MOI. Well the weather here is ridiculous. This whole week was very hot! I felt like I was in Cali or something back in the day when all the hippies had a mad rush there. Everyone was walking around smoking, drinking, half naked, driving old VW vans, and rocking their dreadlocks. Except us of course :) However, a huge storm moved in last night (not as good as a classic midwest thunderstorm but still impressive) and it cooled the air down 24 degrees! So today it's raining and freezing! Oh well. At least the sun is still shining bright in our hearts.
This week was a good week! We got dropped by some of our investigators (bummer) and we had to drop some more after praying about it (if they're not progressing or keeping their commitments, it basically becomes impossible for us to teach them anymore), but the Lord still made it a miracle week and we had a lot of fun. We had a school presentation in which we went to a school and taught a class of 15 year olds about the church. Here in Finland, they learn a lot about other religions in their schools. It's neat because they actually have people from that religion come in and talk about it (so they know it's true information that they're getting!) I'm gonna be honest,it was a little intimidating, but it was still really fun. I got to be the one to tell them about Joseph Smith. As I was speaking, I felt the Holy Ghost SO strongly. It was like Heavenly Father was telling me that He was with me and that He was supporting my words. It was a really cool experience as I stood in front of a class full of teenage kids and felt the Spirit of the Lord so strong, I felt like I was on fire or something. It was interesting for me to see what their schools are like. They don't have a dress code (so girls were wearing belly shirts, guys were wearing hats and sunglasses, etc) which I thought was interesting. Also I'm not entirely sure why, but pretty much every girl Finn, young, old, or in between, dyes their hair! So there are some pretty crazy hair styles and cuts and colors here. And EVERYONE smokes! Don't even get me started on that! Ok moving on...
We met with E this week. It was a really good lesson and she started to cry. She said she just doesn't know what to do. We testified and shared 1 Nephi 3:7 with her and how the Lord ALWAYS gives us a way to accomplish the commandments that He gives us. The Spirit was so strong. She said "every time you come, you always bring such a good feeling with you. I can feel it every time you're here". I said "E, that's the Holy Ghost. Heavenly Father gives it to us so that others can feel that our message is true and know that we are from Him." She nodded and thought about that. She is moving forward and wants to continue coming closer to Christ. Honestly it is a miracle, because often times in situations like this, the investigator will just cut off all ties from the church because it's "easier" that way. She came to church on Sunday (I gave a talk in church) and she cried throughout my talk. She is so cute! I just know that she will be baptized. And I trust in the Lord that whatever happens is His will. My trust in Him has grown so much while I've been here. The more I trust in Him, the happier I am and the the brighter the light inside me grows. Heavenly Father is just the greatest!
This week we attended a Lutheran young adult Bible discussion talk thing with one of our investigators. It was basically their form of FHE - Family Home Evening. They had a song, prayer, then a lesson, then a song, prayer, and food. It was really interesting seeing how another church operates and learning more about what they believe. And it was really cool because I understood the WHOLE THING. My understanding is so much better than my speaking (because it is impossible to master speaking the Finnish language. the grammar is literally too INSANE) but regardless, my language is coming along. It was interesting for me to compare our church with theirs. How they have a set food prayer that they all stood up to say. How they passed around a collectors bag for money at the end. How they speculated how we get the gift of the Holy Ghost and decided it's when we accept Christ as our Savior. How I felt the Spirit but it was different. I really wanted to just blurt out "okay guys wait, there's this WAY SUPER COOL THING called the Restoration! And as a result, we get the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by somebody who holds the proper restored priesthood authority from God which was restored to Joseph Smith by John the Baptist and 3 of Christ's original apostles so that we can perform saving ordinances and that we have this amazing thing called tithing where the Lord has orchestrated a way for His church to be taken care of financially because He truly is a God of order and also we don't have to say the same prayers for certain things, we can just speak to God from our hearts and He hears every word because He loves us and He is our Father and He doesn't need our prayers to be fancy - He just wants to hear from US" but I didn't because who in the world wants to say all of that in Finnish?! (and because that probably would've made a few people angry). But it was a really neat experience.
Basically the church is true and I love being a missionary! Yeah, sometimes being a missionary is way hard stuff, but sometimes life is just plain hard. How grateful I am for the light of the gospel in my life. That it lifts, helps, and heals me. Share this light with others. They need it. So remember, keep calm and PREACH ON. God is worth it.
Today marks my 11 month anniversary of being a missionary. Man, time sure flies when you're having fun! It's a beautiful day here in Finland! For the first time since August, I walked outside today with a t-shirt on! The sweaters, the tights, the leggings, the boots, the hats, gloves, scarves, big coat, thick socks, and long sleeves are gone! YESSSS! And the sunshine is here! Like all day, every day. It's so great.
