So basically this week has been one of the craziest weeks of my mission!
For starters, I said goodbye to my home for the past 8 months. Kuopio sure was amazing. The members were SO sweet to me. They gave me cookies, candy, and other presents. They all told me "welcome back" and many tears were shed. We had a dinner with one of my favorite members (our Relief Society President) and E came along. It was amazing! Sisar R. is suuuuch a great friend! During a lesson the week before, I had complained that I really needed a haircut because I haven't had one for over a year. Sisar R. said that she would love to give me one. I was like schweet! Well, after our dinner and lesson at her house, we were about to leave and she said "Sisar Nielsen, I still gotta cut your hair!" She then whipped out scissors and a stool, and wrapped the black cape around me and just started cutting! Turns out she had never cut a girl's hair before! And she just cut my hair dry and my hair had been curled! I was freaking out but at that point there was nothing I could do! hahaha It was kinda like the funniest thing of my life. I mean my hair doesn't look horrible... so that's good. It looks kinda uneven when I straighten it but at least all the dead ends are gone :) hahaha voi että!
After a tearful farewell I was off! My train left at 5:45 in the morning on Wednesday and I hadn't gotten to bed until after 1 the night before. Needless to say, I was a little tired. But there has been no time to be tired! I arrived in Helsinki and was met by not one, not two, but THREE new companions! WHAT?! Sisar Cribbs and Sisar Heggie were also called to be Sister Training Leaders and my companions. Then there was this sweet sister named Sisar Petch who is from Cambodia but has lived in Finland for 9 years. She was on her way to the Scotland Ireland mission but her visa was denied and she was sent back! So she became our companion and we were put in charge of training her (her in-field training and her MTC training). We have the cutest, most stylin' apartment everrrr but it was WAY tiny for the 4 of us! Things were pure craziness! Plus we weren't sure what was going to happen with our companionship (if we were going to get split up or if we were all going to stay together or move to a new area or what!) so we weren't able to unpack. Plus, only Sisar Cribbs knew anything about the area so there was just a lot of confusion. And we've been running around everywhere! But boy, are we having a BLAST! After a lot of praying about it, we decided to have Sisar Petch go to Haaga and be trained by the sisters there so Sisar Cribbs and Heggie and I could stay together and handle the 17 sisters that we have under our care. So now we are FINALLY all settled in and unpacked (except they still have to bring us another bed and desk cuz I've been sleeping on a mattress on the floor) - no worries!
We are all having WAYYY too much fun together! We all get along really well and are literally laughing nonstop. Also, we ususally try to match what we're wearing so that's been exciting. I'm so stoked for this change! It's going to be amazing! Plus get this! I am currently emailing right now from THE TEMPLE GROUNDS! Like what?!? I live like 5 mins from the FINLAND TEMPLE! Ahhhhhhh I love it so much! The ward I go to now is HUGE. They have to open the overflow EVERY Sunday and have young men to pass the sacrament! Like WHAT?! It's so weird! Because I'm a Sister Training Leader now, we had a really long all day meeting last Friday with all of the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders and the AP's and President and Sisar Rawlings. We all went to the temple together then had our meeting. Gosh, I love all of these people so much! I got to see Sisar Hubner and Sisar Lund, two of my old companions! It was great. Plus it was our last meeting with President and Sisar Rawlings. THEY LEAVE TOMORROW! WHAT?! Our new Mission President is HERE. So much change has happened! We will meet him this week so that is really exciting.
Basically, I love my wonderful, crazy, awkward life! This week, we went and had breakfast at a member's home. It was gorgeous! It was on a lake at this huge, beautiful home and we sat on the terrace and ate fruit, crossaint sandwiches, orange juice, and delicious hot chocolate. We were surrounded by so much green! and beautiful brightly colored flowers. Talk about a perfect life. While we were talking, I really wanted more hot chocolate. So I poured myself a big glass and took a nice swig. Well, I then realized that it was actually SUPER hot and it burned my whole mouth! So I did what any normal person would do - I spat it out right onto my dish! Oops. My companions lost it. Talk about a great first impression. Luckily, the member thought it was super hilarious too. Ya know, just Sisar Nielsen being Sisar Nielsen. This member is super cute in her late 20's and is also a hair dresser so she said she would fix my hair for me :) hahaha
Espoo is so much bigger than Kuopio! We ride trains and buses everywhere we go. The public transportation system here is so great. I love it because it gives me so many opportunities to talk with all kinds of people! There are lots of refugees here and people that have moved here from other countries, so it's been fun meeting and talking with them. We're gonna have some pretty big miracles this change, I can just feel it.
