First and foremost, SHOUT OUT TO MY WIDDLE BRUDDER MICHAEL. Shut the front door! You cannot be turning 9! This is not happening. Where in the world has the time gone?! but seriously, I hope you have the most amazing day - and try not to be toooo crazy okay? I love you tons!
I seriously can't believe that February is almost over! Usually I feel like February drags on forever, but as a missionary it flew by! The weather is crazy again - we got a ton of snow (yeah that was fun to bike in.....) and now all of a sudden it's gotten warm so there's just slush and heaps of gravel everywhere (they don't salt the streets here when it snows, they just put gravel everywhere to make it easier to walk/drive on the snow).
We lost a couple more investigators this week. I swear, Sisar woods and I hold the record for the most first lessons taught. We keep finding people to teach and then after one or two lessons, they decide that they really don't care about religion and that this isn't their thing. It's so frustrating. This is everybody's thing! This is ETERNAL LIFE people. ugh. but we just keep pressing forward, holding onto our faith that the Lord is with us and that He will lead us by the hand and give us answers to our prayers. We had about 30 minutes left one night to do something. We decided to just go try a former (somebody who learned about the church earlier but for whatever reason stopped) that we've tried multiple times before. We got there and realized that there was a different name on the door (oh btw, in Finland everybody puts their last name on their front doors - whether it be an apartment building, an individual house, a town home, whatever, they all have their last names on the door which is actually pretty convenient for us missionaries). We decided to just knock the door anyway. A guy came to the door and we had a great conversation with him about the Book of Mormon. We gave him one and set up a time to meet at the church, and he came! however, when he got there he said "I came because you guys were so nice, but I read the part of the BOM that you gave me and it didn't do anything for me. I don't want it, and I brought it back to return it." We were like noooo! not again! so I just asked if we could show him around our church and then discuss it with him a little more. He agreed. We ended up teaching him all about Christ, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. The member with us was crucial because this man was kinda hard to understand. but by the end of the lesson, he asked "What do I need to do in order to know if these things are true?" UH WHAT?! yeah this is like every missionary's' dream question (besides of course, when can I get baptized?). We explained that in order to know if these things are true, he must attend church, read the BOM and pray about it. He asked "Well, how do I pray?" We taught him and he said a very simple prayer. It was amazing! And it was amazing to see how the Spirit had taken over the lesson and helped change this man's heart. It went from "I came to return this book. I don't want it." to "How can I know if these things are the truth?" I'm sooo grateful for the Spirit when we teach. It carries our words to these people's hearts. It's really not what we say that is important, it's how they feel as we speak. The Spirit is the real teacher and especially because I fumble over words and can't always find the right ones to say in Finnish, I'm so grateful.
We had a way cool experience with a less active this week. This is the less active that we visited a couple weeks ago and that we had prayed that she would let us in, be nice to us, invite us back, etc and then she did! Well anyways, we went back this week and her husband was in Barcelona (he's not a member) so it was just her. We had a great conversation with her and read the account of Christ coming to the Americas in the Book of Mormon. The Spirit was way strong. We invited her to read the Book of Mormon as a commitment, and she was like "well I'm already in the middle of it right now." We were like "huhhh?" So then I just straight up asked her, "What prevents you from coming to church?" This amazing woman just started to cry and pour her heart out to us. How she and her husband had investigated the church together and how she had joined but he hadn't. And how he pretty much prevents her from going to church every Sunday because when she doesn't have to work on Sundays (she's a nurse) he makes them go out to his childhood home in the country to fix it up all weekend. She cried as she said that she reads in the Liahona (church magazine) every month about how she needs to partake of the Sacrament and how she can't. The tears were just streaming down her face as she said all she wants is a temple marriage, but her husband won't open his heart to the church. It made me so sad. The Spirit got waaaaay strong as we just testified to her of the incredible love her Heavenly Father has for her. That He is always with her, and that He understands her situation and what she's going through. This is not the first woman I have met here that has broken down and cried to us about how all they want is for their husband to accept the gospel so they can get sealed in the temple. It just breaks my heart and has strengthened my already strong resolve to not settle for anything less than a temple marriage. In the temple we can be married forever. We can be with our families forever. And our marriages are so much stronger when they have God as its foundation. We also have an eternal perspective and this is the way the Lord wants it to be. This sweet woman hugged us goodbye and gave us a bag of food (way good food btw, like fresh bread and yummy licorice) and just stood by the window and watched us drive away. It was amazing the amount of love I felt Heavenly Father has for this sweet daughter of His - and how much love He has for all of us.
