Heavenly Father is incredible. He has been blessing us so immensely. I am just in awe. This week has been full of so many amazing, tender, spiritual, joyful moments that I will not be able to tell even half of what I feel. But I guess the most important thing is that God lives, He loves, He hears, and He knows. As we put our trust in Him and go forward, amazing things happen.
A WAS BAPTIZED!!!!!!! IT WAS AMAZING. So tender. So special. Her whole family came: husband and 2 daughters. Words can't even describe how much I love them. The service was beautiful. Our members were awesome. President and Sisar Watson came so that was a nice treat. We had taught S (A's 6 year old daughter) "I Am a Child of God" and sang it together as the musical number. There were many teary eyes in the room. It was such a special moment. She kept talking about how excited she is to be baptized. Our members just welcomed them right in. One of the couples exchanged numbers with A and her husband so that they could get together sometime. It was incredible! Especially since this was her husband's first time in the church building. Afterwards, he told his wife that he was so impressed by how kind and genuine everyone was. That my friends is an example of being a true friend, and not just being friendly. A glowed after her baptism. It was so amazing to see. S (her daughter) came up to me and said "is it time for class yet?!?" meaning primary. I told her it wasn't until tomorrow and she was like "ahh man... okay well then I'll come tomorrow". haha it's so cute! She's only been once and even though she doesn't understand Finnish, she LOVES it. And we've taught her some of the primary songs so she said that when they sang those songs, she sang them in English :) She's so cute! As they were leaving, they stopped and said "keep coming by. Don't forget about us :)". Well that night, we took them a cookie cake that we made (okay, that we attempted to make...) for their youngest daughter's 1 year birthday. They welcomed us in and gave us juice boxes and cake and said that we really are part of their family. I felt so much love as we were with them. Her daughter has become our best friend and her 1 year old daughter gets so excited when she sees us. It's adorable. Sisar Heggie and I sang the first verse of "Love is Spoken Here", a children's church song. The Spirit got so strong as we sang the words "I see my mother kneeling with our family each day. I hear the words she whispers as she bows her head to pray. Her plea to the Father quiets all my fears. And I am thankful, love is spoken here". We knelt with their family to pray and it was such a powerful, tender moment. Before they left they said that we must come eat dinner with their family and that she will make us lots of yummy, traditional Indian food! YAY! We're really excited! And her husband said "yes you must come! you must!" He is so kind and welcoming to us. And he is so supportive of his wife. It's really cool to see. :) On Sunday A got the gift of the Holy Ghost. It was so sweet and the blessing was beautiful. The members just love her and made her feel welcome. It's hard because she doesn't speak any Finnish yet, but luckily a lot of our members know English really well. (also just a side note, church is translated every Sunday into English. All the English speakers just grab a head set and can listen to it in English. pretty neat). She was going to have to leave after the second hour because her little daughter at home needed her, but S absolutely REFUSED to leave primary! It was so cute! She said "no mom! I'm not leaving!" A consented and came to Relief Society. It was great because two of our members joyfully hugged her when she walked in and were so excited that she stayed because she had just told them she had to go. The person teaching the lesson had printed out the conference talk the lesson was on in English for the English speakers and had A read a portion of it out loud during the class in English. Afterwards, the teacher was saying that she really wants our English speakers to feel more included. It was really cool. All in all, the baptism was wonderful, our Bishop is blown away by how amazing A is, and the ward just took her right in and loved her to pieces. As I sat in church and looked around, I thought "this is Zion." A had been searching for a church. The Lord sent us to her. He knows His sheep. He knows who is ready. As we put our trust in Him, He will guide us every step of the way.
