Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winding Down but Not Slowing Down

Only four weeks left—so hard to believe the time has flown by so fast. Yet Elder Swenson asked to be a trainer for the remainder of his mission. So he left his duties as a zone leader and assumed this position to keep him "focused and working hard."

Nov. 18:
Well, this week has gone completely different than as planned, but some good things have come out of it in spite of that.  We had an awesome service opportunity this last week with a couple friends of a member in Vejle (S.)  Elder Meacham and I met the wife, L. while we were at S.'s a couple weeks ago to get our hair cut, and she mentioned how there were things in their yard that needed to be cleaned up after the storm that came.  So, we set up a time this last week to go over there with the Fredericia elders to help out!  It turns out that they live a ways out in the country, and when we got there, there were trees that had completely fallen over due to the storm, a couple of them actually almost knocked the house down.  We worked for a few good hours on chopping and piling them up, then ate some dinner with them.  They were a super nice family, and we left them a plan of salvation pamphlet afterwards.  At church yesterday, we gave S. a challenge to follow up on that next time she sees them, which she was of course all on board with!  She told us that they're a very "open" Family when it comes to religion.  They did say that there were more things that needed to be done in their house, as it's an older place with lots of renovating that needs to be done.  So, we'll probably be back!  Also on the service front, we'll be out to other friends of members tomorrow to help them paint the ENTIRE house on the inside. 

On top of that, we went out Saturday with the Zone Leaders in their car to stop by all of the less active members that live long distances from our city, which are impossible to get to without a car.  A couple were really nice and invited us back, F. and M. were two that we have an appointment with this Thursday.  Very excited for that.  R. unfortunately had to cancel this week because of exams :/ but will be meeting with us the for the next visit.  But, she did say that she'd like to come to church after all of the exams are done with!  There was a nice surprise that I heard last night from the Herning Elders, who are in our district now.  One of the people that Elder Hansen and I knocked on up in Hosltebro showed up to church yesterday!  Just to give you an idea of the journey she took, Holstebro is a 40 minute train ride to Herning, where you're dropped off at the station for another 20 minutes walking to church, but she made it anyways!  She was a Russian woman, named T., who I had the chance to teach twice before transferring.  Sounds like she has been reading the Book of Mormon and wants to start investigating more seriously now!  Was very happy to hear about that.  Another example of how you really don't know what will come out of all of these planted seeds! 

Oct. 7:
So, my greenie is Elder M. from Layton.  Way cool guy.  Way big guy, haha.  He played Left Tackle for the Layton High team, 6'3" and 265 pounds.  Needless to say, we're the biggest companionship in the mission.  We've already seen some scared faces on people when they open their door up to 2 giants in suits outside their door.  It actually serves as a fun conversation starter, as we can usually fire off some jokes about being re-possessors or something. 

We have met a couple very positive new investigators the past couple of days out contacting and door-knocking though.  One is Kim, a man who new some Mormons Down in Sønderborg and has been interested in learning about the church for a while now. He gladly took a book and actually texted us his address!  Good sign there.   Tung did give us his email address, and we've been contacting him through that.  Pretty soon we'll be on Facebook too!  So we'll basically be able to teach him through that, possibly even on video chat. 

Sep. 30:
Well, the biggest news from this week was TRANSFERS!  So, the visa's for 15 of the waiting missionaries finally came, so the "real" transfers will go down this week.  The good news is that I'll be staying in the Ward, probably until the end of the mission.  But, my new "area" is going to be opening up Kolding and training!  Super excited for that, it's going to help get things really going in the Ward with 3 sets of missionaries now.  The ZL's will be in Fredericia still and will only work here, while me and the green man will work in Kolding and Haderslev.  The Ward was super excited to hear about it.  I'll be going from ZL duties to DL duties now, and the funny thing is that the district will just be the missionaries in the Ward.  

Back in the old days of this mission when I first got here, the Districts would cover 3 or even 4 areas.  Now with so many missionaries, we're starting to look more like a state-side mission.  The 4th zone will be opening up in this mission on transfer day, too.  Big things happening!  I'll be hopping on a train to Copenhagen Wednesday night to pick up my 2nd greenie :)  Really excited for the opportunity to train again.  I don't think there's a better way to end a mission more focused and working harder.  So, we had the chance to teach Tung all of 3 times in the space of 4 days before he headed back to Vietnam!  At the last appointment, he accepted a Baptismal invitation, and said that if he gets an answer to his prayer he will be baptized!  Unfortunately, there isn't any church presence in Vietnam yet, but we're hoping to come back to teach his wife who wasn't able to make it to any of our 3 lessons because of work.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Another Baptism!

