Monday, March 28, 2016

Tickets, Miracles, and Easter...

Nephi's baptism. 
So this week has been crazy busy and still sick!  The first part of the week was full of sickness again.  Elder Jamsa was getting over the flu and I was getting it, so that was a little tough.  The craziness started on Tuesday!  We had Zone conference the next day on the mainland and had to take a boat that Tuesday.   There was no room on the boat for our car because of the Easter holiday and we wouldn’t be able to get our car back until the weekend.  SO no car for us, only boats and trains!  Before we left, we had a lesson with Nephi to prepare him for baptism.  He lives 45 minutes away, and we don't teach him at the camp because he gets pressure from some of the guys he lives with about wanting to be a Christian.  So we pick him up with a member, and then drive to another members house that lives close by to have the lesson!  So that takes some time as well but was needed. 

Tuesday night we got on the boat about 4:00pm and then didn’t get to the apartment we were staying at until about 9:30pm ish. There were three companiosnhips in this appartment but I lucked out and got the couch to sleep on haha.  The next day came around VERY slowly as I was struggling to sleep with a room full of snooring men, but it was a good day!  We walked to the church and had an amazing Zone conference.  It was focused on the importance of language and why learning Swedish is important and how to best learn it.  Walked out of there with some good ideas and plans to improve my Swedish for sure.  But we would not be walking out for a while because our train didn't leave to take us to the boat station until after 8:00pm, and the conference ended at 4:00pm.  What we did is chilled at the church for a few minutes because we were both feeling too sick and exhausted to go talk to people with the other Elders.  We had the idea to call the Maddens! (the senior couple here on Gotland). They came to the conference as well but in their own time and in their own car.  They were just staying in the housing for people visiting the temple for a few days. So we called them, and they invited us for some dinner!  They took us to the all American Pizza Hut!!  I can’t believe they even have one in Sweden!  It was so good and they they drove us to the boat station so we didn’t have to walk and take a train. 

We got to the Boat station and there were SO many people!!  Easter weekend is insane!  I actually had my bass guitar with me and Elder Jamsa had his guitar as well so we had to find a place to sit with these two instruments.  The boat was almost full when we got on with a total of 1,200ish passengers!  We found a spot available for us in the Economy seating, which is just dinner chairs with a table.  To sit in the nice chairs you have to pay extra and we never buy those tickets.  So this would be a 3 hour ride in these hard wood dinner chairs with the deck full of crying, running children becuase it is like 10:00 at night. haha  It was a party!   AND to top it off, we were both sick!  I Closed my eyes for a second about ten minutes after we sat down.  Then I opened them and saw a woman looking as Elder Jamsa and me.  She had two tickets in her hand and explained to me that she had these two tickets that her and her husband were sitting in but decided to sit in the regular seating so she could chat with her friends.  She gave her tickets to us and we were sooo astonished!   We said thank you so many times, got our things and walked over to our new seats!  Just then, Elder Jamsa told me that he had said a prayer that he would be able to sleep on this 3 hour boat ride, and when he opened his eyes… there this woman was giving us her tickets. :)  So that was somthing cool that happened!  We sat down in those nice recliner chairs and rested up until about 12:30AM when we got back to Gotland. 

Feel the joy!
The next few days we were still pretty sick and trying to meet with Nephi to get him ready for Baptism.  On Friday, we drove Nephi out to the ocean where we were thinking we could have the baptism.  We arrived and were skipping some rocks in the Baltic Sea, and then in his broken english he said  "This? Baptism?" and we told him yes! :)  He shook his head with a worried look and said "no!" haha  We then, with the help of translators found out that he thought it would be TOO cold, so we would do it in a local pool instead.  It went good!  A big turn out and almost all of the new members were there to support him! 

Remember me talking about Sadegh a few weeks ago?  He was the one that wasn’t sure if he was staying in Sweden/Europe or  going back to the Middle East, but anyways he will be baptized this Friday IN THE OCEAN!  He has commited to doing it in the ocean and feels very ready no matter how cold it is haha.  He has always had a desire to be baptized since he started taking lessons and knows that the church is true and has changed his life for it.  He has been coming to every activity and attending all church meetings and everything!  He was just unsure about being sent back to his home land where it could cause problems if he is Christian (like being put to death).  There was something that happened to him at Nephi’s baptism that changed his mind. He had a very strong spiritual feeling that he needs to be baptized as soon as possible and we talked about it. This will be so good for him! 

