Monday, December 22, 2014

12/22/14 - Hyvaa Joulua! Merry Christmas!

HYVÄÄ JOULUA! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Can you believe that Christmas is THIS WEEK?! Where has the time gone?!? Oh my word, almost all the candy is gone from my advent calendar. That's how you know things are getting serious. 

It's weird to think that this is my last full week of being a missionary. It doesn't feel real, but we'll get to that later. Let's start by recapping this week. We kicked off the week by grabbing lunch at a famous Bagel/doughnut place. I got a REINDEER bagel. Yep, sure sign you're living in Finland. It's normal. On Tuesday we went on splits FOR THE LAST TIME. weird. Because there are so many companionships of sisters in our zone, we have gone on exchanges once a week every week this transfer. Tomorrow will be the first Tuesday that we're staying in our own area. I have loved getting to know the sisters and working with them one on one. I have learned so much from them and made so many great friends. 

Friday we had my last Zone Conference ever. It was surreal. I remember our Christmas zone conference last year and I felt like I still had all the time in the world. That basically I would be a missionary forever. And now I just had my last one. Is this real life? It was a really great meeting. And President is implementing tons of new things that go into effect at the beginning of the year. Finland is about to be taken to the next level! And it was so cool because I had the thought "Man, I wish I were here for all of these new changes" and I had the feeling come into my heart "that wasn't your calling. You had to lay a strong foundation first so others can build on what you've done." Finland is such a blessed land and the Lord has staked it out as a place of gathering and refuge. The church is about to explode here. I'm so grateful that I got to do my little, tiny part in laying a foundation for it to take off. I love this land! It was hard to say goodbye to other missionaries that I've come to love so much as we've served together in the work of our Lord. Some I will probably see again after the mission, others I will probably only see again in the next life. But the comradery and the love we have for each other is something that has come as we've given our blood, sweat, and tears to this work. How grateful I am for the amazing people I've served with over the course of my mission! I have made some wonderful friends that will last through the eternitites.   

My mission has been a huge refining process. I must've had a lot of impurities in me cuz the fire has gotten pretty hot at times! haha. This past week was a week of refinement, but I was filled with so much peace and hope through it all. So basically we've been talking with everyone, trying to implement all of the council we've received, and be the best possible missionaries we can be, but we've lost almost every single one of our investigators. Some because they've gone out of town for the whole Christmas season and will resume learning in January, and others because we've let them go or they dropped us. I was pondering and thinking about why the Lord allowed this to happen when I'm trying my best to do my best. I got the feeling that He's testing me to see if I will finish strong to the end even if I don't see the results I want and I feel like everything around me is slowing down. Well you better believe I'm doing my very best to "finnish" strong! Sunday was a great day! First off, D (who was baptized a couple months ago) came to visit! He came to church and sat with us. R got his first calling last week (to organize/facilitate translators/translation devices for church) and was running around doing that, and A sat calmly next to me as the meeting began. It really hit me how much the gospel changes lives! And how much I love these people! They truly have changed my life forever. Also a less active family that we've been working with came to church! I was so happy. After church, we went home to eat and then set out. All of our plans had cancelled so we had a blank evening. As we were leaving, I prayed that we would see miracles. And we did :) We got on the bus and this guy in the back of the bus stuck out to me and I got the feeling, "go sit by him" so even though there were tons of empty seats in the front, I went all the way to the back and sat down. I struck up a conversation with him and it turns out he's from the Philipinnes and his cousins are members there! And one of his cousins is on a mission right now! He said that his cousins are really good people- they don't smoke, or drink, or do drugs. I explained that that's because we view our bodies as gifts from God and we want to take care of them. I asked if he had ever heard of the Book of Mormon before. He said that his cousins had given him one but he hadn't ever really read it. I pulled one out of my bag and gave it to him. He was so grateful! He just kept saying "really? are you sure?? thank you so much!" We had a great conversation and I felt the Spirit many times through it. He said he would love to meet sometime in the near future to discuss it. MIRACLE. Then we went and tried a less active guy that has a nonmember wife and two little girls. We have tried them SO many times while I've been here. They have always ignored our calls and texts, never invite us in, and always refuse to set up a return appointment. Well we tried them again, got invited in, and they set up a return appointment for next week. They have 2 adorable little girls (ages 4 and 2). It was definitely a huge MIRACLE. Then after that, we went and contacted a lady we had met last week on the street. We had a great convo with her and asked if we could stop by sometime. She was hesitant but finally said "yeah I guess, it's the blue house, number three byeee!" as she pointed down the street. Well she probably didn't think we would ever find her, but she underestimated us :) We knocked on her door last night and she opened it with a laugh and invited us in. (MIRACLE! I think I've been invited in by a Finn maybe twice my whole mission). We had a great conversation with her and ended up giving her a Book of Mormon. She also said she might actually come to church next Sunday to hear me speak. So that was super cool. It was a miracle day and was a great reminder to me that the Lord really is in this work and He will never abandon us. He will never give up on us, we just can't ever give up on Him or what He's asked us to do. 

Saturday we went to the baptism of a recently reactivated woman and recently baptized man's, 18 year old son. I love serving in places for a long time (I've been here in Espoo now 6 months) because you get to see the progression of the work. I was here when this man was baptized, when the son decided he might want to start learning, when he used to come play soccer with us outside in the bright sun, when he wasn't sure if he actually wanted to learn anymore, and then when he entered the waters of baptism. It's been so cool to see how this area has grown! And to see how lives have changed. Saturday evening was a blast! It was A's daughter S's 7th birthday so they invited us to go to dinner with them. We didn't really know what to expect and were blown away as we dove into another culture! We went and partied with like 15 Indians (from India folks) and ate traditional Nepalese food at a restaurant. It was so much fun! And the food was so different, but way good. We ate the cake first. They cut the first piece and everyone in their family had a bite of it. Then the cake was cut and we all got to eat it. Then we ordered our food and they brought it out to us. I took some pics so you can see. It was super fun hanging out with all of them. And S MADE SURE that we were sitting by her! hahah I love kids! She says she's so excited to get baptized next year :) Ahhhh the gospel changes families! I'm going to miss all of these people so much. 

On Friday I hit my 18 month mark of being a missionary. 18 months ago I left me family, friends, and everything I had ever known. I put my life on hold and took that leap of faith. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea the highs and the lows I would face, the joys and the sorrows that I would experience. I had no idea the friends I would make or the adventures I would have, but I knew I had a desire to serve and that Christ lived, and that's all I needed to know. I love my mission! I love putting my name tag on everyday. I still remember the first time I put my name tag on like it was yesterday. I will never forget the way I felt. I'm still as awkward and as I was before the mission (actually probably a lot more awkward.......) but I feel like a happier person now! Church is true. 

Oh yeah, final miracle of the week before I go.....  "He is the Gift" was TRANSLATED INTO FINNISH!!!!! I wish you all could understand HOW BIG OF A DEAL THIS IS!!! This was not supposed to happen. The population of Finnish speakers is so small that things like this never get translated. But the Lord worked a mighty miracle and it was! Even though it wasn't in the plans! How cool is that?!? I attatched it so you can see it in the language of the people I have come to love so much. Remember, Christ lives. He is Christmas! Focus on Him this year and it will be the best Christmas you've ever had. 

I love you! 

Sisar Nielsen

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