Friday, January 29, 2010

Not Quite The Same - But A Memory

One of the many things Iceland is famous is their wool. Icelandic wool is famous for its warmth and water shedding qualities. We of course have been enjoying more where the wool comes from. We have eaten more leg of lamb since we have been here than I think I have eaten in all the years before. It is delicious and we are going to miss it.

I think every missionary goes home with at least one Icelandic wool sweater but Eileen is allergic to wool and and I am not a sweater person so thought we would just go home having enjoyed the lamb. However we saw a beautiful lamb skin throw in a hotel a year ago and thought we keep an eye out for one. We have never seen one like it but last week we saw a regular lamb skin we thought might make a nice memory. Then since Eileen has really wanted an Icelandic wool sweater even though she reacts to it every time she tries one on, bought one Wednesday. Then today we decided to buy the lamb skin we saw two weeks ago. Of all the many there are to choose from we liked this one for the great variety of color and its large size. As I was sitting with it behind my back I was amazed by the warmth I felt. No wonder the Vikings slept under them.

Twist and Shout

Wouldn't you know it! We have less than 6 weeks to go in Iceland and a new store opens in Reykjavík selling one of our favorite cookies. I don´t like to advertise but we are both hooked on these cookies - better than Oreo Double Stuff!

I am not sure what WalMart is doing selling their products through another store but we also bought a couple of other items we like that are not available in Iceland. They also have many other WalMart and Costco brands. Oh well we will be home soon and then for sure we will miss all the great lamb we enjoy here. The next post will be about maintaining a memory though.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Enjoying Iceland

Wednesday (our preparation day) we took Elder Christensen and Elder Ellsworth to Vík to see the sights along the way. This was the first time for Elder Christensen. It was a fun day with very little wind, temperatures above freezing and no rain. Although we have seen all these sites many times now, it was fun to see them again through their eyes. A new one for me though was getting wet by the ocean. The tide was in further than we have ever seen and we could not get to the cave and rocks we always go to. I was or at least I thought was far back from the surf when suddenly I saw it coming at me. I took off running but not fast enough and I ended up with soaked shoes.

Then in the evening the Elders asked me to help them teach a family we have been working with for a long time. They came to Church Sunday and asked us to come and teach again. The Elders assigned me obedience. Tre and her two children were very intent listening to the Elders teach and even me. I appreciated the thoughts that came to me about how obedience to Gospel principles has worked in their lives and how Tre has been obedient and received blessing. Also how Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and have joy and that is why he gives us commandments just like when Tre gives instruction and guidance to her children because she loves them and wants the best for them. They are such a sweet family and we are looking forward to the day they are baptized. It has been a slow process because they are from Thailand and she speaks more English than Icelandic and the kids speak more Thai than Icelandic or English. They listen though and are slowly learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

After the lesson the Elders wanted to help them with their hook work. They attach hooks to leaders for the fishing industry. The leaders are in bundles of 100. For each bundle of 100 complete with hooks they receive 85 krónur or at todays exchange $0.66. I call it slave labor because the most the Elders can do in one hour is one bundle of hooks and for Tre and her family I think the most one can do in 1 hour is 6 bundles.

All in all it was a very enjoyable and fulfilling day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Iceland - Far From a Sub-Mission

Iceland is called a sub-mission of the Denmark Copenhagen Mission. Why the term sub-mission? We have never been able to find out. After a great District Meeting today, I determined it is because we have great missionaries and if we were bigger we would be a mission all our own. When President Olauson visits from Denmark he shares mission concerns and always prefaces with "I know this is not a problem in Iceland". Yes, we have great missionaries and they are that way all the time.

I wonder why as I think of the challenges of bigger missions? Is it because we only have 6 Elders, two apartments to transfer between, and two Branches to serve? Or is it that together with the two couples there are only 10 of us to share the training, give talks and do planning? Whatever it is, I am most impressed with the great Elders we have worked with the past 16 months. Everyone of our Assistants to the President have been excellent, the training effective and the talks uplifting. Even though these Elders have fun as President Olauson is always telling them to do, they are worthy servants of the Lord preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bringing souls unto Him.

We again forgot to take pictures today but here are some from our last Zone Conference I have not used before. The first one includes two of our great member missionaries that have been such a blessing to the people of Iceland.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Likening the Scriptures Unto Us

Friday night Brother Jensen - our Seminary and Institute Director from Germany arrived in Iceland for another great round of teaching. He began with a Fireside for the Young Single Adults on the signs of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and how we have to receive our own testimony of these signs.

