Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in Sweden....and more! Trollhättan Week 4.5

What a crazy week and a half! Being sick and Christmas and all the things!

We really started feeling the Christmas Spirit on Tuesday Dec. 16th when we went to a wonderful Jul concert. A member in the ward is a music teacher at a music school here in Trollhättan. Their concert was...AMAZING! So many talented young people! They even did a Lucia part, so we got to experience that too. They sang Swedish songs and English songs and it was just wonderful! That Wednesday and Thursday I was feeling really, really sick. Debatably the worst cold that I have had in my life, so we stayed in so that I could rest up and get better. I slept quite a bit and did language study things. We started to get real bored, so we made a checkers board (medicine vs. make-up)...too funny! That Friday we had a zone conference with the Göteborg Zone (mine) and the Malmö zone (south of us). It was wonderful and very spiritually uplifting. I learned a lot and it was exactly what I needed. Plus, I got to see some of the Elders from my MTC group and it was great to catch up with them and discover that we are all experiencing the same struggles as being new missionaries. 

Our ward party was last Saturday. Have I mentioned how perfect Christmas is in Sweden? We had a julbord (think like Thanksgiving Dinner, but with traditional Swedish Christmas foods) and just sat and talked with people and had people sing. It was perfect. Our ward is absolutely the best! Sunday, the 21st, was the shortest day of the year. The sun rose at 8:57 and set at 3:20. It only gets longer from here! We only had Sacrament meeting, but there were some beautiful, beautiful musical numbers. I just sat there and thought about how lucky I was to be in Sweden with all these people that are so wonderful and so happy, I almost cried! I was just so full of love for them! Then, they did even more and gave us Christmas presents! That sounds so lame that that matters to me, but just the thought that the ward members were thinking of the missionaries in all of the craziness of Christmas was really touching.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty slow. It was so cool to walk around Stan (the main part of the city) and see everyone out doing last minute Christmas things. The sun was out and so many people were smiling. It just made me so happy! We got to talk to many people and they were warmer than usual because they were definitely feeling the Spirit of Christmas which, in reality, is the Spirit of Christ, even if they didn't know it. 

Christmas in Sweden is kind of a big deal. The 24th is when they really celebrate Christmas. They have a julbord and invite lots of people over. They also have this hour of disney cartoons that plays every year. It is the same every year and has clips of the disney classics like Cinderalla, Donald Duck, Ferdinand, Mickey Mouse, Bambi, Snow White, etc. We spent the morning with 2 members, Gerd and Christer. They are absolutely the best! They made up baskets for people with chocolate and sweets and such then we got to help them pass them out to ward members and friends. It just made me so happy! I just felt like there wasn't enough room in my heart for all that love and joy. So perfect! Then we went to another member's, Christine's, for the rest of the day. We had our julbord then chilled for the day. On the 25th, we were also at Christine's. We opened our gifts and it was lovely. Syster Sorensen also did a lot and put together a Thanksgiving style dinner for us. It was quite nice, especially because I wasn't in America to celebrate. I also got to skype with my family! It was so good to seem them and get to talk with them, express gratitude to them, and share my testimony with them. So much happiness!

Today was yet another Christmas day for Sweden. We were again with Gerd and Christer. We helped them make some treats then stopped by more friends and members. They are just the best and they do so much for us! I hope to be able to help the missionaries in the future like they help us! 

I have been thinking a lot about the gift of Christ lately and about how everyone needs it. It is really the greatest gift that Heavenly Father has given us. As I read the Christmas story from the Bible this Christmas Eve (per family tradition), I was thinking about how I would like to give Him something this year. I have yet to decide what it is, but it will have to be something great because He deserves all, yet expects so little. I would encourage each of you to take some time and think about this year and what you can give to Him so that you can grow closer to Him and Heavenly Father.

Love you lots, 
God Jul!
Syster Griffes

Monday, December 15, 2014

"And they were cast out of their synagogues..." Trollhättan Week 3

What a week! It actually went by super fast which is great because time just seemed to be dragging on. I'm starting to understand more and more Swedish, but speaking is still kind of difficult. I just have to remember that I have only been speaking Swedish for 9 weeks, so perfection is not even an option yet. I just have to muster up some more courage and open my mouth with everyone we see and in every lesson that we teach. But, I love Swedish! It is a very pretty language, especially when the natives speak it. They just sing it! I hope that I can do that some day!

Tuesday was wonderful, absolutely a great day. We had lunch with some members. They really go all out here everytime we eat with them! This time it was pot roast, a mushroom sauce, vegetables, and potatoes. So good! Then this delicious, Swedish ice cream dessert thing. So good! We talked with them about my mission scripture which is: "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12). The couple had served a mission together in England, so we talked about that too. There was just so much love in every interaction they had and they are so cute together! After, we went to the house of two newer members, H&A. They are so great and always make us laugh. We talked with them about the power of the Atonement in overcoming weaknesses and how we can always rely on Christ. H then came with us to a lesson with a bible bashing guy. H was absolutely perfect! He bore strong testimony on his own conversion and really brought a Spirit that we needed. It was perfect!

We had Church watch on Wednesday. Basically we sit in the Church for 3 hours and do some family history or teach lessons or give church tours. We also watched the Christmas Devotional which was magnificent! Another cool thing we did is we had dinner with a member couple that works at a book bindery, so I got to make some cute little books that I binded :) On Thursday, we had a lesson with a university teacher here in Trollhättan. He just has this absolute thirst for knowledge that I really sympathize with. He just wants to know everything then figure out what he believes is true. So cool! Then we had a lesson with another member on the Temple. We expressed how much it has blessed our lives and testified of Eternal Families.