Something that I've learned on my mission is the importance of being a true friend. There is a difference between being friendly and being a friend. A friendly person says "hi" to an investigator at church. A friend calls the investigator and says "let me come pick you up so we can go to church together!" A friendly person tells a recent convert that it would be great if they came to the church activity that week. A friend calls them up and goes to lunch with them and then they go to the activity together. A friendly person gives a person who is having a hard time a smile and a wave. A friend goes up to them and gives them a hug and makes them feel needed and loved. So folks, be a FRIEND. Be a friend to all those around you. Seek to help and bless the lives of others. Don't think "oh wow, I hope somebody invites that person or helps that person or loves that person". YOU BE THAT PERSON. Help others feel needed, loved, and included. It is a call from our Savior to be a true friend to everyone. So love the Lord with all your heart by loving those around you. Really, truly, loving them. Be that friend. Seek out the opportunity to be true friends to others.
SO MUCH TO WRITE, SO LITTLE TIME. Alrighty, here we go....
Well for starters, change calls happened this week and guess what folks... I'M LEAVING KUOPIO! It's craziness! I've been here for 8 MONTHS and President is splitting me up from my trainee during the middle of her training. He said that he doesn't usually like to do that but he felt like this is what the Lord wants. So I'm going down to ESPOO (pronounced es-poe.. not es-poo) WHERE THE TEMPLE IS to be a SISTER TRAINING LEADER! (like a zone leader but for sisters)! WHAT?! There are so many sisters in the Helsinki Zone! I'm so excited! As soon as he gave me my change call, I had this rush of peace and the spirit come over me and I knew that this is exactly what the Lord wants me to do. I'm soooo excited (and kinda nervous) for this change! I leave Wednesday morning so these couple days will be filled with packing and goodbyes :( I'm way excited for the opportunity to serve in the Helsinki Zone (quick background on my mission (sorry that I'm using super mormon lingo and if these words don't make sense, it's okay): we have 3 zones (each zone covers ones stake)- the Helsinki Zone, the Tampere Zone, and the North Zone (which actually doesn't cover a stake because there's not enough members to create a stake so it is a mission district). When I first came into the country, I served in the Tampere Zone for 2 months (1 transfer). The past 8 months I have been serving in the North Zone. And now for the first time, I'm serving in Helsinki!) I'm so excited because this is my dream change call, to be close to the temple and to be down South! Let's get ready to see what the Lord can make of me!
So basically, Sunday was the most insane Sunday of my life. Gosh, the members here are so ridiculously amazing. They don't make members everywhere like the ones in Kuopio. It was soo hard to say goodbye to them. And the next two days are filled with us running around and saying even more goodbyes. Sunday was a really big day in the Kuopio branch, full of lots of changes and a Spirit that is almost impossible to describe. My amazing Mission President, President Rawlings, and his sweet wife go home next week. I'm going to miss them so much :(. It was amazing because they came up to church on Sunday so we got to see them again! They needed to come up because we needed a new Branch President. Our Branch President here is way cool. He's about 30 years old, a brain surgeon, and a father of the 3 cutest little kids ever. Well, about 2 weeks ago he was diagnosed with cancer that has spread everywhere. The whole little branch banded together to fast and pray for him. The feeling of unity and love between us all was incredible. It's going to be a long road, but through the power of God, President Rawlings was led to Kuopio and was here the day he was diagnosed so he was able to give him a blessing. This blessing has become their hope and has helped to anchor their faith. This family is such an amazing example to me. Due to the intensiveness of his cancer, he is no longer able to serve as the bishop. So this past Sunday President Rawlings came to release him and call a new one. I was able to witness firsthand the true power of God. The Spirit was so strong in that room and testified to all of our hearts that the Lord is in this. It is the Lord that has called our new bishop (who is about 25 years old). It is the Lord that will strengthen our old one. It is the Lord that leads this church. It is the Lord that leads our lives. President Rawlings was in charge of the whole meeting, and just prayed throughout it to know who to call up to bear their testimonies. He called me and Elder Hugie (who has been here as long as I have) to come up and say our goodbyes. It was super hard for me (I cried... shocker) as I stared out into the congregation at the faces that I have come to adore and love. These people have loved me, taken care of me, and helped me so much. There was hardly a dry eye in the room throughout the whole