Monday, June 22, 2015

June 22

Well Everyone, This is it. My final hours in Norway are quickly approaching, and I don't really know what to think. I am so excited to see everyone I love again, but I struggle with the thought of leaving all the people I love so much here. I love my purpose as a missionary. I love finding, teaching, and baptizing. Luckily, none of that has to end when the tag comes off :) I have learned so much over the past two years. Sometimes I look back at that young kid who arrived in Norway: inexperienced, excited, burning with a desire to serve, maybe a little prideful. Boy have I changed as I have been put through the refiner's fire. Sometimes I don't recognize myself. I have learned more about who I am and I have seen so many people change their lives because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have learned to plan and set goals and work like crazy until they are achieved. I have learned to laugh through the hard times. But I think my favorite lesson I have learned in this wonderful country is the way that God speaks to me through His Spirit and the way that Spirit works on and through others. There is nothing that could be so valuable in life as the ability to recognize and follow the Holy Spirit. Not just any Spirit - a member of the Godhead whose specific assignment is to help us through our lives in a way that only He can and only a loving Father in Heaven could provide. I am committed to following Him diligently for the rest of my life, and I can't wait to see the experiences I continue to have. 

And to add to all of the sentimentality of the bittersweet moment, we were able to have a baptism this week. Elisabeth made it! I am so proud of her, and I can't wait to see the growth she continues to make as she works toward entering the House of the Lord and making covenants with Him there. There was some drama leading up to the baptism (ask me when I get home), but the meeting was so special and there was such a sweet spirit there. It was wonderful to watch the ward members take her in so perfectly as the symbolic culmination of all of my efforts here in Stavanger. What an amazing thing a baptism is. It is essentially the culmination of everything that missionary work is. The missionaries and the members working together in concert to help a person make one of the most important commitments they will make in their lives, and the Spirit is so strong every time. I love this work. 

I am really sad as I say goodbye to everyone and everything I love, but I know that there are good things to come. Here is a quote I love: "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." I am ready to keep moving, because in this church, it is always onward and upward. Moving forward toward our eternal home. These have been the best two years of my life so far, but I know that I have so many more amazing years to come. Life is so good :) I have appreciated all of the support I have received on my journey, and I can't wait to return the favor. I guess we will see you all in the states! Or wherever you happen to be :) Godspeed to all of you. I love you all!

Signing out for the final time,

Elder Dallin Bruce Childs

The Redfords, as well as Casper next to me on the right.

Elisabeth's baptism!

The Steffenson's

 Onward and Upward!

Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15

Hello Friends and Family,

Weird to be writing this email right now.... to be honest, I doubt that I am going to write much of a blog post next week, so for those of you who are my avid followers, sorry. But I will definitely post something to wrap things up, so stay tuned. This is my last full week as a missionary, and that means a couple of things. First, it means that it is all of your last full week without me. For some of you, that is really exciting, so get excited and I will see you next week! For some others, however, it may be kind of sad, and I'm sorry, but I am coming home anyway ;) Second, it means that time is going really quickly, and Elisabeth's baptism is coming up this Wednesday! So far so good as far as the smoking goes, and she passed her baptismal interview this week. We are going to finish teaching her the last of the laws and ordinances tonight and she will be good to go. It is so exciting! I have been stressing out hard core for the last few weeks trying to get her off of nicotine, and with the help of the ward, a lot of follow-up, and often, mighty, prayer, she is doing it! Elisabeth has made so many changes to her life, and I am so proud of her for it. Pictures to come.

All of you back home are enjoying summer right now, but it doesn't really feel as if summer has arrived in Stavanger. All the kids are still in school this week, and the warmth hasn't really come. We have seen glimpses of the sun, and days that were almost balmy, but Jack Frost is hanging on with everything he's got, and we haven't quite managed to shake him yet. I guess I will have to wait until America to experience the summer time. We will see if I can get used to that. 

I am trying to think of all the exciting things that have happened this week. We had a zone conference, and as a part of the meeting I gave my final testimony (burnimony, as it is called here in the mission) and sang/played a tear-jerking rendition of "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" with Elders Gunther, Halverson, and Nielson. Our mission president is also going home now, so it was a tender moment for many as we all reminisced on the things we have learned over the years. We met an American NFL player who wants a copy of the Book of Mormon, and we spent a lot of time meeting with Elisabeth and helping her. We had a pretty full week, and that helped me a lot to be able to take my mind off of the coming events. Despite all the excitement that I have, it really is going to break my heart to have to leave Norway. I promise I will be excited when I see you all again, but until that plane takes off, it is really hard for me to say goodbye. I am experiencing so many emotions right now, and I feel like they are on such completely different ends of the spectrum that those around me have got to think that I am bi-polar or something. It is like I am being stretched to my limits by two engulfing forces. But I am surviving and so grateful for this week I have to work :) I am going to finish the Book of Mormon before I leave as well, and guess what. It's true. It's so true. 

I love you all and I am so grateful for all of the support you have given me over the past two years. I can't wait to tell you all of my experiences next time we meet, because I've had many. Until then, try to be a tool in the hands of God, and have a wonderful week! Sending my love from Norway!

