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!

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