I think that if I had to sum up my mission in one word, it would be "surprises," because every day is full of so many surprises!
To start off the week, we hopped on a train and took a 4 hour train ride even more NORTH to Oulu, the farthest north city that sisters serve in. We went on exchanges there and I got to spend the day with Sisar Nyman, the most adorable sister missionary ever from Norway. We seriously had a blast! We spent the whole day biking in the FREEZING snow. The snow whipped and numbed our faces and my legs literally burned because it was so hard to bike in the snow. We had so much fun just talking with everybody and trying not to die. We couldn't even wear any make-up because then our eye lashes would freeze. Everything was going great, until we started biking down a hill. The hill went under a bridge and I was following Sisar Nyman. Well next thing I know, everything goes black - my hat had fallen down over my eyes. I tried to pull it up but I was wearing mittens and I wasn't able to grab it. I was trying to brake but my wheels weren't stopping because it was too slippery. I just started yelling "Sisar! Sisar!!!!!" I finally came to a stop and took my mittens off and lifted my hat up. Well turns out, I was literally an inch from hitting the brick wall under the bridge! Later Sisar Nyman said she was confused as to why I was heading so fast towards the wall hahaha. Even the Finn riding her bike the opposite direction was laughing out loud at me (and usually they don't laugh at the stupid things I do because they're so shy and reserved). So basically the church is true because I didn't die. And it was so much fun biking around in a good ole fashioned Finnish winter snow storm (but I'm grateful we have a car in Kuopio....)
Speaking of cars - JERRY DIED. For those of you who don't know, Jerry is our car. He's so cute and he has done sooo much to help the missionary work here progress. Well, we had to turn him in for a newer one today. I was so sad to see him go. But I guess it's okay because I'm about to start a new chapter in my life anyway because........
I'M GOING TO BE A TRAINER. AHHASDLFKJASÖLDKFJASLÖDFJ. President Rawlings came to our district meeting this week because he was visiting the branch up here. He announced our change calls during district meeting to all of us. Sisar Lund is leaving and I'm staying here and training. WHAT. I'm still in shock! I haven't even been here for 4 months yet! Transfers are happening a little earlier this month because of Christmas and everything. All week I've had the feeling that this change call would be a big step for me and a lot to handle, so I've just been praying that whatever happened I would receive the confirmation that I would be EXACTLY where the Lord wanted me to be. Well after President announced the changes, he said "I just want you all to know that I always pray really hard to know where you're all supposed to be, but for this one I even prayed for each of you individually again last night to be sure, and I got the answer that these are the places the Lord wants you to be". When he said this, it answered my prayers. There are 5 new sisters coming in and I will be training one of them. I feel so inadequate, so unqualified. I can barely speak or understand Finnish, I really haven't been in Kuopio for very long, and I still don't even really know what I'm doing! But I know that I have to just trust in the Lord and He will take care of the rest. Now that I'm almost over the shock of it all, I'm so excited! I'm so sad to see Sisar Lund go (especially right before Christmas... we've already shed a tear or two) but I know that the Lord knows exactly what He's doing, and I just have to trust Him. I head down to Helsinki tomorrow and pick up my new companion on Wednesday. I have lots of long train rides ahead of me, but I'm so excited for this new chapter of my mission to start!
We had our ward Christmas party this week! Oh it was so fun! And I was so happy because many of the members brought nonmember friends. They're really starting to catch the spirit of member missionary work. Joulu Pukki (Santa Claus) came and it was so much fun singing traditional Christmas songs (like Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town) in Finnish. This is arguably the most musical branch in the world, and they had an amazingly adorable orchestra for one of the musical numbers! Earlier that day, we went caroling with the Elders (and another set of Elders that was in town for our district meeting) in the Tori (center of the city). It was so fun standing underneath the huge Christmas tree there and singing songs about the Savior. I love the Spirit of Christmas!
Another wonderful surprise happened! We visited many of our members and less actives this week so we could share a Christmas message with them. Have I told you yet that the members here are absolutely amazing and I have come to love them soooo much?! Anyway, we went to the first counselor in the bishopric's house for dinner this week. We were talking and he said "you sisters have been such a blessing to this ward." We laughed and he got really serious. He said "no, I'm serious. The members have been talking about how much of a blessing you two have been here. How much they love you and how much of a difference you've made here." Oh my gosh I wanted to cry! We have been working soooo hard to gain their trust, to gain their love, and to gain their respect. Hearing him say those words brought so much happiness and peace to my heart! Things are changing here in Kuopio! It's amazing to see the difference that has occurred over the past 2 months. And I'm so excited to be able to continue to witness the changes that happen!
We have been sharing a Christmas message with everybody. One of the messages we share is found in the Book of Mormon. It is 3 Nephi chapter 1 verses 9 and 12-13. It's my family's "Christmas Eve" scripture. It talks about how there was a day set aside by the unbelievers (those who didn't believe Christ would come) to kill all those who believed in Christ. Nephi, the prophet, was so sad and cried unto the Lord for help. The voice of the Lord came unto him and said "Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand... and on the morrow come I into the world." Imagine what it would have been like to be there! I believe in Jesus Christ and because I believe in Jesus Christ, I would have been killed. Surely it was very scary for all those that believed in Him. And surely they had to really decide for themselves if they believed or if they didn't believe, there was no gray area for them to choose. And then I wonder what it would be like for Nephi to hear his Savior say "tomorrow, I come. tomorrow, I come." I know I would have cried! Well, I wasn't there, but I am here now. And Christ is coming back soon and this world isn't ready yet. That is exactly why the Lord is hastening His work. This is crunch time people. This is such an exciting time to be alive! Every member a missionary takes on a whole new meaning now! I'm so grateful that He came for me. I'm willing to do anything for Him. He simply asked "feed my sheep." May we all help Him feed His sheep and bring others to the light of the gospel, especially during this wonderful Christmas season.
I love you all. The church is true. KEEP CALM AND LOVE ON. Merry Christmas! HYVÄÄ JOULUA.