WARNING: the next couple paragraphs may or may not be filled with me just gushing about how much I love my life. And seriously, Kuopio's got talent!!
This week was seriously amazing - and I'm pretty sure that I had one of the busiest days I've had on my mission so far. So about a month ago, Sisar Woods and I were discussing during our weekly planning and we decided that we wanted to organize an activity that would help bring nonmembers and less actives to our church. We played around with some different ideas and came up with the idea of doing a Talent Show, with different kinds of performances, people's artwork hung all around the walls, crafts and other things set our for display, and a dessert contest. We wanted as many people as possible to get involved. We brought the idea up at our weekly correlation meeting (with our branch mission leader Veli Marriott (he's an American married to a Finn) and the Elders). They loved it so we immediately set out to organize it! For the past couple weeks, we've been inviting everybody and their dog to come. Last week we spent almost 4 hours on our p-day (which happened to be my birthday) cleaning out the stage and gym and setting everything up. The stage is currently being used as the relief society room and we found all sorts of hidden treasures (and things that needed to be trashed!) It was quite the ordeal. The day of the talent show, Sisar Woods and I baked 100 cookies for it, the Elders made muffins, and Veli Marriott made a huuuuge cake. We had popcorn, cookies, muffins and juice for everyone to eat while they were going around and looking at all the art work before the show started. Sisar Woods and I also came up with our performance in the morning and had little time to practice. We then all got to the church around 12 (the Talent Show started at 2) and then things got crazy! I literally did not stop moving until about 11 pm that night.
We knelt with the Elders in prayer and asked the Lord to consecrate the Talent Show so that it would help bring people to Christ. And then people just started coming! Our investigator E came with some members and the nonmember friend of one of the members. Members started filing in, less actives showed up, including a less active who the members haven't seen in years! and she brought artwork to display! Another less active came who's mom is active and she brought two friends! (the mom got teary eyed the next day at church when she thanked us and told us how it was such a miracle that her daughter came). A woman walked in and asked one of the members where Sisar Nielsen and Sisar Woods were. We overheard and were like "uh... that's us." I was so confused because I didn't recognize her until I realized that it was a woman that we had met on the street about 2 months ago! She was the one who had been so grateful that two young girls were out trying to help people come to Christ. We had sent her a text but never heard back from her. But she came! and she brought a friend! Then another woman walked in who we had invited the day before! It had been crazy cuz we had actually talked to this woman before, about a month or so ago, in a completely different area of the city. Then we had lost contact with her. Well we were heading to a potential's home the other day and we felt that we should wait and just go there later. So we went to another person's house first that was farther away and he wasn't home. So then we headed back to the other potential and we saw this woman on the street right after she got off the bus. So we talked to her again and invited her to the talent show, and she came! One of our young women brought a friend! A couple weeks ago, Sisar Woods and I met an American guy who's a member of the Bahai religion. He's married to a Finn and he invited us over to discuss religion. Well we invited him to the talent show and he came! and he brought art work to display. And he loved it. Two members brought their nonmember spouses, and it was way cool cuz one of the couples got to be judges for the dessert contest together. We had a dessert contest and had everyone write their name on a piece of paper and then they were picked at random to determine the judges (by our young woman's nonmember friend!) Well uhhhh Heavenly Father totally stepped in because of the 5 judges, 3 were nonmembers, one was the husband of one of the nonmembers, and one was a less active! uhhh it couldn't have been more perfect! We had 3 performances done by nonmembers, one done by a part member/less active family, and the show was absolutely amazing! Right before it started, our former investigator who we haven't had much contact with (the Vietnamese one) walked in! Uh what?! Miracles! For the show, Sisar Woods and I did "A Tribute to the Restoration." We did a mash up of "Praise to the Man," "Called to Serve," "We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet," and "The Spirit of God." We did a combination of English and Finnish and we incorporated the cup routine from Pitch Perfect. And my mission is alllll about pulling me out of my comfort zone because I had to sing a solo! And as we all know, I don't sing! but for the sake of missionary work, I did. And it actually wasn't half bad. (I mean, no glass broke anyways.. so that was a miracle!) At the end of our routine, the Elders came on and we all stood and sang the chorus to "The Spirit of