Monday, August 26, 2013

Sisar Nielsen and her MTC Zone shortly after arriving in Finland (with Mission President Rawlings)

8/26/13 - The Work Goes Forward in Finland! (Alternative title - Watch out Finland! Here Comes Jenessa!)


Okay for starters, this country is absolutely gorgeous! I mean everybody told me Finland was beautiful, but I never imagined it to be like this. There are SO MANY trees! They are all so tall and green and they tower over the landscape. The clouds are some of the puffiest white clouds I ever did see and the sky is such a pretty pale blue. There are so many lakes and they literally take my breath away every time we pass by them. 

My first area is a city called Tampere. I have two companions! WHAAAT? My trainer is Sisar Egan from Oregon and my other comp is Sisar Hubner who was in my MTC district. It's seriously a blast! I was scared when I found out I was in a threesome, but I absolutely love it! It's so much fun. And we all have such a fire burning in our hearts to do missionary work. Our apartment is the cutest thing ever! It literally looks like an IKEA display, which makes sense because almost all of our furniture is from IKEA. At first it was weird trying to adjust to little things like taking a shower in the open shower (it's just in the bathroom) and having to squeegie the walls and floor but now it just seems normal. Our apartment is kind of in the middle of a forest so we get to walk through the trees to the bus stop everyday. It's amazing! 

Finland has really strict privacy laws so I'll just warn you now, any name I send to you (besides the missionaries) are made up names. And I'm not allowed to send pictures of people without their written consent. 

So time to address the missionary work.... WE HAVE A BAPTISM IN TWO WEEKS. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! Her name is Sarah and she is from Africa so our lessons are in English. She is so spiritual and so fun! She always thanks us for "bringing her the word" and calls us her sisters. I absolutely love her. She loves reading the Book of Mormon and loves learning more about the gospel. On Saturday, some Elders in our zone had a baptism! We invited Sarah to come to it. She was running really late and so I just prayed my little heart out that she would make it in time. She showed up right as we were walking to the font. The Lord sure knows how to keep me on my toes! After the man got baptized we went back to the chapel. They opened it up for a testimony meeting. Sarah stood up and said (in Finnish) that she loved watching this man get baptized and she is so excited to get baptized soon! I was praying all week that she would have that confirmation after seeing the baptism! The Lord sure answers prayers. Sarah invited us to meet with her friend last Friday. We met in the middle of the city and went to lunch. Sarah paid for all of us to have lunch, which was so nice! Sarah's friend is named Jen. She is from China and is so sweet. We all spoke in Finnish because that was the only language we all (sort of) know. I couldn't help but laugh as we made quite the group! Our whole conversation involved a lot of interpreting and acting out, because not one of us is all that good at Finnish! We gave her a Book of Mormon in Chinese and she was very touched that we did that. She agreed to meet with us on Wednesday even though she said she already has her own beliefs (Buddism). I know the gospel will bless her life and I hope that she can realize that. 

Finnish is quite the challenge! We ride the buses everywhere and we always try to use the opportunity to talk with everyone we meet. The problem is that I really don't know all that much Finnish. And I can definitely speak more that I can understand! They speak soooo fast here! And they have a different dialect - sometimes I feel like they're speaking a completely different language than the one I learned. I just can't help but laugh and pray that the Lord will help me. I gave my first talk in Finnish! In Tampere, there are two wards. Both wards have one set of sisters and one set of elders. The other set of sisters went home for medical issues the same day that we got here so now my companionship is in charge of both wards! Can you say 6 hours of church anyone?! It was insane. Plus we had meetings that we had to go to. So it was actually 7. And starting next week, it'll be 8 hours because we'll have to start meeting with both wards. Needless to say, we are very very busy. Anyway, I had to give a talk in church! It was kind of scary, but I did it! And it was a good way to establish myself with the ward members. 

