Monday, January 27, 2014

It's -4 Celsius and Toasty!

Well, life continues here in the frozen north. It actually made it up to about 0 degrees today, so I was able to wear my pea coat for P-Day, which was fabulous.

Missionary work continues as always here. We've been trying a lot to work with less actives lately, and we've had some success with drop-bys lately, however, there was one drop-by that was actually really quite sad. We went to a house looking for a man, and a woman answered the door, so we asked if he was home. It turns out the man was her father, and he died last March, and no one in the ward had known. It got a little awkward after that, so we said good-bye and got out of the building pretty quickly after that.

But all of our lessons went fairly well outside of that. We had a bit of a miracle last Monday. P-day hours had ended, so we were doing drop-bys in Flemingsberg, which is mostly port-coded apartments, so it's hard to get in since we generally don't have the code. However, we got in to our very first apartment. They weren't home, but we were able to get in, and that in and of itself was something. Then we went several doors over, and it happened again. And again. And again. All told, it happened 7 times that we made it into a less active member's apartment building out of the 8 buildings that we went to. And then the crowning glory was when we went to the apartment building of a less active family. We couldn't remember their name, so we were reading off the list when a woman who'd been searching for her keys by the door asked us, 'Are you looking for me?' She'd been standing there searching for her keys for several minutes when we came up. She instantly invited us in, and we were able to teach her and her children briefly before going out to find more less-actives. We didn't understand it at the time, and we still don't understand it, but the Lord was watching out for us, and we were blessed that night.

We also had several other lessons during the week that were.... interesting. We had one with a Muslim, and one with a Buddhist that stand out to me. Unfortunately, I am not a perfect person, so I got impatient in the lesson with the Muslim. It was an interesting lesson, because while we were trying to teach him about the Book of Mormon, he was trying to convert us to Islam, which of course, we weren't having. However, in hindsight, I realize now that every time I spoke, I was bearing my testimony and stating with certainty the things that I know to be true, and that is of itself a blessing. The lesson with the Buddhist wasn't frustrating, but he had a lot of interesting stories about life, and by the end of the lesson, I was grateful for my faith and that it's led me down such a nice, safe path of life.

We also had the opportunity again this week to teach the youth in our ward. This is going to be a more regular calling for the sisters here in Hägersten, which I'm very excited for. I love getting to work with the youth and drink in their amazing spirit. 

Oh, and today, we had the amazing opportunity to go to an amazing look-out over Gamla Stan. I got some amazing pictures which I'm hoping to get to send to you this week, but suffice it to say that Sweden is beautiful, and that I'm grateful to be serving in such a wonderful country!

And yeah, there's a week in the life of Syster Maxwell! I hope everything's going well for everyone there!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Adventures of the Laundry Room and the Ice Cream Truck

Hej! So, things continue here in Sweden. It's been a little slower here since New Year's, but we're starting to see things go up again. Hopefully that pattern continues in the next few weeks. It's still beautifully cold and snowy here; it actually snows a little just about every day, but the amount of the snow on the ground usually stays about the same.

Updates on Syster Eriksson: she finally got her visa this past week; however, she's already been here for half a transfer, so it's been decided that she will finish a transfer here in Sweden and then head to the MTC in the middle of February before finally heading off to Spokane, Washington. I'm glad that this has finally been worked out, and I'm glad for the chance that we have to enjoy having her with us for a little longer. I can definitely say that my Swedish has improved A LOT having her there to talk to and figure out what I'm saying wrong, but it's also been great having a third companion. Sometimes, it is a little stressful, but at other times, it's great because she has that many more spiritual insights to offer, and she is always ready to say something in a lesson.

So. The laundry room. We had some fun this past week in doing our laundry. Because of the Embassy trip, we didn't have time to get all of our laundry done last p-day, so we decided to get a little done during weekly planning this past Friday. To get into the laundry room, you need a key fob. There is one door out on the walkway to get in to a tiny waiting area where there is a booking thingie (that's a technical term), and another lock you need your fob for to get into the actual laundry room so that no one can walk in and steal your clothes. Syster McCollaum and I both have fobs on our keychains, so there is never a problem with getting in and out of the laundry room.

