Hello from icy cold Sweden! The temperature was -9 (about 16 F) when we left the apartment to come email this morning. Don't worry, we bundled up!
Your Thanksgiving feast sounds delightful! We had pumpkin pie on the train to Umeå which Äldste Gray made for us. It was very good. Actually it was the first time I've tried pumpkin pie, but I liked it. Not as much as apple though. The train ride was really fun andthere was a beautiful sunrise going on outside. The landscape on the way up to Umeå was also very beautiful. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a couple of members. We were at Mona's house, a really nice lady in the ward. She invited us sisters as well as a recent convert, Mahshid. They didn't even know what Thanksgiving was, but we told them all about it. So for Thanksgiving dinner this year I had älg (moose). It was real wild älg that Mona's brother hunted, so it felt like home in that way. There was also potatoes and brown sauce and salad. We had apple pie for dessert. It was a great Thanksgiving dinner! Meanwhile the elders and half the branch were at President Stegeby's for a real American Thanksgiving with turkey and the works. We were invited to that about five minutes after I told Mona we could come to dinner at her house on Thursday night. We were sad to miss out, but it's not every Thanksgiving that you eat moose with a Swede and an Iranian!! It turned out for the best because the elders brought us leftovers, which have always been one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner anyway. So for lunch on Friday we still got turkey, potatoes and gravy, stuffing, yams with marshmallow topping (which I ate. I like those now.) and cornbread. Happy Thanksgiving! It's weird to think about last Thanksgiving and realize that I was in Sweden. I've been here a while.
This week has been really awesome! Monday was a full proselyting day and we had some lessons scheduled but they fell through. It's okay because an investigator called us and asked us to meet him at the library. So we got to teach someone anyway. He's only interested in learning English and coming to activities and said he's never going to come to church, which is why we didn't set a return appointment with him in the first place. But it was a little miracle anyway that we were able to meet him and teach him.
On Tuesday we went over to the ward choir director's house (Ingrid) and looked through violin music for the Christmas program. I played on her daughter Celine's violin. We found some good stuff and the program should be really good. Hopefully Celine and I will be able to play a violin duet as well. Another member is letting me borrow her violin for this whole month, so I can practice and everything. I AM SO BAD AT THE VIOLIN. It's crazy how fast you lose stuff. But we're going to practice and it will turn out great. Tuesday night we taught a less active member named Lisa G. (Not to be confused with Lisa S. who shares scriptures with us. They both smoke though.) She seems really sincere about wanting to change her life and come back to church, but we'll see if she's sincere enough to do something about it. She was SO EXCITED about getting American cookies though! Then Tuesday night we finally taught a woman named Joy, who we've been trying to meet with for weeks. She wasn't there when we got there, like usual, but we called and she was on her way home. She's from Nigeria and has met the missionaries for a while I think. We don't know exactly how long, or how long ago, because the missionaries before us did not keep very good records. She's read quite a bit of the Book of Mormon though.
Wednesday was a fantastic day, because we had exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders, Syster Eborn and Syster Bass. This time I got to be with Syster Eborn and it was awesome. It made me remember how much I enjoyed that companionship and how hard we worked. And we worked really hard! We were out the door by 10:00 to go contacting, and while we were out we taught a guy on the street about the Book of Mormon, and then someone behind us started yelling to get our attention, and we turned around and it was Joy! We went into her work and showed her a video on mormonchannel.org about the Book of Mormon, which she loved. So we taught two lessons in that first ten minutes. After some lunch we went to drop by less active members in a place called Skönsmon. They weren't home so we left cookies and then started tracting around that area. One of the first doors we knocked an old lady answered and before I could say anything she just said "Come in!" They were a very nice old Jehovah's Witness couple. We were going to teach the Restoration but the husband kept trying to bash, so we just showed them a video about the Restoration. The whole time the man was in the other room trying to find pamphlets to give us in English (I guess our Swedish must have been really bad because no matter how many times we told him IN SWEDISH that we speak Swedish, he would just say "I don't know english!") but the wife was completely enthralled in the movie. She was really excited to have a Book of Mormon and tried to pay us for it. (We didn't take the money, of course.) We were going to meet Noe Noe after that but she cancelled on us. We had to go to Timrå anyway, and on the bus down to Timrå each of us taught someone on the bus. I taught a nice Swedish girl named Felicia about the Book of Mormon, while Syster Eborn had a really intense Atonement lesson with a Muslim guy from Ethiopia. We had to go to Timrå to pick up the violin that I'm borrowing from Frida Samuelson. It was actually really cool that we could go there while on exchanges because Frida's husband Johan is originally from Norrköping, so Syster Eborn and I know all of his sisters. That got us into the house to share a scripture. They have a 9-year-old who hasn't been baptized, so we're working on operation Teach the Family. The elders have been trying and haven't even been able to get in yet, so we're on to something. Their kids were all really cute. We tried dropping by Lisa S. while we were there but she wasn't home, but then we ran into her on the street which was cool. We dropped by some other people too including an old investigator named Daniella. She let us in and we watched the Restoration video with her as well. When we came out from Daniella's we had just missed our bus back to Sundsvall and it was 7:00 PM, so we went to the grocery store to find something to eat. We bought some soup and rolls, and then asked at the cash register if there was any way to warm up the soup. We got a tour of the backroom of the grocery store, through a literal maze of hallways and up some stairs to their break room where they let us use their microwaves. It was quite the adventure. So my day with Syster Eborn was a lot like my companionship with Syster Eborn. We worked hard and had a ton of fun. In the meantime, Syster Jacobs was with Syster Bass, who served here in Sundsvall a few months ago and had a lot of good ideas and advice about the area. They visited Angela, Mahshid, and Sassan and got to know all three of them a lot better.
