Monday, March 20, 2017

Blessings on the Road

Dear Family and Friends,

We hope this letter finds you well and happy in all that you are doing.  We love hearing from you and send our love and best wishes for success in your busy lives.

We just returned last night from an extended trip to northern Sweden, and the old adage, "there is no place like home" applies, even if this is only our temporary home.   We have spent the past 8 days on the road---and especially after being stopped coming home for over two hours on the main highway going south (or, the only highway going south) and, wondering what the problem was and how long we might be there, ---it felt so good to be back in our own place to relax and sleep.   That gratitude expressed, we have to say, however, that we felt really blessed through the week with where we stayed each night.

We have now been in Sweden and the Nordics for 3 months, and have enjoyed the opportunity to see so much of this region.   As you know, our responsibility to encourage the growth of Self Reliance in all this area has had us on the road almost as much as we have been at our "home" ---and the cost of doing this has been pretty high.  We have consistently tried to find less expensive hotels that were still clean, safe, and in good repair---because we don't sleep well if they are bad, and we know we can't do the work if we are too tired.  But the distance has required that we have a lot of hotel stays, a lot of fuel expense, and the cost of restaurant food is high as well.  So this trip we decided to try another approach for housing and food.  We tried using Airbnb and similar sites to find places where we might have good accommodations and be able to fix our own food.

We might have had more success with this approach if we had not been trying to do this all on late notice, but we have often had to keep a flexible schedule when we travel for several days, because the people we need to see don't always respond much ahead of time to let us know when we might meet with them.  We get a good "skeleton" of things to do in an area before we go, but, for example, we had Sunday presentations in two branches of the north District, a week apart.  We also had Youth nights scheduled for mid-week and Friday nights, but the rest was open and needing to be filled in---hopefully with other branches in the district.   We didn't know where exactly we would be on which nights.  This trip, we were traveling to distances a full 10 hours away from Stockholm, and coming home in between was not practical for our bodies or the pocketbook.  The three hours we spent one night on a 2-lane road in a pretty good snowstorm made us especially glad we weren't driving all the way home to Stockholm. 

 Getting off the "beaten path" always has its risks and we  were not immediately lucky--thus we were able to see the blessing that came later, when we made it a matter of sincere prayer.  It is remarkable how far the words "clean and private" can be stretched on a hotel website!---and when we were trying to find a replacement for our mistake in a far northern city at the last hour, we didn't really wonder if we could survive staying in the car rather than paying the very high hotel prices that were the only ones available.  We did have some frustration for awhile.

All that being said, we did see some very tender mercies come through for us during the week.  The first blessing was finding a promotional price on a hotel that usually was twice the price.  It was super small, but great, and we were able to stay two nights at that price even though the booking rate went up.   The second blessing was booking the last room available online and then not getting the confirmation to come through on our phone---and when we arrived the office was closed!  Fortunately the nicest young woman who was a guest let us in the office, used her code to call the management, and arranged that the un-named waiting key could be ours.  The room was old-ish, but clean and adequate.

The other hotels we stayed in weren't always the greatest, but they were ok.  However, the last place for the 2 nights of the weekend was the real adventure.  We didn't know why all the reasonable priced hotels were fully booked, but learned later there was a big hockey tournament in town.  We almost booked a place that seemed ok, but then at the last got the feeling to change our mind and keep looking.   What we found, and felt much better about, was a fair distance from the Church and we knew we would have to drive back and forth a few times--but we did have some time unscheduled and they said the place was scenic and peaceful.  Those are two words that also can be stretched, but we really got a slug in the stomach when the GPS led us onto a forest road.  It said at first it was 3 miles, but at an "intersection" that turned into 12 miles!  The road was dirt--no, ice!--and narrow, and we just had to turn around for sanity's sake.  We tried to call the listing service, but of course no luck---but finally found a number for the property---and after trying a few different ways of dialing it, they DID answer.  

The man who answered kept asking "where are you?",  and that seemed like the dumbest question.  We told him the road was not safe for us and he agreed it might not be.  Finally with as many clues as we could grab, he determined that we had been led on the "shortcut" logging road by our GPS, and he told us how to get there on a highway!  At this point we thought "what do we have to lose?" and tried it.  It was a pretty long drive, but a decent road.  

When we finally got there we were greeted by a young, rather disheveled, woman at the door of an older house!  Oh boy, we are going to stay in an older house with somebody else!  Since we were there, we decided to see how bad it really would be ---and discovered the opposite!  This whole house was fixed up so cute and so clean, and the woman and her husband and baby didn't live there at all, but next door.  They were far enough out and their rental venture was new enough that it was practically all new.  We had been eating out of our food box all week, heating things up at the Church kitchens where possible, and just getting by to avoid eating out. So now we could use the fridge, stove, sinks, and table,---and of course the nice couches, and cozy chairs with lovely throws.  They even offered a washing machine and sauna, but we didn't use them.  (Side note here:  we need to also recognize the blessing of being invited to leader's homes for delicious dinners a few times.  The main course for dinner was usually moose meat.  In a country where they harvest 100,000 moose a year, there is plenty of that to go around.  Tastes like chicken -- just kidding.)  