Sadly for us Saturday was our last day with Brother Jensen. He has been a great asset to the Seminary and Institute teachers and students in Iceland. His next visit to Iceland is in March after we leave so we will miss him but Iceland will continue to be blessed by his great skill as a teacher of the Gospel. We began the day with teacher training specifically for the 5 Seminary and Institute teachers. There was a great discussion on how to help the students develop their own personal testimony that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. While Brother Jensen was teaching the teachers, the Seminary students were having a scripture chase activity as today was devoted to the Seminary students. After the teacher training and the Seminar activity, Brother Jensen met with the Seminary students to teach them. At about 1 PM we broke for a delicious lunch which Sister Bremner had prepared and Elder Koyle did the grilling. As we were eating, I asked some of the students how the day had been so far and they had really enjoyed it. Little did they know how much more they would enjoy the day because next we spent almost 3 hours in the National Museum of Iceland. The first two plus hours were directed but they enjoyed themselves so much they kept going until we finally had to leave. Sister Bremner had put together a discussion that was conducted by the Reykjavik Branch President so it would be in their language. The theme was to help the students understand why The Book of Mormon was written and how they can liken it unto themselves as they learned about the history of their own country. She provided each of the students with a list of questions (translated by Sister Sveinbjörg) and a journal and pen so they could think about what they were learning and write their thoughts and discoveries down which we saw them doing. She had also found an Icelandic legend about a great white God who came to Iceland and about gold plates being hidden in the grass. The legend also had drawings. The legend and the drawings fascinated the students and they want to know more about it. I think we can feel it was a successful day when the students keep going until we finally have to end and they want to know more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Zone Conference - Again So Soon?

The Denmark Copenhagen Mission has 2 Zones in Denmark and one in Iceland. We just had our Zone Conference this last Saturday as noted in an earlier post. Denmark combined their two Zone Conferences this month so they could go to the Temple together. It was then decided to include the Iceland Zone in their meeting via SKYPE. It was a great conference even though there were some technical problems. The Assistants to the President, the Zone Leaders and two sisters taught great lessons and there was two beautiful musical numbers (at least we think so as the sound was extremely poor for those). President and Sister Olauson also spoke along with his counselor and his wife. During lunch the Elders talked to each other over Skype renewing friendships they had developed in the MTC. It was a great day for learning how to be better missionaries and understanding our roll in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ here in Iceland and Denmark. Elder Fillmore was called on to give a 5 minute talk and he gave a very spiritual message. The picture is our Assistant Elder DeCelle who had to make many trips to the PC to send messages regarding challenges with SKYPE. Remarks from the audience could not be heard so one of the Office Elders did a lot of typing which we appreciated.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Breakfast in Bed

Well at least that was the plan, but she never lets me do it. Today is Eileen's birthday so I got up early and had Eggs Benedict, fresh sliced pears and fruit juice already for her when she got up.

The first photo was the sunrise at 10:15 this morning. The second photo is Eileen after the potluck at Church telling me to take pictures of everyone else but not her. The rest of the photos are from the potluck or at least of those that were still there. Eileen fixed everything she was taking last night so I do not have to worry about making any more meals today. Sister Koyle even made her two Birthday cakes we had at Zone Conference yesterday and she sent the leftovers home with us.

On the way to Church, Eileen said "Let's make sure we take pictures during the potluck". As usual we didn't and I remembered when the potluck was basically over except for the final dishes. I wanted a picture of her on her birthday and she kept telling me not to take pictures of her so I finally said - got to do this since it is your birthday and then everyone sang Happy Birthday in Icelandic.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Zone Conference

We started our Icelandic Zone Conference last night with the arrival of President Olauson from Denmark. All the missionaries, President Olauson and his counselor in Iceland gathered for dinner. Today we gathered for great training and instruction. The current Assistant to the President, Elder Smith was thanked for his great service and released. Elder DeCelle was called as the new Assistant to the President. We also had transfers this conference with all the Elders assigned new companions and new areas. We have two new Elders in Selfoss - Elder Ellsworth and Elder Christensen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Goodbye to Christmas 2009

Tonight Rick had a meeting at church I wasn´t involved in so I stayed home until 19:50 when I left to go across the bridge to see the Jól lads return home for this year. For 12 days before Christmas the lads all come one a day to scare the kids and give them potatoes in their shoes if they have been naughty, and little gifts if they have been good. Footwear seems to be the theme in a lot of countries at Christmas time, stockings hung by the chimney, shoes outside doors, shoes in the windows, interesting! The day after Christmas the lads start to go back to the mountain where they live with their mother Gríla and her 3rd husband, (she ate the other two when a famine occurred in Iceland in the 1600s).

Gríla was there tonight down by the Library. The boys (I love the way they are called boys since they are over 300 years old, but they still live with their Mom so maybe they are just little boys) all assembled across the street from the library and lit a big bonfire. They then took torches and lit them off of the bonfire and did a little dance then walked in a circle before going out onto the street to dance around the round about. They followed a truck that carried trolls, fairy's and little people (these are the children of Eve that she hid from God when he came to visit because they were not clean.) On their way back down the street past the library, people got behind each lad and walked with him until there were probably 100 people or more walking down the street. They then all headed down to the high school where there is a huge bonfire waiting and they will sing songs and dance, then put out their torches and that is the official end of Christmas in Iceland. I wonder if that is how the 12 days of Christmas started???

