Monday, September 30, 2013

The Importance of Mothers

Hello everyone!!

This week was extremely eventful.  We did not end up having the baptism - our investigator did not feel she was entirely ready to make the commitment.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to teach her though. She really cares about these decisions and the commitments of them.  It's very satisfying to see someone who really cares about all of this.  It is hard to show someone that living by faith is exactly what our Heavenly Father wants us to do.  I read a scripture this past week in Hebrews 10:31-32 which summed it up perfect for me.  It is difficult to live in the hands of the living God - but remember when your mind began to be enlightened by the truths that were taught, how much you could withstand the things of the adversary.  If we are all able to remember the moments that we have been enlightened by the truths of the gospel that are taught; that really is what feeling the Holy Ghost is.  It's an enlightenment to our understanding and it illuminates us.  Everything that has to do with this gospel is light.  As we learn, grow, and progress we obtain more light and we try to invite others to receive that light to walk through life with.  The light that the Gospel has blessed me with has meant absolutely everything for me.

A lot of our focus was on getting our investigator prepared for baptism, but as the week unfolded . . .we were still able to meet new people and to share the gospel.  I have found that I can now full conversations in Norwegian, confidently.  It's definitely a miracle, but I can do it!  The Lord has really blessed me and I feel confident in doing His will here on the Earth.  In the past week we were able to meet with a 24-year old single mother.  She grew up in a family of 13 siblings and in a very religious family (there is a Lutheran-associated sect who are very conservative and have many children up here).  We met her while knocking a few weeks ago and finally were able to meet with her.  She was a very nice woman - works as a chef here in Alta.  As we began to talk about the gospel, she became more engaged.  She was a little surprised that people like us would talk about things the way we would.  How families are a blessing that God has given us.  How we believe our prayers can be answered today.  I found a scripture that I wanted to share with her - it was in Alma 56:47-48 from the Book of Mormon.  It was when the 2000 Strippling Warriors told their leader that they would fight, trusting in God, because they saw the example their mothers made.  I asked her if she recognized the importance of her responsibility as a mother.  How it was with the help of my own mother that I have been able to trust in God in faith that serving a mission was something I needed to do.  The example of a mother is so important.  She has the opportunity to really help her son.  So we asked her to pray with her son.  It was an experience for myself that allowed me to learn and grow by teaching it.

There is another mother whose door we knocked on a few weeks back.  As we knocked on her door the first time, she became a little emotional and told us that she had lost her husband within the past year.  She has since also shared with us other experiences she has had.  We have gone back to her home, asking her if there is any service that we could do for her.  She declines - she has 2 boys and family that lives nearby.  We gave her a pamphlet on the Plan of Salvation - something her boys had read to each other and they had looked some things up online about our church.  She still did not invite us in this past time, but we were able to give her another pamphlet.  I can tell her her heart has been softened to hear what we have to say and to hopefully listen sometime down the road.  She believes that God does have a plan - she didn't see it before but since her life-changing moment, she has now opened a little to it.  As a missionary we hope to find these people and to invite them to learn more and recognize that God really does love us individually.  We are sent here to this Earth for a purpose.  It is to learn and to grow so that someday we can come back to Him.  It is only through our Savior that we can come back to Him.  I am so grateful to be a representative of the Savior for people - a true blessing I never comprehended before, but now it is so real.  The love that our Heavenly Father has for each of His children is amazing.  I am grateful for every day that I get to study the gospel and share the gospel with people.  The work continues to go forward and we continue to invite people.  It is the most satisfying work I have and ever will be associated with.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

A Baptismal Date and a Friend's Mission Call

Another pretty amazing week here in Alta.  I really never thought that I would be saying that - and it has been 2 weeks straight.  The Lord has answered so many of our prayers.  Our area is currently at one of those 'areas of excellence' with regards to the numbers that we reported.  On a completely spiritual note, this is an excellent area.  The Spirit is absolutely present in the Alta/Hammerfest Branch.  It is a special place to attend church here in the most northern part of Norway.  There is only 1 Branch that is more north than us in the world (we have the most Northern missionaries in all the world).  It's unbelievable to be part of this work.  The people here are so nice.  We can stop someone on the street and have a full on conversation with them.  My language skills are improving daily.  It is very satisfying to feel and know the growth I have come to make.  I used to think I'd be serving a French speaking mission, but our Heavenly Father had something else in store for me.  So, here I am in Northern Norway speaking Norwegian and I love this country like nothing else.

