I'm so excited that you got to go to a Lucia festival! It sounds just like a real Swedish Lucia. Lucia Day is on the 13th of December, so we'll probably go to a Lucia concert on Saturday morning. THERE'S JULMUST IN AMERICA!?!?! Christmas is saved! I love Julmust. And I'm very excited to see how you guys like it. Most people don't like it the first time, but I love the stuff! The best way I've heard it described is that it tastes like liquid smarties. Don't let that turn you off-it's good.
This week has been a really great week. It was the first week of the Advent so everyone is officially celebrating Christmas time. We've been showing everybody and their dog (not exaggerating) the "He Is The Gift" movie that the church made. It's working really well. The dog liked it a lot. Have you seen it? We heard it was supposed to be the only advertisement on Youtube yesterday.
It feels like this week went by really fast. How is it already P-Day again? Last week after P-Day ended we visited Sassan, a less-active member from Iran. It was his birthday. He's really awesome and he showed us a video about the church's welfare program that he'd seen and asked us to explain it to him. He's active at heart, it's just hard for him to come to church...but he should still come! He's waiting for his family to get permission to come to Sweden from Iran, so he's pretty stressed out about it. Hopefully they'll be here by new year though! After that we went to Family Home Evening with the Gilberts. I'm working with their daughter Celine on a violin duet for the Christmas Program. I'm not sure exactly how it will turn out but it's good that I can help Celine want to keep playing the violin. It was a pretty chaotic FHE with five kids running around, violins, cellos, baking, singing, and putting up Christmas decorations. It was fun though.
On Tuesday we met with the RS President, Ulla-Lena, and got a list of the women in the branch who she thinks could use a visit. Those lists are one of my favorite things as a missionary, because they're so helpful in figuring out what to do! We're excited to go out and find all those women! It's especially useful during Christmas time because people are more open and we can use the excuse of bringing a Christmas gift. (And you know me, it will be cookies.) Then we went out to Torpshammar, a place about 60 km from Sundsvall, for a member dinner with the Karttunens. It was originally for Ali, since he lives in Torpshammar and the Karttunens drove him to church. It was still good. We had Sweden's second most popular dish: tacos. (The most popular is meatballs of course.) After we got back to Sundsvall we went tracting and found an entire apartment building full of Jehovah's Witnesses. They had all come back from a meeting too. It was weird. Then when we were walking home from there, we stopped a girl on the street and she was just like "Yeah, you can tell me about your message." So we showed her He Is The Gift and talked about the Restoration, but she didn't want to meet again. :/
Wednesday we made our weekly trip out to Timrå. We visited Lisa who shared her favorite verses from Alma 32 with us. She gave us candy this time instead of bananas. (We have a lot of uneaten bananas in our freezer that she's given us, so next time we go there we're going to bring her banana bread.) We've enjoyed the candy. Then we met with Noe Noe again. She had asked her parents about her ancestors! And it didn't go very well. I guess some people don't like talking about their families... We showed Noe Noe HE Is The Gift, which is our next strategy in getting her parents on board. I'm really hopeful about this one. She watched it and then she said "THIS is something I can show my parents!" We're praying hard for this one!! That night it was more tracting after the rest of our lessons cancelled on us. We taught a guy named Bo while his wife glared at us from behind the door. The Spirit really touched him but he said he's too busy during Christmas but that we can try coming back afterward. I'm going to be hearing that for the rest of my mission. On our way home we talked to a guy named Salaam. He's met with the elders before but then lost contact, and he already had a Book of Mormon in Arabic but wanted one in Swedish. So we gave him one and taught him a basic restoration lesson. He said "Can we meet sometime so you can explain that in a little more detail? Here, take my number and give me a call." We're going to meet him this coming Saturday. This is the third time the elders' investigators want to meet with us.
Thursday we taught Ingegerd. We're going to help her decorate for Christmas, which will be fun. We also went to the RS activity where we made little Christmas gifts to give to people. Little candles, candy, cards and stuff. It was fun. Lisa came and seemed to enjoy it.