We stayed Friday and Saturday nights and had plenty of time to catch up on computer work, and take a really great run to the coast and two long walks through the forest to the other coast.  We were on a long narrow peninsula and the whole area was so quaint and picturesque, with hardly any people around.  The owners were fairly young, and the man owned a huge trucking business, so he could afford the 45 acres of prime forest and several buildings.  They were really ambitious and had done so much to improve their investment.  We hoped/hoped not, to see moose--- and didn't, and didn't see the northern lights either, but we really enjoyed the stay, for half the cost of anything else.   We knew we were blessed---especially since we almost gave up trying to get there!

As for our work in the District (ah, yes -- the work), we felt it went quite well.  We were able to meet with two of the District Counselors, and the District YW President, and they seemed very enthused about doing Self Reliance now.  We had two youth groups of 12 plus each time and, although they are not the most communicative at that age, they seemed to appreciate the encouragement to set goals and make the most of their future careers.  We also helped a refugee lady with job search skills.  She was so appreciative and wanted to take notes (in Arabic) of everything we taught so she could teach it to her husband.  We are always impressed by the character strength of the immigrant people and know that the Lord is blessing them for their courage to join the church and make such dramatic changes in their lives.  Best of all, we had two successful devotionals and feel like those branches are prepared to have a good start.

We have found that the Stake or District Self Reliance Specialist is indispensable in making Self Reliance take hold in the units.  If the Specialist is well-informed and enthused, the work really moves forward.  For that reason, we have made it a special point to get close to these specialists and build a strong relationship with them.  On Sunday, we were invited to come to dinner at the home of one of the Specialists, and it was a wonderful experience.  They are the epitome of devoted, committed saints.  His work as a manufacturing engineer has taken them all over the world, but wherever they go, they become a mainstay in the church unit.  For instance, besides being the SR Specialist in the district and branch here in Sweden, he is the branch Young Men's president, and she is the Young Women's president.  They spend time taking refugee families back and forth to church each Sunday (a long way), and they drive great distances to do home teaching and visiting teaching.  They are just happy to serve in any way that they can, and don't complain.  We have met so many just like them:  firm in their testimony, doing what the Lord asks of them, becoming the "backbone" of the ward or branch.  How we are grateful to know them and learn from their example! 

Another sweet blessing was that yesterday following our Sacrament Meeting talks a nice man approached us to thank us for the important messages.   He introduced himself as the President of the Pietarsaari Finland District, which has seemed to be lacking commitment to Self Reliance enough that the Specialist there is quite discouraged.   We have been worrying about what to do for them.   We had even contacted them and wondered if they would like us to catch a ferry to Finland last week while we were so far north Sweden, but they declined.   The President said their presidency had discussed SR in their meeting the past week, and he now hoped we could come and help them soon.   We actually did have an appointment with them, so he was very pleased, but we think that his feeling the Spirit of the meeting made, and will make, a big difference ---and  he as much as said so himself.  On another occasion here in Stockholm, we had a YSA leader catch the real spirit of SR doctrine by hearing us speak when he was visiting another ward Sacrament Meeting, and he now wants to move SR ahead for his own YSA group.  Things don't always feel perfectly led by the Spirit ---because obviously we are merely human instruments -- but it is exciting when we feel things are orchestrated beyond anything we could arrange.

Back at home in Stockholm, we are experiencing reality!   We were lucky to be gone for one week of our 3-week elevator repair, but being here for the rest of the time is going to either kill us or strengthen us.  Last night hauling in all the luggage and supplies from our trip was purely exhausting!   Because we were not sure of bed arrangements on our trip, we had taken bedding, a food basket, all our books for presentations, and of course enough clothes to last without washing for 8 days.   We can't look half put-together when we have to present, so it was a lot---to haul up the 7 flights of circular stairs!  We each made 3 trips!   Then this morning we had to do laundry ---on the bottom floor!  That was about 5 trips up and down, but at least the loads were much easier.   It helps us remember we might be getting a bit older!

We are extremely grateful that when we talked to Chelise this week she seemed to be doing much better.  We hope she will try to take it slow!... but being a mother of such an active fun family doesn't make her feel like much serious recovery time is fully realistic.  We appreciate the nice things done for their family while she does try to recuperate---and wish we could have been a part of that.   We are happy that we can still look forward to having her and Ben come in a few weeks and with the sun staying up longer every day, we think things are looking quite bright, literally and figuratively.   Yeah!

