Sunday, May 13, 2012

What We Learned from Four Hours of Skyping!

Wow, we really did skype with Rusty for over four hours today! But we had a lot of catching up to do and we learned lots of things about Denmark. Things like:
l. Deodorant isn't big in Denmark... in fact Elder Swenson cannot find deodorant/anti-perspirant brands like in the U.S.
2. Sounds like fashion is stuck in the '80's... or maybe they are ahead of us in a retro way.
3. Kids, especially boys, are wearing American sports paraphernalia... but it's older. Teams and logos like the Blazers, the Bulls, you name it, from about 20+ years ago.
4. Most households don't have dryers, and they hang their laundry up to dry. Even in the winter. Just inside (we hope.)
5. Most households don't have dishwashers. Well they do, but they are human.
6. Bathrooms are really basic, the plumbing is primitive, in that the hose from the shower drains into the one and only drain in the bathroom for everything else.
7. There are lots of really OLD castles in Denmark.
8. Lots of atheists in Denmark, but they are willing to listen to the message.
9. Kebabs are a big hit with all the missionaries, they are like huge burritos with lamb meat, creamy sauce, onions and lettuce.
10. AND, the number one thing that all Moms want their missionary sons to avoid in the summer—girls going topless! At the beach, at the park, or wherever the mood strikes them. Yikes!
Thanks to the Keyser family for letting him use their laptop for so long. And for feeding him! We also got to "meet" his companion, virtually that is. Elder Stoffey seems like a lot of fun. He walked into the room with these crazy Elton John sunglasses on. It made me laugh. It was an awesome day!!! Best Mother's Day ever, and Best Mother's Day gift!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An awesome email from a ward member in Denmark

I received this email on Sunday, three days ago:

Dear all,

So tonight your sons came to our house for dinner. What a delight for us. Some of you have received a mail from me before,so you know the drill. I am a missionary mom myself, and I am so hoping right now that someone else fed my son tonight. So won't you please pay it forward, so we can keep the chain going. My husband Henrik and I love having the missionaries for dinner. They are always great company and they eat anything we serve happily. Our son, Chris is serving his mission in the Portugal Lisbon mission, and at this moment he has almost been out for 6 months. The time has literally flown by, and before we know he will be back home with us.

His girlfriend Lisa, is living with us, and is currently waiting to go on her mission to England, Leeds. So we get to do this whole thing with missionary farewell and the airport drop off again soon. We are looking forward to soon getting her great letters from England.

Your children are all making such a difference here in the Copenhagen area. Some of them are quite new to Copenhagen, so we don't know the all that well yet. But this mail I will just have to tell you about Elder Swendson, who plays the piano outstandingly. For our stake conference last weekend he accompanied the stake choir. The normal director was sick and in the hospital, and in the last minute I was asked to lead the choir. As it turned out no material had been selected, and the choir had to give a 30 minute concert prior to the main Sunday session. We quite literally had no one in the stake who on such short notice could play the material I had selected. So elder Swendson to the rescue. He did an outstanding job, and he will probably be scared of me for life. But given the chance he will probably play for me again. Anyway... great job there mama Swendson. I am a piano teacher, who suffered greatly in order to make piano players out of my two sons. I sort of succeeded, but no to the degree you did. My son Chris who is in Portugal is a great musician, but he plays the base, and the guitar, and the sax... and some piano. I will write you again when I have gotten to know the other elders a little better. They all looked well, and summer is coming so they are no longer cold.

Thanks for sharing your kids, and have a great rest of the Sunday.

Susanne Bryde

Proud missionary mom (And Henrik my husband who wants to make sure that you know he cooked some of the dinner:)

Spring in Denmark

Spring is absolutely beautiful in Denmark and Elder Swenson has been sending home gorgeous pictures for us to enjoy. Here are some excerpts from letters over the past six weeks:

March 26

Hej familie, Today we finally get P-day though, we're going to check out the Domkirke in Roskilde then go to Svogerslev to check out those gravesites from our ancestors finally. Our investigator will potentially get baptized this Saturday if all goes well. If not it will likely be next Saturday, but we'll leave it up to our Bishop to make sure he's completely ready. We'll have the bishop to his lesson tonight and he'll be making sure on all of that. He's 78 and lives in an assisted living center right now but may move back home if all goes well. He's been investigating for 60 years now and has been active in the church in the past but never baptized. Lately, he's been too sick to come to church but still wants to be baptized and to do temple work for his wife and other people in his family. We're hoping all goes well tonight, and if I could have a baptism this Saturday! Me and Ældste Larsen were up there for a day, went to a couple appointments and did some contacting. It's pretty crazy, we were two noobs but we made it alright. He's only been here 2 months longer than I have, so it was crazy for him to be senior companion for a day. Their area is awesome though, the member who they live in the basement of, Richard took us on a drive through the countryside on the way back from an appointment with an investigator. It was pretty cool stuff, saw my first old school windmill and some gnarly forests and what not.

One thing that has been a bit rancid this week is the weather. The past week it warmed up tons and we didn't need coats for like 5 straight days. Now, the past two days have been windier than a hurricane and freezing. The wind here is crazy, it's pretty well a tornado every day. Yesterday I almost got knocked over by a gust it was pretty funny. I was standing with my luggage bag full of my stuff from splits waiting for a train. I picked it up to check something and a huge gust almost knocked me over and I did a snazzy foot trick to avoid falling over. Then these old ladies behind me were like "Pas på, det blæser en lidt" Pretty much, "watch out idiot, it's windy?" It was good stuff. That would probably be one of the funnier things that happened this week. Too bad no one had a camera, it would have been Youtube worthy. Anyways, it's been another good week, hope you're all doing good. Only about a month now and we'll be Skyping, can't wait! Take care, talk to you guys on Monday.

April 2

Hej Familie! Today we have P-day as usual though, we just played Basketball and are heading to some turf fields to play some Amerikansk Fodbold. I think this is the third P-day in a row we've done the same thing but I have no complaints. Every time we play football at the parks here there will be like 3 or 4 people that stop and take tons of pictures of us. Not sure why, but good publicity at least. It's been a crazy, busy week. We led the mission in hours worked, which was 50. Two of the days have been on splits which has made it even crazier. On Saturday, I had to play Senior Companion for about 6 hours, and was my first time having to manage bus and train routes to get places. It was a bit of a mess, but still we got some work done and found our way back home after everything. Unfortunately, our baptism fell through on Saturday. Personally, I felt that it was a bit rushed so I'm glad we can give him time now to think about it and make sure he's ready.

We had a few first lessons with people this week that were positive. One was a man from Africa who is very religious and wanted to know more about the Book of Mormon. We stopped by and talked with him about it's purpose and read scriptures for about an hour. Definitely wasn't a lesson by the book, but we answered what questions we could for him and committed him to read a chapter and to pray on it.

Conference was great, I would say it was definitely different watching it as a missionary. Had a different focus watching it this time, and sleeping actually wasn't a temptation which was great. I would have to say my favorite talk was Uchtdorf's when he gave the advice "Stop it". It's crazy how easily you can allow your mind to slip into only focusing on the grind of every day instead of the real purpose of our lives. That's one of the reasons I'm grateful for Conference, it always leaves you with a renewed sense of purpose and knowledge of your purpose. Little things don't really matter anymore when you look at them in God's eyes. I like how in one talk they talked about how when people have near death experiences they suddenly become more spiritual as they realize what really is important. They had the gym streaming it in English which was nice, all the missionaries watched it in there. I don't think I could keep up with all the big words they throw down in Danish. I love how Christopherson said "translate that!" in his talk. I feel bad for the translators, that's got to be a tough job. Well, I think my fingers are sore now, I think I should have covered most the interesting things that went down this week. Thanks for the support, and all you do for me. It makes it easy to be a missionary. Love you all! Ældste Swenson

