Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Week 85; June 29, 2015 – A Bit of California in Sweden!

This has been no ordinary week! Leaving an area you love is always a weird feeling, especially after working there for six months. Monday and Tuesday were dedicated to saying goodbyes to a lot of wonderful friends. Trang and Lassie made me one last huge Vietnamese meal. After six months she still hasn't succeeded at making me a vegan, but I have developed a greater appreciation for vegetables. We said goodbye to Stefan on Monday as well. It has been one of the proudest parts of my mission to watch him grow. I'm a little sad that I will not be there to see Stefan progress the rest of the way toward baptism, but it has been such a blessing to meet such a wonderful brother in the gospel. That night was long. I should have packed earlier, but I wanted to give Elder Cushing one last call and we had a lot to catch-up on before he flew home. It felt weird to say goodbye to someone that’s had such a big impact on my mission. The rest of the night I packed. I have way to much stuff… My bags we're super heavy! 

We taught one last lesson to Jay and it was really special. He thanked me for all we had done to help him learn about the gospel and he promised to keep meeting with the missionaries. After that we went to the train station and I hugged Elder Bybee goodbye. It was an amazing 4-1/2 months together, and I'm really going to miss him.  

Arriving in Stockholm felt really weird. It’s been so long since I had been there, but it felt really good to be there to train a new missionary. I spent the night with the office Elders and my friend, Elder Matt, who will also be training another missionary close by. 

Aldste Blackburn and Aldste Stoeltzing Serving in Boras
Trainers and Trainees Meet for The First Time

The next morning we went to the church in Täby and President briefed us for training. He expects a lot from us, but he really got us all excited for our new assignments. It felt great to finally meet our new missionaries. So, here's the big surprise… I am training Elder Cody Blackburn, the first missionary from my home Stake sent to Sweden since I left. It’s the coolest feeling ever to train someone from back home and represent California together. Borås, Sweden now has the most Californians of any other mission area in Sweden, with four of us from California! The other two missionaries in the area are Sister Giles and Sister Lund from Southern California and they're the best!!! 

All California Missionaries Serving in Boras

The first night we taught this investigator named Mia with the Sister's. We're all musical, so we brought a guitar and we played a bunch of songs for her!  

The next day was awesome! I'm in my third district with my old friend and former companion Elder Farnworth, and this time he's our district leader! He's grown so much and he is one of the best district leaders I've ever seen. He taught one of the most meaningful district meetings of my mission.

Exploring Boras

We Love Swedish Chocolate
That night we met a young single adult (YSA) member who took us out to a steak place called Jenson's Böfhus and he bought us giant hamburgers... Needless to say, we already consider him a dear friend! He took us on a hike through the city afterwards and Borås is an absolutely beautiful town!!! 

The Kebab Pizza Tradition Continues!
On Friday we went into Göteborg to my ancestral Kebabery, where I had my first kebab pizza as a new missionary, and I introduced Elder Blackburn to Kebab Pizza at Mosins! And yes, another generation of Kebab lovers was born! 

That night we had a taco party and met the new Ward! I already love these people. The Ward is huge and the people are amazing! I love it here!!! 

Getting Into the Spirit of Ward Taco Night

On Friday we taught a member referral. They made us lunch and we talked about the restoration of the gospel. Later, we celebrated Sister Giles Birthday, she just turned 20! 

Sunday was great too. We all bore our testimonies and we set-up visits to meet a lot of the ward members later in the week! It's going to be so fun here!!! 

We ended the week with a planning session to set-up a productive week! We can't wait to meet our investigators! We’re going to have an awesome experience working together in Borås! 

-Äldste Stoeltzing! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Week 84; June 22, 2015 – Farewell Halmstad... You'll be Missed!

Wow, what a cool week! Sadly, this will be my last few days in Halmstad. It has been an amazing experience here, and the people have helped me grow so much as a missionary and an individual. I'm going to miss it a lot, but there’s an amazing young missionary coming here to take my place. I know he is what will be needed to keep this area going strong. I'm goanna miss everyone a lot and I will never forget serving here over the past six months.

We started-off the week by doing some service at the church, cutting grass and wedding! While we were trimming the bushes we found the biggest bug I've ever seen in Sweden… it was crazy!  If my friends in Brazil read this, they'll probably think that was just an average insect there… Haha!