All of the things that have happened this week have made us reflect, again, on how much the Lord loves us all and is truly involved in our lives.  We are trying to be especially mindful of all the miracles -- big and small -- that happen to all of us, all of the time.  The Lord certainly is directing the huge missionary work in these latter days and He is revealing things to His prophet (like Self-Reliance), but He is also involved in such small things as getting someone to a sacrament meeting so they can learn something they needed to know, or helping a missionary couple find a place to stay, or even helping Grandma glance backward to notice the jewelry that had fallen out of her suitcase in the hotel lobby.  Some may call such things a coincidence, but we prefer to call them miracles, evidences of the Lord's tender compassion and love for His children.  Everyone - us, each of you -- are being blessed in countless ways each day, even in times of great difficulty.  We need only to recognize the miracles around us to be extremely grateful.

We think about, and pray for, all of you each day.  We send our love.

P.S.:  We are sending quite a few pictures on the blog this week.  Surprise!

Grandma and Grandpa
Mom and Dad
Lynne and Lanette
Aldste and Syster Pettit (a.k.a. the "Moose Meat Eaters")
 On the bridge at Umea--part of our morning run   The flags say welcome to Umea
 A lady we met with her walking sled.  The morning was really icy and it seems like a good idea. (She didn't offer us a ride.)
 We don't know what Snickerifabric is but the Ornsholdsvik is the town name of a small branch
 A Swedish cemetery--just lights.  Quite different from the huge monuments in Ireland
 One of many beautiful churches on a hill
 Swedish country home.  Lights are so important here---and of course the woodwork is amazing
 A factory for northern Sweden's delicacy---truly--- Canned rotten fish!
 the big factory---rotten fish is popular , but everyone jokes about how much it stinks, as they eat it!
 Early morning scene out our window---the ferry coming in.
 Our district--meeting at the institute
 Apartment checks---the shine was so bright they had to wear sunglasses!  (second time around)
 Our car parked inside the ferry.  You only see a small part of it.  There are over 50 cars and several trucks on one trip
 A traditional street of Copenhagen
 Thatched roof house in southern Sweden---must be very similar to when our ancestors lived here.
 Doesn't this look yummy!?  We haven't dared try it.
 Welcome to a new couple, the Hales, to the mission.
 Across the water from City Hall, Stockholm
 Gamla Stan---old Stockholm
 Old Stockholm
 Out the window of our hotel.   The frozen river and the path across.   We walked over it too
 This was in an OLD church from 1492 in northern Sweden, Lulea.    It is the Resurrection and depicts the entire Godhead.

Below:  walking across the frozen river.   Our hotel was the white building on the left.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Expanding our Efforts - and Happy

Dear Great Family and Friends,
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. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter is Here!

Our Dear Family and Friends,
Well, winter has really arrived here in Sweden.   We want you to know that we realize it is not nearly the winter you are having in Utah and Idaho, (maybe it is lucky we are gone), but it is winter for sure.  While we are seeing that Ireland is having a mild winter again--temperature sometimes at 55 degrees---we are getting a pretty good experience of what the Irish said we would:  cold temperature, snow and ice.   In early November, Stockholm had the biggest storm since 1911, but by the time we arrived, we thought maybe the warning of winter in Sweden was not much to note. 

However, this week we have had some quite stormy weather.  We decided we really needed to wash our car one day ($18 for the cheap one!) and by afternoon we had a full-on storm.  That night the windy blizzard kept us awake much of the night.  It was probably just unsettling to not know what we would be facing---as we did have an appointment early the next morning.  We have had some low temperatures, -19 degrees (ah yes, that is only Celsius--which is just below 0 F ---but doesn't it sound a little more like what you are getting?)  😊  And with all the snow that whirls around, we are only getting about 8 inches --but it is not melting at all yet.  The snow plows drop pebbly "sand", but salt is not considered environmentally friendly, so it is not used at all. 

The waterway is quite icy, but the ships continue to come up and down the channel.  One man told us they work to keep it open, but that he wouldn't ride a ferry or boat taxi in the winter because it is just too cold.  We will probably be finding out for ourselves how cold it is, because we are starting to plan a trip to Finland via a ferry at the end of the month.  It is much less expensive and we would have our car when we got there to do the traveling we need to do.  We have a bit to learn about how to best do this.  In good weather, it could be a great adventure, but we are not sure whether to arrange for a cabin even if the travel is all in one day. 

The fog is quite interesting to watch as it moves up from the channel onto the land, and the sound of the ship fog horn is deep and low.  You almost don't notice the sound at first, but then it makes us feel so blessed to be safe inside and not having to be traveling without the ability to see what is ahead.  It made us reflective of how the Gospel is also a way of traveling safely through life for us.  When we can't see what is ahead in our lives, we know that we have a Prophet and scriptures to help us stay away from danger and trouble.  Their repeated steady voice is a comforting guide that we are grateful for.

