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