Monday, September 12, 2011

Week 2 in Sweden

Well pheeww! I have officially survived the first week and almost through the second. It was close there for a few days where I wasn’t sure I was going to survive. BUT! I have made it out and I feel much more like my normal self. I'm so grateful for all of your prayers because I know they were a part of the reason I feel great again.  Missionary work is interesting. It isn't the hardest thing physically that I have done. But mentally and emotionally it is by far the most straining. At least the first few days when you think you have to save the whole world and nobody wants saving.
  Lets start with some fun easy stuff:
I am wearing my awesome red raincoat. The town that I am staying in called Uppsala is a little touristy and a big college town.  We have the biggest church in Sweden right down town (Dome Kyrka). And there are loads of people riding their bikes everywhere. I LOVE IT! We ride our bikes to church and around town often. My bike is red (to match my coat) and has a little basket in the front... which comes in very handy.
Today Syster Erikson and I decided to go to "Willy's" (its like the Wal-Mart in Sweden) to get our groceries. Willy's is a ten-minute walk to the bus station and then about a ten min bus ride).  We knew we were going to have a lot of groceries so we decided to ride our bikes to the bus station. What an adventure. It was down pouring! On our way home we loaded up the heavy bags.... one each in our baskets and two on each handle bar and away we went! Imagine two girls on bikes in the pouring rain with all these bags hanging off as we weave our way home. Please make sure you remember to imagine my "ridiculous too big for my head" helmet on top of my head. We took pictures so you can see how funny we looked.  I loved it! Haha
They have Digestives!!! (For those of you who don't know what that is... it is the best cookie in the world)
The people of Sweden... they are a lot nicer than everyone made them out to be. Often times when I smile and say hi they get a confused look on their face and I have had a few people stop and say, "Do I know you or something?" Syster Erikson said that would be a perfect way to say... now you do! I’m Syster Schneiber ... what’s your name?  My favorite way to strike up conversations is on the bus... I liked one little old lady in particular. I sat across from her and asked her how long she had lived in Uppsala. She smiled and started talking back! Love that! (Sometimes these old people are a little bit harder to crack). We kept talking (mind you-all in Swedish!) and then people kept walking in between us so she invited me to come sit next to her. Well! That was like the best thing ever!
  I met my very first Jehovah Witnesses! It was pretty funny. We were walking down the stairs from visiting a less active family and these two girls were just walking out of their door. So of course we smiled at them and said hi and asked them how they were. The weird thing is that they were smiling and very open to talking to us too... hahha turns out we just found out where the neighborhood JW systers live! Haha They were really nice and we chatted... I don't know much about their religion so it was interesting to see the similarities and truths they have. A lot of people say they are very pushy... but they seemed pretty nice to me...
Food: Syster Erikson eats pretty simply. I like it. She only washes her hair every other day... we both get ready in record time. We both are just pretty easy going. Both her parents served in Japan so she likes to eat lots of rice.  Last week we just bought a ton of potatoes and would just put cheese, beans, corn, and ham on top and heat it up. So easy. This week we are going to try and make some curry. (My favorite!). Other than that I really haven't changed much of my eating habits. I still have my staple of peanut butter and honey for snacks... and ham and cheese sandwiches when we are on the run. Supposedly the Swedes eat a lot of fish and potatoes but so far we have only eaten at the bishop’s house... and they fed us spaghetti. (I think they do that just for the missionaries)
 The ward... Well it’s a ward. But is small. I guess I'm just used to living in New Canaan now and like to have a big fluffy ward to bring the Spirit. I walked into Relief Society and there were 7 of us. Each woman has her own spunky,a little different, personality. At first I was focusing on the negative. There was only one person responding to the teacher... the teacher was reading from the book... and how were we supposed to get random people from off the street to want to come to this? (In Sweden there have been baptisms... a lot of them actually... but the number of people in sacrament meeting are staying the same... so either the new people are not staying active... or old people are going inactive) So we are really trying to work on getting people to come to church... EVERYONE GO TO CHURCH! You are just causing your little missionaries in your area to go crazy and pull out their hair.
  (Back to relief society)... so I was a little negative at first. But I had made it a goal to try and know everyone’s name at church... so I went around talking to all of them... and as I did so and got to meet each of these little ladies individually... man they each carry their own. They might be a little different but they each have their own strong personal testimony of the Church. It's pretty cool to feel that just through having a small conversation with them.  Another hard thing with church work... is that each person at church has their own problems--let alone trying to take in another member under their wing. Most of them are part member families.  The youth in Sweden tend to have a little too much freedom and so a lot of these strong amazing members don't have active kids.  It’s so sad.
 So the game plans: Syster Erikson and I decided we needed a battle plan for little Uppsala. And we decided that game plan would be working through and with the members. We are going to be trying to meet with most of the members and work from there up. Also with Inactive families. It is hard to bring new people into a falling apart ward. If we have strong healthy wards than it is much easier to bring new people in. So that is the game plan. The cool thing is.... the mission president rang us on Friday and invited Syster E and I to a zone counsel.... where we are focusing on working with members. President said, "Contacting is our last resort."  That made Syster E so happy.  You see... it seems that often times the little courageous new missionary (me) feels like=to go out and work their hardest for the lord ... they got to go talk to every person they pass... they need to proclaim the gospel at the top of their voice... they need to contact contact contact all day long.... Well Syster Erikson has been doing this for quite some time... and she understands that you feel courageous and all... but she really felt like there was a much more efficient way to go about doing all of this... So to hear president say that contacting was a last resort... well it just confirmed her greatest dreams. (Mine too... as I have come to dread contacting... I'm working on it... but contacting is just planning hard!)
   Well this is probably all more than you wanted to read.  Overall I am happy once again. I don't know how it happened... because Wednesday was probably the hardest day of my life. My whole body was fighting every movement and I had no desires to be there... even though I've wanted to serve a mission for years.  I just kept hanging onto my faith in the Lord. I knew that this is something he wanted me to do. I knew it was not supposed to be about me but about others. But I kept thinking-If I keep feeling this way my whole mission... I can’t make it... I wanted that desire to be doing this work for the lord. I studied a lot about faith... and how our faith is the power that lets the Lord heal us. I've learned a lot about faith and relying upon that little seed I have been cultivating for years.  Thursday was still hard. Friday. Transformation. I don't know what happened. I don't understand how. Someone must have been fasting for me or something... Because I had hope again in me. I wasn't dreading the days work. And I went to bed smiling that night. It wasn’t that the day was better... or that people listened to us more... no big miracles happened. 
  I'm sure there is a chemical response going on in my brain. But I feel very similar to the people in Mosiah 24. My burdens have not changed... It is just that the Lord has made them light. I am so excited to continue on and work for the Lord the next year and a half. For who better to work with than the Master himself?
 Love you all... keep praying for me!
 Syster Schneiber II