So as if that isn't a big enough miracle, the Lord continued to shower blessings upon us. We had multiple amazing lessons with S, the girl from Taiwan. Oh my gosh you guys I love her sooo much! We went over and she made us traditional Taiwanese food. It was soo good. She had texted us the day of our lesson and told us she would make us dinner. We asked "what can we bring" she responded "just come tell me more about the church." Well we're sure good at that :) We taught her and her friend all about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. We gave her a Book of Mormon in Chinese. The lesson was so cool and at the end, they both prayed! It was their first time praying! So special :) Her friend said that this was all so cool. That earlier in her life when she did something wrong and felt guilty or when she felt bad, she didn't really have anyone to talk to but that through this religion, she does. She can talk to God. Sometimes I forget how much I take simple things like knowing I can pray to God for granted. We are so lucky to have the knowledge that we have. Two days later, we went back and met with S again and set a baptismal date for October 25 so keep her in your prayers! She had put post it notes in her scriptures and had marked verses that she really liked. She shared one with us about how we need to put our trust in God. I noticed that she had a post it note in 1 Nephi 12. I asked her if this is where she was in her reading. She responded yes. My mouth dropped open. She had read so much in such a short period of time! She was like "I'm sorry I'm sorry! Am I not reading fast enough?" mistaking my shock for scolding. I responded "no, S this is AMAZING!" she replied "really?!? :)" I asked her if she had prayed about the Book of Mormon. She said she had. She replied "I did. I felt very peaceful... I believe it's true." ahhhh! And we followed up and asked if she had prayed about Joseph Smith. She responded "who?" "Joseph Smith" "Oh the boy??" "yes" "no I didn't do that" "ok.." "I'm really sorry!!!" "hahaha "it's okay just pray about him tonight" "ok I will!" She also said that she's been praying every morning and every night and that on Thursday she had a big exam she was nervous about and as she was walking in, she prayed that God would help her. Then she said "am I allowed to do that? To pray while I walk?" we said "yes of course!" she replied "ok good! because it helped!" :). She came to the baptism and loved it! We received a text from her that morning that said she didn't feel well and wouldn't be able to make it to the baptism. We were so sad! So we prayed together that she would feel better and would come. Imagine my joy when I saw her show up to the baptism. She said all of a sudden she got completely better! Prayer works! She felt the Spirit so strongly at the baptism and loved it. After the baptism we had another lesson with a guy. In order to teach a man, we must have another woman present. Well none of the women we asked could come. We were at a loss. And then we turned around and were like "uh.. S" she said "yes...?" "what are you doing in an hour?" hahaha she ended up coming to the lesson with us!!! We prepped her by saying "we're teaching Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon... ya know just that thing we taught you two days ago" haha she came and she testified! It was incredible! You guys, it was the best! She missed church yesterday and we were so sad :( we stopped by her house and she had stayed up past 6 am writing a report for school and had slept through her alarm. She was sooo sad! She kept saying that she wanted to cry, she was so upset she missed church. When we asked if there was anything we could do for her, she simply said "can I just have a hug??" haha she's sooo sweet! And she's been praying and reading the Book of Mormon everyday. Tonight we're going with her to the young single adult family home evening activity in Helsinki so that should be fun.
This is getting long but I just wanted to talk about one other experience we had this week. So T, our friend from Vietnam, is doing well. We have been repeatedly asking him and committing him to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is true and for some reason, he hadn't! We had a lesson with him this week and he basically was like "I think I want to investigate other Christian religions. When I come to church and read the Book of Mormon, I feel the Holy Ghost but I want to see how I feel when I go to other churches and learn about them." I responded "T, the whole reason you're even thinking about going to other churches is because you don't know the Book of Mormon is true. If you knew it was true, you wouldn't have to go to other churches. You wouldn't want to" We committed him to pray that night to ask God. Well, he gave the closing prayer and he stopped half way through and asked "is the Book of Mormon true? is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints true?" the Spirit got so strong and he closed his prayer. We asked how do you feel? and he said "peaceful. why do I have water that wants to come out of my nose and eyes?" (he had started to get all teary eyed). We responded because this is true, and God just answered your prayer. The feeling in the room became incredible. The Spirit was sooo strong. He was in awe. We told him that the God of the Universe just answered his prayer. Now he has an answer. It's up to him what he will do about it. It was incredible to be able to witness first hand the power of the Book of Mormon. We have been promised that if we want to know truth, if we want answers, we need to read the Book of Mormon, ponder it, and ask God in the name of Christ with a sincere heart if it is true and He will answer us. He has answered me, He has answered T, and He will answer you.
Life is amazing. And get ready! Because next week is GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!!! All the caps lock in the world could not convey my EXCITEMENT!!!!! Elder Bednar promised us that if we come prepared to General Conference with a sincere question, we will get an answer to it. Whether it be something that somebody says or a thought or feeling that comes into our hearts, we will get an answer. So start preparing now and watch all of the sessions of General Conference. If you don't watch all of them, you might miss the message the Lord is trying to send to you. I love you! Prayer works. GENERAL CONFERENCE IS HAPPENING IN LESS THAN A WEEK! YAYAYAYAYAY!
I love you!
ps the stars here are so much CLOSER than back home. We saw the big dipper and it was literally SO CLOSE TO US. it was huge! absolutely beautiful!
Heavenly Father loves us. Isn't that a beautiful and amazing truth? I have felt His love a lot this week as He has spoken peace to my heart and allowed me to witness so many amazing miracles.
Just so you know.... Originally I was supposed to be released from my mission Dec. 19. Our release date was pushed back until January 1. They were debating it for a little while but now it is set in stone. I'm going to be honest, at first I was pretty upset. That means I will miss Christmas with my family, BYU starts Jan 5 and that's just craziness, but the Lord has spoken great peace to my heart and now I am completely calm about it and know that this is His plan. So I will see you all next year! And that also means that I was a full time missionary every. single. day. of the year 2014, which is kinda exciting :) God's timing is perfect. Sometimes, we just have to trust Him.