God" together in Finnish and it was actually way powerful. Everyone went crazy for it! We had covered the tables with paper and put crayons as the centerpieces so everyone got to color on them. The children loved it! (and let's get real, the adults totally did too!) During the break in the middle, everyone got to go try the desserts from the dessert contest which was really fun because they were waaay fancy and SO GOOD. These Finnish women know how to bake! In total we had 19 NONMEMBERS THERE AND 8 LESS ACTIVES! The members were going crazy! Afterwards, one of the Branch Presidency members came up to us and said "this was AMAZING! we HAVE to do this every year!" Another Branch Presidency member came up to us and could not stop thanking us! He just kept looking around in shock and awe and just kept saying how completely amazing this whole thing was and how they'll have to do it again. This was the most nonmembers they've ever had at an activity before. Sisar Woods and I were standing in the hallway afterwards trying to decide which nonmember to go talk to.. the problem was EVERY SINGLE ONE was too busy being loved to death by the members! The happiness in the room was ridiculous! At church the next day, the members could not stop talking about how amazing it was and we got shout outs in multiple peoples' testimonies. Members have already told us the friends they want to invite to it next year! So basically we've started a new Kuopio tradition! It was soooo COOOOL! (and soooo exhausting!) But oh, my heart is so full! We worked so hard, and Heavenly Father blessed us with so many miracles. It was an absolute blast! It helped make the members even more excited about missionary work. It expanded our teaching pool. And it brought less actives back to the church building that haven't stepped foot in it for years! That night as I knelt in prayer, I couldn't fully express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father. He truly is a God of miracles!
We also set a baptismal date with E for next month! It's pretty close so we're praying she'll be ready by then! She is doing so great! And she is so great! Heavenly Father truly has blessed us to find her. She came to church again yesterday and loved it! She forgot her glasses so she couldn't read, but she still wanted to sing the hymns with everyone so she just sang "lalalalalalalala" to the tune of the song. hahaha it was awesome! The members absolutely adore her! Different members have told us that they'll give her a ride to church each week. Yesterday she told us that since she's been praying every night, she's all of a sudden started sleeping through the night. She said she's sleeping better than she has in a long time. AAHHHH Heavenly Father is just the greatest! Sisar Woods and I have to keep reminding ourselves that she's technically not a member yet so we need to still make sure she gets baptized! hahah I seriously just love her! She is such a miracle!
Basically, I LOVE MY LIFE. The church is true! It brings lasting happiness in this life and the life to come! We have a God of miracles! I witness miracles every single day of my mission. I am so grateful that I'm not in this work alone. My guide is perfect. If I keep my sights on Him and my goal is Heaven, I cannot fail. Sometimes the mission is really hard. There are many nights where I get on my knees and just cry to my Father in Heaven. I know that all of my tears are numbered and that my Father in Heaven loves me. Despite all of the hard, trying times I've had, the magnificent and joyful and AMAZING experiences I've had just completely outweigh them. If right now you're going through the storms of life, HOLD ON. The sun will rise! The light will come! The winds will cease! And there will be a great calm. The Lord loves you. He knows you. Hold on to Him and let Him guide you. He refines us, because He loves us. He wants us to become like Him. And that is the only way we can. So don't lose hope. Don't quit! Keep going! He loves you. And I do too! The church is true. Christ lives. I love Him.
First off, thanks for all the birfffffday love! Sure do appreciate it :)
This has been a week of miracles! This whole week our district and the branches that we are serving in have been praying and fasting for missionary work in our areas. All of the other Finnish missionaries have been praying for our district everyday. Everyday at 11 am our whole district has stopped what they are doing to specifically pray for each member of our district. We have been calling down power from heaven, and we have been feeling that power.
We had a lesson with E, the woman that came to church. It was amazing! The Spirit was so strong and we testified and taught the restoration. At the end, we taught her how to pray and invited her to give our closing prayer. She was hesitant and said that we would probably laugh at her because she doesn't know how to pray well. We said that her prayer would be perfect and testified that God wanted to hear from her. She then said one of the most simple, heartfelt prayers I've ever heard. She started crying and thanked Heavenly Father for sending us to her. It was amazing. I got all teary eyed and our member had tears running down her face. The Spirit was really strong and I felt so much love for this dear woman. I could feel the love Heavenly Father has for her as her daughter. It was amazing.
