Sunday, January 26, 2014

1/26/14 - I'm Grateful For My Trials

Well I'm writing this a day earlier because after church today, Sisar Woods and I hop on a five hour train to go to Helsinki! Whoooohoooooo! Partaaaaaaaaay! We'll be there until the end of the week because it's Sisar Wood's Interim Training. (Where her whole group that came into the country with her and their companions all meet together in Helsinki and our Mission President pretty much just blows our minds and we realize that we have so much to repent for and we can then become wayyy better missionaries. Basically it's way fun. and it's soooo weird because I literally feel like MY interim was just yesterday! but in reality it was 4 months ago! Where in the world has the time gone?!?! Plus I'm way stoked because I get to see Sisar Egan and Sisar Hubner again! Whoohooo! Nothing like a reunion in Helsinki with your old comps to brighten up your day.)

So for starters, major shout out to KIMMY, MEGAN, AND LAUREN. Y'all are the best. I'm currently wearing the scarf you sent me right this very second and the lama socks are my fave. kiitos! Also, a big shout out to JOLENE and MIKE NIELSEN for the awesome skarves (did you notice I was wearing one at the castle?) and another shout out to the Monument Park ward! I got the letters you all sent me and it was just what I needed. Thanks for having my back :) Thanks to everyone who supports me out here (i feel like I sound like the dedicatory page of a band's album right now..... but seriously, I'm so grateful for all of the love and support from everybody. It means more than you will ever know.)

This week..... where to even begin. 

This whole week, a scripture found in 1 Nephi 20:10has been going through my head: "For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." My mission is making me grateful for trials. Yeah, you just read that right. I'm grateful. I'm going to give it to you straight right now. The mission is hard. It's really hard. Sometimes I cry because it hurts my heart to see people turn away from Christ. This week, we got dropped by 3 of our investigators. That was really hard. But here's the thing, I'm so HAPPY. I'm so full of hope, love, and joy. I LOVE my life. This is the most worthwhile thing I've ever done. I wouldn't trade being here for anything in the world! (except maybe for a really warm sunny beach somewhere... for like 3.2 seconds and then I would be DYING to come back here!). I seriously can feel that my Heavenly Father is with me more than I ever have in my life. On the day that we got dropped by one of our investigators (after getting dropped the day before by somebody else), I was on my knees pouring my heart out to my Father in Heaven. I felt this overwhelming impression that there are angels beside me, always. They are always next to me, "bearing me up," and standing beside me when everyone else seems to walk away. I felt so much peace and comfort knowing that I am NEVER alone. That my Heavenly Father has sent angels to help me! Little, old, insignificant me! It was the most comforting thing ever. And it's crazy because I remember at the beginning of my mission, even a couple weeks ago, when we would get dropped by our investigators it was so discouraging. And it's still really hard, but I just feel God's love with me so much that it's becoming a faith building experience instead of a faith destroying experience. For the Lord is refining me! I'm not perfect. I'm so far from it. But He has chosen me and is molding and shaping me into who He knows I'm destined to become! So one day I can be the mom for the amazing spirits that He sends to me, so I can be a righteous leader and a better friend, so I can be a more loving sister, daughter, and neighbor. I'm sooo grateful for my trials! It means that that Lord knows that I can change, improve, and become the person He has in store for me. 

And as always, after the trials come the miracles! This week we got a new investigator! We had our first lesson with her and it went amazingly! She said she really wants to know if this is true so she can know which path to take. Talk about real intent! The Spirit was so strong and the lesson went really smoothly. At the end, we asked her to pray. She said it would probably be better if we prayed. We went through the steps with her again "start with Dear Heavenly Father, say whatever is in your heart, then close in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." She said that she would try. She said the most beautiful, simple prayer, asking Heavenly Father to help her find answers.  I just love hearing people pray when they're not used to praying! It's so real. It's not rote. It really is straight from the heart, with meaning and conviction in every word. I've learned a lot from hearing our investigators pray. It's made me work more at making my prayers with God really more of a talk with Him instead of just the same couple phrases over and over again. She's such a solid investigator and we were really blessed to find her! Heavenly Father truly is a God of miracles :) 

