Sunday, September 29, 2013

To The Citizens of Skellefteå: Please Stop With The Rain Dancing

 Dearest Family and Friends,
So remember how two weeks ago I told you a action packed adventure about overflowing baptismal fonts? Well, it appears that someone in heaven followed my example, because it has rained nonstop for the last week or so. Literally, I think I have seen the sun for a total of 6-8 hours this week. Combine that with a sunset that is determined to go down at least 15 minutes earlier every day, and a thermometer that has absolutely given up the fight to stay in the double digits (in Celsius, mind you), and you get one very interesting week.
Despite the bitter (and I mean bitter) start of fall, things have been very warm for the work here in Skellefteå, actually. We continue to go around visiting the local high schools to give our presentation (I am starting to get sick of the words "America" and "American"), and our English group last Monday went incredibly well! We had about 13 people in attendance, and they all loved it. So much, in fact, that they said they'd bring their friends this week! Which is good, because we are having an American (I just winced after typing that word) Pancake Night! It is going to be crazy; there will be pancakes (obviously), I'm a Mormon videos, and I am taking it upon myself to introduce the game Mafia to Sweden (don't worry, no secret combinations going on here!). Yes, I am very excited for tonight.
As for teaching, while there have not been any stunning developments, there are a good number of things worth noting: first, Hanna is doing well still (she had an awesome time at district conference this saturday and sunday!), and is coming with us to teach a less active family from Colombia (Hanna is studying linguistics, and Spanish just so happens to be one of the five languages she can speak). We still don't have very many investigators (I can count them on one hand), but we really feel like we could be seeing some amazing things coming out of the English group in the next couple weeks.
I'm sorry that this email is kind of short, but to be honest, I'm not sure there is much more to talk about right now. Things keep plugging along, and I'm just happy to be plugging along with them. I hope that you all have a good week, and that you are all as excited for General Conference as I am. T-minus 12 days! =)
Äldste Kody Christopher Ogaard
P.S. Some of you have asked about birthday ideas/needs. While I am not a worldly man, I do have a couple things that I have been thinking about: Bagpipe and Celtic instrumental music, any kind of American candy (especially peppermint Altoids. I really miss those), any of James E. Talmage's books besides Jesus the Christ and The Articles of Faith,  or any other book by an Apostle/Prophet, especially those on Hebrew culture and the Old Testament. Pretty much, though, I don't really need much. I'm already doing what I love in one of the best places in the world, so I think I'm pretty well off right now. I would love pictures, however. I miss all of your smiling faces, and it'd be nice to look at them every now and again. =)
P.P.S. Photos of the week!
The one of all the smiling teens is the English group.
The street sign was cool because -gatan in Swedish means "the street", so loosely translated there is a Bro Street in my area. Pretty sweet if you ask me.
and the drawing was something i doodled on a rainy mailbox while tracting. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Remember, Remember the 7th of September

Hey Everybody!
Welcome to another edition of Around Skellefteå in 8o Days, baptism edition! That's right, there was a baptism in Skellefteå, and let me say that words cannot describe the total and complete awesomeness that it was. I must give it my best shot, however (none of you would forgive me otherwise), and so I thought I would begin with this:

In case you're wondering, Hanna is the girl in white, and I am the man also dressed in white.
Ok, so now you've seen the photo, perhaps I should tell a little story to go along with this. So as you can see from this wonderful photo, the baptism went down, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It was also one of the most memorable experiences Skellefteå has had in years, and not just because Hanna is the first person to be baptized in 2 years. To elaborate, this baptism is unforgettable because A) it was Hanna's baptism, and Hanna is amazing; and B) this baptism was one of those Murphy's Law baptisms; that is, lets just say that in preparing everything for the baptism, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It started on Wednesday when we went to go test the pump for the baptismal font.
(aka, the little yellow thing in the corner). So we turn on the water, and you know what? the water started coming out rust red. I kid you not, that water looked like the Nile after Moses got ahold of it. We figured out that the reason it was this particular color was that no one had used these pipes since 2011, and that they had rusted pretty badly in the meantime. Luckly, the water settled to the chapel's normal, slightly yellowish color after about 2 hours of running the water.
So fast forward to Saturday morning. We arrive at the church at 10:00 to start the water (keep in mind that the baptism was going be at 3:00). We turn it on, and head upstairs (the font room is in the basement) for about an hour or so. At 11 we come down to check the water, and are surprised to see that it is already half way full! Not wanting to have a cold font for the baptism, we shut of the water, deciding we'd fill up the other half a little later.
So we come back from the library, and start the water up at 1:00. Personally, I wanted to wait till 1:30 to do this (remember, it took an hour to fill up half way), but Äldste Knutsson wanted to err on the side of caution, so we started it up. Fast forward again to 1:40. After having been upstairs working on the stuff for the english group, I decide to go downstairs to check the font. Imagine my horror when I come down the stairs to see water flowing out from underneath the door of the baptismal room and halfway down the hall (where there luckily was a drain). I run and shut off the water, and call frantically up to my companion, saying "Äldste Knutsson, we have a problem!". Hesitantly, we opened the door to the baptismal room.

