Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hot chocolate ~ It was "Mumsfilibaba" (scrumdidillyumtious)! :)

The things we do on trains.

So this last week was super dang cool!  Kind of started off with dropping the other two Elders and Syster Irene off at the train station very early on Tuesday morning.  (Syster = Swedish for "Sister") The next day we had a world wide broadcast for all the missionaries in the world coming from Utah.  Was super cool to watch!  We have a new Syster here in Uppsala.  She is Syster Johanson and she is from Utah but her dad is from Sweden.  She’s super cool and will be going home in about 5 weeks!  Crazzzzzy. 
Saying goodbye to the other Elders as they
left Äldste Bentson and I earlier this week!

ÄLdste Bentson and I have been loving the massive apartment to ourselves and eating all the food the other Elders left behind. :)  We have been needing a couch…  So we got creative and turned both of their beds into one big couch!  We also moved some stuff around to our liking.  It’s also nice with showers and stuff.  Now, with two bathrooms we both can use, we can shower and study and save time! ~ I will admit, it was fun living with three other Elders!  Other than that, we have just been going hard and trying to schedule lessons with people.  We have been out a lot this week talking to lots of people. 
Early morning runs to the
church with the Sistahs!

Äldste Bentson is getting really good at teaching.  He starts talking to everyone in Swedish to practice, and then he will teach the person about some principle and ties it into the Book of Mormon.  He then will teach about what it is, etc ALL in Swedish. ~ So he’s doing SUPER well and is now feeling a lot more comfortable with everything.  The language is always tough and it’s easy to get down about it but then you just have to realize that pouting about it won't help you get better.  You have got to do something about it!  "He who says he can, and he who says he can’t, are both usually right." 

We also have worked with Caroline this week.  We actually hung out with her for a little bit of our Preparation day last Monday and she bought us hot chocolate.  It was "Mumsfilibaba" (scrumdidillyumtious). :)  She has been very excited for her confirmation and receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We have been excited as well!  I had the blessing and privilage to confirm her and give her this gift yesterday.  It was so special!
Caroline is now an official member of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! #mormon
 I just want to say that her husband Stefan came again which was super cool.  It’s good to know that he is supportive.  It seemed like maybe he enjoyed it more this Sunday and looked more comfortable and relaxed.  That’s always a good thing!  I will say that I was kind of nervous, because the whole ward was listening to my imperfect Swedish haha, but it went very well and Caroline was saying how good she felt during and after the confirmation/blessing! :)  I feel so blessed to have worked with her and become good friends at the same time!  I summed up how awesome it has been last week, but I’m super pumped to help prepare her for the temple coming up soon! :)

It was my birthday yesterday and Caroline gave me two awesome pictures from her baptsim and we are going to have a party/get together later this week or something. :) Today we are going to Gävle to have some fun with the other missionaries there!  Maybe do some sledding or something.  But ya!  Until next week <3
Opening my birthday present from Caroline!
Äldste Blackburn

Preparation day.  Jamming on this beauty!

Monday, January 18, 2016

HOLY COW!! What a week! :)

WHOOOOO!!! :) :) :)

This week was just awesome!!! ~ For several reasons but I’ll start out with saying that it has been snowing like crazy the beginning of this week but now it's slowing down and getting a little warmer with more sun!  That is always nice to rejuvenate some vitamin D!  haha 

We got some transfer news!  We just found out that our 4 man apartment will just be a two man now!  The other Elders are both transferring to a new area and the mission is "shutting down" their area.  What does this mean for Äldste Bentson and I?  It means that we have that massive apartment to our selves, and the area that they worked in becomes ours.  They will be missed though! <3
This is the Baptismal font in Uppsala, and we were getting it ready for the big day with Caroline!
Pre baptismal selfies!

This week kind of revolved around Caroline and getting her ready for her Baptism! :) It started off by getting her pumped and excited for her Baptismal interview.  She was very nervous for this but felt SUPER ready.  The interview went SUPER smoothly!! :)  This interview is really about making sure the person who is wanting to be baptized understands basic doctrine, and is really ready to make this step towards God and Jesus Christ. Baptism is SO huge.
Singing right before Carolines Baptism!
In baptism we make a promise (covenant) with God that we will follow him and follow his principles that he has given us in this life.  In return, he promises to bless us with several things.  One is being spiritually re-born. ~The end of an old life, and the beginning of a new life on a pathway back to God. Another promise is that God gives the person the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion for protection, peace, comfort, and joy. 

Baptism is the first massive step we can take toward God which essentially opens the gates to continual progression towards him.  Such an awesome thing to happen to Caroline this last Sunday (January 17th).   I’m so grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with her and teach her from the beginning, and eventually have the opportunity to baptize her.  This is the thing that makes all of this worth it.  Äldste Bailey, Bentson and I have all had the chance to see her change and progress and I feel so blessed that I have been a part of it and at the same time made a new best friend!  