We, along with the Elders, were in charge of the youth activity this past Friday. It was waaaay fun! We made the theme "pikku MTC" (mini MTC). When they walked in, they all got their own missionary name tags that we had made. We then did activities like "language time" (where the Elders had made language sheets for everyone so that they could piece together words in English and make sentences.. example: they would find the English translations for words on the sheet and then say sentences like "God loves us." It was really cute), we played a game where it gives a word (like dog, music, food, etc) then your team has 30 seconds to come up with ways to mention the church like you would say it in normal conversation with friends (example: if the word was "dog" you could say "you have such a cute dog! A woman in my church has the same dog" BOOM. 5 points.), we all wrote our testimonies in Book of Mormons and gave them the challenge to give their's out, we had a mini "devotional" and had a young man preparing to go on a mission (to the Johannesburg South Africa Mission) talk about how he is preparing and we had a leader who's a convert talk about her experiences with the missionaries, then we had mud cake and ice cream that the Elders made. Basically it was a huge success. And what was even more exciting is that we had more less active youth there than active youth! We were waaaaay stoked! Basically, I love the youth here. They're all so great :) 

I love you all. The church is true. What's amazing to me, is that it truly is true no matter where you go. Whether you're in Chicago, Johannesburg, Mexico City, or KUOPIO, the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. And how grateful I am for that! 

Rakkaudella (with love),

Sisar Nielsen

Monday, January 20, 2014

Finnish Castle
The Sun!

Sisar Woods and Sisar Nielsen with the Kuopio Elders at the Castle

St. Olaf

This castle is awesome!

Sisar Nielsen and Sisar Woods

Such a fun adventure!

"The Sleepover" - struggling with the camera timer

"The Sleepover" - finally got a decent picture :)


1/20/14 - Week of Adventures

This was quite the WEEK OF ADVENTURES. Okay let's get real, every week as a missionary is a week of adventures, but this one was especially adventuresome.

For starters, you should all feel bad for my poor little trainee for being stuck with such a crazy companion. We had a District Meeting in Savonlinna this week (a cute little city about 2+ hours drive away). There is a city between Savonlinna and Kuopio called Varkaus. There used to be a branch there but it closed about 10 years ago because most of the members either moved or passed away. Currently there are 3 active members in Varkaus and they drive over an hour every Sunday to church (we have many members who drive that far or farther, some have to take ferries to get here, others can only come 2 times a month because they live sooo far away. These members are truly incredible). Sisar Woods and I made plans to stop by and visit people in Varkaus (the members and the less actives there) on our way home from our District Meeting. Well, it turns out that the Elders had scheduled an appointment back in Kuopio so we wouldn't have time in Varkaus. I felt really strongly that we needed to visit the active members there and help the less actives. So I thought up a slightly crazy plan and pulled my companion into it. We loaded up our tiny car and drove up Tuesday (our meeting was Wednesday) and spent the day in Varkaus. Oh these sweet members were so grateful! It was the most heartwarming thing ever. One couple fed us dinner and the husband is from Germany. We had authentic German food (including bratwurst) - the dinner was ridiculously good. Tuesday night we then continued our drive to Savonlinna and stayed the night in the church building there. I think it's safe to say that we are probably the first people to ever sleep in that churchl (it's so tiny! just a tiny chapel, a room, and a kitchen. That's the whole church). We brought bedding and mattresses so it was actually pretty comfy. And way fun. When we told the Zone Leaders our plan they had just started laughing. They were like "we'll I've never heard of anyone doing that.... but I guess why not. Sure just go for it." Oh we went for it. And it was so worth it (even though I had to tie a scarf over my eyes to fall asleep because the exit signs were so bright). 