So Sister Heggie and I have been focusing on finding and teaching kingdom builders. People who want to join the church and who will stay true to it and help strengthen others. When people aren't willing to give it their all or keep the commitments we give, we drop them and put them into the Lord's hands and find others that will. As a result, we actually aren't teaching very many people. But every single person we are teaching is a ROCKSTAR. We are currently teaching 3 people. Let me tell you about these wonderful friends of mine. The first is A, the mom from India that we met miraculously on the street and have been teaching for a little while now. Well..... SHE'S GETTING BAPTIZED THIS SATURDAY. It's sooo amazing! The Spirit is always so strong in her lessons. She said she called her parents in India and told them about it and they were so happy for her and she was able to talk with them about the Book of Mormon. She's already doing missionary work! What a star! And she has such strong faith that in the future her husband will join the church and will hold the priesthood and bless her family with it. As she spoke these words to us, so full of faith and hope, it really touched my heart. Just a month ago, she didn't even know what the priesthood was and now she has a firm desire for her husband to bless their family with it. The gospel is the only way to keep our family together in this world. I have learned so much about the kind of family I want in the future from my mission. I refuse to settle for anything less than a righteous priesthood holder and a temple marriage. We talked about the temple and A said that they often go as a FAMILY and sit on the benches in the temple garden and just feel the peace that is there. Her husband goes as well! Ahhhh! When she came to church yesterday, she brought her little 6 year old daughter. And she went to primary! And even though she doesn't speak Finnish, she loved it! The kids were so kind (and there are actually a couple her age that speak English and Finnish fluently.. these kids are incredible) so that was awesome! She was just beaming and told me how fun it was. In 2 years, she can be baptized too :) The gospel truly blesses families.
Our second friend is T. He is H's (a recent convert that joined last year) and D's (our friend that joined the church last month, I'll talk about him in a minute) roommate. He's also from Vietnam and we have been meeting with him for a while. He too is preparing for baptism. It's been sooo amazing to see the change that has occurred in him. He seems so much happier and his faith has grown a ton. When we first started talking with him his understanding of who God is was very different from ours, but as we've continued to meet with him, his ideas have completely changed. Plus he feels the spirit sooo strongly. It's so cool to hear him describe it. He's the one that describes his heart feeling warm as all the blood vessels in his body push the blood back to his hard quickly so that it becomes warm because of the increase of blood flow to the heart (he has a very logical and scientific mind). He says he feels such an incredible, different feeling every time he comes to church, reads the Book of Mormon, and prays. It's been really cool to literally see the change in him. I know that he too will soon enter into the gate of baptism which will open up a whole new world of joy and blessings :)
The third friend is S. Oh my word you guys I just LOVE her so much! She's a 20 year old student from Taiwan and is the one that came to church with us last week. Well she had gone out of town this past week so we didn't really have any contact with her, but she came to church with us again and loved it! And she stayed for all three hours this time. This was her second time going to church in her whole life! She said she felt so much peace and joy there and that it felt like a family. It was sooo cool. While A went and met with the bishop to discuss her baptism, S and I were outside the office chatting. I explained to her how A was getting baptized on Saturday and what that means. I explained to her our purpose as missionaries and how we teach and help people come closer to Christ and strengthen their relationship with God. When I asked her what her belief or idea about God was, she said she's not sure but she wants to learn more. I explained how we are all His children and He loves us. I compared it to her parents back in Taiwan. She said that ever since she has come to Finland to study, her relationship with them has grown a ton. I explained that even though she's not with them, she is still able to have a strong relationship with them. Even though we're not with God, we can still have a strong relationship with Him through the gospel of Jesus Christ: through prayer, reading the scriptures, and going to church. She got really excited and wants to come closer to Him. Sisar Heggie gave her a Book of Mormon and she was sooo excited and said "really?!?!" when we told her she could keep the book :) We set up a time to meet with her this coming week. And last night, we hurried and baked chocolate chip banana bread and took it to some of our friends. We decided to stop by S's apartment because she had given us her address. Well we ended up accidentally kinda scaring her roommate and her hahaha but they were so excited to see us. Her roommate is from South Korea and said "S told me all about you! I come home on Wednesday right when you guys are coming over and I would like to join you" uhhhhh soooooo cool! They were both incredibly sweet and I just feel so much love towards them. The Lord is blessing us so much to find such amazing and prepared people. It's nothing that we're doing. It's all Him. Sometimes I just stand in awe as I think about the miracles I get to witness everyday. One of those moments was in church when I looked around and saw all three of the people we're teaching there. Plus A's daughter. Ah. This is the Lord's work. I'm so grateful to be able to take part in it.