Friday was the big day when we took the 2 hour train ride to Östersund for the day. We got there about 10:15 Friday morning armed with 2 liters of cookies, gift bags, ribbon, and of course the scriptures. We took a bus to the south edge of town and made our way back up to centrum, dropping by all the members along our way. We ended up walking over 13 kilometers and it took us around 3 hours with all the detours and stopping to put cookies in the bags and everything. Not a single one of them was home. There were three people in Östersund who we really wanted to see: Matilda, our investigator who we've only met over skype; Oscar, who was taught and baptized by Syster Dawson when she was a greenie in Örnsköldsvik, but since moved to Östersund where he can't come to church ; and the Johansson family, who would be active if they weren't stranded in Östersund. Of course all of them could meet at four o'clock. So we convinced Matilda to meet us at the library at 3:30, then told the Johanssons we'd stop by at four, then told Oscar we'd meet him at the bus station at 4:30. Matilda was late and that plan went out the window. Matilda is awesome. She was an exchange student in Idaho Falls, which is where she came in contact with the church. It was cool to finally meet her in person. After we taught her, we figured we'd pay for the bus to get to the Johanssons since we were already so late. While we were at the bus stop, Oscar called and said he couldn't meet us any later. So he found us at the bus stop and paid for our bus, then took the bus with us to the Johanssons. When we'd called the Johanssons they said they didn't really have time, but I pressed so that they would at least let us drop by and say hello. They said we probably wouldn't even have time to come in though. This being the case, we assured Oscar that we would be super quick there and he decided to wait for us outside. We knocked on their door at 4:35 and they answered and said "Come in! We have dinner for you!" Their thing had cancelled so they had plenty of time. It was by far the fastest member dinner of my mission. We wolfed down dinner, wolfed down dessert, and shared a super quick message. They were really nice and understood that we didn't have a lot of time. I'm glad we got to meet them and strengthen them, they're amazing people. When we came back outside Oscar was still standing there waiting for us and we felt like TERRIBLE PEOPLE. We should have just told the family that he was with us and invited him in to dinner but we had no idea what was going on and were flustered. It's okay, Oscar was very forgiving and when we told him that they'd wanted us to come in for a sit (we didn't mention dinner...) he just said "Yeah, that's what Swedes do." So it was no harm done. Oscar really wanted us to come to his house and meet his mom, so we checked on Google Maps and with the bus times we had time to make it to his house and stay for 15 minutes before we'd have to take a bus back to the train station to catch our train. He was okay with that, so we were off. Unfortunately, when we got to his house his mom wasn't home. But we had a nice chat on his front porch and he shared his favorite scripture with us from the Book of Mormon. We didn't get to meet his family, but it was worth it to meet him in person instead of just over the phone. He's really nice and loves missionaries and the gospel. We asked him what he wants for Christmas and he said "I don't need anything. I already have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and that's the greatest gift I could have!" So it was a good day in Östersund. We caught our train with plenty of time and made it home around 9:55.
Saturday morning I woke up feeling super guilty for neglecting Family History for the last few weeks. So for one of the hours that we'd planned to go tracting, we did family history instead. I worked more on Launa's Swedish line and accidentally stumbled into the family I was looking for and found two more of their kids. That family REALLY wants to be sealed together!!!
Yesterday was a good fast Sunday. We had two VIPs. First, Mahshid, who the members just LOVE! She has so much support from the branch! And she also found out this week that she got her residency permit so she can stay in Sweden! The members have been fasting and praying for her so they were all really excited about that! Our other VIP was an investigator named Abdoul. We see him on the bus all the time and talk to him, but have never been able to meet with him. We saw him on the bus on Thursday and he asked us when church is, so we told him 11 every Sunday. He said "Okay. I'll come on Sunday." I've had enough people tell me that that I didn't really get my hopes up, but then Sunday morning while we were on the bus to church he called us and said he was about to get on the bus. He took the bus with us and came to Sacrament Meeting. He liked it and said he'll come every week. That was pretty exciting. The members were all really nice and welcoming too.
This week we have a lot of Christmas Caroling planned in. It should be fun. Thanks for your prayers and for keeping me updated on how everything is at home! Jag älskar er!