The next day we had District Meeting and then we went to OLAVINLINNA! the CASTLE in Savonlinna! (linna means "castle"). It was soooo cool! I took tons of pictures so I'll try to send some. It was my first time taking a tour of a Finnish castle and it was so interesting! This castle was built back in like the 1400's and was used to fight the Russians. It's dedicated to Saint Olaf, a Norwegian viking (hollllllla at my Norwegian Viking ancestors!) We got to see original wood from back then, the smallest organ in Finland, and a medieval toilet that was at the top of a tower (aka just a hole that they sat on. It was so high up that we looked down the hole and it made my legs turn to jello because there was literally nothing underneath it but the frozen water down below). The castle was beautiful and it was a BEAUTIFUL day because THE SUN CAME OUT. Oh my gosh I about cried! I haven't seen the sun in so long! It was such an adventure and I loved every minute of it! I love learning everything I possibly can about the wonderful history and culture of this great land of Finland. 

An adventure we had this week that was less than desirable was getting lost on our way to a member's house and being an hour late. What made matters worse is that it was about -15 degrees Celsius, it was snowing, and we were on bikes for over 2 hours trying to find this member's home. By the time we got there, I literally could not feel my toes at all. And my fingers hurt for hours. Yeah talk about ei hyvää (no good). But we made it there and we ate yummy blueberry soup. These Finns like eating fruit type soups, usually for dessert. They'll add milk and sugar on top and eat it cold, but in this case we ate it warm and as part of the meal. I love trying different foods! And the food here is so good. 

Okay so miracle time! After a less than successful lesson, my comp and I were just praying really hard for direction as to where we should go next. It was late, dark, and we were on bikes in the snow (in our sketchy area where there are drug deals like every 5 seconds). We've pretty much exhausted our Area Book a while ago (a record of all the people that have been taught or have asked that missionaries come back some time) and we're trying so hard to find people who the Lord has prepared to hear His gospel. We had found a really old potential sheet (a sheet of people who told the missionaries they could come back sometime) and so we've been contacting some of those names lately. Many have moved since the sheet was made but as we were praying, we felt we should pull it out and contact one of the names. We pulled out the sheet and we both got the feeling we should visit a certain name. So we said okay, let's go find him. We hopped on our bikes and took off. We got to the apartment building, said a prayer, and rang their doorbell. A man opened the door followed by two of the most adorable children I've ever met! The little girl was 2, the boy was 4. The little girl had the cutest, highest little voice ever. What could possibly be cuter than an adorable blue-eyed, blonde-haired little girl with a cute little voice speaking Finnish? nothing. We had a great conversation about families with him. About how we can be with those we love after this life. How we can strengthen our families and help make them strong through the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was way open to our message and said of course we can come back and discuss these things. We're going back this week! We left on cloud nine. Earlier this week, President Rawlings had come to Kuopio to interview all of us missionaries. It was my first interview with him and he's such an inspired man. When my interview closed, he offered the closing prayer. He was praying and then stopped and blessed me that we would find a family! That we would know what to do to find this family! I have wanted to find a family sooo badly! And Presdient Rawlings gave me the motivation I needed to jump back into trying to find one. We've been praying so hard that we will, and maybe this is our family! We don't know if it is, but we're gonna treat them like it! Please pray for us to be able to find families. Families that can learn and grow, go to baptism together, and go to the temple as a family and be sealed forever. This is what the gospel is all about. Changing lives and strengthening families.  

