Monday, November 30, 2015

One more picture

My family in Norway


Dear Fam,

It's been a crazy week of goodbyes and hellos. I arrived here safe and sound in Bergen on Friday, but before I get there...

Monday we threw together a mission turkey bowl! We got Oslo, Drammen, and Sandvika districts together and it was awesome. A frozen field and a bunch of Americans made for a pretty good memory. It's funny cause I did the exact same thing a year ago when I was serving in Kongsberg! 

We were able to meet up with a lot of members and investigators before I left. It's made me realize how close I've come to a lot of the people in Sandvika. Tuesday was especially memorable. We had two teaches set up with investigators that we were going to be teaching for the second time. The two lessons were back to back and we felt strongly that we needed to commit both of them to Baptism. One of them was a 18 year old Norwegian/Canadian hockey player and the other was a 25ish year old woman from Liberia (Yes, she knows B!). Both teaches went as smooth as we could have imagined. We taught to needs, read with them from the book of Mormon, and when the spirit was strong we committed them both to be baptized on a specific date! And...they both said yes! It was an especially cool experience with the 18 year-old because as we were teaching him at a table in the library there was a group of teenagers sitting in the background goofing off and being inappropriate. It was such a clear contrast of two different lives and it was impressive to see a young person searching for truth and answers. 

On Wednesday we had dinner with the member from Minnesota! She's the one we've done a lot of service for (pulling out roots, etc.) and it was cool to visit her and eat some WILD RICE SOUP! Didn't realize how Minnesotan that stuff is. 

We had a thanksgiving meal on Thursday with the Hills and a bunch of other missionaries. Super koselig. That evening I said a final goodbye to B. and the fam! Ate another dinner with the whole fam, bore some testimony, sang "God be with you till we meet again." It was tear-jerking and tough to say goodbye, but it was cool to reflect on all the miracles that have happened the last several months since I found him on the street that one day. I don't know what I did or what he did to lead to all these events, but I KNOW that the Holy Ghost was involved and that I know that because I have experienced hat is described in D&C 50: 22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoiceth together.
And to add to the sweetness, I got a call this morning that after 3 months of searching they finally recovered Benjamin's membership record number! Let's just say I started running circles around the church when Rolfson gave me the call. 

And then Bergen happened! Friday morning I headed over and joined up with my new comp Elder Osguthorpe! We've got another two elders living in our apartment: Elder Bleggi and Elder Sanchez! All three have been out less than 3 transfers making me older than all of them combined! Young missionaries are the best missionaries to be around, though, so I am way excited to be with them! There are two other elders and two sisters in the district as well. I feel so much energy, excitement, and potential in this city!!

Other things about Bergen. Bergen is the city of rain. It's been raining non stop since I've been here and I've already broke an umbrella! The ward is pretty big and eclectic like Oslo. Excited to work with a lot of less actives and to find investigators on investigators!

We've got two way cool investigators that we are working with right now. M., an incredibly prepared young Norwegian that was recently found. He keeps every committment about 4 times and keeps saying "I just want to be a good Mormon!" And we've got this other cool guy from Uganda named S. He loves the message and loves to jam out to Nearer my God to Thee with me on the piano :)

I've never felt more passion and excitement towards missionary work than I do now! There is nothing more important, nothing more meaningful, and nothing more satisfying. 

Wi gon si next week! 

Eldste Parkinson

Sandvika District

Lysfesten - They have a big Christmas tree lighting and firework show in Bergen!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Miracles and Surprises!

HEY Parkinson fam!

It's been an awesome week loaded with miracles and surprises. I'll hit you with the biggest surprise first...I'm moving to Bergen! The transfer doesn't end for another two weeks, but I'm going to be heading over there a few weeks early. I'm way excited!! I've been here over six months now and it's going to be weird serving in a different city with a diffrerent ward and different responsibilities. At the same time, though, I don't think there's any other way I'd rather finish my mission. I'll be serving in a way young district with a young companion (been out about 9 weeks) named Elder Osguthorpe! I'm way excited to go hard for the next 3 months out there! I'll be leaving on Friday. 

