Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy Halloween!

 It's not quite the same being in Norway celebrating a holiday so closely entwined with my good old American culture, but it is Halloween nonetheless. We carved pumpkins and ate candy, and I have even seen a few costumes around the city! So, it's safe to say that my patriotism hasn't been completely crushed yet.

The days are getting shorter here, and I am not exactly sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it will probably be cool for a while for it to be dark, and if I go to the North this Winter it will be dark the whole day, so that would be cool for a second, but then again, I am a fan of the sun. We are losing about 15 minutes of daylight every day right now, so that is interesting. It is weird to go study every morning and watch the sun come up later and later every day. 
It's been a pretty good week, but nothing too exciting has happened. The craziest thing that happened this week was probably when Elder Whitmer and I went to get our hair cut today. We don't have very much money right now, and haircuts cost a fortune in Norway. Literally, I think the conversion is just over 100 dollars. So we were looking for something cheap, and we were walking down the street, and we saw a sign for a cheap frisør, or barbershop, so we went over to take a look. We had to walk down a dimly lit alleyway, but there was a little salon at the end, with one man who cut hair. It was only 20 dollars, so we figured, why not? It only took 10 minutes total for both of us to get our hair cut, and I think it might have been the sketchiest thing I have ever done in my life. I was surprised I had both of my ears at the back end of that experience. But we survived, and we have missionary appropriate hair now, so what more could we ask for, right?

Next week, we are going to have a harvest party on Saturday for the ward, to try and get member missionary relationships up and to get all the members to be friends with each other. Everyone is really reserved here in Norway, so they are not as tight knit in the ward as they are back home. We got in contact with a less active Family who is really excited with the party, and we are going to start working with them. Their name is the Ivanovs, and they are from America, so fingers crossed that they will make us a good Thanksgiving dinner! There is a really good chance, I think, so I am excited. They are a really cool Family.

We have been visiting a lot of less active members lately, because we want to start working with them to come back to Church and to give us referrals. Oslo has 600 people on the ward list, so we have had a lot of people to visit, but it is hard, because I think we have found close to 20 people already who don't live at the address listed on the ward list, and a lot of whom don't even live in Norway anymore. So it feels like we are just updating the ward list more than anything, but that is okay, we are finding a few that we can work with. As far as investigators go, we don't have anyone really that we worked with this week, but we had a few lessons that we taught.

The other day we were having a long day because we had been in Oslo for a lot of it and hadn't really been able to get anything done, and we were pretty tired. But after dinner we needed to go out, so we said a prayer and headed out to an area to knock on doors. We got out there and started knocking, but we both just didn't have a good feeling about it at all. We couldn't really focus, and things just didn't feel right. So, we said another prayer and asked if there was somewhere else we needed to go. We both felt like we needed to go visit a person we had met at the beginning of the transfer, but that nothing had really happened with. We got to her house and she let us in. We taught the message of the restoration and gave her a Book of Mormon. The spirit was so strong, and in her prayer at the end, she thanked Heavenly Father for the peace we had brought to her home. It was so cool, and she is the most positive investigator that we have found, and the Lord really led us to her this week. We had a goal to find 3 new investigators this week and it was coming down to the end of the week and we hadn't found any. Her name is Rhoda and she has 2 children, so we reached our goal and everything was good. The Lord helped us to do the things He had commanded us to do because of our faith in Him. 
Like I said earlier, it has been a kind of long week, but it has been good. This week I have been thinking a lot about this work. I am amazed by the simplicity of the Lord's means in accomplishing His work and His glory. He sends a bunch of 20 year old kids out into the world to faraway places where they can barely speak the language. In the hands of these young people- people who the world would scarcely trust with the simplest of tasks- He places the salvation of countless numbers of His children. There are a lot of instances in the scriptures when Jesus was scoffed at and mocked because of the things that He did, and this is another one of those times when the world tries to tell its creator that He doesn't know what He is doing. Oh the irony. And yet, in spite of it all, the work moves forward. In fact, it is hastening. It is amazing and it grows my faith every day that the Lord really is in control of our lives. So, I put on my shoes, put my trust in Him, take up my cross, and set out on my path to Him. And the Journey couldn't be more worth it.

