Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Valuable Lesson From Sister Harkness

July 20th, 2015

Today I learned a valuable lesson from my companion, Sister Harkness. We decided to swing by an inactive member in Tore. I had only met this woman once and she scared me before... She seemed  before very hard hearted to me. I was scared to knock on her door unannounced, but we did it anyways. Sister Harkness went in and bore her testimony to this lady that I had perceived as so hard hearted and came out of the lesson saying that this less active had so much potential. It was incredible how softened this lady seemed, how you could tell that she felt the spirit. Sister Harkness told me after the appointment that how you perceive them beforehand and your expectations for what you think they are is what they are going to be. I learned a valuable lesson from her today- give everyone a chance and think of things in a positive, comfortable way. If you think it is going to be awkward, it is going to be awkward. I want to view people more in ways of what they can become.

I know the picture of my feet is gross, but I wanted to show you the mosquito bites... Sister Harkness and I have been eaten ALIVE! It was really miserable last week. We would go out to exercise in the morning and they would itch and itch and ITCH! 

The Tree hotel! You literally sleep up in that tree!

This one looks like a nest.

The bug attacks.

Random tree with a staircase!

Beautiful Luleå in the summer time!

Monday, August 24, 2015

You Only Grow in Your "Uncomfort Zone"

July 13th, 2015
Kära Familj och Vänner,

This week was really a great week. I have heard that this is the coldest recorded summer in Luleå for 50 years or something like that. But it's okay. After reading a little bit of what Sister Helmick is going through, I am grateful for the nice cool weather. Also, this week I had to eat a raw salmon sandwich... Literally a piece of nice and raw fish on top of bread. I prayed really hard that I would be able chew and swallow... And I am still here to tell the story. 

I also have just got to say how much I LOVE Syster Harkness! Oh my goodness, she is incredible! She is so good for me- she is logically minded and I tend to think emotionally. She reminds me when I feel down and depressed, like I am not doing enough, that we will NEVER be able to do enough. It isn't possible without Christ. She reminds me that and reminds me to stop stressing about little things. She is absolutely incredible! I think she is a red personality with yellow? I haven't quite figured it out yet. She is very charactered. She is one incredible missionary. 

On Tuesday I had a really defining experience for me. I really am grateful for it. It all started on Monday night when we got on a train ride headed to Umeå for a training with the Assistants and President and Sister Beckstrand. I was feeling guilty and anxious the whole train ride because I felt like I should talk to someone on that train but I didn't know how to go about it. I sat in that seat and picked at my split ends and slept because I wanted to avoid the feeling of needing to talk to someone. Over and over again it says in the scriptures "open your mouths" and things like "declare the Gospel to every creature" and such. I got off the train on Monday night and I hadn't talked to anyone and I really hated the fear inside of me. I sat in the meeting the next day and felt like a failure as a missionary and I hated the fact that I have so much fear! Yesterday we got on a about a four hour train ride to head back to Lulea and I made a resolution. I wanted to talk to at least one person. I sat on the train, with the many trees flying by and I said to God in my heart "okay Heavenly Father, I will just talk to one person on this train and offer them a Book of Mormon. But that is all I can do today." I also thought about what Noelle had challenged me to do- she challenged me to do something way out of my comfort zone. Going up and sitting by someone on a mostly empty train and offering them a Book of Mormon was waaaay out of my comfort zone. But I decided to do it. I got a Book of Mormon from Elder Halterman and I made Sister Harkness come with me and with my heart about to jump out of my chest (I was SO nervous) I walked up the train and sat down across from a man. I started talking about the Book of Mormon in Swedish. I offered him the Book of Mormon and he declined, but with a smile on his face he said he could look it up online. I gave him a pass along card and returned to me seat. I was so happy I was able to conquer myself! It was literally so scary for me, but it was so worth it. I felt the love and how proud my Heavenly Father was of me that I let me love for Him overcome my fear of man at least that one time. As I walked back to my seat, Elder Halterman looked at me with a huge smile and mouthed something like "yes!" He has been working on bus and train contacting too and he has been an inspiration to me to keep pushing myself. Something I learned recentely is that God does not expect perfection immediately, but that we keep pushing ourselves a little harder, a little bit more out of our comfort zone. I believe the most growing happens in our "uncomfortable zone." It defines you as a person and what you really are made of. I am not perfect- trust me. I don't talk to everyone. But I know God is proud when we show Him that we love Him more than we love the fear that is inside of us. 

