Monday, November 30, 2015

everybody loves the church

hey guys! 

I don't have tons of time today because our branch mission leader is taking us out sight seeing. I'm excited to see more of sweden :) 

first off, happy anniversary to my parents! 

this last week has been a blast! we have been pretty busy and we just love it. We've taught so much restoration that I can't even handle it. It's been really good though, cuz i just love studying JS-History. 

We had thanksgiving with some members! We also ate a thanksgiving lunch with the district. I thought I was going to explode, it was so much food. But it was all really good! it was fun to go around the table and talk about the things we are thankful for, and explain to the kids what thanksgiving even is (they don't have it here in sweden, so it's always good talking to them about the pilgrims and the indians.)

workovers with the sister training leaders this week! we were expecting them on saturday but they came on friday instead! I had a lot of fun with sister Irene, and we got a lot of stuff done. We went to the university library to meet one of our more promising potential investigators. After calling him and texting him, he tried to explain what part of the library he was at. We sent him a picture of where we were and he called us a few moments later.
"are you guys in sundsvall?"
"I'm in Umeå."
Umeå is 3 hours away. We had a good laugh and referred him to the Umeå elders. Hahaha :)

Friday night we also had one of the Elder's investigators stop by and drop off thanksgiving dinner to all of us. You heard that right. I had like 3 thanksgivings this week! I'm thankful for stuffing. I can't seem to get enough of it. 

Remember how last week I mentioned a couple of persian speaking guys that randomly came to church? We taught them this week. Their names are Farhan and Bakhtiar (good luck on the pronunciation) and they are awesome. We sat down with them, Armin, and Shirin. They don't have much of a background concerning Jesus Christ. So we established that with them and started into the restoration lesson. We got to the apostasy and realized that an hour and a half had already passed, and we still had at least an hour left in order to teach them everything (that's what happens with translation, lessons take a while). We asked if they would like to stay and continue learning or if they'd like to wait until the next time we met to hear the rest. They looked at us and said, "we'd really like to stay." So after a 10 minute stretch and bathroom break, everyone was back at the table to talk some more. I got to share the first vision, which is one of my favorite things to do with a language barrier. I love it because when you share it the first time, they don't understand what you're saying, but they FEEL it. And they pay attention to that feeling so much more than those that do understand what you are saying. And then they wait eagerly to hear what it was that made them feel that way. That's what happened with Farhan and Bakhtiar. They mentioned that while I recited the first vision they felt something, and they really liked it. Farhan came to church yesterday, Bakhtiar wasn't able to make it. But then both of them came to the christmas concert we had. 

Speaking of the Christmas concert, holy cow our branch is SO talented. I had no idea. We have so many singers and just straight up gifted people here. And we had an AMAZING turn out. The entire chapel was filled, mostly with non-members, and it was remarkable! 

Well, that's all for this week! I'm excited to hear from you guys next week! I got a call from the mission president yesterday that I'd be training up here in Sundsvall, so pray for me and my new greenie ;) I'll be picking her up in about a week and a half. 

-syster janessa brink

Monday, November 23, 2015

we thank thee

this week I thought I'd just count some of my blessings (we're getting so close to thanksgiving I thought this would be appropriate)