District meeting on Friday was pretty much perfect. We talked about giving our all to the work here on the mission and not holding back one ounce. It was very spiritual and really got me thinking about what more I need to do and be. Our Indian investigator made us some Indian food (spicy rice with peanuts) and we attempted to eat it in the real indian way, with our hands. It was pretty hilarious to watch and try. Maybe I'll send the video next week. We did weekly planning on Saturday and discussed all of our investigators and their needs. We were invited to go and talk to people at a refugee camp, but we couldn't find it. Kind of a bummer, that would have been an interesting experience. Then we attempted to go to St. Lucia (a Swedish holiday where they have choirs all dressed in white with crowns of candles on their heads). We walked all the way to the State Church then... we couldn't buy tickets because they were all sold out... Huge bummer! Hence, the title, "And they were cast out of their synagogues..." If I remember, I'll send the pictures we took next week.

Sunday was another productive day. We had 3 lessons and even had an investigator commit to baptism and set a date! We are so excited to work with her and bring her into the Church that means so very much to us. Missionary work is so real and exciting. There isn't a single person out there that would not be blessed by this gospel, everyone just has to give it a try for themselves. I know with every fiber of my being that this Church is true, why else would I be in Sweden right now? I'm just so glad to get to share this message and the Light of Christ with all the people around me.

Interesting things about Sweden:
-Almost everyone we meet with lives in an apartment here and has lived in one almost their whole lives
-They have spiral staircases...everywhere!
-The milk is not actually colored, Sister Sorensen was just pulling a prank on me by dying all of our milk
-Right now sunrise is about 8:30 and sunset is about 3:30, I will take a picture on the shortest day of the year for all to see
-Christmas here is wonderful and not as commercialized as in the USA, I like it way better here!
-The biggest language barrier is not actually my ability to speak Swedish, but more that we teach so many immigrants that do not have a mastery of English or Swedish

I hope that you have a lovely week and an even better Christmas! Remember the true meaning of Christmas: Christ. There would be no Christmas without Him. 
Med karlek,
Syster Sarah Griffes

Monday, December 8, 2014

Trollhättan Week 2

Sweden is so great! 
But before I get into it, watch this video about Christmas. It is so great!

First p-day in Sweden was nice :) We went to Göteborg and played games with other missionaries. It's nice to be with everyone sometimes, but kind of long to take an hour long train to then back from Göteborg. Did I mention that public transportation is great here? We take buses and trains literally everywhere. First time in my life doing that and I think it's kind of cool.

From Monday night to Tuesday night, Syster Sorensen and I went on Splits with the Sister Training Leaders. I stayed in Göteborg with Syster Spencer and did things with her. We taught a very nice Nigerian man about the Book of Mormon. He had a lot of really good questions for us, so that was pretty cool :) The next day, we stopped by a members house and helped out with some things that she needed done then went to some less-actives to visit. It was pretty cool being the city for a day; lots of people to talk! I learned a lot from Syster Spencer about loving every person that we talk with. I could really tell that she cared about each of them individually, which is way cool.

Wednesday was back in Trollhättan. I actually really love that little town. It's so cute! Our area is pretty big (it actually extends all the way to Norway, but we rarely go up there). We taught 3 lessons and talked to a lot of people in the streets. We mostly talk with people about Christmas and what they do, then invite them to watch that video (above) because it is so great!

Thursday we got to go to Vänesborg and have lunch with a nice member there. It was so Swedish and wonderful! We had Julmust which is like a pop that they have just at Christmastime. It's okay, but pretty weird. We taught our investigator from India and read in the Book of Mormon with him. It was very cool and very spiritual. The chapter we read (Alma 32) was all about having faith and letting it grow. So great!

Friday was District Meeting in Göteborg with 14 missionaries. Then we went out to lunch at a Thai place together. We then had two more lessons with investigators. 

Saturday was weird...we changed our p-day to Saturday, but we couldn't email because the internet at the Church wasn't working, so we went and talked to people in the main part of town for 2 hours. Then, we went with one of our investigators from Kosovo to a Christmas Festival in Göteborg (yup, third time in a week) at an amusement park called Liseberg. It was all decked out and pretty cool, especially when it started to get dark (about 3:30) because they had everything all lit up :) 

This Sunday was significantly better than last Sunday. I could actually understand things that people said and could talk with some people a bit. It was Fast Sunday (in our church, we fast once a month for 2 meals), which means that we had testimony meeting with the ward. It was pretty cool and I got up and bore my testimony in Swedish. It was definitely not perfect, but people said it was good. Always room for improvement :) The most important thing is that the Spirit was evident because that is the real teacher.

This week has had it's fair share of ups and downs, but it is really cool to be out here and just focus all my time and efforts on Jesus Christ and helping others come unto Him. He really is the greatest gift that we have and I am so grateful for everything that He does for me. I know that He lives and that He loves each of us.

Med karlek,
Syster Griffes

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pictures from Sweden Week 1

1. Weird milk
2. Me with my first Swedish pizza
3. My companion, Sister Sorensen, and I pointing to Trollhätten (our area) on the map

Fwd: Last MTC Pictures

1. Last day at the MTC. Syster Nielsen and her so much!
2. All of us Swedes. Love them!