D texted us this week. He's the one who was baptized last month and then moved to Turku. He is such a rockstar and is doing so well. He's just so solid! And is such a kingdom builder. When we asked him how going to church in Turku has been, he responded with this text: " :) yea. people are friendly and always welcome people. I"m happy that I help my friend to read bible again. She haven"t had time to read and she told me that she believe in God in another way. I response that only way is u read gospel and pray and go to church then u feel happy and close to God. she promise to read it everyday. She is lutheran church member but im still happy for her. Thanks God to give me priesthood so im confident to talk to people about gospel." OHHH MY WORD! Sister Heggie and I about cried! We responded about how awesome that is and he texted: "I feel good bc I have chance to service God. I told her mormon book is awesome and she should read it. She answer that she will read when she finish her thesis" He has been telling his friends all about the gospel. And I love that he said having the priesthood has given him the confidence to share the gospel with others. He recognizes that God is with Him and that he does not need to fear. Do we fear to tell others about this great truth or do we remember our great worth, that we are children of God and that He has given us His spirit to support the words we say and that we never stand alone? This is the truth! Why not share it with everyone around us?! If we don't share it with them, when, from whom, and how will they get it? We don't want any of them coming up to us after this life and saying "you had it. you had the truth. you had lasting peace, happiness, and the way back to live with God again. Why didn't you share it with me? Why didn't you even try?" As we remember who we are and who is with us, we will have the confidence to do as D did and help others to come unto Christ :)
I love you. I love this gospel. The time is flying by but I'm working to make every moment count. I went to the temple this week as part of MLC (mission leadership council) and it was so amazing. Every time I go there I never want to leave. Go to the temple. After you read this, SET A DATE for the next time YOU will enter the temple doors. The Lord will bless you in more ways than you can know.
I love you!
ps sisar heggie and I are having way to much fun. she went to the bathroom and so I thought it would be funny to hide and scare her. So I hid in the closet and turned off all the lights. She came out talking to me and then stopped when she realized what was going on. she was like "oh no...." well long story short, she searched everywhere and finally found me and when she opened up the door I scared her and she screamed like a little girl. so now we have this on going battle of trying to scare each other hahaha. ya know, it's the little things that help make the work more fun :)
BRACE YOURSELVES AS I TRY TO DESCRIBE 3 OF THE MOST GLORIOUS HOURS OF MY 21 YEAR OLD LIFE.
Imagine this: you're in a chapel surrounded by missionaries. Some are old friends you haven't seen in months. You've changed a lot since you saw them last - your love of the Lord has grown. Some are new faces. They look around with wide eyes, trying to soak in everything. All of the missionaries in the country have gathered together for this special day. There is a special excitement in the air. It's hard to remain calm. You secretly want to just let out a squeal (but then of course you remember you can't, for you are in the chapel). Everyone sits down quietly and studies their scriptures. There is a strong Spirit and peace in the air. After all, the Lord's army in this part of the vineyard is finally together for the first time in years. Mission conferences are very, very rare. This is a special day.The doors open and in walks an Apostle of the Lord, his wife, the Area Seventy, his wife, and your Mission President and his wife. Everyone stands with one accord. The power in the room almost knocks you over. You then get to spend the next 3 hours with David A. Bednar, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ! This was my experience this past week. And let me tell you, it was so much more glorious than I can even describe.
We got to sit in the same room with an Apostle and bask in the Spirit that was there. He had asked us to read three talks beforehand in order for us to prepare for this special meeting. He started by saying "I bet you thought I would come lecture at you for 3 hours. I'm not going to do that. We're going to have a discussion." It was amazing. For the next 3 hours we had a discussion with an Apostle! He asked us to share what we learned from the talks. He went around the room, choosing people as the Spirit directed. He had them share what they learned then asked amazing follow up questions. Then he had us discuss what we noticed about the pattern of his teaching. He said this is how classes in church need to be taught. Instead of teachers just preparing and then giving their lessons, they need to truly allow the Spirit to dictate their lessons. Then he opened it up and allowed us to ask any questions we wanted. It was amazing. The Spirit was so strong throughout the entire meeting and so many of the things he said I felt were directed straight towards me. Plus he was so fun and personable. He made all of us feel so comfortable (he started by saying "the job of an Apostle is to make everyone else in the room feel nervous" haha). Basically it was a once in a lifetime experience. The Spirit was incredible. Because our mission is pretty small, we were all able to fit in the chapel with no problem. It was such a close, personal setting. I love being a missionary for the true church of Jesus Christ. A church that is led by our Savior himself. That He has called Apostles and Prophets to lead us today. Before Elder Bednar left, he gave an incredibly powerful testimony. He especially focused on Jesus Christ. He also said that as we face the future, we must have faith. As bad as the world is now, it is as good as it will ever be again during our lifetimes. We must be strong. We must remain truly converted. Throughout the meeting, he talked a lot about true conversion. He talked about how people go home from their missions and "find out about some questionable event in church history" or they get angry about something in the church and fall away. He said it's because they were never converted in the first place. If we are truly converted, if we give our ALL over to the Lord, especially our will, than we will be strong and never fall away. We can't, because we are firm. It was truly amazing. I can't fully describe the feelings that I felt within my heart, but it caused me to rise to a new sense of purpose as a missionary but more importantly, as a church member and follower of Jesus Christ. So many of the impressions I received apply to my life after the mission. When I go home, I will never ever fall away. I will defend Jesus Christ my whole life. I won't make excuses. I won't make up reasons. I will put God first. I will defend Christ. I will be His disciple. I want to be happy.