meeting. There was so much love in that room and the Spirit was so strong. So many of the members came up to me afterwards and hugged me with tears in their eyes. They told me that I'm welcome back anytime. They said the sweetest things to me (seriously, the SWEETEST things! gosh, to the point I started to cry.. shocker again!). I love these people so much. One of the coolest things, is that because Juhannus Päivä happened this week (the day where the sun never goes down), we had a lot of visitors. Our whole goal has been to fill our chapel by the end of the year. We have worked, and prayed, and tried our hardest. We set a goal in faith months ago as a district that this would happen and that our church attendance would be high by the last day of the change before the new mission president came. Well, because of all of the visitors, people started to file into the chapel to the point where the whole place was FULL. They had to open the overflow for 3 chairs! As I looked around, I realized that the Lord had heard our pleas and found a way to answer our prayers. My heart was filled to the point of overflowing as I realized this. And the Lord let it happen my last day here in Kuopio, a place where I have dedicated my whole heart and soul and given all I have. As I realized this while bearing my testimony, I said it out loud. The tears started flowing from everybody. The day will come when the Kuopio chapel will be filled every single Sunday. I am so eternally grateful that my loving Heavenly Father gave me a taste of what it will be like.
I'm running out of time and I'm sorry I forgot my camera cord so I can't send pics but I have TONS of pics to send next week! We went and visited the tower this week that looks over the city of Kuopio. It was way cool. Also Sunday night, one of our amazing members that lives far away (we had to drive on a ferry to get there) invited us over cuz it was my last Sunday. They made salmon and the most amazing food. They live on a lake in this beautiful wooded area! Ahhhh it was breathtaking. They took us through the woods to see their savusauna (smoke sauna) and the lake by their house. They said when I come back after my mission, I can go swimming in the lake and enjoy the sauna :) They are such an awesome family! Also we went to the most adorable, magical little market (called torikuja) that had all these cute little shops. It felt like something out of Harry Potter. It was sooo cool! We also went shopping through the square today because there's tons of stands set up and people selling stuff. I bought some riisipirakka and an I <3 Kuopio pin. It was a must. Gosh I just love my mission so much!
It's going to be really hard for me to say goodbye to Kuopio. This place has changed me. I learned what the word "refiner's fire" meant while being here. I have laughed and cried in this beautiful city more times than I can count. I have learned more fully what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ. These members have become my family. I have learned how to love more deeply. And how to be a better member missionary for when I go home. I love this place. It's going to be so hard to leave. But I know it's time. One of my favorite things about the gospel is the eternal perspective it gives us. I may not see a lot of these people again in this life, but you better believe that we will find each other in the next. How grateful I am for my membership in this church! How we are a family and how we have an instant bond with other members. How the Lord leads and guides our lives. He lives. And I am a witness that He loves us. And I love Him with all of my heart.
And I love you!
ps so I'm not really sure exactly why but Sisar Bates and I have really struggled in the kitchen. everything we try to bake just turns out wrong! we tried to make pannukakku (it's kinda like a german pancake... but not) and it turned out like mush! literally. this week we tried to make brownies and they cooked on the top and sides and we cut into them and they were completely RAW. and we put them back in and the tops started to burn but the inside wouldn't cook! so weird! so we ate the brownie tops and rolled up the insides into balls, put them in the fridge, and gave em to the Elders :). they all went crazy for em (but let's get real, Elders will eat anything). well then this week we also tried to make Finnish pancakes... and it was the biggest fail of my life. I'll try and send some pics next week so you can see what I mean. ugh. so apparently baking isn't one of my special talents... but it's okay folks because I'm a boss at making oatmeal now so that's cool.
pps on Juhannus Päivä, we set our alarms for the middle of the night so we could get up and see the sun... and sure enough, at midnight, it was still light outside. CRAZINESS! It's so cool being able to experience this.
ppps I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF THE COLD WEATHER. WE ARE HAVING A COLDDDDD SUMMER! ugh. it's super frustrating putting on a coat and sweater and scarf and hat and tights in JUNE! but it's okay, cuz the church is still true.....
first off, I gotta give two major shout outs right here.
