Monday, March 31, 2014

Diggi Loo Diggi Ley, Alla Titta På Mig, When I'm Walking With My Nametag On!

A funny ad- it translates to- Mama, if you don't swap to
 clean energy, your phone will be sleeping with the goldfish.
Hey everybody at home! So, life as a missionary continues to be amazing here in Sweden. The weather is as bipolar as ever; Saturday, we were literally baking outside and it was suicide to keep even a light jacket on, and then I woke up this morning and there was snow on the ground. I don't claim to understand it, I just work here.

But, as it is, I'm happy to be here in Sweden. With daylight savings yesterday (apparently we're a week behind the US on that) it's still light enough to see across the street when we wake up, and it doesn't really get dark until we start heading home at night- which is absolutely insane given that just two months ago, the sun was GONE by about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, but there it is.

It's insane to see how the Swedes are popping up on the streets at about the same rates as the flowers- just a little bit every now and then, but more and more as spring really starts coming in full sway. We're still waiting to see everything turn green and alive again, but we're definitely starting to see hints of leaves and flowers every where we go.

We had a bit of a slower week in many ways, and in some ways, it's amazing how much we got done. I remember one lesson in particular that we had at a members house; they'd just fed us and we were talking about the Joseph Smith story. I began reciting the first vision in Swedish, and all of a sudden it was like I was getting hit with this huge wave of spiritual awesomeness. (That's a technical term). It was amazing to see how the spirit in that room changed. We'd had a fun evening together, but the Spirit was so strong that it got quiet, and all you could hear was us as missionaries offering our simple but strong testimonies in Swedish that Joseph Smith really did see God and Jesus Christ, and that he really did restore Christ's church to the Earth again.

We also had some fun this week with the ward talent show. As missionaries, we helped a lot to get it set up, and we as sisters had fun convincing the elders that what they needed to do was lip-sync to Diggi Loo Diggi Ley. To give you a little context, Diggi Loo Diggi Ley was sung by the Herrey Brothers in 1984, and it won the Eurovision contest that year. The Herrey Brothers are members of the church in Sweden, and it actually has been a missionary tool apparently ( I would guess somewhat like saying that David Archuleta is LDS in the states).  The ward talent show went amazingly well, and it was amazing to see how good a job the elders did  after 24 hours of practice.

Sister Morris' face and mine when trying Salt Licorice.
 I've tried it a few times, and i can still honestly say
 that I don't like black licorice, with or without salt.

 (Here   ==>  is a link to the YouTube video of the original.)

In other news, I hit 6 months this week. How crazy is that? It does not feel like I've been away from home for that long, but there it is. But at the same time, I look at how much I've learned and how many pictures and memories I already have, and it's amazing to see how far I've come. Super weird.  

Anyways, I love you all, sorry that it's kind of short this week, but I'll see what interesting stories I can come up with for next week.

I love you all!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, March 24, 2014

If We're Going to Die, At Least We'll Go Out Looking Like a Peruvian Folk-Band

So, this week has been ANYTHING but what I expected, and in so many ways, I'm grateful for it. Where to begin? I guess first and foremost with my amazing new companion. A week and a half ago, I got a call saying Syster Miller would be coming to Gubbängen with me. Guess who's not in Gubbängen. That's right, Syster Miller! They had a problem with the apartment in her old area, so they've had her stay for a few more weeks, and instead, Syster Morris has come BACK to Gubbängen to be my companion for now (Explanation: Syster Morris was in Gubbängen with Syster Robbins when I came to Sweden), and I kind of absolutely adore her.

We also got more snow this week. I blame this fully on Syster Robbins, because SHE wanted it cold before heading home, and the day she left, we woke up and it was snowing outside. I'm just more and more convinced that Sweden's weather is about as bipolar as Utah's, because the last few days, it was sunny again, and all the snow is gone. Oh well, it's been giving us the chance to go out and enjoy getting some sun while contacting, which has been heavenly.

