Monday, January 27, 2014

My 1-Year Mission Mark

Hello everyone!!

This week I got a little sick one morning.  I received a priesthood blessing and did quite fine though!  We had another impressive week - still continuing to find the gems out here in Norway!

As for my home, I received a letter about my brother receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood this past Sunday.  As my mom wrote me, she explained that it as my '1-year gift' and the news of it continues to bring me to tears.  I am so grateful for the love our Heavenly Father has for us and how He can use us and shape us into special instruments.  I am so grateful for my family and the examples we get to be to one another.

On Thursday, I was officially able to say that I've been on a mission for a year!  Crazy to accomplish something like this!  On my year day, I was able to receive a package from my homeward, and a couple letters as well!  It felt like it was really my birthday on my year mark!  I was just grateful to see that I've been able to work so hard over the past year.  It's been incredible growth!!

In the past week, we had some pretty good experiences.  We have 3 guys from Romania that we have been teaching the gospel and the basics of the Norwegian language to.  These guys have shown up to all the activities, church, and have even met with us.  They are incredible guys!  They told me that they don't think it is a coincidence that we met.  Interestingly enough, the first time that I contacted them with my former companion - one of them rejected me and continued to walk on.  Another one of them stopped to talk and told me that when he first met me he observed me and saw that I was a very open-minded guy.  He felt like he could talk to me.  Who would have thought that someone who has faith in something is open-minded!?  Especially a missionary for that matter!

On the flipside - we also were on our way home this past week when a man walked up to my companion and began to speak to him.  The guy was a little drunk and proceeded to walk with us.  He was trying to argue with us as to how the world could be created by a God and different things about nature.  Of course, we just listened to him ramble on and as we parted ways, I asked him if he would like a card.  He started shouting profanities at us while a group of young kids on the other side of the street starting laughing.  At that moment, I immediately thought of the Savior and everything He had to endure.  I was so grateful that I could find myself in that situation being an example of a believer.  We may have to endure some uncomfortable situations, but never as uncomfortable as what the Lord went through.

He was a very real man that lived on this Earth.  I am given strength every day in my thoughts and prayers of Him.  I am so grateful I can wear a badge that bears His name, as well as my own.  It is very empowering to be a Disciple of Christ.  Regardless of what we have to endure, it is always completely worth it!

I hope everyone has an extremely good week!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Approaching My 1-Year Mark

What a week it was!!

It started off that we planned for a Zone Leader Training Meeting that we shared in Bergen and Stavanger.  The meeting in Bergen was on Wednesday, and we woke up at 4:15 to get ready and catch a plane.  The meeting was a success and we were able to go on splits in the city for the rest of the night.  It was quite a fun experience to be in Bergen and teach with the missionaries there!  One of the elders, Elder Clark, was with me in the MTC.  We are approaching our 1-year mark so it was quite fun to talk about how much we've grown in the past year!

The next morning we woke up at about 5:30 to catch another flight home.  We were to hold the same meeting in Stavanger the next day.  It's a crazy life as a missionary - taking flights really early, getting right on track with the schedule, and then giving some more meetings!  They were some long days and by the end of it, I was so exhausted!  But the Lord was with us the whole way.  The Spirit during the meetings was so present.  We were able to discuss how we are going to reach the goal of 157 baptisms in Norway.  We know that it's only going to come through miracles.  Sister Evans, the mission president's wife, shared a scripture Alma 26:12 with the missionaries in the MTC when they were there.  In order for us to reach our 157 baptisms, we're going to have to witness many mighty miracles.  I felt the Spirit every time I though about that - I am convinced that we are going to achieve difficult things in this country!

To add to that, we were able to teach some really awesome lessons this week!  I feel that the Lord has blessed me with the world's best investigators.  This week, I was able to meet a young man from Congo.  I was able to share an amazing story about the missionary work that has been occurring in my hometown Rockford, Illinois.  It all began with a man that had an impression that he needed to go to church.  So, he went outside and stopped the first people he saw who looked like they were going to church!  That's how the Lord furthers His work.  It is through spiritual promptings and impressions.  I know that they are real and that that story is one of the main reasons I am here as a missionary right now.

The best story from this past week came when my companion and I were knocking to find familes.  We know that the mighty miracles are going to have to come in the form of families if we are to reach such a goal!  So, we began knocking and finding potentials this way.  When we knocked on one door the woman said we could come back at 8 PM on any night.  On Saturday, we decided to try-back in the afternoon and she told us to come back at 8 PM that night.  So, as the night was approaching, I gave a baptismal interview at 6.  Just after (due to a Ward Conference) many stake leaders were present at the building.  Two of the leaders were in the basement looking to go out with the missionaries.  Knowing I did not have any solid appointments, just a try-back at 8, I jumped at the opportunity knowing the Lord would bless us.  We went walking towards the area with this man.  He was so solid and from the Skien area in Norway.  He served his mission in Scotland, and we took him knocking on doors.  He was very impressive when he actually jumped in on the fun!  After a few doors, we decided to head to the try-back's home.  This Filipino family let us in straightway and we sat down with 5 people total to hear our gospel message.  We began to teach about the gospel and the message of the Restoration of the Gospel through the prophet, Joseph Smith.  By the end of the teach, we ended up giving them a couple Book of Mormons and were able to get a return appointment.  Five investigators in one night!  All with the help of this incredible man from the stake!  It was an amazing experience to be part of this gospel discussion, the people were unbelievably spiritual and solid!