Love you all and “see" you next week! (sorry for not many pictures.  The computer I’m working on is having some problems loading the pictures) 

Happy Easter!
Äldste Blackburn

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rock formations, impressions, and praying in faith

Rock in the shape of a dog... woooo..
So this last week was awesome/sick(not meaning cool sick).. 

It started off awesome!  Last monday was our preporation day and we decided to go drive to the top of Gotland Island and then take a fairy to another island called FårÖ.  This isalnd was awesome but on the way up we made a bunch of other stops.  We went with President Madden (The president of our little group of members here in Gotland) and three new members here.  We stoped by a lot of famous historical super old sights.  

Having fun on these
natural jungle gyms
Along the Island there are several really cool rock formations from fossilized coral after the Ice age.  These massive rock forms are all around the island of Gotland and FårÖ and was just Gorgeous!  There are some cool stories behind a lot of them dating back to Viking times and the Baltic sea is just beautiful.  So we had fun exploring and driving up and around the northern part of the islands.  We took tons of pics and I’m assuming that not all of them will be posted but I made the decision that I want my honey moon here haha…. Or in Iceland. Either will work!  haha.  So that was a good day!

Something awesome that happened was Äldste Jämsä and I both had the impression to call this guy that they used to meet with. He actually loved the discussions that Äldste Jämsä and his old companion gave him and he had gotten a powerful answer that it is right and that the Book of Mormon is true.  He is a refugee from Afghanistan and has only lived here for 4 months.  When he got the answer that the Book of Mormon was true he wanted to change his name so he opened up the Book of Mormon and pointed to a name and said he wanted that to be his new name!  It was "Nephi!" haha and he wants to legally change it.  So that fun... But as time went on.. not baptized yet, he was getting negative pressure from friends about being a Christian.  So his friends came out one day and told the Elders that he wasn’t interested anymore and he told them that as well... Ok.. Well now this last week is when we had the impression to contact him again.  We met with him and had a Persian translator on the phone and the first thing he asked us is “When can I be baptized?"  We were a little taken back but we talked to him for a while about what had happened last time with his friends and he told us everything that I just wrote.  We then talked with him about baptism for a bit and why it is important to make sure he has the right intentions and is wanting to get baptized for the right reasons..  He is really ready and sincere!  We scheduled his baptism to be this next Saturday in the Baltic Sea and it’s going to be awesome!  So excited for that :)

Big rock formations.. wooooo.
So onto the sick part of the week, Elder Jämsä has been pretty sick this last week and it has not been to fun for him.  We just really want to go out and work but we have been needing to take it easy these last several days. He has a really bad flu and might be going to the doctor soon to get some medication.  With him being sick, I have had a while to think and study this last week!  I thought a lot about how easy it is to get in a repetition of things, such as prayers and all of that good stuff.  Especially when asking for things and saying what you are grateful for.  Well I had the realization that I have been doing just that.  That right there.. getting into a repetition is not how you will come to see success or progression.  I need to constantly be checking my self, and if I want help with something from Heavenly Father, I need to REALLY ask with all of my heart. Otherwise I’m not really asking in faith. 

Love you all and hope you have a great Easter weekend!
#hallelujah (check out the new Easter video made by the church at 

Äldste Blackburn

More rock formations

Its a very flat island! There are only about 400 people that live on FårÖ

Being daring

Viking graves!


Viking graves!


Climbed up on this bad boy to get this picture. (Baltic Sea below)

 This beach is covered with little fossilized shells that date back to the ice age and jung fru rock is behind me.

