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.
I love you!