We hope this letter finds you all well and happy! As for us, we are that indeed. Tonight as we came back to our apartment after a few hours out in the cold dark afternoon, we were so happy to walk into a warm house that feels quite like home now. We are getting more adjusted to Sweden--not really knowing where things are much better--but not worried at all about it. The week has been fairly busy for us, but not more than we could reasonably manage. And we are staying healthy--which is such a blessing!
On Monday we went down to the immigration office ---again, this time with our own appointment to get the official extended visitor's permit. We had all the paperwork in good order and even made the appointment on time in spite of parking problems, but unfortunately we were not able to get the permit. It looks like it is going to be a bit more tricky than it was supposed to be, and we have heard that it is at least partly due to the huge refugee influx in the past year. A business man in our ward said their papers have not been cleared and they are actually still here 4 months past their legal time, still waiting for the documents---with unofficial permission to stay. The man who helped us was very kind and didn't charge us the processing fee, but said to come back just two weeks before our permit expires. That sounds risky to us, but we can't do anything about it. Another man from the US Embassy in our ward said the amount of refugees into Sweden is 5% of their population. (They were the nice guys who took so many--whereas other European countries would not accept any.) We didn't know how significant that % was until he said, if the U.S. took the same proportion, it would be like taking 15 million refugees and trying to take care of them! So we are resolved to do as much work as we can in the short two months left---but still plan to have faith that we can stay through our full time.
With this agenda in the back of our minds, we are glad as things start to pick up with appointments and meetings. On Tuesday, we drove up to Sundsvall Sweden and met with the District President Stegeby there. This man was a treat to be with. He is so cheerful and filled with faith. We don't see the great sense of humor as much as in Ireland, but one of his early comments in answer to the weather was, "we don't have any mosquitoes"! He has been serving in the District Presidency for 17 years (much like Grandpa's former counselor, President Warnick) He also serves as a Counselor in the Mission Presidency for the present and last four Mission Presidents. His District is very spread out and covers 57% of Sweden, but he is proud of the strength of the Saints there. We had a good meeting with him, and will return as he now begins some plans to expand the Self Reliance effort in his District.
The drive to Sundsvall was farther than most drives in Ireland so we planned to stay overnight and we were glad we did. The roads on the map looked like we would be on major highways, but we were not on freeway style roads very much of the time. The roads are basically 3 lanes all the way ---for both directions to share. There is a small fence barrier between the directions most of the time, but the passing lane is off and on and very narrow. With lots of big trucks and slushy highway grime constantly on the windshield, it made for hard driving---and much of it in the dark. In addition, we thought we should take advantage of going in the direction of some people we wanted to look up for Dedee Dalebout, and it was further out of the way that we hoped. We didn't have much luck it seems, but still we were glad we made the effort. We realize this is going to be reality as we travel here, but as you see we are being careful.
The next day we traveled back and made life a little easier by having a video meeting with some leaders in Finland that evening. It was a good start there. We will try to do that as much as we can, but it just doesn't have the same affect as meeting in person. We think once we make initial visits to places it will be a pretty good option for some of the time.
On Thursday we then took the easiest plan and flew to Oslo, Norway. We had planned at first to drive this trip, but the advanced weather forecast was grim, and it proved to be pretty accurate. We were glad we flew, especially as we thought of the smaller roads. In Stockholm, they have nice freeway style roads and even many places of 3 lanes per direction, but apparently only in the densely populated areas. There never seems to be the expected "rush hour traffic" that was so common in Ireland, all except for about 4 hours in the middle of the day, and that is surprising since we learned that Stockholm's population is about 2-1/2 million people.
Our trip to Norway went very well. A wonderful man, Erik Jakobsen, met us and our manager from Frankfurt at the airport and took us to the church for about 3 hours of meetings and then back to our hotel. We left the next morning--so not many hours for all that travel; but we felt like our time to meet and discuss opportunities and ways we can help them accomplish some new goals was well worth it. We have had some good communications since then, and Erik is even changing some major personal plans so that things can get started sooner than later. We love the spirit of sacrifice we are seeing among the Saints here. The Scandinavian people seem to really want to do things right and have great faith. It doesn't of course solve all concerns, but it certainly makes things happen.
