Monday, September 29, 2014

Hem, ljuva hem in Borås

Hej hej!

Oh, goodness. Can I say, it feels good to be back in Borås? Seriously, I love it here so much. The ward, the area, it's all so good! It's been really fun to get to come back for a different season (yup, here comes your weather report!). It's just chilly enough that a scarf feels good, and maybe tights too if you feel like it. All of the trees are starting to turn this fiery red and yellow, while we wake up every morning to mist and fog on the hillsides. The piles of crunchy orange leaves are starting to build up on the sidewalks, and you better have believe I'm having a blast crunching as many as I can. 

So, my last few days in Malmö were absolutley insane. We were packing like nuts, and running around saying goodbye. It was hard having to say goodbye to Sanny, but I'm putting my trust in the elders down there that he's well taken care of. 

Wednesday was transfers, and it was crazy. The sweet elders came to our apartment at 5:00 AM to help us get our stuff to central station and onto the train. I spent my first 2 hours or so on the train with Sister Hauglid, Sister Morris, and Sister Taylor on their way to Stockholm, and then after that, I was left on my own to swap to two other trains with 10 minute transfers. I have to say, I consider myself so richly blessed. For my first swap, the train was sitting on the other side of the same platform, so all I had to do was roll my suitcases about five feet, and then some sweet stranger offered to help me get my bags on the train. For my second swap, people helped me get my stuff off the train, and someone helped me lug all of my stuff across to the next platform and then get it up onto the train. I know I couldn't have managed that on my own, and I'm so grateful to all of those people who helped me so much that day. I have also resolved after that that I really need to get rid of a lot of stuff- I'm not sure what yet, but dejunking will be starting soon! Seriously, it was hard getting all my stuff up all those stairs!

As for my new companion, Sister DeMille, she's fantastic. She's very tall, and very blond. She's also pretty new in the mission, and it's so much fun to be with her and see how much energy and love she has for the work we're doing.

So, it's been an awesome few days back. We got to go out to our cute family from Colombia, the Baqueros. Every time I see them, I promise I'll learn a little spanish so they can actually have someone to talk to, and everytime, I come back not knowing much more than I did last time, but they're always so happy to see us. They amaze me so much! They've only been members about 3 years, they don't speak Swedish, and it takes them over an hour to get to church, and they are there just about every week.  They're the best!!

Other news: remember that one time Sister Byrd and I decided to teach a lesson and it happened, and we met the most amazingly positive girl ever? Yup, that was Amanda, and she was baptized on Saturday! It was so amazing to see both the beginning and the end with her, and to see how much the ward here really does care and take care of these new members. There was so much support for her, and it was so great to see the friends she's already made in the ward. 

And there's my week back in Borås! It was so much fun, and I love it. Honestly, lesson to be learned from this: missionary work is fantastic. It is exhausting, it is hard, it will bend and break you more times than you imagine, and it is the best thing that you can ever do. I feel like I've gained so much of a deeper appreciation for my Savior and his Atonement and the role it plays in my life. I couldn't be doing this work if I didn't have the testimony I do that He's there with me every step of the way, and for that, I am SO grateful. 

I love y'all, and I miss you like a fat kid misses cake. Have a great week, and stay classy!

Much love,
Syster Maxwell

Monday, September 22, 2014

Baby Be Goin' Back to Borås- and Happy Hobbit Day Y'all!

So, today is a very special day. Why, do you ask? Today is Frodo and Bilbo Baggins birthday. That's right! Two of our favorite hobbits got just a little older today (I almost said 'filled Another year'- then I realized that's Swedish. Sorry). This also marks 20 years of my beautiful face gracing planet Earth (a real pleasure, I know), but I'd really just  like to say thank you to my amazing companion Syster Hauglid for making it amazing, to the elders for making a surprise breakfast at the church- Swedish pancakes and a butt-load of bacon, to my sweet family for their birthday wishes, and to all of the other people who've already made this an amazing day. YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That aside, it's been a great week. The cold has finally really started to set in, and it feels like you need tights and mittens again everytime the wind blows a little harder off the ocean. And, we've been outside a TON in the past week, so I should know! For some reason, it seemed like everybody just suddenly dropped off the face of the planet, so we spent a lot of time in the past week hitting the pavement hardcore and legitimately talking to every person in sight. We're talking chasing down after they've passed us, talk until their bus comes, start talking as soon as they're close enough to hear you hard-core contacting. For those of you who've seen the best two years, picture the scene where Calhoun is chasing down the bikers while Rogers is sitting under a tree, and minus the lazy companion sitting there, you've about got my life for the past week. And it's been interesting. We did manage to get in several lessons on the street, and we met some amazing people, and even found some new investigators in the process. But it's not like simply because we put more of an effort into it that everyone automatically became super positive and was dying to know about our message. We did find more people who are interested than we do in a normal week- but I feel like this is overall because we put more emphasis on finding this week and we diligently were working after that. Life lesson to be learned here: what you put into something is what you're going to get out of it. If you don't focus on finding, you're not going to find people interested in your message. If you don't genuinely love the people you work with and care for them, there's going to be some part of both your conversions that you might miss out on.

