Monday, February 24, 2014

The Miracle of the Rainboots

Well, things continue to get warmer and sunnier here in Sweden. We are starting to see little green things on the rocks in the Farsta Strand Tunnelbana station, and yesterday I nearly started jumping for joy when I saw some leaves on a bush (although, it's also possible they've held on since last fall). The sun is coming up earlier and earlier. Yesterday morning, I had a moment where I realized that it's going to be very different in the summer. 6:30 AM in February, and it's already light enough out that we can see around our apartment without lights and with the blinds shut. I am rejoicing a little more each and every day as it gets warmer and sunnier. Yes, it's true that I've learned to love the cold here in Sweden, but I'm ecstatic to see how beautiful Sweden is once it starts blooming.

So far as lessons go this week, they've been fantastic. Our recent converts, Shafik and Sajjad, are still doing great. Sajjad still isn't having any backpain, and Shafik is as happy as ever. The language barrier is still there, but the spirit is always so present in their lessons, and they're so eager to learn more and more about the gospel.

We also had a lesson with an investigator this week named Sebastian. It was a little interesting; he was a referral from the Västerhaninge sisters. He's from Africa, and very well rehearsed in the Bible. We were trying to get through a lesson on the Doctrine of Jesus Christ with him, but we got stuck on baptism and why it's essential to have proper priesthood authority. I cannot deny that he has a very strong faith in the Bible, but I also have to say that I'm grateful for the simplicity of the gospel. As he was talking about the specific wording of a verse  that was fulfilled later in the Bible, and how the power of Christ never left the Earth, and all of these other small complicated details, I was grateful for how simple the Gospel and the message of the Restoration are. Yes, it's true that there are some interesting words we use, and the story of Joseph Smith is nothing less than incredible, but the more I teach about the gospel and its necessity in our lives, the more it simply makes sense and falls into place.

Now to explain the rainboots. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for how present He is in every facet of my life. On Thursday morning, I'd woken up earlier than usual with a low blood-sugar. I went into the kitchen for some food, and when I looked out the window, I saw snow out there that hadn't existed when I went to bed. A little frustrated, I went back to bed, and hoped it would have melted in the morning (Side note: I don't mind snow at this point, I just felt lied to that it had been warm and sunny for most of the week and then it snowed). Unfortunately, at 6:30, Syster Robbins went to look out the window and shouted, 'Syster Maxwell, there's snow out there!' Which, later in the day turned to slush. As I was walking around, I realized it was too warm for my big winter boots and that the boots I was currently wearing were not very water proof. So, I began to think it through. There've been several times out here that I've missed the rainboots I left at home, but never so much as last Thursday, and as I was talking with Syster Robbins, I realized that the rainy season here in Sweden is going to be starting soon. So I began to wonder, would it be cheaper to get my rainboots sent here to Sweden, or to buy rainboots here? The only rainboots I had seen in Sweden cost the rough equivalent of $200.00 US, and I didn't want to spend that much, but it's also pretty pricey to ship rainboots the whole way to Sweden.

I wondered about it for a while, then forgot about it until later in the day, when we went to pick up Syster Robbins boots from the repair shop in Stockholm. They told her that they couldn't repair them, so she got her money back, and since she still needed boots to wear for the next few weeks, we went to another shoe store closer to T-Central during our dinner hour. While there, we passed a pair of rainboots on sale for 100 :-, which is about $18.00 US, which was far cheaper than either option I'd had earlier that morning.  It really was amazing to see how in the same day, a vague, far off concern was taken care of much more neatly and efficiently than I ever could have managed on my own.

Also this week, I was able to take part in and view some amazing meetings. This past Wednesday, we had a meeting with all the Systers on this side of the mission. I was able to see Syster Stewart and Syster McCollaum, as well as to meet many of the other amazing sisters serving from Södertälje to Luleå. We were able to have an amazing time listening to Syster Newell.
Mom's note : I'm the one in the sassy socks.  :)
As we were sitting in the conference, I was reminded of the verses at the end of John 6, where the masses leave Christ, and he asks the apostles, 'Will you also go away?' To which Peter responds, 'Where will we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life' (sorry for my terrible paraphrasing of scripture).  I was sitting there, and it occured to me that there was nowhere else I would rather be. I think about it often actually that many of my friends from high school are enjoying their freshman year of college. Some are preparing to go on missions, and some are preparing for other things. But what I do know is that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and that  I am grateful to be here in Sweden at this time.

