I am back safely after a trip to Trondheim, and I think that Trondheim is the best! It is a beautiful city, and I had a great time being there with the rest of the missionaries in the zone. I took some pictures of a cathedral which I will send later, but it feels good to back in Narvik.
A little about Narvik: It is above the Arctic Circle, which is really cool, but for the most part you don't even notice. The thing is that it gets light really early and stays light really late. It gets lighter every day now, so before we know it, I will be seeing the midnight sun. (In the summer the sun never sets.) I saw the northern lights the night I got here, but other than that it has been cloudy every day. They are really cool, though. In WWII, Narvik got bombed by the Nazis, so there aren't really any old buildings here because they all got knocked over in the war. I don't know why anything happened in such a small city, but it did. When it gets a little warmer I want to go fishing. I went to the store today where the guy showed me lures that are guaranteed to catch me fish out here. I am really excited. Besides cod, he said it is also possible to catch sea trout or salmon as well as a few other kinds, so I will definitely send some pictures when that happens.
The other missionaries in my district are in Bodø, which is about an hour by plane from Narvik, so district meetings are via Skype. It is horrible trying to sing hymns a capella through a computer, but I am sure that the Lord understands our good intentions. Exciting stuff. I will be flying down to Bodø for splits next week, and then President Evans is bringing all of the mission leaders into Oslo on Thursday, so we will be there until Friday. I swear we are not going to have any time to work in Narvik! But it is exciting. My goals this transfer are to try to figure out how to get the members involved here (which is easier said than done), and I just want to find someone to baptize. I have the same goals as always, but I just want to feel like I am making a difference here.
There are technically 44 members on the branch list, but a lot of them have moved, or are not interested at all, or are old and sick in the hospital. In church we have two old women who make up the relief society, and one mother with her small children who are the primary. It is really interesting, but it is fun. Our branch has a branch president at the moment named President Nyman, but he is moving, so we will see how long that will last. He was born in Finland, lived in Sweden for a while, and married a Norwegian, so he has the funniest accent I have ever heard. He is really nice though, and we go over there for dinner every Sunday. He is an eccentric Einstein kind of character, and I really like him a lot. Our teaching pool is pretty good right now, we are teaching about 5 lessons a week. We have a lot of investigators that have been around for years, but we also found four new investigators this week, so hopefully things will start to pick up.
The flight to Narvik went well, and I made it up here without any problems, which was really great. I got on a flight in Oslo, but it was delayed, so by the time I got to Bodø to switch flights, it was basically about to take off. I sprinted over to the other terminal, if it is even fair to call it a terminal, and ran down the stairs to board the plane. However, when I got to the end, I thought there was a mistake, because I found myself outside, and I didn't see a plane. Once I saw it, however, it was understandable that I almost missed it, because the plane was hardly bigger than a car. It was one of those tiny little puddle jumper planes, and they didn't even have room for my carry on, so they took it around back to the cargo hold. Quite a strange experience, but I am here and I am safe, so I am happy.
There isn't much going on in this area, and all we really do all day is contact on the streets and knock on doors, which does get a little long, but I am enjoying myself here. Church was really weird. There were five people in priesthood, including the missionaries, so that just turned into a strange discussion about catholic doctrine and the sacrament (they were all 60+, so I imagine that is exactly what high priests quorum would be like ;), and then in sacrament it was really small and different than I am used to. Everyone gives a talk basically every other week, including the missionaries, and I think I am going to be playing the piano every week while I am here. But I enjoy that. We meet in the Red Cross building, and the church only has it on Sundays. All the other days it is used for other things.
Member work is basically non-existent here, and we don't really go to the members' houses at all for dinner. It is an all-around different experience to be in the north. But I am enjoying myself so far. And Elder Gunther really enjoyed it up here, so I am looking forward to good things.
Next week we will be flying in to Trondheim for three days for zone conference, and then the week after that I will be flying down to Bodø to go on splits with the elders in my district, and then it is general conference- life is pretty exciting up here in the north. Hopefully when we have zone leader training meeting we will get to fly up to Tromsø as well. I am going to try to get to every part of the north while I am up here. Who knows when I will be able to come back?
I can't wait for general conference! Being on a mission, I look forward to general conference like I looked forward to the NBA championship or the end of school when I was back home. It is literally that exciting. We have prophets on the earth today, and they are all going to tell us what we need to hear at the same place in the same time! How exciting is that? I wish that I had paid more attention to general conference before, but you never really understand how great it really is... it's too bad.
It is good to hear that Ryan is doing well, I am continuing to pray for them and everyone back home. I am sure everything is going to be fine.
With all these new experiences and things in my life (and some help from my mom), my thoughts have turned to a talk by Elder Dube in the last general conference. His mother told him, “Edward, never look back. Look ahead at what we still have to do...”