As I sit down to write, a lot of emotions are running through my mind. Sometimes it's hard to separate them all out and put into words exactly how I'm feeling, but bear with me as I strive to do my best. Earlier this week, we had a lesson with E. We went through the baptismal questions (questions that everyone must answer before they are baptized.. like about their willingness to obey commandments and their testimonies of the gospel) again with her (a couple of weeks ago when we did them, she had some issues with some of the questions and it didn't go well..). This time it went amazingly! She answered every one perfectly! She even yelled "NO" in English (and she doesn't speak any English) when we asked her some of the questions (like have you ever committed a crime) - haha it was so great. When we asked her if she would pay tithing (something she wasn't sure about earlier) her response was "well, it's a law isn't it?" At the end of the questions, we said E, you're ready! You're ready for baptism! And she just smiled at us and nodded. I felt like I could fly! I have seen this woman change so much. I still remember the day we found her on the street back in March. The light of Christ is so bright inside of her now. It has truly been such a profound testimony to me that the gospel changes lives. We had another lesson later this week with her and focused on the temple. She is way excited to go and loved learning about it. Later in the week we met again and she chose who she wants to baptize her and we set the time for 6 on the 24th. Again, she was just glowing. I have come to love this woman so much. She was unable to come to church on Sunday because her son came to visit at the same time as church. She asked him to come another time but that was the only time he could come. She said it was important that she meet with him because she was going to tell him that she is getting baptized (and she is very close to her children and they literally mean the world to her). Sisar Bates and I fasted for her this weekend and we've been praying like crazy. Ahhh it's just been so cool seeing how much happier she is now. This church is so true.
Last night I called her to ask how it went and to set up another time to meet with her this week. Gosh my eyes are starting to water as I'm writing this. Basically, her son is very very against her joining the church. And as a result, she feels she cannot be baptized because she doesn't want to put a wedge in her family. As I sat there on the phone, I literally could not believe the words that I was hearing. I was in shock. That was not what I expected, at all. I just kept testifying to her about how important this is and kept praying "Heavenly Father, I don't want to loose her!" I'm not completely sure, but I'm pretty sure she started crying on the phone. It was so hard for me to fight back my tears. I asked her if she could meet again, and she responded "Of course, I'm not against you. I love you." We then hung up the phone and the tears just came. I got up from the table and went to go to my room, but ended up kneeling on the bathroom floor, tears streaming down my face, pouring my heart out to God. I felt like my heart was breaking. I felt like I did back when I was in high school when my best friend Kimmy was told by her parents that she couldn't join the church and we went and cried on my bathroom floor after the Elders left our house for the last time.(Side note - Kimmy did eventually join the church after she turned 18.) I literally thought "Heavenly Father, why have you forsaken me? I have been giving my whole heart and soul to this work. I am completely obedient, I follow counsel, I try to talk with everybody, I try to always be happy and lift others up, I crash into bed every night completely exhausted and I get up the next day and start going right away. Do you not care? Do you not care that I'm giving this my all? Do you not care about the sacrifices I've made? Why aren't you here? Why have you left me?" All of a sudden this peaceful, calming feeling came over me. Our district leader called and we explained what happened and he just kept telling us how amazed he has been with how hard we've been working. The impression came that I should ask him for a blessing. I shrugged it off because I was like, "No. I can do this on my own. I don't need one." The thought came again. And again. And finally I just blurted it out and asked him for a blessing. The Elders came this morning and gave me an absolutely beautiful blessing. I literally cried through the entire thing. As soon as he began speaking, I literally felt the Spirit surge through me from my head down to my toes. He spoke of Heavenly Father's love for me. And the most amazing peaceful and strong feeling came over me. He said "Your Heavenly Father wants you to know that He is always with you." It was amazing how personal it was and how it literally covered everything that I needed to hear. I felt so close to my Father. I knew He was with me. And that He loves me. And that He does care! He has never left me, and He never will. He can't. He is my perfect, unchanging, all loving Father. And like a Father, in the blessing He told me He is pleased with all I have done. He is pleased with my hard work and the influence I am having, but that He expects me to keep working with the same diligence and hard work that I have been. To not slow down. To keep going. When the blessing ended, I felt once again that I could fly but that my wings were stronger because they were His. The Lord testified to me that E will get baptized, I just don't know when. I felt His love for me so immensely that I trust that whatever happens is what He desires. This life is but a small moment, and then if we endure it well, God shall exalt us on high. It doesn't matter if I don't baptize again on my mission or if I baptize 50 million people, the most important thing is that I can stand blameless before the Father at the last day and tell Him that I gave it my all. I love Him. This church is true. Trials don't break us, they build us. He has healed my heart. And He can and will heal yours, if you will turn it over to Him. He loves you.