Except for on FridayFriday as we were leaving, Syster McCollaum asked if we could run and get my keys from the apartment because she'd just left hers on the dryer. So we started towards the apartment for my keys. Then we realized the apartment was also locked. So, we quickly ran back to the laundry room. The inner door had already shut (through which we could still see her keys on the other side through the window), but we made it before the outer door had shut, so we all three ran in. We decided to camp out there until someone from the office came with the spare key, which in and of itself was a process involving several phone calls and someone getting lost on the way to our apartment. All in all, we waited about an hour in that tiny room with our wet laundry. However, I am proud to say that we were effective with our time, and we got our nightly planning done on a Family History card using the very end of the lead in Syster McCollaum's pencil. I love laundry.

Another interesting story from this week: I saw the ice cream truck. Here in Sweden, the ice cream truck goes around for the whole year. It has a reputation among missionaries that somehow you can always hear it several streets over, but it is very rare that we ever see it. And honestly, the tune it plays is kind of creepy. I swear, you could put the ice cream truck in a horror movie. Anyways, we were dropping by a  less active member last week when we heard the ice cream truck for the first time. The less active wasn't there, so we went to a nearby bus stop to wait. And then we heard it again - from a different direction. We were starting to get a little freaked out. Then we heard it from ANOTHER place, completely unrelated to where it had been three minutes earlier. Creeped out, we got on the bus. Just as the doors to the bus shut, it pulled up to a house just around the corner and parked, just out of view of our cameras, and not so close we could see the ice-cream cones on the side (according to Syster Eriksson, there are pictures of ice-cream on the truck). And it just sat there until we had pulled away. It was the creepiest thing, but I can now proudly say that I have seen the ice cream truck.

Yesterday, we also had an interesting experience in Sacrament meeting. Syster Eriksson and a ward member got permission from the bishop to play in Sacrament meeting, so for possibly the first time ever, we heard a trumpet duet of 'I Feel My Savior's Love' during the meeting. It was beautiful to hear; Syster Eriksson is really talented, and it brought an amazing spirit to the lesson.

One more thing: I love the new youth curriculum. For the second week in a row, we got the opportunity to teach the youth in our ward for Sunday School. Preparing for that lesson was interesting; we pretty well have memorized the lessons in Preach My Gospel, but it was a little different to plan by the new Youth Curriculum- and by the way, this all happened in Swedish. However, as we were preparing and discussing, the Spirit was with us, and then again later as we taught the Young Women who were in Sunday School. I love how it opens up the opportunity to discuss and question and strengthen each other. Seriously, the new youth curriculum is an amazing tool, and when the youth become really involved in the lesson and choose to talk about the things they know to be true, there is such power in their words and their testimonies. It's just awesome.

And yeah, there's a week in the life of Syster Maxwell. Love you all, hope all is well at home.

Syster Maxwell

Monday, January 13, 2014

Where Did the Sun Go?

Actually, to say the sun is gone isn't entirely true, however, we've seen a lot less of it in the last few days, because we finally got snow! It started snowing on Friday morning, and it finally stopped in the last 12 hours or so. We don't have a ton of snow, but there's definitely a feeling that the snow is here to stay. As it is, the air has been a lot colder. My breath has started freezing on my scarf, and I've been bringing out my enormous boots so that I don't slip on the ice.

However, even with the cold, life is still great as a missionary. We went to the Embassy this morning (which I think is part of why I'm so focused on the cold), and while Syster Eriksson went in for her Visa interview, Syster McCollaum and I were waiting outside for 2 hours, with the end result that hopefully her visa is sent to us in the next few days. We did a happy dance right there outside the Embassy, we were so excited for her. We're not sure yet how much longer we'll get to hold on to her. We're half hoping that she goes soon because she's already been waiting so long, and half hoping to hang on to her, because she's just amazing.