I love you all, have a great Halloween!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Increase Your Faith

News for the week: It is zero degrees and snowing today! Winter is here, and I don't know if I should laugh or cry. Maybe I will do a little bit of both :) The Norwegians are all bringing out their winter gear, so I guess that it is time for me to follow suit. I have known that this was coming, but I guess I was just hoping it would stay away a little longer. But, I have heard that Norway is beautiful in the winter as well, so I might as well take the positive outlook on life, right?

This weekend we traveled to a place called Romerike for a stake conference. The European Area Presidency was there to reorganize the stake presidency, so is was fun to be able to meet them and spend a little time getting to know them. I know that they are called of God. Romerike is about an hour away from our apartment by bus, so between traveling and the actual conferences on Saturday and Sunday, we weren't able to get a whole lot done on those days. Earlier in the week, we just knocked on a lot of doors, and contacted people on the streets. I am still waiting to find that "golden" investigator, but I can see that there are people being placed in my path, so I just need to talk to them!

It has been a pretty routine week here in Norway. We still don't have a ton of investigators, since we are in a new area, so it is just work work work for us, trying to find people to teach. And I know that the Lord is leading His work, and He guides his servants. So we have been busy, trying to find out exactly what it is that He wants us to be doing.
But isn't that a challenge sometimes.
Although we aren't really teaching anyone right now, per se, we have a man named Andreas who is in a band and really cool, but he came as an observer (he is studying to be a religions teacher), so I don't know if he really wants to keep investigating. We also met a woman named Nina, but she is bipolar and a little suicidal and used to be a Jehovah's Witness, so the situation is kind of weird there. However, we did get a really positive referral yesterday, so we are going to go visit them tonight. It is a family, and I hope that we will be able to start meeting with them.

A little more about Nina:  Every day I pray that the Lord will put someone in my path who is prepared to receive the gospel and I can talk to and help them come unto Christ. I pray for Him to open my mouth and speak through me, that I can be a tool in His hands. However, it is hard to not get a little routine when you pray often for things, so on Thursday this week, I decided to be more specific. I prayed specifically that we would be able to find someone in the hour we were going contacting before our appointment. It is hard to find people here, but I knew that it was the will of the Lord, so I set out to do it. Then, as we were walking that day, I saw a woman smoking by a garbage can. She was a little out of the way, but I just knew that she was who we needed to talk to, so we went over and said hi. It was Nina, and she told us that we were guardian angels for her that day. We sat down on a bench and taught her about the gospel and she said it was exactly what she needed to hear. She told us the whole time we were together, she didn't feel the need to smoke, and she was so grateful that the Lord had led us to her. 
This week I have been thinking a lot about faith. Faith is a gift from God, given to the obedient. It is not something that I will ever be able to achieve by myself, nor can I expect God to just give me faith. It is something that I have to work for. Actually put some effort in. And it is not fun, sometimes. Faith isn't easy. As I have been thinking about ways that I could increase my faith, I began to study the handbook for missionaries, and I realized just how many rules there are. Some of them are little things that don't seem to matter, and some are obvious no-nos. But if I want to be able to have more faith, I have to be able to be exactly obedient to all of them. It sounds like a big task, and, I have to admit, I was overwhelmed for a while. It didn't seem possible to me to be exactly obedient 100% of the time. But then I realized something.
It's not.
God doesn't reserve His gift of faith to those who are perfect at being obedient. If that were the case, which one of us would qualify for this precious gift? God gives us the faith we need to be more obedient, based on our desire to follow his commandments. And then, when we are a little more obedient, He gives us the faith we need to be a little more obedient. To follow one more rule, one more commandment, a little more fully. It is a cycle that revolves around our efforts to repent, become better, and follow our Savior Jesus Christ.
Cool, huh? So this week I have been trying to be as obedient as I possibly can, and, I am by no means perfect, but by doing the things that I am able to do, I am experiencing an increase in my faith in the saving power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. And it is amazing. Don't we all need to have a little more faith in our Creator? He stands ready to give it if we but try to follow Him.
I have a testimony of the divinity of this work and I know that it is being hastened. Let us all put our hands to the plow and not look back until the Savior finally says, "It is enough."

I love you all and I hope that you have an amazing week!

Monday, October 14, 2013


Winter is Coming!

