May 17, 2010


For a good part of the year, this is what it looks like when we leave for church on Sunday morning.  We have to travel about an hour and a half each way so Sundays are probably our most challenging day.
Before we ever put our foot into the car there's a lot to be done.

The food that will be eaten between five and six hours later has to be prepared and put into the oven so it will be ready when we come home.
It's always the same:
A roast of our beef that is browned and laid in the large oval cast iron baker, sprinkled with salt, pepper and herbs (fresh in the summer from our garden, dried in the winter from the storage), then onions, turnips and carrots from the root cellar or garden, on top.
Add a little broth, on with the cover and into the oven it goes to braise slowly while we're away.

Of course, before we leave, all the barn chores have to be done and all the animals have to be fed, and so do the hungry men and boys who are doing that early morning work for upwards of three hours.

Fur or skin, the question is the same -
" it time for the food yet?"

Everyone showers, the Sunday clothes are put on, we eat, the kitchen is cleaned up, and finally we head out.
Along the way are a few historical landmarks that are of special interest to our family and evoke the same response each and every time we make the trip.
All of these may be filed under the heading 
"Driving Too Fast for Existing Conditions."

The site on the left,
 affectionately known as "Oskar's Crossroads" is the location of a failed attempt to negotiate the turn at the "T".  Barely missing the blue signs, he sailed right on through,  fenders kissing the pine trees as he plunged into the forest beyond. This venue does double duty, however, as it also qualifies as "Louise's T" in reference to the magic moment when she rammed the car in front of her through the same intersection from behind, austensibly against its owner's will. 
Then on the right is "Papa's Curve".  The minute it comes into view someone in the car begins the vocal interp:
(simulating Papa's alarmed voice as he felt the black ice beneath the wheels)
followed by various mouth noises in an attempt to recreate the audio portion of a Volvo station wagon skidding off the road and doing a 3/4 flip into the snow-filled ditch.  On that memorable day we were going to a church meeting in Umeå, about three hours north, and had the entire back of the car filled with decorated cakes.  When we flipped, the window shattered and the cakes flew out all over the adjacent hillside.  The car was totalled, but miraculously, no one was hurt and the boys considered it a great adventure to hoist themselves (and Hans and I) up and out of the window of the overturned car. 

Certainly no excursion would be complete without "Sophia's Curve" which in this picture does not appear anywhere near as steep as it is in real life.  According to the family legend, careening down the wintry hill from beyond the farm on the right, Sophia, free spirit that she is, projectiled herself, the car and its four passengers off the icy road and directly into the forest.  Again, miraculously, no one was hurt, and the heartwarming ending of the story always includes the kindness of the farm family who took them all in and gave them hot chocolate and vaniljbullar (vanilla custard buns). 

In three and a half years of driving this route to Church, regardless of the weather,  we have only had one Sunday where we didn't see this little man walking along the road just past a village named Gala, for his morning constitutional.  With his rosy cheeks and short, sturdy build he looks dangerously close to a Tomte (Swedish elf). We stopped one day and asked if we could take his picture but he waved us away brusquely, disgusted at the request AND the interruption of his walk.
(We took that as a "NO" so only got the rear view).
Also,  from September to April we are kept alert while traversing 
"Reindeer Row",
the 12km stretch between Oskar and Louise's "T" intersection and the historic village of Mickelgensjö. The herds have no fear of vehicles and feel no compunction to move when a car is coming.  We have tried honking loudly, slowing down, speeding up, shouting out the window...nothing makes any difference.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)  the congregations are called Branches or Wards.  If you are a small group, you belong to a Branch & District, if larger, you belong to a Ward & Stake.

We belong to the Örnsköldsvik Gren (Branch), Umeå District.
The city of Örnsköldsvik (Urn-sholds-veek) is known for two things:  a populace with an unusually strong interest in religion, especially for the country of Sweden, and the fact that as a city it sends more players to the NHL (National Hockey League)  than any other city in the world.  In fact, statistically, this medium sized community of approximately 70,000 people would normally have to have a population of 12,000,000 people to generate as much talent as it does onto the surface of North America's ice rinks.
Nestled in an inlet of the Baltic Sea, it is our destination point for church services each Sunday.

