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.