Unfortunately this week we had a lot of blank days (days when all of our appointments fall through). We got to the point where we only had 1 investigator again. ugh! But we decided to just pray ALWAYS and follow the Spirit. and miracles happened (OF COURSE!) We found A, the guy I wrote about above and we found another investigator this week from Nigeria. She's here with her 3 children to get her doctorate and her husband works for the UN so he's currently in Kenya. She is so welcoming and we're excited to teach her. I'll let you know how things go. Also, we were sitting in our apartment and all of a sudden I remembered this random 20 year old girl we had met about a month ago. We decided to call her and she was totally interested in meeting! So we're meeting with her this week! The Elders also passed one of their investigators over to us (cuz she's a single woman) and we received 3 referrals this week! One was from the missionaries in Jyvaskyla - a 21 year old girl who had investigated the church earlier and then moved to Kuopio and they just found her in their area book. So we're hoping to set something up with her this week! Basically, the blessings really do come after the trial of our faith. And the Lord truly has a plan. We just need to trust Him.
I love this gospel. I love this work. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY and a representative of Christ. It seriously is the most fulfilling thing ever. I encourage you all to pray everyday to bring one person closer to their Savior this week. Just one. And as we bring one, many more will follow.
I love you!
Sisar Nielsen - PS I SAW THE SUN. I TOOK A PIC TO PROVE IT. it's been sooooo cloudy and overcast that we haven't seen it in a reaaally long time! and it only lasted for like an hour. but still, I SAW IT.
Well, WHO'S UP FOR ROUND 3?!? Change calls came and I'm doing another change in KUOPIO! which means I'll be here for at least 2 more months! Sisar woods and I are excited! This is my first time having the same companion for more than one change since I'll be finishing her training this change. One of our Elders is heading down to Tampere where I came from and his comp will be training a new missionary. It's weird that I will now be the most experienced missionary in Kuopio... yikes. I've almost been in the field for 6 whole months! Where has the time gone?!?!
This has been a good week, full of lots of challenges, funny moments, and surprises. First off, there's no better way to get to know a city than by running through it. We've started running every morning (ever since we had that wake up call in Helsinki and realized we were way out of shape..) and it has been glorious. The weather is crazy here and many times it'll be snowing while we're running (and it's quite slippery) and then by the afternoon it'll just be slush everywhere cuz the snow is all melting! It's weird. Also, we are now the proud owners of BIKES! Our branch mission leader fixed up two bikes for us to use. They're way sick! And it's fun being able to bike contact. We were riding the other day and apparently Sisar Woods' chain came off. I was ahead of her and couldn't hear her yelling to me to stop. Luckily I stopped to talk to somebody so she walked her bike up to me. We talked to this woman about eternal families and then she walked away. So at this point our attention is on the fact that Sariah (her bike) can no longer ride and psh, neither one of us knows anything about bikes. We're just like "great, what do we do now?" when out of no where, this random woman says "do you need help?!" and runs over, flips Sisar Woods' bike over, fixes the chain (at this point there's a group gathered around), and then she leaves before we can even thank her. It was crazy and amazing because that was very non-typical Finn! Finns don't talk to people they don't know. Usually when we stop people on the street and say hi, their first response is "do I know you?" when we say no they say "then why did you say hi to me?" Basically as missionaries we break every social norm in the book. It's great. This woman was a life saver! SERVICE PEOPLE, it's goes a longgggg way and totally made our day :)
We've been focusing a lot as a mission on praying always and what this means. It basically means that when we're not verbally praying to God, our hearts are drawn out in prayer towards Him. As I've really be focusing on praying always, my relationship with my Father in Heaven has been strengthened. Honestly, one of my favorite times of the day is at night time, when my comp gets in the shower, and I just have that time to myself to pour my heart and soul out to God. He is my best friend and my most trusted confidant. I tell Him everything. My prayers have become so much more conversational. I stop and listen for answers and focus on the feelings of my heart. It truly is amazing how the God of the universe, the Supreme Being, wants to converse with us as His children.