Since we have been home, we have been trying to get our Mission assignment to help check apartments done for now, because the calendar is starting to fill in, and we are delighted. We are feeling very blessed to be able to go to Copenhagen, Denmark this weekend and meet with some people that Ben's sister Leisl (married with two little boys) is setting up for us, then do some returning Missionary trainings here, and then to Finland a week later.
The great thing about meeting Leisl is that since she lived in Copenhagen for quite a while, she really knows the people we need to meet in order to understand the way of life and priorities of the Saints there. She is wonderful to add us to her already crazy-busy schedule and it will really help us!
Another thing that has been filling in our time somewhat is starting to teach SR Job Search skills to some of the refugees. At this point we are just doing one on one trainings, but we hope that as the missionaries see how helpful it can be, they will be better able to set up groups. It is already starting to happen, so we are happy. One man we have been able to teach 3 times now from Syria is so appreciative and He is also doing well as he learns about the gospel. He is very concerned that he has not been able to get his family here yet, and that there is prejudice against him as he tries to get a job, but he has a great attitude of faith and is anxious to prepare to be baptized and then help others as well. He is another one of those remarkable people who is very smart---and it seems they are the ones who can figure out how to rise to the top regardless of what trials come. He recognizes the truth of the gospel and how it will bless his life. He told us how when he first came, everything seemed so dark and discouraging, and now even though his problems are still there he feels the weight and darkness of his trials being lifted. It brings us such joy to be able to help. Tomorrow we are going a few hours away to meet a group of immigrants who want the same help.
And then as the "cherry on top", we are happy to tell you that on Saturday we were able to go to the Temple and do a session. We had to get up early to go--but that made it seem like old times. It was great after 14 months of not going, to be in a session, and fun to do it with earphone translation. We could still hear the Swedish, but the English on low volume was great support. The group was very small--and as we said, the temple is very small. The smallness means that we met people we have met before in meetings, and a few from our first visit there, so we didn't feel like total strangers. And you never fell like a stranger in the Temple. It feels like coming home--to heaven, so filled with the Spirit we try to have everyday, but of course it is complete.
Grandkids: you might be interested to know we are starting to learn Swedish through a free app called Duo-lingo. We aren't desperate to learn it, but knowing a little will help. It is easier to read and write than to say it, because the letters make different sounds than we are used to, but it helps to be able to read signs etc. It would be fun if any of you want to try it with us. We are not quick learners--like you would be--but many words have some English roots and so it isn't too hard. If you learn it, it probably won't be something you can use much, but we can talk secrets when your parents are in the same room. For starters, one easy word is so useful: "Tack" (sounds like talk) means both please and thank you.
And now for a riddle: Why do we see so many real fairies in Sweden, when we tried so hard to see them in Ireland, but never did see them? Please send your answers back.
We send extra love to each of you Grandchildren! We know you are so busy and doing so many good things! We are happy to hear of the great things you do with your talents. As we teach Self Reliance, one of the things we teach is using time wisely. When you use your time to become the best you can, you are really building who you will be in the eternities. You wonderful Grandchildren are getting a head-start on greatness because of all the special things you do--in school, with music, with scouts, with art, with sports, with YW and YM, and with friendships ! It will bless you in this life and always. We miss being able to attend your performances and see your successes, but we think of your so much, and pray for you always!
We wish the best to all family and friends---'Tack' for staying in touch.
Love and Hugs,
Grandpa and Grandma,
Dad and Mom
Lynne and Lanette
Aldste and Syster Pettit
This is a painting of the old downtown of Stockholm. We found it in a little shop, and it is done with a unique technique using egg white - making it very durable.
Another painting of the old town part of Stockholm - pretty accurate.