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to have "real intent." In Moroni 10:4 it talks about how we can know the Book of Mormon is true "if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ." What does it mean to have "real intent?" It means that when you receive your answer, you will act on it, no matter the consequences. It means that you are willing to submit your will to the Lord's and do as He directs. This week we had to let two of our investigators go. One I was really sad about because I have come to love this investigator so much. But she wasn't progressing. She wasn't reading, coming to church, or keeping her commitments. I felt like we were trying to drag her to eternal life, when we should just be trying to lead her there. Real intent means you really want it. Your heart wants it. You're willing to put all else aside, your pride, what others think, even what you want, and put what the Lord wants first. We must have real intent if we want answers to our prayers. If we ask the Lord "is the Book of Mormon true?" or "help me to have an opportunity today to tell somebody about the gospel" but we aren't willing to follow through with what that answered prayer entails, then why would Heavenly Father want to give us an answer? Why would He want to hold us accountable for going against what He has led us to do? He is too loving to do that to us. And He is also our Father and won't just give us an answer for us to discard it. Faith is an action word. And "real intent" leads us to act on our faith. Take a moment and think about what it means to you to have "real intent." And then every time you pray, make sure you're praying with real intent, always. Heavenly Father deserves real intent every time we open our mouths and our hearts to Him. Real intent to act on whatever little feelings, thoughts, or impressions we receive. He hears you. He loves you. YOU mean everything to Him. Let Him heal, help, and sanctify you. Open your heart to Him. You are His. 

I love you!

Sisar Nielsen  -  ps. when we were on exchanges, sisar nyman and i were riding bikes and we had stopped to talk to a woman. well as she walked away, this man was walking towards us. i got a feeling that we needed to leave. we hurried and started putting our stuff back in our bags and putting our helmets back on. well, all of a sudden this man started running towards us and yelling stuff at us and he was totally drunk and we literally had to just jump on our bikes and go and he almost made it to us before we took off and he was yelling "no! no! get back here!" i may or may not have let out an audible scream... missionary work is cray cray sometimes. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

1/13/14 - Keep Calm and Preach On

MOI. Well, the weather finally changed. It went from about 32 degrees F to 5 degrees F in about a day and a half. Uhm what?! Apparently the weather is insane all over the world.

FIRST OFF, SHOUT OUT TO MY BRO JOSHY. Happy Birthday! Can't believe you're 14 now! Wow. stop. growing. up. It's crazy that you are the age Joseph Smith was when He saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Mom said you bore a great testimony about it in sacrament meeting. Always remember to stand up for what you believe. We gotta give our all for the Lord.

This week was a good week. We've been seeing miracles and finding investigators at a steady rate. We've been really busy and when you're a missionary being so busy that you barely have time to  think, you're eating dinner at nine thirty every night, and your feet hurt from walking is a good thing! 

We've started something this week that I'm waaaaaaay stoked about! We're doing an 11 week consecration week. Our new mission president was just announced, President Wayne T. Watson. As a way to kick off the new year and prepare this mission for a new president, we're consecrating ourselves for the next 11 weeks. Each week, one district in the mission will be fasting. The rest of the mission will be praying for added consecration (with each companionship focusing on what they can do to completely dedicate themselves to the work, to sanctify themselves through the Atonement), for the mission and the people of Finland, that the work will accelerate in accordance with the Lord’s will and that we will know what steps to take in order to play our part as that happens, and on behalf of the district that is fasting. The whole mission is praying every morning at seven fifty and every evening at nine fifty so we will all be praying at the same time and will be able to call down the powers of Heaven together. Today was our first day. We were getting ready and the alarm on our phone went off to remind us. We dropped everything, ran into the family room, and got down on our knees so we were praying at exactly the same time. I felt the Spirit really strongly. I know that the Lord will support us in our efforts as we give our all to Him. I'm so excited to really consecrate myself these next 11 weeks and allow the Lord to shape and transform me into who He wants me to be. I know He lives. He gave His all for us, the least we can do is try our best to become who he wants us to become. 

