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Stories: The Old-New Way to Start A Mission

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The Old-New Way to Start A Mission 20 Dec 2005
From My Missionary Journal and The First two Letters Home, Dated June 30, 1961, and July 9, 1961: "In those days, the Salt Lake City, Utah, Mission Home stay-time was just a single 5-day period long. All missionaries going out to all missions stayed in three converted mansion houses behind Brigham Young’s Beehive House and facing east on State Street in the block just north of Eagle Gate. Sunday evening, I registered in the Mission Home for my week of instruction. The next morning, I met my companion for the week, Elder Glade C. Bailey from Draper, Utah. Elder Bailey was a jolly fellow - always with something funny to say . . .. I’ll never forget how he could imitate 'Mr. McGoo' so well - come to think of it, he kinda looked like the character. We had a good time together. Two other Elders were also going to Norway: Elder David W. Jex from Guntersville, Alabama, and Elder Roger N. Hogan from Burley, Idaho, who were companions together there and when traveling. All missionaries ate at the same assigned-shift times every day in a basement banquet room in the Hotel Utah. (Some 30 years later, The Church bought and renovated that building, to become The Joseph Smith Memorial Building.) During that week, we had the opportunity of hearing from nearly all of the General Authorities of the Church. On Wednesday, June 14, 1961, Elder Franklin D. Richards, an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles, set me apart as a full-time missionary for the Church and the Lord. He gave me a very special and wonderful blessing, promising me that I would learn the Norwegian language very fast. The rest of the week passed very quickly.

Monday night, June 19, 1961, I boarded a United Airlines DC-6 for the beginning of my trip from Salt Lake City to Oslo, Norway. The plane took off at 10:00 PM. On the way to the first major stop, Chicago, we stopped in Denver and Omaha for short stops of about 30 minutes each. On the flight from Denver to Omaha, the cabin pressurization went out for a time, and I awoke with hurting ear drums. In Chicago, we changed planes - from the DC-6 propeller-driven plane to a fine, luxurious United Airlines DC-7 jet plane. We arrived in New York City at beautiful Idlewild Airport at about 9:30 AM. From United Airlines, a representative of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines took us to get checked in for our 8:30 PM flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Holland. As we didn’t take off for a long time, we deposited our baggage and took a cab into New York City, to Times Square. From there, we took a tour bus through the city and saw many wonderful sights. We saw, among others, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the United Nations Building. It was really an experience to see all these sights about which one hears so much. We took another cab back to Idlewild about 6:00 PM, so we could shave and shower before catching our plane to Amsterdam. We also wanted to look around the airport a little. The cab driver who took us back went a different route than the one who took us into the city, and that was much shorter - that cabby said that the other driver must have gone the much longer route to increase the fares he would get. We had wondered why the second group to leave in the morning was already at Time Square when we arrived. They said they had been there quite some time, 10 or 15 minutes! Anyway, we got back to KLM, where they told us that our party of nine, which included us four Elders going to Norway and five Elders going to the Netherlands, had been transferred to the 11:00 PM jet flight to Scotland and on to Amsterdam. A roar come from the group. Reason: we had been scheduled for a DC-6 flight across the ocean, but, when remembering the difference between the first two planes on which we had been in the last 24 hours, we gladly and happily accepted the change. We had not been very happy that morning when told our scheduled flight was on a DC-6.

