Saturday, December 26, 2015

Adventures, Service, Caroling, Christmas- Luleå Week 1 and 2

2 Weeks of Missionary life in one email...oh dear.

Bara så ni vet (just so you know)...missionary work is really difficult around Christmas time in Sweden. Everyone is out of town. No one has time to meet. But we kämpa (rough translation: fight)

-We had a lovely Christmas Conference last week down in Stockholm. Took the plane there and back :) You want to know something crazy? They literally didn't even check my ID at all in the 3 times that I have flown since being in Luleå. Cannot handle that. You can literally go through security in like 30 seconds flat. No shoes off, no scanner. Just a good, old magnetic detector. The airport in Luleå is really small, but super nice. Someone on the plane that I talked to literally commutes to Stockholm for work. HE FLIES to his job every day. That blows my mind. Men iallafall (but any ways)...Conference was really good. It was all of the Stockholm and Norrland Zones :) Saw lots of missionaries I love. Talked about giving gifts to Christ :)
-We have a new investigator from last week. He is pretty positive and really interested in what we believe. He is actually a Free Mason and invited us to help out with a service project on Monday. So, we helped 9 Free Mason men bag up 100 packages of food for needy people in the area. It was really cool. I love service!
-A member took us out to lunch twice in two days. It was really nice :) Have I mentioned before how much I love the members here? They literally have my heart!
-Last Friday, we went to visit a member family that lives in the middle of NOWHERE. I'm sure the drive was pretty, but it was 5 o'clock, so it was completely dark by the time we drove out with the Elders and a member. Well, we're driving and it is pretty icy, but no problems. The problem hit when we turned into their driveway and they hadn't plowed the snow yet. We got about halfway up the 1/4 mile drive and got stuck in the snow :) Luckily the member that was with us knew what to do and got us out okay. We trudged through the snow up to their place to find out that they completely forgot that they invited us over...oops! They have no running water and use a wood-burning stove to cook food, so we helped out to get everything ready and enjoyed a nice meal together. Turned out to be a really nice night :) They loved the surprise :)
-We got to help an old member lady wrap Christmas presents. It was so sweet to help her do something that she could not do on her own. Plus she would remember one more person that she wanted to give a gift to and we would start looking around for something to give. I loved every second of it! I love people! They just amaze me every day :)
-Spent quite a bit of time baking earlier this week. Then we went caroling with the Elders and the YSA on Tuesday to all of the members in Boden and Syster Jackson and I visited all the ones in Luleå. It was really sweet to see their surprise and just bring a little bit of the Christmas Spirit. Loved it! My family has gone caroling every year and it was nice to keep up the tradition :) 
-Speaking of my family, I got to skype with them yesterday. I LOVE THEM! It was so good to see them face-to-face, even if I am thousands of miles away. They are just the best and I am so excited to be back with them again soon. I have learned so much on my mission about the importance of families and have come to love and appreciate mine even more. Sure, none of us are perfect, but we need each other. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father gave me the family that I have. I need them!
-Spent Christmas Eve with two ward families. Started off the day by watching Up (Christmas is the only time of year that we can watch normal movies), which is one of my all time favorite movies. We headed to the members' house and did the most Swedish Christmas thing that you can do...watched Kalle Anka (Donald Duck). Basically it takes little clips from different classic disney movies and puts them together. Then the last two clips are from new movies. Every Swede I know starts out their Christmas on Christmas Eve at 3 pm by watching Kalle Anka :) Ate a whole ton of food from the Julbord, read Luke 2, exchanged gifts (literally just warms my heart that the members give gifts to missionaries that they have know for only 2-12 weeks. They don't even know how much it really means to me that they thought of us in all of their other preparations!), just hung out together after that.
-Christmas day was with another member. So much food! We watched Inside Out...IT WAS SO GOOD! Skyped, hung around. We were spoiled so much this Christmas! I will never understand what it is about missionaries that makes people do such nice things for us, but I plan to be the best ward members for the missionaries when I am married and stuff. Like best friends with all of the missionaries :)

I have been thinking lots lately about things like New Year's Resolutions and goals and improving and such. I feel like, as people, we sometimes have really good intentions to do good things, but really struggle with the follow-through. So my challenge for this week: make a goal/resolution and make a plan to follow through with it. Then check yourself on a regular basis to be sure that you are keeping up with it. It could be anything: doing service weekly, stop complaining, read scriptures daily, express love better, etc. Just do it! Now, don't bite off too much you can chew, but do all you can :)

I love this quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard,  "I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life."

