Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Made it to Sweden and Letter from President to My Parents



26 July, 2014

Dear Brother and Sister Israelsen,

We met your son, Elder Jacob Owen Israelsen, this past week as he arrived in Stockholm, Sweden. It has been a delight to become acquainted with him.

Upon arrival, he was taken into the city of Stockholm for immigration paperwork. He then went to the Church’s Young Single Adult Center, located in the heart of Stockholm, for a light lunch, training, and contacting in the streets of Stockholm with an experienced missionary.  After orientation at Täby Chapel on the Sweden Stockholm Mission policies and procedures, Sister Beckstrand and I invited him and his MTC group for a light dinner there at the chapel. I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time in an interview with your son. We concluded the day’s activities with prayer and your son retired for the evening at the nearby Scandic Hotel.

The next morning, your son attended an early Swedish Breakfast Buffet at the Scandic Hotel.  He then departed the hotel for the nearby Täby Chapel where the Assistants, Sister Beckstrand and I provided training.  After a Testimony Meeting, a Swedish luncheon was served after which the new elders and their companions travelled to their assigned area in the Mission.

Elder Israelsen and Elder Mats Held will serve together in the Örebro I area of the Sweden Stockholm Mission. I would like you to know I have experienced some of my most tangible moments of revelation in the assigning of companionships.  I know your son and Elder Held will learn much from each other, and together they will be edified as they labour valiantly, with full purpose of heart and obedience, in the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Attached is information on the mailing address for letters and packages. This information will help your packages arrive in a timely manner.  Please share this mailing address information with relatives and friends that may be writing or sending packages. Traditionally, Preparation Day is held on Monday in the Sweden Stockholm Mission. This is the day you can expect to receive an email from your son. We encourage you to also communicate weekly with your son as correspondence from home can be a great source of faith and support for this sacred work in which he is engaged.

I bear my witness that this is the work of our Savior Jesus Christ, and it is a sacred responsibility to wear his name above my heart. I am grateful for all you have done to prepare your son and for the sacrifices you have made and are making to support him as he continues in his labors. May our Heavenly Father’s most generous blessings be with you and yours.

With respect and kind regards,

James E. Beckstrand
James E. Beckstrand, President

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Travel Plans! Family, Teaching and an Heirloom Tie?

HEJ what is going on?!

So this week has been pretty insane first of all we got our travel plans on Friday!!!!! Hopefully everything is good with everyone's visas (cross your fingers). So we get up at 4:30 and go to SLC. We have a flight at 9:50 to Minneapolis. We land about 1:30 and have another flight at 3 to Amsterdam so that's way cool I'll be in the land of Megan for about an hour. We fly from there to Stockholm and arrive around 8:50 in the morning. I have to say that is going to be one long day because we can't sleep while we are there I'm sure there will be plenty of people to stammer to and not understand.... I'M WAY STOKED.

I got all of the letters from the family reunion and I just want to say thank you to everyone!!! Those were awesome and they totally made my week I wish I could have been there at the reunion but I guess I have a pretty good excuse this time :) It sounds like everyone had a blast and the "You know you're an Israelsen when..." lines were pretty dang true I love it. I'm super grateful to have the fantastic examples in my family, and it's amazing how many people showed their faith in doing things that are far harder than I have ever had to do. Our choir sang true to the faith during the devotional on Tuesday. It was one of the coolest things because I realized how many people had to exercise amazing faith for me to be where I am right now. There has been a big push for family history in missionary work recently and it's because our family and what they have done is so influential in our life. It just made me realize that this is the time to show our faith and let our family and our future family see our example in whatever we choose to do. On that note if anyone can send me stories about ancestors they think are really cool that would be awesome we just got a big lecture on using our family history during our missions so that would be way awesome.

Where's your companion Elder?
So a pretty cool thing happened this week as we were teaching that really strengthened my testimony especially on the Holy Ghost. Elder Archibald and I were teaching our teacher (who was an investigator he taught on his mission). We didn't really know where to go we thought that each lesson we planned was going to be awesome and exactly what he needed but we felt like he wasn't really getting it i guess. So we prayed about it and he loves the Book of Mormon so we went in there prepared to teach him about some of our favorite scriptures and how they connect to Christ. He threw us a curve ball and said that he just broke up with his girlfriend and he never really grew up with any sort of real happiness and we had talked about the atonement briefly and he asked how Christ could help him. While my companion bore his testimony I felt like I really needed to talk about Alma the Younger's story and I went through like 6 verses and taught him about his story and related stuff back to him and I don't even remember half of what I said. I realized this week that it really isn't me whose teaching. It's the Holy Ghost. There is no way that I can teach these people convincingly with the amount of Swedish I know or even if I was teaching in English. No one in their right mind is going to want to join this church without the witness of the Holy Ghost. I also know that Heavenly Father really is looking out for all of us even when we are teaching fake investigators and we can be given the things we should say in the moment we need them.