I love you!
Sisar Nielsen ps finns are OBSESSED with salmiakki (salted black licorice). they eat it as gum, ice cream, candy, you name it! They LOVE it. So today, Sisar Bates (in honor of her 1 month in finland and my 11 months as a missionary) had a taste testing experiment with trying different salmiakkis. gosh, some of the candies were really gross (like the salmiakki salted peppered banana or the marshmallow one..) but it was really fun to try them!
FIRST OFF, IT WAS SO GREAT SEEING MY FAMILY'S FUNNY FACES YESTERDAY! Skyping you guys was definitely the highlight of my week! So grateful to be part of a crazy, awkward, family that I'm stuck with for eternity! So grateful that the church is true :)
So this week we had another lesson with E. We only got to meet with her once before she went out of town for the week, but it was a really good lesson! We talked about how we get answers to prayers and how we feel the Spirit. That when God answers our prayers, it's usually not with a spectacular display of His power or with a loud voice, but with a quiet mildness that speaks to our hearts and to our souls. We then gave her a journal with a picture of Christ getting baptized on it (that we made) and told her to write down different thoughts and spiritual experiences that she has. Then we invited her to be baptized (again) and set the date for May 24th. Except this time it was different. After we invited her, she got out her calender and she looked at it. Then she said, "the first time you guys asked me to be baptized, I was like whoa... I don't think so. But I've been pondering and praying about it a lot. And now I think I really do want to work for this." It was so cool! Thank you for all your prayers for her! And keep praying that she will take that leap of faith on May 24th by following her Savior into the waters of baptism. Ahhh I just love her! She is so amazing!
This week we also had our first lesson with J, the woman that showed up at church last Sunday. It went well and she has a strong faith in Christ and is searching for the truth. However, she said she wasn't willing to meet again until probably next month. We were like "what? no!" but before we could change her mind, she was like "oh I have to hurry! I need to go!" and ran out! So we were like "dang it!" But as you will find out later in this email, the Lord had other plans :)
This week we tried really hard to pray always and follow the promptings that we received. Everyday we go out searching for "the one". The one that Heavenly Father has prepared to accept the gospel, or that needs help, or that He wants us to bless and bring happiness to. We find these people by praying always and following the promptings that we receive from the Spirit. This week it hit me that it's kinda like playing the hot and cold game that I played as a kid. Where you're searching for something and then you go looking for it and your guide tells you if you're getting warmer or colder. Well obviously I was a boss at that game as a kid so that's cool. But the difference is, here we're looking for people and salvation is on the line, back home I was looking for candy and my pride was on the line. Luckily for me, my guide here is very reliable. It's up to me if I'm willing to do all I can to hear His voice and follow what He tells me. Well this week we had a cool experience. We were walking on a path and we reached a crossroad. We walked through it and then we got the feeling that we were going the wrong way. So we went back and prayed again and both felt like we needed to turn and go another way. So we did and just kept praying at every crossroad we hit. All of a sudden, we passed some apartment complexes and I got the feeling that we needed to go knock them. So we went over and both felt good about the same building. So we knocked the first two doors andddd.... quick shut downs. But then, we knocked a third door and had a way cool conversation with this guy about the Book of Mormon. He was like, "wait I think I have your book. I got it from my mom when she died." So then he goes to get it and comes back with the oldest Book of Mormon in Finnish I've ever seen! It was sooo cool! It was a light blue and had an angel Moroni on the front. And inside, it had pictures of the old temples and structures in central America. Way sweet! We talked to him about it for a long time and he agreed to actually read it! It was so cool seeing how the Lord literally led us straight to this man!