Yes, winter is most definitely right around the corner, and I don't know whether I should be shaking with trepidation or excitement. Maybe a combination of both would be best. Here in Nordstrand, we knock on doors every night, and the winter jackets, scarves, and gloves have officially come out. I am not too sure how I feel about that, but hey, sånn er det bare. It is what it is.
Here is a just a little side note before I begin: When you set up a washer, it is IMPORTANT that it is leveled before you use it.... When we set up the washer here, we just took it out of the box and plugged it in, then we put some clothes in the washer to wash overnight. Clothes take longer to wash here in Norway, so nights are usually the best time to wash clothes. After we went to bed, we woke up in the middle of the night to a cacophony coming from inside the bathroom. Our washer already sounds like it is trying to take off and fly when it starts to go into a spin cycle, but this time it was incredibly loud and banging around. When we got into the bathroom, the washer was banging around and hopping up and down, and it had moved out in front of the door. We unplugged it and sat on it until it stopped, and then we sat there for a minute, hearts racing, and then went back to bed :) But, the next day, we leveled it out and now everything works fine. So, my advice would be this: Usually, it is a good idea to read the directions before setting something up. Especially a washing machine :)
The members here in Oslo are great. The Relief Society president is named Pauline, and she is from England, and she is the only person I have ever heard speak Norwegian with an English accent. So that is funny. She is really nice and has short blonde hair and is always inviting the missionaries over. Are Svendsen, my favorite member, is a rich lawyer that lives in a really really nice apartment in possibly the sketchiest part of Oslo. Are is a star member missionary, and he is always bringing his friends to church and meeting random people who somehow end up coming to some church event.  Even with members like Are, we don't have a ton of baptisms here in Norway. As of right now, we have had 43 this year, and I don't know how much higher it is going to get. We haven't had any baptisms in Oslo since I have been here, but we are trying really hard and I have faith that number is going to turn around soon.

Tracting is really long and there are a lot of people who say no. I haven't really had any bad experiences yet, just nights of not finding anyone and people slamming doors in our face, but it is always worth it when we find the people that are interested in talking to us more. One funny thing was that we talked to a man that really wasn't interested. (I guess you need a little background first. The word for interested in Norwegian is interesert, and the word for interesting is interesant. So keep that in mind.) But when people find out we are Americans they try to speak English to us a lot, so that guy did the same. He glared at us a little bit, looked down, and then said in a quiet voice, "I'm not interesting." It was all I could do to not laugh as he closed the door and we walked off the step, but I guess what I am trying to say is that we find ways to keep it entertaining :)

Even though this week was really really slow, it was good. We didn't teach any lessons, and we just went out knocking on doors every night, so it was really really long. But, we found a lot of good potentials, and we even set up a few teaching appointments, so this week is going to be a lot better. And everyone has been expecting this at first in this new area, so hopefully we can just get things going now. We set up three dinners with members this week, and we are going to meet with David, the Buddhist again. When we asked him to send us his address, he said that he didn't have one and that he would have to send us a "description" of how to get to where he sleeps, so I have no idea what that means, and I am a little nervous about it, but we will see tomorrow! Hopefully I will have more to report next week!
The slow week has given me a lot of time to think about life and what it means to be a follower of Christ, and I think that it has been really good for me. Sometimes you just need time to think, you know?
I have been told all of my life, that in order to understand another person, you need to be able to walk a mile in their shoes and to see the world through their eyes. But that has never really made very much sense to me, because the world is the same for everyone. Whether it is through my eyes or your eyes, a rock is a rock, a tree is a tree, and a person remains the same. Right?
I think so. But, as I have pondered what it really takes to understand a person and to know what it is that they are going through, I have come to a conclusion. We all look at the same world and the same things, and no matter who the viewer is, God's creations remain the same. In and of itself, the fact that I am looking at the world does not change its reality. However, what does matter and what separates us from each other is that we look at the world and notice the things that are individually important to us.
As a missionary, I look at the world and I see good places to proselyte, and people who are likely to accept the gospel. An architect looks at the world and notices structures, buildings, and angles. An artist sees lines and colors, a mother watches carefully over her children, and a religious man sees the hand of God in everything around him. These are all different ways that we observe the world, and we are each different from each other. We have different backgrounds and priorities which shape the way in which we view the world. But, there is One who views the world as its very creator.
Christ views the world and its inhabitants for what they can become.
It is such a profound thing to think that our Savior keeps our eternal possibilities in His view. His eternal perspective is not marred by our occasional faults and mistakes. He always remembers what our true purpose is here, and what it takes to get there. As I have begun to try to more fully understand my Savior, I have done my best to see the world through His eyes, and to pay attention to the things that He thinks are important. As I have done this, it has been like He reached gently down to me and lifted a veil from in front of my eyes. When we try to look through Christ's perspective, we can understand so much more of the world around us. Our charity grows.
I know that if we all do our best to look through Christ's eyes and make His priorities our priorities, we will be better able to help each other on this journey toward perfection. Christ will always be there for us, so let us all make the decision to always be there for Him.

