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.
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.
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.
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.