Finland has a very different culture than America. For starters, people don't talk to people! When you walk on the street or sit on the bus or shop in a store you do just that and you don't talk to others around you. Yeah well, that's not what we do! We try to talk to everybody! So many times people do double takes when we say "Terve" because they're so surprised that we're talking to them. The thing is, I feel like they want people to talk to. They want that human interaction and that happiness in their lives, but they limit themselves from having it because of their culture. I've had many experiences already where the people look like they're going to fall out of their chairs while I talk to them. A couple of days ago, we got on a bus. I saw this guy who had dark clothes and lots of piercings and I felt like I should go sit by him, so I did. I asked him how his day was going and he seemed very surprised. At first he was quite stand offish, but as the conversation progressed he warmed right up to me and was very nice. I talked to him about God and Jesus Christ. Since Sunday was the next day, I asked him if he wanted to go to church with me. He literally looked like he was going to fall out of his chair! He took a couple seconds to respond and overcome his shock and said he was busy. I gave him the address of the church and told him he was always welcome. He thanked me and got off at his stop. I've had so many experiences like that. It's amazing that as a missionary, I don't see people the same way I used to. I'm really working on seeing them as how they can become and how God sees them. Everyone needs this gospel in their lives. Everyone needs the joy and happiness that it brings. Everyone needs the power of the Atonement. And this is exactly what I'm trying to give them. Even though I can't speak the language (and church yesterday was brutal because I could only pick out words like "faith" and "prophet") I can still show them that their Savior loves them, and ultimately that's what I'm here to do anyway. 

Right now we are killing it with lessons. We taught 30 lessons this past week and the Standard of Excellence for our mission is 20. We just want to talk to everybody and let everyone know that Christ lives! I've had a couple of language mess ups (that I know of.... I'm sure I've had a million more...) but it's okay! because I'm trying. My first couple days here, I was trying to tell people that I'm a Church Representative but I was actually saying that I'm a Church Progressor, whatever that means... Also Sisar Egan invited this teenage guy to come play a Finnish sport on Wednesday. Apparently he said that he doesn't like to play so Sisar Egan just went straight to telling him about the gospel. Yeah well I didn't understand that either so when their was a pause in the conversation, I jumped in and said "haluatko liittyä meitä?!" which means "do you want to join us?!" because I thought we were still talking about playing the sport! Sisar Egan looked at me like "what in the world are you doing?!?" and Sisar Hubner just smiled and nodded and said "yeah" because she had no idea what was going on either.... voi että. So yeah, just keep praying for me that I'll get the gift of tongues! 

I love it here! I'm convinced I have the BEST MISSION EVER. It's really hard and very very very humbling but I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world right now. Minä rakastan teitä and KIRKKO ON TOTTA. 

Sisar Nielsen

ps the ice cream here is incredible. and the chocolate is even better. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20, 2013 - FINALLY IN FINLAND!

Hello hello hello! TERVE.
I AM CURRENTLY WRITING YOU THIS EMAIL FROM FINLAND. WHATTTT?!? It's crazy that I'm finally here! Travel today was brutal. It was about 29 hours ... but I'm finally here! It is gorgeous in Finland. The trees are so beautiful. We went to the temple and it was amazing! The Spirit was so strong there. We then went to the mission home and had a delicious meal cooked by Sisar Rawlings. Right now, we are getting ready for bed and writing our families to tell them we've made it here safely. So I love you all and I'll write you my next p-day. I'm going to my new area tomorrow! And I'm getting my new companion. Pray for me! I love you all and KIRKKO ON TOTTA.

Sisar Nielsen

Friday, August 16, 2013

August 15, 2013 - This Is It! Last Letter From the MTC....

Hello All!

This time next week I will be in the FINE LAND OF FINLAND. CRAZAAAAY. We got our travel plans this week! I was so excited I cried (shocker!). Guess where we're going?! CHICAGO! I can't wait to show my district my home town! (well only the airport but still.......). After that we head to London and then we finally make it to Finland! In total it'll be 29 hours of travel time so pretty much I'm gonna wanna just lay down and die. But because I have this name badge on my chest, I'll be standing as a witness of Christ EVERYWHERE I go - which means even when I'm so exhausted I wanna fall over, I'm tired of sitting on an airplane with no phone, music, or movies, I'm sick of being in a skirt, I'm hungry, I'm tired of children kicking my chair, and I look like a train wreck, I still have to smile and act like I'm having the time of my life. I really am excited to talk to everyone I meet in the airport though. Having this tag on is like having a "you can be BOLD" card. It gives me more confidence and courage than anything I've experienced before. 