During our wait for our plane, KLM treated us to dinner in one of the very nice restaurants there at the airport. Delicious!! At 11:00 PM, June 20, 1961, we boarded a KLM DC-7 jet for the flight across the great Atlantic Ocean. There were not very many people on the flight. So after eating a delicious chicken dinner, the attendants helped us remove the seat dividers and lie down for sleep; somewhat cramped for my long legs, but it worked. After 5 or 6 hours of restful sleep, we were awakened to a very nice breakfast before landing in Prestwick, Scotland. In a half hour we were off again for our flight to Amsterdam. Before we knew it, we were flying low over the roof tops and canal-streets of Amsterdam. We arrived at the airport outside the city, and disembarked the plane. This was where the five Elders going to the Netherlands would leave us, and we, headed for Norway, had to change from KLM to SAS, Scandinavian Airline System. About half an hour after we arrived, the DC-6 we were supposed to take lumbered in after its all-night flight across the ocean. We said our goodbyes to the Elders going to the Netherlands, and waited for our flight out to Oslo, Norway. Oslo was not very far away after we boarded our plane, an SAS DC-3 (A so-called “Goony Bird,” I later learned), in Amsterdam. The weather between Holland and Norway was a little rough, and sometimes I wondered if we were on a plane or a roller coaster. Elder Bailey sat right across the aisle from me, and, with every dip and rise of the plane, he got a little greener in the face (there was no “Mr. McGoo”). I thought for sure that he would have to use the emergency bag in the back pouch of the seat in front of him, but we landed in Stavanger, Norway, without an accident. After refueling and exchange of passengers, we headed for Oslo. We reached our destination at 8:00 PM that evening, June 21, 1961. President Joseph A. Gundersen and his First Councilor, Kaare W. Larsen, from Drammen, Norway, met us at Oslo’s Fornebu Airport. After passing through customs without incident, they took us to the mission home, Drammensveien 96G. We met Sister Gundersen at that time, who would be our “Mother” for the next 2½ years. After meeting the other people in the office, Elder Bailey and I went to Osterhaus Gate 27, the previous mission headquarters, to stay the night. The bed felt like heaven after our long trip . . . . It did seem funny going to bed with the sun still up. The next morning, we started our missions off right by rising out of the “sack” at 6:00 AM (still with the sun up!). After shaving, showering, dressing, and eating, we went back to the Mission Home at Drammensveien 96G. In the Mission Home that day, we talked with President Gundersen for a couple of hours and received our assignments. Mine - Trondheim, with the Supervising Elder, Elder G. Norman Christensen. For some reason, I was glad not to be working in Oslo. We then headed out into Oslo with President (Elder) Douglas T. Engh, Second Councilor to President Gundersen. He helped us change our American money into Norwegian, showed us a few interesting things about the Norwegian people, and showed us a little of Oslo city. We ate our first “middag” of Norwegian food at the Mission Home. Mmm - “delig” (“delicious”). That evening we had a nice house warming to welcome us into the field and release an Elder who had completed his mission. Having been gone from home only about 2 weeks, I thought to myself how lucky that Elder was to be going home! (But, as President Richards in the Salt Lake Mission Home had said, “The first 6 months are always the hardest”; and, indeed, they were!!) After that, Elder Engh drove me to Osterhaus to pick up my luggage and then on to the “North” train station to catch the 9:00 PM train out of Oslo to Trondheim. Because there were no “sleepers” available on the train, I had the misfortune of sitting up all night long on a straight-backed oak wooden bench. The train felt as though it had square wheels, with the shortness of the wheel base and the rails on which they ran. Also, it was light outside, and a crying, nursing (YIKES!) baby in the same compartment, so I didn’t get any sleep at all. I can truthfully say that was the worst night I had spent in all my life. I arrived in Trondheim on the 23rd of June, 1961, one of the “greenest” missionaries to ever hit the town, and so tired I could hardly stand up. Elder Christensen and two other Elders met me at the train station, built on an island between one arm of the Nid River and the Trondheim Fjord. Elder Christensen was to be my first companion. He was the Supervising Elder of the Trondheim District at that time. He then took me out to our “hybel” (“apartment”) located at Leiv Ericksons Vei 11 in the Lade district of Trondheim, and about 100 yards from Trondheim Fjord. The landlord was a widow lady, Fru Køhler, who lived in the main part of the first floor of the two-story house, and her widowed sister lived upstairs in a similar arrangement. We had use of a first floor half bath and the first floor kitchen for breakfast time only. I had a few hours sleep, and that evening, I had my first cottage meeting, with a recent convert, Søster Dahlø. Saturday, the 24th, was an eventful day in my life. In the morning, I did my first tracting. That first tracting was a disappointment because we got thrown out of the first “oppgang” we entered - bodily. There were three living-quarter stories above the stores in the front along the road. The owner of the store lived in the first story up the stairs from the back of the building. He was not home when we knocked on his door, so we proceeded up the stairs to the next story. (Elder C. told me we always start at the bottom living story and go up from there, so if anyone had a change of