This weekend was the Kuopio District Conference. It's basically their version of Stake Conference (when multiple wards/congregations meet together). Since there aren't enough members in the north to form a stake, they are divided into Districts. It was crazy to compare my stake conferences back home to this. The Kuopio District consists of 3 branches and they all came to our chapel. Everybody could fit in the chapel without a problem. Back home, our chapel was like double the size of this one, plus we filled up the whole gym, and the surrounding classrooms. Sometimes I forget how small the church really is here. It may be small, but it sure is strong. District Conference was absolutely amazing. President Rawlings and his counselors came up for it because they act as the stake presidency for the whole Northern part of Finland. It was awesome to see them. There was a meeting Saturday night for the youth and adults. The whole thing was about member missionary work and hastening the work of salvation. It was a really powerful meeting. President Rawlings gave an aaaaaamazing talk. He told the conversion stories of 4 men. All of these men were converted as a direct result of member missionary work. As a result of members 1) praying for missionary experiences 2 )talking normally and naturally about the church 3) giving a Book of Mormon away and 4) inviting. He then said that the man from his first story is currently the leader of the church that presides over all of Europe. He then said "will the man from my second story come stand next to me." The first counselor in the mission presidency stood up. He then said "will the man from my third story come stand by me." His second counselor stood up. He then said "the man from my 4th story is me." He then turned around and asked all of their wives to join them. They stood up and stood next to their husbands. These three powerhouse couples stood at the pulpit as President Rawlings really brought it home. The Spirit filled the room and I couldn't help but start to get all teary eyed. With tears in his eyes, President Rawlings said that as a result of member missionaries doing those 4 simple things, these 3 men now have their best friends for eternity. They have a happiness they never thought was possible. They have purpose in their lives. They have a hope for a celestial life to come. He asked if we could imagine the immense gratitude they feel for those members that opened up their mouths and shared the gospel. When we tell others about the gospel, this is what we help them to receive. This is why it's so important that we share it.
On Sunday, we all met together for District Conference again. E came to church! She absolutely loved it! And the members just adore her! I got to sing in the famous Kuopio Branch Choir! It was pretty exciting. We sang an arrangement of Love One Another. It was really beautiful. The whole meeting was on how through love, we can bring others into to gospel and help them to share in the happiness that we have found through it. At the end, President Rawlings asked if he could change our closing song. He asked the choir to come back to the front and sing again, but then on the last verse have the whole congregation join in and sing together. Oh my gosh. Words can't describe the amazing Spirit that filled the room. I could feel Heavenly Father's immense love for all of those people there. I'm getting teary eyed just writing this. I truly felt the love that God has for all of His children and the love I felt for everyone in that room could barely be contained in my heart. I felt like it was overflowing. Everyone started crying. People that I've never seen come even close to shedding a tear had tears running down their faces. The love filled every corner of that room and gave us all a taste of how heaven will be. Can you imagine how much love will be there?
This week we went on exchanges with the Sisters from Oulu. It was Sisar Woods and mine fasting day. I spent the whole day on a bike and ending up biking farther than I have the whole time I've been here. It was truly amazing because even though I hadn't had anything to eat or drink, I had enough energy to bike and talk with evvvverybody without feeling weak. It was honestly a tender mercy from the Lord. Between our two companionships, we taught 17 lessons in one day! Talk about a day of miracles! It was raining and really cold and windy and I actually woke up the next morning with a sore throat and stuffy nose, but it was totally worth it! :)
It really amazes me the peace, safety, and hope that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us. A lot of the Finns are getting really anxious with everything that is going on with Russia and the Ukraine right now. Obviously, Russia is our very much larger and more powerful neighbor to the East. A lot of the Finns are uneasy with all of the things that Russia is currently doing. It is such a reminder to me of the fact that we are in the last days. These are the last days before the Savior of the World will return. The world is going to get even more and more crazy and more and more wicked. How grateful I am for the gospel! It is my anchor. It my foundation. It is my hope, my peace, and my place of refuge. I would literally be lost without it.
I love the gospel. I love my life. I love my Savior. And I love you! Pray everyday to help somebody feel the immense LOVE their Father in Heaven has for them, through YOU.