This week was interesting having our Mahtava Viikko (only Finnish week). I'm gonna be honest, it was hard. It was frustrating. Sometimes my brain felt like it was about to explode. But I'm a pro at charades now so that's pretty cool - and it was awesome being able to witness the power of the Lord. I am able to speak Finnish. I am able to speak FINNISH! The girl that barely pulled a B in high school French could speak non stop Finnish for a week! It is truly a miracle. I know that I am not learning this alone. The Lord is helping me and He truly is the greatest teacher. Obviously, my Finnish still isn't very good to say the least, but I'm doing it. We FINALLY learned our last Finnish grammar principle yesterday. We've been learning them nonstop since we got here, which is why Finnish is considered one of the hardest languages in the world. The grammar principles are ridiculous. And to make things more exciting, when we get to Finland we have to learn spoken Finnish. Right now we've been learning written because if we don't learn written first, we don't stand a chance of learning spoken. So basically I'll have to learn another language built off of the language I still don't understand. What does this mean? It means I need lots and lots of prayers :)

On Tuesday we had the amazing opportunity to have an Apostle of the Lord, Richard G. Scott, come and address us. It truly was amazing and I feel like it was for me. I sang in the choir which was pretty cool because this was the first MTC devotional that was viewed Live by most of the other MTCs and shown later to the other MTC's. It was translated into multiple different languages and it was awesome. Richard G. Scott talked about prayer. He said our prayers are answered in 3 different ways: 1. Peace and Assurance, a good feeling that your answer is right, 2. A stupor of thought or unsettling feeling that your choice is wrong, or 3. nothing. He asked "Why would the Lord do this? To help us grow". I thought this was so interesting. He said sometimes that Lord lets His children struggle for a little while before giving them answers so their character can be built and their faith can strengthen. But He said God will always answer our prayers, it's all just in His timing and not ours. He later said something that caused tears to spring to my eyes. He said "with an Apostolic authority, I invoke a blessing upon you who are learning a new language" that through our faith we will be able to do it. He said "[God] knows your strengths. He knows where you need to be strengthened." I know that this is true. I know that God answers our prayers and that He cares about us because we are His. We are His children. And He is our Father. And I'm so grateful that I have this knowledge. 

Today we had the opportunity to go to the temple! WHOOOHOO! I love the temple! It's been closed since our first week coming here. It was awesome being able to go our first week here and our last week here. It truly is the house of God and I want to always live my life in such a way that I will be worthy to enter it. 

One of the reasons I am on a mission is because I want to be the kind of mom my children need. I told this to my teacher Sisar Christofferson and she shared this quote with me. Now I'm not saying in order to be a good mom you have to be an RM, heck I have the best mom in the whole world and she didn't serve a mission, (this is Jenessa's mom - just wanted to say thanks for the shout out Baby Girl! now back to her letter....)  but I know that I needed this mission in order to be the mom I need to be. The quote is by President Gordon B. Hinckley and it says:
"Many young women are serving missions. Many are preparing to serve. Not because they aren't married or have nothing else to do; but because they have a desire to serve and therefore are being called to the work. The reason so many are going is because in the next generation, Heavenly Father will be sending His priesthood army to the Earth and wants to send them to mothers who have been properly trained and taught in the gospel. What better training can a young woman have than that of serving a mission"
I believe this is true and I'm grateful for this training period I get the next 18 months of my life so I can let the Lord shape me into who I am destined to become. 