HAPPY 25TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY TO THE PARENTS! Man, 25 years is a longgggggggg time! Good thing you guys have ETERNITY together! Thanks for the amazing example you guys are for me and for marrying in the temple and raising us kids in the gospel. You guys are the besttttttt!
andd.... HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO MY #1 DADDY-O! Sure love you lots! Thanks for always being there for me. For teaching me, helping me, and loving me. Thanks for helping me understand what it means to feel and experience the blessings of the priesthood in my life. I sure am grateful for you!
So this week has been great. Full of lots of miracles and cold weather. But seriously, what the heck Finland?! It's the middle of JUNE and we're wearing tights, coats, and scarfs again. Ugh. I love this place with ALL my heart and soul, but the weather is just not my favorite. But that's okay, cuz the gospel IS!
I hit my 1 year mark this week. It's crazy to me how fast the time has flown by. It feels like just yesterday I was getting ready to go, yet at the same time I feel like I've been here FOREVER. Hitting my one year mark has made me pause and do a lot of reflecting over what has happened this past year. I am not the same person that walked into the MTC June 19, 2013. I have done so much growing, changing, and learning. The Lord has shaped and refined me so much. It's incredible to see and more importantly to feel the difference. I have such a stronger personal relationship with my Heavenly Father. I have a better understanding of the gospel. I have a greater capacity to love. My Savior has truly become my best friend. I have a better understanding of what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ and the importance of being one forever. This past year has been really, really hard. It's been full of so many nights where I have just knelt by my bed and had tears stream down my face. So many days where I've felt like my heart was breaking. So many times where I've thought "man, this missionary life ain't easy". But boy, has it been full of so much happiness and joy that I can't even fully describe it! I love being a missionary with all my heart! To be a defender of my faith and of my Savior! To help make Him known. I love Him, and I am willing to do anything for Him. Becoming a missionary has been the best decision I ever made! Church is true folks! Church is true.
So last week I mentioned that we found an 18 year old investigator by praying always. Well lemme follow up a little bit about what happened with that. His name is T, and he has had a very hard life. Pretty much almost anything bad that can happen to a kid has happened to him. It's way sad. We had set out last Sunday to find "the one" whom the Lord would have us find that night. As soon as we left the house, the thought came into my mind that we should go to the park/super old cemetery (welcome to Europe! I love it) in the middle of the city. I didn't know if it was my own thought or not so we started out heading in that direction. At every crossroad, we prayed to know which way to go, and every time we would follow the feelings that we got. All of a sudden, we were almost to the park and my companion said "we should go to the park", which validated to me that clearly that earlier thought really wasn't my own! We walked through it and there was nobody to be found! We were almost about to walk out the other side when we ran into 3 punk teenage guys. One of them we had talked to briefly earlier on train when Sisar Bates first arrived in the country. His friends had to leave but he ended up staying and talking with us for a really long time. And guess what. He came to church on Sunday! And stayed for ALL three hours! And said he wants to come to our addiction recovery class on Wednesday (he's addicted to cigarettes. don't worry guys, I already gave him a good talking to about why smoking is bad and that he should quit!) And our members are sooo wonderful! He wore a snapback hat, baggy pants, a t-shirt, and big headphones to church. He definitely stood out like a sore thumb, but our members just welcomed him with open arms. It was great. What I love about the gospel is that it seriously is for EVERYONE. It doesn't matter how old or how young you are, what kind of a past you have, or what kind of problems you have now, the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal, sanctify, and cleanse you.