heart when we were above, they could stop us on our way down after we had finished the upper stories; I quickly proved in my own mind, at least, this was not the way to go.) I was under the impression that the lady who opened the door there was being very positive about what Elder Christensen was telling her, until she slammed the door in our faces. When I asked about her incessant in-breathing “ja’s”, which I mistook for what was an out-breathing “Ja”, “yes” in Norwegian. Elder C. explained that was just a Norwegian’s polite way of saying he or she understood what one was saying, not that he or she agreed with it. Nonetheless, by the time we got to the third floor, apparently the lady on the previous story had told the owner, and he was coming up the stairs yelling at the top of his lungs and flailing a heavy stick at us to get out and to never come back. (At that time, I thought tracting was the worst thing in the world, and that helped prove it to me!) That afternoon we went to a party up in the mountains with the Saints from the Trondheim Branch and some investigators. While there, I cracked the bone in my right wrist (playing leap frog with the grown-ups, of all things). The next 3 weeks I went around with a cast on my right arm - fun, huh? We spent Sunday, June 25, 1961, in the new chapel (the first building the Church built in Norway; all others to that point had been renovated older homes or buildings or rentals), which was not quite finished, at Eiric Jarls Gate 5, Trondheim, Norge. When I first saw it, the outside bricking still had a lot of excess mortar and lime stains on it, the podium in the chapel was just a raised area with a not-fastened rostrum and portable chairs, the seating for the congregation was just portable chairs, no carpet was on the asphalt-tiled floor, and just a small piano for accompanying the hymns. But, it was nice to have it for branch meetings, none the less. (By the time for our District Conference about 2 months later, we would have a completed podium, carpets, unsecured benches, and a two-manual electric organ.) In the next 3 weeks I learned many things. For one, missionary work is hard – I was really tired each night after work, and I could hardly drag myself home. There are many times that I sat through part of a cottage meeting dozing! Getting Acclimatized!! It surely seems funny to try to sleep in the daytime. Trondheim is just far enough north that the sun stays up during the night. Also, since it is only about 300 miles from the Arctic Circle, it is rather cold, and being so close to the sea and located near the mountains, it is constantly overcast with clouds--have had good use out of that new top coat. Our apartment is located about 150 feet from the fjord so that we have a very pretty sight to watch when we can’t sleep. I am getting so I can understand a little of the Norwegian language. It is coming slowly, but surely. Elder Christensen was a very hard-working missionary, and we went around town at a half run nearly all the time. I had a terrible time keeping up to this gait, and many times I lagged two or three steps behind him. I remember many times he would tell me something that I couldn’t understand from that position, and I would say, “What?” He would answer back with another very sarcastic, “What?” The weather hasn’t been too hot these last 2 weeks since I got here. The sun has shone off and on for only 4 days. Today has been very nice. In fact, it was nice that we went out and took some pictures of the city and the beautiful scenery that is around here. On a hill that is near our place, we found where the Germans had built big cement gun emplacements during the war when they occupied Trondheim. It was really something to walk around them and see the underground network that they built to house the personnel who operated those big guns. Also, we could see the big buildings (two heavily secured, multi-entranced slips) where they housed their submarines while here in Trondheim. This was suppose to be one of the largest submarine bases occupied by the Germans outside of Germany. I am getting so that I like to tract. The language is really coming along quickly. I am getting so that I can understand a lot of what is said. Although I still can’t speak too much. It is really a challenge sometimes to try to understand some of these people, but it is really easy to understand the missionaries. Well, I must be throwing on my saddle bags (two grey naugahyde bags that hung under the arms with straps over the shoulders and across the back, in which we carried the Scriptures, tracts, and Books of Mormon) so that we can get some tracting in before we go to church.

I had many wonderful experiences with Elder Christensen, including my first Norwegian bath - shower, steam room, and cold pool of water to seal the pores. What a thrill!! Another “treat” Elder Christensen thought I would enjoy was the Norwegian 'root beer' named 'Vørterøl' One sip from a bottle of it proved to me that 'Vørterøl' was really NO treat, as it smelled and tasted more like what I would think sewer water does. Elder C. loved it, so drank the rest of my bottle after finishing his. The last treat that Elder C. introduced to me was Norwegian 'is krem' or 'ice cream.' Very Yummy! I grew to love and respect Elder Christensen very much while we were together, and the time of parting came all too soon. On July 14, 1961, exactly just 3 weeks after being assigned with him, Elder Christensen was called to be a Traveling Elder. It was really hard to part with him after having relied on him like a young brand-new chick relies on its mother hen. I had a very hard time, I remember, of holding back the tears when he left for Oslo."
Harold Oak Send Email
 
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