This week we had Zone Conferences! Tuesday we were in Stavanger, Wednesday in Trondheim, and Friday in Oslo. Fun to see all the missionaries, old companions, etc. All the meeting were awesome. We taught a section about using time wisely and raising our vision. We talked about the path of conversion and likened it to a flight of stairs. It's a hard path, but we've got the steps in Preach my Gospel and we've got members to help walk with them and give them a booster. The whole thing really helped me understand my purpose better as a missionary and to see the big picture of conversion instead of just focusing on the step of baptism. I can't really adequately explain myself sometimes haha but studying for and presenting this really got me passionate! 

Monday night we had dinner at B's house with his mom! I forgot to mention last week the reason that his mom was there in the first place. She was supposed to be taking a flight to Liberia the Friday before, but missed her flight! It was pretty devastating actually because she lost over 10,000 kroner on the flight. As a result she was staying with B. that week trying to put together money for a new ticket. It was powerful to hear some of their stories and experiences from the war. We said bye that night and left the next morning for the airport to travel to Stavanger! Thursday night we were driving over to visit B. and as I drive into the parking lot, I kid you not, I get a call from his mom who is at the airport waiting for her flight. She thanked us for everything and asked for the address to the church in Liberia and contact information for the Mission President, members etc. so that she could visit the church while she is there! It's interesting how you can't put a price tag on the joy that comes from the restored gospel. 10,000+ kroner hurts, but there is nothing so "exquisite and sweet" as the joy she felt and I felt on the phone that night. 

We had another sheep rescuing experience this week. This one goes way back to the beginning of the mission. Do you remember R.? R. was the first man I taught a lesson to in Norway. I remember it like it was yesterday; teaching him the restoration and inviting him to be baptized while sitting in the Tromsø church. Several months after that (a little after I left) Rogers was baptized. Although, not to long after that he fell away and nobody knew what happened to him. While in Trondheim for zone conference the sisters let me know that they got a hold of R. and said that he is living in Oslo and mentioned my name! I gave him a call and was able to meet with him on Saturday with a couple Oslo missionaries. Man, and that reunion as he walked off the Tbane at National Theatret was Epic! We taught him, the spirit testified, and he was excited to be reunited with the church. Definitely a moment I won't forget. 

We found some other awesome people this week. We started teaching this man from Croatia that we found on the streets a couple weeks ago. He just came to Norway and is trying to get on his feet, but loves everything about the church! We walked to church with him and he had a great time. There was another young Norwegian/Canadian that we started teaching this week as well! He's a big hockey player and has a had a really unusual life for a Norwegian 18 year-old. As he prayed at the end you could feel his sincerity and desire to receive a confirmation from the Holy Ghost. 

Thanksgiving is this week! We had a ward dinner after church to celebrate. I got to stand up and talk a little about what thanksgiving is and what our family would do to celebrate. Although most of the focus was on food it was a good reminder of the real meaning of thanksgiving: showing gratitude. It brought back memories of going around the big table and saying things we are grateful for. That simple exercise is such a good tool for changing attitude and softening the heart. Our croatian investigator can fit all of his things in one duffel bag and yet he is still a more grateful man than I am. 

I know God blesses us when we do all that we can. I saw time and time again miracles and tender mercies that were direct results of going hard until 9:00. Sometimes you meet hurdles, sometimes it's freezing outside and you forgot your gloves, but it is always worth the pain to find the one. It's hard because we always have to show our faith first. All we see is the hurdles at first. But God says, "Prove me herewith!" He is ready to bless us!

I hope you all have a great week! 

Eldste Parkinson 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lost Sheep Round 2

This week buzzed right by. First things first, a big shout out coming to David with the birthday this week!! 16 years young. Make it a good one!

Dear Family,

It has been an interesting week. We went up to Trondheim on Tuesday to work with Elders Corrigan and Phipps. It was a blast. A lot of awesome experiences finding prepared people. Trondheim is a cool city with tons of students from all over Norway. We focused a lot on extending bold and concise commitments. I've noticed that by committing with yes/no questions it forces people to actually commit to something instead of being wishy washy. People really struggle with committing to something that is different or foreign and helping them say "Yes" is so much better than "I'll check my schedule." It's kind of like when i say yes when someone asks me if I am going to finish my food. Any one of my companions knows that I won't leave till it's all gone :)

We have been spending time getting ready for Zone Conferences next week! We haven't really had a real zone conference for a long time. Elder Johnson visited, President Hill arrived, President Evans left, etc. A lot of "special event" meetings. It's going to be awesome to have a spiritual pump up and an opportunity to get united as a mission. 