I love you all so much! Keep pushing yourself to turn outwards, to think of others instead of yourself. I promise that there is a happiness to find that can't be found any other way.

Syster Nielsen

My Mission President and his wife. We had a special training this week. I love both of them sooo much. They are like my long lost grandparents.

Sister Harkness and I! I literally love Sister Harkness. I could not be happier- she is the PERFECT companion for me! And look how cute she is too!

Mom this is specifically for you! Look at this gorgeous tree. I am also thinking of Grandma Hansen too- she would love this. :)

This is Moa. She is in the branch in Luleå and she is headed next week on her mission to England. She gave her farwell talk yesterday. I love this girl! She will be an incredible missionary.

Reindeer and Member Missionary Work

July 6th, 2015
Kära Family,

This week was a great one! One of the highlights was that we raced a reindeer in the car on our way to see a less active this week! That reindeer was FAST! I see why Santa Clause needs them to do his work on Christmas Eve... You need something fast to get around the world that quickly! :) I still really want to see the Sami people (the reindeer herders here in the north) and see them herding the reindeer! But sadly I haven't seen that yet. We also got to eat homemade hamburgers this week with our Branch President who is from America for the 4th of July. So we did get to celebrate a little bit! Happy Fourth of July! I sure do love America and feel passionate about defending our freedoms there. It is so beautiful here in Sweden right now! Everything is so green and nice... Although I do have to say that it is still not all that warm (compared to back at home) here in Luleå. It's probably in the 60's here on the warmest days.

One thing amazing about a mission is the love I feel for people. The other day I saw a man I felt like I should contact and I just tried to look at him from God's eyes. It was incredible the love that enveloped me. I felt so much love for this man- I was filled with it. I also experienced that today while I was teaching our investigator, Agnes. I had been frustrated with her before, but today I just looked at her and felt a portion of the love for her that I feel like God has for her. I just saw her in a new light. I want to do things as a missionary with a motivation of love- love for God and my fellow men. I don't want to just do things out of a motivation of just duty. That is a start, but I want to live the higher law of love. I know this work is true just because of the love I feel for people. Tonight we swung by a less active who answered the door and was extremely rude to us (and he didn't have pants on...) and started swearing up a storm at us. But it is interesting because I am not angry, I just feel sad for him. The love that envelops you on a mission is amazing.

Last night we had a super neat experience. A member in our branch had invited his friend that he had known for 10 years to come over and have dinner, along with Sister Harkness and I. Robert Näslund decided he wanted to share the Gospel with his friend and he basically sat down with us and them and taught them about the Gospel. Both Robert and his wife testified of the way the Gospel has changed their lives and invited them to meet with us. It was incredible! I don't think that their friends that they invited into their home would have been open to learning more if it hadn't have been for the invitation of their member friends. I don't think it would have been likely that they would have let us in if we came knocking on their door. Members can open so many doors that we can't! I am realizing more and more that if we want the work to move forward better and faster, if we want to touch the lives of more people, if we want to bring strong families into the church, members and missionaries need to unite forces and work side by side. We need to be unitied in this great work of harvesting the souls of men. Joseph Smith said: "After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel." Howard W. Hunter also said: "Surely taking the gospel to every kindred, tongue and people is the single greatest resposibility we have in mortality..." The Näslund family was an example to me last night of what it means to be a member missionary. They know these people, they know their needs and concerns, the can help them in ways we cannot. Member missionary work is so important! How I want to be a bold member missionary when I get home! The worst people can do is say no and I am learning on my mission that you have to go through a lot of "no's" before you get a "yes." If you invite more people, the odds are more in your favor that someone will eventually say yes! That is why we as missionaries are supposed to talk to as many people as possible (I am still working on this) every day because the odds go up of finding the people that are ready.

I am learning SO much from my new companion. She is dynamite! She is so bold and awesome. The other day she literally climbed up a hill to go and talk to this lady and the lady kept walking and Sister Harkness kept walking with her. She was persistent and unafraid to jog up a hill in order to talk to someone. She is super awesome and helping me be more unafraid and bold! We push each other and we both have the desire to be obedient. It is a super good companionship. I love Sister Harkness! She also has an identical twin who is on a mission in Tawain.