Church is true!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU,
Sisar Nielsen p.s. quick funny story.... so sisar woods and I had a lesson with a less active that lives way far away. We had never visited her before but we had her address on our ward directory. So we show up at the appointed time and ring the doorbell. We hear somebody come to the door but then they don't answer it. So I'm all like "uhh...." so I call this woman and I'm all like "hey we're at your house right now." She then said some things I couldn't really understand but I thought we had reached the agreement that she would come open the door. So I hang up and we wait. Nothing. So we ring the doorbell again and knock. Nothing. So I call her again. She said she went and looked and nobody was there (so I'm all like great... this woman is crazy...) so I tell her that we are in fact there and she said okay, I'll come again. So I knock again and she's still on the phone with me and then I hear footsteps coming and on the phone she said "I'm coming." So then the door flies open to reveal.... A VERY ANNOYED LOOKING MAN! uhhhhhhh WHAT?! He's like "what do you want?!" I was so shocked and confused that I just looked at him and handed the phone to Sisar Woods (the woman was still on it). I tried to get my words out but I was so utterly confused that I didn't even know what to say. Finally I said "does Sisar M live here?" He said no, but her daughter does. Turns out that her daughter and her husband had moved into her mother's home and Sisar M had moved to a care center down the street. After finally getting my words out, we were given directions and made it to Sisar M's home. While in the middle of the the spiritual thought, her daughter called and said that "two girls came looking for you. They spoke really bad Finnish. I think they were Russian." uhhhhh no lady, I'm actually AMERICAN and you try speaking Finnish when a door flies open and you're expecting a little old lady and a frustrated man is staring you down! It's not easy! So basically missionary work is always fun, and you never know what to expect......
HAPPINESS. That is what the gospel brings. If you're not happy, come closer to Christ. If you're feeling alone, turn to Him who can heal you. If you feel the clouds of despair hanging above your head, reach for the hand that calms the storm and created the sun. He is the source of the happiness that you seek.
And let me tell you, I have felt this happiness this week! This past week was Sisar Woods' birthday! Whooohooo! So now we're both 20! but only for one more week cuz next time you'll be reading my letter, imma be the big 21! I may or may not be having a midlife crisis! But moving on..... this week we had two lessons with new investigators! Both went really well and they asked great questions. We also hopped on a 4 hour train and headed up to Oulu for ZONE CONFERENCE. My favorite! It's where all the missionaries in the North part of Finland get together and our mission president pretty much just blows our minds. He's such an inspired man. It's incredible. Zone Conference is always so fun because we get to see other missionaries and remind ourselves that we're really not alone in this work. Sometimes it's hard because we don't get to see other missionaries often. The closest sisters to us live a 4 hour train ride away. But every time we reunite, we give each other pep talks and we're ready to head back to our own cities and convert the world! After zone conference, we got to go with a group of missionaries to do service for one of the members (chopping up boxes and wood in their backyard.) We show up and the dad was like "Hi Sisters! uhm... I bet my wife could use your help in the kitchen." UH KIITOS. I'M STRONGER THAN I LOOK OKAY. I can chop wood! hahah but seriously, TALK ABOUT A BLAST. We had so much fun cooking and chatting with his adorable wife! Normally we would never have time on our mission for such an activity, so it was really a special treat. That night the Zone Leaders had to take the missionaries back in shifts because our mission cars are pretty small. Naturally, we were the last ones to be driven home. The zone leader who drove us is new to Oulu and wasn't completely sure where he was going. As a mission, we pray every night at 9:45 and every morning at 7:45 as part of our consecration/fast that we're currently doing. Well 9:45 hits and we're almost back to the Sisters' apartment where we're staying. I say "okay, I'll pray and everyone close their eyes (but the driver of course.)" So I pray and we open our eyes and the driver says "so uhm... I don't know exactly where we are...." During the course of the prayer, he had somehow taken us to the OTHER SIDE OF THE CITY. Hahaha it was ridiculous, so then we're all trying to navigate home and it's getting way late and at this point all I can think about is the 7 am train we're going to have to catch in the morning and how I'm getting a greaaaat tour of Oulu. But don't worry folks, we eventually made it to the apartment and got a solid 6 hours of sleep. Life is good.
