Monday, November 25, 2013
TIS THE SEASON TO BE GRATEFUL. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
This has been a week of miracles. And a week that has helped me come closer to my Savior.
So remember how I talked last time about our golden investigator? The one where we taught her and the Spirit was so strong, how she came to the ward concert and absolutely loved it, and left beaming, telling us how grateful she was that she came and asking us to call her on Wednesday to set up our next appointment? Well, Wednesday came and I excitedly called her and I proceeded to get an earful (of which I mostly couldn't understand because it was in Finnish) about how she has been talking to her mom and her mom says we're bad and as a result she refuses to ever meet with us again, our beliefs are wrong, the Book of Mormon is false, etc. I couldn't believe it. I felt numb. I had felt so good about her. And at this point, she was one of our two investigators. And the whole time on the phone (15 minutes), I just kept bearing my testimony to her and just kept thinking "no! I don't want to lose her! I don't want her to walk away from this truth! From this thing that I KNOW will bless her life". But something I've learned is that agency is a gift from God. He has given us the ability to choose. And as a result, we are the captains of our own lives. When I hung up the phone, my companion just looked at me and I started to cry. I love these people with all my heart. I want them to experience the joy and lasting happiness that I have found in the gospel. I want them to have what I have! But they have the power to choose. Afterwards, I was just crying and thinking "Heavenly Father, why?? Why couldn't you have softened her heart? Why couldn't you have given me the words to say that would've convinced her to meet with us just one more time?" why why why. All of a sudden, the most incredible warm feeling came over me. It was like somebody had wrapped me up in a blanket. I just felt so much love and peace. It's difficult to describe, but the Lord testified to me that He is with me. That He loves me. And that my Savior died for me and knows EXACTLY what I'm going through. It was the most amazing feeling. I dried my tears and quietly said "okay", got up, and just kept going. I know that our Savior is always with us. It's like that Footprints in the Sand poem. During our hardest times, that is when He carries us. My Savior has been carrying me.
After the trial of our faith comes the blessings. And boy, have the blessings been flowing! So that night, as we were contacting people on the street (and getting rejected over and over and over again) I just prayed that the Lord would send somebody to lift our Spirits. The next person we said "Terve" to stopped. I said "wow it's really cold" and pointed to the lake next to us that was starting to freeze. And unlike the frozen water, our conversation just started flowing! She's an 18 year old girl and very outgoing. SHE ASKED US if she could come to church with us to check it out sometime. UH WHAT? and SHE CAME. She stayed for all three hours of church. She has a lot of strong opinions about things and has a bit of a push back towards God and church (and it didn't help that we had the Law of Chastity as our Sunday School lesson... it was pretty heavy stuff hahaha) but she said that there's something about our church that she likes, and that she wants to learn more. We're meeting with her this week! So we got a new investigator! ANDDDDD, a woman in her 20's with bright red hair came to church. I thought she was one of the member's friends, but it turns out that she just decided to walk into our church building on her own and the members grabbed her and sat with her. And she said she wants to learn more about our church and asked us for our number so we can go teach her! WHAAAAAT? Folks, that does not happen.... UNLESS WE HAVE A GOD OF MIRACLES. OH WAIT, WE DO. It was amazing.
And then this week, we went to go contact a "potential" (somebody who has never been an investigator or been taught but has expressed interest to the missionaries before). She is from Russia and she is a 20 year old student here. She has been dodging our phone calls but keeps telling us to try again later. Well, we got to her house and she wasn't home. Her roommate opened the door. She's from Vietnam. She said that her roommate wasn't home and as she was about to close the door, we just decided to start talking to her. We explained who we are and what our purpose is. She is Buddhist, 19 years old, and studying Business here. We testified to her about how we have a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior, Jesus Christ. We told her we have a book that testifies of Him, and we asked if we could come back sometime. She said she would really like that. Well we went back later this week to teach her, and had one of the most amazing lessons I've ever had. It was all in English and we had to teach everything sooo simply, because English is her second language and she has absolutely no Christian background. We opened with a simple prayer and asked the Lord to bless her. When we closed the prayer, we asked her how she felt as we were praying. She said that as we prayed, she felt this warm feeling come into her heart and that she got goosebumps. We taught, simply, that we have a loving Heavenly Father, we are His children, and that He knows us. We testified about Jesus Christ and used pictures to explain His life, His death, and His Atonement. We read together some of the verses from the Book of Mormon - the part where Christ comes to the Americas, the crowning moment in the Book of Mormon. As we testified to this sweet young woman, the Spirit was incredible. It was amazing, and as I spoke these words about my Savior and the role He has played in my life, tears sprang to my eyes. It was the most amazing, powerful feeling introducing the idea of Christ to someone for the first time. And she felt it. She asked us if we could please come back and teach her more. We said OF COURSE! We're in the process of getting her a Book of Mormon in Vietnamese. At the end, we taught her how to pray. We happened to have a Vietnamese pamphlet in our apartment that has a page that explains prayer. Using the English and the Vietnamese pamphlets, we taught this sweet, humble young woman how to pray for the first time. Unlike many other people that we've taught, she agreed to try praying for the first time right there. She knelt down, and offered a short, sincere prayer in Vietnamese using the outline we had given her. The Spirit was so strong. We asked her how she felt, and she said that she had this strong feeling in her heart, a feeling that she had never had before, but it was a good feeling. She said it was difficult to describe. Earlier in the lesson, we had taught her about the Holy Ghost and how he testifies to us about truth and about what is good. It was so cute, because we had to make it sooo simple and explain to her that he's not a ghost like in the movies (she looked a little scared at first haha), but that he's a Spirit sent from our Heavenly Father to help and bless us. Oh the lesson was just so good! We truly have a God of miracles! I'm so grateful for the knowledge I have of my Savior.
