Monday, November 20, 2017

Miracles, Moving and Muscles

Our last of almost two weeks in the south of Sweden was filled to the brim in more ways than one. We were busy morning to night every day, plus when we left, the van was filled to the brim. The miracle was that I was able to do all that needed to be done.

I mentioned in the last post that my back was in trouble. In fact, I could hardly walk let alone lift and carry. By Sunday afternoon I had loosened it enough to get around at church, then after church I received a blessing from Elders Petersen and Hawkins. Monday morning we took the last toilet seat out to the Helsingborg (hel'sing-bory) and I was much better, but still hobbling a little. Tuesday we inspected the apartments in Lund and I was able to get down to the floor to make repairs and inspect bed legs.

The real work began on Wednesday and continued through Friday. That is when we had to begin hauling out items, repairing areas in the apartment and cleaning top to bottom. By then, however,I was almost completely off the sympathy list. I still have a little pain when I have been sitting in one position for a long time, but I am completely able to lift, carry, reach and work late. Thanks to a couple of elders who were close to the Spirit when pronouncing the blessing and to Olivia and Sisters Hansen and Hunter who were in the room to lend their faith.

So here are the details.

We always give the missionaries a P day to prepare for our inspection visit. So Monday we planned to do some of the work that would be needed on the apartment. However, it was necessary to take some items back out to the Helsingborg area. Because Elders Berlin and Bird knew we were coming, they asked if we could do a favor for them. It seems that they have been doing some family history work and discovered that they both have ancestors from the same tiny village not far from where they are laboring. They asked if we would be willing to give them a ride to the church in Bosarp where their ancestors were likely christened and possibly buried. We were happy to accommodate, of course. Not only were these missionaries worth the trip, but it gave us a little break and a chance to see more of the countryside.

Elders Berlin and Bird happy with
their new toilet seat. Now they can
go with confidence that they won't
fall off.
The church in Bosarp

There were family names in the
churchyard, but nothing dating back
as far as when their ancestors would
have been buried there.
In the churchyard beside the church

Tuesday we conducted the inspections of the last apartments in the area with the exception of Växjö (vek'wuh) which had to be done as we left to return to Stockholm. These last apartments were in the city of Lund where we were staying and where we would be working for the rest of the week. We found the missionaries were well prepared for our visit and that they, like so many others we have met, had problems that could have been addressed, but they just remain so busy that they either work around them or just live with them without giving them much thought. We replaced light bulbs, for instance, making the apartments more habitable. Elders Ellis and Olson had a bed with a broken slat making the middle bow.  Elder Mitchell repaired it before he and Sister Mitchell left the area, but the slat broke in a different area anyway rendering it beyond repair. Luckily, we needed to find a home for the bed we were using, so it worked out well for us and them.

Beds for couples are made up of two twin-sized beds joined together with a larger mattress spread across them, so when we took the mattress off, we had two beds to put somewhere.

Sisters Hall and Huxtable had the cleanest apartment in the land, I think. They both like a clean, tidy home and it showed. We did a couple of minor repairs, but for the most part, they needed little. They will have a third companion, so some things would be needed, such as the other bed.  For obvious reasons, we were happy when they volunteered to help us clean the apartment we would be returning to the landlord.
We found that this bed was repaired
but the repair didn't hold. Luckily,
we had a bed we needed to take
out of the apartment we vacated
to replace this one.

Elders Ellis and Olson. We forgot to get their picture when we  inspected
their apartment. This was taken  at the apartment we had to vacate a few
days later. See below.
Sisters Hustable and Hall had an exceptional apartment. 
This chair had a broken back, but
some glue and a couple of screws
and it was good again.

Wednesday, the work began in earnest. Olivia thought it was good idea to get a picture of all the clutter when we emptied the cupboards and before I had changed from PJs for the day. I had a similar pile of stuff in the office where I spent most of the morning. There was more dust and cobwebs than any other place we have cleaned. It is not that the couples who stayed there over the years failed to clean, it is just that there were tall cabinets, nooks and crannies, furniture that sat low to the floor and the like.