A couple weeks ago we did a school presentation. In the high schools here, the students must learn about different religions. Something cool that they do here is they invite people who are from those religions to come and tell the students about it so it's accurate information! Yay! Well we got to teach a high school class about our church! It was way fun, kinda hard cuz it was obviously all in Finnish, and I kinda embarrassed myself a lot (when I was explaining that we don't get any money for being missionaries, I said that "me emme saa rauhaa" but i meant to say "rahaa." I tried to say "we don't get any money as missionaries" but instead I said "we don't get any peace." Basically they all laughed and I was just like - dang it! That's such a rookie mistake and one that I don't think I've ever made before... so I would make it in front of a group of high school students! oh well...
Just so you all can understand the culture here a little more, here's some Finnishisms:
-they leave their babies in their strollers outside (in the cold!) to sleep. they claim it helps them sleep better. so for example, at church there's usually about 3 strollers outside with babies sleeping in them. crazy right?
-Finland is a really safe country (obviously, see above). they're also really honest. because it's so cold we all wear gloves (duh). unfortunately, gloves fall out of our pockets a lot (i've donated quite a few to the general Finland glove fund...) and whenever people find them, they hang them up (on trees, signs, sticks, etc) so that if those people come back, they can find their gloves. it's so great. and also there's like a ton of brightly colored gloves hanging from everywhere.
-they love their saunas. like a lot. as a member explained to us this week, it's a "holy place." often times, they'll cut holes in the ice, go swimming in the frozen lake for a couple minutes, then run to the sauna. they say it is "really healthy" and "is extremely thrilling". i just think it's crazy. but i mean, whatever floats your boat right?
I've been thinking a lot this week about our Heavenly home. How we all lived together before we came to earth. How we are all truly brothers and sisters and how we all choose to come down to the earth to be tested, tried, and to gain experience. It's amazing that a veil was put over our memories so that we can't remember our lives before this life. Obviously the veil was necessary (how would it be a fair test if we remembered everything) but I've also come to realize that it was also a huge blessing. Can you imagine how much our hearts would be breaking if we could remember living with our Heavenly Father and our Savior before this life? We would not want to be here in this imperfect, broken world. I think about how much I miss my family while I'm here in Finland. I can only imagine how much I would miss my Heavenly home if I could remember it. I also think about the extreme love our Heavenly Father truly has for us - to allow us to forget Him, when He will never and can never forget us. He sends us here, hoping that we will learn of Him and find Him and welcome Him back into our lives. It's like my family sending me to Finland and then me forgetting them completely, but them still remembering everything about me, all of the fun times we've had together, and that I'm a member of their family. It would be really hard. I would need somebody to help me remember who I am and to whom I belong so that I could reunite with those I love again and be truly happy. And that is the purpose of missionary work. To remind people of who they are, and to whom they belong. It's not to indoctrinate people or force people to join our religion, it's to remind them of their divine worth and help their soul to find God again. To help them receive a fullness of joy.
I love this work. I love being a missionary. I'm so grateful for miracles. They happen everyday. Pray everyday to help one person rediscover who they truly are - yhat they are a child of God.
First off.... SHOUT OUT TO MAMA NIELSEN. HAPPY BIRFFFFFDAY. One year older and wiser too! Hope it's fantastic and that you don't party too much without me! I love you - you're the best!