We also had tons more miracles this week! Including being able to finally meet with the part member family and less active family that the ward has been asking us to focus on! And both said they want us to come back! It was a miracle in and of itself that we were able to meet with them both, and another miracle that they both want us to come back! So today we are going to the less active's house to teach her children English and about the gospel (both of the kids aren't members) and we're really excited! And we met with that guy we had met on the street a while back who took the Book of Mormon from us and had tons of great questions! And the lesson went well and we're meeting again this week! AND HE'S NOW OFFICIALLY A PROGRESSING INVESTIGATOR. whooohoooo!
I know God lives! Jesus is the Christ! As I pause and reflect on the bajillions of blessings I have in my life, they all come from the Lord! I am so grateful for Him! I know that our Savior is always with us, during the hardest and the easiest of times! If we endure, even when things are really hard and look bleak, we will be blessed a million times more than we could ever imagine.
THIS IS THE LORD'S WORK. This is an exciting time to be alive! The truth is on the earth today! We have a living prophet. We have a witness and evidence that this is God's one and only true church. We can hold it in our hands. We can read it. We can pray about it. And we can know for OURSELVES that the Book of Mormon is true, and as a result, this church is true! The Lord is hastening the work. Miracles are happening all over the earth! Will you allow God to work miracles through you? Will you join the effort to bring the world His truth? Will YOU be a part of it? The choice is up to you.
I love you all! Keep warm!
Sisar Nielsen - ps I had a dream I was basking in the warm sun. It was so bright, I had to squint. I was wearing a t-shirt and I could feel the sun on my face and on my skin. It was glorious.... and then my alarm went off. Oh well, THE GOSPEL IS MY LIGHT. And I'm really excited because I'm so far north that during the middle of winter, I'LL BE ABLE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS. HOW SICK IS THAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!
Monday, November 18, 2013
FOR STARTERS, I FINALLY MADE SUCCESSFUL COOKIES FOLKS. (after some more failed attempts.. including more flat cookies with just mounds of broken up chocolate bars in them...) Aaaand they were dang good. so I took a picture to prove it :)
This has been an amazing week! I seriously don't even know where to begin! So many miracles have been happening and I finally feel like everything is starting to come together. I kinda feel like Kuopio has been somewhat of a refiner's fire for me, which has been good because I feel like I've been on my knees a lot more here. It has strengthened my relationship with my Heavenly Father and I know that He always supports us in our trials.
Okay so we have this new amaaaazing investigator! She's a super cute girl, about 25. We had our first lesson with her this week and it went so well! It was one of the smoothest first lessons I've ever taught. The Spirit was so strong and she even asked us if she could have the Restoration pamphlet! We can't wait to meet with her again! And we found some other amazing people that we hope to teach soon. All of a sudden, they're starting to appear. My district leader asked me last night what we did differently this week because all of a sudden, we're starting to have more success. I told him that we're doing nothing differently, but that that's just it. We're not letting ourselves get discouraged, we're not slowing down, and we're not letting up. And the Lord knows that and when we're doing all we can, He makes up the rest.
