Monday, November 29, 2010

The whole world has its eyes on the Odense Center for Young Adults

On Thanksgiving day, November 25, I opened Facebook and discovered this beautiful, happy picture.. of Julie and Brynjar Hafsteinsson. Snow has returned to Denmark and with it a flood of memories of the good "kids" that we left behind.  How I miss the snow, and those "kids."
Julie's family lived only a few houses down from us near our country cottage in Odense and Brynjar is from Julie's favorite land, (another part of the Danish Mission) Iceland.
Brynjar was a student in Horsens, Denmark (about two hours from Odense)..when he met the Elders.  He was baptized a little over a year ago on November 20, 2009 by two of our favorite enthusiastic missionaries- Elder Christiansen and Elder Ramsey.
This is Horsens where Brynjar began his life as a new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
He and Julie became good friends through the year and often attended activities, Family Home Evenings, church and celebrations with us at the Center for Young Single Adults in Odense. 
Before the New Year, Julie and Brynjar were a couple.  In a land where dating almost never happens, and a with a center full of men and only a few girls..this was a small miracle
Julie had met her "Knight in Shining Armor."  Love this picture.  They are on one of Julie's family's black horses- who was also our fine neighbor in our pasture behind our house in Odense.   (remember to click on the pictures if you want to see the pictures enlarged)
Just after we left Denmark for home, Julie and Brynjar were married during the late summer of 2010.  Our Young Single Adult Center was designed to provide a place for young single adults to gather, grow spiritually and socially, make life long friends, and some even fall in love.
Julie is a returned missionary and Brynjar has now been a member for a year.  What a happy couple.
I am so glad that Odense has a safe haven for young single adults- a place to find a refuge from the storm and chaos of single life in Europe.
For a place that serves no alcohol, offers no cigarettes, and seldom hears a word of swearing, (except maybe during a game of Crud at the pool table) it is a very fun and lively place to be.  I can still hear Jonathon, Julie's brother,   with our guitar in the computer room, singing "I can swallow the Ocean for you," while Elder Wilberg was doing the dishes in the kitchen, and I was listening to Japanese poetry from Dan's fancy telephone..In the game room a wild group of young adults were playing a championship game around the pool table, and an active game of foos ball.. while eating rice crispy treats (called "rice crispy cake" by the Danes) and having a fine relaxing time at the end of a great Family Home Evening.  Who could ask for a better place to be? 

This fall I noticed an increase in the number of people from all over the world- looking at our blog.  The little flags on the side of the post kept track of the countries that were looking for all kinds of things, from "the whole armor of God," to "steadfast soldiers are not made out of tin."  I discovered that had written another article about our center in their blog.  What a nice surprise. Here is a copy of that article. (click to enlarge it as well as press on the increase size scale on bottom right corner of the post)
It is a welcome extension of our mission to continue the stories, memories and sweet testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we shared while we were privileged to work in the basement of our little center in the middle of Odense, Denmark.

In this article you can discover why the Church, at great expense and care, has established over 60 centers for young adults all over Europe.  Senior Couples, at their own expense, are called to serve as managers and enthusiastic supporters of these programs.  We work with our very capable student leaders who are in charge of the many activities and spiritual events that take place at the center.  Our main purpose, above all the great activities and scripture classes that are taught,..our Main purpose is to "Bring people to Christ." 

And when you get home from a mission like this, you have a connection with these young adults that you will never forget.  There are phone calls, and facebook messages, and fine friendships that continue across the sea.  What a blessing to have been in their lives for eighteen months.  What a privelege it is to watch them to continue to grow.  We are looking forward to hearing about other romances at the center.  I wish for every single young man that was looking every week for his "eternal companion" at the center- that each of these deserving young men will take more than five minutes to discover the art of dating.. I think that since we have left there have been some effort to do just that.  Enough said for wishes.

One theme that I used over and over again as we lived and worked in Odense was a scripture from 1 Nephi 16:29, D&C 64:33.. 
"And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things..Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.  And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." 
There were times that the center was alive with students, and other times when there were only one or two.  Sometimes it was discouraging.  The students had to come from far and wide, by train, by bike, sometimes all together in one car.. but I loved the small, intimate gatherings the best (though it wasn't always good for our attendance records)..
This was a fine place for real friendships to grow..a place for food, lots of hungry students,..a place for enjoying one another..a place for young adults to use their Priesthood to bless and even baptize one another.
The spirit of missionary work is always at the center.  In Odense we have had at least two young Elders and two young Sisters to teach young adult investigators, and new members. They are a spiritual arm of our center..working together with the young adults to gather Israel one day at a time.  They are fine examples to for our students. They often had mini-missionaries (young men and women) who stay with them for several weeks..going tracting, teaching and learning what it is really like to become a missionary.  Many of our students are preparing to go when they become 19 or 20.
Thank you for noticing that in Odense, Denmark..we have a great center with the most amazing young single adults.
We have been given a basement of furniture, computers, a library, a well used guitar, a pool table, a foos ball table, a kitchen, a full refrigerator, chalk boards for great lessons, Institute Manuals for
studying the scriptures, comfortable leather chairs, and wireless internet..What a fine place to be.

During this Thanksgiving season, as I look at this little snow covered church in Odense, I am so grateful that we were sent to this lovely place and were given the opportunity to serve these fine students.
In D&C 67: 2 the Lord says.."Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you and the heavens and earth are in mine hands- and the riches of eternity are mine to give."  I know that His eyes are on this little basement center in Odense.  What a wonderful gift we have been given.

So here's to the best Center for Young Adults in all of Europe..thanks again for the opportunity we have had to serve you.  May God bless you all.  We love you, Sist W

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