I know that we have endless potential and that Heavenly Father wants us to reach that potential. Tell Him what you want to be, ask Him what He wants you to be, then give yourself to Him. He will help you be more than you can be yourself :)

All My Love, 
Syster Griffes 

Pictures Luleå Week 2

1-2. SAW THE NORTHERN LIGHTS! The pictures just don't do it justice! They literally dance like all the people say. It was beautiful!
3. All of the food bags that we packaged for the needy. It was so fun!
4. Sunset- 1:03 PM :)
5. Skyping with the Fam on Christmas Day

Monday, December 14, 2015

Up in the North- Luleå Week 1

The weather report first:
Sunrise: 9:45
Sunset: 13:05
Temperature: 9 F, -13 C
Snow on the ground, TONS of ice. 

The cool thing is that I have already gotten a glimpse of the Northern Lights, Waiting for a really clear night so that we can see them fully :)

Transferred up here on Tuesday. That is the only time when we are alone as missionaries. It is always really good, but also a good time for reflection and preparation. I also talked to a really nice guy on the plane that is a professor up here in Luleå. He said to get in contact if I had any troubles or anything. I love people!

Having a car is weird...But the Elders have it more often, so I ride buses lots still. Which is good, because that is the best way to talk to people :) We had a couple lessons this week, but not lots. Got to meet some ward members and a really cool teenage investigator that is really willing to act and try things out.

Had my second Ward Christmas Party. So cute! In Sweden, they celebrate this really cute holiday called St. Lucia (with the girls in white dresses with candles on their heads) and all the little primary kids did a Lucia train, it was precious. More Christmas ham and pepparkakor (do yourself a favor, go to Ikea, buy pepparkakor, you will thank me later! I can eat those things by the TON). The branch up here is really cute. About 40 active members (like 144 people on the ward list, but some people live hours and hours away, so they cannot come). Very spiritual meetings. I love it already :) We have two really stellar new members and the ward wants to help with missionary work. I love them!

Video of the week (I think that maybe I have shared this one already, but cannot remember):

We watched this in Sunday School yesterday. Really got me thinking about what I am doing to serve people here. I think that I want to serve more. I love that last line in the video about giving of ourselves. When we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are only in the service of our God (Mosiah 2:17)

Love you all,
Syster Griffes

P.S. Weird schedule for Christmas, so you will not be getting any good emails for at least a week and a half. The good news is that it gives you plenty of time to email me! :)

Pictures Luleå Week 1

1. This is actually a tree with ice on it, but the light made it look really cool
2-3 . These were taken at about 9:30 AM, the light over the ice 
4. Me and Syster Jackson
5. In case you are having a bad idea where this came from, but it was on our phone

Monday, December 7, 2015

Good-byes Round 3: Jakobsberg Week 18

This is important:
I don't know if you have ever actually looked at a map to see where I go, but this one is important. So...
1. Open up google maps or something
2. Search Luleå, Sweden (I think you can type Lulea and it will pop up)
3. Stare at the map in shock

For those of you without google maps, I have attached a few pictures from our phone :)

Yeah, I am going to the most northernly area in the mission. Literally have to fly up there tomorrow. 1.5 hour flight or a 14 hour train ride. What have I done to be cast out from all of the other people?!? :) The good news: There is a set of elders there and a car shared between the two of us. The bad news: the sun already comes up at 9:31 and goes down at 13:15 and we have two more weeks before it switches so that the days get longer. This will be a new adventure.