And then yesterday (Sunday) my heart was so full of love it was bursting at the seams! For starters, it was the primary program! THE BRANCH I'M IN IS SO AMAZING. I truly feel like they are trusting us more! I don't even know what has made the difference, but I can feel it! And they are becoming my family here! These members are sooo strong. They are few in number, but they are all so amazing. Some drive 1 1/2 hours to church every Sunday! It's incredible. Well anyway, I ask you, WHAT IS CUTER THAN A PRIMARY PROGRAM... IN FINNISH?! Uhm the answer is NOTHING. My heart was dying. I was practically crying the whole time! And I could understand it ALL because the kids were like "Jesus loves me" and I was like YESSSSS. I understand you child! It was adorable. And so cool to hear all of the familiar primary songs I've grown up with my whole life, sung by little kids in Finnish. It's also so great that the church is worldwide, and that its members are basically the same everywhere. We had the typical franticly waving child, the one that cries when they get to the pulpit, and the ones that fan themselves with their little talks. So great. So basically, church was amazing. And then we had a concert that night at the church. And through a series of crazy events and miracles (I'll save you all the details) our investigator came! And the ward just welcomed her in and she was just beaming. And then all of a sudden right before it starts, the elders run over and say "Sisters, another one of your investigators is here" and a guy had showed up that we had talked to briefly on the phone. We were like whaaaaaat? And he really enjoyed it and we're meeting with him this week too! Seriously, the miracles are just flowing! THE LORD IS IN THIS WORK. This branch I'm in is arguably the most musically talented branch in the world. Seriously. They have a musical number every sacrament meeting, and the concert was amazing. And my heart was bursting because the Bishop's sons (ages 6 and 3) both played the violin together with their dad. It was the cutest thing ever. Sisar Lund and I sang a duet in the program (in Finnish!). (I KNOW I KNOW, I DON'T SING. But I'm doing soooo many things that are forcing me out of my comfort zone here, and that is one of them! and it helped get our investigator there because I told her I needed a fan club... so I was willing to sacrifice the ears of the congregation for her:)) That night, as we were sitting home eating some very yummy famous Finnish ice cream, my heart was so full I wanted to cry! I know the Lord is there for me always, during the hardest and the sweetest of times.
I saw the sun! It was glorious. and short lived, but absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I love being here! I love this gospel! I love the happiness, joy, and purpose I have found in it! I love that I can share it with others. Finland is gorgeous, the members are so loving, and the church is just soo true sometimes I can barely handle it! I LOVE MY LIFE.
Love and miss you all!
Sisar Nielsen - ps This week while we were tracting, I was talking to a guy at his door and I accidently took a little step back and literally fell off his porch! It was awkward, and he laughed at me, and then I just kept right on going with preaching the gospel to him because all these people need it. Unfortunately for them, they have an imperfect, uncoordinated, unable to speak their language missionary like me - but they ain't getting rid of me anytime soon :)
Monday, November 11, 2013
MOI. I love you all.
Okay for starters, the church is true! Sometimes when things get really hard, I just have to remind myself "well, at least the church is still true," because ultimately, that's all that really matters. And I know that no matter how hard things feel, my Savior understands me because He has felt all my pains, disappointments, and hurt. And I never walk alone. What a powerful concept that is.
We're working our hardest to just build Kuopio from the ground up. Apparently Kuopio has been known as a bit of a "goof off" city in the past and as a result, I don't feel like the members here really trust us. They absolutely love us, but I just don't feel the level of trust I want to from them yet. But we're gonna change that, and we've already seen some change! The other night, Sisar Lund and I had somebody give us a Book of Mormon back that the previous sisters had given her. As we walked away, we were feeling a little saddened. We ended up running into the Elders and they had just been told by a member they were working with that he's done living the gospel. Needless to say, they were feeling down and frustrated too because this man has been struggling for a longgg time and these Elders obviously love him a lot. We ended up talking outside in the freeeeezing cold darkness (BECAUSE THE SUN SETS AT 4) about how we're sick of this and that things here need to change. And that we're gonna be the ones who do it. This whole time Sisar Lund and I have been saying these things, but we were never this united with the Elders. The 4 of us are the Lord's representatives in this city. He has trusted us with these precious souls. And we're gonna do everything in our power to strengthen the members, find new people, and baptize powerful and future leaders that can raise their families in the gospel here. The elders are both pretty inexperienced too (one got here about 3 weeks ago). But I have no doubt that the Lord deliberately put this city in the hands of some of the most inexperienced companionships in the mission because we have no choice but to trust in Him! As the four of us talked, the Spirit became so strong. TOGETHER, we are the Lord's army. We are HIS. And this is HIS work. I am soooo grateful that I am here! IN FINLAND. IN KUOPIO. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else! Being a missionary is the greatest thing I've ever done.
