Thursday, July 31, 2014

Week 38; July, 28, 2014 - Lessons in Humility Teach the Pure Love of Christ

Hey guys!

It's been a really good week! Elder Gray and I finished our companionship well together. Our last lesson together was with Solomon again. He loves having us over and listening to our messages, but we honestly learn way more from him than he learns from us. I don't think I've ever met a more humble man. He says he's not the best at reading the Bible, but he completely lives everything Christ taught us to be on the Sermon on the Mount.  Later that week, I met the first person that legitimately wanted to Bible bash with us. He wore a large ornate cross on his chest and we decided to talk to him because he was obviously a Christian. He said we didn't know what we were talking about and that we could never understand what he understands because he has a doctorate in theology. The man wouldn't let us get three words out without telling us how lost we were in our relation to Christ.

Comparing that experience with our experience teaching Solomon taught me a valuable lesson. Christ doesn't demand us to know everything about the scriptures. We don't need to understand the most complex elements of deep doctrine to say that we are a true Christian. We don't need to wear symbols showing our devotion to Christ. All that Jesus wants for us is to come to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He wants us to have the humility to surrender our desires and our pride and to follow after him. He wants us not to serve and praise ourselves, but to have charity and love for others and to always remember him. If a man can do this well, he will truly know Jesus Christ, and not just know about him. He will have his Christianity written on his heart and the world will know of the love the Savior through his countenance and actions. These things are the mark of the pure love of Christ and I have not learned them from a man claiming to have great knowledge, but from a humble and meek man that loves the Lord with all his heart. I hope one day I'll truly learn to live by these things and follow Christ with all my heart, but now I am grateful that I have had the chance to meet such a great example.

The next day was transfers. Elder Gray and I finished our three months together and my new companion was actually Gray's third companion! His name is Elder Lindquist and he's actually from Stockholm! I need a ton of help with my Swedish so this is a huge blessing! We had a great first day together and ended the day when we saw people in the Chinese restaurant below us moving a huge fridge into a tiny European door, so we went to help them. We ended-up cutting a little of the doorway out to fit the fridge through! They thanked us by making whatever we wanted on the menu, so we started the transfer with fried duck for dinner, not bad for our first night! We also helped them the next day and had more Chinese food... Ha-ha!

Saying goodbye to Elder Gray

My new companion, Elder Lindquist 

Day two, we met one of our long-time investigators named Adrian. We thought his new girlfriend was hurting his progress. She is with him a lot and he seems less interested when he is around her. I was definitely wrong though. He said that he was starting to lose interest in the scriptures, but she started reading with him and now he's read a decent amount! We challenged him to keep reading and he said he definitely would. I learned that you defiantly can't judge people, and you never know who will be interested in receiving the gospel. We went by a member’s house that night and he surprised us by welcoming Elder Lindquist to Norrköping and taking us out for ribs! Needless to say it's been a blessed week as far as food goes!

Enjoying Kebab Pizza... My favorite! 

We've met the most interesting people while we were out contacting this week! One lady we was an American who was in Nörrkoping on an Art Visa. I didn't know those existed, but apparently they do! I guess she's a successful sculptor in the States and cities hire here to build cool projects all over the place, so she was really cool to meet! Later, we heard some kids speaking English and went to talk to them. They were in Nörrkoping visiting the Harry Potter exhibit, but they came down from Stockholm. It turns out that we stumbled into the team working on the influenza vaccine for Sweden on their day off! The university where they work is the place where the Nobel Prize is from, so that was an interesting crowd to have a conversation with!

The best contact was with a Muslim man that we met. He had met missionaries in Austria, so we talked with him for a while he was waiting for his train. He eventually explained that he was happy with his faith, but he had a great respect for Mormons. He told us about his Chinese friend who he was trying to help to find God. He said that he had tried to teach him about Islam, but it was just to foreign to him. The man said that despite the fact that we was a Muslim and we were Christian, he knows that we worship the same God. So, he asked if we'd be willing to teach his friend about our church when he moves to Nörrkoping in a month. He said he doesn't care what faith his friend is a part of, he just wants him to develop a relationship with God. It was a real Good Samaritan moment to see a man from a different faith that was willing to help his friend to learn about our church. The man was truly Christ like and he really had the spirit with him. People like him have helped me to develop more love and respect for all the religions and people of the world. I hope I will be here long enough to meet his friend comes and meet him again.

I can't get enough Swedish Chocolate

Lindquist on a zip line 4 inches off the ground... Extreme Missionary Sports, Swedish style!

Well, I think this will be a great transfer and I'm excited to continue in Nörrkoping with Elder Lindquist. I've learned a lot this week and had an awesome time. Thanks for reading!

Love you guys!