Heirloom Tie?
I got the package from Kenna and Jacob and Riley thank you!!! The ugly ties have been a good time and my favorite is the hot pink one. (I convinced a sister that it's a family heirloom from my great grandpa who went to Thailand) I kinda feel bad but she thinks it's the coolest thing ever so I don't want to hurt her feelings now... haha. I also said the F-word in Swedish during a lesson this week I conjugated "recieved" wrong and that's apparently what came out of my mouth... I guess it's better that it happened here than when I get out in the field right? Anyway, I love and miss all of you! I can email again on Saturday so if you have any questions or good jokes or whatever I would love to hear them! Oh and P-day will be on Monday's from now on.

den här kyrkan är sann!!!
Jag älskar dig
Äldste Israelsen

Monday, July 14, 2014

Retro Monday! All the way back to June 18! This didn't post right so it is out of order. Loser Mom!

Min Familij och friends!!! (I don't know how to spell friends in Swedish sorry)

This week has been one crazy thing after another. I feel like the MTC is talked about and kind of shrouded in mystery at the same time so let me enlighten you. You get to the MTC and pick up all of your books and study material and drop off bags and immediately go to a classroom where you will spend about 12-14 hours a day for the next forever. We study with a teacher for part of the day and with our district- which in this case is just our class- the other parts of the day. It's a lot of studying but I still feel like I don't have enough time to get everything done that I really need to. Oh yeah and literally on the second day (around 16 hours after you get to the MTC) you get the opportunity to teach an investigator who you teach every day except for Sunday and P-day. Honestly that first day was one of the more humbling experiences of my life because I had to teach this person from Sweden the gospel in the most simple form possible. It's definitely not easy but I actually understand most of what everyone says in Swedish and I can kind of respond at this point which isn't too bad considering I've been studying Swedish for a whole week now. 

The second day at the MTC we had to figure out the leadership in our zone because the day I arrived so did most of the zone I am currently a part of. So zones are by language and our zone has Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish with a total of 5 districts. They assigned me a district leader for now so we'll see how this goes. There's so many meetings and training sessions here and most of them are leadership so we'll know how to lead a district or a zone when we get into the "field." Elders and Sisters keep using that word like it's some mystical place that we'll never get to. 

One super cool part about being in the MTC is that there are devotionals every Sunday and every Tuesday and normally it's someone that has a ton of experience or has some sort of senior position in the church. On Sunday Sister Sheri Dew spoke to us and that was super cool. I have to say though, that the highlight of my day was when we listened to a talk after by Elder Bednar about the character of Christ. He is now officially the most intimidating apostle by far. Every new missionary has to watch this at least once and it was one of the best talks I think I have ever seen. He talked about how everyone needs to develop the attributes of Christ to truly become converted to the gospel. This is also the talk where he says that we should get a paperback Book of Mormon and write a question in it and read it cover to cover to get an answer. I was challenged to read the Book of Mormon before I leave the MTC so that's what I am working on right now and it is pretty amazing. The Book of Mormon is absolutely inspired and can give us answers to anything we're looking for. The holy ghost works through all scripture but especially the book of Mormon to give us revelation and answers to our questions and I love it!

Yesterday we had Elder Ballard come and speak to us. Listening to an apostle talk about our time and how missionary work is taking off like never before from the foundation of the Earth is pretty incredible. The spirit that he brought into the room was sooo strong and I know that these men are called from God. The spirit here at the MTC is really unlike anything else that you could think of. I have to say that the gift of tongues is real. We have learned way more Swedish and retained way more than we should be able to on our own. God is truly looking out for us and helping us in very tangible; noticeable ways. 