This week has been a good one. We're excited for this coming week because we'll finally be in Kuopio for a full week! Obviously last week we were in Helsinki, and this week we hopped on a train on Tuesday and went up North to Oulu until Friday. We had a Zone Meeting, where all of the missionaries in the North get together, and then we did exchanges with the Oulu sisters (where we switch companions for a day so we can see how others do missionary work and we get to work in another area and take ideas back to ours). It was a lot of fun. Luckily we didn't have any "running to the train" incidents this time so that was quite the relief :)
Zone Meeting was really good. We discussed the nature of God and the nature of Satan. How both of them see us and what both of them want for us. It was really interesting as we examined the complete polar opposites the two possess. As our mission is currently doing this consecration fast, we really are working hard to put down all of our weapons of rebellion. When we rebel against God or aren't completely in line with His standards and commandments, whatever they may be, we allow Satan to have an opportunity to step into our lives. Our zone leader said a quote that I really like: "it's hard to fight against an enemy that has outposts in your head." When we let Satan creep into our lives, when we put down our defenses, get down on ourselves, justify our actions, or excuse ourselves from doing what we know is right, we allow Satan to build outposts in our heads. I don't know about you, but that just doesn't fly with me. On my mission, I've felt my relationship with God strengthen so much. I've also realized how it truly is the little things-going to church every Sunday, reading the scriptures every day, praying a lot every day, listening to good music, surrounding yourself with good influences, etc- that really make alllll the difference.
In Oulu I got to go on exchanges with Sisar Francis. She's from Australia. Change calls are coming up this week (ah!) and she's going home! We're loosing quite a few awesome missionaries this change - along with a lot more over the next couple changes. It makes me so sad seeing these missionaries go home :( but luckily our missions really never end. We don't just come here to "do our time" and then go home. Being a missionary is a life long commitment. Bringing others to Christ is a life long commitment. Standing as a witness is a life long commitment. So even though it makes me so sad to see my fellow brothers and sisters and friends go home, I know that they'll keep fighting for the same team.
While in Oulu, we walked a ton! I love walking because it gives us a chance to talk with everyone on the street. I love street contacting because we get to meet all sorts of people and it just makes you feel like a real missionary. While walking we had to stop in a store to grab something that we needed to do an object lesson. We passed the ice cream section and the ice cream just called to us...... (Finnish ice cream is seriously the best thing ever...) so we may or may not have purchased some ice cream and walked through the freezing snow eating it. I guess you know you're doing something crazy when the Finns (who pride themselves on their ability to withstand the cold) give you weird looks. Oh well, it was fun :) and way tasty even though I did feel a little frozen.... (also I got to try cactus flavored ice cream cuz that's what Sisar Francis got. apparently it's a pretty popular flavor here. who knew?)
Well we got back from Oulu and were way stoked because we had our day stacked with lessons with investigators and less actives. every. single. lesson. fell. through. Ugh. Talk about frustrating. We also got dropped by another investigator and had to drop another. So we were down to one. But we refused to get discouraged. We had 2 hours left of the day and so we jumped in the car and just prayed always (something our mission is really focusing on... how as we pray always, we will be able to align our will with the Lord's and allow Him to direct our path). We went to go visit our one investigator but she had guests at her door so we didn't want to go. So we were just like "alright. the Lord brought us here for a reason. What's the reason?" We felt like we needed to keep walking, so we just started walking. We ended up in the neighboring apartment complex and I felt like we needed to knock building B. So I turn to my comp and was like "how does B sound?" She said she was thinking the same thing (yay for the Spirit!) and so we went and knocked it. There were only 4 doors in it but here's the amazing thing.... We knocked the first door, talked with the guy about eternal families for like 15 minutes, gave him a Proclamation to the World pamphlet, and he ended up becoming a new investigator! and he has 4 young adult children. The next door we knocked, we talked about the Book of Mormon for about 20 minutes and the guy was way interested. He set up a time for us to come back so we can teach him more. BAM! Another new investigator! And he has 4 young kids! The next door we knocked was a mom in her mid 20's, we talked to her about God and how He blesses and strengthens our families. We talked with her for about 15 minutes and BAAAAM, she welcomed us back and became a new investigator! Then the next door was way sketch and it was weird. BUT HEY WE GOT 3 NEW INVESTIGATORS in an hour. It was truly a miracle. And it really was because we pray always. I know that prayer is a real power, that it actually works, and that miracles happen. Then we talked to a woman on the street who had been crying and it was obvious she was having a rough day. We simply just bore testimony that God loves her and knows what she's going through. She sincerely thanked us and took our card. It was so amazing because I could just feel the love Heavenly Father has for this woman. It was incredible. God is a God of miracles. His timing is perfect. I know He lives and that He loves us.
