The last two weeks have been the whirliest whirlwind yet. I had a whole lot of things I wanted to say in my letter home but have forgotten all of it. The main focus right now is that we will be baptizing our Persian investigator, Maryam on Saturday!!!! She is such an amazing woman. She took on the gospel with joy and is willing to stand and defend it even when that means persecution. She knows that the church is true and will not ever say otherwise. Ghazanfar and Mesomeh, my Persian convert BFFs back in Karlstad were able to communicate with simple English and Swedish but Maryam can really only say Hej hej and Tack so we rely entirely on our awesome translator Pouyeh…It is amazing how even when we cannot speak the same language with Maryam, we can still become such good friends.
Västerhaninge is a lovely area and I do not want to leave it any time soon. The weather has been traditional Swedish summer of rain just about every day but when the sun is out this place is gorgeous. In our area is a lovely town called Nynashämn which is right on the Baltic and it is hard to not feel like you are on a beach vacation when you are doing work there on a sunny day. This time of year brings thousands of berries you can just pick on the side of the road. There are bjornbär (blackberries) smultron, lingonbär, currantbär, svartvinbär, hallonbär (raspberries) wild cherries, and a whole lot of other delicious kinds which we have not identified but know are edible….the combination of this with a member dinner every night this week is merciful to my empty fridge.
We’ve been working hard, hitting some of the highest numbers I’ve reached yet, not that missionary work is about numbers, but it does show that we are busy. Next week, I will be able to say who my next comp will be because Elder Burton has been here for 6 months and will probably get the boot.I’ll be missing that Canadian…..
This week, the work is coming alive here in West Haninge! We will have two baptisms on the first of August and more coming soon! One of the baptisms is for Maryan, a fantastic Persian woman whose ancestors were Christian but were forced to be Muslim. Growing up in Iran, she always secretly identified herself as Christian. Her family secretly believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. When we found her, everything just fell perfectly in place. She loves church, loves the gospel and is extremely excited for her baptism. Persians are just the greatest people. Four more Persian investigators will be baptized back in Karlstad next week, making that wee branch 7 Persians and 15 Swedes. This is their time to receive the gospel. This letter is extremely short because I have to go to a lesson right now but I love my area, I love the people here, I love the nature here, the beautiful Baltic sea, and I love this gospel. I love seeing it change and bless lives, bring light into their eyes. My brother just finished his mission and I hope I can serve a little better, a little more like him. I love him and am so thankful for his wonderful example. I love my family, I love Jesus Christ and I sure do certainly love the people and Persian refugees….now stop calling them all terrorists. It’s embarrassing.
Then this little tidbit Erik sent to me as I asked how well he is eating these days: This last week, we only had one day of not being fed. We have 8 temple missionary couples that feed us all of the time, which ranged from the Östheds who bake delicious Swedish desserts, to the Oats who make your classic Utah casserole and jello as the salad. We also have many members feed us. In Västerhanige, there is this giant family called the Kryborns who cover a large majority of the leadership callings. There are about 20 of them plus there kids…it is crazy. They are all siblings and cousins and are kind of like this one huge super righteous army with kids on missions who all take really good care of the missionaries and are the spiritual and missionary force for the ward. They fed us very well. Jonas Krylborn lives in the nicest house I’ve ever been in on my mission (but not materialist) and is a missionary powerhouse whose wife makes the best food I’ve had since I’ve been out on the mission. She made a barbeque meal last night which tasted like heaven. A lot of it was from Jamie Oliver. My companion wants to buy separately so I’ve been buying just fish, granola, fruits and salad because the member meals are giving me a 2 year old Erik tummy.
This week we talked to a lot of people, a whole lot of people. My Swedish certainly improved by 10 fold. We did not have very many people here actively investigating our church so we had to go very hard on contacting people on the street in hopes of finding some people interested in our church. Our labors paid off my Sunday when we met with Majid, a persian man (YES!) we contacted on the street earlier that week. It was one of the most fantastic lessons I’ve been a part of. Why? Well, I’ll tell you why. So, we were meeting him on the benches just outside of the church with our friend Pouyeh, a wonderful recent convert who was going to be translating for us.