We've reeeally been struggling with getting our investigators to church. It's something that we've been working on and praying for and nothing seems to happen. We've been doing our best to follow counsel (having members invite them, setting up rides for them, offering to take the bus with them, giving them church tours beforehand so they're familiar with church, promising them blessing for coming and helping them see the importance of Sunday church attendance) and yet every Sunday they don't come! Well, we had such an amazing Sunday yesterday! The woman we met on the street last week forgot about our appointment this week so she didn't show (lame) but we called her Saturday and invited her to church. She said she wasn't sure yadadada so we said "well our friend would love to give you a ride" and E, our investigator, agreed. Well Sunday comes, we show up to church, and sure enough Sisar R walks in with a smiling E. She gave us big hugs and was so excited to be there. Sisar A (another member) came and introduced herself and sat next to E during Sacrament meeting (without us even telling her to!) E stayed for all three hours of church, participated in Sunday School, wrote down all the announcements in Relief Society so she could remember them, had members giving her hugs before she left, kept thanking us over and over again for inviting her to come, and set up a time for us to meet on Tuesday. Sisar R said "I will give her a ride to church every Sunday!" Sisar A got all teary eyed when we asked her to come to our lesson on Tuesday and said "she is a very special person." After sacrament meeting, E said "all of this feels so familiar." She was just beaming. As I sat in Sacrament meeting during the passing of the Sacrament, I felt the Spirit so strongly. I felt Heavenly Father saying "My daughter, I love you. I am always with you." I couldn't wipe the smile off my face or stop the incredible feeling in my heart. Tears sprang to my eyes. It's true what they say, your mission is a time of great disappointment, heartache, and pain, but the joyful moments are so sweet and the spiritual moments so powerful that they completely outweigh all of the hardships. She was the tender mercy from the Lord that I needed! Oh how I love our Heavenly Father. I AM SO HAPPY.
The sun is here! When we go running in the morning, it's up now! It literally feels like out of nowhere, all of a sudden we have the sun! And how truly glorious it is! Unfortunately, the weather is weird and it just went back to the negatives again, but it should be getting warm soon. I'm so excited for spring! HAPPINESS PEOPLE.
The Lord is in this work! Miracles happen everyday! Yesterday we said hi to a young woman from Bangladesh and chatted with her for a little bit on the street (she's a doctor here getting her PhD) and without us even saying anything, she said "hey I have to run, but let me give you my number so we can meet again sometime." uhhh WHAT? We also stopped a kid on the street (who ended up being 16... yeah I thought he was like 20) and had a great conversation with him about religion and he also said he would like to meet and discuss more about God. One of the new investigators that we met with this week said the reason he wanted to meet with us is because he's interested in learning about our religion and he just really wants to believe in God. He said it's so evident that we are happy and he wants that happiness too. Perfect! It's so amazing to see how the Lord truly is with us every step of the way. Many people we've stopped on the street lately have told us that we are "such joyful youth" or that we just "glow" or have asked "why are you so happy?" Our faith in Christ, the knowledge that we have, knowing who we are brings us a hope and a light and a happiness that this world just can't provide.
Share the gospel. SHARE HAPPINESS. Lift those around you. I think a lot of members think that "missionary work" means just inviting our friends to learn from the missionaries, but in reality, that's only a part of it! Missionary work is inviting our friends and family and neighbors into our gospel centered lives, into our HAPPINESS, so that they too can realize that this is something they want. It's inviting friends to activities, asking them to help serve somebody from your ward, inviting them to a child's baptism, inviting them to a BBQ where other members are, asking them to come and support us when we have a talk in church or a musical number. If they are our friends, they will want to do these things. They will want to partake of the HAPPINESS that we have.
So smile. serve. help. love. BE HAPPY. CHOOSE HAPPINESS. FOLLOW CHRIST. LIFE IS SO BEAUTIFUL, COLORFUL, AND WONDERFUL. God lives, He loves YOU. YOU are His child! And that's a pretty good reason to smile :)
As a mission, we are really focusing on finding "the one" every single day. The one whom the Lord has prepared to receive us, or the one who needs to feel God's love, or the one who the Lord has put in our path that day that needs to be lifted, strengthened, or helped. As we go throughout the day, really focusing on "the one" has really changed my whole mindset. As I look back on this week, I can point out "the one" every day that we were supposed to find. And it's just the most amazing feeling to know that we found them.
