THIS. WEEK. WAS. GNARLY.
In this letter you will hear how i really tell about my mission expiriences because i have Alex Heggessey as my scribe because i don’t wanna type today. So i hope you feel my flavor as you read.
I’m going to just talk about one day in particular because we are pretty busy with stuff today...but Tuesday. What a Tuesday it was....
We had received an online referral to a lady named Daisy Cotelazo. We were both pretty excited because it had her address, which never happens. But the last name sounded South American so we were super excited because South Americans are so easy to teach and receive the gospel so well compared to Europeans.
The only problem was that it was 2 hours away...which meant we basically would have time for one lesson and then the rest of the day would be going out to this referral. So we mentally prepared fo a long day! We had a lesson with one of our investigators named Annie. ill explain how i met Annie….
about 2 weeks ago on the the bus, Sister Demille and I were on our way to go see an older lady, named Irene. Irene lives about 15 minutes bus ride from the central station. When we got on the bus there was a TON OF PEOPLE, getting on the bus, we filed in like a herd of cows. People mooing, cards being beeped, ears being tagged...cows. Well, there was two seats open in the back of the bus, one in front of the other. I followed Sister Demille to the back where we take our seats. Sister Demille sat next to a scrawny blonde Swedish fellow and I sat next to what looked like a South American woman. As soon as I sat down, I felt like I needed to talk to her, but the words were not coming out of my mouth, I wasn't nervous or anything, but there wasn't anything in regards of conversation that was willing to leave my brain. I was quickly prompted by the spirit to turn around to Sister Demille and speak to her in English. But there was still no conversation for even that..
So I slowly turned and the words, IRENE IS THE ONE THAT GAVE US THE TOMTE'S RIGHT?
It spilled off of my tongue like tomatoes from the farm.... (Sister Giles is too tired to type, so this is Alex typing and adding some colorful commentary).
Sister Demille said yes, that is her! I turned around confused about the prompting that I had been given, but about 3 seconds later, spilling over with excitement and a huge grin, and sparkling eyes this South American woman says "ARE YOU AMERICAN?!?!" Yes of course I am (in my most British accent) She proceeds to tell me about how much she loves America, and how she had been adopted from Paraguay by a Swedish couple up in Gävle (my BIRTH AREA WOO-WOO!) I was born there as a missionary (if you didn't catch that previous part) - I was super excited to be talking to her and she seemed super sweet! Well our time to get off the bus came, and I quickly asked her for her phone number, explained that I was a missionary and that we'd like to meet with her at one point. As I was standing up a little blonde girl sitting in the seats in front of us, turns around and just says "Hello Fellow Missionary" - What the heck, who are you?!?! (and why aren't you at district meeting)... oh wait.. (Jönköping is the Bible belt of Sweden, also known as little Jerusalem)
And she told me she was a missionary for the Swedish Church! random...
We were so stoked to have met Annie and I was so grateful for the experience I had whilst meeting Annie, and she's becoming a really good friend of ours and we like her a lot.. she reciprocates the love with way too many emoji's over text..(think overly attached girlfriend but she's engaged)
We see Annie at least once a week, and we're helping her prepare for her wedding in December. This past week on the Tuesday that we were headed out to a referral (in the middle of nowhere) we also met with Annie. We met with Annie around lunch time because she had invited us over for smoooooothieeesss...
She lives about 20 minutes of a bus ride away from the central station here in town. So we knew we only had a little time with her and had to switch trains to make it all happen. But this other travel route was going to take 3.5 hours to get to this referral instead of just 2.. (why is it never just our next door neighbor??...)
So we weren't too excited about the travel ahead, but we were excited to meet Daisy. Well, it takes about an hour and a half to the spot where we switch buses so we can reach Gnosjö. And the smoothies went RIGHT THROUGH me. I had to go to the bathroom soooo bad. We get off the bus and I am just ready to run into a forest so that I can go (we have very adjacent forests here) but there was no forest anywhere to be found!?!?!? (which is RIDICULOUS being sweden IS a forest)
So we get off the bus, walk into the bus station and it costs 5 crowns to use the water closet. But I only had a 10 crown piece, and two 1 crown pieces. So we started to walk rather quickly to the grocery store so we could get some change as I was dying. But then we saw the gas station and figured we could use the toilet there instead. So we walk over and surprise!!! - it's an automobile repair shop and as only testosterone filled people work there, they just go in the bushes (or something) because there wasn't a toilet to be found. So we decide to walk back to the grocery store that we had originally planned, but then something catches my eye, is that a bush over there?!?! Is that what my (elf) eyes see?!? -(Legolas from Lord of the Rings)
I turn and start walking to this abandoned wintery bush which is kind of behind the automobile repair shop...but before i could disgrace my ancestors- Sister Demille exclaims, "look over there!" -> It's perfect!! We detour to what looks like a little abandoned chalet, without a ceiling or walls, basically it was a fence with about ten feet between it and the auto shop. There's a good thick matt of moss and leaves and some more dead scraggily bushes….relief...but We have to run to catch the next bus so we're booking it back to the Gnosjö Station.We see the bus and jump on it just in time because when we sat down the bus left. We're not even to the first stop before Sister DeMille says.. Oh no...
