It is now mandatory studded bike tires season in the Finland Helsinki mission, although the ground remains pretty dry most of the time. Although yesterday the wind was so bad, that we ended up walking to our destination to avoid being blown off our bikes. It's hard to dress for the weather, because if I wear an extra sweater under my coat, I'm fine when I'm just walking around, but it gets too hot when I ride my bike, so there's a bit of a delicate balance that takes place. The elders here have the largest area, so they get the car, in addition to their wearing pants. We've gotten to borrow it on occasion if they don't need it, or are out of town on an exchange. Whenever we hand the keys back over to them, I sing to myself, "Each life that touches ours for good...." Ah well, the bike riding improves every week, and I'm probably in better physical shape than I have been since high school! Blessings of missionary service!
Things are a bit weird right now. We were scheduled for an exchange with the other Oulu sisters on Friday, but it ended up turning into a week-long deal, so I am sitting at a computer, typing this out next to Sisar Francis. She's my age and from Australia. I'm also sleeping at her place, which is screwing up my already faltering sense of direction, but I get to know different parts of Oulu better. Spending time with Sisar Francis has made me reflect on my relationship with Sisar Vath quite a bit, and on how much I really do under-appreciate her. She's an amazing missionary, and I have way more to learn from her than I thought! She has a very different set of talents than I do, and I'm finding more and more ideas of how to use that to our advantage as I have sometime to look at things from afar. AND the good thing about spending P-Day apart is that I can now solve the problem of how I'm supposed to secretly and stealthily get her a present for her upcoming birthday.
There's a quote from my favorite film, where one of the characters says to another, "There's a grave difference between the expectation of an unhappy event, and it's final certainty." You know going in that the mission is going to be hard in certain ways. You know that rejection will come. You know that there will be people who you love, but who will not progress. I've seen a bit of that lately, and as much as you know it's coming, it stinks. It does not feel nice. But then you get those people who keep going, and even decide to get baptized (the elders have an investigator with a baptismal date this coming Saturday!) that you might not expect. Finnish people are not as non-verbally expressive as Americans or French people tend to be. It's not always easy for me to gauge a person's actual interest when I talk to them because their facial expressions don't always change so much, and the languages doesn't have the same kind of intonation as what I'm used to. We've tried to find times when we can do language study with a member, so that I can learn to listen to different accents and sharpen my comprehension skills.
Christmas time is in the air, which means lots of opportunities to invite people to activities! We have some wonderful member missionaries in Oulu, and when we extended the invitation to one family with 6 children last night at ther home to bring friends to the upcoming primary program/Independence Day party/Christmas party, I was so excited to hear that they'd already done just that! When I was a normal civilian, I used to think that full-time missionaries did sooooooo much, and we do have a very special calling to do a very special work. But members can do missionary work in a way that just isn't possible for a missionary like me. They can build close friendships with people from work, school, or other activities, which can make people feel more comfortable than a knock on the door. We have a "Book of Mormon Challenge" here in the Finland Helsinki mission. We invite members to buy 3 copies of Mormonin Kirja, write a testimony in each of them, then give 2 to the missionaries to give out, and find somebody to give the third to on their own. This is the part where I challenge YOU, dear reader, to do the same! Getting involved with the local full-time missionaries does not have to be a huge thing, but it will bring greater results than leaving them all the work. That continues to be clear to me as Oulu's member missionary force continues to get stronger.
The transition from the MTC to the mission field has been pretty difficult in some ways. I'm no longer surrounded by other missionaries all day, every day. The schedule is different. The situations are not staged- they're REAL! Real life is going on all around me. It hasn't always been so easy to wake up and say, "Wow, what a great day! How awesome it is to be here!" But those feelings are coming more and more often. I went to bed last night with a big smile on my face because I never thought I'd be on a mission, let alone in FINLAND, working with an amazing group of fellow missionaries. I never thought I'd learn such a difficult language and do so well at it. I never thought I'd be faced with opening a new area in my first transfer. I can already see how some of my challenges now will be blessings later. I can already see which things bring me joy in the work. And even on those days when that appointment cancels, or it rains and my scriptures get wet, or when nobody seems to want to have much to do with us, I know that the Lord wants me here. I'm rediscovering the love for Finland I felt when I opened my mission call. I don't know where else I will be called or who I will serve with, but I know that this is the perfect place for me to be. I know that this short time (It is seriously going by so fast- 3 months already?? Ahhh!!!) will have an impact on the rest of my life, and shape some of my major decisions differently than if I hadn't served.
For anybody reading this who may be considering a mission, DO IT. It's hard. It's downright rough at times. It's a completely different lifestyle. But 3 months in, I'm already a better version of myself than I was before. I've done things I never thought I'd be able to do. I haven't been here long enough to see many results of my service, but I know that I'm doing good and making some sort of impact on the people I meet. It's a big decision, but it's absolutely the right one!
Hyvää vikkoa kaikille!