Tuesday, September 29, 2015

WEEK 62; September 28, 2015: Family History, Thomas Monson & C.S. Lewis are both worth quoting, and It's not the checklist that saves us.

Danish Word of the Week: LEGO (the toy) Legos are Danish! LEGO is an abbreviation for 'LEG GODT' (lie got) which roughly translated means, 'play good.'

Ok, before I get into this week, I have an assignment for the family. President O'Bryant is starting a huge push for missionary work through family history in Denmark. He actually called two sister missionaries to be full-time family history missionaries, and he's planning on calling more in the future. He really thinks (and I believe he's right), that if we do more to offer family history as a service, that we'll be able to connect with more people. Danes LOVE their family history, and the church has so much to offer in that aspect! It's awesome. So, President asked all of us to email home and ask for two things: 1) Faith promoting stories from our ancestors and 2) The history of our families in Denmark-where we come from, when we moved to America, WHY we moved to America...things like that. So basically, call Grandpa Van Orden. Tell him to pull out all the stops and email me everything! :) Thanks in advance!

Also, edit to last week-that quote about excuses is from Thomas S. Monson, not C.S. Lewis. I can't keep all of those wise people straight. :)

Anyways-this week was super good! We taught Michael about the Plan of Salvation and he was in church this week-he's doing great! We went on splits in Horsens and I got to see George-we went to a Danish class in the church together. His mom isn't getting baptized on Saturday because she has more of a language barrier, but things are still going really well with her! She's been Skyping the missionaries in Romania so she can get the lessons in her native language. But George IS getting baptized on Saturday! General Conference and my friend George's baptism. That's going to be a wonderful day.

We had a Zone Conference where President emphasized the importance of teaching repentance.  In one of his mission president conferences, the apostles said that retention in the church is being hindered because missionaries are focusing so much on baptism that they skip over teaching our friends how to truly repent. The biggest things I took away from it was that repentance is not just a 'one and done' process. It's a daily attitude. Repentance is change. Repentance is recognizing the gap between us and God and trying daily to close it. Also, repentance is meaningless if it's just a checklist. 1. recognize the sin. check. 2. feel bad. check. 3. pray for forgiveness. check. 4. don't do it again. check. All of these steps are important, but they don't mean anything if they don't bring us closer to the Savior. It's not the checklist that saves us, it's Jesus Christ. The 'check-list' are actions that we use to access the power of his Atonement. If we just go through the motions with them, then that power will be absent. It was really powerful and I learned a ton! We were all excited to go out and apply it in our teaching.

I am so excited for General Conference. I might be more excited for this than for Christmas. It will be so interesting to see who our new Apostles will be, and I just can't wait to hear what they all have to say!

I love you all! Thanks for being so wonderful-I hope you all have a great week!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WEEK 61; September 21, 2015: C.S. Lewis: "Any excuse, no matter how valid, only weakens the character." Living Church, Living Testimony = Treat it like the living thing it is :)

Danish Phrase of the Week: 
(it stoart o for-UN-er-leet vairk) A Great and Marvelous Work

We're not really sure what this thing is, but it was neat.  All the stones had a different Zodiac symbol.  And this is my companion, Sister Noorda!  

Feeding the deer
The deer really liked Elder Dickson


We live right by the beach! 

Again, don't know what this is, but it's kinda cool.
Hey! This week was way exciting. Yesterday was Stake Conference and so I got to see a lot of people I knew from Horsens. George and his mom were there, and a couple other people I taught-it's good to see that they're still coming to church and meeting with missionaries! George is so excited for his baptism. 2 more weeks!

We also had an amazing miracle with a man named Michael. His girlfriend is a member of the church, and he's been to church with her a lot over the last few years. She went through a period of not being super active and they were living together, but last month she decided to start living the commandments and to be active in the church again. She moved into her own apartment and started bringing Michael with her to church. Over the last couple of weeks we've been over there a few times and he's been really positive about things! On our second visit, he told us that he had been reading the Book of Mormon every day since we had been there last. This last week, we felt like we should teach him about Joseph Smith's story and the restoration of the church. It went super well and the Spirit was really present. Michael told us about all of the good he's seen the church do in other people's lives, and how he wants that in his own life. He talked about the focus on families, the word of wisdom, and the light that he sees in the people who are close to God. He said that since he's been trying to make more time for God, he's felt more joy and appreciation for his life. We asked him if he wanted to be baptized and he said he would! We set a date for the 7th of November. We are so excited! This one feels like it's for real. Pray for Michael!

I've been thinking a lot about the future this week...not trunkiness :) just application of everything I've learned out here. I've really been praying to know what I need to do to stay active in the church for the rest of my life. I have taught a lot of less-active members on my mission, and I've actually been putting together a list of their reasons for leaving the church. There are many. This really worries me. As I was praying about this, two things came into my head. The first was a quote from C.S. Lewis: 'Any excuse, no matter how valid, only weakens the character.' I thought that sounded a little harsh, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's true. When we make excuses, we justify a lack of effort and show a great lack of understanding and appreciation for what is being offered to us. Excuses do not make us stronger.

