Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Last Post for a while

Time is flying by and we will be home in about 3 weeks -- just in time for Christmas.  I haven't caught up yet with going through pictures from the last month.  So here is just a quick overview.  Just snatches of what our life has been like lately, beginning with a visit from our daughter Michelle and husband Andy and a trip to Copenhagen.  Then a Sissel Christmas concert and Christmas markets in Stockholm.  So this will be my last post for a while.  I'll get caught up on pictures when I'm home.  (We are planning to go to two Santa Lucia concerts but I'll have to post those pictures from home).

But first I want to let you know about some of the highlights of our mission.  And the highlights are actually people.  When we came here, we noticed that it was hard to get to know Swedish people; they tend to keep to themselves and their small circle of friends from work.  But the pandemic has made people more open and friendly with strangers.  Or maybe I quit comparing them to the warm and friendly people of Kenya!!!  Whatever happened, it has been great!

Let me tell you about some of the great people we've met.  Francis is a Swede with Kenyan roots.  He is planning to move back to his ancestral home in Kenya "to find God."  He feels that he can't find God in Sweden, but we assured him that there are many who do believe in God even in Sweden.  Then there is our friend Omar, a shopkeeper in Gamla Stan.  We feel as if we've known him for years.  We are Christian and he is Druze but we feel like we are family.  After all, we are all children of the same God no matter our religion.  We love our adopted kids, Tamara and Marko, who are originally from Montenegro, and our lovely Helene who is fighting cancer.  Then there is Per and his sweet wife Elsa.  We feel like we have known them for years.  And President Davis is my 3rd cousin!  Who knew I would find  so many cousins on this mission?  And of course we have lots and lots of adopted grandchildren (the junior missionaries).  Who can have too many friends or too much family?  So glad we came to Sweden to meet so many wonderful people!

The pictures that follow are just a few highlights.  There's lots of short videos too that I think you will enjoy.  Click the pictures to enlarge.

And don't forget to check out the amazing surreal photography of Swedish photographer, Erik Johansson, a few posts back.  That post is called Fun Photography.  Amazing to see.

A huge newly opened candy store at the Taby Mall.  Most Swedish pastries aren't very sweet but Swedes do love their candy.  Saturday is the day reserved to indulge in (in my opinion), too much candy!

Michelle shares my love of artwork.  Here Michelle & Andy have struck a deal with Gabil, our Swedish artist friend.  He says he has deals for anyone whom the Torries bring into his shop.  And we have brought quite a few!

We spent a day finding rune stones.  So fun!  The Vikings erected these stones just like we would erect monuments in cemeteries only most of the people honored are not buried here.  

So interesting that you can actually read these inscriptions.  At least you could if you could!  Fascinating to think of ancient people erecting and carving these stones.

Beautiful buildings of Stockholm behind Andy and Michelle.  We're visiting the Vasa Museum.  We took lots of pictures and I will post them at a later date.  So fun to have Michelle and Andy with us. 

All Saints Day this year was on November 6 and we spent the day in Gamla Stan and then at Skogskyrkogården, the largest cemetery in Stockholm.  In Gamla Stan, we stopped in at the Storkyrka, or Dom Kyrka as it is also called, the largest cathedral in Stockholm.  A choir was performing for All Saints Day.  The acoustics are marvelous.  Maybe the choir was good and maybe it wasn't, but it sounded great in that old cathedral.  See two videos below.

In Gamla Stan, as we walked the pedestrian only streets, we came upon the Hari Krishna people.  Every Saturday they parade through the streets singing and dancing.  See video below.

Now we're at Skogskyrkogården, the huge cemetery in downtown Stockholm.  All of the churches have cemeteries on their grounds and all are lit with candles on All Saints Day.  Such a reverent feeling is there among the crowds of people.

If you don't have someone actually buried here, you can light a candle and put it in areas like this.  So many deceased people are being remembered.  I wish we would have lit a candle for LeRon's brother Eugene.

This family was lighting a candle for a loved one.  So nice to see young children honoring their ancestors.  Even with children running around, there was still a feeling of peace and reverence and beauty.

Michelle & Andy have joined us for our Sunday night singing and eating.  So happy that they could experience it with us.  Elders LaRose, Hancock, Brown, and Gilbert with Andy, Michelle, Colleen and LeRon.

We flew to Malmö to spend a day in Copenhagen and to see the countryside around Malmö.  Reminds us of the cropland at home!  LeRon and Andy are inspecting a field of winter canola.

We loved being able to see from horizon to horizon!!

We're in Denmark at Frederiksborg Castle, which is now a museum.  

Love these old buildings!!  But I think I'd rather live in my own house!

The King's Chapel with its ornate ceiling.

Colleen and Michelle in the room housing the Carl Bloch paintings that are so familiar to members of our church.  Reproductions of these paintings have been in our lesson manuals and magazines for years.

You can see that the original paintings are not very big.  And it's too bad that they are stuck away in a small room with little light.  I know it's to preserve the paintings but there were many other paintings in the castle that were well-lit.

Carl Bloch was born in Copenhagen in 1834 and died in 1890, so he didn't have many years to live.  But he painted many religious pieces that are beloved to this day.

We arrived back in Copenhagen in the late afternoon and we had the Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Domkirke) almost to ourselves.  It was wonderful!  Bertel Thorvaldsen's sculptures of the Resurrected Christ (also known as the Christus), and the 12 Apostles are breathtaking!  A copy of the Christus is in several of the visitor's centers of our church.  We love how He reaches out to us.  You can see the crucifixion marks in his hands.  We love and worship the resurrected Christ!  See below for short videos taken there.