Then he said:
“The Lord through His servants calls us to serve in various callings, which we accept with total commitment. When a release has been extended and a call in a different assignment has been issued, we joyfully accept it, knowing, as our forebearers knew, that “in the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how.”
I know that it is the same for us all in life, as we move to new experiences and trials. If we always remember to look at what we have learned and how we can use that to move forward in life, focusing on the Savior, we can never go wrong. I hope you all have a wonderful week!
A lot has happened this week, but at the same time, I can't remember much
of it. That seems to be pretty normal for me lately, since everything has become
one big blur on the mission. One long stream of service. A few highlights are
that I got my Norwegian driver's license this week, I got a haircut, and I am
getting transferred next week. That was pretty expected since I have spent the
first 8 months of my mission in my first area, but I am still really
I am going to a place called Narvik, and it is way up in the north of
Norway. If you have never heard of it, I promise you that it will be worth your
time right now to spend 5 minutes looking up pictures. It is gorgeous. Plus I
will get to see the northern lights, so basically I consider myself the luckiest
missionary out there. I won't see other missionaries while I am up there, so it is going from two
completely ends of the spectrum. I am still going to be district leader in a
district of 4 missionaries. I am going to miss the Oslo ward, though. I am headed to a
branch with 5 active members- that ought to be an interesting experience. I am
excited to see what the future has in store!
I have decided that the key to life is love. If we can somehow manage to
love as perfectly as the Savior did- really love as purely, as intensely, and as
much as Jesus Christ did when He was on the earth- then everything else would
follow. Charity really is the greatest of all. But here is the catch:
In order for someone to be able to truly love others, they must first be
able to love themselves.
How often are words of hate and spite born of a lack of self-confidence and
low self-esteem? Once we can look at ourselves in the light that God sees us,
then we can truly share His love with others. But that is easier said than
I know that as we ask The Lord to give us His love for us and work to
develop it, then we will be freed to share that love with others. I pray that we
will all be able to share that love with everyone we meet.
Elder Duncan and Elder Childs with Siahanie, a returned missionay from the Phillipines
A Fun Picture that a Member of the Oslo Ward Texted to Us Yesterday Morning
Another week in the books for this missionary in Norway, and life
is feeling great. The week flew by between our teaching
appointments, trying to help some recent converts from Spain who have nothing
figure out what they are going to do to survive here, and trying to use
our time to find new investigators, I don't really remember much of
what we did this week. Which is usually a good sign, because it means
that we worked hard and got a lot accomplished. Missions are weird
things because the time goes crazy fast until you start thinking about it,
at which point it stops completely. But it always starts going fast
again sooner or later.
Norwegian class went pretty well this week, we had three people who came. We put out some more fliers this week, and I wasn't expecting many more people to show up the first time. I think it always takes some time for these things to get started. I think that with something like language class, a lot of people will hear about it by word of mouth, so it will grow as we go along. But it was interesting teaching people the language, because it brought back a lot of my own memories from the MTC, and how impossible I thought it was to learn this language. It is way interesting now, because I am really comfortable with Norwegian. I don't have any problem communicating or understanding, so now I am really working on my accent. Norwegian is such an interesting language- a lot of foreigners say that they almost sing here- and it is proving to be difficult to copy. I am understandable, but my goal is to sound like a Norwegian by the end of this. So I am going to need the gift of tongues :)
Our appointments with people went alright this week, we have a few people who are progressing, like Rhoda, Messay (a man from Ethiopia) and Jan, (a Norwegian who converted to Islam a while ago but is always willing to try new things) who we can meet with and teach, but I just don't feel like I have really met someone yet who is just incredibly prepared and really ready to become a solid member. So the search continues. An interesting story, though, is that we met a lady named Inger from North Norway this week. We taught her, and apparently she had met with the missionaries up in a city called Alta, so she was familiar with Book of Mormon and knows that it is true. The problem is I think she is a little bit crazy and kept talking about her "gift," and that she does things around kids that scare adults, and she said she wouldn't be baptized, so I am not sure that we will be meeting with her again. You meet all kinds of crazy people on a mission!
Sometimes it blows my mind to think of the
experiences that I have had over the past 8 months, and the ways that I have
changed. Not only have I changed personally, but the things around me in my
life are completely different. Everything that I used to get joy and
comfort from are gone, and I am left with no choice but to rely on my
Savior. So missions are actually pretty ingenious in that way, actually.
But this experience has taught me one of the most valuable lessons that
I think we can learn in life. I think that it is the secret to
happiness despite the crazy world all around us. The lesson is
No matter how much we love something or how passionate we are
about different things in our lives, if we build our foundation on them,
we are bound to fall at one point or another. That includes our
careers, it includes our hobbies, and it even includes the people we
are closest to in this life, like our spouses and families. We
cannot count on anything to always be there, so when these things fall or
are not there any more, we will crash and burn with them if that is
where our trust lies.