We also had some other cool experiences with praying always. We were praying and following the Spirit and felt we needed to go back and visit a potential (somebody that said we could come back sometime). Well she answered the door, said "uh yeah no thanks!" and slammed it in our faces. Gotta love rejection. So we prayed and felt we needed to knock the door on the floor right below us. The door opened to reveal a woman we had met on the street back on Mother's Day. She had given us her number but when we called she basically had said she was just too busy to meet. So imagine our surprise when she opened the door and there she was! God knows where His children are people! You can't escape the word :) Well, she invited us in right then and we taught her and her son. She's from Sudan and has lived here for about 12 years. Her son is here studying and he knows English (she doesn't, we just spoke in our broken Finnish with each other). Turns out his friend gave him a Book of Mormon many years ago. It was way cool because we were able to teach him more about it and spark his interest enough so that he agreed to try reading it. It ended up being a great teach and it was just such a miracle that we found them. She even asked, "how did you know I was here??" hehehe sometimes I feel like a secret agent cuz we have the Lord on our side and the Holy Ghost like a walkie talkie to lead us. These people don't even stand a chance :)
We also met these 2 guys our age by praying always. Even though talking to guys my own age freaks me out now (oh the life of a nun! uh.. I mean sister missionary), I still followed the Spirit and said hi to them. We ended up talking to them for almost an hour! I love being able to be like "look, I'm your same age okay I get it. Maybe religion is something you think doesn't apply to you. But here's the thing, I'm here to tell you that it does! You can still live your normal life, but be happier, have more hope and a better knowledge of who your are and your purpose on the earth, and it's just true okay and you chose this plan before you came to earth and you have a Savior who died for you and this very much DOES apply to YOU because without HIM you have nothing! But because of HIM, you will live again! Death has no sting! Our sins don't have to chain us down! Sorrow can be turned into sunlight and happiness can last longer than one night!" The hard part is is that I have to work this normally and naturally into the conversation even though I just wanna yell it in their faces! But that's okay, I love giving people the word :)
Basically, I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY! THIS PAST YEAR HAS BEEN GREAT! It kinda makes me sad it's going so fast, but the good thing is is that I'm not just in this for 18 monthes, I'm in this for a LIFETIME. I love you all! I love Finland! I love the gospel! I love my Savior! I really don't love mosquitoes because my legs look like I'm a diseased person. But that's okay.
So basically this week has been... INSANE. But really. Sooo much happened this week. It was ridiculous!
Last Sunday we hopped on a train and went down to Helsinki. We stayed with Sisar Crandall (from my MTC group) so that was super fun. We spent 3 days being taught by President and Sisar Rawlings. These two are seriously soo inspired. It's so sad cuz they go home in just a couple of weeks. It was such a treat being able to spend so much time with them. Interim training lasted until about 5 everyday, so in the evening I got to go on splits with the Sisters down there. On Monday I went on splits with Sisar Crandall and we took the streets of Helsinki by storm. I love Helsinki! It is such a beautiful city. On our way to the store Monday night, we arrived at a tram stop and were waiting for the tram. There was a punk guy with long hair about my age smoking and there was a sweet looking old woman. I prayed to know which one I needed to talk to. Of coooourse, the Spirit said "talk to the guy." I was like "you've gotta be kidding me..." but I took a deep breath, walked over to him, and started up a conversation. Turns out he was taking the same tram we were and ended up sitting by us so we could continue talking. We're talking about life, Finland, and we were just getting to the gospel and why we are here when all of a sudden he goes "oh this is my stop! nice meeting you!" and he jumped off. I was like "oh hold up! we didn't even get to give him our card or anything!" I turned to Sisar Crandall and said "do you have a mormon.org card?!" (cuz he spoke good enough English he could understand the website). She struggled to whip one out but finally found one and handed it to me. I grabbed it and took off out of the tram (with Sisar Crandall right behind me). I kinda (not so smoothly) chased him down and was like "so basically this truly has changed my life and that's why I'm here." We then started teaching him more about the gospel and it turns out that the stop we got off at was actually the stop we were supposed to get off at and we ended up walking with him all the way to the store that we were on our way to because he was going there too! Craziness! So there we were, standing in the produce section, teaching him about the Book of Mormon and testifying about Christ. It ended up being a way awesome teach. And his friends showed up so we ended up talking with them too! Way cool. Basically the Lord knew that we were going to the same place as this guy and that's why He prompted me to talk to Him. Even though it was scarier than the sweet, old woman, it ended up being great. The Lord really will give us quiet impressions and answers to our prayers! We just have to have the courage to follow them!
While in Helsinki, I also got to see my äiti (mom) SISAR EGAN. My trainer is going home this month! And she came to the chapel to see me! I cried. It was just so weird for me to see her again! Time sure flies so fast when you're on your mission! And soo many of the missionaries I have served with have gone or are about to go home. It's so weird. I used to be the youngest, and then I blinked, and now I'm one of the oldest in the mission! I also got to go on splits with my BABY, SISAR WOODS. Basically Helsinki was a blast! I had way to much fun there! And on Thursday, I went to the TEMPLE! WHOOOT WHOOOOOT! Gosh, it is SUCH a beautiful and special temple! It is so peaceful there. And it was in Finnish so that was pretty schweeeeettt.
