This week was warm, as in a high 39 degrees and once even up to 41, which meant everyone was out on their bikes and wearing something less than a huge winter coat. The sun was out for several days and the people, who are already fairly happy, nice, people, were even more noticeably cheery. I’m very much looking forward to the summer nights where the sun is still in the sky at 2 in the morning….We still have a sizable chunk of winter to finish off before that, as the sky reminded me today by snowing again. Still, I can feel the season changing. When I first got to Karlstad, the sun was setting around 3:30 pm, only getting about 7 hours of light, and now the sun is setting around 5:20 with 9 hours of daylight.
The point of me telling this is not to put a spotlight on another missionary’s faults but rather to help illustrate two things; 1. If you are investigating our church, please know that missionaries are not perfect representations of the gospel. I certainly am not. Just because he is rude, does not mean our Church is terrible. I hope you do not have to have a rude missionary, but I cannot promise that everyone on a mission has adequate social manners. 2. If you are a missionary, whether full time or as a member, please love the person, get to know them, and be kind to them always. They will not be very willing to change if you hardly say anything to them all throughout lunch and then when you open your mouth you just declare that they are wrong about various principles. Love them first. Let them become interested in your message before you correct a few technicalities they have had confused…and when you do correct, correct with kindness, consideration and love. Slamming down Bible verses and telling them they are foolish in not seeing how straightforward it is, will only do damage. Anyhow…. I still need to get over it.
So back comfortably safe in Värmland, we had a very productive week. Osaro (Jerry) finished the book of Alma, has had all the lessons, is bearing his testimony about the Book of Mormon and the importance of tithing, loves watching conference talks with us at the Church and wants to clean the church building every week and go on teaches with us as often as possible. Today, we are arranging for missionaries in Nigeria to meet with his wife. He is very excited to get baptized. We still need to find a way for him to come to church on Sunday though…. With faith, I know it will work out.
Samir is extraordinary. He has two language classes a day. He is studying to take the dental license exam in a few weeks, reads the Book of Mormon consistently, finds time for us to teach him and then he teaches everything we teach him to his wife. All the Syrians we meet with have a unique ability to balance time, while others can’t fit us in….because of ice hockey on tv.
Definitely, one of the crowning days of the week was Saturday. Firstly, we got to ride bikes, which I love, and our first lesson was with Anders at homeless hangout cafe. These places are pretty awesome. Anyone can walk in a get some free cake and snack food and tea. It is a brilliant program for the winter months especially. It holds many interesting visitors. If it wasn’t for the bright lighting and clean ikea furniture you would think it was the Hogs Head. While teaching Anders, we met Jeremiah. This guy is quite the character. He is in his late 20s and looks like a Mirkwood elf. He has long blond Legolas hair and a clean shaven face. He once had a well paying job and a traditional Swedish life but then when he was reading the New Testament he decided to let go of all of that and just travel around giving to others and living free of material things. He is a legit rambler. He has wandered from the fjords of Norway to the highlands of Scotland, to the beaches of Greece to the peaks of the Alps. His life purpose is to live like Christ and appreciate the beautiful earth. He goes wherever the wind blows him. Pretty much Ian’s ideal dream before the mission made him all set on getting married. To make him even cooler, he spent a larger amount of time in Scotland which for some reason has given him more a Scottish accent than Swedish accent so he sounds percisely like Ewan McGregor. Some might think he is a little eccentric in giving away any money he receives and believing the internet is imprisoning the human race, and following Jesus’ words of living like a bird literally, and finding symbolism in everything, but underneath the grandiose presentation, all of what he lives by stems from truth…he just overdoes it a little. He is definitely one of the most interesting people i have ever talked to. (and again Ian would love this guy) He knows the Bible like the back of his hand and quotes it in the same breath as Bob Dylan lyrics or Shakespeare sonnet lines. It is kind of hilarious. He was very interested in our message and will read the Book of Mormon. We just hope next time we are scheduled to meet he will still be here….never know whether he will still be here (I think he is visiting family?) or on the way to Spain or somewhere…. He would make a good member…just got to tone down his “into the wild” lifestyle and get him to embrace cell phones as not an evil thing.
After that lesson, we visited Christopher Bjork and three of his friends in his quintessential Swedish apartment. I must emphasize how rare it is for young, successful, hipster Swedish men to be seriously interested in our church. It was crazy!!! They had loads of questions, and where honestly open. Christopher agreed with everything we said and will read the Book of Mormon. The only thing he has difficulty understanding after we read Mosiah 4 and about being charitable to the poor and Mosiah 18 where it talks about equality in the church, then wondering why the majority of our church is conservative… hahaha. If anyone has a good response we’d appreciate it. One of his friends, Karl, who is the most interested in the church, is actually conservative, which is unusual to find in Sweden. A Swedish conservative is like an American moderate. He already knows a lot about of church because he is a big Romney fan. He had me read six chapters in the Book of Mormon to start off with and write in my testimony. Hopefullt the fab four (as we will refer to this quartet of fine young Swedish gentlemen) will progress. It was a week of ups and downs, but overall a week of blessings. I am so thankful to be out here. I love this gospel. I know it is true.