Hans and I were married in our Branch meeting hall in Övik (Ur-veek), as it is called for short.  I had only been in Sweden five days and the District President at the time, Torbjörn Jälmbrandt, came down from Umeå to perform the ceremony. 
It was Sunday and it was Christmas Eve 2006.
We had a lovely Sacrament meeting with an emphasis on the birth of the Savior and all that surrounds that beautiful event.
Then after the closing prayer, the  congregation was invited to stay and we had a beautiful event of our own.

A sweet friend of Hans' family from the village of Junsele provided the traditional Angermanland Costume for me to wear and our little Branch of Saints were our wedding guests. 
 It was the first time I had been in the building. 

 We met Magnus and Maria, who themselves had only been married a few weeks before.  She had come from Angola via Portugal and he was from Örnsköldsvik.  We had Åke and Kristina Ottosson (bottom left) and their son Jan with his wife Katti and their children, Viktor, Frida and Smilla (bottom right), who had been members of the Church for decades and a sustaining force in our little Branch.
And in just three short years we have come to know and love more and more members, from all over the world. 
We have Carlos from Argentina who is married to Kim Hourt from Cambodia,  we have Judith, a recently baptized convert who is now serving as the secretary to the Women's Presidency,

And we have WEK! from Sudan..
"Mr. Colorful" in EVERY respect.

There are others from Liberia, Congo, the U.S., Iran, Iraq, Great Britain and many parts of Sweden. 
There are French speakers, Khmer speakers, English speakers, and more African dialects than you could count among them.
And 95% of us are currently trying to learn Swedish!
For the most part we only see each other once a week on Sunday,
but we are bonded together as a Branch family by our faith.

That's my Canadian down coat that Gustav is snuggled up in while he 'snores the big one' on the way home after the meetings. It's a challenging day by the time we get everything accomplished and head back. 

This picture was taken six and a half hours later than the one at the beginning of the post as we returned on the same evening.
It was the last week of April.
Like Gustav we were all tired, but it had been a good, good day.

In Isaiah 11:12 it says:
"And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four 'corners' of the earth."
In this scripture the Hebrew word 'kanaph' is translated as 'corner' but a closer meaning could be 'extremity'.

It is safe to say that our group in the Örnsköldsvik Gren comes from the 'extremities' of our earth.  As individuals we have many languages, ethnic origins and personal difficulties that we face.
But our hearts are indeed "gathered together"  as we assemble each Sunday,
We are SO glad.

We love our Branch! 


MStevenson said...

Whenever I read your blog I always feel lazy. I complain that it's hard to get the kids to church at 9:00 am, and we only live 5 minutes away. What a stinker I am.

I love all these pictures. I love to see where you live and it was fun to see you in that traditional dress. So fun!

Karen said...

So many years have gone by since we last saw each other, Lorayne, and you are simply as beautiful as I've always remembered! And what a lovely traditional Swedish dress! Please e-mail when you have a free moment - I'd love to be able to catch up with you.

Karen Pruden Shirley

Lawana said...

Hi there my friend,
You sound so happy and full of life as you always are. I still miss you. Lets go play Tetris or make some yummy bread. Life here is great. I live in Nibley. The kids are doing great. Peter and Angie are in CT have 3 boys and 2 girls. They want 1 more. Gary is in the USN. He and Katrina have 3 girls. Aaron is in prison in WA. His grandfather Ralph left all the inheritance that Chris would have received to Aaron and Sara. He got hooked on meth and has a really long rap sheet. It is sad, but the best place for him. Life here is really wonderful though. You take good care,
Love you,

Anonymous said...

Lawana! Send me your e-mail address. L.

Lawana said...

Hi there my wonderful friend,
My email is
I can almost hear your wonderful laugh and the sweet voice you have. Life is sooo very good here. It is wonderful to be loved and not someone's toy. Maybe someday we will see each other again. I don't know, but I would really love it.

Hugs and more hugs,