I love this gospel and I love all of you, and I am so grateful for all the love and support I have received this week. It has been much needed, and my prayers have been answered through those that I love. You are all the best, and I hope that we can all make the most of this next week! Gud vær med dere til vi ses igjen!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Typical Day in The Norway Oslo Mission

We asked Dallin to share what he does on a typical day. He sent us a rundown of last Thursday...thought you all might be interested...

This last Thursday, I woke up and then we had to travel in to Oslo, so we left at 7:35 and got on this...I don't know what is called in English. It is a trikk in Norwegian. Maybe like a tram or cable car? I don't know. We took studies in Oslo because we had a district meeting at noon to get everyone excited for the transfer and to set some goals, and then we headed back to our apartment in Nordstrand. We had to set up our washer and our stove and our desks, and then we went to a dinner with these vegan members. They served us a cabbage soup with raw onions and it was really weird, but there was a new investigator there and we taught him about the Book of Mormon and the spirit was really strong and he said he would read. He is really hard-core buddhist, so that is interesting. But then we went back and knocked on doors for the rest of the night, and we didn't really get in any houses, but we got a few try-backs, so it wasn't too bad. So there you have it! A typical day in the Norway mission. 

A Weekend of Revelation

Well, my first week out here in Nordstrand is over, and it is a lot different than living in Oslo. In Oslo there were always people on the streets to talk to whenever we wanted, and there was never a time in the day when we had to try to find something to do, we were always very busy. But out here in North Beach, as I like to call my area, there is never anyone on the streets and we are always trying to decide what to do. Which means that we spend a lot of time just knocking on doors trying to find new people to teach. Which is really hard when no one wants to listen.
There are good times and times that are not as good on the mission, and this week has definitely been hard. However, it has forced me to look to my Savior for guidance and comfort, and He has been there every step of the way. Every time we get a door slammed in our face, he feels the rejection just like we do. He walks with me every step of the way as we go out and try to find new investigators. I have come to understand the personal power of the atonement so much more this week, and I am so grateful for the trials we have in life which teach us our most valuable lessons. And, it just so happens that my favorite conference talk revolved around that very enabling power of the atonement of Christ.
General Conference was the best! I have never been looking forward to it this much and I have never been as spiritually prepared for it as I was this time, and I have never gotten as much out of what was said as I did this time. I took the time a few days before to write down several questions that I had and wanted to get answered, and then I just prayed that Heavenly Father would give me guidance through His apostles. It was amazing to watch as the talks went down my list almost like a check list and I received answers one by one. Heavenly Father truly knows his children and He is so anxious to communicate with us if we will just let Him in.
A quote that I really like from conference says this:
“We humble people, we who sometimes feel ourselves so worthless, so good-for-nothing, we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others but the truth remains that we are the children of God and that He has actually given his angels—invisible beings of power and might—charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.”
I have truly felt angels in my life and I know that they are there around us, bouying us up through every hardship that we are called to endure through this life. The Lord knows every single one of us perfectly and He knows just how far we can bend before we break, and He goes with us to that very point so that we can become that much stronger as a result. It is only through the storms of life that we are able to grow to our full potential, and I would not have it any other way. If life were easy, what would be the point?
My shoulders are squared and I am looking to the future and I am ready to face the challenges that are going to come. I don't know where this life is going to take me, but I know that where ever it is, I can count on the fact that I will be walking with my Savior's arm around my shoulder, and that will never change. I hope that we can each develop our personal relationship with the One who knows us best as we take the journey back to Him.
I love you all, and I know that this week is going to be the best! Thank you!