Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Birthday JJ - A story of this 9/11 boy

On September 11, 1986, a little boy was born in Copenhagen, Denmark far from his home on the southern tip of Greenland. He had a rich heritage...a native Greenlander.

He grew up in a beautiful town called Qaqortoq- near the sea. There are no roads that lead to Quaqortoq. To visit his homeland you have to come by helicopter or boat.

He grew up surrounded by a family who loved this boy- He was a chosen son from the beginning.

They named him "Jens Jacob Simonsen."

We Call him "JJ."

This is his flag... and this is the magnificent sky and sea that he learned to love.

It was a good life.

JJ was a boy of promise.

For several years JJ has been studying to be a maritime officer. He hopes to be a sea captain. He has traveled all over the world, learning how to do everything on a ship-- how to be a cook, an electrician, a navigator, a weatherman, a computer expert and a strong, decisive young man.

A little over a year ago, JJ was concerned about some of the things in his life, too many parties, a lot of alcohol, too many lost weekends with a blur of friends. He wanted to strengthen his life. He had been taught, as a child- about God, about Jesus Christ, about goodness and about living an honest and productive live. He had been taught from the Bible many comforting things. But now he was in Denmark as a student, without an anchor. He decided to look for a book- the one he remembered from his childhood- The Holy Bible.

One day he was walking down an unfamiliar street in Svendborg, Denmark, where he was going to Maritime School. On the other side of the street were two girls coming his way.

He saw them cross the street to talk to him. There was no one else on the street. He politely said "Hello", but they asked him what he was doing. He told them he was looking for a book. They told him.."We have a book for you."..and gave him the Book of Mormon. This began an adventure of learning from these young Sister Missionaries- Sister Burton, and Sister Roberts

They taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. JJ is a very curious, and soft hearted young
man. He recognized the truth when he heard it. He was baptized and received the Aaronic Priesthood. He began to pass the Sacrament.

His sister and "auntie" came to visit and they saw JJ baptize our dear friend Paul. (Li Cong)

He received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Elder Wilberg and then became an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We went with him to Esbjerg (two hours from Odense) where he received his Patriarchal Blessing.

JJ began a process of changing his life. He moved closer to Odense to make a few new friends and find new things to do. He moved into an apartment right behind us, Senior Missionaries called to serve 18 months in the Odense Young Single Adult Outreach Center.

He has made many new friends here. and we have enjoyed his friends

In November of last year, we invited JJ to come with us- to our American Thanksgiving celebration in of the only Thanksgiving turkey days celebrated on that day in Denmark. It was a day of American football in the mud and rain, playing games, and a fine spread of turkey, dressing, and homemade apple pies.

All the missionaries on this side of Denmark and JJ, joined in the event. At the end of the day, when we returned home, JJ said he wanted to talk to us.. He said, after this day, he had decided to go on a mission.

On June 26, we began a weekend of what JJ described as an "Awesome Week." We had just returned from Arhus where we celebrated St Hans Aften..the longest day of the year.

JJ wrote about this experience..."We got back from Arhus around 3 o'clock. and I went to my apartment to relax..when Sister Wilberg called. She said that she had a computer problem, so I went there and decided to wait until they got back from downtown to pick up the new couple that are coming here to Odense next month to release the Wilbergs. Riedel had a letter since the morning. And couldn't handle to keep it from me any longer. So he asked the Wilbergs- when should I give it to him. She said that they would like to wait until the couple arrived.

So they waited to call me until like 7 o'clock in the evening. he he

So the Wilbergs were there, and the new couple- the Groonestadts from Canada, the Riedels, Brother Kari Ove and Brother Kurt- who were home teachers of the Riedels.

Sister Wilberg called me and asked me to come over to meet the new couple. (I had already met them in Copenhagen, but she really wanted me to come QW.)

When I got in, everybody was gathered and I said "Hi to them... and Sister Wilberg said that since everybody is here that we are going to have a family home evening. So she told me to sit down. (She told me to sit down there !) which was unusual, she never tells me where to sit !

So I sat down, and she said, "JJ, I have something for you..." then she pulled out the letter from under a pillow, and said, "It says "Dear Elder Jens-Jacob Simonsen..." I was like "Noooo, Nooo way! no way ! ha haa, Then she came over- gave me a hug and gave me the envelope, I was just out of it ! ha haa.

I opened it right away, and started reading it... "Dear Elder Simonsen, your are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

You are assigned to labor in the Utah, St. George Mission!... ha haa! I was just out of it !

Then a little bit after..."You should report to Provo MTC on Tuesday, November 30, 2010. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language." ha haa. It took a while to realize! but it was great ! then about 30 minutes after, I started to call everybody up ! he he, I can't wait to leave ! he he Christmas at the MTC !

It was an "Awesome day." We went to Sister Williamson, and Sister Reed's apartment. We had all just returned from our St Hans Aften Celebration and then to Elder Christiansen and Elder Oakey's apartment.. what a happy day !

