This week I had my last zone conference, in which I gave my departing testimony; that was……….hard, extremely hard. I love this mission and it is frightening that I only have 6 weeks left……but “sunrise doesn’t last all morning, a cloudburst doesn’t last all day (…) All things must pass away.”
I suppose a great many other things happened this week which I could write about but it was all swallowed up with what I saw on my freezing rooftop last night at 22:00. For the first time in my life, I saw aurora borrelias in her fullness. It was honestly, the second most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my entire life….very few times in life has anything taken my breath away quite like the Northern lights. It was not even the brightest or most spectacular performance by them….. if anything, they were but giving a early season “sneek peak”, but still, they made my heart stop. They rippled through the night sky like fabric. It gave me the overwhelming spiritual impression that God loves me. Nothing has ever spoken to me so boldly to communicate that fact. God loves me. He manifested his love to me last night with a natural phenomenon of dancing emerald green in the sky. It felt so personal……so sacred….
This world and all the natural wonders in it are a manifestation of his love. Up on that rooftop, bathed by the glow of the Northern lights, possibly singing some Pocahontas lyrics…. I really felt God’s overwhelming love for us. Maybe you may not have the breathtaking Northern lights in your night sky……….but you certainly have stars to look upon…..and I invite you to look deep into their vastness and just ponder upon God’s love for you. All those twinkling lanterns of distant fiery are set in their place so that we might be, and we are so that we might have joy. God loves us. I know He does. The Northern Lights told me so.
This week we had the wonderful opportunity to hold another sacrament meeting down in Hudiksvall where we are trying to start the new branch and we had 10 people in attendance! That is more than several branches here in Sweden have on a good week! The area is so ready to become a branch. I can feel it, like an electric energy. We just need an apartment and we can start the Hudiksvall branch! The excitement is contagious. It feels much like how the first school of the prophets must’ve felt…. a few humble people, meeting in a humble setting, with dreams and visions of the future bigger than deemed sound by the pessimism of shortsighted men.
A few weeks ago, a man who served his mission here back in the 1960s came and visited the ward. When he was here in Sundsvall there was only a handful of members. He baptised a family and doubled the branch membership. Now, today, as he was giving his testimony there was over 100 members in the sacrament meeting and 38 active members there who owe their membership to him. All the old Swedes in the ward were the “pioneers” for the Sundsvall branch….they built it from nothing…..so too will be the case for the budding Hudiksvall branch………and so too will be the case for the Sundsvall Persian branch. We currently have 10 active Persian members and their sunday school has an energy to it that is incredible!
We can look at the asylum seekers of this world as “refugees” or, as Elder Holland points out, as “pioneers.” (please please please watch his plea for the world’s help with the refugee crisis and religious freedom from the Religious Persecution Conference at Windsor Castle here. Miraculously, our newest convert made an observation in direct alignment with this video without even seeing it. He said “we could look at our situation as terrible and call ourselves refugees or we can realise it for what it really is; God’s way of leading us to the gospel and our opportunity to start the church for our people.”
The church is young for the Persian people. We’ve only had the Book of Mormon in it’s fullness in persian since December. They do not have D&C, the pearl of Great price, the missionary pamphlets or the Liahona in their language. They have to wait two weeks before general conference will be translated for them. Their fellow countrymen membership is few and scattered abroad….. but they are growing…. and as that same convert remarked “I am so thankful God gave me the blessing of being a part of the church today, when I get to help build.”
This man has been working, as practically a slave, since age seven. He never had the opportunity to attend school so he would learn how to read and write himself late at night after working all day every day. He has been stabbed, beaten, and forced from his homeland and faced rejection after rejection in this strange northern country….. and he thanks God for the blessing of the life he was given?
So too was it for many of the pioneers who were refugees of Jackson County, Missouri. Read more here: They lost their lands and their loved ones and were beaten and chased out, just like the refugees of today……….but still they chose to thank God for the barren patch of desert land in the unsettled wilderness of Utah. They called themselves “pioners”. and so too are these refugees, pioneers of modern day.
I’m so blessed to be a part of this!
This week, we will be really setting our heads down to try and accomplish the impossible task of building a new branch from scratch….which is harder than I initially thought. ( a branch is a small congregation )
At least, it is giving me experience on how to shop for apartments and church service buildings and work with red tape and all the technical stuff missionaries never usually work with….. you’d be surprised what the mission teaches you…..
but all in all I’m doing well. I’ll provide a better letter next week.
There were some things from this week that deserve more than just a mere summary……so I’ll give them justice in my next letter….
but to give you something to ponder upon this week.
You may recall Christ’s parable of the seed and the sower? I wrote about it before… (I think?)
anyhow, a part of it that stood out to me this week when I was reading;
We focus on all the reasons why the seed does not grow……..the hard soil…the rocky soil….the thorny soil……..putting all of our attention on how the gospel does not take root in some people……..but then, we rather carelessly lump all the good soil into one category.
But if you read the text, Jesus separates the soil that is good into various grades of fertility.
as he said;
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Some produce a great harvest of fruit, some produce more and some produce most….. meaning that even among those that receive the gospel into their hearts, there are grades.
These grades (or fruit, if we are to follow the parable) are manifest in one’s works…. the members that drive an hour out of there way to pick up new converts for you, (THANK YOU brother Nilsson) the youth that bring their friends to church, (THANK YOU Sundsvall youth) the members that do more than attend church, but help make the church grow… A thirty fold, compared to a hundred fold tree is the difference between one who joins the Kingdom of Heaven, and one who builds the kingdom of Heaven…..one who finds the treasure and sell all he hath and one who finds the treasure, sells all he hath and than shares the treasure…..one that is a candle and one that lights other candles…. The productivity of the tree is dependent upon the how much the tree gives.
So the question to leave you with is; if you have successfully allowed your seed to take root and become a tree, how can you increase from thirty fold to sixty fold, and sixty fold to a hundred fold? We may be free of thorns and thistles and rocks and hard soil….but our work is not finished.
The last few weeks of the mission have been interesting. First off, our car is still in the repair shop. First it was that the starter that was broken…..but after they repaired that it turns out that there more problems…..so the car is still in the shop, leaving us rendered useless with loads of investigators we cannot visit. And then, I’ve been sick for the past two weeks (strep throat) and that really brought me down to the dust because I cannot stand a day of not doing missionary work….. especially with so few days of the mission left.
It would’ve been very easy with our circumstances to ask the question “why would God cut us down and prevent all of this work from going forth when it is going so well here?” But if the mission has taught me anything it is that the Lord always has a plan far better than we can conceive with our mere mortal eyes.
After a few not so lovely bedridden days I was able to venture out to do some light missionary work….(still sick, but couldn’t stand laying in bed all day)
We started started straight from square one and began knocking on doors in a very posh, entirely Swedish, wealth beach town just south of Sundsvall. Literally the last place you’d ever expect to find any investigators……but it felt so very right to travel out there and knock on the picture perfect IKEA mansions…. and now, from that wee paradisaical community we are teaching four 100% Swedish individuals including a shockingly prepared engaged couple.
They are jaw dropping perfect. When we knocked on their door we said words we never said at anyone’s doorstep every before, completely guided by the spirit and were shocked when they told us to step in and teach them. They just seemed so…..idealistic swedish, that I never could imagine, in all my mortal judgement, that they would ever be possibly interested…. but now they are on the third lesson, agree with what we teach them and have become our very good friends. (helps when they are the same age as you. They’re both 20)
It life went how I wanted it to go we would’ve never ever found them.
So keep this wee little story in mind if ever your car breaks down and you get terribly sick……or something of that nature. It could very well just be God directing you to the right place.