And then there was last night. Last night, Syster Robbins and I made the trip back to Hägersten for a music fireside. They had begun to plan it when I left Hägersten three and a half weeks ago, but it didn't happen until last night. They had me come back so that I could play a violin duet of 'I Know that My Redeemer Lives' with Äldste Lambson, and play the violin part to 'Savior, Redeemer of My Soul.' This is quickly becoming one of my favorite hymns, and I love the words of the 3rd verse: O'er rule mine acts to serve thine ends/ change frowning foes to smiling friends/ chasten my heart till I shall be/ in perfect harmony with thee./ Make me more worthy of thy love/ and fit me for thy courts above. I feel this is such a large part of what I do. I am not a perfect missionary, and I make mistakes all the time. But I try, and as I try, He blesses me with all that I need to accomplish His will.

I got some exciting news last night as I was back in Hägersten. There was a sweet little Persian lady named Masoumes we had just begun teaching. We'd actually contacted her as we were doing a drop-by in Huddinge, and we'd headed exactly the wrong direction without realizing it. She was amazing to teach while I was there. In her second lesson, we'd asked her what she thought of the Book of Mormon, and she said she'd recieved an answer to her prayers as she read, because she'd begun reading as though she already knew the Book was true. Last night, Syster McCollaum told me that Masoumes has a baptizmal date set for the middle of March. I can't describe how excited I am to hear that; knowing that someone I've worked with wants to be baptized. It's something very special, and I know that even though I may not be there to continue to work with her, I'll be doing all I can from Gubbängen to help her to that day.

So, yeah, there was my exciting week as a missionary. I love you all tons, and I hope all is well at home. I pray for y'all all the time, and I love getting to hear from you! Thank you for your prayers and support. Love y'all!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, February 17, 2014

I live in Stockholm. In the Forest. In Stockholm

View at our bus stop
Hej hej! It's been another blissfully warm week here in Sweden. It's been raining like nuts (really, I've gotten soaked this week more than once), but we've had moments of sunshine that have been absolutely amazing. It's been a little fun; we're getting to Spring time, and since we're so drastically far north, the amount of daylight we get changes drastically between winter and fall. In December, it was absolutely normal for the sun to come up at 9:30 and set by 3:30, but now we're celebrating that we're able to see across the street when we wake up at 6:30, and it doesn't really get dark until about 5:30. It's been great.

I'm still loving my new apartment and my new companion, Syster Robbins. We've had a little bit of fun with getting to our apartment. It really is in the forest in the middle of nowhere. There is a single bus that runs by every half hour, and it's already happened more than once that we get off the Tunnelbana right as the bus pulls away from the Farsta Station, and we end up walking home. It's also happened more than once that right as we turn up the street leaving the main road we've watched the bus pull up at the last stop. It's been fun, and suffice it to say that if I wasn't already getting my daily hike, I do now.

This week has been fantastic. I'd like to take a second to express my gratitude for Syster Eriksson. She's in the MTC now, and I hope all is going well for her, but I have to thank her for how much my Swedish has improved in the last few weeks. It's been a huge blessing here in Gubbängen that while I'm still trying to learn the area from Syster Robbins, I don't also have to be relying on her to understand what people are saying. I may not understand every word that people say, but after talking so much with Syster Eriksson, I can actually have a real conversation in lessons.  I fully realize that I still have a ton to learn, and just over a year in which to do so, but I'm grateful for the amazing start that she gave me.
P-day fun

This week was a little different since we went on exchanges after zone training. I was able to go out with Syster Faux again, which was more than a little interesting. I'm still trying to figure out how to get around my new area, so we had a little fun getting to and from lessons. More than once, we left the Tunnelbana or the Pendeltåg going the wrong direction, and it was fun to meet these people for the first time. But really, it was an amazing day. We were almost always running late, and there was plenty of stress involved, but the Spirit was so present in all that we did, and I felt myself being strengthened the whole while.

And then swapping back companions at the end of it was interesting. As a rule, we generally meet up by the front entrance of T-Central, which was a rule we followed. There is always something going up there, and this week it happened to be that they were finally dedicating the station. Apparently they forgot to do that at the turn of the century when the station was completed (?). In any case, it was more than entertaining for the missionaries to see, since, as a part of the dedication, they had a silent disco party going on. Yes, they were handing out headphones, and there was an enormous group of teenagers silently dancing in T-Central. It looked ridiculous, and it was definitely something worth filming.

We've also had some amazing lessons this week. One of them was an amazing lesson with a pair of new converts. They are both Persian, and only speak a little Swedish and English. What usually happens is the one who understands more Swedish ends up translating into Persian for the other. There's an enormous language barrier, and I have to admit, initially I was doubtful they really understood what we were talking about. But then I started listening to the Spirit. And it was so present; there was an amazing power as they bore their testimonies in broken Swedish and Persian. 