The next day JJ went along with us to take Dan and Aske to get their Patriarchal Blessing in Espegerg. Aske had also received his mission call --to the Austrian German speaking mission. We went to Ribe- the oldest city in Denmark and then to Esbegerg- the youngest city.

We gathered on the beach of Esbjerg by the giant white seamen guarding the north sea.

We took pictures of our own "army of Helaman" standing at their feet..ready to conquer the world.

Then we went to the Patriarch's home where Aske and Dan received their Patriarchal blessings.

During this memorable week, on the lightest days of the year, our St Hans Aften celebtation with bonfires on the beach, and our trip to Ebletoft in the nose of Denmark, JJ's call, then Esbjerg.. we were all grateful for JJ's "awesome week. What a week !

On this anniversary of 9/11, on JJ's birthday, I want to thank JJ's parents for raising such a fine son. It has been a pleasure to be his friend. There is a sense of peace about him that comes from home.

He will take his many talents and skills with him when he becomes friends with the Spanish speaking people of Southern Utah.

Within these boundaries of his new mission are many things that remind me of the Greenland that JJ has described to us.

St George and southern Utah is surrounded by a circle of famous rock formations. It is a wonderland of national parks and canyons.

I have seen the awesome rock formations all around JJ's hometown. It seemed like he was immersed in nature as he was growing up.

In southern Utah, JJ will be near the Grand Canyon...

Arches National park.....

and Bryce and Zions National Parks...

I have seen pictures of glaciers and blue ice in Southern Greenland.

Years ago glaciers covered the mountain ranges and high plateaus in Utah. Ice covered the Unita Mountains and the Wasatch Range had over 60 glaciers, some descending as low as 5,000 feet in elevation. This is a map of some of the major glaciers. JJ's mission field was at one time covered with Glaciers and ice flows.

I have seen the new petroglyphs carved by local artists in JJ's hometown. Southern Utah has many petroglyphs carved by ancient native people called the Anasazi Indians. They lived in the southern part of Utah as early as 200 BC. Other Native Americans still live in Utah with a rich heritage of carving in stone.

In a few months, JJ will begin his mission. I want his family to know that he is well prepared to love and teach the Spanish speaking people of the St. George Mission. The Lord will bless him and his family for the things that he does in the next two years. It will prepare him for the rest of his rich life. Thank you for being such a great influence on him. He loves and respects you.

These are a few faces and events that we have shared with this good friend. Thanks for the memories.

Thanks for being such a rock star.

Thanks for always being ready to be a missionary and teaching us how to be one.

Thanks for helping to find and teach friends who get lost in the wilderness. You know how to be a friend.

Thank you for your great sense of humor and fun.

Thank you for helping us enjoy our lake in the backyard. I am sorry about the "poppy" incident.

Thank you for celebrating my birthday with me in Svendborg with two of my favorite friends. It was the best.

Thank you for jumping into life with both feet. This is quite a remarkable talent. You are surrounded by friends because you take the time to enjoy them.

Thank you for the love that you have for your family. That is a rare thing. Love the quick phone calls from your Dad, and their frequent visits. There is love and concern in your family. You are truly blessed.

Thank you for making friends with all ages and being willing to serve others at a moments notice. This is refreshing.

Thank you for the taste of drama in your life. Always willing to take a chance on joining in on fun celebrations. Thanks for really learning how to party. No more sleeping on the sidewalk after hours.

Thank you for being a master at halloween games and for making lots of bats and spooky decorations for our pumpkin carving extravaganza. Loved the grim reaper in his own bed sheets.

Thank you for your joy of living. I know that you will find time for fun on your mission. It is a gift that you will share with those sweet Spanish speaking people in St George.

Thank you for being such a good Family Home Evening Man. Love sharing lots of food, good lessons, and especially the activities. And thank you for patiently coming to our little friendship family nights --I could always count on your good spirit and kind heart to lift up people who are down.

Thank you for being such a "Greenlander"... I loved learning all about your culture and your beautiful country. I know that I use the word "Beautiful" to much. But when I look at the place where you grew up...the only word that fits is "Beautiful." Thank you for testing the ice cold water in at the Odense Harbor. I don't know whether that showed strength, courage, or just plain craziness..but Paul is still talking about it. (talked to him a few days ago on the Phone)

For all of this, we can't thank you enough.

Thank you for being there when you were most needed.

Thank you for taking the time out for your mission. You will be truly blessed for that decision. When you get home you will prosper and achieve all that you and your family have hoped that you would achieve. Thank you for having the faith that you can do this.

It is great to spend a little time with a Birthday Boy. 9/11 is your lucky day. Hope you had a great celebration with a huge bon fire and lots of good friends. We will miss this celebration.

Hope that you had lots of candles and cake this year. I especially hope that you are happy, and enjoying this fine day.

Happy Birthday, Elder JJ. We love you !

Thanks for the memories.


  1. Some good memories there JJ is the man! It's going to be a sweet time visiting him in Southern Utah. Kinda weird being in opposite roles. It'll be great to see JJ as a missionary. You rock man!

    Bradley Francis

  2. That is awesome Sister Wilberg! Happy Birthday JJ!