This week was marked by a lot of miracles, crazy experiences, and yummy food. We set a goal at the beginning of the week to find 4 new investigators. We hit our goal and found 4! and a couple way solid potentials (people that expressed interest in the church that we will follow up with soon so they can become investigators). It was awesome! We had a free evening so Sisar Woods and I prayerfully considered what the Lord would have us do. We felt we should go try a potential that we had found while tracting his building. We went back and his wife answered. She said she wasn't all that interested and that she had her own religion. Well, I'm sorry but Sisar Nielsen is just so sick and tired of hearing that excuse that she was not about to let the door close on her. So I asked if we could talk to her husband (the one who had told us to come back in the first place). He came to the door and he said he was kinda busy plus, as his wife said, they kinda have their own religion yadadada. So I'm all like "alright Heavenly Father, how can we help these people come closer to Christ?" I just started asking them questions about their faith and how it's helped them. Well long story short, we got invited in, ended up teaching them the first lesson (all about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon), gave the man a Mormonin Kirja in Finnish and promised to bring the woman one in Russian (cuz she's from Russia and can obviously understand it better) and set up a time to come back. It was sweet! So they ended up both becoming investigators! It was an awesome miracle! And was such a turn around from how our encounter first started out.
The next day we went out to one of our areas, parked, and walked everywhere. We talked with everyone we possibly could on the street. We said hi to people as we passed and ended up walking people to bars (ugh, we walked the cutest old couple to a bar and when we got to it they're all like "well, we gotta go! nice talking to you girls!" and went inside. It was like 4 in the afternoon). So we're walking down the street and all of a sudden Sisar Woods turns to me and says in a rather panicked tone "Sisaaaar! That man's been following us! Oh my gosh, he's totally following us! He's almost to us!" at this point I can see him out of my peripheral and I notice that he's trying to call to us. Well, Sisar Woods is freaking out so I'm just like "It's all good, remain calm, here we go" to which I turn and face him and say hello. Well turns out he had followed us for like a waaay long time. He was drunk outta his mind, from Ireland, and spoke English! It was a rather interesting encounter. He kept trying to buy me a drink, I kept trying to give him the word. Sisar Woods kept standing there trying to figure out what to do. I explained to him that we in fact do not drink alcohol and that we are here talking to people about Jesus Christ. A little bit of my Chicago sass may or may not have come out during the course of the conversation.... but it was way justified. And honestly, it just made me sad. I testified to him that we're worth so much more than drugs and alcohol. That we are children of God and that He loves us. My heart broke for this guy as I stared into his blood shot eyes and just felt the love and pain the Savior must feel for this man. It really is so clear to me the difference the gospel makes in people's lives.
Later that day, we prayed and felt we should knock a certain building. Only one person opened their door in the whole building, and he became a new investigator! He's a young man who's a student at the University. We taught him all about the Book of Mormon and he was way interested in it. So we'll be meeting with him this week. Also, later that night we were street contacting before we had a lesson with a less active. We stopped a woman who ended up being way outgoing and nice. We were actually throwing our heads back and laughing throughout the course of the conversation. She too ended up becoming a new investigator and we're meeting with her this week as well. While we were talking, a woman walked by whom I had talked with the day before. She said "terve!" and smiled at me! That in and of itself is a miracle. Finns don't do that! So it was a great day! Also, the less active we went to bought us Finnish munkkis! (doughnuts). This is the first time she's ever done anything like that! She has really come to like us! So that was really exciting. Also the munkkis here are famous so that's cool. Also our Branch Mission Leader and his family (and like half the ward) went on a temple trip this week, so he asked us to watch their plants for them and gave us squash pie (pumpkin pie but there's not pumpkin here so he made it from squash. It was actually way yummy!) so that was the cherry to top off the day. Basically, every day as a missionary is a new adventure. And ya never really know what's gonna happen...
As missionaries, we're currently planning a Talent Show! It'll be later this month! We're way stoked cuz the ward has never done anything like this before. The whole point is to get less actives and non members to come. So basically we've been passing out invites like crazy. Also, we've been biking almost every day this week (if I don't have legs of steel by the end of this, I'm gonna hurt somebody!) We went to go take an invite to a former. She wasn't home so we prayed to know what we should do and we felt we should knock her building. Well we only ended up knocking three doors cuz at the third door a young man opened it and we ended up talking to him for a long time. He was probably about my age, had a tattoo, and earrings, and kinda like a hipster style hair cut. At first he had the attitude like "why should I even care about God? This doesn't really apply to me" but then he started asking the ideal questions like "I'm sure this is a great thing, but how can you say that it's God's only true church?" We then taught him the Restoration and how Joseph Smith had that same question: "which church is the true church?" We taught him about the Book of Mormon and gave it to him. He had so many great questions and you could tell that he was actually really listening to what we were saying. Our conversation lasted for like 25 minutes as we just stood there in the cold, bearing our hearts and souls to this guy. He gave us his number and said he would love to find out more. It was such a great teach and amazing to watch this guy change. It doesn't matter where we are in life, our background, our hobbies, our age, skin color, or the kind of clothes we wear, the gospel of Jesus Christ really is for EVERYBODY. It gives us hope, faith, and enduring happiness. We can still live our lives and have fun but the gospel of Jesus Christ is our anchor and our foundation. I don't know where I would be in this life without it.