As the lesson began, everything just fell into place magically. He expressed how he was forced to follow Islam when he lived in Iran but had always felt like it was not the truth. He somehow just always knew that God was not angry and punishing us but a loving heavenly father. We asked him what he thought God and his plan for us really was and he told us exactly the beliefs of the church on God, repentance, life, etc. etc. all of which just came from his feelings. As we taught the message of the restoration, he asked all of the seemingly perfect questions that lead from one topic to another, and agreed with everything we said. Right when we were bearing our testimonies on the message, and the spirit felt like it could not get any stronger, a miracle happened. A young, well dressed, clean shaven man walked up to us and introduced himself. His name was Joseph and he had been inactive for many years. He had done the hardest of drugs and said he had written himself out of the church. He told us that that very morning he had received revelation that the church was true and was going to meet with the Bishop. He then testified to Majid that God loved him, that the Book of Mormon is true, that this church will give him eternal salvation. Joseph literally looked like he was glowing. I have never seen anyone so purely happy. It was amazing. Majid could not help smiling himself and by the end of the lesson, he committed to be baptized the 1st of August and wants to meet with us as often as possible and wanted us to teach many of his friends the gospel.
Going from hardly any people to teach at the beginning of the week, to a pandora’s box exploding at the end of the week was proof that God does loves every one of us. It was no coincidence that we met Majid on the street. It was no coincidence that we met him outside of the church on Sunday evening right when Joseph came, like an angel on fire, to spread his happiness. Heavenly Father does not make coincidences. We need to be always prepared for those who are put in our path, for every single one of them has a purpose. Every single soul on this earth is worth more than all the riches and resources of this earth 1000 fold. The gospel is really for everyone, no matter how rich, how poor, how old, how young, how kind or how mean you are. It’s for you.
This week I also had the blessing to help with the temple 30th anniversary. We had a presentation of the why we have temples, followed by Meet the Mormons and then a concert. A large percentage of the members of the three wards that meet in our building have either attended or are currently attending arguably the best musical school in Sweden so the concerts where actually super high level talent. I would pay to see them again. Swedes just are very gifted musically. Back home, singing the hymns at church kind of sounds like a funeral march at times (sorry) but the wards here sing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with soul. I’ve honestly never heard such beautiful versions of the hymns. (plus some contemporary music because it is a Swedish ward after all where that happens) Next general conference, they should have the Stockholm South Stake sing.
It is weird, I am meeting so many people here that are exactly like people I know. There is a lady named, Solveig who is exactly like Auntie Julie. (Erik’s great aunt) She kind of looks like her, (though to be perfectly honest every Scandinavian older woman looks like Auntie Julie…they all age the same) and she has her same humor and mannerisms. …Then, there is a temple missionary from Utah named Sister Oates that is just like Auntie Sue- (Erik’s other great aunt) same haircut and voice, same funny personality and lingo. Then, there is our mission leader, Lars who is like an older Bob Farris (Erik’s past bishop) with his excitement and lingo and slight boyish recklessness and one track mindedness…. and then their is sister Krylborn. (well there are a billion Kryborns in the the ward. It is one of the original Swedish Mormon families I guess…) who is a chill and cool as Angie Holwege (family friend )and dresses like her too and then there is another Kyborn family that are kind of like the Forkeys.(friends) There’s a young single adult named, Miriam who is heads up is pretty much Dahrl (family friend) in every way. She is super crazy and hilarious, a bit of a worrier and open and hilarious.
What else to report on….. the Somalians killed me again at soccer. It was as hot as a mammoth this week, (sure glad I did not serve in Arizona) and Elder Burton is one awesome bro.