On Thursday we hopped on a train and went north to the city of Oulu for our Zone Meeting. The whole theme was "Stay Connected", meaning that we always need to be connected with Heavenly Father so He can direct our every move. We came back early on Saturday and had no plans, but as every missionary knows, BLANK DAY EQUALS BIG DAY. So we just prayed always and tried to follow the little thoughts and feelings that we received. Well we weren't having any luck! Nobody wanted to talk to us and at this point it was about 5 pm. So we're praying really hard to know which of our areas we should go to and Sisar Bates and I get completely opposite answers. We're just like "great... now what?" We got in the car and decided to just drive out to our areas, praying that an answer would come by the time we got there. Right before we get on the free way, I get this weird idea that we need to go make cookies and take them to people, but then I was like "no, that's a waste of our missionary time. We're not doing that." Then for some reason, it just felt right. So I said it out loud and Sisar Bates was like "yes! I feel good about that!" Well, we flipped a U, hurried home and made a batch of peanut butter cookies (which all the Finns were like "huh?" cuz they never eat peanut butter), made a list of members, less actives, investigators, and potentials to take them to, and set out! And let me tell you, we had a BLAST. It was soo much fun! We took the Children's Songbook with us and sang mother's day songs and "I am a Child of God" to everybody! including people on the streets. We were running around like crazy people to get to everybody cuz it's against the law to knock doors after 8. As we were driving, we saw J (our investigator who said she could meet in like a month) walking down the street. Naturally, we freaked out, pulled into the nearest apartment complex, struggled to find parking, finally parked the car, ran out to the main road, noticed she was far down it, looked at each other, and sprinted after her... in our skirts. As we got close we slowed down and caught up to her all nonchalantly and were just like "pshh wow! fancy seeing you here! crazy!" We ended up singing "I am a Child of God" to her (which she loved!) and set up a time to meet on Tuesday! Miracle! We then headed to the other side of town and visited a member and a less active. At this point, it was like 8:30 so we couldn't knock doors anymore. We got the feeling we needed to walk down by the lake nearby. So we did. As we were walking, we saw this man riding his bike. All of a sudden, he runs into a parked car with it, which sends him flying over the handle bars and he literally landed RIGHT on his face. Immediately blood started going everywhere! We ran to him and I was like "sir are you okay?!" No response. He had knocked himself out! So we're freaking out and looking around trying to figure out what to do. There was a single man on the street and we waved him over and asked for help. He was like "well, I don't know what to do!" so he called another man over that was walking by. Good thing cuz this guy was like "we need to call the ambulance, now!" (at this point the blood was coming faster and the man was starting to wake up). The ambulance got there in like a minute flat and they helped this man onto a stretcher. He had broken his glasses with the fall and literally half of his face was just completely covered in blood. It looked horrible. And then things got really crazy. All of a sudden, I realize my companion is fainting beside me so I have to help catch her and make her sit down. The paramedics are asking me all these questions in Finnish and I'm trying to explain what happened (in Finnish but I was still kinda in shock...so that wasn't easy) and then these two women came running from the apartment building and one of them is yelling "that's my husband!" so then all of the craziness of the situation is heightened. They finally got the man on a stretcher and the wife came over to me and was thanking us over and over again and telling us that her husband has memory issues and that he had left home an hour and a half ago and they couldn't get a hold of him. I just rubbed her back and comforted her and meanwhile I'm rubbing my comp's head to make sure she's okay and everyone is calling us angels (because honestly if we hadn't seen it, I don't know when anyone would have found him because he was behind a parked car). I'm just thanking Heavenly Father for inspiring us to bake cookies because if we hadn't, we wouldn't have been there. Basically, God answer prayers. And He takes care of His children. And He has a plan, we just need to trust Him and be willing to follow Him.
So moral of the story is, peanut butter cookies are really yummy and STAY CONNECTED! We have a loving Heavenly Father who is the God of all the universe and He hears EVERY WORD WE SAY! How amazing is that?! Why would we not want to invite Him into our lives more? Why would we not want to draw upon His knowledge, strength, and love? He lives. He loves you. He is your Father. He hears YOU. Turn to Him. Let Him help you. Seek His guidance in all things. He wants to bless you, because He loves YOU. You are His child.
Happy May! Can't believe time is flying by so fast! I hit my 1 year mark as a missionary next month! WHAT?!
And Happy Mother's Day to the one and only MAMA NIELSEN. Love you mama! Thanks for all you do for me! And Happy Mother's Day to all of the other moms out there! And to my grandmas. I love you guys and I hope one day I will become half as good of a mom as you all are. Thanks for the awesome example you've set for me.
I FINISHED THE BOOK OF MORMON AGAIN! Alright everybody listen to me for just a sec, THIS BOOK IS THE GREATEST BOOK ON THE PLANET. READ IT. THEN READ IT AGAIN. For reals. The Book of Mormon is so much more than just an ancient record from the Americas. It is a voice of a people speaking from the dust to us. It is a miracle that has lasted through the ages. It is the most correct book on the face of the planet. It is another witness that Jesus IS the Christ. There is literally NO way that Joseph Smith could have just written this book. It is impossible to think that a young man with little education could write a book with such detail about ancient peoples that contained the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is simply impossible. But here's the thing, Joseph Smith didn't write this book. He translated it by the gift and power of God. Every time I read it, my testimony grows so much stronger. I have felt myself come so much closer to my Savior through its pages. Since I just finished it, I've started it again but I'm doing something different this time. I got a new paper back version of the Book of Mormon and I'm reading it cover to cover, completely focusing on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and acting like the Book of Mormon is my only source of information about it. Already it has been such a powerful experience and I encourage you all to join me. If you haven't read the Book of Mormon before, cover to cover, I urge and plead with you to start now. If you have, read it again. It will change your life, but only if you let it.