To the fun stuff, we had the traveling assistants with us this past Monday and Tuesday.  The President has assigned missionaries to travel around the country and to train missionaries and companionships.  We are an extremely young mission.  We need all the help we can get, but we have gotten a tremendous amount of help.  It's by those forces seen and unseen all around us that it's happened.  With the help of the assistants we found much potential here in this area.  Much more.  They helped me to see how to become a better contacter up here in the North.  All areas are different in Norway.  My last area we relied on busses, trains, city transportation to get around.  Up here in Alta we've got a car.  There are much fewer people, the culture is much more laid back and we live out on a farm.  It's pretty special to know the contrasts, but here in the North we have found much success through contacting former investigators.  We've been knocking on doors and finding people.  One of our newest investigators this week was a woman - married with a couple children who had lost a child in the past.  At one point she had searched for answers.  'What happens to us after we die?'   She even said she was angry at God, then realized that there might have been a purpose to it.  That is why we are missionaries; we help others peace the puzzle together and help them see the truh of our message.  Next week we will be sharing the Plan of Salvation with her.  It is my most favorite lesson that we get to share with people.  Where we came from, why we are here, where are we going. . .  It was an approach I made to two teenage boys here the other day.  One of them was smoking and I spotted them from much distance.  I asked them if they wanted to know the purpose of why we are here.  Who wouldn't want to know that question?  We invited them to church, and they sort of humorously said that they would come.  They didn't show up, but I did get their number.  It is our job as missionaries to teach everyone about the truths of this gospel.  It's really quite fun!

We have a young woman we are working with.  She was a foreign exchange student in Kansas City this past year.  I wrote about her from the past week's post.  She met a young man who had introduced her to the church.  He has been visiting her for the past 2 weeks here in northern Norway. He will be going on a mission to South Korea in December, but he has had the opportunity to vacation here in the north before he gets into the real serious work.  What an opportunity and a blessing it is for him to be able to vacation here!  He has been a tremendous help.  It's been a special experience to teach his friend the gospel.  Due to members in the branch going on vacation to Spain for 2 weeks, we've been forced to change her baptismal date . . . to this week! It added an exciting twist to the work, but she was prepared before we even got her.  It really is up to her to make the choice.  We are her guides to help her prepare and progress, but we know she is ready.  So, Friday will be the day!  It is a very exciting experience.  I have not seen a single one of these on my mission.  Not that it bothers me in the least bit.  I am here to help people come closer to our Heavenly Father.  It's not an easy thing to do, but it's the most beneficial thing.  It often comes with tremendouse sacrifice,but as we sacrifice we come to learn more about what the Savior Jesus Christ did for us.  He did everything for us.  If we rely on Him throughout our days and turn to Him in prayer and faith, He will always provide.  I know He does and I am so grateful to have such a real opportunity to understand more of the sacrifice He made for us as I teach our brothers and sisters.

I will also add that I received news that a friend of mine down in Stavanger received her mission call to the London South Mission!  I am so excited to know that there are many people who continue to respond to the call.  This has been the most unbelievable experience anyone could ask for.  Through the help of the Lord, I have turned many weaknesses into strengths.  I know that I have many weaknesses.  I continue to overcome them.  My MANY weaknesses, but I know that it is only through His grace that I can overcome my weaknesses. I love the people of Norway, I love the gospel I have the opportunity to study and share every day, I love coming home tired because I knew I worked hard that day.  I love this town of Alta and the people who live and thrive here in Norway.  I am grateful to share my experiences through this blog.  As of today, I am officially 8-months through my missionary time.  Unbelievable! I hope everyone has an excellent week!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Baptism, a Baptismal Date Set, and The Northern Lights