So, adventures this week... Well, to begin with, Syster Morris and I passed a beggar in downtown Stockholm using pictures from the missionary pamphlets on her sign to beg for money. I still have to wonder where in the world she got the pamphlets from, especially since I don't think she spoke a word of English or Swedish outside of maybe 'Tack så mycket.' It was a serious temptation to get a picture of her and the pamphlets, but I was able to have enough self control not to.

We've also had some adventures in contacting, including a repeat of my favorite contacting experience. I've had it many times. It usually goes something like this (in Swedish):
'Hi, we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.'
(In English) 'I don't speak any English.'
'We were speaking Swedish.'
'Yup! Have you heard about Mormons? (or something about Jesus Christ or the meaning of life or families)'
'I'm not interested.'
Or better yet, when they close trying to speak in English again, 'I'm not interesting.' We had this experience at least once in the past week, and it always makes me laugh just a little. They hear our accents and think they can get out of talking to us by claiming we don't speak the same language. Think again. 

We also had a sort of miracle this week. We decided to go tracting on Friday after a little planning session, so we went to some un-portcoded apartments by the church, went up to the top floor, and knocked on a door. A young woman opened the door, and we introduced ourselves and asked if she'd heard of Mormons before. 'Yes, I was born in your church!' Our jaws about dropped to the floor. She let us come in, and it came out that her family is all members, but she'd been less active since she was a teenager. I don't even know if she's on our ward list, but she was amazingly sweet, and invited us to come back. We knocked the rest of the doors in the building, and no one else was really all that interested, but from that one door, we got an amazing lesson in. It really just amazes me how much the Lord knows what we need and what those around us need.

We had another weird experience on Saturday. We were headed to a lesson, and walking through the local centrum as a shortcut when all of a sudden, we were mobbed by this Peruvian family who started talking at us in Spanish. The husband had enough Swedish to explain they had just moved here a few weeks ago and that they were members. While Syster Morris was busy trying to call someone who could translate, they sent their daughters straight up to me and started taking pictures of them with the Sister Missionaries. I think we made their day, and while I couldn't communicate with them in  Spanish (all High School Spanish has essentially left me at this point), it was amazing to see how much love they had for the missionaries and the church.

I love being a missionary. It's so great. I have no idea what to expect every day when I get out of bed, but I know that it will be an adventure. I love the chance I have to study in the scriptures and build my testimony as I really apply those doctrines every day. More and more as I study, I realize I couldn't go a day without my scriptures, and that I really do crave that study time in the mornings. It's a little crazy, but I honestly don't know how I could function at this point without the chance I have to study the scriptures every day, even if it's just for a few minutes before heading out the door.

I love you all at home, and I hope all is going well. 

Syster Maxwell

P.S.- Random title would come from a Doctor Who Episode. (S5, Amy's Choice. Yes, I'm enough of a nerd I know this). Anyways, it kind of sums up the overall feeling of 'What the Random?' that I had all week. Just so you're aware no one died. Well, actually, I guess technically Syster Robbins died in missionary terms. Okay, so someone died, but really, it was about the random. I love you all!

Monday, March 17, 2014

To commit Missionary-cide

So, it's been an exciting/interesting week. Want to know what the first thing people say is when they see Syster Robbins and me? 'How many days do you have left, Syster Robbins?' For the record, she has 3. According to missionary lingo, I will be 'killing' Syster Robbins this week and sending her home to the Good Ol' US of A. Super weird. All of my companions are officially fleeing the country. I promise I shower every day, and I don't bite them or beat them up. They all just kind of end up on the other side of the Atlantic. Hopefully I break this worrisome pattern and stop sending companions out of Sweden. Oh well, Goodbye Syster McCollaum, Syster Eriksson, and Syster Robbins, and enjoy a land of ziplock bags, Reese's peanut-butter cups, and free public restrooms.

As it is, we've gotten a BUTTLOAD more lessons this past week because of it, and as it is, we already have 7 planned in the next 36 hours- which may not sound like a lot to some people, but when you take into account how much time it takes travel anywhere by pendeltåg or tunnelbana, as well as the fact that about 10 of those next 36 hours are p-day, it's quite a bit.