We also had so many miracles in our missionary work this week. So I've told you guys about A, our awesome friend from India. Well we taught her this week and asked how she felt about getting baptized on Sept 27. She stopped and said "I'm really excited :)))!" Ahhhh it was sooo cool! So she is preparing to be baptized then! Her lessons are always so amazing. During our last lesson, she said that she really feels like it was the will of God that we met and that this is what He wants for her. She has been reading the Book of Mormon daily and praying daily. She also watched the Restoration video multiple times with her little daughter. Her faith is such an example to me. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father has allowed me to witness this amazing miracle. To help a family come closer to Christ.
On Friday, we were walking on the street to go contact a less active. We noticed this guy struggling to carry a big box. We went over and asked if we could help. He said no. I was like "no listen, let us help you" (he was really struggling, moving at the speed of an ant). He laughed and was like "ok thanks". He is from Vietnam but moved here from New Zealand 2 weeks ago. He said he doesn't have a ton of friends yet. We got his info and invited him to play basketball and badmitton with us on Saturday (we play basketball, and some of our Vietnamese friends play badmitton). Well turns out he knows one of the recent converts in our ward from school! So they became friends! So that was cool. And we were able to meet a lot of other Vietnamese people that the recent convert brought with him. Yay for Vietnam! :) Also, the recent convert made us authentic beef stew (he and his friends have made us spring rolls, vietnamese chicken salad, etc. it's been so fun!). The stew was sooo spicy we almost died! But really good. Also A wants to make us authentic Indian food! And our friend from the Phillipines has made us authentic food from there as well. It's been sooo fun being able to experience all of these different cultures. I LOVE MY LIFE.
Another huge miracle happened yesterday! We had 12 NONMEMBERS IN CHURCH. We had met a girl at the train station on Friday from Taiwan. She is sooo cute! We invited her to come to church with us and she agreed! Right there on the spot. MIRACLE. We quickly got her info before she got off the train. Then she actually came on Sunday! and brought 2 FRIENDS! Also from Taiwan! They were soooo cute! I was dying! And this guy from Liberia that Sisar Heggie and Woods met while on splits here came! and A came! And these two teenage girls came so they can write a paper on it for school! And also a family brought a Japanese girl with them that the mom works with, the elders brought 3 investigators, the nonmember husband came of one of our members, 1 of the less actives we're working with came, and a less active that one of our members has been working really hard with came for the first time in YEARS! IT WAS A MIRACLE SUNDAY. Bishop was going crazy! He was like "Sisters! This is amazing! The work you are doing is amazing!" Last week, another member came up to us and was like "Sisters, you rock! Every week you have investigators in church. It's so cool to see!" It's awesome that the members are recognizing how hard we are working and it's making them get excited about doing missionary work themselves. THE WORK IS GOING FORWARD.
Oh also, a fun moment of the week was seeing my MTC COMP Sisar Dayton for the first time since last December! It was so fun to reunite! We also got to have dinner at our President's house to welcome the new sister that just arrived (and Sisar Dayton is training her) so that was quite a treat. I love President and Sister Watson. They're so great.
So long story short, my life is amazing. I love it! I love being a missionary. It's going by way too fast, but luckily I will always be a missionary, because I am truly converted unto the Lord. So when I end up going home, the journey will just continue. The opportunity to defend my Savior and build the kindgom never ends. This is one of the talks Elder Bednar asked us to read and study before he came. READ IT. STUDY IT. It's amazing. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/converted-unto-the-lord?lang=eng
I love you all. Church is true! Become truly converted unto the Lord.
I SAW STARS. I SAW THEM WITH MY OWN EYES. this is the first time I've seen stars since spring! It's been so light the whole summer that I haven't seen the stars at all. I saw them for the first time yesterday. And you know what that means.... WINTER IS COMING. YIIIIKKKKKEEEESSSSS! I'm trying not to freak out and to remain calm. I just really don't want to have to endure another Finnish winter. I'm gonna remain calm and take one day at a time.
