If you’re a loyal reader (is there such a thing as a disloyal reader?) you know I’m a Latter-day Saint, or Mormon. And you know that when our 20-year-old daughter was called to serve an 18-month mission for our church, opened the envelope and read “Norway” to us over the phone (she was away at school) that I burst into tears of joy.
I went there as a tourist, myself, at age 19. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Norway is the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. It’s so gorgeous it makes your eyes hurt. You rub them in disbelief, open them and still can’t believe it’s not a movie set. Here’s just a sampling of the fairy-tale scenery there:
SOPPY ALERT: Joni is going to wax sentimental here, Schmaltz Level Ten.
So I was thrilled that she was going to such an incredible country, but also proud of her choice to serve the Lord with such love and enthusiasm. And boy, will she return with honor! She is now 22, and has touched more lives than I can count, and seen tremendous success. She has taught people there who are from all over the world—Afghanistan, the Philippines, Albania, Nepal, Chile, Eretria, Cambodia, Ghana, Colombia, Nigeria, Romania—I could go on and on. She's on the right in these photos:
She has also had the door-slams, hostility, and opposition you expect, as well. And she has handled it with grace and good humor, supreme kindness and compassion. In Norwegian.
Nicole worked in several cities, including the one that inspired the movie, Frozen, yet never complained once about the sub-zero temperatures or dark winter days. Instead she said that the darker it got, the more filled with light she felt. And she even got to see the Northern Lights from the king’s palace.
We only get to speak by phone on Christmas and Mother’s Day so her weekly letters have been like Christmas morning for me. She writes better than I do (by a mile), and spiritually inspires me and motivates me to improve every week.
Not long ago her mission president’s wife wrote, “We all want to be like Sister Hilton ‘when we grow up.’” All I could think was, “Me, too.”
Shameless plug: If you’d like to know what Nicole has been teaching, it’s the restoration of Christ’s original church, upon the earth again. You can learn more (and get a free Book of Mormon) here.