So basically, I have a testimony of awkward moments. This past week, Sisar Lund and I were walking home at night and she was telling me a story. I got distracted and stopped listening to her because I got the feeling that we needed to go talk to this guy who was walking the other way. All of a sudden she said "Sisar Nielsen! you're not even listening to me!" I apologized and explained that I got a feeling we need to go talk to that guy. She responded with "dang it! I got it too but I just pushed it away" Well, we both crossed the street and tried to hurry after him. We couldn't figure out where he went, and then we saw him standing at a bus stop. We awkwardly walked up and looked at the bus schedule like we were waiting for the bus (for the record, I couldn't understand it at all) and then just sparked up a conversation with him. Just when we started talking he said "oh sorry, this is my bus" and ran and got on. We both looked at each other so frustrated because we didn't even get to the gospel! We both got the feeling we needed to still talk to him! So we ran, paid 6 euros for a bus ticket, and got on the bus. We smoothly sat in front of him (okay, who am I trying to kid, it was WAY AWKWARD) and we were basicallly like "Oh fancy seeing you here! The reason why we're here is because we're trying to give people eternal life" (we might've used some other words but that's pretty much what we were saying). We had a bomb awesome (semi-awkward) teach with him and then we realized that we were totally leaving the city and we had no idea where we were going! So we exchanged numbers with him and just got off at the next stop. We started walking and realized there was no way we were gonna get home in time to call our District Leader (we call every night to say we're home and safe and report on the day) so we ended up having to call the Elders for a ride. Well, our District Leader was visiting from another city that night so he actually came and picked us up. We felt like little kids getting picked up by their mom. We got in the car all sheepishly and were like "okay we're really sorry we made you drive all the way out here to rescue us but we had to help save his soul!" Long story short, sometimes I feel like the Lord gives us these random impressions just to test us, to see if we will follow them, even when everything in our right mind tells us not to. We called that guy, and he never responded to us, but I know that we did exactly what the Lord wanted us to do. And I just have this CRAZY AWESOME INSANE feeling that things here are about to change- for the better. And fast! The Lord is working miracles here. I witness them everyday. And as we follow the Spirit and do everything in our power to obey His will, we are blessed beyond measure.
So I tried making cookies again.... this time I got a recipe from one of the Elders here because he's famous for his baking skills. Well, Sisar Lund made this recipe last week and it turned out great. So last night, I went to make them too. I'm not entirely sure what went wrong this time.. but they were the flattest cookies I've ever seen in my entire life. And they tasted like home made caramels, not like cookies! It was the weirdest thing! And they flattened out in the oven to be huge. I just don't understand! What am I doing wrong?! Because these hardly resemble cookies, I couldn't really give them away. So what do you do when you have a bajillion paper thin cookies that taste like caramels? You give them to the Elders. When the Elder who gave us the recipe tried them, he said "whoa! these are way good! and so cool! can I get the recipe??" When I told him it was his recipe, he looked at me with pure confusion. sighhhhh.... I guess the talent of cooking just isn't one that I possess.
The church is true. MIRACLES HAPPEN. As we seek the Lord in prayer, HE ANSWERS. Knock and it shall be opened unto YOU.
LOVE YOU ALL,
Sisar Nielsen - p.s. one of the awesome miracles we had this week is we set a goal by the Spirit to teach 27 lessons this week. Through a series of miracles, we got EXACTLY 27. I know it's because we did little things like stalk a guy and follow him onto a bus :). As we show the Lord we are willing to work and give it our all and follow the Spirit, He shows us that He is our loving Heavenly Father and that He wants to help us. ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS ASK.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Monday, November 4, 2013
MOI FROM THE LAND OF THE COLD.