Thursday morning our train left at 5:49 AM, so that was fun. We had good pumpkin pie and I had a really good personal study as I wrote down things I was thankful for. Zone training was really great. It was all about the "He is the Gift" initiative. I AM SO EXCITED FOR IT! I hope by now you've all seen the video, but if not, you can go to christmas.mormon.org for all the details about it. The church is going all out this Christmas! We show the video to everyone we meet. One of the things I'm most thankful for is that they translated the video into Swedish. I'm also really excited about the Youtube ads next Sunday, and the Time's Square advertising. This is the best time to be a missionary! After getting back to Sundsvall we went to Mona's for dinner. She had a really cool conversion story that she shared with us. And Mahshid did too. We had a lot of fun.
On Friday we found out that Margit, that really awesome old lady that we visited a few weeks ago, passed away. Everyone in the ward loved her, but we're all happy that she's in a much better place now. She was kind of frustrated to still be here alone and in so much pain. We'll sure miss her. I was hoping to be able to visit her and play the violin for her, because we'd talked about how much she loves music. But I'm sure there's even better music where she is now. Other than that sad news, Friday was pretty good. We met with Angela at the church and taught her there. Then we went to the neighborhood near the church and continued tracting there. We're almost done with that neighborhood. We talked to one lady who wasn't very interested, but all of a sudden her little (rat) dog came running out to meet us and it broke the ice so she let us come in and show her the Christmas video. She said we can come back next week and explain more about where the church came from. It was pretty exciting to get a new investigator from tracting! That doesn't happen every day.
On Saturday we got to meet another cool old lady in the ward, Inga-Britt. She's 88 and a little sick, but she's in church almost every week. She always smiles up at me while I lead the music. We came and helped her get her walker into the house and then visited with her. She has a cool story and a big family. Her 29th great-grandchild was born a couple weeks ago. It was kind of funny though because I knew the baby's name and she didn't. She said "When I saw her she was so perfect, I didn't even think to ask! What's her name?" (The baby's name is Flora and we haven't seen her yet, but I expect to meet her before I leave!)
Yesterday was a pretty good Sunday. Our only VIP was Lisa S. We were excited to see her there. It was "Förste Advent," the first day of the advent. It's officially Christmas time now! The choir sang a traditional Swedish advent song. We stuck around for choir practice and it went really well until we tried to practice For Unto Us a Child is Born from the Messiah. That is not an easy song. We don't practice nearly as much as Peyton practiced for the Messiah performance! Luckily it's just the one song. I think the elders will be able to figure out the tenor part so it should turn out alright. After church and choir we had dinner with May. She gave us dinner our first Sunday in Sundsvall. We had meatballs and french fries and lots of vegetables. Then for dessert we had all the traditional Christmas things! Risgrynsgrött (rice porridge) with raspberry jam, pepparkakor, Lussekatter (saffron buns), Julmust (Christmas soda), and glögg. Glögg is like spicy cider stuff. It's usually alcoholic but of course we had alcohol free. It's really yummy.
Unfortunately Ali texted us this week saying he doesn't want to meet or have any contact with us anymore. That was really disappointing. We didn't get to meet Noe Noe either but she texted us to say she got the conference issue of the Liahona and is super excited about it, so I think she's doing fine. No progress with her parents though. Keep praying for them!
I find it ironic that the Hunger Hames movie was "good, but not to die for." Isn't that the point of the Hunger Games?
I'll try and figure out when they'll celebrate Midsummer next year with it being over the weekend and let you know. Good luck with Cody and Peyton's passports!
Have a wonderful week everyone! Jag älskar er!