This week we said good-bye to a sister from Finland going to Greece. She is seriously one of the cutest people ever and was always so kind to us. I still remember she came up to me my first day in the MTC and she gave me a big hug when she found out I was going to Finland. It's crazy because her district was two elders, one from Scotland and one from England, she is from Finland, and her companion was from Italy because they can't send American missionaries to Greece. I can only imagine how hard it would be trying to learn a new language when some of them didn't know English all that well (the Italian Sister barely knew any before she came so she ended up learning English while learning Greek). Basically only through the Lord are we able to do this. 

I love you all. I'll see ya soon. Can't believe that next time I write you, I'll be across the world. KIRKKO ON TOTTA. 


Sisar Nielsen 

"There is absolutely nothing in this world that will provide more comfort and happiness than a testimony of the truth" -President Thomas S. Monson

Friday, August 9, 2013

August 8, 2013 - It's CRUNCH Time!

Hello Everyone!
This was a good week. It's crunch time now. We leave for the FINE LAND of Finland in LESS THAN 2 WEEKS! August 19th is coming up so fast! WE GET OUR TRAVEL PLANS THIS WEEK. I feel a rollercoaster of emotions, but mostly I'm just ready to go! 
Last week we had an AWESOME experience at TRC. (just a refresher.. TRC is when people volunteer to come to the MTC and we teach them lessons in Finnish). We had this sweet little old lady who is from Finland. The topic of our lesson was "How We Receive Revelation at Church". As we were talking, it came to our attention that she is a convert. We asked her how she joined the church. She proceeded to tell us her whole conversion story. How she was in her early 20's in Finland and how she had always had questions about the Godhead. She said her biggest concern was how in her church she was told that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are all one being. She said that didn't make any sense to her how Jesus Christ could pray to Himself. She said she would ask her pastor and he couldn't give her answers. One day, the missionaries knocked on her door and she let them in. They taught her and she knew that this was the true church of God. I felt the spirit so strongly as she spoke. She spoke in her native Finnish, fast and quiet, yet through the power of God I could understand her! It was soooo amazing! I started crying as she spoke. My companion did too. We just had tears streaming down our faces. When she finished I said in Finnish "thank you. You're story gives me hope." She became teary eyed as well and gave me a hug. I know that there are people who are searching..... I can't wait to take the gospel message to them!
Since Monday, we have been eating the NEW cafeteria food! It's sooo good. There are veggies! And healthier food! And waaaaay tasty food. It's amazing. Plus our friend Bishop Justice (Cafeteria manager) has a jar of nutella in his office that he lets us eat whenever we want. And one of the chefs showed us where all the fresh bread is and told us we can have some whenever we want. Yeah, it's pretty sweet having connections.
Yesterday we started MAHTAVA VIIKKO! (Awesome Week). For a whole week, we aren't allowed to speak ANY English! It's insane. We are also focusing on a different Christ-like attribute each day that we want to develop - hope, faith, patience, charity etc. We've also made other goals like trying really hard to see others and love others as Christ does. This week is going to be awesome. We've already had some pretty funny experiences. Sisar Dayton and I are currently training the new Sister Training Leaders to take our place. They are two adorable Sisters going to Hungary. So every night from now on, they come with us to say good night to the sisters in our zone. Well, we first went and visited the Estonian Sisters. They are also doing their "awesome" week so they can't speak anything but Estonian. I wish you could all see how hilarious it was trying to talk together. I felt like the Jaredites and the other groups of people in the Book of Mormon when the Lord confounded their language and made them all speak different languages. It was absolutely ridiculous as we were all trying to act things out because we could only speak Finnish, the Estonians could only speak Estonian, and the Hungarians could only speak English (with random Hungarian phrases mixed in because they are new here). We would talk louder and slower, but that really doesn't help. So basically it's going to be an interesting week of ALL FINNISH. Also, can I just say that the Church is true?!?! Because it is! How else would I be able to speak one of the HARDEST languages in the whole world for a whole week straight after only learning it for 8 weeks?! I know that the Lord is helping me learn this language. Without God, I am nothing. With God, I am everything. I know that with God, we can all do hard things.
Our teachers abandoned us again. Veli Arnesen is in Texas and Veli Stewart is in California. As a result, they had one of the newly hired girl teachers teach us. I'm going to be honest, I was really worried at first. I love our teachers sooo much and I was upset that they were leaving us for a week. And I didn't want a new teacher. Or a girl teacher. But honestly, I know that we needed her to teach us. She is absolutely adorable. Her name is Sisar Christofferson and she served in Finland about 8 months ago. Yesterday was her last day teaching us. We all started talking and we got into an amazing spiritual discussion where every single one of us was crying. We all needed it. We've been feeling discouraged with the language and overwhelmed by the fact that we leave so soon. We all feel inadequate. However, the Spirit was so strong. She talked to us about her love for Finland and the people there. She showed us all her pictures from her mission. It is so beautiful there! And WET! AND COLD! So many of her pictures had her looking like an eskimo or completely soaked. She gave us a list of things that we must buy and try while we are there. And she told us that the most important thing for us to do is to have confidence in ourselves and in the Lord. He will help us. This is His work, and He will not let us fail. I told her she could come with us in my suitcase because it's from Costco and everything from Costco is big and that we wanted her there with us. She just smiled and started crying. I'm so grateful for the amazing people I've met as a missionary and for the many amazing people I have yet to meet.
I love you all. Minä tiedän että KIRKKO ON TOTTA. Minä rakastan teita!
Sisar Nielsen
ps you should all go watch the Mormon Message "Origin" on It's so good! Do. It. Now.
pps I didn't embarrass myself too badly this week! It's very exciting.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Finnish District with their Elder "friends" who left for Chile this week