Under the kitchen sink was evidence of sewer rats. They had chewed a large hole in the drain pipe and made a toilet of the cupboard below. We cleaned that out before doing anything else, then just kept the door closed after that. The owner came on Sunday and was not surprised by what we told him and what he found when he inspected.

I am quite certain that there was a meeting of the spider league after we finished cleaning to declare a state of emergency. We found webs and spiders in areas you would never expect. This was especially true in the basement where webs hung from the low ceilings, walls, behind bookcases, corners windows, above and below lights, etc. Sisters Hansen and Hunter sent several to spider heaven when they did some cleaning there, but on Thursday and Friday, I made sure dozens more joined them.

Wednesday, the sisters from Malmö and Lund came to help clean. Thursday the elders from Malmö and Lund came to help move the heavy furniture out.
We had started to take items out of the closets and cupboards
and assemble them in some order. 
Sister Hunter working on dust and cobwebs

Sister Hansen has to stand on a chair
to eat dinner 😊 but she worked non-stop
including dusting and cleaning the
kitchen hutch.

Sister Hall working on the kitchen cabinet

Sister Huxtable went right to work. It is obvious
that she has done this kind of thing before.

The Wednesday crew:Sisters Huxtable, Hall, Hunter and Hansen.
I didn't realize until writing this that their name are an alliteration.

We loaded them down with treasures to take back to their apartment with them. These sisters had to take it all on the bus with them back
to Mallmö
Thursday we worked the morning without help because President Youngberg asked that all districts hold their meetings on that day at 10:00 and then at noon everyone linked in to a video meeting conducted by him where he showed the materials and videos that will be part of the Christmas campaign. The Church will be rolling out the updated "Light the World" campaign again as they did last year. Part of the meeting was a video from the Missionary Department featuring returned missionaries who had particular successes with the program last year and a discussion about how to effectively use it.
It was an inspiring hour with the entire mission attending. Several of the missionaries who had been here last Christmas told about some of the things they did to maximize the program using social media and personal contacting with the cards. Some of the ideas from last year sparked even more creativity. We are going to commit to it again this year, but pay better attention to the calendar that goes with the program.

Of course, not having the elders in the morning meant that all the heavy moving had to be done within just a couple of hours in the afternoon. Olivia and I had already hauled off several loads of items to the second hand store and to the återvinning (oater veen' ing - what we would call the dump, but much more organized and clean than what we are used to in the US). The missionaries were very protective of my back, so we did much of this without their knowledge. Still, there were some very heavy items in the basement that had to go around corners, through narrow doors and up a narrow, steep staircase. I was perfectly happy to have them do the heavy lifting in those cases.

This sofa reclines in every section,
so at first we thought it could not
be taken apart.
After trying in vain to get it through the doorway and up the stairs we brought it back in and turned it upside down. Elder Hawkins noticed that there were separate sections attached to the rail
With Brother Girhammar's help and my supervision 😎, we
detached one section and left two attached.. Elders Hawkins and Olson then maneuvered it through the door

Up the stairs and out to the trailer.
Elders Olson and Ellis then got the single section up the stairs
and out to the trailer
Elder Olson then went back down to
assist Elder Ellis

With Elder Petersen supervising, Elders Ellis and Radford prepare
to lift it into the trailer
Team effort got it in

Elders Radford and Petersen prepare to carry out the hutch

Around the railing and out the door

Elder Olson and Elder Anthon (in his $2 hat) take out some
miscellaneous items

Including this elliptical trainer

Olivia and I had loaded two beds, a desk and office chair into the van
before the elders came. Elders Ellis and Hawkins helped unload the set
them up. First a bed, the desk and chair went to the Lund sisters' apartment
because they will be getting a third companion this transfer. The other bed
went to the Lund elders' apartment to replace the old one which we took
to återvinning.
We had informed the bishops in Lund and Malmö that this furniture was available if they knew of anyone in their wards who could use it. Neither responded until the very last moment when the bishop of the Lund ward replied that he may know of someone who could use it. To our happy surprise, the Girhammars (yir' hahmar) showed up with a car and trailer. We have met with them several times before and are quite fond of this faithful couple. It turns out that their son is getting married and could use the furniture. We were happy about that because we love this family so much and because it is very high quality furniture. It would have been sad to just drop it off at the second hand store.
Sister Girhammar and her daughter, Maria help load the trailer
Brother Girhammar with his wife, daughter and elders load the trailer