We're on the wrong bus..
Tender mercy #2 (which one was the first?....... clue, it was relieving)
We get to the back of the bus and sit down, feeling super blessed that we had made the correct bus only to be quickly brought down in wallowing sadness as we realized Sister DeMille had left her favorite scarf on the other bus...... Bummer.
But we were ultimately grateful we had made the correct bus, and we're on our way to this place out in nowhere placed also in the middle of nowhere. But thankfully we've got an iPhone that was going to lead us to the exact place we needed to be. Too bad it died.. (Nokia 3300 wouldn't have died)
We get to the area we're meant to be in, and walk over to a cute little swedish coffee/souvenir shop. We ask them if we can use their wall so we could charge our phone and find this house we're looking for. They say yes, and as Sister DeMille is sitting on the floor getting the directions to the house, I'm browsing the shop. My eyes lay rest on a beautiful kanelbulle (also known as a cinnamon roll/bun for you Americano's)
And what does the price tag say?
..... and what's in my pocket?
...12 CROWNS!!! (10 piece two 1 pieces- YES)
So I bought myself that bun!! The lady that picked the bun out for me was super sweet and I could tell by her accent that she was from somewhere else.. (aka she's not from Sweden) She takes my cinnamon roll and wonders " may I put this in the microwave for you?" Tender mercy #3
I hate cold pastries
But she offered to warm it up in the back in spite of me not mentioning anything of the sort, we sat down and charged the phone, and I ate that bun GOOOOOOOOOOOOD.
It was time to get going, as the shop was closing because I'm in Sweden, and shops close at 5. Because it's dark by 3. #SwedishWinter
We get out in the cold and the bun is warm and nice in my tummy, and we start our little trek of 15 minutes to this referral. On the way I see a small moving shiny dot across the street. About 15 meters ahead of us. And I think to myself, I'm pretty sure that's the lady that warmed up my cinnamon bun! We should contact her. We take off sprinting to try and catch her before we lose sight of her, we start talking to her and it turns out she was raised catholic and was from Bosnia. And would love to meet with us. Tender mercy #4. (You'll see why later on)
We turn around to get back on track to get to this house, and we start approaching this final destination of wood (aka THE house)
We say a prayer and walk up to the porch and ring the doorbell. And the dogs inside go NUTS. And we hear this , "Tyst, tyst, SLUTA.." As the door creeks open, standing there a Swedish woman. Not what we were expecting as we thought she was South American. So we ask her if there is a Daisy that lives here? She replies Daisy, Daisy who? (knock-knock everyone)
We show the name on our phone and gives us a very confused look on her face. We talk a little more explaining whom we are and why we have the name, and then replies with that she is not Daisy, and not interested. As we're getting ready to walk off the porch, she just says, "that is so weird" - And we say why? She replies again saying, my dog's name is Daisy... LOL. I'm still laughing about this. Someone had the audacity to refer this woman's dog for salvation. (P.E.T.A. crazies)
As we're laughing walking down the street we figure we might as well track some houses. So we start knocking on doors, first door we come to an old man. We tell him whom we are, and he replies in what sounded like Russian, leaving us more confused than he probably was. We get a nice Russian yell, and a slam of the door. (and people wonder why missionaries hate knocking doors)
We walk across the street up a hill to a big house, knock on the door, a lady opens the door, and this GIANT German Shepherd charges at us, but because of the protection of angels, it charges RIGHT past us and leaves some presents on the lawn.. (maybe it had a smoothie?)
This lady tells us she's not interested and we walk away. But I get this prompting that I should knock on the Russian guy's door again. Which is the scariest thought ever, because he yelled at us.... in RUSSIAN.. hashtag Saratov approach- But we go up to the house and I'm trying to talk myself out of it and Sister DeMille in all of her wise knowledge and wisdom of her dying age in the mission says to me - Can you walk away from this house, without knocking on the door? and I say, no..I'm not afraid of no cranky old Russian windbag! Even though inside i feel the smoothie curdling... So I walk up to the door, and I ring the doorbell. And he comes to the door, I hold a pretty decent conversation with him based on our previous encounter, make him guess where I was from, and then he went off about how our church is racist. And I said, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! I'm black and nobody told me?!?!?! (Mom, dad, we need to talk) nah, i said ARE YOU KIDDING ME, I AMMM BLACK. and that quieted him pretty fast haha
Buuut then He yelled at me in some Russian, and slammed the door on my face (again). We walk away tract a few more houses, ask a lady if she needs help with her grocery bags, but ultimately we make it back to the train station. It was about half an hour before our train came, and it was super cold! Then through the mist we see something glowing, it's a giant cross! We think, hey, we could stay warm in there! Side note: our phone had died again, so a wall was needed. We walk over to the church and the doors are locked, but I see a man in there, and so I start rattling the doors and he hears me. He comes over to us, open the door and suspiciously asks, can I help you? What do you want?
