Monday, April 21, 2014

Watering Babylon

Hey guys!
So, it's been an absolutely insane week here in Sweden! I'm not even fully sure where to begin..... Well, let's begin with Watering Babylon. Last week, we were really short on our contacts, so we decided to walk home from church so that we'd have more chances to meet people along the way home (sneaky plan, right?). One of those contacts was a very sweet old Arabic man who welcomed us to his garden a little later in the week. So, obviously, later in the week, we went to his Garden just as he'd offered. He proudly showed us around, pointing out the flowers and vegetables that he had growing. And in the center of it all was an... interesting self-made edifice he had named Babylon. It was about 8 feet tall, with blue and gold painted on it, and tiny little flower boxes down the sides that he told us we were welcome to help water. So, poor Syster Morris ended up walking through the poop that he was using as fertilizer to snake the hose through the rest of the garden, and I ended up standing in several inches of water in my ballet flats as I sprayed those poor little flower beds on Babylon. Afterwards, we had a very nice lesson on the Plan of Salvation; discovered he's not really all that interested in the church, and were invited back sometime to water Babylon again.

I feel like this pretty well sums up the randomness of our days. We meet people. They are or aren't interested in the gospel. They have us do something strange like watering a gigantic tower they've built in the middle of their community garden. And somehow, we learn and grow a lot from those experiences out here. One thing I can definitely say I'm learning out here is that I'm grateful to have grown up in America. It really is such a blessing to have grown up with the freedoms that I have always taken for granted. I meet so many people from all over the world who never had that, and it makes me realize a little more everyday how very blessed I've been all of my life.
Look -- it's the same place as the picture I picked for my blog background.  Pretty cool.

We had several other interesting lessons this week, including an incident where a girl was visiting a member of a family we were visiting stopped mid-sentence and ran to the bathroom to throw up. Loudly. The thin doors that a lot of Swedes have on the bathroom doors just aren't quite enough sometimes to cover things like that. Oh well.

Things continue to go well here. We were able to get our investigator Najib to church this week and move up his baptismal date a few weeks! We're super excited, and it's going to be a lot of fun in the next while to really prepare him for baptism and help him understand how important the church is.
I found a Tardis!!!

And, my favorite part, I got to play the violin a butt-load and a half this week. Is that okay to say as a missionary? Butt-load and a half? Oh well, we'll stick with that terminology as it pretty well portrays the idea. This past Thursday, I had the chance to be part of an Easter Concert in V√§sterhaninge, as well as a concert for the senior couples in our mission the next day. I cannot explain how good it felt to be able to play for a few hours last week; it was exactly what I needed, and it was a good reminder of how much I love the violin and music. If not for the blisters I started getting on Friday, I would have played all day (although it was a little traumatizing to discover that the callouses I spent years building up had disappeared in just six months).
It's amazing how many gifted musicians we have right now in the Stockholm area. The pieces were beautiful, and the Spirit was VERY present. It was very special on Thursday as we were playing to be given the opportunity to see how the songs reflected the Savior and His life and sacrifice for us all. Truthfully, this whole week as we've been celebrating Easter in Sweden, it's been amazing to reflect a little more than usual on the Savior's sacrifice for us and the amazing amount of love He has for each of us.

One thing I remind myself of often out here is that if there had just been one person who needed the Atonement, Christ still would have done it. For you, for me, for the people I contact, the people I teach, the people who cuss me out or say I've been brainwashed, the people who love the missionaries.... The list goes on. In any case, the Atonement has specific blessings for them personally, and it was done as much for them as for me. It helps a lot to realize that as I go out talking to people- to pause to reflect that they're only imperfect people like me, but that God saw something in them that was worth sending His son here to suffer for them. It makes the most enormous difference in contacting and in lessons to try to see someone as God sees them- with the potential to be a perfect, eternal being, and who is loved more than we can even begin to imagine. The people I meet every week come from an amazing diversity of backgrounds, and they all have such unique stories- some of which I don't understand very well with my own background. I'm grateful for the opportunity to widen my view of the world while here in Sweden and to see so much more of the world in a much more personal way.

Spring is here.
And, for the record, Easter Sunday was fantastic. It was the first day in about 6 months that I didn't need to wear tights, and it was beautifully sunny all day. We were able to go to dinner with another companionship of sisters at the home of a senior missionary couple in our ward. It was PERFECT. Seriously, I was so happy to be getting 1) riktigt (true) American food and 2) some of the best company for the day. The spirit was amazingly strong as we were able to talk a little about Easter and what it has meant to each of us.

I'm so grateful for the time I get out here to learn and grow. I love the church, and I love getting to spend all day every day telling people why. There truly is no greater blessing. I love you guys tons, and I hope you have a great week!

Syster Maxwell

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