First Week in Sweden--Sept. 5

Hej San family!

 Sooo My first week in Sweden is almost over. Crazy. This week feels like it has been forever! I feel like I've been here for a month or something and it has only been 5 days here in Uppsala. *Uppsala is the town I’m serving in. 

So we arrived safely in Sweden. I made some Swedish friends on the airplane, which was fun...but I did sit next to a creepy American guy who had some bad experiences with the church. So that was a little hard to talk to him, but I felt really good with my Swedish! We arrived at 9 30 in the morning and we had a big band of people to pick us up. We spent most of the day waiting in a few lines getting visa's and other such numbers all taken care of so we can live here in Sweden. That was a long day. We were just sitting and waiting and I didn’t have anything on me so I felt like I was wasting time. After coming from the MTC where you are doing something all the time! It feels weird not to be doing something... and then realizing that I am a missionary... I kept thinking... shouldn’t we be talking to people or something... maybe passing out cards to everyone we meet?

Well that night we ate a nice dinner with the president and his wife. They are really great and their big push is to have missionaries work with and through members. Thomas S Monson came here in 1970 and gave a rededication on the temple and Sweden. He said there would be a second harvest and part of that promise said that it would happen when the members and the missionaries were working together. So that was neat.

Well I was pooped by bedtime and Syster W and I had our last night together. We woke up early to go running (GEORGIOUS! we ran by this little lake and I felt like I was in never never land or something... kind of reminded me of the movie stardust) then we headed off to the nearest chapel and found out who our new komrats were. My companion is Syster Erikson! She has been out for 9 months in Sweden 11 months since the MTC. (It is the rumor that she has the best Swedish out here-soo if I couldn’t get a native... she is the closest thing to it). She is really great. I love her already and she has been so helpful in trying to get settled into life on the mission. They have also begun to start a new training program. It is called the 12-week program-it focuses a lot on PMG and the 'district' movies that they have. Now instead of having 3 hours of study we have 4-an extra hour of companion study.  So here I was dying to go out and proclaim the gospel... we had to study for 4 hours... then eat lunch... and then go out. 

Well this is where the mission began to become reality. Missionary work is not exactly what I had expected. Syster Erikson and I are new to this area... and all the sudden when you are trying to plan 7 hours of something in order to fulfill your purpose as a missionary... everything becomes a whole lot more daunting and overwhelming. But I have survived. Here are the highlights of the week.