Well for starters, Finland is amazing. It is so beyond beautiful here I can't even do it justice with pictures or trying to describe it. This week we had our Zone Conference up North in a city called Oulu. We had to take a 4 hour train ride to get there. It was fun meeting with the North Zone (all of the missionaries in the North part of the country) for the first time. There are practically NO sisters in this zone! Especially compared to the zone I just came from. The Sisters gotta represent :)
This week was full of its challenges, but also full of lots of miracles. For starters, some of our investigators have been dodging us (not cool people! we're trying to give you eternal life here!). So we decided to be super nice and make them cookies to take to them and to some less-actives as well. All we had was a cookie recipe for ginger snaps in Finnish so we decided to just go ahead and try to make them. Well, we didn't have any ginger so we made them cinnamon sugar cookies instead. And the recipe called for 1 RKL of syrup. Okay, who in the world knows what a RKL is? Not us! So we just put in half a cup. But then the dough was really weird and really dry so we decided to add another half a cup (for a total of a whole cup of cane syrup). I mean if you think about it, it makes sense to have an equal amount of cane syrup as the amount of sugar you put in it (FOR THE RECORD, THAT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE, but whatever). And then it was still way dry so we added an egg (the recipe didn't call for one) and baked it. Well the cookies were really good until after you ate them... because then our throats started to burn. Turns out 1 RKL is a tablespoon! But we had no choice but to give them away. Maybe the burning in their throats will awaken them to the importance of repenting or something... who even knows. Long story short, we got a new cookie recipe so we can warm people's hearts with them and not burn their throats :)
Last Monday we had an awesome miracle! After a dinner with a member we didn't have any other plans. So we decided to go contacting in the center of the city. We went and drove the car to the car park and were about to get out of the car when it hit us that we hadn't prayed about it! So we did, and we both got the feeling that we should not go contact in the center. So we just started driving again and I was trying to navigate and we weren't even sure where we were going but then all of a sudden we realized that we were right back in the exact same parking place that we were for the DA (dinner appointment) at the member's house! Well, we prayed again and both got the strong feeling to go visit a less active nearby. So we went and bought chocolate (sometimes we have to bribe our way in to people's houses (and their hearts)) and went and found her house. Well we went to go open the door to get in the apartment building and it was locked! What?! and there was no button to push to tell this woman to open the door. So we were way confused because we had gotten a distinct impression to go there. Well, we turned around and a man was coming towards us. I turned to my comp and said "okay, let's talk to him". I said "terve!" and he stopped and asked "do I know you?" I told him no but we're new to Kuopio and just wanted to be friendly. Basically we just started talking with this guy- and then all of sudden we're talking about the gospel. And he said he'd visited our church many many years ago once! But he didn't know much about it. So we proceeded to tell him all about how when Christ was on the earth He organized His church, but when Christ and His apostles were killed then much of the truth was taken from the earth. We talked about the Apostacy (the period of time when Christ's true church was not on the earth) and that that is why there are soo many different kinds of churches on the earth today. We then taught about Joseph Smith and how he wanted to know which church to join. We talked about the first vision and that the true church has been restored today and that THIS IS THE TRUE CHURCH. We told him about the Book of Mormon and about how that was our witness that everything we were telling him was true. He had so many amazing questions and was so interested. He said he wanted a Book of Mormon and was going to go to the library to find one. I said "Wait, I have one with me!" he told me he didn't have any money. When I told him it was a gift, he got really excited and gladly took it! We have a meeting set up with him this week. And what was so cool is that throughout the whole conversation, I could just speak! I felt like the words just kept coming! And I was able to understand him! I couldn't understand all of the vocab he used, but I could feel what he was saying and I just knew. It was the coolest thing! and then right after that, we stopped and talked to a girl and I couldn't say ANYTHING. and I could barely understand her. It was the weirdest thing. I know the Lord is blessing me to learn Finnish.
OH AND GET THIS. Later that night after we parked the car at the car park and were walking home through the center, we ran into the same guy! He was wearing different clothes and had a different bag so at first we didn't recognize him, but he called out to us and we stopped to talk to him. He was on his way somewhere and he reached into this new bag and pulled out the Book of Mormon! He said he had already read the intro and was excited to read more. It was so cool! I can't wait to meet and talk to him about MY FAVORITE BOOK. Seriously, that book has so much power. LOVE IT.
So something cool this week was Pyhä Päivä, or Holy Day where the Finns honor their ancestors. They put tons and tons of candles throughout the cemeteries. It was so beautiful and Sisar Lund and I detoured for a minute to walk through. It was so peaceful and like something out of a movie. There were tons of old graves, but lots of newer ones too. There was a huge main one with tons of candles. On the back of it, it said "Minä Tiedän Lunaastajani Elävän" (I Know My Redeemer Lives). I, Sisar Nielsen, KNOW that MY Redeemer Lives. I know that He loves me, and that He knows me personally! I know that He came for me. If I were the only person on the earth, He still would've come and suffered the Atonement, just for me. I love my Savior. I'm so grateful to wear His name everyday. Sometimes the mission is reaaaaally hard, but I know that He walks with me through the hardest and the sweetest of times. I am a witness that Jesus is the Christ. That He loves all men and He wants us all to come unto Him. He is my rock and my salvation. He is my hope and my best friend. Learn of Him. Come closer to Him. Go to Him. He's waiting for you to take His hand. I know He loves you. And I do too :)
Sisar Nielsen - ps i got to carve a pumpkin! our BML (branch mission leader) is from the US so he and his wife invited us over to carve a pumpkin and have some halloween treats. it was way fun :)