  • I'm thankful for the friends and family that email me every week and tell me what they've been busy with. It's so much fun to hear from all of them and read the stories :)
  • I'm thankful for public transportation, because without it I'd be on foot. Walking in -9 degrees Celsius doesn't sound too fun
  • I'm thankful for p-days, because otherwise when would I sleep? clean my clothes? buy jul tomte?
  • for president and sister beckstrand. They care so much about us missionaries. This week they came up to Norrland for a specialized zone training and taught us about being diligent 
  • for members of the church. especially the ones that don't even know us personally, and still find ways to help us out. This week we spent the night with a member up in Umeå (before zone training) and she gave us not only a place to stay, but dinner, breakfast, chocolate, and a drive to the church.
  • for families that open their homes to us and let us teach them and their children. 
  • for investigators that have sincere questions, and seek for honest answers
  • for the people I meet everyday, who make the world diverse and exciting
  • for the people that are REALLY REALLY mean to me, because that's another chance I get to rely on and bear testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ
  • for telephones, computers, social media, and other technology. The work is being pushed forward so much faster because of these things. This week we got to watch the new Christmas Initiative video (and I feel super special because it doesn't come out publicly until next monday) and the idea of being able to post #ASaviorIsBorn and link nations together in seconds is AMAZING. 
  • for the courage it takes people to come to church, even if they haven't been in a while, even if they don't know what to expect or how they'll be accepted
  • for daily planners, because otherwise I'd forget everything
  • for my companion, Sister Taylor, because she's not afraid to clean all of the super gnarly hair balls out of the drain (that's what happens when you have sisters living in the apartment for a few years)
  • for Karlskrona, because it's the place where I was able to learn how to work hard, and see my first beautiful sights of Sweden
  • I'm thankful for Jönköping, and all the friends and family I was able to create there. I look forward to a day when I can go back
  • Sundsvall, the Norrland experience, and the winter I will be spending here
  • for all 7 of my past companions and all the things they taught me, and continue to teach me, even though we're not in the same area anymore
  • I can tell you, I am so thankful for my bed at the end of the night. I'm thankful I even have a bed. 
  • I'm thankful that I was able to come here willingly, and not forced to leave my homeland and family because of circumstances outside of my control
  • I'm thankful for apartment buildings. We've been trackting a lot lately, and it's so nice to be in from the cold!
  • for the christmas spirit, which opens people up. People have been more giving lately, more friendly, and more ready to listen to our american swedish
  • I'm thankful for the way that Heavenly Father guides people's lives. Yesterday we had two men show up to church. None of us missionaries had ever spoken to them before. None of the members knew who they were. And they only spoke persian. And (just as I'm sure Heavenly Father planned) there happened to be two persian speaking members there, Armin and Shirin, who were able to talk to them, explain things, and set up a time for us to meet again and begin teaching them about the church.
  • for the blessing of being bilingual, which is a blessing I never thought I'd be able to count
  • for my Heavenly Father, and everything he's been doing with me. For listening to my prayers and shaping me into the person I need to be, and directing my path and giving me the words I need when I don't have any
  • for my brother, serving right alongside me in Norway
  • I'm thankful for the heritage that I have, with roots tracing back to scandinavia, south africa, england and canada. 
  • I'm really really grateful for Jesus Christ, because I love being able to say so cheesily that I have found him, and he has helped me overcome any challenge placed in my path. 
  • I am thankful for the time I have left as a missionary, and even though I wish it was longer I am grateful I even have it. 
  • for the support of my parents and grandparents and all my extended family
but most of all, I'm thankful for the knowledge that I have that God loves his children, that families can be together forever, for an infinite atonement by the most selfless person to ever live, for scriptures that I can read, for the testimony that I have, and the opportunity I get each and everyday to bear that testimony (whether in english or in swedish) and help others to discover what I know to be true. 

.syster janessa brink

all of us Norrland sisters! Syster Bolton, Austin, me, Taylor, and Delgado

utah was on the news (i saw this on the train)

my parents will forever be getting pictures of me holding things that are on fire (no worries though, that's an elder's old shirt, not one of mine)

ice dragon!

contacting like this, because it got SO COLD this week

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


happiest of birthdays to Tanner and Mom!!! I hope you guys were able to get my cards that I sent (with those delicious swedish chocolate bars, eh) and hope you guys had great birthdays :)

hey, guess who left their planner at home....again. hahaha. me.

so I'll be telling stories of the week in a scattered fashion. enjoy.

this week we were super busy. getting ready for a baptism does all sorts of crazy things to you, and suddenly you are running all over the place making sure to meet with people and get things put together. we met with pretty much everyone this week. it was really fun!

also this week we went to an elementary school to talk a little about coming to a foreign country and helping them understand a little about what it's like to be on this side of things (there are so many immigrants, the news doesn't lie.) after the lesson, a little 13 year old girl came up to me and asked if Brink was my first name or my last name. I told her it was my last name and she got excited and told me that it was her last name too! With "Brink" not being the most common name in the world (or in sweden) I got really excited and told her a little about my family history and how we might actually be related. I felt like it would be weird to ask a 13 year old for her number at the elementary school, so I gave her my number and told her to definitely call me and we could chat with her parents and maybe find out if we are related. no call yet, but I'm still praying for it. 

this week we took another trip out to the refugee camp to visit Kelvin and Bereket. To put a picture in your minds, the refugee camp is like a college dorm. It's a two floor building with communal kitchen, bathroom and TV. Bedrooms are shared and small. Everything is a little worn looking and when we visit we are the only white people and the only girls on the property. Regardless of the poor conditions, our friends there are generally happy and very very giving. I love going there. This week we taught them the plan of salvation and talked about how with god nothing is impossible. Both of them came to church this week and even stayed after for a dinner with our branch mission leader and his family. 