April 10

Hej familie! It's been another good week, other than the freezing weather. It's pretty annoying, I thought Spring was finally here a few weeks ago. We had about 5 days in a row with nice weather, then it started raining and snowing pretty close to every day since then. I think I forgot to tell you when I got the Easter package, but it looked like it took only about 5 or 6 days. I think I've eaten everything from it except the Bugles, which I'm working on right now. It's crazy how good that stuff tastes knowing that it comes from 5,000 miles away. I had to fight the 3 other Elders in my apartment to keep them off the Gummy Worms too, they don't have stuff like that up here, so those were the first to get devoured. Sounds like you guys had a bombing Easter, that was an awesome picture of Jackson you sent me Mom, haha. The kid already looks older and it's only been like 4 months. We celebrated our Easter with 7 of our investigators in Church and about 34 other guests that the members brought. So as you guys could probably figure out it was a crazy day for 2 missionaries to manage that many guests. It was awesome though, we had F. come for the first time since I've been here, and we're feeling good about his baptismal date now, which was moved to the end of April. We visit him almost every day right now. We got to bring another investigator named Sarah to the President's Easter Fireside later that day too. She's been one of the most positive investigators so far, we've only taught her for 5 days, and she's already been to church and and a fireside. She was actually the person I gave my first solo Book of Mormon out to a few weeks ago before we started teaching her, so I'm glad to see something came of that.

I'm pretty stoked for this week, we have tons of stuff going on. I'll be going on splits again to Hillerød with Elder Greenhalgh tomorrow, coming back on Thursday. We're meeting with 2 potential investigators on top of that, we'll hope to get through the first lesson with both of them. I had a Greenie moment this past week, which I'm grateful for now that it's over, but basically I just blanked in one of our lessons. It was just a "Bad Danish Day" as we call them, just couldn't think of anything to say the entire lesson. So the next day for studies I went over the entire lesson and pounded it out pretty hard. I'm feeling it's pretty well down for the most part. I finally played piano in Sacrament meeting on Sunday for the Easter Program, played Lead Kindly Light. It went very well, had lots of people come up and talk with me after.

For P-day yesterday, we went over to Klampenborg, which apparently is the richest area in Denmark. I would probably believe it, it's right by the shoreline and all the houses are huge. We hit up an Ice Cream place for lunch, where we had gigantic cones. Me and Elder McDonnell and Broschinsky got the Lydolpher cone, which is famous among missionaries. It's basically a cone the size of my head. It was a mess, but we all got it down without puking. Earlier, we went to an outdoor musuem with old Danish homes from the 1600's everywhere. That was pretty cool to see, the doors in the houses were about 4 feet tall, which made me feel like I was in the hobbit houses in the Lord of the Rings. I should have sent you an invite to look at them, let me know if that page is being stupid and not letting you get on to see the pictures. Well that's about it, it's going great as usual. Thanks for everything, it was good to hear from all of you this week. Love you all, Ældste Swenson

April 17

Hey Fams! It was good to hear from all of you this week! Let's see, I'll get answering all of Mom's questions first. So that huge ice cream cone was called a Lydolpher. Not exactly sure what it means, but it's from an ice cream place in Klampenborg. It was a good couple pounds, pretty well gigantic. It's 5 scoops of ice cream, 5 wafer thingies, and about a pound of soft ice over the top coated in chocolate powder. I would say it's the best ice cream I've ever had. Crazy stuff. Yeah, I ended up playing in that Zone Conference in March, just played the same song. Thought I told you guys about that, my bad. It went really well though, everyone was surprised that I could play.

I got that video of Jackson, haha it's crazy to see our house and everything. The dude's dribbling like a champ already. Didn't see the hoop too well, but it looked nice. Feel free to keep sending the videos, it's way cool to watch them. Yesterday was another awesome Sunday, we had 5 investigators in Church. It was the most we've had besides Easter. One of them we weren't able to talk to the whole week, but she still showed up. Our investigators have tons of potential, it's fun to work with all of them. Right now, we're focusing the most on F. and S. We meet with both several times each week. S. has only been taking lessons for 2 weeks, and we're trying hard to get her to pray. For some reason, she hasn't been very willing to do that, but has come to church and read tons. She promised last night to pray before next lesson though, so hopefully she follows through. We've been meeting with a lot of new investigators which has been fun too. We taught a 20 year old this past week named S. The first lesson went very well, and we'll call him up this week to see if he wants to keep meeting with us. The Danish is getting better still. Yesterday in Church I was amazed at how well I could understand everything. I was talking with a few people about random stuff and was able to keep up rather well. It's interesting how it goes with learning a language though. One minute you'll feel like a champ, then the next you'll feel like a complete noob. It's pretty funny sometimes.