The baptism its self was so special.  Caroline was not sure if her husband would come for a while but he showed up!!  It was so cool that all the families in the ward (congregation) with babies were also there.  Caroline and Stefan have their baby Kertsine so that was great. The baptismal service was right after church, and the whole ward stayed to be a part of it. :)  Was very special.  There is no way I can explain all the details but the Spirit was so strong.  Caroline is SOOO HAPPY! :)
Äldste Bailey (my last companion) was able to Skype in for Carolines Baptism :)
 She can’t even fully express how happy she is to us!  She was explaining how she started crying as soon as she got out of the water to dry off because she felt so much love from God, clean, and strong.  The same with last night after she went home, and this morning! :)  The next thing we will do is “confirm" her as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and give her the Gift of the Holy Ghost!  That will be next Sunday :) But until then we will meet with Caroline and start preparing her for the temple :) She is SO EXCITED for that. I just want to say again how grateful I am to be on my mission and to see and be a part of building God’s Kingdom on earth right now.  It is truly amazing seeing people come to God.   I know why I’m out here and I know that it is true…. 

Love you all and thank you for all your prayers! :)
Äldste Blackburn

** In the baptismal process there are two steps or “ordinances”… One is is the actual baptism it’s self, and the other is the “confirmation”, which is a laying on of hands blessing where the Holy Ghost is confirmed on that person to be a “constant companion” when we are following Chirst’s teachings.
This is the most Swedish picture EVER!! ~ Äldste Harrison and I trecking through thigh deep snow, pitch black in Gävle! There even happened to be an IKEA behind us! haha!

This cool little Swedish village on the way to the Church in Gävle

Yes.. we teach an English class and yes.. as you can see.. there is no one that showed up.. haha!

Looks like Äldste Walker needs some help!

Our last district pic at Syster Allreds "funeral." Syster Allred is going home! She going to be awesome!
Uppsala missionaries here at your service!

Äldste Harrison and I loving some companionship splits action in Gävle <3
Look at our beautiful snow angels!
Sipping on a nice ice cold smoothy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016



I’m back and sorry about no letter this last week!  It’s just been crazy here but we have had a big week!  As you can see from the pictures... WINTER IS HERE!  It’s a total blizzard outside right now, but I’m warm inside the church writing this right now.  

This last week was flipping COLD!  Seriously, at a low it got to negative -25 degrees C which is like -13 degrees FH.  My nostrills froze together.  When that happens you know its cold!   Some days I miss my warm sunny California. :) AND we already had the darkest day of the year so the sun is staying up longer! :D  Instead of the sun setting at 2:00pm, it sets at about 3:00pm now! :D 

Out side of Domekyrkan!
Late nights waiting for buses in the middle of nowhere. Pretty typical! But really.. It's the best time to take a picture..
Something kind of funny that happened this last week is that we were planning on swinging by some members of the church who have been struggling in a very remote city called, Knivsta.  This takes about an hour to travel to by bus and it was on one of those really cold days.  We started our journey after the sun set, so it was pitch black and snowy on top of that.  We got on the bus and it was coming to the time when we were supposed to get off, BUT we couldn’t tell if it was for sure because there was a problem with the lighted sign inside the bus that told us the name of the stops.  By the time we thought to get off, the bus just kept driving... The moment we realized that we missed our stop is when the lighted sigh said “Next station: Arlanda."  This means that that we would be getting dropped off at Arlanda airport! ha ha This is the airport that we fly into when we come to Sweden and is not at all close to Uppsala.. haha!  Our realization was confirmed when we got off the bus and saw the airport tower and planes landing and taking off.  So THAT happened.... We waited for about 20 minutes for the next bus in the cold, got on it, and then got off at the the correct station. 

The story doesn't end there!  We then looked up the address of the family that we were going to visit and noticed that the only way to get to this family's home was to walk to it… which is down this little remote road in the middle of no where. :):) This journey would take 30 minutes in -25 degree weather, with blistering snow, in the pitch black.  It was pretty epic and a little painful!  But we met the family and they were super cool!  They even gave us a ride back to the station so we didn't have to walk back!  It made me realize a few things. ~  I probably should make sure I have snow boots and warmer gloves next time, AND that every family and person is important and that we will do anything to serve and help them! 

Hello Sweden, I love you.
Something cool that happened this last Monday is that we got a call from a guy that said he is interested in the church.  His name is Ken!  We met with him at the library and talked with him.  He’s a super cool guy!  From Iran but has lived in Sweden his whole life.  Ken has been in contact with the church for a while and has kind of been on and off for a few years, but he's feeling like it’s time he becomes serious.  So we set up some teaching appointments and scheduled a baptismal date with him for the 24th of January!  Coming up here soon!
Swung by Carolines Graduation at the University to say congratulations and take a selfie and stuff.
Getting some early Sunday morning shoveling action.
In other news, Caroline! :)  So much has happened!  We still have a scheduled baptism for her next Sunday, January 17th.  There has been some craziness going on with sickness in her family and it’s been really tough for her.  A lot of coughing and such.  There has been some other things that we really had to help her through these last several weeks as well.  It has really been a testimony builder to me though.  I can see how important it is to do the simple things such as reading the scriptures and praying.  This is how we receive strength.  It’s not just the fact that you’re "praying" or "reading," but its the fact that you’re exercising Faith, and showing God that you are trying.  I can promise you all that God will see that and bless you with whatever you need from doing so. He wants you to grow and come closer to Him through out this life, because that is where we can find ultimate peace and strength.