We have come to the realization that the countryside reminds us of upstate New York.  There are a lot of trees and rolling hills, and the roads are not nearly so busy as they were in Dublin.  One cold morning Grandpa looked out to see a young father not be able to start his car.  He went out to see if he could help, but then the Grandparents came and picked up the children, and they weren't too worried about the car since it was old.  I would be fun to be able to share the gospel with a family in our apartment building, but we are not getting the perfect opportunity yet. 

This week we have had a few meetings that gave us a bit more momentum with our work. One important meeting was with the Stockholm South Stake SR Committee.  They were a very complete committee, and are doing what they understand is Self Reliance, but they have not seen the full Initiative.  It is going to be a little harder to get them to ramp up when they feel good about what they do, than it was to get Self Reliance started in Ireland.  They were very inclusive of us though, and we feel they will be able to expand their efforts when they see the many ways that SR can bless the Saints.  These socialist countries have given the people a feeling of security with health support and a form of job security, but there is reason  to think that with the unsteady economics beginning, especially in Finland, that it cannot last. Sweden's tax rate is 71% and an increasing number of young people think that with that high of a tax rate, they may as well let the government be their full means of support.  It is interesting that, even when the government takes care of "everything," it is hard for many Swedish families to make ends meet because of all the taxes they pay.    

Another meeting was with the Mission President and his wife to see if they are interested in having us start a returning missionary training program.  They were very excited about it and want us to get it going right away.  We had thought that since we are in the Mission Home city we could just teach one big session to the "returnees" when they come in to go home, but the President felt there was just not enough time and wants to arrange 1/2 day trainings in the working areas.   We will do that for the time being and then pass the training materials on as we did when we left Ireland.

On Thursday, we met with our District downtown.  It is a good group of young missionaries and they are sincere about their work.  We took lunch for them for after the meeting, but it is not as easy or good as having it right near our house, but they still appreciated it.  Since we were out and would need to be right by the Temple for an evening meeting, we decided to go to the Temple in the in-between hours, but we got an invitation to join the Elders for a teaching appointment because the man was looking for work and they wanted us to meet him and set up to help him.   We didn't make the temple, but that is okay since it is just available for us if we don't have a lot else to do. 

It was fun to have a gospel teaching time again with an investigator. When we went into his house he first asked us if he could get us a drink of juice or water.  While he was out getting the drinks his roommate came into the room.  To the surprise of everyone, the roommate was a man they had met on a train that very week, but had not settled on a time to meet him.  So here they were, sitting in his house ready to teach his friend!   He was getting ready to go to work, so he could not join the lesson, but of course a time was set up for them to meet in the next two days.  It is just amazing how carefully orchestrated the work of the Lord is.  In all the masses of people in Stockholm, this just could not have happened by coincidence!

At church we met another investigator who is looking for work.  He is from Syria and has a lot of  experience and work skills, but doesn't have great language skills.  He has been looking for jobs as everyone says to, by checking the internet---with no success.  We met with him for an extra hour after the block and started teaching him some Job Search skills and he was thrilled.  He could readily recognize that there is significance in the method we taught him and he was so happy and grateful.   The missionaries were also there and loved it too.  They went home and shared the good news with others and already we are getting contacts from others who want help. 

It is fun to meet new missionaries and feel their love of the Gospel.  In Church we heard a great talk by one of the Elders that we think might help you older Grandchildren.  He was assigned to talk about the blessing of seminary in his life.  He admitted that he was not proud of what he had done with his seminary experience and how he wishes he had been better.  He said he went to seminary to keep his parents happy, but now he can see how much he missed by often sleeping and playing with his phone.  He is a really good missionary now, but when he finds it hard to prepare for teaching, he knows it is because he did not use his time well to gain the knowledge that would help him now and later in his life. Knowledge is one thing that no one can give us.  It is one of the parts of agency.  We have to get it for ourselves and build continuously to have the strength that becomes an armor of protection for us.  Even now on our mission we know we have to keep studying, and we encourage you as teenagers to use your time and study the scriptures and gospel everyday. 

Looking ahead, we are excited about traveling north this week to Sundsvall, Sweden to meet with the President of the District there.  His District is 57% of the geography of Sweden.  We hope to be able to find one of Dedee Dalebout's Swedish relatives on the way, depending on the weather, etc.  We also are traveling to Norway this week for a meeting there.  We decided not to drive because the 10 day forecast was not good and we don't know what to expect with the roads for our first time.  It is about an 8 hour drive, but a much shorter flight.  Still we will have to stay overnight.  In all, as we said, we are picking up momentum, and hope that we can make a difference as we learn more and share what we have learned so far.  

We groan with you Grandchildren as you have to go back to school after such a fun Christmas vacation.  We loved hearing of all the fun things you did during the holidays.  The holidays are very big with the Swedish.  They have repeated reasons to celebrate and still had one more holiday last Friday.  January 6 is called Three Kings Day and school doesn't start until after that.  We called one SR specialist this week to check on a time to meet with their stake and she said the holidays are not over until Monday Jan 9th.  Wow!  Well, we know getting back to school or work is hard whenever it happens, so keep smiling and  stay healthy!  We love each of you and hope you will write when you have a little time.

