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