Elder Anthon and a pumpkin photo bomb Maria and Sister Girhammar
with her prize deer head candle holder 

The Thursday crew: Elders Radford, Anthon, Olson, Petersen,
Brother and Sister Girhammar and Maria. Absent are Elders
Hawkins, Ellis and I who were delivering beds. Olivia took
the picture.
Ever the optimist, Olivia was certain that with all the help we got on Wednesday and Thursday we would be finished by no later than 2:00 on Friday. She set an appointment to inspect the Växjö apartment on our way home to Stockholm at 4:30. It is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Lund. Of course, we didn't finish until after 4:00, so we arranged to meet them at their apartment at 6:30 which meant that they would have to reschedule a lesson that was set for 7:00. They did it willingly to accommodate us. I had cannibalized the bed legs from the Lund bed that we had tossed, because I knew Elder Barney had trouble with his bed legs. It was a good thing I did because one leg had pulled out entirely and another was bending inward. I had to reverse a bolt to make it work, but finally it did. If anyone from my old law office is reading this they are shaking their heads and saying, "That's Brad. It may not be pretty, but he will find a way to make it work!"
It was a momentous occasion to close
and lock the door on this apartment

Even with 4 trips to the second hand store and just
as many to the återvinning we still had to pack the
van literally to the roof, using the rear seat belts,
bungee cords and closing doors that could not be
opened until we were ready to catch whatever fell
out to hold

In Växjö we met Elder Barney with
his Julbock (Christmas goat) made of
 wheat or oat straw. 

Elder Simmons was with Elder Barney. Elder McCarl was on
splits with Elder Simmons' companion

We had not eaten anything since breakfast, so at 7:45 we found a tiny Mexican restaurant in town. It was quite authentic as the proprietor was born in Mexico of a Swedish father and Mexican mother. She was proud of her chips and salsa as well as the special dishes. It was a touch of home, to be sure.

We then hit the road for the trip back home. We arrived at our apartment at about 1:40 AM and were in bed at about 2:30. Saturday we unloaded the van, put up a set of shelves to put some of the items into and prepared for the adult session of stake conference. It was stake conference on Sunday, as well. The theme of both sessions was the Book of Mormon and the temple. The stake president,  President Haugman, served his mission in Utah. Part of the time he was on the Navajo reservation, miles away from civilization. There in a hogan he told an older woman and her family about the Book of Mormon. She stoically informed him that the story of Jesus coming to her ancestors was a story passed down generation after generation. It wasn't until much later that the people identified the god who visited them as Christ, but to her it was obvious. She and her family received the missionaries and joined the Church, cherishing the Book of Mormon. 

It was nice to visit Lund and attend church in Malmö, but it was wonderful to be back where we consider our home to be. We were happy to see many of our friends from the Uppsala Ward and catch up with all that is happening there. Our friend Torsten will be traveling to the US on Tuesday. He will be gone about 10 days, if I got the story straight. We were happy to see Elsa who came with Gabriel. We were able to greet the missionaries from the ward, as well. We made plans for the Thanksgiving Day celebration with them and Elsa (who has never tasted pumpkin pie). Tim, our ward mission leader who is half American, is also coming.