Saturday the Bishop planned an uppstellning... where you go into the town square and have a table and handout pamphlets. It was supposed to be a ward activity... number of people to show up= Syster E, me, bishop & wife and Torston (an old sweet man). Haha but it was the best contacting we have done yet... Syster Erikson began to write the plan of salvation on the ground and then wrote three questions... where did I come from? Why am I here? And where am I going?  To tell you the truth... contacting has been the hardest part for me here. They don’t teach you anything about contacting in the MTC... and it is just a whole lot harder than I imagined. So I swallowed my fears put on a smile and tried to hand out pass-along cards to those I thought would accept them. Most often the response is a slightly weird look on their face... wanting to run away look on their face... and some other concerned looks... but I would just put up a big smile tell them I just came from America so excuse my Svenska and tell them I was a missionary here in Sweden. If they didn’t even accept that I would just ask if I could bare my testimony.

Most people would tell me my Swedish was great for only being here for that long... but what worked the best was to kind of stand back and those who would stop and pause to look at the questions and read them... those would be the ones we would talk to and then explain to them what we believe and the plan of salvation. That was the most anybody has ever listened!

High light=was one guy I saw pause from a little distance and he was about to walk away but I quickly went up to him and asked him what he thought. Turns out he stayed with a family in Alaska as an exchange student that were members... so he took the discussions... read the Book of Mormon but said he didn’t get an answer if it was true. Oh my goodness it was like manna from heaven! Well he said he was still searching for the religion for 10 years and hadn’t found it yet... and the one big thing he liked about the Mormons was how great it was as a family. So cool... he reluctantly gave me his number but wouldn’t set up a time... he said he was busy this week but maybe next week. Sooo I'm praying and crossing my fingers.
Next cool thing. So I’ll admit happy-go-lucky Jacqueline was having a hard time. My Swedish was actually not the kicker. I feel pretty ok. I can say the main things that I want to say and I can understand people when I have a one on one conversation where I lead the conversation... the hard part for me is... I just feel... a little lost. Once I realized how hard contacting was... and that once you bring up religion and try and talk to someone about it... they close you off... that’s it. And then I felt like as we plan our next day... if we don’t have an appointment set up that means we have to go contacting... I just felt hopeless. You know how missionaries say they don’t want to leave and come home from their missions... yah I didn’t feel that. I still feel a little lost=like I don’t have a purpose... because even with the people who might give us a name and a time... often times they fall through... or if we do get an appointment... they really aren't interested. Geez. I guess I’m used to feeling loved, wanted, I know I am making a difference... but its hard to feel that here when you are out in this big city trying to find that one person who is ready for the gospel. 

Well I had one melt down after the second full day. Syster Erikson was great... we talked and talked. She laughed at first and said she was worried she wasn’t going to keep up with me because I just wanted to go go go.  It is also hard because I’ve heard over and over again... don’t waste a moment of your mission. It's the lord’s time... so I just feel like I have to be talking with someone trying to find someone at every moment. It is overwhelming!  So we backtracked... made some new goals... and decided that we would feel happy if we met those small simple goals. Well the next day was better and Sunday came... LOVE THE WARD. I love Mormon people. It was like finding out I did have a home here in Uppsala Sweden. They welcomed me in and we also decided that we were going to focus more on members and trying to win them over so we can get investigators through them... so now when we don’t have an appt set up we are going to go meet members and contact along the way. That feels much better... but sometimes it feels a little distant from our purpose... but I guess sometimes you have to go a little longer route to be more effective?
Sunday evening came and we had the opportunity to participate in a musikafton (music fireside)... with all the missionaries in Stockholm stake. I was still not fully understanding life... but trying to not worry and just be happy. Well the lord was aware of me... on our ride back home Syster Erikson and I were going to do some companionship study and watch one of these short movie clips (because we didn’t have time in the morning)... when a nice lady sat across from us. I thought I might as well say hi and she just seems so nice. So I said a few words to her and smiled, asked her how she was doing... and then she just opened up... she said, "I actually sat here on purpose. I saw you two out there and I've been wanting to talk to you... but I was surprised when you talked to me first" she said she had seen other boys with the same name tags on but she thought they were not allowed to talk to girls because they would always open up a book and start reading that or they would frown and just look away. !!! Crazy that they missed out on this girl! Turns out she has been investigating Mormons on utube for along time. OH MY GOODNESS MANNA FROM HEAVEN! The lord is there. She asked us some questions like... what does it mean when it says fire in your bosom... what does that feel like? And she asked something about if we really believe we can repent and be clean again... I can’t remember exactly... but she was amazing. She is prepared. Well she had to get off shortly after that... and she isn’t exactly in our area. And she is going away on a short trip to Germany ...but she wrote down our numbers and before we could get hers she had to get off... but she said walking away... I don’t usually misplace numbers... I will call you.

Soooooo... I don’t understand everything. I have a lot to figure out... but I got a little taste of that desire to be here and be a part of the Lords work. If I can experience things like that.

So I need lots of prayers :) and just know I am trying to do my best. I know I wanted to try something hard and here it is!   Love you all

 Syster Schneiber