As for the people we were able to meet with, it was a great week. It was a little strange; a lot of the people we'd originially planned to meet with would cancel at the last second, and then someone else would randomly turn up, which is a huge blessing.  I think one of my favorite lessons from this week (are we allowed to pick favorites?) was a first lesson with two guys, where we weren't sure exactly what we were headed into when we decided where to meet, but it ended up being just the two of them at an apartment complex, which is a no-no of missionary work, so they very sweetly agreed to it when we asked if we could sit outside to meet with them even though it was cold and a little dark out. They actually ended up being way positive and responsive to the first lesson, despite the strange antics of the sister missionaries, which was an enormous blessing.

Another blessing this week was getting to go on splits with Sister Morris here in Malmö. We had a crazy packed day with some of the more.... colorful personalities we meet with. By the end of the day, we were kind of laughing to remember some of the crazies we'd met in Gubbängen when we were companions (like that time we legitimately went into the crazy house to meet a random lady who'd managed to get our number) and, one thing I'm very grateful for is just the fact that I really was able to see how much I've grown in the last four months. I was far from a perfect companion when I was with Sister Morris, and I'm still not a perfect companion or missionary now, but going around with her, I was able to see that I really have grown a lot more than I thought in the last four months, and I hope that I can keep that pattern going strong for at least a few more months.

Well, two things I guess we've all been waiting for- there wasn't a baptism on Saturday. Sanny is still so ready, and so positive, but right now we're waiting until things get a little better with his health and his family. So, not giving up hope, but still working steadily towards the day he does feel completely ready.

Second, I'm sure you noticed the title of my email. You thought I was kidding, right? NOPE! I'm going back up to Borås on Wednesday bright and early to be with Sister DeMille. All that I know about her right now is that she's really tall, and that she's been in Sweden almost three months. This sounds like the start of a beautiful companionship! Haha, I really am very excited to go up there and see how it's doing and get to know Sister DeMille a little better. As for Sister Hauglid, I've loved being with her for the last three weeks, but now she's headed home back to Utah! It's so weird to be sending off another companion! So, what does it mean for Malmö? Well, it means that for right now, there's not going to be any sisters down here, which is so sad! The ward is so fantastic, and I really hope they bring sisters back here soon, because it is one of the most amazing places in Sweden! It's so hard to double out of an area and to hand over all of your investigators and say goodbye to so many ward members. Malmö has been so amazing, and while  I'm excited to go back to Borås, I'm sad to leave. Bittersweet. Oh well; there's mission life. In the words of my zone leader- Pack your bags and hold on tight to your testimony, because life is going to come at you fast! Missionary life is everything but predictable. The one thing you can predict is that it will change the second you get too comfortable with your surroundings. It's hard, but it's so good, because it gives you so many opportunities to learn about the gospel from about 1,000 different viewpoints and to really get a whole new view on the Savior and how much he really is involved in everything that happens in our lives.

I love y'all, and I hope you can have a fantastic day! You're the best!

Sister Maxwell

Monday, September 15, 2014

Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle-K

Hey, guys! It has been yet another fabulous week in the Sweden Stockholm Mission.  It was kind of a slow week for lessons, but we were seriously so blessed with all we were able to accomplish and the amazing people we were able to meet.

It was a week of miracles in many ways. Till exempel, on Wednesday, we were walking through the middle of Stan after getting blåsted by an investigator (like I said, it was a slow week), and we were headed to the bus stop back towards our apartment to eat dinner when the phone rang, and at the other end was the adorable four-year old son of a member saying, 'Jag ser er,' or, 'I see you!' He and his Mom then invited us up to their apartment across the street from where we were walking for dinner spur of the moment.  It was an amazing evening, and I loved getting the chance to meet with them and give them a short message with dinner, because they are honestly some of my people here in Malmö (disclaimer: I have many favorites. No one need feel less loved just because they weren't specifically mentioned as a favorite).

