We were double-transferred into our area, Sister Magnusdotter brand new to Norway, and both of us ready to take on the new city. Two days after transfers we found out about quarantine and tried our best to stay positive and to find ways to meet people and be better acquainted with the branch members. Not being able to work outside of our apartment or meet with people face to face was discouraging, and we felt that we were not doing what we had been called to do. A couple weeks later we received word that we were allowed to go for walks and exercise outside; this was a huge blessing, and although it felt so nice to be outside, it was unnatural as missionaries to not stop and talk to people.
After an emotional companionship study we felt like we needed a change of pace and something to lift our spirits that would help us feel more useful and productive. We had the idea to go out and pick up trash as we went out for our daily walk. We took the only pair of rubber gloves in our apartment, each of us only wearing one glove, and two grocery bags. We picked up as much as we could see while walking around the harbour - sorting general trash and the recycling. We didn’t expect anyone to ever notice what we were doing, we simply did it as the little service that we could offer while being distanced from everyone. However, many people who were also out walking, stopped to ask what we were doing and say thank you. It made us happy to know that our small effort was appreciated and that we could give back to the community we are living in.
We loved it so much, the next day we decided to do the same thing. This time we had bought another pair of gloves, and we went out into the city to continue picking up garbage. Again, many people stopped to appreciate what we were doing, and we had several good conversations with those who stopped to talk. We were heading in the direction of our apartment when we passed a woman who was out with her son for an evening walk. They saw the full bags and were surprised at what we had been doing! She thanked us and asked if she could take a picture so that she could share it in a local facebook group. We consented and let her take the picture. Not thinking much of it, we continued home.
When we got home we saw that our branch president had seen this image in the group where the woman posted it (a group with 8.3K members) and he shared it in several other places expressing his gratitude. In the two hours we were out, we managed to walk past this woman at just the right time. It was a testimony that the Lord is in even the smallest of details.
This was an excellent way to do missionary work in a normal and natural way. Many people not of our faith had noticed and expressed their appreciation for our efforts both online as well as in person. They notice the name tags and instead of feeling intimidated or uncomfortable, they are so much more willing to talk and hear more about what we do as missionaries. It has been incredible to go for walks and have normal interactions with people, even something as simple as smiling, saying hi, or giving a compliment. People are taken by surprise when a random stranger asks how they are doing and it makes their day! Yes, people are social distancing, but they are not socially distant and they appreciate even the little things.
Sister Bartholomew & Sister Magnusdotter
Arendal, Norway Mission