This week was a little harder with lessons. We've had some problems meeting with our investigators in the past week, and we had to drop one of them, so we didn't teach as much as we would've liked, but hopefully that will get better in the next week.. As it was, we had the most amazing lesson with a less active this week. We'd met her while we were out dropping by, ironically, less actives, and it came out that we should stop by her house sometime before she left on vacation and before Syster Eriksson left for the States, so we set a time for Thursday. But, since we had district meeting on Thursday morning, we didn't get any time to plan for her lesson until we were on the bus to her house. For some reason, I had the thought to talk about studying the scriptures daily, and about 1 Nephi 10:19, and how to find answers to our questions in the scriptures. We had about 5 minutes to plan, so we stuck with that simple lesson plan, and went to her house for lunch. 

It turned out to be absolutely perfect. She'd been reading something on a post put up by the church on Facebook about scripture study and had had the thought she should do that, but hadn't been able to commit to studying  regularly in her scriptures. We were able to answer a lot of her questions about how to study in the scriptures, and ideas for how to help deepen her understanding. The spirit in that lesson was so amazing. Syster McCollaum tried to attribute it to revelation later, which I'll accept only because I know I'm not bright enough to know on my own that that was exactly what  she needed at that time.

And for the record, we as missionaries are so blessed to get an hour of personal study every day. I love personal study. I think it is quite possibly my favorite hour of the day. It's the unique time we get between us and the Lord to be spiritually prepared for the day ahead and to be spoken to by the Spirit very directly. Maybe I don't get a lightning bolt every day, but I do know that I get fed spiritually, and that more often than not, even if I'm just reading the next page from yesterday's study, the questions I have for myself and for my investigators get answered, and my understanding of the gospel and our Savior's love for us increases. Honestly, the scriptures are the best thing on the planet, and I love them so much.

As always, it's great to be a missionary. I hope things are going well for everyone at home. Thanks to everyone who gives prayers and support. I miss you all like a fat boy misses cake, but to be here serving the Lord is worth it.

Syster Maxwell

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

back on schedule

Well, things are back to normal here. The holidays are 'gone,' which means that while today is technically a holiday here in Sweden, we missionaries are back to business as usual. It's actually been really nice to be getting back into regular missionary work, because the last two weeks have seemed longer with the non-proselyting days. They were a lot of fun, but now we get to focus and work again.

We're still enjoying having the lovely Syster Eriksson with us for a few more days. We are currently working to get her Visa so she can go to the MTC, but until then, we are happy to have her with us. I know that my Swedish is improving tons while having her here, and I think it's been great for her to be so close to home in those first few days while trying to adjust to the missionary lifestyle.

We have had a few amazing experiences in the last week that really just show how God uses us to answer others' prayers. Last Friday, we were dropping by some less actives in our ward. Usually, they aren't home, and if they do, they kindly let us talk for a little bit, talk about letting us come back and we leave, so it was more than a little surprising when we knocked on a less active member's door, and the second she recognized who we were, she welcomed us in. We stayed for quite a while, talking about prayer and strengthening the family. At the end of the lesson, she told us that she'd just decided she wants to make religion more important in her life a few days before, and that she'd actually been praying to know how to bring the Spirit into her life a little more. 

We also had an amazing contact the other day. We were sitting, waiting for the Pendeltåg when a guy walks up to us, and says with the most Mid-Western accent I've heard in months, 'You're American, aren't you?' He then started talking to us, and asking us all about missionary work and about the Church. It was so amazing to have a contact start talking to us, and if every contact worked that way, I would be happy for the rest of my days as a missionary.

As it is though, contacting can be a bit of an adventure, so I'll keep doing it anyways. It's been a while since I've been told I was brainwashed, but just this morning, we were talking to some Polish men who were very kind as Syster Eriksson spoke the very little Polish she knew to tell them about being a missionary.

