Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Week 24

Kære Alle Sammen,

Thanks for the great e-mails and pictures this week. I really do feel loved. Honestly, my time here on my mission has been some of the happiest time of my life. Hands down the hardest, but it's really made me see what matters in life. So often we chase after things that have no real value as if they were all that mattered in the world. A few mottos I've adopted:

"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." - Thomas S Monson

"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal lif, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." - Lehi

"Life is a choice" - Me paraphrasing Lehi

It's not profound, but it's worked for me. We are here in life to learn to make choices and strengthen our faith, and every situation we face is an opportunity to do both. We can choose to go along with it and surrender our agency to a temporary circumstance or we can "choose happiness and eternal life". A lot has been sacrificed to make that opportunity to choose even possible (war in heaven, Adam and Eve, and the Atonement, to name a few), and I choose to be happy. I made this my mantra when I came to Odense, and I finally feel like it's working. At church yesterday I heard the husband of an investigator ask one of the Elders, "Wow, is she always that happy? She's like a bouncing little ball of ...  human ... happiness." Success.

We had our mini-missionaries this week! Laura and Kirsa Rosenkilde. They're cousins, both 16 years old. They were amazing. By the second day they asked if they could try contacting by themselves, and were great in our lessons. We surprised them by taking them to the little H C Andersen musical in the park, and later that week they surprised us with lunch. They'd been really secretive the past few days, sneaking off to the store while they were contacting together, whispered phone calls to each other. Hiding things in our fridge (there's no place to hide in that thing, so they just put a towel over their things and made us pinky promise not to look). It turned out to be spare rib pizza with a fun orange juice and green ice cubes with a sugar rim (Supreme Mugwump, we're so using it in our next mocktail night), with homemade banana cake for desert and a big bouquet of flowers. We all got really close in the week they were here and were, I admit, a bit teary eyed when they left yesterday. The highlight of the week was on Saturday night on the way home from an eating appointment with Mor (our Vietnamese mom). It had rained aaaaaaaall day, and we were just dragging ourselves home. Then, in the park across from the train station, we came across the biggest puddle I've ever seen - 25 feet across and about a foot deep. We didn't even hesitate. Kirsa and I dropped our rain coats and bags and ran for it. Laura and Søster Johnson followed close behind. It didn't matter. We were soaked to the skin anyway. We ran around and splashed and slipped and even taught the minis how to play Marco Polo. Then on the way home, dripping with every step, we sang primary songs in Danish at the top of our lungs. It was ) 9 on a Saturday night. We were just competing with the music from the bars anyway. I'm so excited to see them at Stake Conference!

Søster Johnson and I taught St for the first time too. We both prayed about it and felt it should be us, so the girls had fun contacting together again. He was attentive as we went through the first lesson, and really liked a lot of the scriptures we shared and was really good at applying them to his life. When we asked, "Will you continue to read in the Book of Mormon, and pray to God to ask for yourself if it is true?" His response was, "Sure, but I don't need to. I know it's true." That was when our jaws hit the floor. We nearly began to cry, the Spirit was so strong. We asked him how he'd come to know that, and he said that he just knew the Book of Mormon was true, it just had to be, and that if it was true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet and that this was the right church. He knew it 20 years ago. It just took him some time to be able to accept it. We asked him to be baptized. He got pensive and said he'd been thinking about it, and needed to ask God first. We have another appointment with him this week.

Things are going well with our other investigators too. Gi is back from Italy now, and her response to Søster Johnson and Kirsa's lesson on acting in faith once you've received an answer (she's in the process of praying to know the truth) was, "Well, duh." With Ol, he's just excited to learn as much as possible. We had to cancel the week before last because we couldn't get a member to come, and he was genuinely sad. He really is "hungering and thirsting after knowledge". He also likes that our church encourages challenging what's said and asking God for yourself, rather than just relying on whatever the priest says without ever reading the scripture for yourself.

We had our District Meeting today on  a naked giant. True story. There's a hill in Fredericia where rock peeps through at the top just right, so it looks like a head and shoulders. To be funny, the Danes added some carved hands in front of him and shaped the hill around him (including a booty) to look like a giant lying face down draping over the hill. It's actually pretty cool. You can only imagine where the Elders decided to have the meeting. It's also conveniently next to a bowling alley for a District Activity. We played around for a while, then divided into partnerships for a tournament. Elder Richards and I were pretty clearly the worst bowlers, so we joined forces. We were the first ones out, of course, so while the others faced off for the semi-finals we played golf bowling. The point is to get the lowest score possible. With bumpers. We totally rocked at that game when we got to face off against the next people kicked out of the main tournament. If nothing else, we're consistently good at sucking.

This Sunday we had a return missionary's talk and a departing missionary's farewell in the same day. It was really a special meeting. Every time a month has 5 Sundays, the fifth Sunday's Relief Society/Priesthood meetings are combined. This just happened to be a fifth Sunday, so for the combined meeting they just had the return missionary stand in front and answer everyone's questions about his mission in Greece. The ward is really close-knit here, and it was the bishop's son, so everyone knew and loved this kid. It was funny though. In sacrament meeting he bore his testimony in Greek, then continued talking in English for a second before realizing, "Oops, wrong language ..." and switching to Danish again. In the combined meeting he had a tougher time with Danish, and every time he forgot a word or a phrase he'd say it in English and the whole ward would yell it back to him in Danish in perfect unison. It was hilarious. He has a faint Greek accent when he speaks Danish too. Søster Johnson and I have been trying to speak more Danish, and with the mini-missionaries here it was just a Danish week. Fair warning to you all, I've been told I've developed a weird accent. People thought that back home too though, so I have no idea who's right. Kirsa's mom actually thought I was Danish when she first met me. So did our mission leader. That's always a huge compliment. I've been told that I have very distinct Copenhagen accent. I wish I could describe it too you. Okay, Jylland is the farthest west, the part connected to Germany. That's out in the country. They speak very rollingly, and it's been described as "deedumdeedumdeedum, ikke aw'" (a weird Jysk form of ikke også, which translates to, "and not" and when tacked onto the end of a sentence is the equivalent of "right?" in Enlglish). On Fynn, the island in the middle where I am now, it's been described as "dadumdadumdadumdadum, ik' os'." It gets more clipped and quicker the farther east you go, until you hit Copenhagen, where it's "prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, ik." That was comforting. I thought my Danish just suddenly got stupid when I came to Odense becaus I couldn't understand anyone and they couldn't understand me, and they use a lot of different weird words and expressions I'd never heard before. In southern Jylland they have a weird Danish/German accent and blend a lot of the languages. For a country that could fit into Utah 5 times and has only 5.5 million people, they manage to be really diverse. It's always really fun.