Elder Stoeltzing

Monday, July 21, 2014

Week 37; July 21, 2014 - Finding Lost Sheep

So, it's been a good two weeks and we've seen a lot of blessings come our way! Several really cool things have happened and this week ended a lot better than we could have hoped.
The big miracle of last week was making contact with a less-active lady named Camillia. We've been trying really hard to meet all the less-active people in the ward and we've had a hard time making contact with many of them up to this point, but we decided to go a little out of our way to see if we could meet Camillia. We saw her walking out the door with two kids, I guess they were going to play basketball, but they said we were welcome to join them. If we'd been 30 seconds latter we would not have caught them.

After we played, we talked with Camillia and got her story. She had been baptized about 15 years before and she was an active member for several years. She ended up re-marrying a man that was against Christianity and she stopped coming to church. They split-up about six years ago and she wanted to come back to church, but she had lost contact with everyone. Her life is pretty busy, but she wants to make an effort to come back soon. It was amazing to see someone who hasn't had contact with the church in so long still have a strong testimony and respond so well to an invitation to come back. I know we were definitely guided to be in the right place at the right time and I look forward to having the chance to help her and her family more.
We also made contact with a less-active member named George who had lost contact with the missionaries about six months ago. He was super cool and sounded like he'd be open to meeting with us more. It was so awesome to find two great people that we can help. I think being able to teach them regularly will make the work here feel a lot better. They are both awesome!

The rest of the week went really well too. Usually street contacting here is tough, but we were super blessed with the people we ran into. The first guy we stopped this week was a Syrian man that listened to the whole first lesson (with a little help from our friend Google Translate)! He sounded really receptive and we got his number, and hopefully our Arabic speaking member will be able to help us teach him more!

Later, we ran into a guy on the street that said he was pretty set in his church, but recommended that we go and talk to his friend around the corner who works in the candy shop. So, we tried it, and the guy was super cool actually! He was an atheist, but enjoys talking about religion and he had a ton of questions. It was kind of hard to teach him because he asked some tough questions in Swedish, but he says he wants to keep meeting with us!

We also got some sad news this week. Elder Gray and Sister Miller are leaving the area. Elder Gray has been my my companion the longest and the past 12 weeks have been super fun. He's done a great job here, and, I think after five months in Norrkoping, he's finally ready for some change. He seems really happy for his new area in Sundsvall, up North. He'll do great up there and I know anyone who works as hard as he does will find success. Sister Miller is leaving to train a new missionary in Söderteja (suder-tell-ia). It was super fun having her in the area, she was also in my zone when I started my mission. She's almost done with her mission and hasn't trained yet so she's super excited to be a missionary mom! 

We’re actually getting four new greenies in the zone, so that will be crazy! My new companion is actually Swedish! I'm really excited because I've been told he prefers speaking Swedish and I need all the help I can get, so this will be really good for me! I'm going to treat the next six to twelve weeks like Swedish boot camp, and hopefully, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable with the language when I finally transfer out of here!
Well that's what's new. Thanks for reading!
Love you guys!

Äldste Stoeltzing

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Week 36; July 14, 2014 - Sliding through my 8th month! 

Having fun sliding (working) through my 8th month
Waterfall across from the university in Norrkoping
Cleanliness is next to Godliness... Especially when there's soap in the fountain!
The view of Norrkoping as we step out of our apartment
Playing a Swedish folk guitar... This is a language I speak fluently!
Waiting at a bus stop to start our day
Love you... Hope you enjoyed the pictures.  I'll write more next week!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Week 35; July 7, 2014 - A Change of Guard; The Newells Leave and The Beckstrands Arrive 

Hey everyone!

Sorry I haven't written in awhile it’s been a busy few weeks and so much has happened!

Well, I guess I’ll start with Sophia’s baptism. Sophia was a lady that Elders Hills and Steen started teaching when I was back in Linköping. I only got to meet her once before, but she was really nice and I was super happy to hear she was getting baptized. Her husband had some doubts about the baptism, so President Newell actually drove all the way down from Stockholm to sort it out with them and she decided she’d be baptized! They picked a beautiful lake to baptize her in and we all went out to show our support! I was so happy to see someone with so much faith be baptized in Linköping. I know she’ll be a great blessing to the branch and she’ll help strengthen the great people there.  

We found out later that night that Elder Farnworth would be transferring to Gävle (Yevla). That’s about two hours North of Stockholm and it’s supposed to be a really fun area! He’s done a lot of great work in Linköping, but he seemed excited to have a change after five months there. It was super awesome serving around him and having him as a companion. He helped make my time in Linköping and Norrköping really fun! I know he’ll do great work up there!         

There was another baptism soon after back in Norrköping. Sister Eborn and Sister Smith were able to help their long-time investigator, Judy, feel ready for baptism and Elder Gray was able to baptize her. Judy is from Syria and her Dad was baptized about nine months ago. I read his baptismal story in my first email from the mission when I was in the MTC, so it was incredible seeing his daughter have the opportunity to do the same. She is really awesome and already helping run the Young Single Adult (YSA) program in Norrköping!     

Next, was Midsummer! The day started with some sad news actually. Sister Eborn thought she’d be Norrköping for another month, but there was a last-minute transfer and we found out that would be her last day here before she moved to the farthest North area in Sweden, Luleå, and she would be going there to train a new missionary! That was super crazy! I know she’ll do awesome though. It was great serving together here!