I had to take this opportunity to get
 on the stage and pose like I'm in an opera. :)
Äldste Blackburn

Oh just stunning! I want it!

The University house

A picture from on that stage flooded with stage lights!
Making a snow angel. :)
Yes, it was cold!!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!!

"He who kneels before God,
can stand before any man" 
(Commentary by Jennifer Kwan)

Aldste Blackburn has been SOOO busy, that he didn't have time to write a letter this week but did send pictures....and a very nice letter to me but I'm his Mom so there you go! (wink) I'm going to take the liberty to share some details you might find interesting!
What happens when companions
go shopping after Christmas sales....
Black Tie New Years Eve party at a members home...
Of course James Bond and James Bond Jr.
 are drinking sparkling cider :)
He is still in Uppsala, Sweden which is about one hour north of Stockholm.  The city is very large and one of the oldest in all of Scandinavia.  He has been there almost 4 months and will stay a total of 6 months before he will transfer to another city as well as be assigned a new companion.  He is loving training Aldste Bentsen and says that he is a hard working, prepared missionary whose Swedish is pretty good for being a "greenie".  They have a lot in common and really enjoy working together.

Mission life is very structured and they have a very strict schedule ~ 6:30 am wake up, workout, study time, and preparing for the day.  They have appointments and "street contact," meaning in Europe and other parts of the world, missionaries meet people on the street, in buses and trains and talk with them.  Then they make appointments for those interested and teach lessons.  They must be in their apartment by 9:30pm to prepare and set goals for the next day, etc.  Then lights out at 10:30pm.  Right now while in Uppsala, he lives in a very large apartment with another set of elders (4 missionaries in the apartment).  He has a piano and an acoustical bass guitar and I hope he does not drive the other missionaries crazy, ha ha... There are also 2 sister missionaries and one senior couple serving in the city as well (8 missionaries).  There are only about 50 people who attend the Uppsala Ward (congregation), and they have asked him to play the piano every week in Priesthood meeting for the opening hymn.  He also will play the organ in Sacrament meeting about once a month to fill in, thus all the practice in the apartment.  (Like he needs a reason, right?)  He's also singing quite a bit, which he loves!!
Some delicious food at a
New Years Eve Party.
More "Black Tie" New Years Eve party action.

Once a week, they have a "P-day" which is a preparation day that they are able to write emails to family, do laundry, shop, get hair cuts, or whatever else they need.  Sometimes in Sweden the Mission President will have other activities on that day that are fun, but it does cut into their time to write home so they are usually allowed to write the following day.  On a P-day they are allowed to hike, go see the city and most of the time they do these activities with the missionaries in their "District" which includes their city and sometimes another one as well.  Regularly they have meetings with other groups of missionaries for additional training and for the purpose of helping them stay focused, increase leadership experience, and help them rely on the Lord for help and answers.  They have mission iPhones, but no mini iPads yet... Not sure when they are getting those.
Waiting in the middle of no where for our
bus to take us home after dinner with a member.
On their "P-day" they also are to write to their Mission President with a very specific list of answers to questions... How are you doing spiritually?  What was your favorite scripture you read this week in your studies and why?  How are things going with your companion?  What things do you like the most about your companion?  Who and how many people are you teaching?  How are they coming along? Any concerns or questions?  He also said that if you are training someone like he is right now, there are more questions about how your trainee is coming along.
Heading home after a good night with
some awesome members on New Years Eve.
Little Kerstin :) (Caroline's baby)

What has struck me the most is watching his growth over the last 7 months go from a boy to a man in his understanding of life, the Gospel, God's love for us all, compassion, reliance on the Lord and his willingness to just go for it.  Go to another country, leave your family, not knowing the language and know you are not going "home" for two years and get completely lost in the work and loving it... When Skyping on Christmas I asked him,  "Are you happy?" ... He said, "Yes... I am SO happy".

When he opened "his call" last January and read where he was to go, and after the initial shock, excitement, and everyone had left and he was standing in our kitchen, he turned to me and said, "Mom, this is SO right... I have never felt anything so right in my life.  I know this is where God wants me to go."

I testify that God knows us, He loves us and when we trust in His plan for our lives, things open up to us in ways we didn't even know were possible...

Stay tuned for Aldste Blackburn's letter next week. :)
My photographer companion exercising his skills
at the Stockholm Central Train Station.

Companions that dress together stay together :):)
(Not sure how they did that... so funny)
Why is no one out to talk to us??!!

Aldste Bentson and I having some
 good quality companionship time <3

Our church building because I don't
 think I ever got a picture of it, ha ha.

Pretty sick hobo tent we found!