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8

Hey again! I really don't get to say that too many more times. I am sitting here in Stavanger just loving life. It really is the best. We went to Preikestolen again today and it was amazing :) This time the weather was great, the view was clear, and no one died again, which is always a bonus. It felt so good to get out in nature and get some actual excercise in. Norway is epic. As far as the missionary work goes, we had another great week. We are working really closely with Elisabeth to get her baptized. We have moved her date to the 17th of June, and all signs point to success with her. We talk to her every day, and on Saturday we went over with the Whitakers (bless their hearts, they are so amazing) and cleaned Elisabeth's apartment to try to get some of the smoke smell out of it, and it worked really well, but it was also sorely needed. It took about 4 hours, but we made a big difference, and it is going to be easier for her to not smoke if she doesn't have to sit there and smell the smoke all day. So now we just need to keep her motivated to not buy anymore cigarettes and we will be good to go. She is so sincere and wants so badly to have the gift of the Holy Ghost in her life. As for Erlend, he is doing well also. He is making steps in his life to come unto Christ and be baptized, but he has some bigger steps that he needs to take and may take a little longer, but he is really changing and it is so fun to see the light in his eyes. He will be baptized one day. I like him a lot.

The ward was having a campout this week, so we went and took part on Friday evening and then left again that night. It was a lot of fun, and the activities included archery, a barbecue, beach volleyball, some campfire games and a spiritual thought. It was a lot of fun to be with the members, and I think that everyone grew closer and it was good to be together. A couple of the members brought their owns bows, and we had a bit of an archery competition. We had outlined clear boundaries which everyone was to stay within and there were rules for when you could shoot, where you could walk and when, and how we could shoot to ensure safety. Despite all our best efforts, however, at one point a kid from the ward ran out in front of the firing range while people were shooting. Some of the bows those guys had were burying arrows in the hill behind our targets, so there was some obvious danger there. Luckily, one of the members of the bishopric quickly yelled, "STOP, STOP, STOP!" and everything was okay, but everyone's heart rate was definitely up a bit. It reminded me of life, because we have boundaries clearly lined out for us by the prophets of the Lord, and if we stay within those boundaries we will be okay and stay clear of any danger. But as soon as we step over those boundaries, we have no promises, and by no stretch of the imagination we could easily be that little boy in front of a line of archers. We wouldn't stand a chance. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have every day to tell people about these boundaries that have been set for us by a loving God. I am so grateful for Him and I love Him with all of my heart. Stay within those boundaries, I promise, it's worth it! 

I love you all and hope that you have a great week :) Later!

Monday, June 1, 2015

June 1

Can you believe that it is already June? Time is going so quick, school is out, and summer is officially here. Well, in some parts of the world. In Stavanger it is still pretty cold and rainy, but that is pretty typical. We had a great week filled with teaching Elisabeth and Erlend and trying to get them to have the desire to quit smoking. They both have a desire to be baptized and are so close, but just feel that they aren't strong enough to quit smoking right now. It is so hard to have patience sometime, but I know that they are going to make it. Christ will help them. It was a little frustrating that neither of them were able to come to church, but they will make it next time. 

I have a quick little story to tell, and then I have to go. We have a recent convert in the ward named Casper, and he is really awesome :) He has become one of my best friends here and he is deaf. I have learned sign language recently so that I can communicate with him, and he is just one of the most solid guys I have ever met. An absolute rockstar. Sometimes it breaks my heart that more people can't communicate with him because he has so many awesome things to say. I translate for him in church, and this sacrament meeting the primary kids got up to sing a song during a couple of the talks. They began to sing and it was beautiful, and I wished that I could communicate that beautiful experience to Casper through my hands, but it just isn't the same. Then when the kids got to the chorus they began to sign along with the text. It was such a little thing, but it was such a sweet experience because those kids had understood that there was someone who needed help and they had done what they could to reach out to someone in need. Tears came to my eyes and Casper was crying as they finished the song. It has been great to watch the Stavanger ward reach out in their own way to welcome even someone who can't hear into their family. We need the members in this work. We can't do it without you. Have a great week and happy June!

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25

We hiked up Preikestolen today, so we don't have a ton of time, but I am doing so well :) 

Elisabeth committed to be baptized on the 21st of June this week, and committed to stop smoking by the 14th, so now it is time to rally the troops! Please keep her in her prayers, because she is going to need all the help she can get, but I believe that she can do it, and it is going to be awesome. We are just going to involve her tons with all of the members and meet with her lots and steal all of her cigarettes. We also moved Erlend's baptism to the 21st for convenience sake, so there will be two baptisms on my last Sunday. That will be nice :) 

Erlend is doing well. He is Norwegian, and has lived in Sandnes for his whole life. He is married and has two kids, but the government isn't allowing him to see them because they wanted to give him some kind of pills because they said he needed them and he refused to take them so they deemed him not able to be a father. Interesting story, but to make it short, he isn't very happy about it. He has always had some views that he hasn't found in any church and was able to find in talking with Daniel, his friend who is a member. He is also really struggling with the family situation and needs help, and he is finding it in God and Christ. It's awesome. He was in Kristiansand this week and he still went to church there. He is awesome.  