Enjoying the Swedish Midsummer celebration!
So, back to Midsummer, that’s the Swedish Summer celebration that they have on the longest day of the year! It was super fun… We got the day off from proselyting and all the missionaries in the District went out to a huge Midsummer celebration in the country. We watched a cool old folk dance that was lead by one of the members in our ward and then everybody got to dance around the Maypole it was super fun! Afterward, we all went to a members house in the country. There was a course set-up for throwing axes and stuff, so that was super fun. We also had a really good barbecue! It was super cool to experience this Swedish holiday and get to enjoy everything that went with it.  

The next week I had one of my favorite experiences in Norrköping. We decided to work in the outlying towns of Finspång and Svärtige. We had been calling on the less-active members there for awhile and we hadn't heard a thing from them, so we took a day and went to see if we could find anyone at home. We got shut-out in Finspång. Finspång is a smaller version of Norrköping and everything was pretty close by, but Svärtige was in the middle of nowhere! The town is up in the hills and the buses don’t go there often, so we had a pretty decent hike between everyone’s homes. We got three no’s, then finally after a huge hike and a lot more no’s, we found an amazing family named the Lind’s! They let us in and made us some cinnamon rolls! They were just some of those people that I just clicked with right away and we had a great conversation with them. They were actually going back to the States in a few weeks to see a Paul McCartney concert, so I was pretty jealous. They all love classic rock music like me!  It was such a cool experience to see that at the end of a long, hard day, God put some amazing people in our path that were happy to let us in!

The next day was a sad goodbye. President and Sister Newell finally made it to the end of their three years in Sweden and they brought our half of the mission into Stockholm to say goodbye.  They both gave beautiful testimonies of their love of the gospel and their love of the Swedish people.

President Newell told an amazing story of when he was the US Ambassador to Sweden. They had their third son there and named him Mattson Engström Newell. The story got a lot of attention because most ambassadors are typically too old to be adding children to their families, and they gave their son a Swedish name. The media asked why on earth would they name their kid Mattson and Engström (both are typically Swedish last names). The Newell’s said that  they named him after their Swedish family lines. They said, so you’re Swedish?  Where are you from?  President Newell said they didn't have the foggiest clue.

What happened after that was amazing. The Swedish media started doing some research, and, a few weeks later, he read on the front page of the newspaper, “Ambassador Finds His Roots.”  They had found his last living Swedish relatives who were cousins of his great grandmother who had left Sweden to go to America. As soon as he could, he went to visit them and something amazing happened. That cousin was in possession of a giant parchment that had the names of hundreds of his Swedish relatives listed on it. They gave the parchment to President Newell and he and Sister Newell took the names to the Stockholm Temple where they were able to do the temple work for over 600 of his ancestors before returning to the United States. President Newell says he knows the real reason why he was assigned to be the US Ambassador to Sweden, it was so they could do the temple work for his ancestors.

Farewell to President and Sister Newell
They will be missed!
He ended with a testimony of the incredible temple work that has been done in Sweden and he shared his powerful testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. It has been an honor having President Newell as a leader and as an example these past six months. He has helped me so much to develop as a missionary and as a person. I’m so grateful I got to experience just a little of his time here in Sweden.  

Believe it or not, there was another baptism in Norrköping this week as well! The sisters have been working with one of the most faithful people I've ever met named Pontus. Pontus actually contacted them on a bus when he heard them trying to speak with someone about Jesus. Pontus is almost completely blind, but he still has tried his best to read the Book of Mormon despite his handicap. He was so excited to be baptized this week and gave a great testimony at the service.  

We ended the week with another Zone Conference for the Fourth of July. This time to greet the new Mission President, President Beckstrand. I won't lie, I was a little nervous about what he’d be like. President Newell had been such a great Mission President that I wasn't really excited for the change. But, I think we were all pleasantly surprised... President Beckstrand is different in a lot of ways, but everyone could tell he had the same passion for the gospel and and the same enthusiasm for missionary work as President Newell had. It showed me that there are many different kinds of great leaders and I’m confident that President Beckstrand is going to be a fantastic Mission President. He definitely got me and all the other missionaries really excited to work with him.      

Well, that's just a little bit of what happened over the past three weeks. There’s been a lot happening and I’m just loving all the experiences here! I’ll make sure not to skip so many weeks of writing again. Thanks for reading and God bless!  

-Äldste Stoeltzing     

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Week 33 & 34; July 30, 2014 - The Past Two weeks in Pictures

Checking-out a lake near Svartiga
Working in the City of Svartiga
I found the car from Harry Potter
Aldste Gray enjoying frozen yogurt
Visiting Linkoping
Aldste Kikko admiring the "Great Fountain of Linkoping!"
Baptism at the lake
Traditional Midsummer costumes and dance 
Having a great time on the Ropes Course

Midsummer is Great!

God bless... Until next time!