As I said, we did lots of biking this week. I noticed as we biked up the hills (especially the steep ones) that as soon as a I let up a little bit, as soon as I began to doubt if I could make it, I would lose my momentum and I would stop. As this kept happening, I noticed that when I focused on the top, on staying constant, and continually pressing forward, I could make it. Even if the hill was really steep and my legs were on fire. So it is with life. As we press forward, steadfastly keeping our eye on Christ, we can make it up the hills and trials of our lives. Even when our legs are on fire and our bodies are exhausted, we can do it. As soon as we loose our focus, let up for a minute, or put our guard down, we loose our momentum and we fall. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. As we focus our lives on Him and obeying all of His commandments, our lives will be better. Sometimes life will be difficult, we will still fall when the path is really steep and our burdens are difficult to bear, but we need to still press forward. We still continue on. Because we have the promise of eternal life waiting for us. We have the promise of coasting down the other side of the hill with the wind rushing through our hair and a glorious landscape as our view. So press on. Fight on. Because it is worth it. Because He is worth it. Because YOU. ARE. WORTH. IT.
I love you!
Sisar Nielsen ps another funny moment of the week.... yesterday we left somebody's house after delivering invitations. we saw a guy in the parking lot but didn't think anything about it. we hopped on our bikes, took a bike path that led to the university, and cut through the university parking lot. all of a sudden, this car comes and honks at us. the guy driving waves to us to stop. i'm all like "i have no idea who this guy is".... but i stop anyways. he pulls up next to us and says "are you from mormon?" he had an african accent so i couldn't fully understand him. "sorry what?" I said. "are you from mormon??" "are we mormons?" I replied. He said "yes! are you?" I told him that we were and he said "i knew it! i saw you in the parking lot earlier and so i traced you! i've heard of your church before but I want to learn more about it! so i traced you here so I can meet with you sometime and learn more about your church!" hahaha he is from ghana. and he kept using the word "traced" to mean "followed". basically it was one of those "is this really happening?" moments and rather hilarious. so long story short, sisar woods and i got stalked by many different foreign men this week. it was rather exciting. oh the life of a missionary.....
Every Monday I sit down and try to put my week into words. It seriously is almost impossible to even do it justice. The highs are so high, the lows so low, and the embarrassing moments so incredibly awkward that words just don't even begin to describe what being a missionary is truly like - but once again, here I am...
Well we had our first lesson with A, the mom from Nigeria. The first time we stopped by, she was so kind and welcoming. She said she already had a Book of Mormon and she wanted to discuss the word of God more. We were really excited to go back. Well when we did, we were in for quite the surprise... We said the opening prayer and then all of a sudden, she completely did a 180 and started attacking us. I was so confused. I could barely get any words out. She was ranting and raving and I couldn't understand where she was coming from. She was so attacking and antagonistic, and was completely trashing the Book of Mormon. Finally it came out that before we got there, she had gone on the internet to look up stuff about our church. She had gone to a Catholic website (because she's Catholic) to make sure that she would get "true information." Yeah right. The whole website was full of complete lies! The whole time I'm just praying for help and to know what we should do. Of course, we don't want to argue, get upset, or get defensive (it was so hard but when we do, the Spirit isn't with us). So finally when there was a break, I said "ya know, I don't know a whole lot. I'm just 20 years old. I haven't studied as much as most people, I'm not as experienced or as educated, and I'm simple in speaking and can't always put into words what I want to, but I know with every part of my heart that this Book is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord, and that my Savior lives and loves me." I then bore testimony of the restoration of the gospel and the power that it has. As I spoke these words to her, I could feel the Spirit flow through me. It became so powerful. It truly is amazing how in situations like this, I do feel like God is with me so strongly and I know that the words that I am speaking are the truth. When people try to tear down my faith, all it does is build it up and strengthen it. By the end of the conversation, we left on a good note. She said that we are actually good people and that next time she talks to somebody about the Mormons, she will be sure to tell them that they don't have more than one wife and that they believe in Christ. It was just so clearly apparent to me the reality of God and the reality of Satan. Both exist. Both are real. Both are as real as you and I are. One seeks to bless, strengthen, and help us. He loves us more than we can possibly understand. The other literally seeks our destruction. He hates us. He despises us. He wants to make our lives miserable so we can be as miserable as he is. It was incredible to feel the loss of the Spirit when she was ranting off all these lies about us. Because those lies on the internet were not influenced by God, they were influenced by Satan. It was then incredible to witness the change that came over all of us as I testified of the truth. Because the words I spoke were from God, testified of Him, and were in fact true. They were the truth. I've had many experiences like this on my mission, and every time they strengthen my conviction and my testimony of this gospel so much more.