We're so excited, that's two baptisms in the last little while! Elder Swenson looks like a giant in this photo haha. Only 10 1/2 short weeks until he returns home.

Here's a bit from his last letters:

Sept. 23:
So, A.s baptism went as planned this last Saturday, was a super good program.  Elder Pitts had the honors of dunking her, and when we were talking to her a little later, it sounded like there was a possibility of her son coming to church with her!  So, we've been crazy busy in the area, finally have been able to get a hold of some people and teach them!  One that we're really excited about is S., who is the girl that referred herself online a couple weeks ago.  We finally came by and caught her home.  It turns out that she's one of the friends of a girl who just left on her mission a few weeks ago.  She came to her farewell, and apparently liked being there.  She wanted her own Book of Mormon and invited us back this Wednesday to teach her!  We're going to be there with the missionary girl's Father, so it should be a perfect set up!  And, we finally have gotten a hold of P. again!  We called him yesterday, and it sounded like he's been reading and wants us over.   We're going to bring up Baptism this week when we visit the T. family.  As far as we know, one of their daughters is old enough to be baptized, but isn't yet.  They have actually been in church the past two weeks, which has been great to see.  On top of that, we were happy to see M. make it to church.  The family situation is still pretty rough, but we're glad his Grandma is so strong in the faith.  He came along with her.  Yesterday turned into a pretty cool day after church.  We had time to head down to Kolding and stop by some past investigators.  The first one was a lady from Vietnam who had the missionaries over a year ago.  The husband,T., answered this time, who was actually just visiting from Vietnam for the next two weeks, but as soon as he heard who we were, said "Come in!"  He let us in and we pulled up the Vietnamese church material up on the internet and taught him the first lesson as best as we could.  He spoke super broken English, but he loved everything we told him.  Now he wants a Vietnamese and English Book of Mormon, and wants us back tomorrow to teach again!  So that was exciting and totally unexpected.  His wife wasn't even there for that lesson, so we're excited to get the chance to talk to her, too.  After that, we swung by A. on the way home to stop by a media referral who we gave a book to a couple weeks ago.  When we went by that time, it was the handyman who answered the door, so we gave the book to him and he agreed to give it to D., who ordered it.  Yesterday, D.'s parents answered and they were interested too! It turns out D. is a college student in Århus, but would really like missionaries there to come see him.  The Mother took a book after we talked a little with her and said we could come by "anytime!" 

Sept. 30:
Big things happening!  I'll be hopping on a train to Copenhagen Wednesday night to pick up my 2nd greenie :) Really excited for the opportunity to train again.  I don't think there's a better way to end a mission more focused and working harder.  So, we had the chance to teach T. all of 3 times in the space of 4 days before he headed back to Vietnam!  At the last appointment, he accepted a Baptismal invitation, and said that if he gets an answer to his prayer he will be baptized!  Unfortunately, there isn't any church presence in Vietnam yet, but we're hoping to come back to teach his wife who wasn't able to make it to any of our 3 lessons because of work.  T.'s goal is to move back to Denmark in a year or two.  We had a couple of other good appointments this last week.  We met with the T. family again and taught the parents and the kids the first part of the Restoration lesson, as we've started from the beginning in giving them the missionary lessons.  After the lesson, the topic of Baptism got brought up, and R., the girl who isn't baptized said "I want to be baptized!"  Haha, we were happy to hear her enthusiasm with it, and it may have even caught the parents a little off guard.  Unfortunately, we were a little pressed for time, but will definitely be bringing that up again at our next visit this week and maybe even set up a date for it!  Yesterday, before heading to an eating appointment with the B. family (awesome people!) we decided we'd stop by a referral given to us by a member from Herning, to stop by his ex-wife and son who are both less-active in Fredericia.  We decided to give it a shot, and they were both happy to see us!  In fact, E. (the wife) said that she really would like to have us come back.  She has really missed the church in her life and sounds like she's been less-active for about 5 years. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

A new zone and a baptism!