Still no snow here in Sweden. It's a little strange, because everyone always tells me in letters and emails not to freeze my butt off, but I honestly think it's been warmer here than at home. Syster Eriksson has confirmed my suspicions that it is unseasonably warm and not to expect this next winter, but for now, I'll take it because it means I'm not sliding all over the place when I run after my companions.

And I think that about sums up the last four days. I love you all tons, and I hope all's going well!

Syster Maxwell

Happy New Year

(Letter From January 2, 2014)

Hey! Sorry that I missed last week, but things got more than a little crazy with Christmas and Christmas Eve here in Sweden. We're all still doing great over here.

Christmas Eve here was amazing, and kind of a miracle truthfully. The Sunday before Christmas, I was able to play in Sacrament here again. It was just Away in a Manger from the hymnbook with a few ornaments, but it was amazing to get to play. Afterwards, people were talking to people, and it came up that we hadn't been invited to someone's house for Christmas Eve yet, and this sweet hispanic woman instantly said, 'That's not okay,' and bustled off to talk to somebody. She came back a few minutes later to say we were welcome to come to her house for Christmas Eve. This was great; Syster McCollaum and I were a little sad that this meant we wouldn't get to see Kalle Anka (Donald Duck), but we were ecstatic to have a place to go.

Later that night, however, another member called us to invite us for a real Swedish Julafton. We told her what had happened, and that maybe we could stop by before going to this other member's house. She called over to her, and arranged it so the elders would be at the first members house, and we would get to have a real Swedish Christmas.

And truthfully, it was amazing. The family has 3 little boys, and they're so sweet. We got to watch Kalle Anka with them, and have a julboard (Christmas Dinner), and then wait for Jultomton to come. And honestly, this family was amazing. Their little 3 year old was terrified of Jultomton (Santa Clause), but it was the sweetest thing to watch how excited he and his brothers were about their Christmas gifts; every gift meant someone got a hug, and they all three were beyond excited when they unwrapped the tiny little Kristus statues their parents had gotten them.  It's probably also worth mentioning that this amazing family made sure that Syster McCollaum and I had Christmas presents to open, and so we got several amazing gifts from this family.
And of course, Christmas Day was amazing. Thank you SO MUCH to the ward at home for they're package, I loved everything I got, and I may or may not have started crying as I was reading all of the notes from the Laurels. You guys are the best!

We also got to spend time with several more members, and skyping home of course was fantastic. We actually got to go to a baptism on Christmas day as well. It was different, but it was so cool to see someone showing their commitment to follow Christ on the day we celebrate Him.

New Years we got to spend with an amazing couple in the mission. The Tolley's are over all the apartments, and for New Year's eve, they had all of the Sisters in the greater Stockholm area to their house. We were the only ones to stay until about midnight, and then they drove us home. And truthfully, that was the coolest thing, because we left just in time for them to start fireworks all over Stockholm. There was no one else on the roads at that point, so it was safe to be out, but from every angle, all you could see was fireworks being launched from apartment roofs and street corners. I really think everyone else should be jealous, because we had the world's best firework show.

The biggest news this week is that I have another companion! Syster McCollaum and I have been joined by the lovely Syster Eriksson. She's a native Swede who's going to the Washington Spokane Mission, but she's starting here in Hägersten while waiting for her visa. It was a little hard this morning; she had an appointment to get her visa, but we got there, and were informed that we didn't have everything necessary, so she wouldn't be able to have her appointment today. She was more than a little upset about it, but it means that we get to hang on to her for a little while longer, and work on our Swedish. It's interesting, because she hasn't even been to the MTC yet, but she's definitely excited to begin teaching, and has so much energy about teaching the gospel. 

So, yeah, there's the Holidays in Sweden. Life's great, and while having 4 non-proselyting days in the last two weeks has been nice, I'm excited to get back into regular missionary work, and find even more people who are prepared to accept the gospel. I hope everything's going well for everyone over there, and I love and miss you all tons!

Syster Maxwell