HAUSKA JOULUA! (MERRY CHRISTMAS). I can't believe that December is upon us! Where has the time gone?! I've been a missionary for almost 6 months! Now that's just crazy!
This place looks like a winter wonderland. The world is covered in snow and it is just gorgeous. The lakes are frozen and the snow-covered pine trees look like they're out of a movie. It is quite cold here (today it's -9) and it's just going to get colder.... but that's okay. I'm going to survive this winter!
The members here are so amazing! I have just come to love these people so much! This week we had a lesson with an investigator and we asked this older woman to come with us. She's the grandma of basically half the ward (literally). Apparently she's never been asked to teach with the Sisters before and she was just tickled pink! She even brought us yummy chocolates in her pocket, it was so cute. Well the investigator didn't show, so we ended up going and giving her and her grandson, who was visiting her, a spiritual thought. It was awesome, especially because this grandson is from the part member family that the branch has asked us to focus on. And this sweet woman just kept telling us over and over again how lovely and wonderful we are. It was the cutest thing ever! Later that day, we went and visited a 17 year old girl (who happens to be this older woman's granddaughter from another one of her sons...) and we role played with her giving a Book of Mormon away for Christmas to one of her friends. And she totally said she's willing to do it! It was great! And she was so darling and made us riisi pirakka and cookies. Then we literally had to SPRINT across town (we looked like total goons with our coats, backpacks, boots that act as ankle weights, and our skirts) to go visit a recent convert. She's 55 and is just so stinkin' cute! She bought us pizza and Christmas chocolate and told us her conversion story (she was baptized last April) and she literally just glowed. My heart was so full of love! After that, we went contacting outside around a lake nearby. We ended up saying hi to a man walking by us and he didn't understand us. So we started talking in English and it turns out he's from Estonia and this grown man (probably 30) admitted to us that he just broke up with his girlfriend and that he'd been crying. Well, we ended up having a 2 hour conversation with him as we walked around the lake and just talked about life and learning about him (he's a sailor and has sailed all over the world) when he stopped and asked us why we are here and what we believe. So we ended up having an amazing gospel conversation! He's atheist (kinda.. he kinda believes in God but he doesn't have any kind of a relationship with Him) but by the end of the conversation his whole countenance had changed. He said that he has seen missionaries like us in Estonia before but he's never talked with them. He told us that when he goes back, he's going to. He also took a mormon.org card from us and said he wants to check it out. He also started giving us his schedule because he wants to find time to go to church haha. It was amazing! It was so cool how the Lord placed us in his path in his very hour of need. This man even thanked us as we parted ways, saying that we had saved his night and brought a new sense of hope into his life. He was excited to learn more about the gospel and I'm excited to meet him again one day in heaven :)
We had two Thanksgivings! (WHAAAT. I know right? I go to Finland, basically the farthest place ever from America, and I end up having two Thanksgiving meals. It was magnificent.) We had one after our district meeting in a little city called Joensuu. It was a potluck with the other missionaries in my district and it was really fun eating our attempts at making traditional Thanksgiving dishes without a cookbook, limited ingredients, and even more limited experience. But it was really fun! The next day, we had Thanksgiving Dinner at my BML's (branch mission leader, the guy that helps us organize our missionary work) with his cute wife and little daughter. He's from America so he fully understands the need for a Thanksgiving meal. And he invited his friend from school (another American) and a random guy from Peru he had met on the street (haha our BML is half Hispanic so he heard this guy speaking Spanish and they ended up just talking and he invited him over). It was so fun! The food was beyond incredible! Oh! And I had like a bajillion embarrassing moments... like at the end, the guy from Peru (who was very much outgoing, loud, happy, welcoming, etc.) just threw his arms around me in a big hug, and I stood there like a dead fish. Because I'm a sister missionary and the most awkward thing on the planet! haha He gave me the strangest look when he let go... Also during the meal, I may or may not have laughed at something funny, which sent a pea on my fork flying, which landed on an Elder's plate, which he then ate without realizing it (and before I could warn him), and only the guy from Peru saw and basically started dying of laughter. When I told the missionaries later what happened, a.) they finally understood why the guy from Peru and I started laughing so hard randomly, and b.) they all started laughing really hard too, except for the Elder who ate the pea, he just looked shocked.
Miracles are happening here. We had another amazing lesson with our investigator from Vietnam. And we finally were able to give her a Book of Mormon in Vietnamese. She thought it was so cool that we had it in her language. We told her that Heavenly Father loves ALL of His children and He wants them all to come to know Him and Jesus Christ and to have His truth. The Spirit was so strong. Also, we had another lesson with the guy we met on the street. Well, last time we asked him to pray at the end and he basically started meditating.... This time during our lesson, his whole countenance seemed to have changed. We literally could see that the Spirit has been working on him. At the end, he said a sincere, heart felt prayer. It was perfect. And it was so cute because he asked us to remind him before he started how to begin and how to end it. It was ahhhhhmazing! We left and the member that was with us turned and gave us this open mouth, wide-eyed look. We said "what?" She said, "that's the best lesson I've ever been in". (and she's gone out with the missionaries many times). It was so cool! And we met with the 18 year old girl that came to church last week. We just prayed and prayed that we would know what to say and that we would have the Spirit with us. Well we ended up having an amazing lesson. The Spirit was SOOO STRONG. It was incredible! She asked us if we had ever looked into other churches, churches that were more open minded and less strict than ours. We basically just testified to her about why we are members of this church. I told her about how I have seen a lot of different things in my life. I have seen a lot of good, and I have seen a lot of bad. This gospel is my light. This gospel is my hope, it is my truth. I have seen a lot of people go down paths that I cannot follow. I explained to her that our church is open minded, but that doesn't change what is right and what's wrong. I explained that Jesus Christ is light and that I want to be in the light. I know what's the opposite of what our church stands for, and I don't want it. I don't need to go into the darkness. I don't want to! I was made for so much more than that. I'm so much better than drugs, alcohol, and sleeping around. I want more out of life. I respect myself more than that. And this gospel gives me the tools and the ways to find lasting, REAL happiness in this life and in the life to come. She just stopped and said "wow. that's impressive". And after that, we had her full attention. We were basically like "look. this gospel has changed our lives. we know it's true. and you can too." It was so cool. Also, she asked a question that she said she's had forever - that she's asked priests and pastors from many other churches for answers and she said that none of their answers really answered her question. Well, I can't even really remember what I said because I just opened my mouth and all of a sudden the words were coming out. But she just sat there and listened and all of a sudden her face started to change. She said "oh my gosh. you just answered my question. oh my gosh. you just answered it. I can't believe that you just answered it." It was insane! And the thing is, I can't even remember what I said! Because it wasn't me talking! It was Heavenly Father giving me the words to say through the Spirit. It was so cool!
This is the Lord's work! This is the truth! His is the way, the truth, the life! I love being here! I love serving my Savior! As Christmas is approaching, pause and think about all of the things your Savior has done for YOU. I challenge you all to bring at least ONE person closer to Christ this Christmas! Invite them to church. Give them a Book of Mormon. Invite them to go caroling and sing songs about Christ with you. Act out the Nativity with them. GET CREATIVE. Everyone needs this gospel, what a perfect opportunity Christmas gives us to help bring them to it! KIRKKO ON TOTTA.
Love and miss you all!
Sisar Nielsen - p.s. last week, we found 84 new investigators in one week in our mission. THAT IS A NEW FINLAND MISSION RECORD. MIRACLES ARE HAPPENING HERE. THE LORD IS HASTENING HIS WORK.