The fireworks pictures are from our apartment and have been going off every night for at least a week. I always miss the big displays looking for the camera.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I went teaching with the Elders this afternoon which is always fun to do even when I don´t understand Icelandic. The lady was very open but she has a pick and choose religion. She picks what she likes best from all religions and lives that way. As the Elders said she has a behavioral religion. When we left I thanked her for letting us teach her the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as we always enjoy sharing it with good people.

I then took the Elders to their next appointment and since it was close to a store where we buy detergent I stopped as we are out of it and stain remover. The detergent was about the same price as always and so was the stain remover although very expensive at $8 for 750 ml. The surprise was to find a display of the same stain remover packed in two with the words 2 for 1. The price however was $12. I asked one of the workers why when it says 2 for 1 it was not $8 and he said we have to price it the way we are told. I then noted a 500 ml bottle of the same stain remover on another shelf for $9. Interesting pricing! Next I notice the hand soap we bought earlier this summer. Then a 4 pack without olive oil sold for $4 and a 4 pack with olive oil for $1.50 (same manufacture and everything else except for the olive oil). We bought several packs but should have bought the store out as the price today was $6 with or without olive oil. Interesting pricing to say the least - just wish I had bought all they had back at $1.50.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dog Sledding - Wouldn´t You Expect Snow!

Last week we had the opportunity to go dog sledding. We thought why not - this is Iceland and they have Greenland Huskies so it should be great fun. You certainly would expect that in Iceland in the winter when you go dog sledding it would be on snow, but no it was in a wheeled cart over the lava which is just about everywhere in Iceland. The dogs were quite amazing as they are very big and have beautiful coats. I asked the handler how they keep them so clean and he said the dogs do it themselves because they are outside in the rain and snow all the time.

One new site for us was the wreckage of a World War II US Navy plane. The pilot thought best to land on the beach as the fuel gauge suddenly showed empty. He crashed instead and then discovered the fuel gauge had quit working and there was still plenty of fuel to get to the airbase. Not sure why it has been left there since WWII but the kids enjoyed exploring it.

The End of Christmas - Eileen´s Style

Christmas in Iceland begins 13 days before Christmas Day with the arrival of the first Yule Lad. It then continues for 13 days after Christmas as each Yule Lad leaves one at a time just as they arrived. But that is not the case in our home!

For the Elders, New Years Day was deep cleaning day according to our Mission President. For Eileen (as I am sure the kids remember) it also means putting Christmas away too. So now I sit in what seems a very naked apartment. Not only did I have to pack up all of Christmas for the Ashby's to use next year, Eileen took down all the pictures and drawings we have been collecting on the wall for the past 15+ months. I also had to put away my Christmas present from Lisa and David. It was a beautiful day as you can see in the picture of the Space Needle and the sunset - a great way to start the New Year. We also enjoyed brunch with the Elders. It wasn´t too exciting as it was just Eggs Benedict this time but it is always good to have the Elders in our home.

Have a Great Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year From Iceland

It has been another great year for us and we are especially grateful for our family and friends throughout the world. We will never forget the many wonderful people we have met and served in Romania and Iceland. What a blessing it has been to serve in these two countries with these wonderful people. As Lisa mentioned in her post there is both joy and pain (or maybe a better word is sadness) to be remembered this past year. Serving the Lord in Iceland has been a blessing and being able to share it with Lisa, David, Gunnar and Qatar in June, Amanda in July and Gabbi in October was also great fun and happy times. There is always great joy as we see people accept Jesus Christ and be baptized and change their lives. The sadness of course comes from seeing and hearing the rejection Jesus Christ and His Gospel receives every day. Another sadness we are experiencing right now is having Steven and Micah and their 6 children (one of which we have not even been able to hold) move from our hometown to places unknown as he begins his training for the US Foreign Service.

Now for those who read our blog just to see the pictures I will add some of the Icelandic New Years celebration. The missionaries had to be off the streets by 5 PM so we gathered at the Church in Reykjavík to enjoy the evening before taking them out to see the bonfire and fireworks (all approved by the Mission President). We made many of our traditional Christmas and New Years treats and others brought goodies so we ate lots of good food. One Elder wanted to watch Mr Kruger's Christmas and another It is a Wonderful Life so we enjoyed those two movies and then played a white elephant gift game. In between we went to one of the many bonfires and saw several others as we went to watch fireworks at a members home. I wasn´t taking any pictures as we had so many from last year but now wish I had as the smoke had not started to block the show as you will see in the ones I did take at midnight. Then after finishing the game and cleaning up the building we went out for the main event of the evening. Eileen and I were the only missionaries that were here last New Years Eve and even though we kept telling them what to expect we kept hearing from many of them no one would believe this without seeing it. Since all the fireworks are purchased and shot off by individuals we did not expect to see much much this year because the price doubled from last year due to the crises. I don´t think the financial crises slowed them down much even though we were not able to see as much this year. The problem this year was no wind to blow away the smoke and by 11:30 you would not see downtown Reykjavík from the hill we were on due to all the smoke. You could sure hear them though and in the distance see the faint reminder they were going off all over the area just like last year. It was probably more fun for us to watch all the missionaries than actually watching the fireworks. Elder and Sister Koyle were as amazed as the young elders.

We wish all of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!