Erik’s back!

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Thank you so very much for the letters and prayers and everything. I felt it this week and we actually were extremely blessed this week.

In the mission, there are days of absolutely no success, regardless of how hard you work, how deep you love, or how clever you may think you are. Those days can turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. So has been the case for us here for quite some time….but then we finally tapped the right stone and found a lovely strand of gold.

It started with contacting a man on the street. His name was Joseph and he came from Ghana. Our message he loved with all sincerity, but for a while nothing grew from there, because, as is far too common here, immigrants with a poor grasp of the Swedish language and western culture, are taken advantage of in the work field. They are made to work crazy long hours that are technically illegal,  getting way less than the pay that the law has set for them to receive, and are abused by bigoted, racist bosses. So to provide to make ends barely meet for his young family Joseph works from early in the morning to late at night every day in construction, getting week pay for weekends and working more hours than legal without overtime pay….aghhhh…..

Whether it is hispanic farm workers in Oregon, African construction workers in Sweden, or orphaned brick makers in India, there will always be someone working behind the government’s set rules of what is humane to make a little more and give their workers, who we can just as well call slaves; a great deal less than what we as humans have right to for the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  IMG_3419[1]

Greed is by far the sin that has the most far reaching impact on this world. It does not only poison your own soul, but makes hundreds, at times millions, of souls suffer from the consequences of your piggish gluttony of the filthy pleasures of this temporal existence. So, Joseph was always working, or getting the three hours of sleep he could afford before working again. But finally his work load eased slightly, allowing him to get home by 7:30…. to go to early before dawn the next day. Then we contacted another Ghanian man, John, who actually turned out to be a member baptized by one of the teachers at the MTC when I was there. He had just moved to Västerhaninge and had not been to church since the move. (our ward is wonderful but very rich and very white so it isn’t the easiest of adjustments) Turns out John and his wife, Jennifer are best friends with Joseph and his wife Vera. Their children spend every day together and they pretty much share their houses, as Ghanians so often do. John and Jennifer are the kindest young couple you could ever meet. Jennifer told me we could come to their house any time of any day and she will make us Ghanian food (mountains and mountains of delicious Ghanian food) and bring investigators there anytime and they would love to help teach them with us. They are the essence of kindness. So this week we have had several lessons with Vera and Joseph at John and Jennifer’s house (with kilos upon kilos of amazing african food after already having member meals) and they will be baptized on the 17th of October along with Dan, our other Ghanian friend, who of course they know…. They also have this fantastic web of Ghanian friends who they will be inviting to come listen to our message, so if things go right we will have a Ghanian invasion in Västerhaninge. Two Ghanan less actives and their daughter will be reactivated, a Ghanian couple with two children and another Ghanian man will be baptized on the same day, and more Ghanians they promise will be coming soon.

Ghanians are some of the most faithful, happiest people. (there is a really great article about the church in Ghana in this month’s Liahona) There is a reason the church as exploded so rapidly there. They face the problem of more Ghanians joining than they have room enough to hold in their chapels, as more chapels are coming up rapidly. Hence, why they have four missions in that lovely country.IMG_3414[1]

Missionary work with the aid of members is incredible…I’d go as far as to say essential…though often underestimated. It makes a world of a difference for those looking into the church to have friends in the church. Changing your life can be scary, and friends that are there will help you as you do change. We are trying to bring a member with us on every lesson we have. This helps both the investigators and the members be strengthened. I remember before my mission how wonderfully filled with the spirit I got every time I helped the missionaries…. it is one of the best means to strengthen a ward.

Anyhow, last week had some rather cumbersome trials, to put it lightly….but those can be cured through the effulgent light of this true Gospel, whose core is love. Love can dispel all dark clouds and ominous shadows….and prove to us mere mortals that those seemingly undefeatable shadows are just that…only shadows, with no substance, no power beyond deceiving our perception of there strength. If the adversary in all his dark lies seems to hang over you, with the whole dragging down to the gulf of endless misery sort of scenario, remember that upon the Rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, we cannot fall, and I personally find forgetting about yourself and serving others is a rather fine way to bring light to the darkest of days. This week A Poor Wayfaring Ma of Grief, my favorite hymn, has been on repeat on my head and that is not a bad thing at all. It holds the most beautiful message. IMG_3293[1]

Now go enjoy a wondrous general conference! And,if you want a good old vintage talk to get you in the mood for general conference “yellow canaries with gray on their wings” and “hands and hearts” by Thomas S Monson from back in the 1970s have become two of my favorite talks of all time.

Much love,

Erik

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Holding onto the Fleeting Days of Summer‏

IMG_2096The sun is setting earlier and earlier, and this week was probably the last burst of warmth I’ll have for the next 6 to 7 months. Oh Sweden, you are just so beautiful. Nothing can compare with a late summer evening, with the sun through the trees as you pick blueberries and mushrooms… but I am also pumped for these forests to be filled up with riktig Narnia snow.  It’s time to put on the sweaters! I have 6 more weeks here in Provo, Sweden and sincerely hope not to waste a single minute of it.