I gave a talk in church on Sunday. It was 15 minutes... in Finnish! But it actually went really well. My whole topic was about how the Lord is hastening His work. The Spirit was incredible. The Lord truly is hastening His work like never before. This is crunch time. Read this! http://www.lds.org/liahona/2013/10/hastening-the-work-of-salvation?lang=eng&query=hastening+the+work+of+salvation. I used that a lot in my talk. It has some great ideas. Christ lives. This is HIS work. I challenge you all to pray EVERYDAY that you can bring somebody closer to Christ. As we pray everyday, the Lord truly answers our prayers. I am a witness of that. As the article says, success in missionary work comes as we invite, not with the end result. Meaning that if we invite, share, and testify, we have done our part. We can't control what other people do, but we can control what we do. Who's side will you be on? Will you let the enemy build outposts of doubt in your head? Take your stand.
I love you!
Sisar Nielsen p.s. Sisar Woods and I ate kanakukkoja, it's basically a fish put into bread. It was weird, but it's very Savo (the area I'm serving in) so I had to try it. Needless to say, I was glad I tried it because I felt all cool and savo, but I didn't take another slice when they offered it to me.
pps. Today we're going to a member's house for dinner. We have to take a ferry to get there. These members are all so faithful, they travel so far to church and how cool is that that we get to drive onto a ferry?! I LOVE MY MISSION :)
ppps. Also it's getting way slippery here with all the snow and the traction on my boots is basically gone... so I've had some interesting sliding, trying to catch myself, remembering I'm wearing a skirt, trying to stay dignified but also alive, experiences. Life is good.
I LOVE THE CITY OF HELSINKI. So
Sisar Woods and I hopped on a train and rode 5 hours to Helsinki. It is so
beautiful. We then spent the next 3 days being edified and taught by President
Rawlings and most importantly, by the Spirit. It was sooo fun seeing my old
comps, Sisar Hubner and Sisar Egan! It felt like just yesterday we were there
for our interim training! And now our little babies are growing up and saving
China (or Finland, whichever the case may be)! Time is just flying by. I love
meeting with other missionaries because it gives me a chance to see the other
people that are fighting in God's army with me. I met some awesome missionaries
(and some really great Elders that ended up being lifesavers.... but we'll get
to that in a minute).
On Thursday I had the opportunity to
go to the Helsinki Temple with the other trainers while our companions were in
a language school. It was sooo amazing. I haven't gone to the temple in so
long! and it was my first time going inside the Helsinki Temple. For those of
you who don't know, in our church we have church buildings (that we go to every
Sunday, have activities at, etc) and then we have temples, special buildings
built for the Lord. Here is where we perform special covenants (promises) with
Heavenly Father. One includes eternal marriage, meaning we can be with those we
love after we die. Obviously, that is not what I was there to do because I'm
kinda not in that chapter of my life right now.Anyway, it was so amazing to go there and feel the Spirit. It was so
peaceful and beautiful. As I sat in the celestial room, I was overcome by the
extreme peace that I felt. It went into every corner of my body, and filled my
heart until it was overflowing. I can't even fully describe the feeling that
washed over me. The veil felt so thin and I felt so close to heaven. As I sat
there and just pondered, I thought of all the people I wanted there with me -
that if I weren't allowed to leave this room ever again, who I would want to
join me in it. Of course I thought of my mom and dad and my brothers. And then
I thought of all of my extended family, my best friends, other missionaries,
the prophets and apostles, my investigators, all of my friends, my
acquaintances, the people of Finland... the list just kept growing and growing.
I want all of these people to have what I have. I felt peace and the
overwhelming love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior. As I sat next to Sisar
Hubner and Sisar Egan, we all just started to cry. We never wanted to leave. We
didn't want to go back to the World. But eventually, we knew that we needed to
go (after all of the other missionaries had already left haha). As we came out
of the temple, the sun was shining low in the sky and reflected off the snow.
It was so beautiful. I felt my Heavenly Father's love for me so strongly. I
felt the overwhelming assurance that this gospel really is true. That God
really does live, that Christ really is our Savior, and that the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints truly is Christ's kingdom upon the earth,
helping to prepare the earth for Christ's second coming. I'm so grateful for
the knowledge that I have. Nothing in this world can compare to the light,
happiness, peace, and joy that I have found in this gospel. My hope is that
everyone I love will eventually come to it and feel what I have felt.