Well, we had a baptism this last Saturday!  An awesome day to say the least.  I was surprised by how many people showed up, it turned out to be a group about the size of our normal sacrament meetings.  Members from both his and L's family were there, as well as half the Ward and about 6 or 8 missionaries that were a part of his teaching.  It made for quite the Baptismal program, and the spirit packed a serious punch!  The talks were given by members of the family and close friends, all of whom are strong members, and I got to tickle some ivory for the hymns and prelude music.  There were so many people there, I had to stand all the way in the back of the primary room, where the baptismal font is.  Luckily, I'm tall enough to be able to pull such a feat off.  I would honestly say it could have been the best-put-together baptism I've been to out here.  I'm pretty sure it was due to the family's involvement in it, almost felt like we were at a family reunion.  Afterwards, Elder Singleton and I were invited out to the BBQ at their house with the family.  J's side of the family actually aren't members, but they are very supportive and have respected his decision to be baptized.  They were some really nice people, we got to meet most of them.  As I was talking with his brother and sister right before we left, a random member from Esbjerg walks by and jokingly says "watch out guys, he's a missionary, don't give him your telephone number!" Kind of killed the conversation actually, but was pretty funny.  All in all, it was quite the day.  There should be three pictures attached.  The first is him and his wife, and her father, who baptized him.  He's the Ward mission leader in Esbjerg.  The second is me struggling to fit into the same picture as him, looking a bit freakishly tall in that one :/ Beyond that, it's been a week of being all over the place!  Wednesday and Thursday we were in Copenhagen on splits with the AP's which was a good time.  The 3rd picture is our 3 generation mission family!  Elder VanDenBerghe received his new missionary this last week, and the timing couldn't have been any better to be on AP splits.  I got to play AP for the day and go to the new trainer/trainee meeting and got to know the two new missionaries that came.  My grandson is Elder Ludlow, and, well, he's a champion.  Couldn't be a prouder grandfather.  He actually went to Alta, and is a hockey player, it's kind of crazy how many missionaries here grew up 10 minutes from us.  Well, those are the highlights!  It was good to hear from everyone.  Love you all, see you in a short 142 days! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Skyping for Mother's Day!

We love skyping! We were able to talk for four hours today. Rusty and his companion, Elder Hansen, both had a computer to skype from and didn't have to share. That meant more time for us! The best news Rusty told us today is that A. has set a baptism date for June 29th! So excited for this man to be baptized. He read the B of M almost entirely the week before conference, and while watching conference, he came to know for himself that President Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet.

Only ten more days in the area, and then Rusty is being transferred to a new zone with a new companion, it will be Elder Singleton from Richfield, Utah. This will be his first car area. He's used to riding the subway and the buses around. Rusty read several verses from the Book of Mormon in Danish. What a language! I have all the respect in the world for Rusty learning it so well. Sometimes it makes us giggle though; one sentence in particular sounds like someone is clearing their throat and getting ready to throw up!

We heard about lots of the castles in Denmark, especially the Frederiksborg Castle—my favorite!!
He reminded us we can trace our roots back to Danish royalty, possibly including King Harald Bluetooth, who's name inspired the modern day mobile phone communication with computers. And apparently our ancestors lived in some of those castles -- cool! Makes me want to work on our family tree a bit more. He showed us a few places where Hans Christian Andersen lived, too. Danish teens apparently like American culture. They wear chino pants and retro NBA hats among other things.

We showed him how tall his little bro is getting, and that he's ready to school him in basketball when he gets home! We're so happy he is doing so well! We love him tons!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Miracle Week

So the week was awesome!  Two miracle stories from the work.  The first was when we were out knocking on Tuesday.  We gave out 5 books in all that day, which was a redhot day of contacting.  On of the last doors we knocked was a HUGE bald guy that answered the door and was just about to say "nej tak" and shut it, before we started asking random questions about himself.  One thing we have noticed is that most Danes LOVE to talk about themselves.  So, he started telling us tons of things about his life, and it turned out that he had lived in California for 10 years, and has been to Temple Square!  After a few minutes of talking, he said "Do you want to come in for 5 minutes?"  Of course we went in, and the 5 minutes turned into an hour!  We talked about just about everything with him and he told us about his rough childhood and how it has caused him to become a strong christian later in his life.  We talked about a few random gospel principles, mainly the Plan of Salvation.  Just before leaving, he invited us back for an appointment the next Tuesday (tomorrow)!  We also told him that the book was totally free, which made him happy.  He said it had been too long since he's read in a Book of Mormon last, and was excited to read it again.  His name is K., and lives in Herning. 

The next day, Wednesday, we finally had an appointment with Tom, which went fairly well.  He's still progressing pretty slowly but is still willing to read and pray.  We also asked if he would be baptized if he found out that the Book of Mormon was true, to which he said "of course!"  His lessons are usually pretty long, and go off on all kinds of tangents which always keep us on our heels :)  He seems to always have an interesting interpretation of a certain Bible verse that he'll show us every time.  

But, the biggest highlight of the week was the lesson with R. and M.  R is a referral from Fredericia, who met the missionaries two years ago.  She took a book and a couple lessons, but had to stop because of how busy she was with school and everything.  She called the missionaries just before she moved telling them that she would like to learn more, and just happened to move into the outskirts of our area, to a little town called Gludsted.  She was actually born in Africa, but was adopted by a Danish family when she was 2, thus giving her the last name "Jensen" even though she is African.  Very nice lady, and was raised as a normal member in the Folkekirke.  The boyfriend is actually from Holland and has lived here for 7 years as a manager at a Dairy Farm in Gludsted.  