We are enjoying a day of resting (?), cleaning our apartment, and preparing for a meal tonight where we will honor the missionaries who are returning home tomorrow. Olivia is cooking pumpkin and butternut squash to make pies for Thursday. We had our first snow in our neighborhood, and Christmas music is filling our little apartment. It is a joyous time. We wish you all the joys associated with this season of the year!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sugar Beets and Toilet Seats

This week finds us in the south of Sweden, again. There are various names for the areas of the south, but this particular area is known as Skåne (sko'-nah), as I have mentioned in past posts. We are staying in the empty apartment in Lund (loond) for the last time. We met with the landlord this evening and arranged to return the place to him, so we have to clean it out and clean it up before we leave to return to Stockholm on Friday or Saturday. It is a huge apartment full of items purchased and left here by senior couples for a few years, so it will be no easy task.

Before I write about the past week, I should mention that today is Fathers' Day in Sweden, so Olivia fixed me a very nice meal and I wore my Tavan's kids' tie. It got lots of comments and compliments. The pictures were taken back when these kids were just cute. Now, of course, they are handsome and beautiful. Our sacrament meeting was the Primary program. It was very sweet and even inspiring. Afterward, the children handed out treats for the men in the congregation. Olivia has hidden mine. I'll find it tomorrow 😏.
Click to enlarge. Not that this part of me needs
to be enlarged more than it already is, but that
way you can see the pictures on the tie.
This week we assisted with the zone conference and have been inspecting the apartments in the Malmö (mall'-mah) zone. They are quite distant from each other, so we are only able to see about three each day. The missionaries were all ready to see us and had (with maybe one exception) cleaned the apartment in anticipation of our arrival.

On our way to Lund, we stopped to visit the sisters in Jönköping (yen'-shipping) to drop off a whiteboard. To our happy surprise, the Kelleys were there to conduct an apartment check. Elder and Sister Kelley are the senior couple in Göteborg (yeta'-bory), so they do the apartment inspections in that zone.
It's always better to look up! Watching
for the light to flash on the smoke
detector. It's still in good shape.

Mirror selfie: Sisters Mendenhall
and DeMordaunt with us and
Elder and Sister Kelley. I hope
the sisters didn't break the mirror.
I'm not concerned about bad luck,
I just don't want to explain to the
landlord and have to replace it.
We got to sit in on more of the zone conference this time, it was the time when missionaries bore their testimonies in Swedish, but Elder Peterson interpreted for us. We also got to hear some of the President's remarks.

We set up the tables with an autumn theme, again.

President Matsson is a counselor in the misson
presidency. He related how, when he and his twin
brother were serving in the same mission, Elder
Gordon B. Hinckley promised them that there would
be a 2nd harvest in Sweden.

He has since served as a bishop twice and as a stake
president. President Hinckley visited Sweden, recognized
him and reiterated the promise, but reminded him that we
have no control over the Lord's time. He then told of receiving
the impression that before the harvest there would be a time
of cleansing when the strong would have to withstand the buffeting of the adversary.

Sisters Capuccio and Trotter. Next picture has Sisters
Neilsen, Botchway, and Woodman

Some of the sisters looking through clothing items from
the "missionary barrel". We collect clothing and other
items left in the apartments, then give the missionaries
the first chance at them. After that they go to the
second hand stores.

The second harvest has been a theme of President Monson's, as well. We have seen it quoted in lots of publications in the mission, as well as the ward buildings. I personally see the beginnings, as more adversity is creeping into the lives and homes of our members. Adversity always precedes a spiritual event. We are privileged to see the faith and faithfulness of this special group of young saints in this land, who seem to be prepared for whatever may come. I am sure it is the same all over the world where these faithful young people serve.

Our first inspections were in the cities of Halmstad and Helsingborg (hel'-sing-bory). You may recall from previous posts that this part of the country is covered with farmland. Along the way we saw harvesting going on. The grain is already in, but now root crops can be harvested.
We saw several of these piles along the way. At first we
thought they were potatoes.

But on closer inspection, we are pretty sure they
are sugar beets, a common crop in this part
of the country.

Elder Craun has been a POE until the
last transfer. Now he is training a new
missionary, Elder Allred. This day
they were on splits, so we didn't get
to see Elder Allred. Elder Hawkins (R)
the zone leader was here, instead.

