Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yo No Hablo Spanska

Hey guys! 

So, missionary life is crazy. Seriously, eight months out here, and I'm still surprised by the things that happen around me every day. Suffice it to say that it is always safe to expect the unexpected.

This week, we had some amazing meetings for the sisters in the mission and for planning. It was really cool, they brought in some of the senior-pair sisters to talk to us, and it was amazing to hear their stories and how it has shaped their testimonies so much. Planning was great too. I'm a little sad that we got the condensed version (it usually takes double the time to present apparently), but it was really nice to get to hear how much planning really does affect the rest of our week, and how it doesn't haven't to be stressful and tedious, but it really is just to make us more effective with our time.
we're holding a cremated cat!!!

We also had some interesting experiences this week. Nothing went as expected. To begin with, Tuesday after District Meeting, the elders left, and we were doing open church hours here at the church. We decided to go sit outside on the steps to welcome people in and get some sun (we hit at least 75 F this week- so freakin' hot with the humidity!). We'd been outside about fifteen minutes when a guy we'd never seen before walked out of the church, and apologized for scaring us. For some reason, we were still a little worried, so we asked if he wanted a church tour. He told us no, he had just been sleeping the bathroom. WHAT THE HEY! We asked him how long he'd been in there, and he asked what time it was. When we told him it was nearly two in the afternoon, he said he'd been sleeping in the bathroom for TWO HOURS.  Understandably, we were still a little freaked out when he continued to walk away down the street, but we decided not to let us bother us. Until an hour later when a woman came in with a bag she said she'd found outside that had my meter, my wallet, and my camera. We're considering it a tender mercy that 1) we didn't know until she brought the bag in, because it would have completely stressed us out for the rest of the day and 2) that all that was missing was $25.00 US that I still hadn't swapped to Swedish kronor. Honestly, I'm still kind of amazed by the experience. Suffice it to say, we're now being smarter about locking doors in the church and that I'm still thanking God every day that I have those things that I need to make it through pretty much every day of my life.

Another fun experience from this week: Saturday evening we went to visit a missionary pair who lives on the other side of Stockholm (which was fantastic; they are seriously the BEST), but this also meant that we were taking a long train-ride home on Saturday night. Somehow, Sister Morris and I both managed to end up sitting by groups of drunks. I ended up by some slightly buzzed Africans who were talking to a Swede about how the Swedes should be more outgoing. They pulled me into the conversation to ask if I thought that 'we' (meaning the Swedes) should be outgoing, and I had to disappoint them by saying that I was American, so I would stay out of it. Of course they were very interested to know why an American could speak such good Swedish, so I explained that I was a missionary. Instantly, one of them put up his hand and said 'Put it there, Maxwell. I'm proud of you.' So I spent the rest of the train ride talking to my three new best friends, Dani, Marvin, and Chris about the church, and I was genuinely a little disappointed when they didn't come to church yesterday, but if anything, I'm glad that I'm still laughing so much over the entire thing.

And even yesterday morning on the way to church, we realized that we'd forgotten something in our apartment, so we ran back from the train station to grab it, and then ran back. And then we realized that the train was leaving THAT SECOND, so we really started booking it, along with another woman who needed the train.We missed the train by about 10 seconds, so we started talking with the woman next to us. It quickly came out that she was from Ecuador and didn't really speak any Swedish or English, only Spanish. Trying to be helpful, I told her the name of the church in Spanish, and she then assumed I could speak Spanish. I feel like I learned a lot of random words in my 3 years of Spanish, but not enough to help me carry on a conversation after 8 months of only speaking English and Swedish. Luckily, by a miracle we ran into a member on the train who translated for us, and we're now hoping to meet with her (with translation) later in the week.

And I guess in closing, I would like to say I am grateful for the amazing people I'm surrounded by. Last night, we were able to visit a cute family in the ward. The mom, Emma, comes from Chili. She's recently been reactivated, and her son, Kevin, was just baptized a little while ago. It was so amazing to see how much love they have for the church and for the missionaries. After dinner, I got to play a few songs for them on the violin and then bear my testimony that I know the lord gives us all talents for a reason- whether they be with an instrument, a sport, or the less obvious talents like being able to tell when someone just needs a friend or how to help others in a meaningful way. It was really so amazing, and that's just one example of many.

I love you all, and I hope you have a great week. I'll keep you all posted on the crazy things happening here in Sverige! Love y'all, and stay classy!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, May 19, 2014

That time I was a tomato.......

