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

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