ever done in my life!"  The e-mails I receive, the feedback from everyone - it's everything I've ever desired.  To inspire and encourage others to trust in faith that tomorrow will be better than today.

One of my many dreams is to have a positive impact on friends, family, youth - basically everyone I come in contact with. Knowing I am not always perfect, I apologize to people I have offended in my past - and I hope you find forgiveness towards me.  This past Thursday, I was asked by our Ward Mission Leader to write a short 5-minute talk to prepare for the youth (på Norske) about how going on splits really influenced myself before coming on a mission.  I had to think back to when I was 16-years old.  Every Sunday, for about 2-months, I went out with a companionship:  Elder S and Elder W, in downtown Rockford, IL.  We contacted people on the streets, knocked on doors, and taught lessons.  We spent the whole day meeting people with so many different backgrounds and I loved every person we spoke with, because I was able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.  Regardless of their background or the trials they were going through, little by little the Spirit of Christ was working in me to see past what they were going through and to understand the potential that they had.  Every one of us has unlimited potential.  I fast forward this story to about a year ago.  I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Las Vegas for Spring Break.  A few months prior, I had gotten back in contact with Elder T S., who then was living in Henderson, NV.  We spent several hours that night walking around the neighborhoods, discussing life, the Gospel, and our experiences we had when he served in Rockford for his time.  He then encouraged me to serve my own mission.  It was a blessing to me to be able to go on splits, so I encouraged the youth to come out with us so that they too could experience similar blessings.

Towards the end of this week, we had a miracle happen.  One of my most favorite people in Norway M.S. - gave us a couple referrals; her friends who she had grown up with or who she knew that would be receptive to the Gospel.  She is my age here in Norway, and has been a huge help to me as I perform my missionary labors.  She invites people to sport, gives us referrals - the best example of a member missionary.  We tried one of her referrals a week ago, with no success (no one home).  The following week (this past Saturday) we knocked on the friend's door and he took us in.  He knew a couple members of the church, had great experiences with them, and wanted to come to church on Sunday (yesterday). So he came.  It was our Sacrament Meeting and Testimony Meeting. Those members who he had known from the church bore their testimonies, as well as M.S. the member missionary who gave us the referral.  The Spirit was so strong in the meeting, that after it all - D.H. (the referral) brought himself to the stand to explain the feelings he had felt that day.  He stood at the pulpit and talked about the similar smile the missionaries possessed in relation to the Mormons he had already known.  He talked about the feelings he had felt and that it was a special day for him.  He truly felt the Spirit in that Testimony Meeting, to the point where he stood at the pulpit and expressed those feelings to all.  After church, he told me that there were some very nice people in this church.

The Spirit is real, it can be felt by all.  It is through faith and a determination to overcome the fear of rejection from friends and family.  The love of God and the Spirit of Christ is alive in all.  If we open our mouths and serve others - so that they too can feel that same love, I know that the lives of many can be blessed.  This has been the most incredible work I have ever been involved in.  I feel a partial fraction of the love the Savior has for us individually.  If we act in faith, we can accomplish all things.