This does mean that I get to see the Northern Lights :) And the Arctic Circle. And maybe even the world's first ice hotel (which is about a four hour drive farther north)

But, the last week in Jakobsberg:
-Got to spend most of Tuesday with Nicki, a YSA preparing for her mission. We did language study, lunch, and taught together. She is so great! One of our investigators did not show up, so we took the time to do a little bit of mission preparation and read through a section in the book we use as missionaries called Preach My Gospel. The very first thing that we teach anyone is God is our Loving Heavenly Father. That is really the basis of everything else. God loves us, so He made a plan and here we are! God loves us, so He sent His son, He gives us prophets and families and every good thing. We are who we are because of a loving Heavenly Father. Everything else depends on that one fact. 
-Last district meeting of the transfer with the North Stockholm District. I have loved being in this district so much! I have learned so much from all of the missionaries! One of them, Syster Powell, is going home this week, so we had a "funeral" for her. We each shared something that we like about her then watched videos that each of her previous companions had made about how much they love her. It was absolutely sweet :)
-On Thursday we went down to Västerhaninge with the Elders to help clean the Guest Home that is used for visitors of the Temple. Some people come from thousands of miles away and they stay at the Guest Home. It was really fun :)
-On Friday Syster Crawford had a meeting (because she is training a new missionary), so I got to be on splits with Syster Stetler (one of my companions in the MTC)! It was so fun to be together and catch up. We really had a good opportunity to talk about the mission and everything. We talked about our last 3 transfers and what it will be like going home. Love her! We got to teach our new member about the First Vision. We read Joseph Smith's account from the scriptures and talked about how we get opposition every time we try to do a good thing, just like Joseph Smith did. If you haven't read it recently, I would encourage each of you to read Joseph Smith-History, especially verses 1-26. I love that he says, "For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it." There are things in each of our lives that we know, but sometimes we begin to forget or doubt. Never forget! Hold on to the ground you already have! Rely on the Lord through times of trouble, "Cast not away therefore thy confidence!" 
-Interesting fact about Sweden:public transportation cannot handle any type of weather. Like its raining? Oh! Train is cancelled! There is some wind? The whole train system shuts down for 12 hours. That was the weekend for ya :) Plus buses are late and tunnel-banas are delayed and...yup. I am not completely converted to the idea of public transportation for many reasons. One thing that I am grateful for is that Swedes are much more patient with these kind of things than Americans. They just calmly wait until everything is figured out instead of getting frustrated about it :)
-We had the Ward Christmas Party on Saturday. It was a huge deal! We had a Julbord (rough translation: Christmas Table) with all of the traditional foods like: ham, potatoes, Johnssons Frestelse (Johnson's temptation, a dish with potatoes and anchovies), red beets, sausages, deviled eggs with caviar, and sill (weird fish stuff). Plus lots of desserts :) They had a talent show and it was just spectacular. We (the missionaries) shared the video, "A Savior is Born" and bore testimony on why we need a Savior.
-Good-byes on Sunday. I hate Good-byes! It is so hard to say goodbye to these people that you have just come to love so much! I got to bear my testimony during Sacrament Meeting. Talked about Christ and how much I have learned about Him and from His example. We went to our Ward Mission Leader's house for dinner (Swedish meatballs, potatoes, brown sauce, and lingon berry jam...typical Swedish meal!) then spent the evening contacting and swinging-by people. Already making mental plans to come back to Sweden to visit all of these people that I have come to love with my whole heart!

Spiritual Thought this week:

I love this video! It perfectly explains why we need the Savior. There would be literally no purpose to life without Christ and the Atonement. There would be no chance to start over, no chance to improve, we would literally be stuck here without any hope. Thanks to Christ, we have hope of more happiness, of more joy, of returning to our Heavenly Father. I am so grateful to have a Savior that understands me. Someone that knows me better than I know me. Someone that I can always look to and rely on. I know He lives! Through all of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, remember to take time to remember the real reason for the season. Remember Christ and all that He has done for you personally.

Love you all,
Syster Griffes