Sisar Nielsen, Sisar Dayton and Elder "friends" who left for Ohio this week

Sisar Nielsen and Friends

August 1, 2013 - The Hardest Language in the World!

Hey All,
I had a bit of a freak out moment this morning when I realized that I leave for Finland THIS MONTH! It's so crazy! Where has the time gone??
This week was a good week. It had its ups and downs, as every week does. The language is still killer. They're really trying to hurry and teach us a lot because we have such limited time left. Well Saturday I had a bit of a rough day. I got sick. Yep, not cool. And we were taught another crazy grammatical concept in Finnish. Finnish is considered the hardest language in the world because of its grammar. And what's even more crazy is that when we get to Finland we have to learn spoken Finnish because that's what they actually use. We have to learn written Finnish first because if we don't we won't stand even the slightest chance of learning the language. So basically you'll still get a lot of "the language is kicking my butt but the church is still true" emails for a while. Well Saturday was hard because I was sick and I just wasn't able to focus and understand what we were talking about in class. That night, I had to do my nightly runs of telling all of the sisters in our zone goodnight. Well two of the sisters could tell I wasn't feeling well, asked me my symptoms, and ran back to their rooms. They came back with medicine and cough drops, gave them to me, and said to take care of myself and if I need anything else they'd be right there to help me. The gospel truly is amazing. It brings us all together and we truly see everybody as our brothers and sisters. I love it. The next day we went to relief society. Relief Society is different at the MTC than at regular church. All of the sisters meet together and we have a guest speaker address us. They had a lady talk to us and she said EXACTLY what I needed to hear. She talked on the power of prayer and hope. She also talked about FINLAND! WHAT??? WE ALL FREAKED. They showed pics of her living in Finland on the screen (she played professional volleyball there) and she talked about how missions are hard, but they are worth it. I just started crying. All of us Finnish sisters started crying. We were feeling so discouraged by the language and the fact that the talk was all on the importance of missionary work and Finland was not a coincidence. I am so grateful for the many amazing tender mercies in my life. I know the Lord knows me.
This past Tuesday, we had our Tuesday devotional in the Marriott Center. H. Bryan Richards spoke. It was amazing. He said something that I really liked. He said "You can't just wear the name tag, you have to brand it to your heart". Not all of us get to be missionaries, and one day (a day I pray won't come fast) I'll have to take my name tag off. We should all have the name of Jesus Christ branded on our hearts. I love my Savior. And I'm so humbled that He trusts me to take the gospel to the amazing people in Finland. "The Lord hasn't asked you to go and just hold the line. He's asked you to charge with all your heart, mind, might, and strength" (Richards). It is up to us to take a stand. We all have a reason to stand. We must charge with all our heart, mind, might, and strength to fight for what is right. To defend and proclaim what we know is good and right, no matter the consequence.