And we explained we need to be able to check the train to get home, it's late and we need a place to charge our phone. and he says, well, I see your name tag, you should know that you guys are really confused, lost and you are the devil's church. And I say, *nothing*, because Sister DeMille uses her "nice" words before my sassy heritage comes out. So we walk into the church and it's beautiful, obviously apostolic. Sister DeMille plugs the phone into the wall, i walk into the chapel and I see a pretty piano. So I walk over, the pastor follows me, I wonder if I can play a few tunes, he says yes. And then curses me to hell, and walks out. (wonder what his sermons sound like) - I start playing a few renditions of hymns that I had written, starting with, I Need Thee Every Hour. Sister DeMille walks in, and I stop playing. I look at her, she looks at me, and the Spirit tells me, Praise to the Man! There I realize how much I appreciated Joseph Smith, and that he died so that I may be blessed. Sister DeMille is still looking at me, and I just start pounding a rendition of Praise to the Man. Sister DeMille's face, was PRICELESS. Her eyes got really big, but her smile was way bigger. IT WAS AWESOME! I ended with a few notes of If You Could Hie to Kolob. (explaining that one to the pastor would've been interesting).
We got out of there and walked to the train station, on our way over we talk about how sad it is of people calling themselves Christians, but forget the part of respecting others. Whilst standing at the train station, about 10 other people are there, Me, being filled by the Spirit, start singing Praise to the Man LOUDLY. I'm awkwardly being stared at as I stop, but a new voice, a distant voice carries a new tune, of a song that I had never heard before. Then I hear, vi är alla guds barn = We are all children of God.
This praise to our heavenly Father came from a man with VERY long hair smoking a cigarette on a platform across the station. I start walking away, and DeMille tries to stop me as the train is about to come, but I don't see any trains so I'm stubborn on speaking with this guy. I go and sit with him, and he begins to tell me about how much he loves Jesus Christ and that he's always known he was a child of God. I start telling him about Joseph Smith and how personal revelation is a thing! He was thoroughly amazed and impressed with Joseph Smith. Excited that God hadn't left his children alone. I hear a ding ding ding, signaling that a train is coming, so I stand up, this man named Alle (something like that anyway) - gives me a hug, thanks me for talking to him. As I'm walking away he just yells, SISTER GIIIIIIIIILES!!! I'll never forget YOU!!
First of all, he is the first Swede to ever say my name CORRECTLY!!!! Second of all, pretty sure everyone at that train station thought I was drunk, but it was worth it! #Murica
We get on the train, and we talked to this super cute African family from Uganda, and we get off at the stop. A bus will be taking us back to Jönköping. At that bus stop we realize that this day has been pretty crazy, but that we have miracle whip and ketchup in our fridge at home. Which means, BROOKLYN BURGER!!! (and fries)
We come home, grab some grub, make some fry sauce, and then pig out. After having a crazy albeit blessed of days! IT was a long week, but I found many blessings during my week, one of which was Thanksgiving. I got to spend it with the Heggessey's, and they put me on potato duty! Totally made my day, (totally made mashed potatoes mom, be proud!)
And got to share how after I’ve watched THOUSANDS of families with children, my siblings ages, WALKING from the Middle East to get to safety, hearing of all the young children being brutally murdered during these terrorist attacks and invasions, how grateful I am for my little siblings, that they are safe, and are able to live such privileged lives in America. I don’t think people KNOW how COOOL my little siblings ARE. like seriously. they’re my biggest fans ever and gosh dang it, they’re sooo HILARIOUS. Basically this week has been crazy! I've laughed a ton, and I'm going to miss Sister DeMille more than anything in the world!! I'm going to miss Elder Payne soo much as well!! (if he leaves I guess), and Elder Bliss just makes me happier than an otter with a clam.
I'm coming to a crossroad in my life, I see miracle upon miracles and I wonder will I see these again later on in my life, when I get to embrace Babylon again. (that means coming back from the mission)
I think yes, of course I will.I am excited to be a missionary every day and I'm learning how I will be able to impact people around me even though I won't be ordained as a missionary any more. I am thankful for my Savior, I'm thankful for my family, and I'm a thankful for the man that COMMUNED with Jehova.
i love you all :)
p/s (she's also gotta be pretty grateful for me typing this...) - alex