Let's see, what else, what else.... Well, we had adventures this week going out to the pretty little town of Ystad (google maps it, because it is BEAUTIFUL) to meet with a member who lived nearby who we're getting ready to go to the temple.(Just a reminder: it is better than Disneyland). It was so fun getting to go into her apartment. I don't know exactly what I'd been expecting, but definitely not what I saw. We walked in and every recognizable surface was absolutley covered in second hand and vintage things that I'm still sort of fighting the urge to steal a few of- she had good taste! In any case, it was special getting to know her a little better AND get her ready to go the temple hopefully in the near future. It really is one of the most amazing places on earth, and certainly one of my holy places, regardless of whether it is in Stockholm or Salt Lake.

Things are still going really well with our investigator, Sanny. We're still hoping and pushing for baptism in the near future- he's so ready for it, and I'm so excited for him when that day comes. For now, we're continuing to go through all the lessons and make sure that everything he needs to know is there. As it is, we've been having fun in our lessons with him, and we're still praying that he can feel better physically.

And, one last highlight from this week. Yesterday, we had the pleasure of teaching Young Women's. Somehow, all of the young women and counselors were gone (sickness, work, etc), so the only people there were the American Young Women's president and her daughter, so we just took it in English. For one, I LOVE Young Women's, in so many ways, it's what I think of when I think of church at home, but for two, it was so nice to be able to simply teach in that way, because while I definitely was applying the skills of being a missionary, it was in a little bit of a different way than in meeting with an investigator. In any case, we talked a lot about being in the world but not of the world- something I found to be ironically fitting as a missionary. But as we tought the lesson, we also managed to get into D&C 87:8- 'Stand ye in Holy Places and be not moved until the day of the Lord come, for behold, it cometh quickly saith the Lord.' And as we were talking, it really hit me that I want to make Sweden more of a Holy Place for me. Don't miss understand me, Sweden is a beautiful, blessed land, and I am so grateful to be here. But the thought came to me that by the time I go home, I hope this can be my own personal Waters of Mormon, where I really truly came to know and rely on the Lord, and I can't help looking back at my time here with a smile because I know that this country will be even more special and singular in my memory than it is now. 

Also, for your reading pleasure ( I know you all were so proud of me and thought I'd matured enough to skip over this finally), I have a funny story. We were walking out of the church yesterday when one of the Elders asked, 'Do you feel that chill in the air? Do you know what that means? Santa's coming!' So, to update you all on the weather, it is finally starting to get chilly again. I haven't broken out the tights everyday for a week yet, but they're starting to sound a little nicer and nicer every day. The days are getting noticeably shorter, and I'm starting to revert back to the mentality of 'Is it creepy to contact this person?' after 7:30 at night because it's DARK.  Winter is coming again!!!! Whoot! Hopefully I actually succeed at getting a White Christmas this year.

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

Syster Maxwell

Monday, September 8, 2014

Family Matters

Hej på dej! Eller, er...... (For anyone who get's Swedish, that was a funny)

Anyhoo, another fabulous week has come and gone here in Malmö. To update you all, most of the flooding was gone by Monday, and it's been nothing but sunny here since. I think the worst I've seen is that water leaked into the frames of a few of the buses around Malmö, so every so often we'll be sitting on the bus and you suddenly feel water dripping on your head off a crack in the ceiling or out of a security camera. Considering that last week there were entire lanes of traffic gone, there's really not too much left to show for it. Oh, and for all of you who've been asking, no, I haven't seen any signs of a an old man building an oversized boat and then trying to load animals into it.

I know one day I'll look back and wonder why I was so obsessed with the weather and the sun on my mission (because honestly, after looking at a Swedish sky every day for almost a year, you'd think it would get less exciting) but I'm still just in marvel how quickly things change. It hasn't started to cool down again too much yet (it's really funny, if you ask the Swedes, it's been unseasonably warm, then cold, and then warm for September), but the sun is already going down by about 7:45, and it's so weird to realize that in about two months I'll be right back to where I was as a greenie when the sun would set around 3:30 or 4:00 everyday. The contrast between Swedish summer and Swedish winter is absolutely amazing, and in a way I'm excited to be able to see that a little more since I won't be so jetlagged this winter.