Hey, everybody! It has been another beautiful week here in Stockholm. Spring is finally here (yay), and the sun finally broke through so it was warm enough that we went without jackets or sweaters or tights for the first time in I-don't-want-to-think-how-long. On Saturday, it broke a glorious 20 degrees C and loved getting to be in the sun for a lot of the day- although my legs and arms decided to rebel against me afterwards and are still cherry red three days later. Don't listen to those people who say that the sun is weaker in Sweden, because they're all vicious liars who want you to get skin cancer. For now, I'm enjoying being a tomato and showing the world my beautiful stripe of white on one side of my leg and flaming red on the other. It's pretty fantastic.

But, sunburn aside, this week was actually pretty great. We were able to get in some pretty amazing lessons this week. I really feel as though we had some lessons this week that, even though we were the ones teaching, I was the one who got taught the most, just listening to people share their stories about missions, family, and their own struggles in everything they do. It really is amazing how built up I've felt this week. I love the members here in Gubbängen (even if they're a little crazy sometimes), and I'm so grateful that they're willing to take us into their homes so often.

Speaking of crazies, I legitimately went to the crazy house this week. Relax, not for me! We got a referral saying some woman wanted the sister missionaries to come pray for her along with some visiting hours. We thought it was a little weird, especially since we had no idea if the woman was a  member or investigator or whatever, but we went in any case. It wasn't until we got to the door and it said 'psykiatrik' that we started to get a little more worried. We went up to the front desk and they referred us to this reinforced glass door at the end of the hall. They told us to push the button to ring the nurse. Following instructions like obedient sister missionaries, we went and pushed the button, and watched the nurse go through a few locks to open the door and poke her head out of the narrow gap. We explained the situation and she told us to wait for a second to go talk to the lady and ask if she was expecting visitors. She came back about five minutes later and pulled us through the door, explaining we were only allowed to go straight to this woman's room and back and that we were absolutely not to go wandering around the halls ( do not wander the third floor corridor unless you want to experience a most horrible death in other words). So, we followed the woman back to her room (we figured it out she wasn't a member pretty quickly when she offered us tea and coffee) and sat down to talk about why she'd called us. And at first she seemed pretty normal. Then she started talking about how she got in the hospital, and now they wouldn't let her leave because she was such a good friend with everybody and made them feel better, and how they were doing electro-shock treatments on the side. And how Jesus was already in Sweden (she loves the gospel and was more than willing to listen to any thing we had to say about that), and about how she died and met not God, not Christ, but Princess Diana. She then lied down on the bed and told us to pray over her- I think she was thinking it would be something like a blessing. In any case, we said a prayer for her and her family, and then left.  And honestly, she was a very sweet woman, and has a very strong faith, she's just more than a little crazy is all. We left, and I'm sorry to say, I was laughing  hysterically to realize this is my life, chilling with crazies and immigrants in Stockholm. It is so much fun, and it is so crazy. 

We also were able to get in some sweet lessons this week. The one that really sticks out in my mind is the lesson we had with our investigator Godwin. We brought along a member named Deo, and it was amazing to hear his own conversion story of how he found the gospel and how it changed his life. We then went into the Word of Wisdom and explained it to him, and he put it out there he'd decided to stop smoking that very morning. We don't believe in coincidences out here; that would be called preparation and guidance. Seriously, I can't describe the spirit that was in that room, but it really was amazing to see how the gospel has impacted these two men so much and how it continues to impact them. 

And I do love the gospel so much. One of the things that I've been focusing my personal studies on a lot this month is charity and love (Preach My Gospel ch 6! Gotta love it!), and the more I study it, the more I realize that I'm out here on a mission to love people- and truthfully, that's all we need to do in all our lives. Moroni 7:46-47 says ' 46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all.... ' It's something that I'm more and more appreciative of: that it doesn't matter how you're different, it matters how you're alike. And we are all alike in that we are Children of God. It doesn't matter what decisions we have or haven't made in life or what our knowledge of the gospel is or was or will be; what matters is that we are all here because we are God's children and that He loves us more than we can begin to comprehend. Each and every person we meet has something of value inside of them- even if we can't necessarily see it in them. Christ's atonement was for us all, but if there had been just one person to save, it still would have happened, and it would have been no less beautiful and necessary. I'm reminded of a primary song that we always used to sing at my house that goes something like this: Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too! When your heart is filled with love, others will love you.' Maybe sometimes it takes a while, but I can honestly say that I couldn't do missionary work if I didn't have a love for the people around me, because 'perfect love casteth out all fear.'

Puss och Kram,
Syster Maxwell

Monday, May 12, 2014

Crazy week in Missionaryland

Well, it's been an absolutely crazy week in Missionaryland, as always. We have run everywhere and back again, and been all over Stockholm. It's been nuts.