So my third companion went home yesterday so it's just me and Aldste Archibald now. I'm not sure why he left but he packed and went home before I noticed anything it was weird but I hope he's doing ok. Alright here's the funny thing that happened this week. So in Swedish the word for baptism and dope or drugs are only different in the way you pronounce the "o" in the word. So, when my companion and I were teaching about the priesthood power he wanted to say "I have the priesthood power to be able to baptize you" instead he said, "I have the priesthood power to give you drugs (specifically crack)." Someone was bound to do it so we had to clear that up with the investigator real quick haha. 

I love this gospel and even though I can only share it right now in broken Swedish I can't wait to share it with the people of Sweden!

Love you all! Oh and if you want to write in Dear Elder it's the fastest way at least in the MTC and I can write back through the mail during the week otherwise email is great but I just do that on P-days.

Aldste Israelsen (there's two dots over the "A")
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation given to everyone that believeth." Romans 1:16

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stayed Up Until 11!, Sister Carrie Underwood, Slightly Larger Swedish Vocabulary and Called to Be Zone Leaders


So this week was pretty much just one big giant blur.  So I guess I'll start with Friday.  We had our 4th of July celebration which we celebrated with a devotional because what's more fun that that? haha.  The devotional was way cool though.  I think most of them are almost like rallies to help strengthen everyone because most people are having a discouraging time at the MTC with learning languages or being away from home etc.  But it was really cool, he talked to us about how we truly were going to where we needed to at this time because Heavenly Father is hastening the work.  After that, we got to watch 17 Miracles and I swear everyone in the gym was crying (except for me because I don't cry - don't worry) and then after the movie the conductor got up and said that we could go watch the fireworks and he thinks that (quote) Sister Carrie Underwood is done with her concert in Provo.  That was the weirdest use of the word Sister that I have ever heard.  We just chilled after that outside in the parking lot and watched the fireworks and celebrated a little.  We were up till about 11 so I mean it was pretty much awesome!

Teaching is becoming something I absolutely look forward to even though we have to do it in our own language.  I've decided that part of teaching by the spirit is really listening to what they way and then after they are done speaking to try and figure out what you need to say.  At first, we listened to the first part of what our undersokare would say and just jump right on top of it with the answer which may or may not have been what he was looking for.  Now when I just listen and try to feel just a little more I feel like our lessons go much better and we help him grow closer to Christ which is what teaching people is all about.

I have a slightly larger Swedish  vocabulary so that helps when trying to answer questions without large gestures or playing charades.  Fast Sunday was this week which in the MTC was one of the coolest things ever.  I got to study almost all day and we went to a campus wide meeting from 10 to 12.  The MTC President got up and said that the First Presidency change their policy about investigators and instead of find, teach, baptize.  It's now find, teach baptize, retain, reactivate.  So we have to teach all 5 lessons before and after they are baptized and we have to stay really close as missionaries for at least 4 months but recommended as a year.  They are really focused on retaining people that come into the church which is super cool because I think some new converts get a lot of support and others really don't so the missionaries now have a big role in that.  So that was an awesome meeting.

For the Sunday Night devotional, we had Joshua Wright come and play for us and he is a pianist that has played in Carnegie Hall and he was amazing.  He played a combination of spiritual and non spiritual music and it absolutely blew everyone away.  I am super glad I got that have that experience.  The spirit is always super strong with music.  I love when we have good musical numbers in the MTC, it really is powerful!

My Comp. and I were made the Zone Leaders on Sunday and hopefully we can make some sort of difference with that.  There isn't a whole lot to do as zone leaders in the MTC except to make sure that everyone is getting used to the mission lifestyle and having a good time.  Probably one of my favorite parts of the week was getting to see Elder Anderson and his wife speak on Tuesday.  He talked a lot about the Spirit and how it communicates with us.  I think one of the biggest things that I took out of that meeting was that the Spirit is absolutely real and that we need to trust that gift as we live worthy to retain it and I'm so happy for the opportunity to build upon my understanding of the gist of the Holy Ghost and follow it more and more.  As we do this, Heavenly Father will bless us with more revelation and we just keep becoming better sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

Ok, I leave in a week and a half and I'm pretty much super excited and super not ready at the same time haha.  It's going to be a blast and I'm way excited just to go and try and share the spirit that I have with others and even though I won't speak the language very well, as long as I am a representative of Jesus Christ, I'll be alright.

Aldste Israelsen

P Day Washing and Letter Writing in the MTC!