As it is, I am continually amazed by the love of the members here. Syster Robbins has been in Gubbängen for FOREVER, and the ward has come to love her very dearly, and it's amazing to see how many people are suddenly cramming in to say their last goodbyes and to wish her well in the future. It's absolutely insane to see how much this ward has for one missionary.

However, Syster Robbins is not the only one that is being subjected to missionary-cide. I've rediscovered my allergies recently to everything with fur. It's great. I touch a dog or a cat, and I've got puffy red eyes and I'm crying and itching my face for the next 4 hours or so. I have yet to have anyone ask me why my eyes are watering, but if they do, I will say to my dying day that I just feel the spirit so strongly. Anyways, I mentioned a few weeks ago there were some members here who have a cat that is in love with me. Evil creature. We were visiting them the other day, and, as usual, Mia (the cat) went right up to my backpack and starting snuggling with it, and rubbing against it. And then we went to dinner. And the cat decided to jump on the table. Right next to me. She then walked right across my plate, and then trie to rub up against my face. I had no option but to grab her and push her off the table, and I spent the rest of dinner struggling not to touch my already itching face. I'm telling you, that cat is set on murdering me! Animals are just fun....

Anyways, I'm not dead yet, so that's good. Last week was also great in that we had zone conference. I am continually amazed by President and Syster Newell and their love for the missionaries, as well as their ability to make me see the gospel in a whole new light. There was a phrase that was used several times in Zone Conference that I absolutely loved: We are an Easter people. We look forward to the Resurrection, and know that through Christ we can do all things. In our trials and our hardships, we know that as we hold out faithful, we'll eventually be blessed more than we can even begin to imagine. In Malachi 3:10, it specifically mentions tithing, but I think it could apply to every sacrifice we make for our Heavenly Father, that as we are faithful, He will 'open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.' 

I sort of had an a-ha moment during zone conference. We use the meaning of life in contacting all the time (and I have to say, it is amazing how many people in Sweden have never wondered what the meaning of their life is), and we tell them that God has a plan for us here on Earth, and that He is our loving Heavenly Father, and wants us to return home to Him one day. But I finally connected the dots this week, that the doctrine of Christ, or the missionary purpose, is really how we do that. It's why we are here. To help others and ourselves come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. We're here to learn and grow in God's prescribed way, and this is it. I think it's amazing how many opportunities I have already had to apply this as a missionary and to really learn what an impact it can make in my life every day.

Ooh, one other semi-exciting part of zone conference: we have iPhones! Well, except for here in Gubbängen. Just the sisters. For some reason, we never got service on our new phone, and we're hoping to get that up and running today. As it is, our current phone has gotten a new name. Classy Claire the Crapper Phone. It started out as just the crapper phone, because it freezes every time we try to call somebody and exits out of text messages halfway through typing. Then I realized I was being disrespectful to the phone, and that if I wanted it to continue to function so that we could use it, I should probably give it a nice name. So now, it's Classy Claire.

And yeah. The only other news I can really think of is that I have officially begun forgetting English words for things. The other day I was at a members, and we were talking. Swedes are very fond of their ekologiska foods, and you see it all the time. I realized however, that we don't call food ekologisk in English, and it took me twenty minutes and asking the member to get on Google Translate to realize that 'ekologisk' foods are 'organic' in English. And this after only six months. I apologize in advance if I make it home in a year, and no one can understand a thing I say because I use swenglish every time I forget a word. And if I use Swedish grammar for things. It's just bad.

Anyhoo, love you all, and I hope you have a fantastic week!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's just been one of those weeks...

It has been an interesting week here in the Sweden Stockholm Mission. No one could have expected the blessings and trials that have come in the last week, but I'm grateful for them and for how much I'm learning and growing out here in the mission field.

Spring is continuing to come quickly. Flowers are starting to pop up, the grass is beginning to turn green, and I keep hunting for leaves on the trees, but I'm still waiting on that one. As it is, the sun is already up and shining when we wake up, and it's still setting at 6 pm, which is a HUGE difference from January when we had about 6 hours of real daylight in the entire day. And, I have to say that I'm ever so grateful that it's getting warmer and warmer. Yesterday all I had was my raincoat and a thin scarf, and I was dying to shed even those layers because it was HOT.