Then Thursday night after the temple, we hopped into a van with the AP's and the Elders serving in Savonlinna and had a 5 hour road trip up to Vaasa. We got in at 1:30 am. but it was actually way fun road tripping through Finland. We looked like quite the hilarious group when we stopped for a bathroom break and some of the Elders were wearing dress shirts with basketball shorts and dress shoes. Also, this country is SO BEAUTIFUL. Words can't even describe it! It's so green and there are so many lakes and they're so clear and the clouds are so amazing! It just takes your breath away! We spent the night in Vaasa with the sisters there and then woke up early and got on a tour bus with everyone from our Zone and headed to Pietarsaari for Zone Conference. We got a way special treat because we got to have a short presentation on the history of the church in Finland then we got on the bus and went to a place called Larsmo. Larsmo is where Finland was dedicated for preaching the gospel by Elder Ezra Taft Benson. We got to see the first chapel (which is now a house), the school where the meeting was held by Elder Benson, and the spot of the dedication. It's in the middle of a forest and we hiked through it single file to get to it. The Spirit was soo strong there and we truly were walking on holy ground. It started pouring rain as soon as we arrived but we didn't care. We all bowed our heads and President Rawlings offered a very powerful prayer. It hit me so strongly that this work is so much bigger than us. It was so amazing being at that spot and feeling the power and spirit of it. We went back to Pietarsaari and had our Zone Conference. President gave some amazing prophecies and I felt the Spirit soo strongly confirming His words. Finland is entering into its Second Harvest. The first happened right after Finland was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel. Many of the members today are descendents of those early saints. The Second is about to happen and we are the ones laying the foundation for it. In the near future, Finland's chapels will be filled to the brim and people will be waiting outside just to feel the Spirit. Baptisms will boom and the number of members will skyrocket. Sometimes it's hard to see it now, but as President was talking, I knew without a doubt that his words were true. What we are doing now, though we may not see, is literally changing this beautiful country for eternity.
After Zone Conference, we rushed to the train with our district and all rode down to my birth city TAMPERE together! I got to spend the night with SISAR HUBNER, my long lost twin! Basically we stayed up WAY TO LATE talking and laughing, but it was so worth it! It was crazy being back there! So many amazing memories were had in that blessed city. It was also cool cuz I got to see some of the Elders that used to serve up here with me that now serve down there. We then got up the next day, hopped on a train, and finally arrived back in Kuopio in the afternoon. By golly it was a LONG week! But it was way fun! I got like noooo sleep but saw so many miracles and got such a spiritual recharge. We didn't have very much time to do work in our city, but we had lots of miracles happen and the Lord guided our footsteps to find a new investigator, an 18 year old kid that we've met before. He's had a really hard life but it was literally incredible how the Lord led us STRAIGHT to him! He's way open and said he wants to come to church with us. I know that God knows all of His children and that He loves them!
I love you! The church is true! My life is crazy, but I love it! Sorry this email is soo long, hopefully you didn't fall asleep. God lives! And YOU are HIS!
ps. While in Helsinki, Sisar Crandall and I were walking down the street just minding our own business. We said "hi" to a couple that didn't stop and talk to us so we just kept going. All of a sudden out of no where, something dives for my head and tries to claw at me! We realized we were getting ATTACKED by these HUGE BLACK/GRAY birds! It was craziness! They just started diving at us and were literally attacking us! Sisar Crandall and I threw our hands in the air and started screaming at the top of our lungs as we started running! The stupid birds started CHASING us! It was SOOO SCARY! There we were, just running down the street with our hands waving above our heads screaming at the top of our lungs with these huge birds diving at us. I looked back and the couple that rejected us was standing there staring. I bet they felt way bad for not stopping and talking to us. At least I hope they did. Man- birds these days, ya gotta be careful.
So I'm writing early this week because after church today, we are hopping on a train to go to Sisar Bates Interim Training! (when we've been in the country for 6 weeks, we go to Helsinki and meet with President and everybody from our MTC group and their companions for 3 days. Basically we learn how to become better missionaries and it's so fun and inspiring! Then on the 4th day, the newbie has a kieli koulu (language school) and the trainers go to the temple, but since this is President's last interim (we're getting a new mission president this month!!) we're doing something special and all going to the temple together on Thursday! I'm sooo stoked! but yeah, that's why I'm writing this earlier than normal.