We drove down there this last Friday with the senior couple missionaries, the Johansens for our appointment.  It was an awesome time, started out at the dining room table as we got to know them and her little 3 year-old daughter named Maggie.  Talked for a few minutes and then the first lesson came into the discussion super smoothly.  Right before we put the Restoration DVD in, we told her that they could put the little daughter down for a nap, as she had hinted that that was what she was trying to do.  It turned out to be really good timing, as that allowed them to focus on the video without having to keep control of the little girl.  After the DVD, we talked with them and asked what they thought about it all.  R. said that she relates to Joseph Smith, and has gone through the same in her life, wondering why there's so many churches, and has always thought that there was a "better church" than the one she went to, but went there anyways.  After asking what it would mean to them if they found out that the message was true, she gave a pretty surprising answer, "Well, I already know it's true, it just makes sense to me!"  That caught us a little off guard and we were amazed to hear someone saying that at the first lesson!  We took the opportunity to ask if they would be Baptized if they did find out about the truth for themselves, which they both said "yes" to!  We were stoked for that, and will be back this week to see how their reading and praying went.  We used the last few minutes to teach the importance of prayer and why it's the only way they'll find out for themselves.  They both agreed to read at least a chapter and to pray about it before our next visit!  We're excited for the timing this week with Conference. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Transferred! And the Herning Basketball Team

After ten months in Ballerup, Elder Swenson was transferred to Hammerum, Denmark. He is loving it there, even though it is very rural and there is only a small branch of about 15.

This is a pic of his last eating appt. in Ballerup!

Excerpts from January 21 letter:

A random funny story from this week.  We were out on the Herning strip, or Gågade just street contacting when a guy with his bike comes running up behind us and yells in English for us to stop!  Turns out he's an American man who is here as a coach for the Herning Hurricanes basketball team.  He spotted how tall I was, and knew that most missionaries were Americans.  Haha, he gave us a card with the address to the training facilities and asked us to come to their practices.

One of the highlights of this week was 9 Books given out, which lead the mission this week!  We were giving them out like candy, and at least 3 of the 9 are VERY potential.  I think the most promising one was last night after church when we were out knocking around the area where the married couple missionaries live in Herning.  We had had about 2 hours of straight up door slamming from angry old people until we decided to knock one door before calling it a night and eating dinner with the couple upstairs.  It was a man in his 20's, and was immediately interested.  He took a book, said he wants to read and learn more.  We were a little shocked at the response at first especially after being rejected the whole night until then.  He explained that he's lived several places in the world and has always wondered about things like this, and if there could be one true church.  Not only that, but he was very cool, and was surprised when we told him we weren't Danish!  Those compliments are always nice when they compliment our Danish and the fact that we're doing this tough work here.

Excerpts from January 28 letter:  

Thet practice with the Herning basketball team turned out to be tons of fun.  They just had a High School basketball gym opened with a couple courts and a bunch of people scrimmaging.  Most of the guys were HUGE, just giant Eastern Europeans, but not very skilled.  Just slow, fat and tall dudes.  It was alot of fun, though.  After, a member who drove us to the practice and back had a good conversation with the coach of the team who was an American. The member who drove us is actually from Odense, and is known for being pretty fiery.  It was pretty funny how he was talking to the coach, as he kept asking "why haven't you become a Mormon yet?  You've known the missionaries for years now!" And stuff like that.  It was a fun night, most of the players were from random places, Poland, Lithuania, and of course a few Danes.  

The appointments that we were able to set up this week were very good.  The best was for sure with T., a 27 year old Danish guy who grew up in a "broken family" as he called it, and has always been looking for something that he could believe in.  Has always believed that there is a God, but just wasn't sure on which religion he should join.  We knocked his door last week, and he immediately took a book and started talking.  This week was our first sit down lesson with him, and he took the Restoration lesson very well, and was excited to read.  I would say he's definitely one of the most positive people I've taught in my entire mission.  He's very humble and has the desire to find out for himself.  That's what gets us so excited about the situation.  He's in Germany skiing for the weekend, but we have another appointment this Saturday with him where we'll bring A., the new convert to be with for a member present.  I think his presence will be great at that lesson, and if everything goes well, we'll set a baptismal date with him!  Another great thing is that he lives just two floors under the married couple missionaries that live in his complex.  They would be willing to drive him to church, and I'm sure A. would be happy with doing the same.  Very excited about the situation, ZERO obstacles yet.  Excited about his progress so far.