IMG_2097We are in the awkward middle ground where many of our investigators have fallen in doldrums, leaving us with low hanging shoulders and a very open schdule where we have found a lot of new investigators who we are just starting to work with. It is sort of like getting off a bike in third gear and then getting back on it again….the first few pedals are slow and hard before you gain momentum. So we’ve got a few more friends this weeks. John John is a Swedish young man that is a personal trainer. He is the sort of guy with the perfect apartment, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect body, the perfect life, and yet, with all of these gifts of the world he feels like he is missing something. He wants to know his purpose. BOOM! right in the very minute he was pondering the meaning of life and whether there is a God, we knocked on his door. Now we are meeting every Wednesday!

IMG_2098We are also now teaching a new Ertiean man, A Somlain lady and a Nigerian. Oh how I just love Africa. The people of every country are all very very different and yet are united in their ability to love others. Of course not everyone is the same, but there is a special spirit there.

IMG_2095The best thing about the mission is it just teaches you how to love people. I loved people before, but now I do so much more. People really are the best invention. They are absolutely brilliant. You should trying getting to know one some day. It doesn’t matter which person you chose, they all are worth getting to know. You find as a missionary that when you are genuinely interested in someone, and show it, it is very hard for them to not like you. If you just throw the gospel in their face and just preach “we have this, this and this” you will have very little work to do throughout the week…but when you first take the time to show interest, show you care, about the person as their own individual, unique selves, they will grow to like you and in turn be a little more interested in what you have to say about the Gospel.

I love this work.
I don’t want to stop doing it. Ever.
Love you all to smithereens,
Erik
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The Winter Wind is Coming In…

IMG_2074First off, JÄTTE TUSEN TACK for Crown Point Ward back home for sending the wonderful package with all sorts of wonderful things and wonderful letters. Thank you, everyone! You’re the best ward your side of the Atlantic.

The summer is wilting away up here in the far North. The winter wind is coming in and I’m already missing the summer. Stockholm is cold, but I’ve been told I was born to endure this kind of weather….as the song goes. I’m actually excited for the winter.IMG_2076
Anyhow…..So this week, golly gee, was it crazy. Remember how last week was not the jazziest? Well, one crazy thing after another happened this week and by the end we found ourselves with three new solid investigators, a handful of positive potential investigators and just a whole bunch of fantastic miracles I can’t even properly count. Yeah, the week began jätte dolig just like the conclusion of the week before but then we did the whole “put your shoulder to the wheel” thing and the wagon started moving again, and old ma Eliza’s rocking chair wasn’t even cast by the wayside. (but grandpa Erasmus contracted smallpox and we had to bury him on the frozen plains of Iowa using only a teaspoon….and Jebadiah was carried off by Indians and we sawed off little Wilford’s leg just because it felt like we ought to since every family on this trail is sawing off their childrens’ legs for one reason or another….Wilford’s leg was perfectly fine of course, but hey, it made a good journal entry to be read over the pulpit at General Conference 170 or so years from now…you know….. such is pioneer life.)
At the dawn of the week we went to Södermalm, which is essentially the Hawthorne district (area of Portland, OR)  of Sweden and I never felt more at home and then had Zone Conference where there was six of us Oregonians hippying out there. I scored lucky in having three Oregonians sleep the night at our place the night before.The Northwest just is the best. They currently have two Oregonians in my old area Karlstad and they are doing wonderful things there. Two people I worked with in Karlstad will be baptized in the next couple weeks. They’ll be putting four elders there soon.
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From Zone conference on, crazy good stuff started to happen. We had a lot of open space on our planners so we spent a lot of time exploring. We were impressed to get on a random tåg going in the completely wrong direction late in the evening and I sat next to a Nigerian man who just came to Sweden this week and is now a new investigator. He says his father is a member of our church back in Nigeria. We felt impressed to knock on a random set of apartments hidden away and found ourselves knocking on a member’s door who was at that very moment contemplating some key testimony questions and we happened to be there with an answer. We felt impressed to turn down a random street going nowhere in particular and found a lady who wants us to teach her and her three friends and was overjoyed to hear the message of the restoration. There were also miracles that came when we did not even feel like we were particularly following the spirit to any Liahona degree. People just fell in our path. We just were walking out of the church and a woman was waiting outside to see if maybe there were free tours of the church. It is important for me to remember these sort of weeks when the bad ones come. So note to self, and to everyone else, when hard weeks roll over you, blessings are ALWAYS waiting around the corner.
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I just love this gospel. Nothing else can fully heal a broken heart, a broken home, a broken life, than the atonement of Jesus Christ. he is the only way, and when you serve Him, through serving and loving your fellow man, you can feel a light that no other source can imitate. There is a light that never goes out.
So, go make someone smile this week, and feel that light for yourself. Let’s all be kindness addicts. Lets get hooked to loving others like Christ. That is one addiction I approve of.
Love you all to bits and pieces,
Erik