So basically, it has rained almost the entire week! It doesn't pour, it doesn't lighting and thunder, it just simply continuously rains, but we're doing our best to stay dry and just let everybody feel of our happiness. We had a way cool experience the other day. We were on our way to a DA (dinner appointment) with a member. We were biking/walking our bikes so we could talk to people. As a missionary, we have to literally PRAY ALL THE TIME. We ask the Lord which streets to take, which doors to knock, which people to talk to, what to say, where to go, what to do, when to do it, etc. We constantly have to be praying all the time or we can't be effective missionaries. Well, we were on our way to this DA and I got the feeling we needed to go a different way than we were going so even though I'm pretty sure it was the longer way we turned around and went a different way. We passed some people walking but nobody wanted to stop and talk with us. I was praying about if we should turn down other streets to get there and I just kept getting the feeling "continue forward" so we continued on the street we were on. We saw a woman coming towards us and I was just praying so hard that she would stop and talk to us (nobody else would). We said hi and started chatting and it ended up being an amazing street teach! At first she was like "yeah I've already talked with young men like you before and I wasn't that interested" but as the conversation progressed she began to change. We got out the Book of Mormon and she was really interested in it. She is Lutheran, but like most other people, her religion isn't a big part of her life. I started testifying to her about Jesus Christ and His love for us. After I did, she said "wow that was amazing! As soon as you started talking about Christ, this light came on in your eyes! I could see it! Your whole face changed and you had this light! That was incredible..." It was way cool! This gospel really is my LIGHT and it was so cool that this woman could recognize the light, even on a cloudy rainy day. That is exactly why I'm a missionary. To help share and bring this light to others.
We've been really focusing on and working with a lot of our members lately to help them become better member missionaries. We missionaries are only here for a short amount of time, so we gotta help recruit the members to be our finding, teaching, and baptizing force. We play a game with them where they have to give a Book of Mormon away to somebody else and every time it has been a blast! We let the person giving it pick who they are (a friend, neighbor, old lady at the park, you name it!) and then the person has to give the Book of Mormon away to them. It's been way cool watching everybody from a shy 10 yeah old do it to a member of our branch presidency. The Book of Mormon is a special book because it is a book with a promise. If we want to know if it's true, all we have to do is simply read it and pray and ask God. If the Book of Mormon is true, then God lives, Jesus is the Christ, this church is God's true church on the earth and was restored through Joseph Smith and is the Lord's kingdom on the earth. But if the Book of Mormon isn't true, and it was just something that Joseph Smith wrote on his own, than our church is one big lie. That's a pretty bold, powerful promise! And here's the thing, it's open to ALL people everywhere! If we really have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, than we trust in the converting power of it. So why wouldn't we want to give it away to other people?! When it can change their lives for ETERNITY? So EVERYBODY READING THIS, go write your testimony in a Book of Mormon, practice giving it away to somebody, then pray to know by when the Lord wants you to give a Book of Mormon away to and to whom. Then DO IT. JUST DO IT. I promise you, you won't regret it :)
E is still doing well. She is progressing and moving forward. I have complete faith that one day she will enter the waters of baptism. I'm just so blessed and grateful that I get to be a part of her journey. Yesterday during our lesson, we taught about how baptism is the gate that opens up a world of new and amazing opportunities and blessings. We drew it out for her so she could see it, including drawing a little stick figure to represent her near the "gate" of baptism. She made the comment that "wow, I'm really close to that aren't I?" We said "yes, E you are!" She just sat and really pondered that. We talked about how far she's come and how close she is. How Christ is standing at the gate and saying "Come. Come unto me." Today she is fasting and praying for strength and for help. I know that the Lord will hear and answer her prayers. And that He will answer yours! :)
Basically, I love my life. I can't believe that it's JUNE already! I can't believe that I've been a full time missionary for almost a YEAR! Time sure is flying so much faster than I could ever imagine! The church is true! It changes lives! I love being able to defend my Savior and bring the world HIS truth! "Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him." The invitation is open to all! Come unto Christ!
I love you!
ps it's just crazy to me that no matter how old I am, no matter how long I've been a missionary, I'm still like the most awkward thing on the planet. It's fine. I'm over it. :)