The next day was Ward Conference.  The last Ward Conference I had been to in Stavanger, was my first week in the land!!  Shows you how long I have been in this area!  I love this place like nothing else though.  It's a very special place to me!  This week I will be hitting my 1-year mark as a missionary.  Bittersweet but it's been the absolute best experience of my life!  I've never loved a place more than this place - Stavanger.  I've never grown more in a year than I have as a missionary.  To add to it, I know a different language!  I can't believe what can happen to someone when they put their trust and step forward in faith to follow the Lord!  I love everything about this experience!

I hope everyone has an excellent week!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Knowing That Heavenly Father is Our Loving Heavenly Father

Hello everyone!

This week was my first full week with my companion Elder Lane!  He is really fun to be around - extremely entertaining.  He gets really pumped when we start talking about how we're going to find families!  I really know that we're going to find some families here in Norway who are ready to hear the gospel.

This week was pretty special.  We met with one of my favorite investigators - had about a 2-hour teach about the Plan of Salvation.  We invited her to pray about it.  She came to church on Sunday and the first thing she told me was, "I got an answer from Heavenly Father."  I was so amazed!  She told me some more things that were so amazing to hear about in her life.  It's been amazing to grow with her and see the glow that she has when she walks in the church.  Everyone can see it!

This past week, we went to Oslo for a leadership council with others from the mission.  It was so cool to feel the Spirit and be around the other missionaries.  There were many concerns and thoughts I had going into the meeting.  I felt the Spirit so strongly and had many things that I felt were revelation on how to take the mission and our area forward.  We have some incredible missionaries serving here in Stavanger right now.  There is a quite a bit going on and we just need to keep grinding at it, this is definitely the Lord's work!

This morning, we had the opportunity to join with the youth at Early Morning Seminary starting at 6:30.  We were asked to come and play the Sons of Mosiah (people from the Book of Mormon).  They were once 'the vilest of sinners' and were converted after an incredible series of events.  We 4 elders came to the class and acted like we were the Sons of Mosiah. We had little name tags to hold up and answered a couple questions about our missions.  I was so grateful to be able to be there this morning.  The youth kept asking, "Why did you wake up so early for this?"  The reason being, is we know how important it is for them to really take what they read seriously.  The Book of Mormon has the potential to change anyone's life.  It is only based on their willingness to receive answers and to accept the counsel they receive as they read that book.  I know it is not a huge sacrifice to be participating in this work when you feel the million little blessings you receive while here.

I know how important this work is.  It's important for every single person that is associated in the process.  Even when people, "nei takk" us, I am able to wish them a good day!  The only thing I want anyone to come to know is this knowledge that Heavenly Father is our loving Heavenly Father.  He knows us personally and He just wants us to be happy and successful.  We just need to trust in Him!

I hope everyone has an excellent week!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back to the Grind

This week was so great to get back into the swing of missionary work!  It was pretty packed with good things.  One of our investigators said she had been smoke-free for 2 days before we met with her!  Another one of our investigators has been reading on the church's website and loving everything she reads.  She told us that she used to be afraid of the gospel and the Bible and everything but now since we have helped her feel the love of the gospel and meet so many great people - she looks forward with hope!  She is such an amazing person and has the greatest smile.  She says it might take her 6 months to 2 years to join the church, she really doesn't know, but I told her I really didn't care how long it took her.  She is reading the Book of Mormon, she is coming to church, she is reading things about Joseph Smith, and you can see the light of the gospel changing her life!  It's unbelievable how it works.

I received a new companion this week, Elder Lane.  He is a young guy from Arizona.  Very good kid and pretty entertaining!  Yesterday he bore his testimony in church and said, "Jeg elsker store medlemmer" which in English translates to "I love big members" - he had a good laugh afterwards! He's a very awesome guy and really willing to work.

My old companion was moved up to Trondheim to be companions with my old MTC companion, Elder Skinner.  Elder Skinner is a beast of a missionary and is tearing it up in Trondheim right now.  I was hoping he was going to be my companion a couple transfers ago.  Hopefully someday we'll be joined up and get to tear up a city together!

As for my old companion Elder Stookey, he was an awesome companion.  We were able to experience a ton of different miracles and amazing opportunities!  It was so much fun to serve with him and as I called him the night he moved to Trondheim - one of the things he said to me was, "Keep changing kids' lives."  It was the best thing I could have heard.

The west zone is going to explode soon.  Our district is really starting to produce, as we had 5 investigators in church and more visitors!  It's been an incredible ride to see the progression of this work in this area and throughout Norway.  Someday soon this place will be pumping out some impressive miracles!  They are already starting to flow and I'm so grateful to be part of it!

I know that faith is something that is real.  When we exercise it with faith in Jesus Christ and God, we can experience many miracles.  I am approaching 1 year as a missionary and I have never felt more refined and grateful for any other thing in my life.  I know this is the best use of time any individual can spend - bringing about happiness for our brothers and sisters.  I love this work and hope that everyone gets to experience the love our Heavenly Father has for each one of us!  I hope everyone gets to experience some of that light this week!