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Stories: Missionary Joy

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Missionary Joy 13 Dec 2005
Trondheim, Norge, From My Missionary Journal: "On November 9, 1961, Elder Donald J. Hammar came to town to be my new companion. He had come to Norway from the great state of Washington from the city of Spokane, about 150 miles from my home town of Richland. We had known for nearly a week in advance that Elder Jacobson was being made a Traveling Elder, and I would be getting some kind of change. I was really happy to find out that I hadn’t been made a Senior Companion, when Elder Hammar came to the door at Leiv Ericksons Vei 11 and said that he was my new Senior Companion. Elder Hammar was very fun to be around for the most part. He was a person of many interests, especially when it came to the outdoors. We had many fun times together while walking to and from our work areas and before bedtime talking about our common interests - hunting, fishing, and, most of all, water skiing. He was an avid enthusiast in just about everything that pertained to sports, so that was right down one of my many alleys. He had also been at 'BYU,' Brigham Young University, the same year as I, 1959 and 1960, and we used to chat a lot about our experiences at the university. He had come on his mission after that year at the 'Y.'”

"On November 21, 1961, Elder Donald M. Steffensen came to Trondheim to trade places with Elder Thomsen. He came to the door at Leiv Eriksons Vei 11, and I answered the door. It was very dark outside as it was only about 7:00 A.M. He asked me in Norwegian if there were some Americans living here (he didn’t know whether I was Norwegian). I said, “Yah, c’mon in.” It kind of surprised him a little when I said that. Elder Hammar knew him from before and greeted him like a long lost friend. (Then the fun began!! Moth balls in the rooms, clocks set for the wrong ringing times, pajama swiping, and many other things began to happen.) Between the two seniors, there was always something for fun going on, and I, and Elder Nielsen, got very tired of it at last."

"One time during these matchups, Elder Hammer developed a boil in his right arm pit, which, over time, became so sore as to cause excruciating pain to the point of nearly-complete debilitation. Elder Hammer sought medical attention, but the cost to foreigners not in the state health care system was quit prohibitive. So, he had four choices: 1) live with it until it decided to dissipate on its own, 2) pay the big bucks to get it lanced professionally, 3) let Elder Steffensen, because of his seniority, lance it with a knife to drain the puss, or 4) Elder Steffensen “knew” (tongue in cheek) of using a pop bottle, dropping a lighted match into it, then putting the mouth of the bottle over the boil and allowing the resulting vacuum to suck the puss out. The ultimately-considered choice became #4. So, using a “Solo’ soft drink pop bottle, Elder Steffensen, being a very fun-loving and jovial character, “administered” to Elder Hammer’s relief, all the time chuckling and laughing to almost derision. After several tries of dropping lighted matches into the bottle only to have them go out when striking the bottom, one finally stayed lighted. Hip, hip, hurrah – quickly over the boil went the mouth of the bottle. Elder Hammer writhed in pain, only to have the rest of us laughing our heads off as the vacuum sucked the boil clear down into the neck of the bottle, without breaking the head of the boil. There sat Elder Hammer in utter and complete agony, screaming loudly and holding the pop bottle in his left hand trying to relieve the pressure the vacuum in the bottle caused. This sight was just too-too funny to behold, and the other three of us rolling on the floor in deep guttural laughter. Finally, when all was said and tried to ease the painful situation, we ultimately had to break the bottle and then gently twisting and pulling to remove the remaining part of the bottle neck off the blistering boil that had Elder Hammar in such withering pain. In the long run, Elder Hammar paid the exorbitant cost to have the boil lanced and drained professionally. An important lesson in life turns out to be: 'The Costly Way Is Often the Best Way'!"