Well, we got back from the temple
and realized that we were in quite the rush. Sisar Woods and I had about an hour
to make it to our train to return home to Kuopio. All of us trainers had to buy
our return tickets home at the station. I either had the choice to choose the
5:12 train or the 7:12 train. The later one would get us home at midnight, so I
opted for the earlier one thinking that of course we could make it. We then
hopped on the tram and rode for 20 minutes back to the church building to pick
up our companions. The language school wasn't out yet, and the time was ticking
away. Soon it reached the point where I realized if we didn't leave that very
second, there was no way we could make it back to the train station in time. So
another missionary and I crashed the language school and grabbed our comps.
Sisar Woods and I took off with 2 elders who also wanted to make the same train.
We both had suitcases, our personal bags, and 4 others bags full of supplies
(like planners and scriptures and stuff) and a big package for Elder Hugie, an
Elder in Kuopio. So our little group made it to the tram stop and the tram
wasn't there! We realized it wouldn't come for 13 minutes! At this point, my
stress level started rising. When we miss our trains, the church gets fined and
it causes quite the hassle. All of the other missionaries started arriving at
the tram stop and were like "why are you still here?! You need to
leave!" I was just like "uhhh... ya think??" The tram finally
came and I was really starting to get antsy. We had 17 minutes to get back to
the train station and the tram usually takes 20. Plus, once we got to the stop
we would have to get off the tram, cross the street, go into the train station,
and try and find our train. As we rode, I was just praying the whole time that
Heavenly Father would help us - that somehow, someway, we would make our train.
Well miraculously, we got to the train station 2 minutes before our train was
supposed to leave. One of the Elders grabbed my suitcase, another grabbed Elder
Hugie's package, and another grabbed Sisar Wood's suitcase. The Elder who was
also trying to make our train said he would run ahead to stop it. Well the tram
doors opened, and we were off! We tore out of the tram, crossed the street, and
took off sprinting through a crowded train station. Elder Golling and I were in
the lead, but my pencil skirt, heavy boots, and arms full of bags slowed me
down (ugh!!!). At this point there was only one thing going through my mind- we
need to make this train!!! I got to the tracks and lost Elder Golling. I
followed his companion, Elder McKnight, along with my companion to a train
saying that it was going to Kuopio. We ran to it and arrived there, but
realized it was the wrong train! And we were missing the two elders- Elder
Golling and Elder Jefferies- who actually knew what was going on! Elder
Stimpson (Elder Jefferies comp) was with us too. We were all like "where
is your companion?!?!?" and he was like "I don't even know!!!"
We were literally out of time. The adrenaline was insane. All of a sudden,
Elder Jefferies came running around the corner yelling "it's over
here!" Then we 4 missionaries took off running again. We got to our train
just in time! The elders had already loaded my suitcase and everything on the
train for me. We got on, the doors closed, and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief
as the train pulled out. It was the craziest running to a train story of my
life. And I hope to never have one again. Literally, without those elders, we
would not have made it. My life is one crazy adventure.
We got back to Kuopio, and it fully
hit me that I am back in the world again. Things have been hard. People use
their agency to walk away from Christ. It's so heartbreaking for me to watch
people I know who have felt the Spirit, who have felt the truthfulness of this
message, just decide that they don't want it anymore. That it's not worth it. I
have felt some deep sorrow these past couple days, as we have lost
investigators and as I think back to the beauty of the temple and what I want
for these people!
I will stand and fight for my Savior
all the days of my life, because during those times that I feel like I can't
rely on anyone else I know I can always rely on Him. He is my strength. He is
my guide. He is my friend. He is my Redeemer. He truly has saved me. I would be
lost without Him. He is my anchor in the storms of life. He is everything.
I love the Temple and have missed it
so much. Don’t take it for granted people! Go to the house of the Lord. Go to
the temple now. If you're not worthy or able to go, make changes in your life
so you can.
May we all do a little better each
day to come unto Christ.