Imagine, if you will, this room (which extends for a good distance to the back) covered in water, and the font filled to the brim. Needless to say, we were a tad flustered, as we began mopping, draining, and praying. We managed to get the room mopped up 10 minutes before the members started arriving.
But wait, it gets better. So we tell the members our quaint little story, and they of course laugh. One of the members and I head down to look at the font. After seeing the water level (remember, we drained the font down a little), Fern decides that is now too low, and that we need to fill it up again. I disagreed, but relented and turned on the water. At this point in time, I have now changed into my white clothes, and Hanna has arrived. I go up to talk to Hanna, and Fern goes up to work on the luncheon for after the baptism. Everything seemed to be going perfectly...
        ...or so I assumed.
We started the program, and it proceeded wonderfully. We had a wonderful talk, and Äldste Knutsson played a fantastic musical number on the piano. Then came the time for us to head down the stairs for the baptism.
Guess what we saw?
If you said "water", you are correct! the baptismal font had overflown a second time! When I saw this, my first thought was honestly to look and see how Hanna was reacting. Much to my relief, she started laughing. I joined in with her, realizing that this was actually quite hilarious. The other members didn't quite think so at first -this was, after all, the first baptism they had had in over 2 years, and they wanted it to be perfect- but after a while, they began seeing the humor of it too. So they start mopping up, whereas I (seeing that everything was wet anyways) decided to just head to the font. I walked on in, and then proceeded to stand there for the next 5 minutes Hanna and I tried to convince everyone to put down the mops and sit down so we could have the baptism. Finally, we got everyone to take their seats, and the baptism was performed. Let me tell you, the moment I put my arm to the square and began to give the baptismal prayer, the feeling of the entire room just changed. The moment Hanna rose up out of the water, I had this overwhelming feeling of peace and love; I knew that this was truly the Lord's plan.
The rest of the program went swimmingly: one of the sisters gave a beautiful talk on the Holy Ghost, and Hanna bore a simple but stunning testimony. Everyone in the room was beaming: I don't think it could have been a happier day for anyone.
I'm not really sure what to say in conjunction to that, but I guess I'll leave you all with my witness that I know that this is God's church on the Earth today, and that through faith, repentance, baptism by someone holding the priesthood authority, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end we all can make it back to be with our father in heaven. I know that Heavenly Father is proud of Hanna, and that He will help her, me, and all His children so that we can return to Him.
I love you all, and I hope you have a fantastic week!
Äldste Kody Christopher Ogaard
P.S. In all the excitement I almost forgot to wish my dad a happy birthday! Gratis på födelsedagen, Dad! I would sing the Swedish Birthday song to you, but sadly, one cannot do that over email. So I would recommend the next best thing: look it up (Ja Må Han Leva), and pretend it's me singing it. I hope you have an awesome birthday, Dad, and I love you!