If look on that GPS, we were on that top island in Fårö  
and then the one under it is Gotland

Jungfru rock! There is a really cool story behind that one. Don't have time to write it but it is a love story. <3

Little fishing village in FårÖ

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Arabic, Swedish, Soccer and of course music! :)

We found civilization in Stockholm! :D 

So sooo much stuff has happened this week!  We had a good last P day last Monday.  Elder Jämsä bought a guitar and he is super good.  It’s fun to have him sarinade me to sleep.:)  Here in Visby, there is this place that they have for the community that is free (It’s like a community center with activities, etc.), and we went there with a new member and some investigators.  We saw that they had a big music room so we went in and played guitars and sang some songs of repentance. :) That was fun.  There were all of these kids taking videos and pictures... paparazzi some times… So that was fun! The next day we went to a high school and taught a class for an hour.  We ended the class by playing and singing “Come Thou Fount” to them.

Us singing the song of repentance.
Getting off this Island to civilization!
Thursday is when the real action started.  We got our travel tickets a for a conference we had in the city of Västerhaninge.  Before that, we went to the refugee camp and played soccer with a bunch of kids, then we left and drove to the boat.  We then drove ONTO the boat for a 3 hour trip to Nynäsham to then drive to Västerhaninge.  We got to the church in Västerhaninge to play more soccer with the ward, and then went and stayed the night with some other missionaries.  We had a great zone training and I learned a lot!  I got to see a bunch of people I hadn’t seen for a while and it was nice being in civilization again as well!  

That Friday after the conference, our boat did not leave until 8:00pm, so we had a lot of time.  By the time we got on the boat and then got home, it was after midnight.  We were super tired but it was worth it.  We have a big zone conference in two weeks so we will be going back there then.  It was fun to drive in Stockholm! 

Yesterday was really cool. I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting, and there was a representative from the church in our stake (several congregations make up a “stake”) that was visiting who had a talk as well.  He knew that half of our branch was Persian, so he prepaired something amazing!  He had a member prepare his talk in Persian, English and Swedish!  He called me and new Persian member up to the podium.  The leader from the Stake would say a paragraph in Swedish, then I would say a paragraph in English, then our Persian friend would say a paragraph in Persian. So cool!   I have actually learned a lot of Arabic and Persian since I have been here to communicate.  Elder Jämsä and I really only speak Swedish when we are together, with members, or if we are talking to people on the street.  BUT we are trying to spend as much time as possible with these guys because they will all be leaving Gotland Island soon when tourist season comes up.  They will be scattered around Sweden.  They are some of the strongest members I know!  

Something I shared when I gave my talk this last Sunday was about the importance of leaving our comfort zones to grow.  Some times it’s scary to leave what you are comfortable with and it might seem awkward at first but it is for you to become better. It is needed to grow. Sometimes in life, we get thrown curve balls and it changes everything. We just need to realize that the Lord knows how far we can go and won’t push us farther than we can handle. He just wants to help us grow and be the best that He knows we can be!

Well today, we are going to this little island right above Gotland called , Fåröj. We will do some exploration. Time to go!
Have a good week :)

Äldste Blackburn

Taking the to boat Stockholm!! 

Us jamming with some investigators.

Driving through the city of Stockholm! That was crazy..
Old town Stockholm

Some artsy fartsy pics of Stockholm for a conference 
Stockholm is thuper dooper pretty!

Caught Elder Jämsä doing some studies in the shower
Swedish Church in Nynäsham while we are waiting for our boat to take us back to Visby.

Our Syrian investigator made us some traditional food!

Boat ride to Gotland! (a week late)
P day in exploring the city! 
Just messing around with Elder Jämsä´s glasses.

They have the weirdest stuff in Stockholm!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hallå från Gotland!! WOW ~ This place is gorgeous!

Saying goodbye to this guy!
He's going to do great!!
Hallå från Gotland!!

Wow... this place is gorgeous... and super old haha.  The history of this place is crazy, and there is so much of it here!  (Medieval ruins as old as 1100AD)  I’ll just start off by saying that my P-days are pretty awesome!   Monday and Tuesday I said goodbye to some people and did some things I hadn’t done before leaving Uppsala.  We picked up Elder Bentsons new companion on Tuesday  night after saying goodbye to Caroline.   That night I was trying to finish my packing and get my bags to be under 25 kilograms each for the boat!  That was a struggle!  My stuff was finally ready and the next morning I left for Uppsala Central with my bags.  My train left about 8:00ish that morning.  So I said goodbye to everybody and said goodbye to the sisters and Sister Johanson that went home, got on the train and that was that!  
Left from Uppsala Central station, towards Stockholm, to get off at a station called Karlberg. ~ Took a train from Karlberg to a city called Nynäsam, ~ Then took a boat to Visby, Gotland.  Travel was a total of 6 hours and I was by myself the whole time! :):) Had a lot of time to think.  The boat was HUGE!  It was like a mini cruise.  I got some good pictures, but they are on my other camera.  I will send those next week.  I arrived and met my new companion, Elder Jamsa (he’s part Finnish so he has a Finnish name tag that says "Jämsä”).  

