I'M CURRENTLY WRITING THIS EMAIL FROM FINLAND! WHOOOOHOOOOO!
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.
ps the ice cream here is incredible. and the chocolate is even better.