I love you all!! Have a great week and enjoy the warm weather for me... I don't know if I will see much of it until next year. :)

Ha det så bra! Jag älskar er så jätte mycket!

Syster Nielsen

No joke, that is literally a reindeer right in front of our car! I saw a reindeer this week!! It raced us along side our car for a while... Sister Harkness started freaking out and was like "take a picture!!" I thought Sterling would be interested to hear that reindeers run REALLY fast!

On a train to Umeå for zone training!

Caught Sister Harkness off guard... Here is the missionaries in our branch now!

This one caught Äldste Svensson off guard. He is Swedish! There is only two Elders from Sweden in the whole mission. 

God Gathers All His Children

June 29th, 2015
Today we met with a 17 year old from Afghanistan that Sister Savage and I had contacted on the street. He is incredible. We taught him with a persian translator and he has only been in Sweden for 6 months now. It was amazing to hear his story. He talked about how there was opposition to him learning English, but he decided to do it anyway. I think that was God preparing him so that he could meet us and talk to us. He also decided after his Muslim past that nobody should be forced into a certain religion. He chose Christianity for himself and really has a deep desire to learn about Christ for himself. He is so sincere and it sounds like he has been through a lot. He loved talking to us today and sad he will come again on Sunday (he came last Sunday). He even talked about his desire to be baptized. He is amazing! God prepares people in all lands and places. I am so grateful for his hand in our lives. He loves us and provides a way to gather all of his children.

This is a girl who got baptized this week. She was taught by the Elders in Boden.

One of our last days together. I'm not a Greenie anymore!

Sister Harkness and I! My new companion!

This one is especially for Dad. I made mashed potatoes for myself on Sunday night.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Uncomfortable Zone

June 22nd, 2015
Kära Family and Friends,

I am starting to realize that I have to live in the "uncomfortable zone" instead of the "comfort zone" on a mission. You have to overcome your "comfort zone" in some way every day. Let me give you an example:

Contacting at bus stops or on buses is really hard for me. It seems really uncomfortable and I hate doing it. Contacting is one of the hardest things- I have to overcome my fear of it every day. In Sweden, people don't really talk to each other all that much if they don't know each other (unless there is a real reason to talk). I've heard before that the only people that talk to random people are foreigners and people that have a mental problem. That is not completely true, but there is truth to it. Luckily I am a foreigner (and they probably think I have a mental problem too. :) ). Last week Sister Savage and I were waiting for a bus and it was really late. We were not the only ones at the bus stop- there were some other people there waiting for this bus. I had this thought that I should talk to this one woman at the bus stop. I decided that I would do it and I built up the courage to start the conversation. The bus FINALLY drove up and it was very full, so I ended up sitting across from this woman I had contacted. I told her that we could help her with her Swedish (she comes from Africa and wants to learn Swedish) and I gave her a pass along card. She ended up coming to church yesterday! What a miracle! She told us as she walked with us to church that her mother had taught her to not stay home on Sundays, to always go to church (or something like that). What a righteous mother! She said she liked it and will come next week. I am so glad I decided to get in the "uncomfortable zone." God really blessed me.

I am done being a greenie! Sister Savage is being transferred to Västerhaninge this week and I am getting a new companion. Her name is Sister Harkness and she is coming from Täby (in Stockholm). I am so excited, but I will miss Sister Savage very much! 

I love you all! Have a great week!

Syster Nielsen

This is in Haparanda! We went there this week.

Road trip in Sweden. On our way back from Haparanda to Luleå.

The Swedish Churches are super pretty here. This one is in Kallix.

Our District this transfer!

Our Midsummer Cake... Sister Savage decided to turn it into an American Flag. :)

Midsummer Celebration! We had the whole day off.

Midsummer in Haparanda!

Night time in Luleå. No lack of light.

Smörgås Torta! We were feed this beautiful creation by some members this week.

The weather forcast for night time (1-5 am)- nothing but sun!

Of course I am that person who finds the only organic shampoo and conditioner in the store (that I have seen) and I buy it. Noelle, be proud. :)