As I said, this week was interesting with the language. One of our teachers finally came back! He went to Finland for 2 weeks. He brought us back Finnish chocolate. Okay, I loved it! It was aaaaaahhhhmazing. My companion and I were teaching our "investigator" this week on the importance of temples. I was saying how I'm grateful for temples because we are able to be sealed together with our families forever. That death is not the end and that this gives me so much hope and comfort. I talked to him about how I can't wait to get married one day in the temple and how important it is to me. Well as I was wrapping up my testimony, I said with as much conviction as I could muster "Minä tiedän että temppeli on todella hullu" as soon as I said it I hurried and said "EI HULLU EI HULLU" but it was too late. My teacher and my companion lost it. I had tried to say "I know that the temple is very good". But instead I said, "I know that the temple is very crazy". It was pretty hilarious. And usually my teacher is really good at staying in his "investigator" character when we make mistakes, but the way I said it with so much conviction just made it that much more hilarious and he couldn't help it. He even started laughing a couple minutes later. It was bad. Oh well, hopefully the Finns have a good sense of humor. They're gonna need it in order to deal with me.
Most of my friends headed off this week for the mission field. It truly is amazing that we all come here for a couple weeks, learn as much as we can, then go out all over the world proclaiming what we know is true. It's amazing that we're all so young, but so dedicated to this gospel. I'm so blessed to be able to call so many amazing people my friends. Today we went to Great Harvest for lunch (because it's our p-day we're allowed to go there for lunch). A lady came up to us and said "I have a daughter in the army. Whenever I see anybody in the army, I always go up to them and say 'thank you for serving our country'. To you, I want to say 'thank you for serving our church'". As she spoke these words, tears sprung to my eyes. I am fighting with the greatest army that has ever walked this earth. We are fighting for a cause that will echo through the eternities. We are battling for the souls of our brothers and sisters. We are fighting for our God. It truly is amazing if you just stop and think about it.
I almost died this week. In gym I played a game of basketball with some elders (and a sister obviously. sisters must guard other sisters). It was a super intense game. One of the elders who just happens to be 6'7" drove with the ball towards the basket and I was right there. I think the game plan going through his mind was to just jump over me. Mid jump, he realized I was a sister and twisted his body to miss me. He brushed me but didn't really hit me. All of the Elders started yelling at him as soon as he hit the ground "Elder, that's a SISTER. what are you doing?!?!" he was like "I know I know! I didn't realize who she was until it was almost too late!" Needless to say, I saw my life flash before my eyes. Good thing the church is true and I didn't die. A couple days later, we were playing basketball again and it started pouring out of nowhere. It felt so good just standing out in the pouring rain. Guess I better get used to that, since I'm going to the "Swamp Land".
The new cafeteria opened this week! It's super exciting. Since we're best buds with Bishop Justice who manages all of the food at the west campus, he took us on a tour before it opened. It's beautiful. We ate breakfast there for the first time today and I got Frosted Mini Wheats! I about cried. I've been eating bagels everyday since I got here. It's amazing how you come to appreciate the little things. I told him if he has any missionaries complain about the food, send 'em my way. I'll talk some sense into them.
Every night my district of 6 sisters gather together to share a spiritual thought and share a scripture that we read that day. Afterwards, we all kneel in a circle and do NIELSEN CROSS HAND HOLD and say our prayer in Finnish. It's so cool. It makes me feel like I'm home again for just a minute.
I miss and love you all! Minä rakastan teitä. (I love you all) KIRKKO ON TOTTA!!!
Sisar Nielsen
p.s. I dropped my tray in front of everybody and my food went flying and I screamed. Haha!
p.p.s. Please continue to pray that I'll learn the language :)