This is the first of three toilet seats I got to replace. They were kind
enough to have cleaned the toilet as well as they could before I
got down and dirty with it. Still kind of gross, though.
Sisters Botchway and Woodman.

Elder Berlin (R) is training Elder Bird. We
brought them lamps and more bedding as
they are getting cold at night.
Elder Bird is quite a musician. He bought this accordion 
at a second hand store and taught himself how to play it.

We got in a hurry and forgot to take a picture of Sisters Capuccio and Neilsen, but they are in the picture of the missionary barrel above.

The next areas were Kristianstad (I have mentioned the strange pronunciation of this city before, i.e. kur-hwhan'-stod) and Karlskrona.
In Kristianstad,  Elder Carlson has a perpetual happy attitude
that is, no doubt, appreciated by Elder Simmons,
whom he is training.

Elder Oldham is being trained by Elder Dawson,
also in Kristianstad

The fearless Elder Stapley who served
as a POE and a district leader at the
same time is now training Elder
Wayment in Karlskrona

It's a great responsibility to train someone
how to clean a toaster, but I'm up to it.

Another toilet seat installed in Karlskrona. Sister Trotter (R) is now
training Sister Bingham.

Demonstrating a soft-close toilet seat.
No, the throne is not possessed. I
had to place a lamp next to me
because the bathroom light isn't

We had time to eat dinner with this group at the Stars and Stripes
restaurant. We ate American fare and listened to music by the
Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper, and other luminaries. Fun!

We finished the week in Malmö. The missionaries were invited to a special stake leadership meeting in the morning, so we had to inspect the apartments in the afternoon. That gave us time to visit the Malmöhus Slott (castle) which is located in the center of the city of Malmö. It has been a citadel, then expanded by the Danish king to serve as a fortress. For many years it served as a prison that included an executioner. Today it houses an aquarium, a natural history museum, and several art museums.
Olivia on the bridge over the moat near the entrance of the castle.
With the wind, it was bitter cold.

There were several interesting portraits
in the area preserved as a castle. This is
Gistav Vasa who has more images in
Sweden than any other king.

Mary, Queen of Scots

And her son King James I of England,
but also James VI of Scotland. Royalty of
Great Britain played into all the intrigue
of the time. This is the James of the version
of the bible we still use.

The great hall houses the portraits and busts of the royalty and
nobility as well as some very ancient antiques.

Including this table

And this bed. It is small because the educated people of the day
slept in a sitting position to avoid mixing the chemicals of the
upper body with those of the lower. Only rabble slept in a
reclined position.

These pieces actually have dates impressed
on them 1646



The castle actually had an indoor

And I saw lots of privies on this trip

Some of the prison implements. This shackled the neck,
chest, wrists and ankles. Executions were by beheading
the last being in the 1940s.

On a lighter note, the zone leaders,
Elders Peterson and Hawkins had
an excellent apartment despite its
having been used as a hostel for
elders who came in for the zone
conference just days before.

Elders Anthon and Radford (another accomplished
musician). They are in the apartment we cleaned
and prepared the last time we were in this area. 

The Malmö sisters have been sleeping
on beds without mattresses. We
brought them new ones

Sisters Hansen and Hunter decorating a Christmas tree with mini lights,
homemade snowflake ornaments and little tomte in front. Sis. Hansen
found these when she cleared the extra clothes out of the closet for us
to haul away. You can't start celebrating Christmas too early.
The bible says "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." It is true. I have prided myself in being able to lift heavy objects and sticking them into the van or setting up heavy tables and carrying four chairs at a time while other less hardy soles were not so blessed. For some reason, beginning Wednesday and progressively getting worse, my back has rebelled. I have been walking like an old man and even letting sisters carry the heavy stuff. Pride and destruction. I need to be more humble or a fall is next, obviously. I received an inspired blessing from Elders Hawkins and Peterson today and I feel like I am on the mend.

We hope your week is wonderful and your lives are blessed. We love and miss you all!