The work here is coming to be more than we can fully take on as just two missionaries. We’ve had to hand off several of our investigators to other missionaries and even postpone lessons for a week because we are simply booked every single hour of every single day. We have zero time to sit around and think of what to do next.
The thing is, it isn’t as if we slaved away and earned all of this work from our blood and sweat and tears like back in Borlänge….. We just found a couple people and they opened Pandora’s box of many more to teach. Sometimes you work your heart out and no tangible success is obtained, while other times it just falls on your lap and you are humbled by how little of it is actually due on you.
But anyhow, we are in a very interesting situation. A hard situation…. We have a great many Persians who want to be baptised but may have to wait a very long time due to increasingly tighter regulations on baptising former Muslims because of safety concerns. The last thing we would want to do is be the cause of someone’s harm or even death if they are deported back to their home country…… and by the way Sweden is turning politically, deportations are on the rise. (Swedish Parliament has declared that over 50% of the refugees from Afghanistan will be deported within a year…..) while declared Christianity once helped defend an asylum seeker’s case from being sent back to an Islamic state, now we are faced with an oncoming reaping with no regard to personal situation or life endangerment. (But enough about our moral compasses versus politics for now).
Two of the many Persians whose immigration situations are a little more promising will be able to be personally interviewed and have their situations analysed by the mission presidency this upcoming Sunday. If the mission presidency declares it safe, they can be baptised in two weeks time from now….. Which will fill me with both great joy for these two wonderful and dear friends of mine, but also give me a measure of guilt when I think about the others who have a desire to take the step of baptism, having sincerely become converted to the gospel, but will have to be temporarily denied at the gate of this wonderful blessing due to problems beyond their control.
I CANNOT EMPHASIS ENOUGH HOW GOOD THESE MEN ARE. How purely good they are. One in particular has love unrivalled. His face radiates love and he shows love through his actions. He is particularly sensitive to the impressions of the spirit, lives a life dedicated to good works and has a faith in God I marvel at. . He very smart and studious and had a great life that was absolutely destroyed. Running from war, he traveled by foot from Afghanistan to Turkey and then took one of the famous suicidal raft odysseys across the Mediterranean. He showed a video he took on the boat. It is probably the most horrifying video I’ve ever seen in my life. Crying babies and monstrous waves and people crashing against rocks and how real it all was because it was happening to someone I know and love dearly. I want to get the image of it out of me head. From first European soil until here in Sweden he has been tossed around and rejected…. And yet, and yet! He is so good. So good to the very core. How can one who has been through so much be so good? Certainly, to be realistic, yes, there are some who have the same story as him who are bitter and angry and violent…. But he, like an unwavering Samwise Gamgee, remains (if not becomes more) good through it all. He just has the profoundest of gospel insights, the deepest of testimonies and the purest of hearts.
These bands of refugees scattered over Norrland are not charity cases we pity….. They are heroes whom I look up to and admire. They teach me more of what the gospel is than I teach them and they really teach me what love is. Every day I think I know what love is only to discover a whole other layer of it. My soul just swells with a warmth beyond words when these Persians pour their love (which is miles above mine) into words in their beautiful language to be translated for us to understand.
This is the gospel.
I’ve found it.
I’ve found what Christ gave us. It is here in these Persians, in these humble forlorn refugee camps swallowed in the northern sea of trees.
I found what love is.
Love, when felt, even in part, overwhelms me. I cannot take it all in.
These lessons, these Persian friends, this mission, give me such waves of love that I cannot hold.. Sometimes I think I’d be more like Ammon fainting all the time, while my companions can hold their physical strength like Alma. I can’t even express it. Can anyone? The scriptures and the words of prophets and wise men cannot capture the true heart and core of this gospel- love. They explained how to show it, how to recognise it, why to grow it, etc…. But words can’t capture love itself.
These Persian men have taught me how much of love is listening. Love isn’t constantly diagnosing the next clever thing to say to give an instantaneous solution to every concern.
Another investigator, a Swede, mentioned this week how one of the greatest acts of service she feels she can give is listening, for those who love, listen.
As my love has improved the amount of “me spitting out gospel time” in the lesson has decreased and the amount of listening has increased. I firmly believe that a great measure of one’s love for his neighbour is found in how much he listens. Love begins with curiosity and leads to total wilful sacrifice for another….. Which is a manifestation of love the Persians perfectly exhibit, which can be a bit of a problem…. Because now that they have tasted of the fruit of the gospel, they, like that man “Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:46) are fully willing to sacrifice everything to have the gospel. We explain the risks for them to be associated with a Christian church, but they shake their heads and say nothing matters more. . They constantly plead for baptism with sincere hearts, and it breaks my heart having to say they may have to wait…. They’d seriously endure anything for The gospel. Some of them even carry knife and burn scars they received in Afghanistan when previously they stood for the right amidst tribulation without fear.
I cannot help their their physical situation, but I can teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ and from it we read;
“3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
On this earth, the misuse of moral agency of some can hurt the welfare of others. In the case of these Persian men, thousands of years of abused free agency by unrighteous souls have warped and moulded a trial filled mortal life for them…but God does not judge us on the agency of others. Just as we do not carry with us the sin of Adam, we are not accountable for others’ impact in our life….. only in our use of free agency in the circumstances we are given. So, though the free agency of others may restrict the Persians from being able to obtain the full blessings of the gospel right here and now, they will be blessed beyond mortal comprehension for doing all they can in the situation they are given.