Saturday, March 21, 2020

Hej då Sweden

We never expected to say hej då -- goodbye (pronounced hay doe) -- to Sweden so soon.  We arrived in Stockholm on January 16, 2020 and we left exactly two months later on March 16.  So sad that the current pandemic has caused all senior missionaries serving in Europe and all junior missionaries with any kind of health concerns to be sent home.  And more throughout the world will be going home sooner than expected as the days go by.

I'm so grateful for our Church's very early response in closing down all meetings worldwide, including worship services, and systematically sending missionaries home.  Our church leaders never move on anything in haste nor as a knee-jerk response to rumor.  So wonderful to know that our prophet-president, Russell M Nelson, receives regular revelation from heaven for our guidance in these latter days.  We don't need to fear; we just need to have faith and be obedient.

We have been taught for many years to have a food storage for emergencies and a year ago, the church started a program of studying the gospel in the home as it has moved toward a home-centered and church-supported church.  It's been a huge help to families who are now home-bound during this pandemic.

President Nelson's 3-minute message of comfort at this hard time is actually trending as #1 on YouTube right now, and not just among members of the church.  Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1i5-ew2l9k.  Interesting and comforting that a 95-year old man, a world-renowned heart surgeon who himself is vulnerable to the Covid virus, is praying for all of us and is so positive about the future.

Back to our thoughts about Sweden.  We never really got a chance to get to know Sweden.  We were so busy in the office, and on Saturdays we were fixing up our apartment -- doing such things as installing new taps in all the sinks so the incessant dripping would stop, and reorganizing furniture.  We always thought that later, when it was warmer and the days were longer, we could start taking short trips outside of Stockholm on Saturdays to see a bit more of Sweden.  Now we'll just have to go back someday.

We enjoyed the friendly people we met in the stores and the great members we met at church.  We loved the young missionaries with whom we worked on a regular basis and the mission president and his wife.  That love came quickly and they are the ones we really miss now that we're home.  It was a wonderful experience and we feel that we did what we were sent there to do.  We were able to streamline the computer systems and make it easier for someone else to step into our shoes.  In fact, Äldste Torrie is still working on some of his spreadsheets and is in regular contact with the missionaries in the office in Stockholm.

When we left Stockholm on March 16, it was getting light at 5 a.m. and the temperature was about 5 C.  So nice to have light and relative warmth.  Then we came home to Alberta to -14 C and snow and darker mornings because Alberta is already on Daylight Saving Time.  We are self-isolating for two weeks.  We just wave at our grandchildren and talk to them through the window.  Our sons buy our groceries and leave them at the backdoor.  We are doing our part to stop the spread of the virus.

I will post a few pictures we took in our last days in Sweden.  (If you click on the pictures, it enlarges them).  I'll probably do another post later to finish up the pictures.  But for now, this is hej då to Sweden.

Once a week we had the missionaries who live in our building (just a few of the 100 junior missionaries in the mission) over for treats and singing together.  Here we are celebrating my 68th birthday.  I made a strawberry cheesecake and it was delicious.  The missionaries wrote 68 with candles.  Can't believe I'm that old already.  L-R: Äldste Hall, Äldste Jensen, Äldste Seely, 68-year old Syster Torrie, Äldste Sherwood, Äldste Merrell. 

Tonight we had a small farewell for Äldste Merrell and Äldste Hall who are being transferred to a new area.  They will be missed!  We welcomed a new missionary to the office:  Äldste Deshler, who will take over my job in the office.  Äldste Seely will take over Äldste Torrie's place as financial secretary.  Here we are: me, Äldste Seely, Äldste Merrell, new Äldste Deshler, and Äldste Hall.

So great to get to know so many wonderful young women and young men who are giving up 18 months to 2 years of their lives to serve the Lord at their own expense.  Here I'm saying farewell to Syster Allred who has finished her 18-month mission and is returning home.  Her Swedish is excellent and she often translated for us in sacrament meeting.