I'll start by telling you what happened this past week. Man you guys! D is sooo cool! We met with him Monday and had a lesson about temples and the importance of family history. He thought it was the greatest thing and talked about how he's excited to meet his ancestors in God's kingdom and how he wants to help them by doing their temple work. At the end of the lesson he was leaving and he stopped and pulled out a box of famous Fazer blue chocolate (soooo good!). He said "you guys have changed my life. I was trying to think of something I could do to thank you but nothing can thank you enough for what you've given me. I know you like chocolate, so I got you some." It was the SWEETEST thing! Sisar Heggie and I about cried. And then we were typically awkward and were like ahhh we really wish we could hug you but we can't so we'll hug each other. Afterward we were laughing and realized that we're not sure if we've explained to him yet that we can't hug guys. So he probably thought "I gave you chocolate and then you just hugged each other....?" hahaha. Well regardless, it was super sweet and he is just soo rock solid. He loves the gospel soo much! Tuesday was such a special day! D and his roommate/best friend H (who joined the church back in November) and us went and did baptisms at the temple. The Finland temple is just SO SPECIAL. It is sooo Finnish. I love it so much. When we met at the temple, D and H were looking way cool in their suits. (did I mention that D went out and bought a new suit for church cuz he didn't have one?) When I asked him how he felt before we went in, he said "excited to service God." ahhhhhh! He was way happy the whole time and loved the whole thing. That night he moved to Turku, a city on the coast, for a school/work project that he has for the next 2 months. He made sure he visited the temple at least once before he left. Luckily he'll be back to visit so we'll see him again. And it was way cool cuz when we were at the temple, there just happened to be people from Turku there and they just welcomed him with open arms. Gotta love awesome members! Remember folks, there is a difference between being just friendly and being a friend. Reach out and actually help those that are struggling, don't just say hi to them and hope that suffices. The Lord deals with us one by one. And we must do the same.
We met with our friend T this week, the one that is trying to stop smoking. We asked her where she was in the Book of Mormon. She said "I finished it :)" We were like WHATTT?! And she just smiled and responded that she had already finished the whole thing and she knows it's true!!!!! She recently met with her doctor so that he can help her quit smoking and she wants to get baptized before the end of this year. Oh my gosh you guys it was so cool! She has changed so much since I first met her. And now she's starting the Book of Mormon over again, because we don't just read it once and then say "well that was good. next." we read and reread and prayerfully reread it again. I read a cool scripture about the importance of reading our scriptures during my personal study this week. We must read our scriptures every single day. Helaman 3:29-30: "Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out." Daily, meaningful scripture study is one of our greatest defenses and protection. And it is ESSENTIAL, CRUCIAL, AND MANDATORY that we read it as a family everyday. So read the Book of Mormon everyday :) It will change your life. Also, while at T's, I noticed that she had a big stack of CD's. Well guess what CD's they were friends?! BACKSTREET BOYS. I died. She had like 9 of them! (SHOUT OUT TO THE QUAD - Kazia, Kim, Christina). I freaked out and then she freaked out and was like I even have their t-shirts and brought out 3 Backstreet Boys t-shirts (one was super old that she got when she was like 15) hahaha we were all laughing so hard. I love how I have come so close and such good friends with the people that I teach. Being a missionary is the best!
We had an awesome stake conference yesterday! The first counselor of the Europe Area Presidency came and spoke to us. It was cool hearing some talks in Finnish and then some in English (they had translators). And it was just way fun to meet in Helsinki and attend a stake conference. It was my first one on my mission! (the other times I was in a little branch so it was just a district conference). We met in an auditorium in a cultural building (there aren't chapels big enough to hold everybody here) so that was also cool. It was fun because a lot of the members recognized us from the magazine. And Elder and Sister Kearon did too and were soooo sweet and Sister Kearon gave us big hugs and got teary eyed and thanked us for serving. T came and really liked it. They focused on some main points during the whole conference and gave us some challenges that I would like to give you. One is that Elder Kearon told us to all go out and be a true friend to just ONE person. To be a guide and a help to that friend and help bring them (or bring them back) to the light of the gospel. Think about it. If we all just went out and found ONE, that would change sooo many lives. And would build the kingdom in a whole new way. He also challenged us to rise to a greater sense of duty when it comes to daily praying and scripture study. We need to pray with conviction and meaning and study our scriptures with purpose, diligence, and prayer. As we do this, we will see an added measure of happiness, direction, and peace in our lives. We will be equipt with the strength to "divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil." So I give this invitation to all of you. Engage in more meaningful and diligent and heartfelt daily scripture study and prayer. It has the power to change your life.
We also had a special lesson this week with our investigator M. I say special mostly because maybe it was actually something that I needed. We focused on who God is and went through the scriptures reading passages that help us to grasp and define God. A lot of people think of Him as being scary, or judgmental, or this man in the sky, but really He is a loving, merciful, and caring Father who knows us and wants to be a bigger part of our lives. We read verses about how He is the creator, merciful, all knowing, and is able to comprehend more than we can. We talked about His great love for us and His desire to help us more. We then watched this Mormon message: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2013-01-002-earthly-father-heavenly-father?lang=eng. I am so grateful for my earthly father and my Heavenly Father. He knows me. He loves me. He holds me when I cry. Picks me up when I fall and though I don't understand it all, or how, or sometimes even why, He is always there. Constant. Never changing. Always loving. Always knowing. Giving me purpose. Hope. Love. Peace. I love Him. Sometimes I forget who I am but He never does. And He tries to help remind me everyday. And as I follow Him, I can become who I am destined to be. Who I can be. Who my Father wants me to be. Because with Him, I can do all things. I am His daughter. He is a Father to me.