Later in the week we had a super-fun day with our Zone leaders. They came up to work with us and we had a blast! We taught an amazing first lesson to a lady named Agnetta. She was a referral from a new convert named Magnus, it was his Mom actually. He called us a few days after he was baptized and he wanted his mom to share the blessings of his newfound faith. She was amazingly prepared and was almost ready to set a baptismal date. Sadly, I won't get to see her all the way through her lessons, but I know that she will accept the gospel, and I’m glad that I got to teach the first lesson to someone so amazing.

Midsommar Feast

The next day was Midsommar (That’s how they spell it. It’s not a typo) and sadly it got rained-out pretty badly, but we got to have an awesome last dinner with the Lindahl's and we ate a very traditional Swedish Midsommar meal with Seal (raw hearing) Potatoes, Swedish meatballs, and smoked Salmon, it was awesome!

Saying Goodbye to the Halmstad Ward

I also gave a talk in church for my last Sunday in Halmstad. I just talked about all the miracles I've seen in this area, that have truly helped my testimony grow. I didn't even prepare any notes, it was one of the easiest talks I've ever given.

After church we took a hike to Halmstad’s only legitimate castle and we didn't even know it was there. Our investigator’s Trang and Lassie wanted us to see it before I left. It was so cool you could see all of Halmstad, as well as the ocean!  It was one of the coolest views of my Life! Afterward, we ended-up visiting one last family, the Kjellberg's, and we had a nice dinner with them.

Well, the big questions are; where am I going, and who will be my new companion. I'll let those two answers be a surprise until next week, but here’s a little hint… I will be taking a short detour to Stockholm to pick-up my new companion who will be flying-in from the MTC, if that gives you any ideas! 

You guys will have a nice surprise next week if you can't guess what's going to happen, but I'll just say, I'm extremely excited to begin this last chapter of my mission.

I hope you guys have a wonderful week. Love y'all!

-Äldste Stoeltzing

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week 83; June 15, 2015 – Thrust in Your Sickle With All Your Might!

Hey guys it has been a really good week. It was absolutely beautiful. The sun was out the whole week and it finally feels like summer! We met some amazing people and everyone seemed so happy to talk since there hasn’t been rain in June! 

On Tuesday we met Stefan and talked about the special Stake Conference we watched with Elder Holland over a broadcast. It was an amazing message and we went over Elder Holland’s testimony of the Book of Mormon. We later shared the same message with Jay, who is tearing through the Book of Mormon right now, and he loved it. He said that everything feels so true to him. But, he still feels like his faith is true, so he's going to continue to read and pray for an answer. 

Later that day we called Claus who was baptized about nine months ago. We are helping him to get ready for the Temple, so we told him what he would need to do to be ready for his interview. And, this week we're going to help him do some family history work in preparation for the Temple! 

Thrusting In Our Sickle with All Our Might!
Wednesday was cool. We went to help Jose cut his grass. It got really long so instead of using a lawn mower, we used sickles… Haha! It puts that whole “thrusting in your sickle with all your might” thing into a whole new prospective (Doctrine & Covenants 4:4; 11:3; 12:3; 14:3; 33:7)!  It's not easy to cut grass like that… Haha. I see why the metaphor is used, because if you literally don't swing the cycle with all your might, it won’t cut the grass. So, in that sense, missionary work really does take all our effort to gather people into the gospel. We were exhausted afterward, but it felt cool to look at the small field that we chopped. I'm sure I'll be dead tired after my mission, but it will fell amazing to look back at these two years and know that my efforts have made a difference. 

A Swedish Graduation Celebration
Along the way, we had some great finding results. We were blessed to meet a ton of people tracting and we found two new investigators while we were street contacting!!! 

We ended the week helping our Bishop build a new greenhouse and he showed us how to make a foundation with gravel and sand and make it level. We finished most of the project this week, but we'll get to see the finished product next time we go over! 

Building a Firm Foundation
Midsummer is coming this week, so that’s going to be awesome! It’s quite a celebration in Sweden.  Have a great week everyone… I love you guys! 

Äldste Stoeltzing  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Week 82; June 8, 2015 – iPads and Inspiration

It's been a great week! The Lord has been really good to us and he helped us move some mountains.