We haven't been able to meet with Hanna this week because everyone was really busy, but hopefully we will be able to next week.

Here are some pictures of our hike today:

These pictures look even more epic because of the fog and rain. Good times!  Preikestolen is the best thing ever :)

Chillin with my best buddy Elder Gunther. Isn't it incredible???

Linn Steffensen, one of the Steffensens, came with us on the hike. I love that family so much, and we are going over there tonight with Elisabeth. It is going to be the best :)

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18

What an awesome week. Always. I am starting to realize that I don't really get to write that very many more times, and that is a scary thought. But Norway is great and this week was especially good because we celebrated the country's birthday on the 17th! And if you remember from last year, that is a pretty big deal for Norwegians. The awkward part of the whole thing is that the holiday was on a Sunday this year, which made life a little bit interesting, but the Norwegians have a tenacious history when it comes to their national day celebrations and this year, true to form, church was shortened to an hour and moved to 6 pm, and we were all free to enjoy the parades, rain or shine. Turns out we had a little of both.

There was a children's parade, live music, a citizen's parade in which everyone was welcome to participate, the main parade, and a lot of street vendors. I am proud to say that we didn't spend a dime yesterday :) Or a crown... We were, however, able to enjoy the day thoroughly, and I am grateful to have been able to have the experience. There seemed to be a bit more happening here than there was last year in Narvik :) 

One other thing jumps out to me when I think of the highlights of the week, and that is the fact that we were able to get a baptismal date with a guy named Erlend. He is amazing and a lot of fun to talk to, and it is so fun to see the desire that he has to come closer to Christ and be baptized. It is amazing when we don't have to force things on people; when they are the driving force. I literally live to teach out here in Norway. When we are teaching life is amazing. I don't have a care in the world other than the investigator sitting in front of me and the Spirit. And quite frankly, that's the way I prefer it. I like being consecrated, and I am hooked on the feeling that comes when the Spirit flows through me as a tool in God's hands to touch the open heart of investigator. There is nothing like it.

Erlend has been to church three times already, and he is preparing to be baptized on the 19th of June. That is going to be a wonderful day for the church in Stavanger. 

On a slightly less spiritual note, there was a cruise ship in Stavanger today carrying tons of Nu Skin employees who are members from Utah, so if you know someone who is on that cruise to Norway, I probably met them today and they probably told me to tell you hello. So hello everybody! :) There's my mass shout-out. It was a lot of fun to see so many members in the city and to be able to be recognized by so many. I feel like I got a little taste of what it is like to be a missionary in Utah. 

Missions are so good and Christ is so good. Listen to his promises, because He never lies. Thanks for all the support and have an amazing week!

We had a lot of fun on the 17th!  This is me and a lot of Norwegians in their Bunads. It's the traditional dress of the country and I think it is really awesome :) 

Me and Elder Allen by the Flag.

Me and some Russ girls who somehow randomly knew who the Mormons were. I think one of them lived in Utah or something. I thought you would like to see what Russ is (Norwegian graduation celebration that is celebrated on and around the 17th of May).

Why Not?

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11

Hey everyone, I have the best family ever! If you don't know them, you should get to know them, because they are amazing :) It was wonderful talking to everyone and it's so good to know that they are all still real :) Still there in Utah, right where I left them. Sometimes out here on a mission I forget there is a life outside of Norway, so it is good to get a little reminder. I am not going to spend a lot of time emailing today, but I love being a missionary! There is nothing like it. There is nothing like being able to focus on helping other people 24/7; nothing like waking up every morning to change and improve yourself; and there is nothing to compare with the joy that comes with being a missionary. Helping other people is the best thing I've ever done and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do it.

I am moving into my last transfer now, and that is a weird feeling and I have a lot of mixed emotions about it. The dominant one for now, however, is an overwhelming desire to keep the focus and work harder than ever. I want to run to the finishline, finish strong, and return with honor. Despite everything that has happened over the course of the last two years and all the growth I have seen, I still feeling like I am climbing frantically to the climax of my mission. I feel like the peak is just on the horizon and that if I could only climb faster, jump higher, I could reach the top. There is so much to do and not enough time, so I am going to give it everything I've got. I'm committed to that :) It reminds me of the scripture in Alma 34:33:

"And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had somany witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; forafter this day of life, which is given us to prepare foreternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while inthis life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein therecan be no labor performed."

And that's not to say that I feel like I have any great repenting to do, but we are given this time to improve ourselves, ot prepare and to constantly grow. I am not going to waste it now or ever. I am so grateful for the opportunity we have each day to be a better person than we were yesterday. To stand a little taller and smile a little bigger. To reach out to one more person and to think about ourselves a little less. The gospel is amazing. If we live it, we become the product of day after day, year after year, of being put through the refiner's fire, and we come out on the other side as perfect, glorified individuals. I think that's amazing.

I love you all, and to all you mothers, Happy Mother's Day!

Elder Nielson came to visit and it was great fun :)