One of the reasons I love being a missionary is the different and fun experiences I get to have everyday. Like we went over to a couple's house from Estonia and they made us oven apples (way good.. basically they stuck an apple in the oven and put sugar and cinnamon and raisins on it.. apparently they eat it a lot in Estonia), we visited a less active from China and her mom was here visiting from China and though she didn't speak any English she invited us through her daughter to come visit her in China anytime we wanted because she really liked us, we met with a guy from Iran this week and we taught our awesome family from India who is doing so well. The mom A is just a rock star and when we went over she was reading stuff out of Alma 7 to us of things that she really liked. She said that she had never heard of our church before, but that she firmly believes that Christ is coming back and that maybe this church is the church that will actually be prepared to meet him. Ahhh she's such a star! And has such strong faith in Christ it glows. And her 6 year old daughter is just my best friend now. Love it.
I'm happy. I love the gospel. It is my strength, hope, and light. I am so grateful that I can share it with others. This verse has been running through my mind this whole week: "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy bretheren" Luke 22:32. When we are converted, we must strengthen others. Sharing the gospel is a sign of true conversion. And as we do it, we realize that it actually truly converts us. So share this light.
So many things happened this week! So little time to write! Well, bear with me as I try to relate just some of the happenings from this past week.
For starters, we got change calls! And Sisar Heggie and I are up for ROUND 2 SISTER TRAINING LEADERS IN ESPOO, the land of the temple! It's so amazing to be here and we are way stoked for this coming change. Also, we said goodbye to our dear Sisar Cribbs who is now the most recent awkward returned missionary back in the real world. Yikes, I don't even wanna think about the day when that will be me! But it's coming quickly so I've just got to make every moment of these next couple months count.
Also, the magazine came out! And we may or may not be 4 FULL PAGES in a very popular magazine here that is in EVERY STORE. It is an amazing article! Very positive and a good portrayal. One of our members said "you're all over Facebook! even my friend from Canada liked the picture of you three!" so that was exciting. Apparently one of the pics from it was posted on the church page (the Finnish one... I think just search Myöhempien Aikojen Pyhien Kirkko) on Facebook so look it up :). But it's really exciting how much publicity our church is getting and how positive it has been here. And they are just amazed by the sisters. We've had sisters in newspaper articles, on prime time television, and now one of the top stories in a major magazine. It's been so cool to see how positive all of it has been! And how people recognize us when we talk with them on the public transportation. I LOVE being a representative of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Heavenly Father answers prayers. He knows the secret desires of our hearts. He reaffirmed to me this week just how true this really is. Soo as many of you know, my dad served his mission in Sapporo, Japan. It has kinda been my secret dream to meet somebody from Sapporo and share the gospel with them. I just thought it would be way cool and special if I could share the gospel with the people that my dad loves so much. Well, I had never told anybody that but Heavenly Father, and let's get for real, He is the only person I needed to tell. Last Monday we went shopping and eating in Helsinki (way fun!). We then traveled to another part of Helsinki to go to a Marimekko outlet (look it up! it's a suuuuper popular Finnish brand). While on the metro, this Asian couple comes and sits down in front of me. I wanted to talk to them so I looked for clues as to how to start a conversation. Well, I noticed that on the woman's lap was a map leading them to this Marimekko outlet. So I asked "are you going there right now?" and they responded "yes we are!" and I was like "Yay! I've never been there before and we don't really know where to go, can we walk with you?" to which they readily agreed. We got off the metro and got on a bus and meanwhile I'm chatting with them the whole time. Turns out they were from JAPAN and so I asked "what part??" and they said "Tokyo" so I thought "ah that's cool.. it's not Sapporo but still cool." I then explained to them how my dad had lived in Japan and how he loved it! How I grew up eating sticky white rice and how he always spoke so fondly of it, but I said that he actually lived in Sapporo. Both of their eyes got huge and they both said super excitedly "WE ARE ACTUALLY FROM SAPPORO!!!!!" I was like "WHAT, NO WAY!" And they thought it was SOOO COOL that my dad had lived there. We got off the bus and went inside the outlet and lost each other. I was so grateful that I met them but was silently praying that Heavenly Father would let me somehow share the gospel with them. Well, right before they left they came and found me and said that it was nice to meet me. I then bore my testimony as to why I am here. That I am here for the same reason that my dad went to Japan - because this is the most important thing to me and that it will bless everybody's lives. I bore my testimony of the gospel to them and said that because they were so nice, this is something that I wanted to share with them. I gave them a mormon.org card and she graciously took it and was so sweet and said she will definitely look it up. She then asked "can I get a picture with you?" to which of course I responded "YES" and she gave me a big hug before she left. It was the sweetest thing. As we stood there posing for the picture and as she hugged me, I felt the spirit so strongly. It was incredible. I felt the most amazing warm feeling come over me like Heavenly Father was giving me a hug. I felt Him say "see, I do care. I do care about the little things. I love you." God is our FATHER. He is the perfect Father. He loves us so much and He cares about us individually. He knows the desires of our hearts and He blesses us in more ways than we can even understand. I'm so grateful for the tiny moments when I can see His hand and His witness to me that He is there and that He loves me. And this is the joyful news that I am taking to the world. What an amazing opportunity this really is!