What a shock to learn that within a few days, we would be leaving the office and returning home.  Here's Äldste Torrie at his desk.  It's a stressful time right now as we're trying to finish up all our projects and leave them in the hands of the junior missionaries.

I actually shed some tears when I learned we were leaving.  I had just set up the office the way I wanted it and was working on a lot of computer projects to help things run more smoothly.

This is where we have been for the last 2 months.  It's been a remarkable experience.

With all the senior couples leaving, they have been bringing their vehicles to the mission office.  Looks like a used car parking lot now.

The door on the left is the mission office door and the door on the right leads to our apartment and upstairs to the young missionaries' apartment.  We only had to walk a few steps each morning to get to our office.  It was actually a really good setup.

On our last Saturday, we took the bus and then the tunel-bana down to Gamla Stan to buy one more painting before we left.  It's a painting of an iconic main square in Gamla Stan.  I love the bright colors.  LeRon and I are with the artist, Gabil, in this picture.  And here's something very interesting about Sweden:  most places, even small businesses, prefer credit card to cash.  Even Gabil preferred credit card.  Sweden is almost a cash-less society.  In fact, you cannot deposit cash into a bank.  You have to give the cash to a third party and they somehow work with the bank.  Whenever LeRon made cash deposits, he had to inform a company online and get a code and then put the cash into an unmarked lock box on the side of a building.  The cash went into the box and somehow made it to the bank.  So interesting.  The Täby Centrum Mall that we shopped at was almost entirely cashless.

Trolls are a big thing in Scandinavia.

More trolls in this shop window in Gamla Stan.  But I think I saw more trolls in Norway when we were there a few years ago.

Many homes fly this particular Swedish flag with its narrow, very long blue and yellow stripes flapping in the wind.  On special occasions, the regular Swedish flag is flown, which is rectangular with a yellow Nordic cross on a field of blue.

I was hoping to see the trees all leafed out.  I hear it's gorgeous in the spring and summer.

On this last day in Sweden, we got a call from some young sister missionaries asking us to unclog their drain.  So we hopped in the car and drove the 20 minutes to their apartment.  We drove through a very long tunnel.  So interesting how they tunnel from island to island.  Mostly, though, bridges connect the island and you don't even realize you're on an island.

Here's Syster Andersen and Syster Bass shining her phone to give Äldste Torrie light to see.  Apparently an unnamed sister missionary (not one of the above) jammed some tuna down the drain, thinking it would go through.  She didn't realize there's a trap under the sink that, as its name implies, traps large things.  It was a stinky job to unclog that drain but the sisters were very grateful.  It was nice to visit them in their apartment.

Lots of apartment buildings here in Stockholm.  This is looking out the sisters' living room window.

Driving home from unclogging the drain, we saw one of those micro-cars I told you about in an earlier post that young Swedes drive before they get their regular drivers license.  They are even teenier than they look.

These little cars can only go about 40 km/hr so can be kind of annoying at times.  They obviously can't drive on the motorway.

On our way home from unclogging the drain, we stopped to take photos of some of the houses in our neighborhood that we really like.  Here's one that I've often wished I could see inside.

Love the yellow siding with the red roof.

This red house with the white trim is very striking.

Here's a closeup of the red house and it has, of all things, a blue door!
Found this picture from quite a while ago.  This was when we first discovered Google Translate on our phones.  It was an amazing experience to hold the phone over the Swedish words and have English replace the Swedish.  LeRon said it was just like using the Urim and Thummin which, according to the Bible Dictionary, "was an ancient instrument prepared by God to assist man in translating languages and receiving revelation".  See Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Numbers 27:21, Deuteronomy 33:8, 1 Samuel 28:6, Ezra 2:63, and Nehemiah 7:65.  Joseph Smith also used a Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon.   And now here we are in Sweden, using a modern Urim and Thummim to translate!  Amazing!

Our last night in the mission.  One more time to sing with the missionaries.  What an amazing, very special experience.