Stefan was a student of philosophy in college. Consequently, he had a question that has been worrying him the whole time we’ve been teaching him. It seemed simple, but it was in actuality quite complicated. I tried answering it, but my attempts weren’t all that successful. As a result, his progress came to a stand-still last week and we realized the question needed an answer. We searched our scriptures and we had no idea how we should answer such a deep question the way he needed. After extensive personal study we stumbled into a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 88). This is a chapter I knew about, but I never read it in depth. It was somewhat complicated, but it provided the answer we were looking for. As I prayed about it, I felt a very deep understanding of the words that we're revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith and I knew exactly how to explain the answer. It was a beautifully simple message that connected a lot of key points that I hadn’t thought of connecting. 

After studying this in depth with a sincere heart, I felt a great understanding of how to explain God’s justice, but I also felt another very strange prompting that the answer was too complex to share at this time. So, instead of going into great detail with an explanation, we simply taught him a lesson about understanding the gospel line-upon-line and precept-upon-precept. We made him a promise that if he were to be baptized that he would gain a greater understanding of the principals he wanted to know in due time. 

This comforted Stefan and he wholeheartedly accepted the invitation to come to church and go full steam ahead toward baptism. This brief pause may have taken a little longer than we had hoped, but he's on the right track and his baptism should happen soon. 

There is always a rainbow after the rain!
Developing a deeper knowledge of the Plan of Salvation by putting spiritual things above all else has confirmed a great truth to me this week. With this understanding came a new prospective of how deep the gospel can be, but how truly simple it still remains.

We had a great conference this week. Sister Beckstrand taught an inspiring lesson about accepting our weaknesses and turning them into strengths that really meant a lot to me. President taught about being disciples in the digital age. The theme of the talk focused on the pending arrival of the much anticipated iPads, sadly their arrival date was not announced, but it was a great message and I realized the Churches’ motive in giving us iPads is a lot deeper than the missionaries needing a digital area book, or a high-tech flip chart. 

New technology is expanding at an exponential rate, unlike anything the world has ever seen before. We now have all the knowledge the human race has ever acquired at our finger tips. We can literally learn more in an hour than our ancestors could learn in a lifetime. However, the world is adapting poorly to the potential that lies within their pockets. Although iPad's and iPhone's can lead to the greatest increases in productivity, the world has become much more distracted than edified by this technology. 

The purpose for giving missionaries iPad's is simple, it’s to prepare us to be better disciples in the digital age and to teach us how to raise righteous families that will manage their technology faithfully without becoming slaves to its’ hidden traps. This is perhaps the most resourceful generation that the world has ever seen, but no filter or app will protect us if we don’t use our agency righteously. Having a powerful testimony coupled with a gospel centered life will make the current missionaries the most digitally prepared demographic of this generation, using technology to spread the Lord’s work faster and farther than ever before. Providing missionaries with iPads is an inspired decision.   

A family portrait of all my former companions at once - My favorite moment!
Well that’s everything for the week. Never lose sight of your goals, never give up, and don't stop till you've achieved exactly what you are capable of achieving. The Lord has taught me these things for a reason. I owe everything I am to him and I hope to continue being an instrument in his hands all the days of my life. I love you guys so much! 

Yes, we do provide service in Sweden too!
Josh, good luck with your Eagle Project! I wish I could be there to help you, but I know you’re going to do a great job leading your team and adding great improvements to our park! You’re the best!

-Äldste Stoeltzing
Week 81: June 1, 2015 – Back to Nature

Great week! I don' have much time, so I'll be short. I started-out the week emailing Mom for her birthday! That made the week! I miss her a ton and she gave me some wonderful advice to help me throughout the rest of my mission.

We had a great lesson with Jay this week! He was awesome and he committed to come and see a broadcast of Elder Holland’s talk this week!

Elder Lundquist with a cute little hedgehog

Escargot Anyone?
I had a fun split with Elder Lundquist! We worked super hard, but indulged in smoothies and Swedish pastries along the way, haha! We needed the extra fuel to keep our rusty tanks going at full speed. We’re both really old, haha! He goes home in a month!  We spent the evening writing songs after our proselyting was finished! He's a fantastic performer and he will probably be famous some day! I learned a ton from him and I finished-up a new song I've been writing.  

We spoke on the topic of Mothers for Swedish Mother’s Day!  I talked about how amazing you are Mom!  Everyone appreciated hearing about it! Our Bishop was out of Town though. He just finished the Stockholm Marathon!

Well that wraps it up love you guys. Have a great week!

-Äldste Stoeltzing!