This was a pretty special week here in Alta!  My trainee and I were blessed this week to reach the standards for 'standards of excellence' in our Area.  We worked very hard, we sacrificed, prayed a ton and found a lot of success and potential!  It really was a special week and a week full of growth.  We have many people to work with here, and also a baptismal date for a young woman who was formerly a foreign exchange student in the States.  She met a member of the church in Missouri that brought her to attend church many times.  Now that she is back in Norway, the boy has come to visit her while he is waiting for his mission call.  It came!  He is going to South Korea and she currently has a baptismal date for October!  We are helping her progress in the gospel and I extended an invitation that has served me very well in my life.  I asked her if she would keep a journal and write down thoughts and impressions.  It has been something that has served me very well in my life and she has accepted the commitment and is doing so!

I held my first district meeting the past Tuesday over Skype!  I conducted the whole meeting in Norwegian - it was a little difficult but the language is continuing to come along.  It's a bit difficult because many people like to speak English with the Elders, but here in Alta I have made a ton of progress with my language.  It's coming very well. Our district consists of us in Alta and a 3-some of elders in Tromsø.  It's pretty fun to be part of the North!

Yesterday, there was a baptism in my old area of a man whom we began teaching in Sandnes.  I know he was prepared to hear about the gospel.  He said that he had contemplated commiting suicide before and didn't really know what life was all about.  He was extremely humble and so genuine and sincere.  The week after I left, they got a baptismal date with him. He then kept himself to all of his commitments and was baptised yesterday.  There are definitely special things happening here.  They are not always the easiest to find, but they are found.  It is done through a lot of hardwork, a lot of prayer, fasting, and patience.  I would not want it any other way.

I love the work that we do.  We try to find people whom the Lord has prepared for us.  They are out there.  They are ready to receive all the blessings that our loving Heavenly Father has prepared for them.  We are ready to allow them to receive them as well.  The most special work I have ever been involved in is being here as a missionary.  There are only 20,000 people in this small town but it has so much potential.  We are literally on top of the world.  We work very hard to allow others to make commitments to our Heavenly Father which brings tremendous blessings.  I have been so blessed throughout my life and as I continually dedicate myself to this work it only keeps getting better!

I also have to add.... we saw the Northern Lights for the first time!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Serving in Northernmost Norway

I just looked on our mission website to see a 'quote of the week' from a couple weeks back. One that applies directly to me is one said by Eleanor Roosevelt:

''We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.''
With that, I just want to start by first saying I used to doubt that I could serve a mission.  I was afraid to take a step of faith and to see what the Lord could transform me into.  Here I am as the Northern-most missionary in the world and I have never had to rely on the Lord more in everything that I do. . . but I have done so, and as I have done so I have drawn closer to Him, I have learned a lot about myself, but I have also increased in my own capacity.  I have never absorbed scriptures so much, never overcome my own doubts and fears as much.  This past week I had the experience to fly from Alta to Trondheim and back.  It consisted of 6 different flights - between take-off's and landings.  As a kid growing up, I used to hate the thought of a flight.  Now as a missionary, I have to take many flights - and I'm expected to get a full day of missionary work in.  It's only been through the blessings of the Lord that I have overcome motion-sickness.  I can now fly 6 flights in a day, sit in a window seat, aisle seat, any seat and read or look out the window.  This may not seem like a big deal to people but for myself as a kid - we used to fly to France - 9 hour flights and the turbulance and everything got me incredibly sick.  Now because I have faced my fears, I serve the Lord and it's only through His grace that I am being incredibly blessed.
We serve in a city of about 20,000 people.  Some of the nicest people I've encountered while knocking on doors -not always interested of course, but it's the hours we spend knocking on doors.  Contacting so many few people on the streets  has helped me to draw closer to the Lord.  It's no longer the faster-paced Stavanger/Sandnes.  There aren't as many people out on the streets or on the gågate.  It's a small town, but it's been through my prayers and through scripture study that I've been able to derive more strength and understanding of what exactly Christ did for us.  For every single one of God's children He suffered for us.  He overcame death so that we too may do so.  I am able to share this message, and also the message that we have a living prophet that leads our church.  We believe our families can be together forever.  I am so grateful to know that as well.  It's such a comfort to know that.  As I miss my family back home, I have the opportunity to be with them forever.  It brings such a comfort and confidence to know that.  The blessings of this gospel are real and I am grateful to share that with others.  I am facing my fears as a missionary, I'd like to say I've overcome all of them to be where I am, but I've still got so much more to learn and grow.  I am so grateful for this opportunity to grow into what my Heavenly Father has always known I could become. I hope everyone has a great week!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Travels and Life in Alta, Norway