This week was full of miracles, as always! Probably one of the coolest was on Sunday. Back when we did our mission wide fast, the focus for our district was to increase church attendance (something that we were desperately struggling with). Well since then, we've been having investigators in church! (yessss!) E has been coming every Sunday and A has been coming regularly as well. Well yesterday, the Elders came up to us and said "Sisters! There's a woman here that came to the Talent Show. Do you know her?" We were like "huh?" Wellllll turns out, a woman, J, that Sisar Woods and I talked to on the street just came to church on her own! Sisar Woods and I had met her a couple months back on the street and talked to her about the gospel. She said that she has a strong faith in Christ. However, she was unwilling to give us her number. A couple months later, we met her again on the street (in a completely different part of town) and invited her to our Talent Show which was the next day, and she came! However, she was still unwilling to give us her info! Wellllll, she just walked into church yesterday on her own and then was finaaaaally willing to give us her info and we have an appointment set up with her for this week! So sweet! And it's truly amazing how the Lord answers prayers. As we worked to really consecrate ourselves and tell the Lord that we are willing to do whatever He wanted in order to accomplish His work, He made up the rest. Our God is so good!
E is doing so well! We had a Vappu party this week at the church. Vappu (Labor's Day) is a huge holiday in Finland! As one of our member's called it, it's Babylon's Day. Basically everyone is out in the streets dressed in crazy costumes drinking their lives away. It's just a huge party day. As a result, it was a "hard red day" for us which means we couldn't do normal missionary work because it wasn't safe for us to be on the streets. So we just did stuff around our apartment, weekly planned, and went to our ward party. Well remember how I told you guys that E volunteered to help at it? Yeah basically she's just totally a little rock star. She had so much fun and it is crazy to me how well she gets along with our members. We ate yummy munnkis (homemade doughnuts, a typical Vappu food) and had fun just chillin' with our ward family. Have I mentioned recently how amazing our ward members are? Because they are seriously the best! I was so touched yesterday when I was sitting in Sacrament meeting. One of the moms in the congregation was struggling with trying to keep her 3 young boys quiet. Her husband is less active and these boys are all young and can be quite a handful. As she was struggling, the Young Women's president and the Relief Society President both got up at the same time and went over to this mother's bench. They both reached it at the same time, sat down with the children, and immediately started taking care of them. The Relief Society president (who has no children of her own) brought stickers and things for the boys to do. They stayed there the remainder of the meeting. It honestly almost brought tears to my eyes. I was so impressed with the love and service that these good sisters showed. As members of the church, we truly are a family. I'm so grateful to be a member of it. To be a disciple of Christ every day of my life and to be a child of God and a member of a big family.
This week we also found a new investigator by praying always. We have this way old potential sheet in our area book that we felt we should pray about and pick a name off of. Well one of the names stuck out so we set out to go find this person. Wellll, turns out they've moved. So we were like, clearly the Lord knew that this person had moved, why did He bring us here? We felt we should knock this person's building, so we did. And we ended up finding the sweetest 15 year old girl ever! She's from Burma (one more reason why I love being in Finland-teaching people from all over the world). We testified and told her about the gospel and she invited us back to talk to her family! Yes! Church is true!
I love you all. I love this gospel. I love this work. READ THE BOOK OF MORMON. Start today! Read it again! Do it now! Make it a part of your life! I promise you that you will feel God's love greater in your life.
Sisar Nielsen p.s. we were talking to a guy on the street this week and it was really windy and cold! He told us that we looked really cold and that we should go warm up. He was telling us something to do that would warm us up and I couldn't fully understand what he was saying so I was just like "yes, we should definitely do that". He said it would really help us and I just agreed with him (because we were freezing!) and so naturally my comp did too (cuz she really couldn't understand him) but then all of a sudden I started piecing together what he was explaining and he was recommending a type of alcoholic drink that we should get at the bar down the street cuz the level of alcohol in it would really warm us up and there we were just totally agreeing with him and saying that we were going to go do that! ah! don't worry, I made sure to set him straight and explain that we do NOT drink alcohol and that we don't need it cuz the gospel makes us warm! :) Then he walked away. hahaha my life.