We had an amazing experience with one of them this week; he came to the lesson with a sore back. He was doing all he could to stay focused, but it was clear that he was in a lot of pain. We asked him if he would like a blessing from the elders at the end of the lesson, which he agreed to. It was a beautiful blessing, and at the end, he sat straight up and smiled. I asked him later in the week how his back was doing, and he told me that the instant the elders had said amen, he felt fine, and that he hadn't had any pain since. I'm continually amazed by his faith and his willingness to do those things he knows to be right. I may not understand a lot of what he's trying to communicate, but his testimony is still an amazing witness to me of what can happen as we truly exercise our faith.

As part of our work, Syster Robbins go to visit a lot of the older single women in the ward. It's one of those things no one really mentions when you put in your papers, but as a missionary, you go not just to find people who are ready to accept the gospel, but to strengthen those who already have as well. There was one particular older woman we visited this week that was special. She was old, maybe late 80's or older. Still living on her own, but with hemtjänst to help out. Her back was bent so that she stood at a 90 degree angle. She looked so frail, but she was so sweet, and only wanted to know what she could do to help us. We just shared a simple message with her about service, but she began talking about how much we do to serve her, and how grateful she is for us coming to visit her. "Jag aldrig kommer att glöma er," was what she said said several times. These cute little old women are the sweetest, and I know that our stopping by even just for half an hour means so much to them, especially when so much of the world keeps flying past them without even a backwards glance.
Our "investigators" for role plays

I'm continually amazed by all of the blessings I get as a missionary. I'm strengthened so much by the people I teach and the experiences they share with me. Missionary work is hard; you work all day every day, and you have to put your all into it, but it is so worth it. 

Love you all, hope all is well. Sweden is awesome, and y'all should be jealous.

Syster Maxwell

Monday, February 10, 2014


Well, I love my new area. Can I just say that? I've only been here a few days, but I love my new ward area, and of course my beautiful companion, Syster Robbins. I'm definitely still trying to figure out my way around, but it will come, and until then, I'm loving meeting the amazing members of our ward and getting to know the people who live in our area. Oh, side note, the names of different places do actually mean something in Swedish. 'Gubbängen' means 'Old Man Field.'

And Syster Robbins... where do I begin with Syster Robbins? She's amazing,and an absolute angel. She's been in Gubbängen for a few months already, so she knows her way around like nobody's business, and has a great connection and love for the members and investigators. She was a Sister Training Leader before becoming my companion, but she's staying in Gubbängen for the last 6 weeks of her mission, so I'm the lucky sister who gets to have her for the last little bit of her mission.

This last week was exciting; Sister McCollaum and Sister Eriksson were SO sweet for my last few days in Hägersten; they even made me a good-bye pie. And it was delicious. But really, while I'm very glad to have Syster Robbins as my companion, I also miss them. We said good-bye at T-Central early Wednesday morning. They went back to our old area, and Syster Robbins and I stayed at T-Central to help other sisters meet with their new companions and manage their luggage.

It was an interesting week. A lot of the mission transferred, and a lot of the mission moved apartments. On Wednesday, we helped a sister move her apartment, and then on Friday, we ourselves moved apartments. I'm still not sure how I'm feeling about this. I absolutely adored both apartments, but the new one is essentially in the forest, and it takes us about 20 minutes to get to the nearest Tunnelbana station if we catch the bus at the right time. And if we miss the bus.... well, we're working on figuring out the walk way, but it's a ways to walk. And that in and of itself is weird. We live and work in Stockholm. In the forest. It just kind of boggles my mind. However, I can also say that it's absolutley gorgeous, and I'm amazed by the place that we're living in.

In any case, we've been able to meet with some of the members of the ward, and I've loved them all so far. The bishop is amazing, and has two adorable daughters who are one and two years old, and his counselors are these two hispanic guys who both are just amazing. I love our ward. We've also gotten to meet with some of the women in our ward and their families. 

Speaking of them, I just want to throw it out there, I've been asked several times if I miss Mexican food. In the last few days at members houses, I have had tacos twice. No, I don't miss Mexican food, because I haven't really had the chance!

And, of course, there have been ups and downs. At one members house, her cat decided it was in love with me, and I couldn't get it to go away. It just kept rubbing up against me, and trying to eat my backpack, and the whole while, I'm trying to gently nudge this cat away (because I don't think this member would like it if I kicked it away) without touching it so I wouldn't end up having puffy red eyes and sniffing like I'd had the flu for a week. Other than the cat trying to kill me by means of allergy-attack, the appointment was great, and we had a very great, spiritual lesson.