Alright, so the miracle of the week goes once again to B. This story just keeps evolving and getting more and more awesome. First miracle event. I don't know if I mentioned this already, but B. has another daughter back in Africa and he has started telling her about the church. The other day he told us "I need the number of the mission president down there. She needs to be baptized!" So we got him some contact info and his daughter may be getting taught soon. We've been on a treasure hunt trying to get his membership information. He has a lot of different names which makes it hard. Miracle number 2: His mom is in town! She lives up in Harstad and was supposed to be taking a plane back to Liberia to visit family but missed the flight! Super sad, but as a result she is going to be at B's house until Wednesday! Turns out his mom was baptized with him back in Sierra - Leone! She was a primary teacher and started singing all the songs with us. "I am a child of God," "Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam." She told us her point of view of their fleeing from war, building the church, and being forced to flee again 4 years after joining the church. I couldn't help but think of the early saints of the church being forced to flee from the temple they had just built in Kirtland. I told her to write a story about her life so I could read it :) She is making us dinner tonight and we're going to try to get her membership info over to Norway and then convince her to move down south. I've even adopted the family last name and they call me "Parkinkoon" now haha. Love that family and love finding lost sheep. 

That's it for the week! Sorry it's short. After a mild fall it's starting to get cold. Time to start bundling up :)

Eldste Parkinson 

Some of the Saturday sport gang. I think it hit 0 degrees :)

Stake  Conference in Romerike -- Where's Waldo?

Monday, November 9, 2015



It's been a great week! The weather has gotten pretty nice and I keep forgetting I am in Norway. I don't know if it was the Minnesota in me, but I was in shorts and a tee-shirt playing fotball on Saturday!

We have introduced a new key indicator into the mission called "gospel conversations" as a way to encourage us to open our mouths. A gospel conversation is basically any time you teach a principle of the gospel, share testimony, and invite to act. It's something that is achievable anywhere we are and can be done in a very short period of time! Elder Rolfson and I have been having fun with it and it's been a great way to stay accountable for how we are using our time. 

I taught a guy in French this week! He speaks no english and no Norsk so it was cool to be of use. We had a quick gospel conversation earlier in the week and then we taught him on Saturday. It was a bit rough, but the spirit definitely helped! 

We had a couple investigators that we taught this week that are really struggling to read the Book of Mormon. They love to be taught, they love to hear about things we believe in, but they won't open the Book of Mormon and read it. Rather, they both decided to read "about" the Book of Mormon from various sources on the internet. And then, of course, that leads to misunderstanding and confusion. It's interesting this "information age" that we live in. There is SO much available to us on the internet, which is an incredible resource and benefit in so many ways, But at the same time, googling Book of Mormon will probably give you more information about South Park and musicals than what is actually about: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have been trying to focus lately on having quality personal studies. I've been thinking lately about how my mission has taught me tons about "living" and "sharing" the gospel. I feel like half of my letters I am talking about how much of a joy it is to serve others and live God's commandments. However, I think sometimes I overlook the principle of "learning." That is, our personal understanding of the Gospel through study. I've never loved the sound of the term "deep doctrine," but it is so important that we have a deep understanding of the doctrine. Deep roots, so that when winds, hail and storms beat upon you it will have no power over you. Lately I've been going slowly and deeply through Chapter 3 of Preach my Gospel where all the doctrines that we teach are. This week was the plan of Salvation and I read this boss talk from Elder Christofferson called "Moral Agency." So good. 

I'm trying to make it so my personal study is quality each and every day. It's interesting looking back on my personal studies from before the mission and it's evident that it was more about obedience than learning. Dad, for some reason I've had the image this week of you sitting at the kitchen table studying your scriptures and eating you oatmeal as I frantically tried to get ready for Seminary in 5 minutes or less (usually forgetting a trumpet, a basketball bag, or a school assignmnent in the process). Every single morning I saw that. It's cool to recognize your love for learning and it's no wonder your roots are so deep. 