We still feel so blessed to be on this mission.  This is an interesting experience for us to "start over" in a sense, but it makes us realize even more that the Gospel is true everywhere.  As in Ireland, we are meeting some wonderful, devoted saints who are staying true to their beliefs in spite of their challenges.  We are so anxious to be the Lord's instruments in helping people be their best and lay claim to the privileges that are in store for them. 

We send much love and warm hugs!
Love Grandpa and Grandma,
Dad and Mom,
Lynne and Lanette
Aldste and Syster
The winter view out of our window.  This is our "Lego Village" with the train.  Can you see it?

Another view from our window.  The ferries continually come to and from the channels (out of sight) at the top of the picture and go up the channel to the right.

Happy New Year!


Monday, January 2, 2017

Greetings from Sweden

Dear Family and Friends,
Wow, you are saved!  Just when you thought you couldn't read anymore routine letters, we got a change of assignment with new language and culture, new mission and ward people, new house and scenery, and new effort to serve.   We hardly know where to start with all that we have experienced this week---so maybe chronologically will do.

We flew out of Dublin on Thursday morning--which now seems like a few weeks ago.  Getting ready to go was, to borrow the cliché, was a real whirlwind!  We made our last trip to visit the small, most remote branch on Monday.   We were tired by that point, having been up and down, and east and west, (and more) all within the week.  We arrived in time to have dinner with the Knight family and to have a little early evening Christmas with the children   We had another graduation "ceremony" for them and then stayed the night at their home. 

The next day we got back home in time to prepare for a YSA SR class that we do a light dinner for and then loaded up with Specialists and drove out to Bray for a nice dinner meeting.  Our manager from England wanted us to get the Dublin group leaders together to meet him and help the transition to go more smoothly--but he got tied up with travel delays and missed his ferry, so we ended up just going ahead with a nice dinner and less meeting.  That was a fun night for us and we appreciated even more the strength and testimony of the great people we had worked with.

Wednesday was a blur of pressure to finish off details but we felt lucky that the day would end with a triple baptism.   We felt like we could get everything done, but mailing the package home to prevent overweight luggage was a crazy time.  First we thought the UPS rate would be best, but got to a UPS place that didn't ship--just a business office.  Unfortunately, it was far out of the way and the hour was getting close to closing times, so we then decided to do the Post.  That meant payment had to be cash because our bank account was now closed and we had to also find an ATM.  In all the rush we thought we lost Grandma's phone!  We prayed, drove a long ways back, didn't find the phone and then when sad reality was at its best, we found it!  Things like this happen to everyone--and usually when it will be least convenient, but yes, Heaven was watching over us and the phone had fallen into the purse (didn't ring because of a dialing problem.)  Bottom line was that we had felt pressure at the start of the day, but had a sweet assurance that things would be in His hands.  Even though we panicked for awhile, we really loved that feeling of divine help.  It is always hard to re-tell a "tender mercy" very well,  but we want to share it to let you know that we love knowing that the Lord cares about the little things, especially when we are facing a lot of bigger things ahead now. 

So we were late for the Baptism, (but not as late as someone who was speaking) which meant we were basically on time and were able to get the last minute arrangements for food made, and enjoy the sweet spirit of the occasion.  One of our dear investigator friends came special to see us and say good-bye.  After the baptism, we also went out to say good-bye to our friend Nick.   It is hard to know that we may not see these people again, but we have loved watching them feel the Spirit and hope they will be able to act on those personal blessings. 

After a very late night of finishing the packing, cleaning, washing etc. we did make our early flight without any problems.   Fortunately, we were given a little over-allowance on the luggage weight because we had so much to bring.  Flying out we felt a real sentimental love for Ireland as we looked out the plane window at the green patches of farmland laced together with the quaint brown hedges.  We flew first to London, then had about a 3 hours flight to Sweden.  All the fuss about getting a visa for Sweden was funny because we had the shortest entrance ever coming into the country.  

After we picked up our luggage and left the secure area we didn't know who to expect would meet us, but we certainly didn't dream that it would be such a big welcome!  It was not just one nice set of missionaries--but three, with one of them being the Mission President and his wife.  They "always meet their missionaries" and we were not exempt even though we are just transfers.  We all stood behind a big Swedish flag and had our picture taken.    After a bit of introductions and welcomes, the President left and we were then swooped off by the two couples to go to dinner.  It was a fun afternoon, evening topped off with them bringing us all the way out to our new apartment. 