July 2 Released as District Leader, MTC OJ, Swedish Flashcards, Bat and It Sounds Crazy, but I Want to Change the World!

P-Day MTC Breakfast and Hey Mom! I found my glasses!

Hej Alla!
So this week has been one giant blur. I swear days go by super slow and weeks just shoot by so fast you don't know what you did and didn't do. The conference ended last week for mission presidents so things around here have been calmer and it's gotten back to normal although we aren't super happy about that since all the general authorities were here. First of all, everyone always asks about the food and I'm going to be honest it really isn't that bad I haven't had any issues with it. It isn't my favorite but it's not awful either so I'm not complaining. (Also I've had the orange juice and nothing happened so either I'm a super human or there isn't anything wrong with it... I'd like to say it's the first but it's probably not). 

I was released as district leader this week (or rather, unassigned) because they rotate them around every three weeks and my companion is now the new district leader so it's cool to see him step up to the plate. Kris said her trainer was from Idaho and she was awesome and Aldste Archibald is an awesome missionary I'm really glad I was put with him in the MTC. If I had to describe our relationship I would probably put it almost like me and Rachel where we just quote a whole bunch of stuff and laugh a lot except a lot more focused. Sorry Rachel but if we were companions we would get exactly nothing done... 

So teaching investigators is really cool at the MTC Brother Bloomfield (who is one of our teachers at the MTC) like changes his whole demeanor and accent to turn into whoever we're teaching. So the end of last week we decided to teach him the restoration and I was going to recite Joseph Smith's first vision from memory in Swedish which was pretty intimidating. It was supposed to be a knockout lesson but He started yawning and nodding off and we weren't in there for more than 5 minutes! So I memorized Joseph Smith's first vision and said it and he was barely paying attention which was nuts. But, I'm sure that's something that happens a lot so he wants us to be able to know how to deal with it. We decided just to shorten the lesson and leave him with our testimonies. Later though we committed him to being baptized! But, then we realized how much we have to teach him and have him understand before he's baptized... haha. 

The Swedish is coming along really well I have flashcards with me constantly and we speak it as much as possible. However, My english is suffering, sometimes I'll say a sentence that has Swedish grammar and it makes absolutely no sense! Mom you would be horrified at some of the sentences I've put together recently at the MTC it's not even funny. But oh well I can remember that later right? I can only say simple things in Swedish but I've also decided that it's taught me so much about the gospel only saying the most basic things. The gospel is simple and I think we forget about that sometimes and we over complicate it. The gospel is amazing and absolutely simple at the same time. 

Excluding myself, my district is made up of the best missionaries at the MTC I'm pretty certain of that. We have district meetings and everyone has so much to bring to the table and I love that I can learn from everyone I bump into here and everywhere for that matter. 

On Tuesday we had another devotional and, during choir practice, there was a bat flying around the gym in the MTC. It was pretty awesome but there were some very frantic people trying to catch it before everyone showed up. The devotional was all about being disciples of Jesus Christ and how we should be converted to the Lord instead of converted to the church which I feel is so true. I've also thought about the role of agency and the Holy Ghost and how the Holy Ghost really can't work without agency. Without it he couldn't change the hearts of others and we wouldn't be able to have the spirit with us without the choices that we make. I love the fact that Heavenly Father has given us a guide that can be with us always. A quote that really stood out to me during the Devotional was, " It sounds crazy, but I want to change the world." That should always be my attitude while I'm out here. I really do love the MTC.

Love you all!!
Aldste Israelsen

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June 25 MTC Heavenly Father Cares About Everyone and Those Lips Were Made For Better Things Than Clarinet Playing!

Hey Everyone!

This week has been kind of crazy everything is starting to blur together and my weeks go from P-Day to P-Day so Wednesday is the beginning of the week and it's really throwing me off.  First of all, the Norwegian Elders were taught how to sing "Let It Go" in Norwegian so now that's all I hear in the residence halls which sounds pretty cool for the first 50 times or so.... after that it's not my favorite not going to lie haha. In other news, we have consistent gospel rap circles as well as pokemon tie battles and poorly sung renditions of Katy Perry singles in the showers. It's pretty cool. Oh and Aldste Higby said I'd make a pretty girl so I'm going to take that as a compliment and run with it haha.