we drove out to the middle of the country on thursday. literally. just go on google earth and check out the location of Ånge related to Sundsvall. We visited two of our persian members, Nima and Mahshid. They are the cutest ever. We have eaten so so so much persian food here, and I am going to start collecting recipes because it is delicious. It was fun teaching them and getting to know them (usually we'd be going out to Ånge every other week, but some conditions changed last transfer so this is the first time I've been able to visit them). I wish I could get out there more often, because it was so good to sit and share our favorite scriptures with them. 

And of course, the moment you have all been waiting for: SHIRIN GOT BAPTIZED! Sister Taylor and I got to the church a few hours early to start filling up the font. About 30 minutes before the service was about to start the font was only half full. So we started filling up any container we could fit in the sinks and just started tossing water in. It definitely felt like a baptism I was in charge of, with us and the elders frantically tossing water into the font and greeting people as they walked in. It was a really great program though. Armin got to baptize his mom and more than 30 members showed up for the service! We had so much to eat afterwards and it was really good to have everyone there!

As I was getting ready I realized I only have four transfers left out here. That means at least 2 companions and one more area. My heart kinda broke, honestly. thinking about going home makes me feel like one of the lost boys on peter pan saying "i never want to grow up." as the time passes and i learn more about the world and the people i'm serving, all I want to do is say just like Ammon did in the Book of Mormon "yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die." (alma 17:23) It's weird to think about the time I have left, but I want to do everything I can with that time to love and serve the people I meet the same way the savior would.

I hope you have a great week! I'll be here in sweden, working hard like always :)
love you guys!
syster janessa brink

Nima, Mahshid, and me

sister taylor and i filling the font that didn't fill.

me, shirin, armin, and sister taylor

super blurry picture of the district (i guess i touch my chin like this often enough that it requires a photo)

right after shirin got baptized everybody went back to the chapel and started singing.  we waited in the bathroom for her and sang a little too.  This is "i am a child of God"

sister taylor dancing in the music tunnel by our house

Monday, November 9, 2015

oh the bitter winds are coming in and i'm already missing the summer

wow! sounds like it's been a busy and eventful week at home! It's good to hear about everything that you guys have been up to and all the stuff that's been happening. Crazy to hear about the change in the home bishopric, I kinda knew it was coming because Bishop Smith has been around since I was 14, but it was still a bit of a surprise. Bishop Cuillard will do great though! He's always been awesome!

I myself have been pretty busy too. And I just thought I'd share a little story about something great that happened this week! We have two investigators that live quite a ways away in a refugee camp. Their names are Bereket and Kelvin (whom i previously referred to as Kevin until I learned his name is actually Kelvin.... oops.) I will admit, when we pulled into the refugee camp and saw Bereket out walking with these other tall black guys I was a little intimidated. Then they invited us in and when we got inside the building I had flashes of the Sarotov approach going through my mind and I was planning escape routes and desperately praying for protection. I was kind of terrified. 

It became a really humbling experience very fast though. The owner of the camp came in to see who we were and be sure that we were friends with Bereket. After he left, Bereket explained that in the past few weeks they have had problems with racists walking into the camp and trying to burn the building down. 

There we were: me, sister taylor, Bereket, and four of his friends whom he'd invited to listen to us as well. And while we sat there Bereket offered us soda and we taught a quick restoration lesson to his friends. I realized the desperate prayers for protection that I'd been saying earlier were absolutely unnecessary because I was now sitting with some of Heavenly Father's humblest children who eagerly listened and really wanted to know. 

We taught a powerful, spirit guided lesson to them with moments that nearly brought me to tears. It was amazing. I honestly don't remember most of what we said, only that we used a lot of 2 Nephi 31 and bore testimony like crazy. It was one of the greatest lessons of my mission and I didn't even teach it :) it was all the spirit. 

We took a trip up to Umeå this week for Zone Training and got to stay the night with the sweetest woman in the world again, Sister Wirtala! Zone training was great and focused a lot on really using our time and energy in the best ways possible. I ate a banana chicken curry pineapple peanut pizza for lunch. It sounds weird, but it was delicious. 