Adventures this week include Semlor Day. Semlor are a Swedish tradition from heaven only knows how far back. They are essentially a roll that they have carved out the middle of and filled with almond paste then topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar, and the top of the roll. They are SO GOOD (and so sugary- it's probably a good thing they're starting to vanish from the stores before I get addicted). I was able to get en semla the day after, and I have to say it was well worth it to explore the Swedish culture a little more.

I still can't believe I've been in Gubbängen for more than a month. The weeks have just been flying by, and I can't really believe it. Both Syster Robbins and Syster McCollaum will be going home next week (how crazy is that?!), and I'll most likely be staying here in Gubbängen with a new companion. It's so crazy how time goes out here on a mission. It doesn't feel like I've been gone nearly six months already, but at the same time, I look at how much I've accomplished and gone through in the last few months, and I'm amazed at how much I've managed to cram in there and how much growing I've done.

We had fun meeting with a lot of the members in the ward this week. We honestly have such an amazing ward, and I'm grateful for all the love and support of members, especially in the last week.

And then, there was yesterday. Yesterday was a very special day for both missionaries and members here in Sweden. We had about half the mission gathered in Västerås yesterday for Äldste Bailey's memorial. It was a bittersweet experience in so many ways. There was such a strong spirit there as members and missionaries talked about what a strong spirit he had and the amazing person he was. I had the opportunity to play the violin with several other missionaries as well as to sing 'Blott en Dag' with all of the missionaries who came. There was not a single dry eye among all the missionaries in that moment.

It's been a unique opportunity in the past week to think about what things are truly important and what a blessing the gospel is in my life. It's just interesting, so many people in Sweden are fixated on their appearance, and on making sure they have the latest iPhone, when truthfully, it just doesn't matter. It really doesn't. What does matter is the people you care about, and having faith in hard situations.

Really, all the girls in Sweden try to look almost exactly the same. Black fitted coat with fur on the hood, a Michael Kors bag or a Fjällräven backpack, Hunter Boots, dyed blond hair, and tights and a super short skirt or shorts, maybe black skinny jeans if they're choosing to accept that it's cold that day. And all of this is EXPENSIVE. But they do it, because they want to fit in.

Sorry, I realize I'm ranting a little, it's just that it makes me realize that 1- I really don't fit into the crowd here in Sweden, and 2- that I'm grateful for it. I'm never going to look like a Swede while I'm out here, and I 'm okay with that. I've got something way more valuable than a Michael Kors bag, and that's my testimony and my faith. There is nothing more valuable to me than those, and especially right now.

Missions are hard. I've got to be honest, there are hard days, and there are days where I simply fall to my knees begging my Heavenly Father for understanding as I face challenges I never could have expected when I left home. But I can still say as well that I would not trade a single minute of it. It is the best decision I have ever made to serve the Lord for 18 months of my life, and while I know it will only continue to be hard, I'm looking forward to the rest of my mission with hope and happiness.

Syster Maxwell

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Hug Someone Today" says Momma Maxwell

Well, the weather in Sweden continues to be bipolar. It was sunny this week, but undeniably humid as well, which makes it feel colder than it really is. We've had rain and even snow in the past week, but it always is so sunny in the next few hours that the snow doesn't stick. I don't claim to understand the weather, I just live here.

But as it is, I'm getting more and more excited for våren, or spring, to get here in Sweden. We are starting to see tiny little flowers poke their head up out of the dirt, and I'm still hunting leaves on bushes and trees. That, and, I have to admit it would be nice to get out of my big boots and parka.

Things are still going well with Syster Robbins and me. It's so strange that I've been here in Gubbängen for almost four weeks, and that in two weeks, Syster Robbins and Syster McCollaum will both be headed home to Utah. I would briefly like to wonder why it is that all of my companions leave me for the United States (or the far reaches of the mission in Syster Stewart's case). Really, Syster Eriksson left me for the MTC, and now two more of my companions are leaving Sweden too. It's going to be really fun at zone conferences when everybody else is going to hug their old companions, and I'm sitting in a corner like 'All of my companions are dead.' (That would be in the missionary sense, meaning they have left the mission.) But you know, it's good, it just means that the Lord has need of them somewhere else for now.