All of the Mission Presidents have been receiving their training here this week so it's really crazy and the whole campus is on lock down mode.  However, I have seen some General Authorities around campus and the other day we saw President Uchtdorf and his wife get into a car and drive away waving at us. They have so much security though that we couldn't even try to get closer than 100 yards away it's intense. On Sunday, we had a giant sacrament meeting that I had the opportunity to pass for and there were so many people we needed 4 sacrament tables so it was an ordeal to try and get everyone the sacrament. 

Sunday night though was easily the best time! We had a devotional and the key note speaker was Janice Kapp Perry who has written most of the primary songs and she was absolutely amazing. She wrote new verses to "As Sisters In Zion" which you should all check out they are super cool and she made them specifically for the sister missionaries. So at one point the Sisters sang those verses while the Elders sang the Army of Helaman and the spirit was sooo strong I'm not sure I have felt it more than I did in that moment. Childresn's hymns are so simple and so powerful. Each of them teach simple doctrine of Christ and it brings the spirit faster than almost anything else I loved it. Ok, Quote of the devotional.

Janice Kapp Perry
She was talking about how her and her husband met and she said she was sitting in her clarinet class and sucking on her reed to make it ready for her solo. While she was doing that he leaned over and said, "I was thinking, those lips look like they were made for better things than clarinet playing." Right when she said that he got up in the middle of her devotional and this 80 year old man walks up and kisses her on the stand. Pretty much the funniest thing ever, and there's a new pick up line in case anyone was curious or running out of there own.  After the devotional on Sunday we watched a movie and this one was the life of Joseph Smith.  I wear I felt the spirit really strong 4 or 5 times in a row and by the end of the night everyone had  tears in their eyes (except for me... I don't cry:)).  Anyway, it's amazing to contemplate the faith and the trust that the early saints had in their testimonies of Jesus Christ and in Joseph Smith being a prophet of God.  It makes all of my trials seem a lot less signigicant.  

On Tuesday, we were blessed to have another devotional and the speaker wah Elder Christofferson and Elder Nelson, Oaks, Bednar, Anderson and Ballard were there as well.  We sang Praise to the Man as a choir and I swear most of those missionaries cannot sing at all but somehow wen it comes time to perform it;s some of the svest music I've heard or put together ever - it's incredible!  He spoke on the importance of souls and our worth is our capacity to become like God and since our capacity is infinite, so is our worth.  It was a fantastic talk and it was so good to hear from one of the illusive apostles that have been on campus hiding out with the mission presidents haha.  

On Monday, we were able to meet our Mission President which was one of the coolest things ever.  He's an awesome man and I can already tell there is so much that I am going to be able to learn from him.  He graduated from Utah State so we'll get along and he recognized my name and talked to me about Megan and their good friends that were her mission presidents.  It was really cool to talk to them and bear my testimony to them even if it was only for an hour.  

Lessons are getting easier but we also have more of them.  In the next couple of days, I have 5 lessons with differend people that Aldste Archibald and I will teach but it is the best way to imporve with Swedish even though it is probably the hardest.  Sometimes the work is incredibly frustrating but the language is definitely coming and I am so excited about going to Sweden even though I still have a month left.  

Ok, I'll share just one of the little miracles that happened this week.  So Monday, we get a new Sister from Aruba who is going to the Netherlands on her mission but since she is an international, she comes a few days early.  The sister training leader's are in our district so she's been staying close with them.  She had to go with the Japanese sisters to go do something during the Tuesday devotional and she tracked me down to make sure that the Sisters knew she was with the Japanese Sisters and that they would find her once we were done.  I assured her that they would and thought nothing of it.  After the devotional, we couldn't find her so the Sister Training Leaders said they would go look for her and Aldste Archibald and I went to our building (like we have a hundred times since we got here) to put our stuff away before dinner.  We walked up the stairs and she was right there and we were surprised but she was so happy we found her.  We went and got the sisters and she went with us to dinner.  When they came out of the building though she asked us why were in that building.  It took us a second but we realized that we weren't in our building but in some other random building without realizing it.  This isn't something huge but it was cool to realize how much our Heavenly Father cares about each one of us.  Even when we're just nervous or scared to be in a new place.  He looks out for each one of us and if we open our eyes to it we can notice little things He does everyday to help us along.  

I love you all and I lvoe this gospel!  I can't wait to share it with Sweden!  
Aldste Israelsen