Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Easter!

This week we spent a lot of time traveling, and I got to go back to Oslo again! I absolutely love that place, and it was wonderful to see my friends again, including the Rasmussen's, the twins from Sweden, and a few of my missionary friends. We took four flights and traveled thousands of kilometers this week, so it is safe to say that we were pretty ready to be back when we finally made it back to our apartment on Friday night. There is nothing like being a missionary in Norway in the whole world, especially being a missionary in the north of Norway. But life is beautiful and I am in love with it, and I am alive after all of the planes this week! All the traveling did make me tired, but I think it was mostly because we had to wake up earlier than normal to get to the airport in time to make our flight, and I didn't sleep all that well on the various floors or couches. But that is okay, because I am always tired as a missionary, so nothing is really new :) There are varying sizes and airport experiences in Norway. For example, in Oslo it is a decent sized airport and it is pretty similar to the states in that you need a lot of time to check in and get through security and everything, but in Narvik, it is a completely different story. I don't remember if I sent a picture of the airport, but it is the size of a very small house, and we just show up, they read our name tag, they give us our boarding pass, and we go over and walk through the metal detector, all in about two minutes. It is bizarre, but I love it. I think the little tiny planes are fun and it is cool to be up here. And we will be flying up to Tromsø again on the 24th for a zone leader training meeting, so let the traveling continue!

All of the meetings went well this week, and I left the leadership meeting inspired to be better, so that was good. Also all of the leaders in the mission were there, so it was great to see all of my friends again. On Friday we had to fly up to Tromsø because it is next to impossible to fly into the Narvik airport on short notice, so we contacted on the streets for a few hours in the rain. Then we took a bus soaking wet for 4 hours back down to Narvik and we had left over wok with sweet chili sauce waiting for us at home. I am not sure that a meal has ever tasted so good to me before :) At least not one that I have made on the mission.

We met with Paulina on Tuesday, and it went really well. She has been continuing to read in the Book of Mormon. We talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and talked a lot about baptism. She said yes, and basically committed to the 24th of May, but she said she needed to talk to her family about it during the Easter break. It stresses me out that she is gone right now, but it will all be okay, I am sure. I guess I have just become really protective of my investigators because we don't have a ton of them. I am really excited about her, though :)

As for contacting here, generally, before dinner we contact people on the streets, and after dinner we go and knock on doors when we don't have appointments. When we contact, we just walk up and down this one street...the locals call it "gate 1"... over and over again.  We talk to a lot of people multiple times, but it's all good :)

P-days in Narvik are really low key. There was a lot to do in Oslo, but Narvik is so small that there isn't much here. When the weather gets nice I am going to hike and go fishing up here. And then I will send pictures of the scenery because it is gorgeous up here! The schedule on p-day is study until 11, get groceries, each lunch, email (it takes a lot longer because we only have one computer) and then relax and do whatever. I usually write letters and just take the time to do things I don't have time to do in the week.

We have district meetings via Skype up here, but that is usually on Tuesdays, although it can really be on whatever day works best that week, so this week we are doing it on Wednesday. I really enjoyed teaching district meetings in Oslo because I could involve fun activities and things to really hammer in my point, but district meetings up in the north have proven to be a challenge for me. There is only so much you can do through the computer. But that is okay, because the Lord knows the situation and is accepting my efforts.

Church was interesting this week, because I presided at sacrament meeting, conducted the meeting, played the hymns, bore my testimony, and gave a prayer, and my companion taught the Sunday school lesson, did the sacrament, bore his testimony and gave the other prayer. I might as well be the branch president! We only have church for two hours up here in the north, so it is only priesthood meeting every other week. Weird, right? I haven't spoken yet, but that is only because it has been General Conference and fast Sunday so far. The branch president was born in Finland, married a Swede, and now lives in Norway. So his accent is really funny. He is really smart and is a professor at the local college. He lives alone at the moment, so he is always excited for us to come and visit him. He is a good guy. Most of the members are married to non members or have inactive children, so it is a really interesting feel to the branch. We have institute on Tuesdays but it is weird because everyone there is 60 years old. Not institute like I am used to it.

Yesterday for the first time this spring, Elder Crook and I were able to go out and work in only our white shirts and slacks. This was a large and exciting benchmark for us. The sky was blue, the birds were chirping, and the warm sun beat on our faces as we walked the streets of Narvik. That was a nice feeling. Spring is one of my favorite times of the year, and I love to watch as everything comes back to life. The sun comes out and plants begin to grow, flowers bloom, and new animals are born. The symbolism is almost too strong as I think about the day nearly two-thousand years ago when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ stepped out of the tomb, and in so doing, made it possible for us to also overcome the bonds of death and step into a new life with our Heavenly Father.

I am personally a big fan of a lot of things at Easter-time, including Reese's eggs, Starburst jelly beans, and Cadbury eggs, but amid all the Easter egg hunts and Easter bunnies, I also love to stop and take a moment to think about the message that we are really celebrating during this wonderful holiday. Our message to the world is that because of Jesus Christ, the love we have in this life doesn't have to end. We are not separated eternally from our Heavenly Father, nor from those we love when their turn comes to depart from this life.
Let us be careful to ensure that we do not get so caught in all the other parts of this season that we forget to be grateful for the wonderful gift that we have been given- literally the gift of life again. That just as the world is renewed after the close of each winter and becomes beautiful again, we can be born again through Christ and become beautiful again in the eyes of Him whose opinion matters. We can overcome the fall of Adam and be born into a new life- a higher level of living. Let us choose love and service over selfishness and self-gratification as we remember the words of the beloved hymn:

"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone.

Homemade Oreos...thanks for the recipe Mom!

The largest cathedral in Norway.

CrossFit in Oslo. Still going strong!

My favorite British family. The kids covered themselves with mud so they could scare us when we got there. I felt bad for the mother, but it sure was funny!

From Elder Rasmussen "Our friend Elder Childs visiting Oslo."

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