Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Week 58; December 15, 2014 – No Such Thing as Latvian Baseball… Really?!

Hey guys!

It's been a really fun week. We started off with a simple P-day, eating at Pizza Hut and shopping a bit. We went to a member’s home that night by the name of Max and Santa. They were super cool and they were the first Latvians I've met on my mission. I've always had a life-long question that I wanted to ask a Latvian. Back home our ward played a game called Latvian Baseball. It was like an indoor version of baseball and I had always thought it was the national past time of Latvia. So, I asked them if they had ever played… Sadly, to my despair, they hadn't! My apologies to the youth of the Carmichael Ward, but Latvians do not, in fact, play a game called Latvian Baseball!

Reaching One Year in Sweden Next Week

On Tuesday, we taught the Omahomen family. We were reviewing the new-member lessons with them and we taught them about prayer and scripture study. I bore my testimony of how scripture study has blessed my life. I told them that I wished I had studied more when I was younger and how developing a love for the scriptures has been a huge blessing for me. I felt prompted to promise them that if they were to study their scriptures daily as a family, they would be blessed to become stronger and more united than they have ever been before. They really liked the lesson and promised to give it their best efforts.  

Later that week we had our Santa Lucia program. It was super fun! A lot of less-active members came and a few even participated in the program! The costumes were hilarious and the ward had a great time! It was definitely a taste of some great Swedish culture. We may have not been the best singers, but it was surely a night to remember! 

Some of the best parts of this week have been while we were out contacting people. Our District Leader challenged us to contact people on trains and buses more often. I don't really love doing that, but I thought what the heck, I'll give it a shot! The first one went pretty well. I couldn't find anyone in particular that looked like they would love to talk about religion, so I just sat down. I noticed a lady who had these really cool rings on, so I asked her where I could get some like hers… As a Christmas gift for my Mom, of course. That started a great conversation and we were able to talk about the church a bit. Although, she wasn't super interested, she seemed to respect what I had to say. Sorry Mom, she got the rings from a second-hand store, and they were from Macedonia. So, I don't think I'll be able to find you one! 

Later that day, I found a guy that spoke mostly Spanish and we did pretty well bouncing back and forth between languages. Although our discussion was going great, he hoped-off the train before I could get his contact info. Lesson learned!  

On Saturday we found our best contact. We had just finished-up moving a new member into his home on the far end of the area. In the process, I contacted another man and this time he knew only Spanish. Fortunately, I knew enough Spanish for some basic dialog, but this time I didn't really think I could do it. However, the most amazing thing happened. I understood nearly everything he said. I understood that he was from Iran and that he had lived in Spain for 20 years. His Swedish wasn't very good and he was having a hard time learning the language. Then, an even cooler thing happened, I started remembering Spanish words that I hadn't seen or heard since my sophomore year in high school. The more the conversation went on, the more we understood each other. It was an incredible experience. At the end of our conversation he gave me his number and said he'd be happy to meet with us any time! The Lord had put the right words in my mouth even though my Spanish was downright terrible. I know God helped me recall every Spanish word I had ever put into my head so I could talk to this man. I just wish I had tried harder in my Spanish classes. Regardless, I would consider this to be a miracle! It was a real example of how weak things can be made strong with the help of the Lord.  

Well, I can't believe Christmas is only a week away! I hope you all enjoy your time together, and I hope you will also think of the savior in the coming days. I have grown to love Him so much more than I ever thought possible. I can truly share my testimony that He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world and that He loves you all more than you could possibly know. Jesus Christ is truly the greatest gift the world has ever received and He is the greatest friend anyone could ever have. I know this is His work and helping people find Christ is the most incredible experience I have ever had!

He is The Greatest Gift!
Have a wonderful Christmas! 

I love all of you! - Äldste Stoeltzing 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Week 57; December 8, 2014 – Ikea, the taste of Sweden!

I hope everyone is having a great time preparing for Christmas. We can really feel the Christmas spirit here in Sweden. There is no better time to be a missionary than around the Holidays in Sweden. After the dark, cold month of November, everyone just seems like they want to take the entire month of December to be happy, and we've met some wonderful people. 

The week started-off with a really cool experience. We did a service project for a member in the morning and we had a long afternoon of swing-byes without much success. By that time, we were decently far away from home at that point and our phone had died. But, we left some things at the other Elder’s apartment earlier that day, so we needed to stop-by before we went home. 

I decided to ask someone if I could borrow their phone and I felt like I needed to talk to a girl by the train station. I just asked her in English if I could borrow her phone to call a friend because my phone had died. She laughed and said her phone had just died too and that she had the same problem. We got to talking for a while and she said she went to a Christian school growing up, but wasn't very religious herself. We needed to go the same direction as she did, so we kept talking on the train. She told us about how she'd been living in France with her boyfriend and that they just broke up, so she'd recently moved back to Sweden. She said she was at a point in her life where she was trying to get a few things figured-out, and said that our meeting was possibly a sign that she should go to church! The coolest part was that she said she actually lives really close to the church. We gave her our card and she said she would come to church sometime in December. So, we’re hoping that she'll come in the next few weeks. This was a way cool experience and one of the most unexpectedly positive contacts I've seen in a long time. 