Glad you guys got those pictures, that Svogerslev Church is one that our ancestors are buried next to. I heard that after 100 or 200 years, they will re-use the grounds of cemeteries, and will take the headstones away from the older people. I'm not sure why they do that, there's tons of room for people, but the Church yard cemeteries are really small and that's where a few of our ancestors were buried. Didn't find any of them, but I figure that's because it was next to a bigger city. We're going to take a trip down to Vordingborg and Nyråd in a couple weeks. There's a church in Nyråd, which is a very small town. Maybe a few of them will still have their headstones there. It will be really cool to find some though. Well, it's going great. Mission life really isn't hard, just busy and crazy for the most part. Thanks for everything, love you all. I'll see you all in 3 weeks! Elder Swenson

April 23

Hey fams! So it looks like two weeks from this Sunday and we'll be Skyping! I'm way stoked for that. It's been an interesting week in Ballerup, we had transfers this last week and tons of stuff going on. Our apartment is usually used as the holding place for missionaries during transfers and conferences, and this week we had both. Tuesday night there were 9 people staying in the apartment, so it was a bit cramped. We've been on splits for 3 days this last week also. Some good news from this week is that we have 2 new progressing investigators. One is named T., from China. He's a Buddhist, but is still interested in learning about other religions. He's in his early 20's. The other is only 16, and lives with his single Mom. His name is N. His Mom hasn't been interested, but he actually said a prayer at the end of our first lesson. That was the soonest I've seen anyone willing to say a prayer, usually it takes a commitment to get them to pray, and they'll do it outside of the lessons on their own. S. is still progressing fast, we haven't taught her a month yet and she's been to church twice and a fireside. We're having another lesson with her this week to follow up on the prayer invitation.

So yesterday was Stake Conference, and was a crazy day. They have a huge music program during Stake Conference where they put together a Stake Choir to sing about 10 songs before and during the program. As it turns out, the Pianist for the program had some weird health problems just before Sunday and the choir lady heard I played piano. Long story short, she gave me about 50 or 60 pages of brand new music on Friday night to have ready to perform by Sunday. So most of it was sight-read on the spot but it went surprisingly well. Got lots of compliments after which was a great sign. It was definitely some good sight-reading practice, so I won't complain too much. Have a good week everyone. Love you all! Ældste Swenson

April 30

Hey Family! It's been an awesome week here, just tons of work as usual. It's been tough with F. and his health unfortunately. He ended up in the Herlev Hospital again this last week with heart problems and is back in the Psykiatrisk Center in Ballerup. He's still very interested in Baptism, and we've visited him 3 times this last week to talk and read the Book of Mormon with him. It's funny, he takes every opportunity to talk about the Book of Mormon with other people. He'll usually tell us about how he'd talked with the nurses there or the other old people about the church. We're just amazed that he hasn't been baptized yet, he's been active with the church for over 60 years now. Our other positive investigator S. is doing well too. We've taught her twice this last week. She's been praying more often, and we watched two General Conference talks with her on her computer for our last lesson.

We still have a few other investigators that are progressing pretty well, but nothing super notable. Just been teaching tons of first lessons. I would say finding is one of my favorite parts of Missionary Work, just thinking about all of the possibilities that are out there. Yesterday was pretty cool, we were just out knocking right after Church and gave out 3 Books of Mormon in a row. It felt like we were on fire, and it's always awesome to get them out there. It was pretty crazy, on Saturday we went to stop by a member's house for an 80 year old lady's birthday. It turns out she is Elder Christensen's grandma. He's the way cool Elder from the MTC I would always play basketball with. He's in Skive right now. It turned out that half of his family was there and they pretty well spazzed when they found out that I was his friend from the MTC. Apparently he had been writing home about how him and I would dominate in Basketball at the MTC, so I felt like a celebrity at that birthday party. I think his Mom took about 50 pictures with me to send to him, not exaggerating too much on that one. You guys should have gotten an email from Susanne Bryder with a picture of our eating appointment last night in it. That's the choir conductor I played the piano for at Stake Conference. She was awesome and made us a huge dinner for the help. The food was pretty well amazing, had deep fried zucchini, frikadellers, potatoes and American soda. Probably one of the best eating appointments I've had up here. She made me play the piano after, which actually went pretty well. Just tried playing a few things from memory, but I was still able to play a little, surprisingly. I thought it would have all been lost, with how long it has been. She talked about having me play for a youth choir in a cathedral in Copenhagen when an apostle visits. Can't wait to Skype, that will be in a couple weeks now. Take care everyone, love you all! Ældste Swenson