I've building up my tolerance to hot food lately. Everything B. makes has Habaneros in it, even his spaghetti and scrambled eggs. It's so good, though! And I've gone down from like 10 glasses of water a meal to about 2. My latest favorite recipes are "Pepper soup," "spinach," and "okra." There was this other kind of powdery peanutty stuff that you eat like cookie dough and then it expands in your stomach when you drink water. Not sure what it's called, but I've started packing it for when we are out and don't get breakfast/lunch. Apparently they ate it all the time during the war. We were over there on my birthday and they sang an epic rendition of "Happy Birthday." Love 'em!

Thanks for all the Birthday wishes! Erik, I hope you had an awesome 20th as well! 

Eldste Parkinson

Out with the old...

In with the new!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Worth of Souls

WOW it's been a crazy one. It seemed like this week marked the end of an era in the mission. Over the last 4 transfers we've said goodbye to 3 very large groups of elders (a few extended). Most all of these elders graduated High School the same year as me, so I've seen them all as some of my best friends/peers in the mission. After each transfer there's always been another group getting ready to go home so it was weird for that pattern to come to an end. Even weirder is that my last two companions were among these groups! Those two guys really enriched these these last 6 months here in Sandvika and we went through a lot together. President Hill often describes love as "what you have been through together" and that totally rings home for me. I love my companions!

Having a missionary companion is a unique experience. All day every day, 24/7, you are with the same person except for when you are on the toilet or in the shower. It's evident to me that my love and appreciation for the opportunity to serve with all these companions has grown so much over the course of my mission. I think it's helped that I've started to appreciate companions as souls in the same way that we are trained to look at investigators/members as souls. As missionaries we're out laboring day after day to bring souls to Christ and I think sometimes we can be guilty of only focusing on the souls that have been baptized over the last year, when really there are 90 other souls serving a mission in Norway and 10-15 that you will get to serve with as a companion. I've learned so much from the examples of and experiences with other missionaries.

 "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" (D&C 18:10).

In Priesthood meeting yesterday we were talking about self-reliance and welfare in the church. Benjamin raised his hand and told about his experience back in Sierra Leone when he first found the church. In the beginning they would meet under a tarp out in the Jungle every Sunday for meetings! Eventually, they received supplies from the church to start building an actual church building. It was cool as he described the balance of the church providing means and resources while also teaching the principles of hard work and self-reliance as they were taught how to build cement blocks, etc. In time, they also received boxes of church clothing and food from Utah and he described the joy when he received a pair of dress shoes that he could wear to church. It made grateful for the emphasis the church puts on helping those in need and gets me passionate about dedicating my life to service and humanitarian work.

Other things this week...3 new missionaries arrived! They all arrived in one group and things went pretty smoothly with moves. It's nice having another companion that can drive now and it enables me to co pilot to the airport as Rolfson gets familiar with the area. He's a stud by the way. He's big, athletic, spiritual and loves getting PASSIONATE about missionary work. Mmmmmm

It was pretty tear jerking visiting Benjamin and Fam for the last time before Elder Allen left. It was exactly 12 weeks ago (The Saturday after Allen arrived) that we found him. Their family has been the highlight and joy of those 2 transfers. We went over and surprised them with a song we wrote the night before to the tune of "Hallelujah." They left their piano at a friend's in Oslo, but Rolfson was on the guitar and Benjamin was on the drums! It was epic! At the end we all improvised by singing the chorus "Going to UTAH....Going to Utah...Going to Utah." It was memorable. The first recording didn't work, but Watta got half of it on the re-run (singing was pretty off in that one haha) but I'll try to get it to you.  

That's about it. I love you all back home! I'm hitting the big 20 this week. Never going to forget this last year. Being 19. Being a missionary. I'm holding on to every last day!

Eldste Parkinson 

Chocolate factory tour for pday

Happy to be a missionary!  - made some chocolate at the factory

Our legendary district:
Parkinson, Allen, Brink, Steed, Ulrich Firth