Oh, and a funny story. We found a new investigator named Ab. She's in her mid 20's, Islamic, but interested in getting an Arabic Book of Mormon. When Laura and I went to drop it off and teach the first lesson, she listened for about thirty seconds, then whipped her laptop around to show us a video she already had loaded on youtube. It was a former Christian minister who converted to Islam sharing his conversion story at a conference and basically bashing the Bible. We were able to politely interrupt by branching off one of his comments to explain the need for the Book of Mormon as an additional witness of Christ. "Oh, but Jesus isn't the Christ."
"As a Christian church, we believe him to be the Son of God and our Savior."
"But he's not. It says so in the Quran. The Bible is a lie."
"I'm not here to try to convince you. It's simply our belief."
"But it's wrong."
"I know our religions disagree on that point, and that's fine. We really have a lot of respect for how strong you are in your faith. We really have a lot in common, and we're glad we could come share this message about our church with you."
"Yes, you're very sweet girls. You're just wrong."
Sigh. We managed to dodge out before she really got going. She offered us tea and said we could come back any time, and still wanted to keep the Book of Mormon, even though she doesn't think it has a chance of being true. I can't even begin to explain the awkwardness of the situation, especially with a mini-missionary along. She was a real trooper though. She bore her testimony and then helped me tactfully leave the situation. On four separate occasions I nearly just responded with, "Well, lady, that's your opinion, isn't it?" I've never had someone try that hard to convert missionaries before. I don't know what it is about Odense. When Ældste Stoffey served here, an Islamic man invited him and his companion to see their mosque. The Elders were curious, so they went along with it. I would have too. As soon as they stepped inside the man's friends jumped out from behind the corner and locked the doors, forcing the Elders to sit there for an hour or too and listen to them preach. Don't get me wrong. I really do have a deep respect for the Islamic faith and the people who follow it. People in Odense are just crazy in general, I guess, regardless of their racial or religious background.

And I've got five minutes, so I'll add a fun Danish food I'm going to make you all eat when I get home. Danes love open-faced sandwiches and have very strict rules about what goes on what. They're also eaten with a fork and knife. Danes also have wheat bread made with dark wheat that hasn't really been rolled, so it's very thick and dark and heavy. You take a slice of that. Then spread butter on it. Then set potatoes on it (that have been boiled and sliced into circles). Then put some shredded parsley on. Then onions (traditionally they're circles of raw red onions, but roasted onion bits are becoming more popular). Then put a bit of mayonaisse on top. Voila. You're eating like a Dane. Okay, it sounds disgusting and weird, but it's actually delicious. Another popular one is the thick bread, liverpastej (paste made from the ground liver of a cow, mixed with spices), bacon, cucumbers, and asier or pickled sweet red beets. I know, I know, I was hesitant to eat it too, but it's actually really good. You'll be spared from that one though because liverpastej has to stay refrigerated and I don't think I'll be able to find it in the states.

So what's going on with the Olympics? The opening ceremonies must have been fun. Any favorites this year? What events are you all following?

Jeg elsker jer!

Aunt Rachel & Uncle David - Wow, I think you made me blush. Thank you. I'm glad you're all having so much fun in Utah! The people there aren't half bad. We always love when you come to visit. You all are just so much fun. I'll just have to catch you next time!

Camilla - Thanks! The mission really is great. I hope you enjoyed EFY and are loving your summer break! Thanks for your letters too. I'm so impressed by the young woman you've become. It's amazing.

Mikayla - You've always been a great role model too. You're always so good with your sisters, and your testimony and dedication to everything that you do really does set a great example. My friend Katie (remember her from when we lived in California?) and I are planning a road trip after we get back. We'll have to swing by and visit you guys.

Katie - Epic success on the gifts. They're brilliant. He even mentioned them in his e-mail. He really is a great Dad. I can't even count the times he helped me with math, walking me through step by step, hot chocolate after hot chocolate. Congrats on your grades! You're really knocking out all of your credits early. I just hope I'm home for your graduation!

Grandma and Grandpa - It's so good to see pictures of you! You two are doing such great work out there. Grandpa, you've lost a lot of weight. How are you feeling? You're looking great! Grandma, I'm just happy to see your smile. It never fails to brighten my day.

Dad - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I know just what you mean with St. I wish there were some way to let the former missionaries know. It actually gave me hope for a lot of former investigators, like Ni, who will one day open up to it. Of that I'm sure. It definitely puts things in perspective though. Hopefully with all your reminiscing of your mission days, you'll be in the perfect setting to get in touch with former Elder Kjeldsen. I sent off the full contact info. Sorry that took so long. I'm glad your birthday presents were appropriately geeky. I promise, your card is in the mail. I don't think it got there on time, but I tried. I owe you a real birthday gift though. How about lunch some time when I get back. You can relive the glory days of your mission. I love you too.

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