In Sweden we're definitely seeing that youth are often the most open towards the gospel. They are still open to forming new ideas and beliefs and they have probably been the most positive people to contact recently. 

I had one of the coolest meals I've ever had in Sweden last Wednesday! An older lady in our ward, Betty, wanted to make sure we had a proper Swedish Christmas feast experience while doing a little missionary work. So, she decided to take us to the Julboard buffet (The Christmas Table) in what I'm, pretty sure is the biggest Ikea super store in the World!  She said, older people like it a lot, so expect it be busy. And boy, was that an understatement! I'm pretty sure every retiree in the greater Stockholm area had made the pilgrimage to the giant Ikea to partake in the Christmas feast. 

Sweden has become a lot more like America in their tastes, or at least, like a really, really healthy America, you could say. It was absolutely crazy! They had five different kinds of Seal (raw hearing). I skipped that, but I did get some Salmon because it's almost required that you eat some form of fish in a Swedish Christmas feast. They had all kinds of ham, potatoes stuffed with beef, rice pudding (one of my favorite Swedish deserts), of course, they had lots and lots of Swedish meat balls, and every other Swedish food you could think of. Even after a year I sometimes wonder what true Swedish food is actually like, because of how Americanized their tastes have become. But I think I can honestly say I know what Swedish food is now. We each had about four plates full and we felt stuffed by the time we finished, but it was super fun! Betty is one of the coolest people ever for giving us that experience.

That night we went out to one of the farther out parts of the area to contact people. The town square there wasn't very big, so we decided we would change it up a bit and solo contact people while staying close to each other. I decided to do something a little unusual and talked to a street vendor. He was a little surprised, but when he figured out who I was he got super happy and said, “Wait, your 20, and you came all the way out here from California to tell people about God, That's amazing!” He said, a lot of people from his culture live in California and he had me guess where he came from. I had no idea, but it turned out that he was from the Sikh faith. I thought I knew a thing or two about Sikh's, but I didn't know much at all. He briefly shared the history of his people with me and I shared a little about our faith as well. He said that he didn't have a ton of friends in Sweden, so he invited us to come by his house and share more about why we’re doing missionary work. So, I'm hoping we'll meet him this week. Fun fact: He told us his name is Singh, but so are the names of 20 million other Sikhs around the world. I guess they all have the same last name who knew, got to love what you learn on a mission, right!  

So, on Thursday night, we had us some culture. The ward is putting on a Santa Lucia (Saint of Light) production and we've been invited to be a part of it. This is the holiday where girls wear a white dress and a crown of candles on their heads and sing together before Christmas. It's not really seen all in the US, but it's a huge tradition here. So any way, the practice went well and the songs were super fun, but we found out that we were getting costumes as well. They want us to be the star boys. We will stand behind the Santa Lucia girls and sing with them. Our outfits will also be white gowns. The ward members thought we looked great in our traditional Swedish clothing. We took lots of pictures, but I don't think I'll put them in the blog, so ask me about it when I get home and you'll have a good laugh! 

Lastly, we finished-off the week with a great lesson with a girl named Mercy. She grew up in Sweden, but studied at UCLA. We got to know her for about 30 minutes, but she came with a lot of questions about how we gained our testimonies. She was really touched by what she heard, and then I shared my Grandpa's conversion story. She thought that was absolutely incredible. She said she hadn't been taking a lot of time to read the Book of Mormon before, but she felt strongly that there was something important in the lesson and she committed to read it very seriously in the coming week. We are hoping to meet her one more time before Christmas and see how she feels about baptism!  

Well that's what happened last week. Christmas is almost here and I can't wait to talk to you guys then… It's going to be great!!! 

I love you guys so much - Have an awesome week!!!    

-Äldste Stoeltzing 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Week 56; December 1, 2014 – “He is The Gift”

Hey guys!

It's been a great week here and I love this new area! It's quite a change, but it's a good change. We've gone from riding in buses to commuter trains, cable cars, escalators, and subways to get around town – All in a day’s work! 

The longest escalator I've ever seen!
Our first meeting great! We met a less-active family that made us spaghetti for dinner (he emigrated from Italy, so it was really good)! They were some of the nicest people ever, and we really hit it off with them! They were really open about their background and they seem to want to move forward and get involved again. So, we're really excited to keep working with them!    

The largest hospital in Scandinavia
Later in the week, we taught the Omahomens family about the temple. They are recent converts to the Church and they loved the lesson. Hopefully, they’ll be able to go to the temple this week!  

Something incredible started this week! The Church produced a new video called “He is The Gift,” and they want to share its’ message with the world. We are now contacting people with a message about the true meaning of Christmas and it really opens people up. So far, we haven’t had one bad contact!

I went on a split with Elder Farnworth and we got a group of young people to take a selfie with us holding “Share the Gift” cards and they promised to tweet about how they felt watching the video! I hope everyone has a chance to see the video and tell their friends about its’ awesome message!

Share the Gift!
Well, thanks for reading everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful week as you prepare for Christmas!

Love you guys!!!

Äldste Stoeltzing