We had a cool experience this week. We were walking home after a long day with little success. It was freezing, my body was literally exhausted, and we were starving. As we walked, we were just praying constantly in our hearts that somebody would be put in our path that the Lord wanted us to talk to. We saw a woman walking from a different way, and without thinking much of it, I turned to my companion and said "let's go talk to that woman." So we crossed the street to talk to her. Well, we ended up having the most amazing conversation with her. She is Lutheran and was just so impressed by the fact that we young girls were here telling people about Christ. She talked about how hard it is for her to watch the rising generation turn away from God and from their Savior. She asked us for our church's information because she said she wants to come some time. She said any church that has youth like us is a church she wants to visit. As we walked away, we saw a group of probably 15 year old boys smoking. It made me so sad to see very clearly that that is where our world is heading. I am so grateful that I was raised in this gospel - that I have this anchor and this rock in my life. That when the winds of change come, and the trials, and storms, and challenges beat upon me, my foundation is in Christ and I will not fall. We are all made for "greater things than we can comprehend" (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland). The thing is, we have to decide if we will live up to our potential or not. If we will strive, and work, and live for it or if we will just slip into what the world wants us to be. We are all made for so much more than drinking, drugs, and the things of this world. We are destined for greatness and we are children of a King. Through the Savior Jesus Christ, we can become who we always wanted to be - and more. The choice is up to us. Will we sell ourselves short, or will we live out our calling and find lasting happiness in this world and the world to come?

If you have worries, concerns, or hesitations about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, prayerfully consider D&C 33. 

I know that God lives. I know that this is His church. I know that He is our Father. I know that He loves us, that He knows us, and that He wants to be a part of our lives. Christ is our Savior, the great Mediator, the Messiah, and Redeemer of the World. How amazing is it that the very Son of God refers to us as His "friends"? Come unto Him. Let Him carry your burdens. Let Him lift your sorrow. Let Him help you become who you are destined to be. You are made for so much more. 

I love and miss you all. The church is true. What does that mean? That means that Christ lives, this is His gospel, and that the ONLY way to be truly happy is through it. 

Keep calm and preach on. Live what you know. 


Sisar Nielsen    ps. elder hugie got his tooth knocked out last week while we were playing sähly (the finnish version of floor hockey). don't worry, after a trip to the dentist they put it back in. ya know us missionaries, we've got lots of challenges to face here: drunks, the darkness, and flying hockey sticks.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ahh Finland - beautiful, but could use a little more sun :)

1/6/14 - Proud New Owners of a Happy Lamp

HAPPY NEW YEAR! SAY WHAAAAAT? Can't believe that it's already 2014! Where has the time gone?!

In order to celebrate the New Year, we are the proud new owners of a HAPPY LAMP. Okay so it wasn't to celebrate the New Year, but we did buy a Happy Lamp this week. Sisar Nielsen's energy levels have been dropping dramatically the past couple weeks. Last Monday, I hit a low. I still was obviously pushing myself to do all of our missionary work, wake up on time, run from place to place, be completely obedient etc. but it got to the point where last Monday, I was writing a hand written letter and had to stop to put my head down a couple of times because I was so exhausted. That's when I realized I needed to talk to my Mission President because that is not normal. Turns out I'm SAD (I have Seasonal Affective Disorder... don't worry mom. I really am waaaaay HAPPPY here) and basically with some extra Vitamin D and having a happy lamp on all day, I'll be recharged and ready to go in no time! And it has made quite the difference already! I guess the fact that I seriously can't even remember the last time I saw the sun is affecting me a lot more than I thought. It's okay, because as I always tell people- in this dark world, the gospel truly is my light! (and now I have a fake, artificial sunlight lamp to help lighten up my life as well....)