This week was very solid!  A lot of good experience, tons of flights, and a lot of exhaustion!  On Monday morning, we flew to Trondheim for a Mission Conference with Elder Kearon.  He was extremely funny and the spirit was absolutely powerful.  I don't think I've ever felt the spirit for such an extended period of time in my life.  It was very much needed and very much appreciated.  During the meeting, it was pretty crazy because he brought up a topic of discussion with us about 'being real' as a missionary . . . not as a robotic person going around and not speaking from the heart about the conviction you have about the message.  The interesting part was when he pointed to me and said something to the effect that "you have something to say about this."  To which I stood up and the many feelings and thoughts I have had about 'being real' came rushing to me.  I was pretty overcome, as 'being real' is what I have pondered on my whole life.  I couldn't hold back my emotion, but only to say that I knew that we need to be real.  As I have grown up in an area where I was one of few members of the church, the most real thing that existed was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  To be a light in a dark world is something that is empowering . . . especially in a country such as Norway - one of the most prominent 'atheist' countries.  It is a blessing to be a missionary bearing truth of the love our Heavenly Father has for us as His children.  He wants us to be happy and successful.  He just asks us to exercise a portion of faith to bring about blessings and often miracles.  I know that miracles do not cease to exist, and that there is a God who loves each and every one of us.  I am grateful to bear this message of truth.

Another experience I had this week, is when I went on splits with another missionary.  I flew to Tromsø early on Thursday meeting to conduct an interview for a baptism.  The young man was so full of faith and understanding, it was an excellent privilege to be part of.  This young man is from the Congo, he has been living in Norway for about 5 years and the stories I have heard about him are incredible.  He was told as a young man that one day he would find that truth and was advised to take it.  He believes he found the truth, and it brought the two of us together.  I shared with him experiences of the missionary work my family has had the opportunity of being part of in a tribe in Congo.  Many people are hearing the message of the Restoration of the Gospel from connections which were made over the past few years.  As I began telling him the story of the tribe, it brought a spirit which was very unique.  He was baptised this past Sunday in Tromsø.  He in fact did find the truth.

Here in Alta, the branch is small.  About 15 are in attendance each week (including the missionaries).  We have some investigators - the area was white-washed, so it's been difficult to get to know the investigators initially.  The people here are so nice when we knock on their doors.  We have had some positive success here in Alta.  Last night, we met with a man from Iceland who admires Mormons for their good work ethic and family values.  We were able to share with him the message of the Restoration and why our families are so important.  We scheduled to teach him the Plan of Salvation (my favorite teach) in a couple weeks, so we look forward to that.

A little bit about Alta . . . We are living on a farm with a family - a woman and her son, from the branch.  The son has a form of autism - but also has a perfect pitch in his musical abilities.  My trainee is pretty amazing at the piano, so they love to play the song 'Entertainer' at every chance they get!  It definitely makes for great experiences living here.  In the MTC, I'll be honest. . . I said specifically that I did not want to serve in Alta.  Of course, the Lord sends me up here!  But it's been an amazing experience thus far.  I am very grateful for it and it is a beautiful place!  I just did not want to be in the dark and cold at the time, but I am growing into my new calling!  It's the North!

I hope everyone has a great week!