Lessons this week were a little bit harder. I don't know what it was, but there were a few days this week that we had set up many lessons for the day, and by the time we finished comp study, all but one or two had fallen through. It was frustrating in many ways, but we're continuing to do our best to get lessons in and to find those who are ready to receive the gospel.

I suppose in one way this was a blessing. I got very sick with a cold on Friday. Not so sick that I HAD to be in bed all day, but sick enough that in hindsight, that might not have been bad. As it was, we went out after lunch for about three hours in which we bought me cough drops and tissues, swung by a less active in Tyresö, and then headed home, where Syster Robbins promptly banished me to bed while she made dinner. On Saturday, I was feeling a bit better, but again, essentially all of our lessons fell through. The only explanation I have for this is Heavenly Father was protecting the world from Syster Maxwell's cold, and wanted to ensure that those we taught really would feel better after having a visit from the Sister Missionaries.

We did, however, have one exceptional lesson this week. On Thursday night, we had a lesson with a less active named Dorothy. She's one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met, with a firm faith. For years, she's debated between the Swedish Curch and the LDS church. On Thursday, we decided to read through President Monson's talk from the last General Relief Society Meeting, 'We Never Walk Alone.' It's an amazing talk, and not just for women. I would almost copy and paste the talk into my email this week, it's just that good. In any case, we talked with her, and at the end of the lesson, Syster Robbins decided on a whim to leave the Liahona with her. It was an extra copy we had recieved to give to a new convert who'd left to go to Africa soon after his baptism, and we didn't really have a need for it.

And we left, not really making more of it. It wasn't until later that night that anything significant happened. We got a voicemail from Dorothy while we were in another lesson saying that she had something exciting to tell us. We called her back as soon as we got to the apartment, where she told us that she'd read a little more in the Liahona. She'd set it down to go do other things, and was simply thinking about everything and nothing when she was suddenly hit with the knowledge the church was true. She couldn't say she had a perfect knowledge of every priniciple of the gospel, but she knew it was true.

And when she came to church on Sunday, it was amazing to see the complete change in her. Where she had been shy and timid, she was bright, happy, and confident. She got up and bore her testimony, and took a very active part in all of the classes afterwards. It was amazing to see what an enormous change was made in her in just two short days. It's really amazing to see what a light and difference the gospel can make in all of our lives.

In closing, I would like to say how grateful I am for the Plan of Salvation, and that we as missionaries get the chance to study it, teach it, and see the wonders that knowledge can work in our lives. I don't know where I would be today without it, and the knowledge I have that there is a purpose to everything in this life, even if we don't learn to understand it until the next. This morning as we were on our way to the church, Syster Robbins and I got a text from the office saying that an elder in our mission was hit by a car last night in Västerås and that he passed away shortly thereafter. We don't really have any details beyond that. I do however know that the hearts and prayers of the mission are with him and his family. I can't claim to have known this elder well, in fact, I don't know if I ever met him, but I know that we all as missionaries feel this deeply.

It is a blessing and a privilege to be here in Sweden at this time. I haven't been out very long, but I already know that I wouldn't trade the time I've had here for anything else. I have grown so much already, and it's been amazing to see the light the gospel can bring into others lives. I know that through the Atonement, all of our wounds and hurt can be taken away, all of the grime and filth of the world are washed away, and that we truly can come to feel peace, joy, and confidence as we press forward with an eye single to the glory of God. I'm grateful for my Heavenly Father and the knowledge that I have that he knows every one of His children individually, and that He loves us more than we can even imagine.

I love you all. You're in my thoughts and prayers all the time, and I pray that all can come to know the truthfulness of the gospel. It is the biggest blessing in my life, and I don't dare to imagine who I would be without it.

Syster Maxwell