D is doing soo well! We had some great lessons with him this week. After somebody is baptized, we go through and reteach all of the lessons again, just this time in more detail. We taught the Restoration. We got this new idea and thought "well, why not. let's just try it and see what happens"- so we did. It went amazingly! We were all sitting down and we started the lesson. We talked about how Christ organized His true church on the earth and what it contained. Then Sisar Heggie and I stood up and we walked over to the windows as we continued talking and we started saying things like "but people didn't want the truth. They rejected it. They stoned and killed the prophets..." and as we spoke, we started closing all of the blinds until they were all closed. Then I went over to the light switch and I said "and they even killed Christ" and I turned off the light and we were plunged into darkness. It was really powerful. We went and sat back down on the couches and continued to teach, in the dark. We talked about the apostasy and how the world was in darkness. How people searched and searched for truth but couldn't find it. We read a scripture from the Bible that foretells about this apostasy, or time when God's true church was not found on the earth. We asked D how it would feel to be on the earth at that time. He said that that's exactly how he felt before he joined the church. That he just kinda did whatever he wanted but that he wasn't truly happy and he felt he was missing something. He said now he has "God as his close friend" and he is so much happier. Our member then got out her iphone and we shared this video: http://www.mormonchannel.org/come-follow-me-the-apostasy-and-the-restoration?v=1101418645001. As the video played, we slowly started opening the curtains and at the end, we turned the light back on. Oh how glorious the Restoration was! It brought light back to this world! The Spirit was so strong as we taught the lesson it reaffirmed to me how NECESSARY and IMPORTANT the Restoration really is. I am so grateful that I can enjoy the blessings of it in my life and share them with others. We also taught D the Plan of Salvation again. At the end he prayed (he always says the MOST AMAZING prayers) and he said "I am excited to meet you and talk with you and stay in your kingdom with you forever." It was so simple, but so incredibly powerful. That is truly what our goal is. To meet God and rejoice with Him forever with our family and loved ones. This life is a time for us to prepare to meet Him. So we must make every moment count. Also, he is suuuuuper excited to go to the temple. He met with the Bishop yesterday for his recommend and he walked out and raised it in the air like a trophy. We will be going to the temple with him on Tuesday. I'm so excited to go :)
We also had lots of other miracles this week, including setting 2 baptismal dates with people and both of them came to church! One is the sweetest woman ever and she and her daughter came to church and her daughter (6 years old) told her mom she wants to get baptized and be with her family forever. It was the sweetest thing! "And a little child shall lead them."
It has been raining like CRAZY this week. ugh fall is here. And it's cold! Sisar Heggie and I were on strike and refused to wear coats until September. Well I'm kinda grateful that it's finally September so we can finally wear coats because we could see our breath this morning outside! I had to make an emergency purchase and buy rain boots because my other shoes are literally falling apart! We seriously walk sooo much! But really, the stereotype of missionaries walking so much their shoes fall apart is true. I can testify of it :)
The church is true. Heavenly Father knows us and loves us! I am so grateful for the knowledge it has brought to my life. Pray to help and bring others to it. Live everyday so that others can see Jesus Christ in YOU. You are His agent and YOU represent Him. So represent Him well for all the world to see. He lives. I love Him.
and I love you!
ps one of the exciting moments of the week: so Finland has a lot of INCREDIBLE food, but there are definitely some things that I really miss from back home like a real American BBQ, good Mexican food, real peanut butter, and peanut butter with chocolate, my mom's waffles, chocolate chips, Costco muffins.... etc and the other day we were walking on the street and I turned to Sisar Heggie and I said "I really really want a root beer float right now" and then we mourned the fact that root beer is not found in Finland and then we bucked up and continued with our lives. Weeeellll, yesterday we were at a member's house for dinner. It was amazing food! homemade rolls, delicious salmon, a green salad, sweet potatoes, and plum pie for dessert. Ahhh my mouth is watering just thinking about it all. So they brought out a pitcher of a dark drink that they made with the sodastream (they are suuuper popular here). And Sisar Heggie asked what it was and they said "just try it" so we poured a little sip and it was ROOT BEER! WE ABOUT DIED! And the whole family was laughing soooo hard at our reactions. I got super excited and was telling them how I was just saying that I really wanted a root beer float and that this is the first time I've had root beer since I came to Finland! The mom got up and came back and brought me ice cream! And so we got to eat ROOT BEER FLOATS IN FINLAND. I don't know if you guys understand the MAGNITUDE of this! It was incredible! One of the teenage daughters said through her laughter "I've never seen missionaries be so happy in my life" hahaaha it really is the little things folks. So eat a root beer float, remember that God loves you, and know that He cares about the little things that we care about and that He really does like to just help us smile :) Church is true friends!