Pretty depressing, I know. But the great thing
is, there is something upon which it IS safe to build. And that is Jesus
Christ and the gospel He teaches. When we center ourselves on Him, then we
are free to give more of our love to the people and things in our lives, and
we will ultimately be happier in every case.
I guarantee it.
missions are a genius way to help with that, but I think in our normal lives,
the ultimate quest is really to seek first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness, so that the things we love can be added upon and
I am so grateful for the rock of the Gospel we have been given
to build on. I love you all, have a wonderful week!
definitely on its way, and things are warming up. I came to Norway expecting a harsh long winter, but I got here
and it has actually been pretty mild. I guess that this is really abnormal, but
I am not complaining. We will have to see what next winter brings.
Yesterday we ate had a dinner prepared by a Philippino girl named Siahanie (shuh-hah-nee) and a girl
from Nepal named Pabitra (Puh-bee-truh). Siahanie met Pabitra at a Norwegian
class, thought that she looked lonely, and talked to her. She felt like she
should invite her to come to church with her, and now several months later, she
is baptized! It was cool, because we have been trying to get the ward members to
get involved in the work for a long time without any real success. Now I just
wish that we could bottle whatever made her do it, and give it to the other
members. It is frustrating because the members don't like it when we have a lot
of foreign investigators who can't speak Norwegian, but those are the only
people who will listen to us through our own efforts. If we are going to get the
Norwegians to listen, it will have to be through the members, but they aren't
doing much as of yet. Its a weird paradox we've got going here, but I am sure
that we will be able to find a way to get through to them.
still planning on being baptized on the 22nd, but she needs to get a testimony
that our church is true, and I think that will be the issue. She asked if she
could still go to her church after she gets baptized, so we have some work to
do. But she is willing, and that is all that we can really ask for. She comes
from Kenya and has been here for a long time. She is divorced and has 2
children, and she had a pretty tough life early on. She has a really strong
testimony of the power of prayer, so I think we will be able to use that to help
her get her answer. I have been working on Rhoda for a long time, so I hope that
we will finally be able to get through to her.
Other than that, we
didn't do a whole lot of crazy exciting things this week. We taught a few of our
new investigators, but we will mostly be meeting with all of them this week. Oh
yeah, we didn't find any of them through referrals or tracting. It was all
through talking to people on public transportation. That has been a bit of a
focus for us this transfer, and we are finding a lot of people who will meet
with us that way. Things are going well, and the Lord is helping us out. We are also starting to teach Norwegian classes. We have a class on Wednesday and Saturday at 4, and
the first one will be on Saturday. I think that it will be a great way to bring
in people who might not be interested on first contact, but who will be able to
feel the spirit when they talk to us. Plus it will be fun to help people in that
Lately the Lord has really been blessing us. And I mean a lot. As a
mission, we have a goal this year to baptize 157 people, but as of right now, we
have only baptized 6. I know that the Lord is trying our faith here in Norway,
and that He is perfectly capable of leading us to 151 more prepared people if He
wants to. And honestly, we have had a lot of progress lately. The Lord is
leading us to people who will talk to us, and when our own lack of skill and
missionary prowess is not enough, He takes things into His own hands and gives
us a miracle. Every time. What do we have to fear when the Lord is on our
Lately I have been pondering the meaning of true worship and the role that
it should really take in our lives, as those numbered among the partakers of
restored religion. I think that "worship" is a word that is thrown around a lot
in the church, but that no one really ever takes the time to define. We learn in
the scriptures that we should know who and what we should worship, and that we
should do it in spirit and truth, but at least for me, in my life, I have found
that to be easier said than done.
We have worship services every Sunday, during which we partake of the
sacrament, sing praises to our God, and are uplifted by members of our own
congregations. But is not worship more than forcing ourselves to stay awake for
3 hours every Sunday, all the while thinking about what Mom has in the crock pot
for the Sunday night meal? It seems that all too often, our "worship" becomes a
rote exercise each week that is forgotten all too soon. It has been said that
the half life of a superb classroom experience is 4 days, so how long does it
take to forget the things we do on Sundays if we are not completely focused?
The inspiration came to me this week that the word "to worship" is not as
much verb as it is an adjective. It is not so much something that we do as a way
that we live. It is a describing word, and when we, as true disciples of the
Lord Jesus Christ, choose to worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, it means
that we follow the counsel of the Savior to His Nephite fold, and "[seek first]
the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." When we choose to use our time to
lift the hands that hang low and help each child of God to remember his own
divine potential and the love that is rightly his, then we have truly become to
worship our Heavenly Father.
I hope that we all can make the choice to
put the Lord first in our lives and to truly try the promise, and see if "all
these things shall be added unto [us]." I know that the Lord will bless us
beyond anything we can imagine when we follow His commandments and live a life
that He would live.