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!