We live now on an island (Stockholm is a series of 14 islands) called Lidinga--which sounds more like Lydia.  It is an especially nice area and has a gorgeous view.  We live on a hill on the 6th (top) floor and overlook what seems like a Christmas village.  The view is of a beautiful bay that has frequent big ferries running.  A little commuter train winds its way along the snowy valley and the hillsides have a lot of evergreen trees on them.   Since we are so far up, we can leave our blinds and drapes open and watch everything. 

The senior couples that brought us to our apartment were responsible for acquiring and preparing it and did such a fabulous job.  We have been spoiled now!  Not only is the bath nice, with enough water pressure and enough hot water, it has heated floors and a heated  towel warmer rack.  It is a brand new remodel for the bathroom and also has enough light.  The house is much larger than our Irish house and nicer.  It has a separate office off the kitchen, a dining area,  and a big sitting room.  Throughout  the whole house they furnished it with brand new IKEA furniture and furnishings.   They painted the old cupboards and have it looking so fun.  We have new living room furniture,  drapes, rugs, clocks,  dishes, pans, towels, bed and bedding.  They even gave it the special touch of cute décor---and a Christmas tree.   It is so clean and nice we feel like we are almost in a model IKEA  home.  

We slept so well that first night and it hasn't taken us long to get unpacked and settled.   We really have most things we need, but did run into a little glitch with plugs.  We have a set of plug adaptors but didn't think about them not working to convert Ireland system to Sweden system, rather than USA to Europe.   With not enough time to go looking to buy an adaptor, Grandma was resourceful and used the vacuum vent for a hair dryer.

On Friday we were taken back to the mission office and got our car and some help to get set to be independent.   We had changed our GPS  Garmin to Scandinavia, so we are comfortable getting around.  With so many islands, we are often in underwater tunnels when we drive, but they are nice and well lit.   We ventured off to a nice big mall and grocery store and tried to find things we recognized for food.  The prices are quite a bit higher here for food since the majority of Sweden is rock.   The idea that everyone speaks English is nice, but canned and boxed foods don't speak at all, and the labels are in Swedish.  We didn't do so well the first time because the store was so crowded and we felt like we were in the way, but our second time to shop was much easier and we even were stopped by a lady who saw our tags and introduced herself as the Bishop's wife!   She helped us find a few things and of course was so kind.  (Tender mercy again.)

Friday night  (Grandma's birthday and the Mission President's wife's birthday ) we joined all the Mission couples for a Christmas dinner night out, and Saturday morning we all got together again at the Mission Home for a short meeting about doing apartment checks for young missionaries and the President gave us some time to present a little about what we are doing.  There are about 1/2 as many couples here as the Scotland/Ireland Mission, so we may not get as much help with SR but it was fun to meet them.

 After the meeting we all went downtown to the Christmas market booths for a few hours.  It is a funny coincidence that when we came to the Scotland-Ireland Mission we did the very same thing in Scotland on our second day.  It was held in the square of the oldest part of downtown Stockholm, so we saw some really great old architecture, narrow cobble walking streets and lots of quaint shops.  After some very cold shopping time, we all went for authentic Swedish meatballs in a very old restaurant.   That made 3 days and 3 nice meals out in a row!   So fun.

Sunday, we found our way to the Church which met at 2:00 p.m.,  because surprisingly, there are two wards to the building.  The people were very nice, but the idea that there would be headphones was not quite right.  We will need to set that up for ourselves, so we just smiled, tried to stay awake and sang in Swedish.  They even asked Grandma to lead the singing in RS which was quite different.  She didn't know whether to sing English, nothing, or get her face in the Psalmer.  In all, the people were as nice as possible and we made it through our first Sunday.

Next week we will send you a funny words list, so Grandkids get your brains ready to think--or learn Swedish this week with us.  We can see a lot of hidden similarities to English when it is written out, but spoken, the language is hard for us.  In Ireland the language was tricky, but the written Native Irish language was always subtitled in English.  Here are no subtitles, just very long words with no hidden clues. 

Coming up this week we are going to help with kitchen work for a funeral, serve at a homeless shelter and have a real SR meeting with some leaders--so we hope we can get in the swing of serving again.  We know that serving will make us happier than anything else.

We have had some great experiences this week, all of which have served to strengthen our testimonies even more.  We have seen firsthand, once again, the Gospel in action in very diverse situations, but always with the same rock-solid foundation of doctrine and faith in Jesus Christ.  It really doesn't matter the language - English, Swedish, Portuguese, Spanish - the feeling is the same when the Holy Ghost bears witness of the truth.  We heard a young lady speak in church today, and even though we didn't understand a single word, we could feel the strength of her testimony.  The same glow attends worthy Saints and Missionaries wherever they are.  Despite difficulties, the same desire to be better and serve God prevails.  It is an amazing thing.  It is a marvelous experience to see prophecy fulfilled as the Kingdom spreads to all parts of the world.  We are just so grateful to be a small part of a very big dispensation in which the primary goal is to prepare the Church to meet the Savior.  He loves His saints, and will provide for them, and is anxious for their happiness, even in very distressing times. 