We also had a first lesson with a new investigator, P. She is about 20 years old. She showed up to the church and brought two friends! We actually ended up having to teach in English because one of her friends was Vietnamese. It was a good lesson and they had lots of good questions. Once again, we taught the restoration and the Book of Mormon. What I mean when I say that we taught the restoration, is we taught about Joseph Smith and Christ bringing His true church back to the earth. How when He lived, He established His church. But when He died and His apostles were killed, the priesthood power (the authority to act in God's name to baptize, bless the sacrament, etc) was taken from the earth and Christ's teachings were changed. That's why we have soo many different churches on the earth today. It's interesting to think about the need for a restoration, and not just a reformation. The fullness of the gospel, or the complete truth, was no longer on the earth. A reformation just changes what is already existing. A restoration restores what was lost. Every time we teach the restoration, it invites the most amazing Spirit. Every single time that I teach it, the Lord reaffirms to me that my words are true, that this really did happen, and that He loves His children more than we can ever understand.
We got to go to an 18 year old's Finnish Birthday party this week! We went for about 40 minutes. I love being able to experience a different culture while I'm here! We ate sandwich cake (a cake made out of sandwiches... but like you cut into it and it was frosted with like who even knows (a mayonnaise spread or something) and had layers of bread and then one was ham and the other was fish... it was kinda weird but way interesting). It was crazy how much quieter their parties are! I mean maybe this is just this group of people but my family's parties are always just so much louder and crazier. It really is incredible how overall, Finns are much more shy, reserved, and quiet. hahahah I love Finns. And I love how I'm just sooo different than that. They probably don't know what to do with themselves every time I walk into the room and I'm just like "HEYYY GUYS. CHURCH IS TRUE! LET'S ALL LOVE EACH OTHER!" and then I like trip or run into something or do something else just totally embarrassing. My life....
So have I mentioned that there are quite a lot of drunk people here? Especially drunk men..... We passed a guy on the street the other day and said hello. He threw his arms up and responded (in English) with "oh beautiful girls! are you from Russia?!?" Yeah, we just kept walking. Sisar Woods and I also got let in while tracting. We were all excited (of course) but then we realized that the man and woman were both drunk. However, they were really nice and gave us chocolate (because they HAD to give us something and we refused the different kinds of alcohol they kept offering us (I know shocker... but ya know, we got standards)). We ended up teaching them about the Plan of Salvation and surprisingly, they had lots of good questions. I mean they probably didn't remember the lesson the next morning, but it was still pretty exciting for us.
I love being a missionary. I love my life. Every day is full of so many crazy adventures. And every day makes me so much stronger. I can feel myself growing and changing so much. I can feel my desires and my attitudes changing. I feel like I see myself and others in a whole new light. I know what I want out of life and I know that with God, I can get it. My goal is heaven. My path is straight. My guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I want everyone to have what I have. I want everyone to feel the way I feel. I want everyone to know, that Christ truly is the way, the light, and the life. Come unto Him.
I love you!
Sisar Nielsen ps it was so cute. one of the older couples from our ward just got back from Thailand (a place lots of Finns like to vacation) and they brought us back cute little presents. ahhh i just love how this ward truly has become my family here. as members of the church, we truly are family :)
pps Sisar woods and I (well she leads, I just follow her lead) like to get creative with the foods we make (after eating sandwiches almost every day, we needed something new) we make homemade pizza almost every Sunday night, this week we made homemade spring rolls and had an Asian night complete with an aloe vera drink and homemade peanut sauce. We also made turkey, apple, cheese and cinnamon crepes, and lots of other way good shhhhtufff. we're living the good life. :)