The Resurrected Jesus Christ is the focal point of this church and along both sides are the 12 Apostles.  See the 6-minute video below about how these sculptures were copied for the Rome Italy Temple Visitor's Center.   The first couple of minutes is the introduction.  Keep going and you will see some pretty amazing modern technology and sculpting from the same marble quarry that Michelangelo got his marble for the Pieta and other sulpures.  We visited the Rome Temple Visitor's Center in 2019 with our friend from Taber, Zorka Millo.  The Christus and the 12 Apostles were stunning.  So great to see them in Rome and in Copenhagen.

Now we are at Zone Conference in Lund, which is in the south of Sweden near the border with Denmark.  See below for some fun short videos of missionaries singing and LeRon playing.

At zone conference, Michelle was able to meet her 2nd cousin twice removed, Elder Joshua Muhlestein.  My Grandma Ida Conrad was a Muhlestein.  She and Elder Muhlestein's great-grandfather were siblings.  Small world!

Night comes early in this part of the world but we still wanted to see the Lund Cathedral and here it is!  Wish it would have been open but oh well.

The fabulous Norwegian singer, Sissel, came to Stockholm.  We had seats very close up and it was fantastic.  Such a lovely voice, so clear, and what a range . . . I had never heard her sing so low and then so high though I am very familiar with her music.

Sissel sang for an hour and a half with only one costume change and no intermission.  I bet she was tired at the end!

Sissel is a very warm entertainer.  You can tell she loves singing and performing.  See below for a video of the last song she sang -- O Holy Night.  So interesting how Swedes get an encore.  When she finished, no one stood and clapped like they would in the west.  But everyone clapped in unison.  Seemed like we clapped for 5 minutes before she came back to sing the last song.

We took our friends Per & Elsa (on right) and our adopted daughter, Helene (between LeRon and me) to the concert and they loved it.  Before the concert, Per took us out for dinner at a restaurant right next to the concert hall.  Delicious!  And a fun evening visiting.

And here are our adopted kids, Marko & Tamara.  We love them a lot!!  They have immigrated to Sweden from Montenegro.

Christmas decorations are popping up all over.

Saying goodbye to missionaries we've gotten close to is always hard.  L-R: Elders Jacob Jensen, Jonathan Bair, Thomas Draper, and Christian Spellacy all headed home just before American Thanksgiving the end of November.

There were no Christmas markets in Sweden last year due to the pandemic.  But this year . . . yeah!!  

There are 44 stalls in the main square in Gamla Stan.  I bet the vendors pay a pretty penny for them!

Lots of food stalls and lots of trinkets too.

Homemade cheeses.  Sweden has a huge variety of cheeses and they are delicious.  Well, most of them are.

Most Christmas decorations are actually made in Sweden, or at least, in Scandinavia.

Didn't take us long to see 44 stalls!  Just looking doesn't cost anything.

We weren't sure what this fellow was cooking but it smelled good.  Some kind of nuts in a sweet syrup.

Swedes love their real candles!!  It's a wonder there's not more fires.

This stall was very interesting.  This woman is a Sami from the far north of Sweden.  They consider themselves a separate country with their own flag.  We visited some Sami when we were in Norway a few years ago.  This woman and her husband made almost all of these things.  The wrist bands are handmade from reindeer hide.  There were other things carved from the horns of reindeer.  So interesting to visit with her.

And here's our friend, Omar.  He's heading home to Syria in a few days to be with his mother who has been on a ventilator for 25 days due to Covid.  We are praying for them.  Omar belongs to the Druze faith.  It is not Christian but they revere Jesus as a prophet.  And it is not Muslim either.  Google for it to learn more of this faith.

These ice crystals are so beautiful.  Click to enlarge.

Perfectly formed ice flakes!

The bus stop is across the street from our building.  We catch the bus here often.

Daytime trip to the Christmas market in the main square of Gamla Stan.  Too many people so we didn't stay long.  And . . . the same things are sold in the shops in this area and we prefer to visit there with so many shopkeepers that we have befriended.

Absolutely love these straw figures.  Wish I could take them home.  They harvest the straw when it is not too dry so that it is pliable.  The straw continues to dry after the figures are made.  The goat is a very Swedish Christmas thing.  Santa Claus often comes riding on a goat or in a sleigh pulled by a goat.

The art installations in the vehicle tunnels are amazing.  I keep trying to get pictures as we zoom by.  The installations make you very aware of upcoming intersections.  Love these butterflies.

This forest area is beautiful!  This tunnel is about 5 km long and has many intersections.  Well lit too.  GPS stays active for part of it and then it fades out.  Thankfully we know where we are going now.

Sunday with our adopted kids, Marko, Helene, and Tamara.

The above video should have been well above but I can't figure out how to change it without wrecking a whole lot of things.  Here we are in Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark.  We found the toilets in the basement and there was amazing acoustics in the area between the elevator and the restrooms.  Michelle, Andy, and LeRon had to sing!  It reminded us of singing in the bell caves in Israel!  I should have clipped the first part of the video but I didn't know how.  Anyway, one verse of Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy.  Enjoy!

Our friend, Per, was inducted into the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem and we attended his induction ceremony in the Danderyd Kyrka.  It's a beautiful old church.  Per is in the center ready to walk toward us.

Per and Elsa, his wife, on the right after the ceremony.

We enjoyed supporting Per at his induction.  We're here with Per & Elsa, and two of their four children.  The Order of St. Lazarus is like a service club that is affiliated with the church at Danderyd.  Below are a couple of videos I took at the ceremony.

The End for now.  I have lots more pictures that I intend to post at a later date, if only for my own history.  Thanks for reading my humble offerings!