We send our love and prayers your way.  We would very much like to be with you, but are grateful to be on this mission.  We wish you the happiest of Christmases and a wonderful holiday season. 

Much love,
Grandma and Grandpa
Mom and Dad
Lynne and Lanette
Elder and Sister Pettit
Eldste and Syster Pettit   

What a great welcome to Sweden!  From the left:  Elder and Sister Clouse (office couple), President and Sister Beckstrand of the Sweden Stockholm Mission, us, Elder and Sister Anderson (housing couple)

Old Town Christmas Market, central Stockholm.  We enjoy the different colored buildings.

Changing of the Guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm

This is the view from our apartment.  The ferry is coming in from points east (Helsinki, Russia, Germany?)

No hair dryer with the proper plug means you have to use the vacuum exhaust to get the job done,

Now there's a sandwich!  Traditional Swedish food served at a funeral.

Dad and Elder Anderson hanging a coat rack in the newly-refurbished apartment.

Christmas Eve at the home of Victoria and Anders Carlssen.  Anders is reciting the Nativity Story to the children (in Swedish, of course).  On the table is the traditional Glogg, that is served warm before the meal.  What a beautiful setting in a beautifully-decorated house!

Carlssen family on Christmas Eve.  Notice, again, the Nativity and the Glogg.

Carlssen family again.

The table is set for Christmas Eve dinner.  How beautiful!  Notice the windows and the view.

In the kitchen, where the food is being prepared on the stove on the left, and put on the bar to the right.  All kinds of yummy meats, fish, dressings, bread, cheese, etc., etc.

Look at all that food!

Another ferry coming up the inlet in front of our apartment.


Wrapping Up Ireland

Dear Family and Friends:

     This week's letter might be a little shorter because things are getting crazy around here as our move approaches on Thursday.  We feel rushed to get everyone visited that we would like to, as well as wrap up some last-minute Self-Reliance details.  We really don't mind the rush, though, as we have had so many wonderful experiences this week with our friends here.
     After the Monday trip to Galway to visit with our friends the Currans (the branch Self Reliance specialists), we held our last English class.  So many students have already gone home for Christmas, so we only had 3 in attendance, but we had a relaxed, fun time with them.  We realized how fun this English class has been over the months, and hope that it will be a means of bring some of the wonderful young people we have met into the Church.
      Tuesday morning found us in District Meeting, and it was such a wonderful thing to watch these young Elders and Sisters show their love and concern for their investigators.  The meeting was centered around finding ways to move investigators toward baptism, so each set of missionaries listed their current investigators on the board and the group discussed ways that we might help each of them.  It was very touching to see how the missionaries really cared about each investigator and how much they wanted them to enjoy the blessings of the Gospel.  To see such charity from these missionaries truly affected us.  The meeting ended with one of the sister missionaries suggesting that we all fast together the next day for these people.  We feel very strongly about the power of united fasting and prayer, and we are confident that many of those we discussed will be baptized.  The mission is well on its way to reaching its goal of 360 baptisms this year, which is a miracle in itself.  We are grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of what is happening.
      Tuesday evening was our YSA Job Search class (no institute tonight.)  The class started off on shaky ground with very few people, but they started coming in late, and we had a very nice group about halfway into the class time.  What is most important, however, is that they started to catch the vision of how they can work together as a group and how the material can really bless their lives.  Sarah is the newly-returned missionary who is facilitating the class, and she made the extra effort to come in spite of being in the middle of moving.  Her sacrifice is a real example to the others, and we feel very good about leaving the class in her hands.  If this class could work, we feel that it would be a great blessing to the YSA.  After class, Sarah had a meeting with the Stake Presidency and was called as the Stake YSA Leader.  She will do an absolutely wonderful job, and we are excited about it, especially because of her feelings about Self Reliance. 
     Wednesday morning we got up early and drove to Nick's (Romanian perpetual investigator!) so we could put some birthday decorations (and cake) in his apartment while he was at work.  The landlady let us in, and we had fun doing something so that he wouldn't feel forgotten on his birthday.  When he got home from work he was so surprised and called us right away.  He was so appreciative, and told us over and over again how much it meant to him.  We asked him again how soon he felt he could be baptized, and he replies that he wasn't ready yet.
      In the afternoon we drove to Limerick, with a visit along the way to the house of the former Self Reliance Specialist, with whom we worked when we first got to Ireland.  His house is way out in the country over some narrow roads, but we really wanted to see the new addition he just put on his house.  He was so proud of it and so excited to have us see it that we were glad we went out of our way.  They seemed to really appreciate our visit and fed us lunch.  We feel like it was meaningful to them that we would be interested enough in their project to take the time to come see it, and express our appreciation for what they did to help us as we were first getting started.
     From there we drove that last 45 minutes to the Limerick chapel to hold a Career Night for the Young Men/Young Women.  We were surprised at how many came (14), and we feel like the presentation went well.  It was the first time we have given this presentation that was developed by our boss specifically for the Youth.  It consisted of a fun career-choice activity and some instruction, and they seemed interested.  If we have a chance to give it again in Sweden, we will refine it and hopefully it will be meaningful for the youth, who have to make school/career choices so early here in Europe.  Because it was so late when we got through, and we were so tired, we just stayed at a hotel in Limerick and drove home in the morning, which is something we haven't done very often.
     Thursday evening we were able to join the Sister Missionaries in teaching Valerie, who is a golden investigator from Mexico.  She asks the most searching questions, and really wants to know about the Gospel, but she is reluctant to get baptized for a very interesting reason:  she is worried that having to go to church on Sunday will take away from the time she can spend with her extended family.  She is very close to her family (especially her grandmother) and Sunday is the only day she can spend with them.  How would you help her through that problem?  We would be interested in your answers. 
     Thursday night was a YSA Family Home Evening with treats and games on the Wii.  Not overly well-attended, but it was nice to be with them one last time.
     Friday morning we were up early to clean the church.  The cleaning closet was in such bad shape that we bought some new supplies and really gave it a good cleaning.  We felt like we contributed at least a little to making the building look better.  There is lots more we could do, but not enough time.
     Friday night we invited our good friends the Keoghs and the Coles over for dinner, and we had such a fun night eating, talking, and playing games.  Mom taught them "9's", Fruit Basket, and Speed Scrabble.  It was interesting to be involved in a political discussion after we introduced the concept of a "Trump" card!  Oh boy!  We exchanged gifts and hugs.  We are going to miss these wonderful people!
     Saturday morning found us on the road to Portadown in Northern Ireland where we put up a display for SR for a ward anniversary open house.  We were very happy to have it shared there and there seemed to be good interest.  This is one area that is just getting ready to start SR--but we have trained the senior couple there and they are excited to bring it to the saints in that area.  We had some meetings with the leaders and in all it felt like a success.
       As quickly as we could, we got on the road back to the Dublin Stake to attend a ward Christmas party where Grandpa was able to be Santa's helper.  It was so fun to see how excited the Children were to see Santa.  Grandpa did a few minutes of sharing the important symbolism of Santa as a reminder of the Savior and it made it all even more special.  We really love Santa--and he does bring us closer to the real meaning of Christmas if we think about it.  We hope you will al think about it.
       Our last Sunday in Ireland was spent in another small branch on the West coast of Ireland where we were able to do a graduation presentation for those who had just finished a course.  We have spent  a lot of time with this group, so again we were blessed with special feelings for them.  We also spoke in Church---with the Mission President since we were all (surprise) there at the same time.  
         After we got back to Dublin, we visited our friend Nick who was having some serious back pain.  We were able to bring the missionaries with us and gave him a blessing--which we feel was a tender mercy path for him to connect with them before we go.   And later we were lucky to have our good friends Carlos and Priscila (Carlos the first baptism we had in Ireland) come and visit us.  We had hoped to be with them when they go through the temple in February, but we were just grateful for them and the way they have grown so much in the gospel since Carlos was baptized.   Looking back on these people as blessings in or lives is sweet--but makes it  harder to leave them. 
         Now we roll around to Monday again---today.  We are making our last trip out of Dublin to visit one last small branch family and their group who has also just finished their course.  We will do another graduation evening and then spend the night at their home.  (They insist and we don't have the heart to decline.)   In all, we will feel like w have completed some circles, not just around the island, but with the completion of groups that had a hard time getting started, but have finished with victory and blessings. 
           We reflect so often on the many  times on the many ways the Lord blesses us.  Things don't always turn out perfectly---not everyone gets baptized and not every ward or branch has magnificent success, but we are seeing the Lord's work prosper and bless many lives--including our own.  We really hope you can feel our love for the Lord, for the people of Ireland, and for you our dear family and friends!   Love is what matters, and like a beautiful gift that was given us says, "The heart that loves is always young"----we know that in truth, it is the key to Eternal Life! 
           Finally speaking of Eternal Love, we want to recognize the Anniversary of Great Grandpa and Grandma Godfrey--Their 70th!!!!   It is another event we wish we could attend, but we joyfully celebrate with them in our hearts.   They have been a wonderful example of teamwork and love.  They have shared their unity with all the family and continue to be an inspiration to us.  We honor them for all they are--together.
          We leave for Sweden in 3 days.---much to do until then!  
           We hope your days are full of Christmastime joys.  Hugs to ALL!!
Grandpa and Grandma,
Dad and Mom
Elder and Sister Pettit
Lynne and Lanette
In front of our "flat" on the morning we left for Sweden.  A lot of memories here!

The Sisters took us to the airport in Dublin to send us off. 

Ireland is green, even in December!

We have lots of memories of the "Emerald Isle"