We also were at a members house the other day, when their little daughter went and hid behind the couch. We were talking about how we need to build up our families when we heard a few little toots come from behind the couch. The wife was mortified, but the husband just kind of laughed as we continued at the lesson.

But really, we have some amazing women in our ward. I've gotten the chance to talk with a few of them and hear their testimonies, and I can say that these women are amazingly strong, and have made the decision to stay strong in their faith. They have all had some very hard times in their lives, but each of them would say without fail that they had decided to rely on the Lord, and that, while it may not have been easy, they have been supported through every trial and every hardship they have faced.

Perhaps one of my favorite moments in the last week was when I got up to introduce myself to the ward. As a missionary, I get to bear my testimony all the time, but it's rare that I get to share it with so many people at once. However, I love getting that opportunity, because it's at that point you talk about the simplest, most basic parts of your testimony, and very often, they are some of the strongest points as well. I know this is God's church, and that we are here to build up his kingdom. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer, and that He has such an infinite love for us all that he would suffer in Gethsemane and then on the cross for us individually. He knows our pains and our sorrows, our joys and our blessings. He is there with us every step of the way if we will only allow Him to support us. The scriptures are true- there is so much power in truly studying the scriptures, and through them, we can find answers to every problem we face if we will simply study them with an open heart and mind.

I love you all, and I hope all is going well for you! You're in my thoughts and prayers.

Syster Maxwell

Monday, February 3, 2014

Syster's Working Song

Hey, everyone at home! It has been another fantastic week in snowy Sweden. It's actually been a little warmer in the past few days, and while there's still snow on yards and houses, it's begun to melt off of the roads and sidewalks. This is definitely a bonus- until you get enormous puddles right in front of corners when you need to cross the street, but oh well, it's warmer, and I'll enjoy that while I've got it.

This past week, we've had the amazing opportunity to teach the cutest little Persian lady. She's very sweet, and very smart. Her English may not be the best, but she's very studious, and she really thinks deeply about the church and the doctrines we discuss, and she asks us some of the most interesting questions. It's been a little harder to  teach her sometimes because she doesn't always understand exactly what we're saying, but she nevertheless is making amazing progress.

We also got to to teach two men yesterday right before church. One was a Christian, and the other was his Muslim friend. It was a strange lesson since the Christian couldn't speak Swedish, and the Muslim couldn't speak English. Luckily, even though he couldn't speak English, he understood it, so we spent the whole lesson speaking in English and getting Swedish responses. The Christian was far more receptive than the Muslim, and stayed for Sacrament. However, it also came out that  he lived in the Elder's area, so we gave him to the Elders to translate for Sacrament meeting. Apparently this was a good idea. The Elder who was translating for him later mentioned that he was looking for a wife, and he was wondering where the Sisters had gone. I think it's probably a good thing that the Elders will be taking him. In any case, it was great to teach him. 

We also had a great opportunity this week to give service. Just before Christmas, a woman in our ward died, and her daughter has been left to take care of everything. It's been very hard for the daughter in the past month and a half. Since she comes from Ukraine, she doesn't have so many friends here in Sweden, and her mother and her son are all that she has in the world. This past weekend, she had to clean out her mother's apartment, and she had several difficulties in getting it done in time for the landlord. We went to help her several times over the weekend. (As a side note, when I submitted my mission papers, I did not think that my call included getting on my hands and knees to scrub someone else's kitchen floor. I was proved wrong this weekend). It was honestly the best place for us to be. She needed that help so badly. The last hour or so was probably the most special. We'd moved almost everything out, and were getting the last bits of grime and dirt. You could see she was despairing, and really just wanted to give up for the day. Someone, I think Syster Eriksson, was humming 'I Need Thee Every Hour,' quietly in the next room. Then I joined in. Then Syster McCollaum. And then the daughter began singing with us in Russian. You could feel the Spirit lighten in the room as she began to smile and really sing the hymn. When we asked her later, we found out that that was her favorite hymn. It was such a simple thing to do, hum a hymn while cleaning the window panes and vacuuming, but I know that it made such an enormous difference to her. When we left a little bit later, she seemed so much lighter and stronger than she had when we came an hour earlier.

Now for the big news of the week: I'm transferring to Gubbängen on Wednesday! I have finished up all of my training with Syster McCollaum, and I'm getting unleashed on the world. I'm so excited to get over there. I'm not going too far; Gubbängen is in another zone, but truthfully, we go through Gubbängen to get to the rest of our zone, if that gives you any idea how far I'm going. But really, I'm excited to go over there and see what comes next!

Syster Maxwell