Keeping the Fire Burning in an Increasingly Cold Skellefteå

Sept 8
Hello again, everybody!
May I just begin by, of course, welcoming all of you to our weekly session of What in the World is Äldste Ogaard Up To? I am very glad to have all of you aboard today with me, and I must say, Looking at the mailing list, it has grown to be quite the crowd!
So let me say that I LOVED hearing the stories from home this week. Aubree, Dad, congrats on the game. Whenever I get the opportunity to wear normal clothes, I always try to have my Tiger's soccer hoodie on. Glad to see that my team is doing well. Also, Taylor, I hear from a reliable source (Mom) that you are absolutely thrashing the competition on the football field. Nice to know that my siblings are all doing so well in keeping the MHHS fighting strong!
Oh, and about that hail storm, I have to say, I am glad that I wasn't there for that; it sounded absolutely miserable! Lexi, to you specifically, I have this to say: wear your welts with honor. Just tell everyone you were too tough to run from a puny marble-sized hailstorm. Oh, and if you're looking for one of those "could have been worse" situations, turn to Joshua 10:11. I'm not sure if a soccer bag would have taken care of that hail!
Speaking of weather and how sometimes it just treat us kindly, yesterday we got soaked by the rain on our way home from an appointment. It was hilarious; we had just gotten out of an appointment with a less active YSA and his non-member family, and all the sudden it starts pouring rain! You know how they say that you get wetter riding your bike than walking? I can attest to that wholeheartedly. Within 2 minutes we were dripping. Äldste Knutsson asked if we should stop and wait it out under a tree or something, and I said "Nah, we're headed home anyways." Good thing I said that, because we would have been waiting for a long time. As it was, I was just very glad that I had my suit-coat on. With the temperature dropping lower every night, and the sun setting earlier and earlier, I probably would have been rather cold without that thing.
OK, so enough about the weather. I'm sure you all are really much more interested in how the work is coming along. Well, there actually have been several interesting developments in the last couple of days, and I must say that I am rather excited for some of the prospects. Firstly, to answer the question you are all asking, yes, Hanna is still doing quite well, and we are getting all ready for the baptism on Saturday. Her parents don't plan on coming, sadly, but everything at its own pace, I guess. No word yet on who will be performing the baptism, but we should know by the end of today or tomorrow, at the latest. I tell you, I am just amazed by the dedication and enthusiasm that Hanna shows. She is planning on starting Institute this month, and she spends a lot of time on (she's already watched the Joseph Smith film twice, as well as almost all of the Mormon Message videos). I am blown away, and so humbled to see how much she loves the Lord and has a desire to learn and grow closer to God.
So, I've been getting a lot of questions about how things are going with my cricket playing Afghani friends. To update you on that, we are still hoping that they will come to the English group that starts next week, and one of them (Khan) still really wants to meet with us. We tried to get together last week, but things didn't quite work out. So that's where things stand on that front.
Oh, also worth mentioning is our awesome zone training we had on Thursday! So we talked a lot about how we need to strengthen our faith, and get out there and trust the Lord; you know, basic zone training stuff. What was not normal, however, was the awesome contacting spree we had afterwards! To elaborate a little: so we had to hop on a bus to get to the restaurant that we were gonna go to for the training. Äldste Knutsson spent a little too long fiddling with the cash to pay the bus driver, so we were the last ones on. What I saw when I looked down the aisles was astounding: everyone on that bus was talking to the missionaries! Seriously, everyone was sitting with someone having these amazing conversations! let me tell you that the shear fact that there was any talking at all was amazing: Swedish buses are usually so quiet you can hear a pin drop. It was one of the most inspiring things I have seen in a long time. Truly, Norrland is an amazing place to be.
But yeah, that's about the gist of it for the week. Just working hard and counting the days till Saturday. I promise I'll have pictures for all of you.
Hope that you all have a fantastic week, and that I hear from you soon!
Äldste Kody Christopher Ogaard
Picture of the week: Beautiful scenery shot taken on the bridge over the river in Skellefteå.

Same ol' Same ol'

 Aug 26
Dearest Family, Friends, and other Earthlings,
Hello and welcome to another weekly installation of the Adventures of Äldste Ogaard! (can anyone tell I'm missing my old radio shows?) I hope that you all have had a wonderful week, and that last week's installment found you all well. I'm running low on time (I had admin stuff to do today, so it has cut into my emailing time, sadly) So I'm going to jump right to the good stuff of the week.
First, everything is still going well with Hanna. She is progressing towards the 7th of September still, and I am super happy. Her dad has expressed a extreme dislike for the Church (and any church outside of the Svenska Kyrka), but luckily Hanna is 18, and she is still willing to go forward. We are taking it steady (we don't want to cause family problems if we can avoid it), but she is still super excited.
Also in the news, we had a less active family come to church, practically doubling our attendance this week! It was wonderful. We met with Familj Camacho (from Columbia) on Thursday, and they said they would come, but I must admit that I was a little skeptical as to whether they actually would. But, as I said to one of the members, I have been thankfully humbled by the Lord. It was awesome. And best of all, the 12 year old daughter -who was sitting and paying the most attention during sacrament- is not yet a member, and so we now have the opportunity to teach the entire family the Gospel! It will be rather interesting, as only the daughter is fluent in Swedish, but I am looking forward to the opportunity!
Anyways, there isn't much else that is going on right now. It's pretty much the daily routine here in Skellefteå right now, but I love every minute of it. I would honestly be happy spending the rest of my mission in this area. (granted, I might not say that 5 months from now, but whatever) So yep, everything is all good.
Anyways, I love you all, miss you all, and hope that you have a good week!
Tune in next week for another exciting (and hopefully more action packed) edition of:
The Adventures of Äldste Kody Christopher Ogaard, Missionary Extraordinaire! 

P.S. Here's the picture of the week:
The first picture is my district, the Luleå District (we're the Marines of the mission: first in, last out)
For all you Dr. Who fans, you'll appreciate the second one. Especially because I found it in a tiny town in Sweden. If you aren't a Dr. Who fan, and don't get this, I suggest watching Dr. Who and finding out what I'm talking about.