The second was from Doctrine and Covenants 1:30 (this church is) 'the only true and living church on the face of the whole earth.' That phrase-'living church'-really stuck out to me. I felt impressed that my testimony of the church needs to be living as well. If something is alive, it grows, it needs nourishment, it interacts with its surroundings, and it fights to survive. I know that this church is God's church, and I know that following Christ is the only way to true and lasting happiness. If I want to maintain and add upon that knowledge, then I need to treat my testimony like a living thing. I can't just rely on my mission experiences for the rest of my life. I need to be having spiritual experiences every day!

Anyways. That's what I've been thinking about recently. Thank you all for being so wonderful. Have a great week!

I'm guessing I'll be in Esbjerg for the next couple of months, so I think it's safe to send stuff here. My address is: 
Nørregade 128, st.th
6700 Esbjerg

Monday, September 14, 2015

WEEK 60; September 14, 2015: George & his mother are getting baptized! Release date is January 12th!

Danish Word of the Week: Omvendelse (om-ven-ell-seh) This means both repentance and conversion. It also means, to turn around.

Remember this story?

'We ran into one of our former investigators and he wants to meet again! He actually never stopped wanting to meet, but he lives with his brother in law and the brother in law was the one who told us never to come back. This investigator uses a walker or a wheelchair to get around, so he's pretty dependent on his brother in law getting him to where he needs to go-like church. But we offered to come pick him up and walk him to church, and he was like-I would love that! It was really exciting and a total miracle that we ran into him when his brother in law wasn't around. We could finally have an honest conversation with him!'

George and his mother decided to get baptized on October 3rd! I can't even describe how happy I am right now. George is a huge part of my heart. After months of sister missionaries pushing him to church in his wheelchair, service, lessons, prayers, fasting, more prayers-he came to the sisters and told them that he was ready to be baptized. And not just him, his mother was touched by the love and service that all of the missionaries and members have shown her son, and she decided to get baptized with him.

This is really, really short this week-sorry-but know that I love all of you and pray for you every day. Have a wonderful week!

Points of interest included in letter to Mom:
1) I don't need anything right now. I finally have everything back from losing my wallet twice in a row, so we're good there :)
2) My release date is January 12th. You should be getting travel plans when I have 3 months left...so like next month. Oh gosh. That's weird to think about. But don't panic if you don't get them right on time, the office gets behind sometimes and they are in the process of training two new senior couples right now, so they will most definitely be behind :)

Love you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

WEEK 59(!), September 7, 2015: Running barefoot in the rain; Activity is the genius of this church; you get what you put in - and MORE!

Danish Word of the Week: navngivning (NOUN-gee-neeng) Baby Blessing

Hey family! Ella's baby blessing sounds like an amazing experience. Her dress was so cute!! I liked that it matched Emma's skirt. :) I'm glad that everyone got to be a part of it!

This week was a blur of names and faces-gotta love the first week in a new area. :) We also got rained on more than I ever have in my LIFE-which by now is really saying something. The other day, we were in an appointment at a member family's house-they live right across the street from the train station. We saw the train we were supposed to catch pull up through their window-and had to run barefoot across the street in the pouring rain to catch it. Our lives are so frantic. It's hilarious.

I've been thinking a lot recently about a President Hinckley quote- 'Activity is the genius of this church.' I love that in Jesus Christ's church, every single member is a part of building and strengthening it. An investigator was talking to me one time about family history-He asked why we think that it's OUR responsibility here on earth to figure all of that out. We probably make millions of mistakes, it takes forever- wouldn't it be way more efficient if we just let God do it? There's a bunch of different answers to that question, but I know that one of them is because if we 'just let God do it,' we here on the earth would never have a chance to catch the vision of His work. God gives us opportunities to be involved so that we can have a living, burning excitement for the work he is doing. That doesn't just apply to family history work. It applies to missionary work, any kind of calling, family relationships-it's no secret that this whole thing would go a lot more smoothly if Heavenly Father would just do it himself. But that's not the point. Jesus Christ is the master teacher-master teachers give their students opportunities to try it out themselves, learn from their own mistakes, practice, and improve. I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father has given me so many opportunities to serve. We really do gain so much more than we ever sacrifice.

For example, we were out contacting the other day with a woman who got baptized one month ago. She had never done ANYTHING like contacting before, and at first she was way nervous. Understandable. Eventually we had a couple of good conversations, and then she started getting braver and braver with stopping people on the street. At the end of our contacting time, she took us by a cafe she hangs out at a lot. She knew almost every person in there, and she went up to each table one by one and invited them to come hear more about this church she had just joined. After we left, she expressed how exciting it was to share her new faith with her friends-she felt so good! She was so happy! Those 1 1/2 hours she sacrificed to come out with us did so much to strengthen her new testimony. Activity is the genius of this church-and of God's work.

I hope you all are finding joy and learning lots through being actively involved. You get out what you put in, and more. I love you all so much! I love the gospel, I love the church, and I love my Savior. I'm grateful that I'm not expected to be perfect, and that through Jesus Christ's Atonement, I can be a little bit better every day.

Keep being wonderful! Take care of each other!