So this week was great. Lots of miracles. We got 3 new investigators! We had set a goal by the Spirit this week to find 3. We went to a woman's house that we had met last week and had set up a time to teach her this week. We were way stoked 'cause the first time we met her had gone so well (and she was about to become a new investigator! and she has 2 kids). We got her neighbor (a member) to come with us and we were all pretty excited. Well, we walked up to the door and there was a note taped to it. I couldn't understand a lot but from the member's shocked reaction, apparently there were some pretty intense swear words and it told us to never come back again. Well, talk about discouraging. It's amazing how there are so many little tests like this every day in the mission (and in our lives). We have a choice to decide if we will give up, get discouraged, or slow down or if we will step up, get motivated, and run faster. Through prayer, we can do the latter. And that's what we did. By praying a ton this week, we were able to witness a lot of miracles. We got in contact with a former investigator (somebody who used to learn about the church but for whatever reason stopped) and had a great first lesson with her. The Spirit was really strong. On our way to that lesson, we had seen a woman struggling to push a bike that had tons of grocery bags tied on it. We saw her and were like "wow. that woman needs help. do we have time...? we don't have time. no, there's always time!" We parked our car and ran over to her. She gladly accepted our help (which was a miracle in and of itself) and we helped her push this bike down this steep hill she was struggling on. We talked with her about how we are all God's children and that we need to take care of each other. We were able to testify about the Savior and other principles of the gospel and had a great teach with her as we walked. She told us she definitely wants to learn more and she was so grateful for our help! So that was a great miracle! And then last night, we had an hour of contacting time. Our mission president has told us that we all need to teach 20 lessons a week. We've been struggling with that these past two weeks because we've had so many holidays, "red days", and people going out of town/appointments dropping. Well last night, we were at 18. So we prayed and asked to Lord to help us teach 2 more. We walked all over the center of Kuopio, and nobody seemed to really want to talk with us. Then,we ended up having a great teach with a woman who has talked with missionaries before. It got to the point where we had about 10 minutes before we had to go inside. We huddled together, sent a heartfelt plea towards heaven, and took off walking again. There was a man walking towards us so we engaged in conversation with him. He had headphones in but he took them out! We ended up having a great gospel discussion, gave him a Book of Mormon, and set up a time to meet with him at the church this week. It was amazing! So we got our 20 teaches and our last teach became a new investigator! It's amazing how when we follow counsel, the miracles really do come!

Another miracle story that happened this week.... We went and did work in an area that's kind of farther away so we don't go there a ton. We had noticed on our ward sheet that a less active lived in a city close by so we decided to just go stop by. We got to her house and we said a prayer before we knocked. I prayed that this woman would let us in, that she would be really nice to us, and that she would invite us back. Well the door opened and she said "oh hello! come in!" We were in such shock, we just stood there. She had turned around and was walking back into her house at this point. When she realized we weren't behind her (no, we were just standing on the front porch still like two dummies) she said "come. in." We stepped inside. She indicated that we take our coats off and sit down. We were seriously in such shock we didn't know what to do. She had to explain "take off your coats and go sit down on the couch" (gosh... she probably thought we were incompetent or something). Well we ended up sitting down and having a wonderful discussion with her. Her nonmember husband came out and he talked with us too. We shared a great scripture from the Book of Mormon and they welcomed us back! They apologized that they didn't have anything to give us so they gave us a carton of juice. When we left, Sisar Woods and I just kept looking at each other. Did that really just happen?! It was incredible how the Lord answered my prayer exactly. Now prayers aren't always answered that way. Sometimes they aren't answered in the way we want, or when we want, or how we want. The important thing though is that they are always answered. This just happened to be in the way, when, and how we asked ours to be. It was pretty amazing. 

I love you all. The church is true. God lives. Jesus is the Christ. I encourage all of your to go read Elder Ballard's talk from this past conference. NOW. Here, I took some of my precious emailing time to find this for you all, so read it :) and pray and ask the Lord how you can better be a part of this great movement - how you can better help the Lord hasten the work, regardless of where you are, your age, education, position in life, or means. Through prayer, you can know how YOU can make a difference and bless the lives of others.

RAKKAUDELLA (with love),

Sisar Nielsen    PS missionary work is really awkward. this week sisar woods and i baked cookies to try to help soften people's hearts and get into their homes (crazy right?! as if eternal life and being happy forever aren't enough...). we went to a former investigator's home and she didn't answer the door. we decided to stick the plate of cookies through her little mail slot in her door. well the plan worked great, until half way through the cookies got stuck. so then we were trying to push/pull them out. and the whole time we're making a fuss and probably looked ridiculous to anyone watching (two girls in skirts wrestling a plate through a door...). long story short, we were able to pull the plate back out. and i'm just really hoping she wasn't home so she didn't witness that whole exchange (like seeing a plate go in and out of her front door multiple times). unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, everything I do just seems more awkward than the average person. oh well. 'Cause THE CHURCH IS STILL TRUE.