I also met President Madden who is the branch president out here in the Visby branch. (A Branch is a church congregation smaller than a Ward)  He is also a missionary with his wife and they are from Nevada.  He speaks Swedish and served a mission here when he was younger.  They have been in Gotland their whole mission to help strengthen the branch out here.  We work with them a lot.  Cool people!
Some little Persian children of
families we teach!

Elder Jämsa was a professional celloist and is just an all around amazing musician.  He’s from Salem Utah, and has been on his mission for 3 months and was in the same group as Elder Bentson.  He is also a really good singer, and if there is anybody I would want to be on an island with to use music for missionary work… it's this guy!  haha   We have been having fun together and working hard the last few days.  Super easy to talk to him, and his Swedish is pretty good, and that’s not the only thing…  He has also picked up some Persian these last 12 weeks because they have been teaching tons of them!   I will have to write more about that when I have more time, but in the past 12 weeks, they have found and baptized 7 immigrants from the middle east!  Crazyyyyy and they are the nicest guys, so we meet with them a lot.  

Meeting house where we have
church on Sundays!
The Church building is in the court house in Visby on the fourth floor, and there are about 20 members at church including us missionaries and apparently that’s more than usual!  They found out that I like to sing before I got here so they scheduled a song for Elder Jämsä and I to sing yesterday.  We sang this cool arrangment of "I Need thee Every Hour”.   It’s going to be a good transfer!  There are only 2 hours of church and this is kind of what went down in sacrament meeting... We do this weird thing since there are so many Persians that come to church that don’t speak English or Swedish.  We have two phones with google translate. I have one and translate what the speaker is saying.  I just type in english as fast as I can to keep up and then once the talk is over,  I translate it to Persian and give it to all the guys to read.  Then Elder Jämsä handed me the other phone and I do the same thing on that phone with the next talk.  And it just keeps going like that the whole sacrament meeting.  Never a dull moment! 

Working on putting Persian subtitles on a
church film with the help of a new
convert to make sure the translation is right.
WOW!!  It feels good to drive!!
So all of these new Persian members have only lived in Sweden for 4 months.  They have come here to seek refuge and safety and a better oportunity.  They come here in crazy ways!  I’ll have to talk more about that as well, but we have one guy we are working with right now that is having an interview tommorow to find out if he will stay in Sweden or go back to Iran.  If he stays in Sweden he will be baptized, but if he goes back he can’t because he would be killed…  So that is why we are waiting.  If you guys could include him in your prayers that would be awesome!  Love you all and sorry so much has happened, it’s impossible to write about all of it. 
Skyped in District meeting!

I'm still trying to settle into things.  This place is a whole different mission then I have been used to.  (The culture, people, and the sociality)  I’m loving it though!  We are going to have some good P-days of exploration and hiking.  We will be getting some good pictures but until then... 

Love you all and have a good week!
Äldste Blackburn

I might have been sneezing in the picture but that's not important. **Way back in the day, those things to the right of me are where the people of Gotland hung people and pirates publicly, so it would scare the other pirates away when they would come to shore.
There is this sick castle wall that surrounds the inner city.
Trying to get out of tight parking spaces...
Oh, the down side of having a car...

Teaching our Sunday school lesson with Elder Jamsa
being a boss and writing some Persian scriptures!!

This is the wall of one of the 90 churches here on
Gotland.  This one dates back to the 1200's!

Same church, but different wall!

You can't tell, but this was a MASSIVE swan we saw in
the ocean.  It was charging me as I was
taking this picture.  I quickly ran away, ha ha

Frozen ocean water on the hill side!  Super cool!

Saying goodbye to Uppsala!

Elder Bentson's signature on my acoustic bass guitar, check!!