Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Understanding culture verses belief...

Hallå där!

This week was a special one indeed. To start off, President and Sister Madden (president of the little branch here on Gotland) left to the mainland for the week and left us alone on Gotland!  Instead of throwing a party at there house, we actually worked really hard because we knew the weekend was going to be super busy.  We went out every day, talking to people and finding more people to teach!  We found a good amount of people, and also find some strange ones… 

This last week I talked to this lady that was a traveling "fortune teller" who creeped me out a bit haha, but there are some really cool people too!  We found a guy who is a professional artist from Syria who said we can come by his studio any time and he will draw a free self portrait of us.  I think we take him up on that this next week haha.  There were also two guys from Afghanistan that we talked to and they only speak Persian and a little Swedish.  We called up one of our Persian translator friends who lives in Stockholm and he translated for us. That first contact with those 2 guys turned into a 30 minute lesson!  They are very interested in the Book of Mormon and we taught them all about that as well as the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We set up a time to meet again to teach them later that week and have met with them a few more times since then.  The second time, they only had about 10 minutes so we didn’t teach much but the 3rd time, we taught them another full lesson and they had some questions.  They began telling us that they can’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because of their belief in their culture/religion.  We talked about that for a while and we then understood that it was more of a cultural thing for them than a real strong belief.  The person translating for us has an amazing story about how he found the church and he asked if he could talk to them for a few minutes.  

They talked back and forth for a while, and this time I said a prayer in my heart that God would soften these guys hearts that they would be willing to learn and see the joy and peace that is possible with the gospel and knowledge that we have.  They stopped talking and our translator responded to us saying that he bore his testimony to them about Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith and that we have a living prophet today.  He said that they believe his testimony and that they felt good when he was sharing that and about Jesus Christ. They believe that it could be true and want to learn more.  We then brought up baptism, they got very excited and asked a lot of questions about that.  They want to work towards that so we set a baptismal date with them.  Super positive guys and we will be meeting them again this Wednesday! 

Then about this weekends crazyness. We had stake conference and a swedish holiday called "Valborg.”  It's a massive fire that people stand around and watch burn. People dance and sing around it too. Pretty cool!  Usually, we wouldn’t go to Stake conference (we would attend through a broadcast) in Västerhaninge because it costs to much money for the boat ride and travel from Gotland. BUT, my mission president cleared it because I was going to be singing with 3 other missionaries at conference.  We aslo had 4 of our new members getting interviewed to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, so two of them traveled with us. 

Our saturday was a very long one. We woke up at 4:50AM to drive to a far away city on Gotland to pick up one of the new members, while the other new memeber that was traveling with us was picked up by another member.  We met at the boat station in Visby and got on the boat at 7:30am. We got to Västerhaninge and all the guys passed there interviews!  We then had conference and that was amazing.  For the first time in Sweden, they had Persian translation because of all the new members and people interested in the church.  The saturday session of conference was focused on helping refugees and those in need. President Madden actually spoke and talked about Visby and the miracles happening on that Island.  It seemed that a big focus of the conference was on Visby and the many miracles happening here.  I feel blessed to be here at this time!  During the meeting, I sang in a quartet with 3 super talented missionaries that are singers, "Lead Kindly Light" in Swedish.  That went really well and then after that, we changed out of our suits and ran over to a big Valborg fire that was happening down the street from the chapel. We stayed there for about 5 to 10 minutes before we had to run back to the car and race to the boat 30 minutes away almost missing it haha, but it was fun!  We got back to Visby at 11:30ish and then dropped off one of the new members at his home which was over 30 minutes away, getting back to our home after 1:00 in the morning.  It was a good day for sure!  
The next day we had to watch the Sunday session on a broadcast which pooped out after 45 minutes.  We translated the meeting for our persian friends haha. BUT!  It was a good weekend, and TODAY for P-day, we are going fishing with and old fisherman.  Can’t wait for that! 

Love you all och ha det gött!!
Äldste Blackburn

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