"At one point during the time that Elder Hammar and I were together, Elder Hammar got constipated (“forstoppet”). Just on the corner of Eiric Jarls Gate going towards the Church building was a pharmacy (et apotek), and we stopped there so Elder Hammar could get some medication that would help him to get over this situation. It was a matter of explaining to the pharmacist what the problem was, since he didn’t speak or understand any English (up to and somewhat after the Second World War until the law changed, the Norwegian schools taught German as a second language), and neither of us knew the Norwegian word for “constipation” (“forstoppelse”). As I remember, Elder Hammar was the main one trying to explain what was his problem, but the pharmacist did not understand immediately. Finally, Elder Hammar told the pharmacist about sitting on the toilet with no results or some such, and the pharmacist understood to the point that he was able to get Elder Hammar an over-the-counter medication to get him over the problem sooner or later. Although I don’t remember what the medication was, it is very probable that I will never forget that situation and the Norwegian words that were associated with it!"

"Sometime around the latter part of April 1962, Elder Steffensen and Elder Hammar decided that we should go fishing with Elder Steffensen’s and Elder Nielsen’s 'investigator,' who was an avid fisherman. Both Elder Nielsen and I gave plausible reasons and some protestations for not going, but the two Senior Companions in the house prevailed. By now the days were getting perceptibly longer. Elder Steffensen was really 'riding his trunk' in his anticipation of being released - he already knew what new car he was going to buy when he got home to California (he had a picture that he shared often) and talked about that and about traveling through Europe after his mission in just about all conversations. So, going on this fishing activity was just another in that venue for him. Elder Hammar also very much promoted it in his own way, although his release was not imminent, but because he was 'a good sport.' So, long before dawn one morning, we all arose and got ready to 'gå på fiske tur.' I was bound and determined that I was only going along to act as companion for Elder Hammar, and Elder Nielsen had like feelings about Elder Steffensen. We rode in the 'investigator’s' old car quit far out into the country, which direction I don’t know since I slept most of the way, and arrived beside the river just as the day was dawning. The 'investigator' had brought along enough fishing poles for all of us and then some. However, I stayed in the car the whole time studying the lessons and the scriptures. Elder Nielsen, who had previously protested the activity, joined right in on the fishing, but his conscience got the best of him, and he finally came back to join me in the car. After about 4 hours, everyone was ready to call it quits, and head back home. I don’t remember how many fish we took with us, and don’t remember eating any except at the restaurant. More about this part of my mission came back to haunt me later."

A Journal entry from the middle of June 1962, after becoming a Senior Companion and serving in Porsgrunn in the Larvik District for about 1 month: "As I said before, the fishing activity up in Trondheim would come back to haunt me. During our class in Larvik on Friday, I gave a presentation of the fourth discussion to all others there. The opening part of each discussion dealt with the individual investigator(s) and how he, she, or they are progressing in studying the Gospel, with an invitation to attend Church the next Sunday. When I asked Elder Maw if he would like to come to Church next Sunday, he said, 'Jeg skal gå på fiske tur!' and laughed out loud with a great gusto and joviality. I didn’t really think anything of it, because that is not an uncommon answer in that instance, but was somewhat confused at his laughter. It didn’t dawn on me that he was referring to our Trondheim days. After the class, we were standing under the trees behind the building and talking. It was then that Elder Maw offered up the explanation for his laughter. Shortly after becoming a Traveling Elder, President Gundersen had assigned him and his companion, Elder Amundsen, to go to Hamar to work with Elder Nielsen and his companion. Hamar sits on a hillside overlooking the largest lake in Norway. One morning during their visit, Elder Maw got ready for the day, and, glanced out the glass in the front door of the house where they were staying. He saw the lake below and said, 'Boy, I wish I had a fishing pole.' That had eaten at Elder Nielsen’s conscience all day. He thought that Elder Maw, our Supervising Elder in Trondheim, had somehow found out about the fishing trip and was then questioning Elder’s Nielsen’s worthiness. That night before going to bed he just had to 'spill the beans' (confess) to Elder Maw. As it turned out, Elder Maw hadn’t known anything about the trip until that time. Elder Maw told me that Elder Nielsen had told him that I had maintained mission standards throughout the whole activity, but that he had given in just a little, then realized his error."
Harold Oak Send Email
 
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