I guess the most exciting news of the week is that we have moved apartments again. This is my 3rd apartment in Gubbängen, but it's actually a really nice move since it means that we no longer live in the forest and now live about 5 minutes from the Tunnelbana. We can now get to most of our area within about 25 minutes as opposed to the 30 it used to take us just to get out of the apartment. SUPER NICE. 

And, as always, we love the people that we meet with. I think I mentioned it last week, but the video 'Because of Him' has become my favorite missionary tool EVER. Seriously, the video is fantastic and I used it about a bajillion times in the past week in lessons. It's just amazing how well it speaks to EVERYONE about the miracle of Christ and all that He has done for us. It reminds me of a line from Preach My Gospel that I can't quote exactly, but the quote essentially says that every hurt and pain whether it be physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental is made right through Christ's atonement.

This week was fun in that we got to have Stake Conference. We had an Area Seventy come in from Germany who talked to us a lot about member missionary work, which is needed so much here. Whether it be being that kind, good Samaritan on the train who helps you get your stroller on and off the train, or actively going out and talking to people about the Church.  It is SO important that we take care of each other in the church. A lot of the work we do out here is with less active members who just an extra little push and a friend to come back.

Also, let it be known that I have the BEST family in the world. Getting to talk to them for Mother's Day was exactly what I needed yesterday, and I love them so stinkin' much! Seriously. It really makes me so grateful that we have the knowledge we can be with our families for eternity, so even though I may not get to see them all the time now, it'll be okay, because I'll have forever to make up for it. That, and, it's absolutely amazing to be able to tell people that out here. It is seriously the most amazing blessing and comfort.

Sorry that I don't have tons of exciting stories; I was a little sick this week, so things were a bit slow for us. But, I can say that I love being here and the work that I get to do! I love you all and I hope that you all have a great week! Puss och kram!

Syster Maxwell

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lord, I Believe. Help Thou Mine Unbelief

Well, it's been a crazy week as always. Honestly, where to even begin?

Let's see.... Well, we had Valborg this week, which was a lot of fun. We went to the ward mission leaders for dinner, and then to a bonfire near his house. It was a lot of fun because we have a brand new greenie in our district, and two of the Elders had him convinced for more than half the night that they were YSAs in the ward. He wasn't necessarily too happy when the truth finally came out, but I think he was still just a bit too jet-lagged to do much about it. 

And for those who don't know what Valborg is, we're going to delve into a bit of Swedish culture. Every 30th of April, Swedes gather together ENORMOUS piles of logs, sticks, and leaves and set it on fire to burn away winter. I've heard about 10 different theories as to how this all got started, but the most popular one seems to be that May 1st was the first day farmers would put their sheep out to pasture in the spring, so they would light these huge fires to scare away the wolves out in the forest. In any case, it means that I was at a really big bonfire last Wednesday, and there were tons of families there with their kids, and a choir singing Valborg songs, and all of Thursday was a red day, meaning the trains didn't go because everyone had been out drinking the night before. 

It was very fun, we actually were able to go the the changing of the guard in Gamla Stan the same day, which was very exciting since the king came that day because it was his birthday. That's right, I saw the king. He was standing about 60 feet away from me. Quite truthfully, it was really cold, and, since I'm vertically challenged, there was more than a few things I couldn't see much of, but it was really cool to get to see all of these people going by in uniforms and to get to hear a few army bands play.

Spiritually, it was actually a really amazing week as well. The longer I'm out, the more I realize that amazingly strong testimonies don't just happen. They don't. It really is true what it says in Moroni 10, that we need to read the scriptures and study it out for ourselves to know that it's true. And in the hard times, I'm always amazed by how much my Heavenly Father really does love me and everyone around me. We were in a lesson with a member this week who's been struggling with her testimony, and it was amazing to feel the spirit in the room as we were talking to her about so many different aspects of the gospel (side note: the video Because of Him is AMAZING, and is one of my favorite tools in lessons right now. Seriously, I am addicted to that clip). We had an amazing lesson with an investigator this week as well where it was just amazing to feel the spirit with him. We were able to get a baptismal date for about a month from now, and it really is amazing to see how much he loves the gospel. If we don't call to set something up with him, he calls us. I don't know what to say really other than that I'm in awe of the gospel right now and how much it really does bless and change lives.

And yeah, there's the past week in the Sweden Stockholm Mission. I hope you all have a great week, and happy Cinco de Mayo! 

Syster Maxwell