Sister Taylor and I have been on the hunt looking for one of our investigators named Thomas, who disappeared. We found him! He doesn't speak much english, but we managed to find his apartment and he invited us in. It turned into an hour of him and his roommates chatting with each other in Tigringa, us sitting on the couch, one of them playing home made instruments, them trying to give us black tea, eating Ethiopian pancakes with spicy pasta sauce on them, and us trying really hard to relate it all back to the gospel.  One of the more interesting evenings I've had here in Sundsvall, that's for sure hahaha :) 

Saturday was a little stressful as it involved a baptismal interview for Shirin that didn't go so well because the translator hung up in the middle of the interview. BUT, after a few hours of confusion and a little bit of phone tag we were able to get in contact with another translator that would be able to go through the interview after church on Sunday. So they re-did the interview and Shirin walked out and was so happy! She doesn't speak any language other than persian, but she told us that she passed and then hugged all of us that were waiting for her :) Sounds like there's going to be a baptism on Saturday!!!! We will be busy this week putting it all together and making it special for her. We are SO EXCITED! 

this week has brought the wintery winds and the darkness that comes with living in a Nordic country. I have been bundling up and feeling very grateful for those oven-boots that i bought in america. With the cold and darkness, a holiday spirit has been ignited in my heart and sister taylor and I have been spending what little down time we have during meals and before bed making paper snowflakes and listening to Christmas hymns. I'm not skipping over thanksgiving, but I am so so SO excited for Christmas. While cleaning the apartment last p-day i discovered a secret closet filled with Christmas decorations. I'm holding off from putting them up until after american thanksgiving. I did also find a beany baby turkey, so I put that up to decorate while we wait. 

telling the district about our discovery of the snow!

I'm excited to email all of you guys next week! Don't you people forget about me ;) we've got lots of good news coming to you from Norrland, so stay tuned and be sure to email me!

syster janessa brink

hello from our one and only thanksgiving decoration!

what language do we speak?! SVENGELSKA!!! (swe-nglish)

Monday, November 2, 2015


well.. i forgot my planner at home. so i have all but forgotten everything we even did this week. So I'll be telling stories based on the pictures on our phone. buckle up.

we taught a whole lotta new people this week. that being said, i studied a whole lotta restoration and Joseph Smith stuff. It's always good to brush up and learn more! It's been really fun going through the restoration everyday and finding new ways to teach it and keep our investigators involved. 

we taught our friend Murre and he told us that he'd read in the Book of Mormon. He said that he loved it, and that it spoke to him. 
"i read in this book," he says "that whatever you get, you should give back." 
he closes the book and puts it on the table. 
"so. I'm giving it back." 
*slides the book over to us* 
we went on to explain that he actually needs to read more in the book of mormon, and that you can't read it just one day and expect to continue progressing. but he wouldn't have it. so we tried giving him a different copy of the book of mormon, this one in english. but he wouldn't have it. so. we just continued the lesson as planned and read him passages from the book of mormon. He liked the scriptures we read, but still wouldn't take the book. 
so next time we meet him we're gonna be tricky and give him photo copies of book of mormon passages that have his name all over them. then he can't give them back hahaha. Sneaky. 

trackting and swingbys and lots and lots and lots of walking this week. 

it was also alla helgons dag (all saints day) on saturday. Here in sweden they celebrate it by putting candles on graves and remembering those who have passed away. Halloween (as we have it in America) was only started here in the 90's, but this tradition of candles on graves started in the 1500's.  we went by the grave yard and looked at everything, and it was so beautiful. I remember hearing about all saints day when i was getting ready to go to the MTC and I am so grateful to have been able to see it for myself. As sister taylor and I walked through the graveyard i couldn't help but think of my swedish ancestry, and hope that somebody somewhere had put a candle on their grave that night. I was reminded of the truth that families can be together forever, even when they are currently lost to the records. we'll find them someday! 

not much else to report this week. i promise next time I email I'll bring my planner with me and then there will be more stories! 
love you all!
syster janessa brink

swedish graveyard

we were both sister brink for the day

would you like a book of mormon? JA!

all saints day

sister taylor and i dressed up as cats briefly for halloween. and i became sister wilhite for a few moments too (old missionary nametags laying around the apartment?)

super cool grave. this looks like a viking headstone

mausoleum. don't you wish we had these things in the states?

Murre bought us backlowa. it's like, some traditional middle east dessert. it didn't last long. 

all saints day candles

candles for grandmothers 

candles lining the walk way