So, the past week factually. Well, Monday and Tuesday were spent doing a lot of last things as a district and letting Sister Ludwig say goodbye to everyone before she transferred up to Gävle for her last six weeks. It was so much fun to be with her, and I learned so much from her about being a missionary and loving the people around me. 

However, Wednesday, we made it to the train station to drop her off. The sweet older couple, the Niebuhrs drove us down, so we didn't have to manage her luggage on the bus, and then I only had to wait about 40 minutes for Sister Hauglid to get in. 

And Sister Hauglid... That girl, that girl. She is so much fun, and so adorable, and even after just a few days, I can honestly say I love being with her. Fun fact: by missionary logic, we are sisters. We were both trained by the lovely Sister McCollaum (RIP, Mom- sorry, morbid humor I know), so I spent the first three months in Sweden hearing about Sister Hauglid every day, and I'm glad to say, she lives up to all the great things I heard.

The week was fairly normal after that. We taught a bunch of lessons, I had fun introducing her to members and investigators, Sanny is feeling better and still going forward, and overall, we're just decided on throwing everything we've got into Malmö in the next few weeks.

This weekend was fun. They shipped us up to Gothenburg for their stake conference as well as to listen to Elder Hallstrom (of the 70). It was a little interesting since normal meetings were still going down here in Malmö, but it was absolutely amazing, and in so many ways exactly what I needed. We spent a crazy night in Trollhättan (really,  6 sisters in 1 small apartment- it was a party), and I got to see so many people that I absolutely love and adore- Sister Byrd, Sister Stewart, and so many of the ward members from Borås. It was so great to see them and get to catch up for just a few minutes.

And the missionary meeting with Elder Hallstrom afterwards was so amazing. In so many ways, I feel like what I took away from the conference is that our obedience and our desire to be a little better now affect our future so directly- meaning, both my next 7 months in Sweden, and the rest of my life. Overall, it just got me excited to see what the next few months bring and helped me to resolve that I'm done making excuses about contacting or lessons or companionships; it's time to just get out and do, and admit that I'll fail (sometimes epically), but overall, so long as I have the goal of being a little better each and every day, I'll return home much more like the person God wants me to be.

I love you guys so much, and I hope you have a fantastic week!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hallelujah! It's raining m- well, just rain, actually.

So, for those of you who haven't heard yet, there was serious flooding all over Malmö yesterday. Cars were floating away, busses were stuck up to their windows, parking garages became swimming pools, and entire lanes of traffic just disappeared. They shut down the busses around 8:30 in the morning after evacuating one or two through the windows. This was some serious rain!

But, luckily for you all, Syster Ludwig and I were not touched.  The worst we suffered was walking to church in the rain, and the absolute necessity of umbrellas as we walked all over Malmö. No swimming for these sisters! Sadly, this meant a lot of people couldn't make it to church yesterday, but, so far no one is the worse for wear.

This was a hard week in some ways. Our investigator, Sanny, has been sick and in and out of the hospital, so we haven't really been able to meet with him, and he couldn't make it to church yesterday, but we called him, and he is still holding on, and we're planning to meet with him as soon as possible.

We got some somewhat sad news this past Saturday, Sister Ludwig is going to be leaving on Wednesday, so Sister Hauglid is going to be coming here to take her place. I'm so super excited to get Sister Hauglid (because she's amazing and beautiful, and this I know before she's my companion), but I'm also sad that my time with Sister Ludwig was so short. I will miss singing in the kitchen and movie quotes- okay, let's be honest, I do that anyways, but I really am going to miss her tons and tons.

I think this week was in a lot ways just pausing to realize it's okay that I'm not a perfect missionary. Chances are, I probably never will be- okay, truth is, I never will be. I've been doing this almost a year now (how weird is that?), and I still learn new things every day. And that's the exciting part. I may not be perfect, but I would definitely say I've been polished a bit on my mission. I am learning and loving the people, and while I get frustrated and have less than Christ-like desires to shout at people or throw something after a particularly trying lesson or contact (remember, we've just established I'm not perfect, so don't even pretend to be shocked), the truth is that I I love the chance that I get each and every day to become just a little better and to understand just a little bit more. There is so much that I've learned, and there's definitely lessons that I'm still learning, but I can definitely say that I'm grateful for the knowledge I have that everything I'm learning now is preparing me for something else.

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

Syster Maxwell