Sunday, December 1, 2013

Name that Jellybean!

This blog will cover just the later half of this week, since we had to do some P-Day rearranging. Oulu has proven that it really means it this time, and the snow and ice probably are here to stay until the weather gets warmer. (If I thought riding on snow was tricky, it's a lot easier than sliding around on ice! Good thing there are pebbles sprinkled everywhere to help with this kind of thing!)

Thursday is the day when we do weekly planning. We have planning sessions every day, but weekly planning is pretty much essential for us to get organized and keep a bit of perspective on how we want to meet our weekly goals. It takes a long time, so we pull our end table over to the couch and do it there so we can at least by nice and comfy. It's weird planning for an entire week, because we obviously don't know exactly what will happen from day to day, but it helps us keep those people in mind who we want to see, and helps us to figure out where we'll be on any given day, so we can find things to do within that area, to cut down on transportation.

Thursday night, the vanhimat and sisaret headed down to Helsinki for a leadership training, which mean that Sisar Vath and I got to use the missionary car! Huzzah! We rode our bikes down to the place where it had been parked, only to discover that we suffered from a rather unfortunate bike rack deficiency. Turns out, the elders had left it in their apartment, and we had to do without for a couple days. We parked our bikes at the nearest convenient place, locked them, and got in the car, knowing that we had appointments to get to, and just enough time to drive there. We took one of the sisters from our branch with us- she's about my age, and full of energy. She actually knew Sisar Vath when they both lived down south! She speaks very fast, and is very good about making me work through everything she says, rather than just giving it to me in English when I don't understand right away.

The highlight of that evening for me was a visit to see "Annie". She's a middle-aged single mom, who we met before, but who didn't seem to respond to well to us being there. Apparently, though, Sisaret Vath and Nyman had a visit with her during our exchange! She has a lot of fears and reservations, and she's had a very hard life. She has a lot of medical problems, and her family life has not been so smooth. She wonders why God gives her so many hardships in her life. Now, she had visited church the Sunday before, and seemed completely bored by most of it, so I wondered how our appointment with her would go. Turns out, we had a lot to talk about, and she had some good questions about church, and how things work. We explained to her that we could arrange for a Gospel Principles class in Finnish (Ours is only in English, since most of our investigators and recent converts speak English better than Finnish). She agreed to come again! She prayed for us in the end, and asked God to bless her three new freinds. :)
We had a busy couple of days following, and we tried to go out and do some service. We cut out paper hearts so we could "heart attack" a particular sister who will talk to us sometimes, but seems to want to be left alone for the most part. That way we could do something nice for her, and not bother her too much. A "heart attack" means that you cover a person's door with paper hearts, and you usually write nice things on them. It's kind of silly, but it really shows that people care. We were finishing up, when the door started to open! Our secret was out, and boy, was it awkward! (Hiding behind the door didn't help- we were caught anyway, and it actually made things even more awkward.) I have a talent for getting caught, so I can't say I'm too surprised, actually.

Another bit of mixed-blessing-style awkwardness was our visit with a former investigator. We've knocked on her door several times in the past with no answer, but this time was different! Victory was ours, as we were welcomed into her home. She even gave us juice and sweaters to keep us warm, even after we insisted that we weren't too cold. (Everybody thinks I must be so cold- if I were, I'd put on a sweater! I actually start to sweat, riding a bike with more than short sleeves under my coat!) Anyhoo, the awkwardness comes in at the point where the first words I ever hear her say to me are, "Oletko suomallainen?" [Are you Finnish?] We had a good conversation together, and she had some very good questions and thoughts about the church, but the fact that neither of us are real Finns (sisar Vath actually is, but doesn't look like it, and wasn't born here.) seemed to make us less credible. She says she wants to go to our branch party this week so she can talk to Finns about her questions. Ah, well, as long as it gets her talking!

This week we've faced some harsh rejection. Rejection comes every single day on the mission, but this week we got what seems like a disproportionate amount of angry responses, and "I never want to hear from you again"s. We even got a text, saying that one particular woman would call the police if we came to her door again, to which we replied that we hadn't gone by since she told us to stay away, so please don't call the cops on us!! I understand that there are people who don't want to talk to us, and who are even fundamentally opposed to what we're doing on a moral level. But there are ways to express disinterest without being aggressive. Note to the missionary-phobic out there, being vague and ambiguous about your feelings, or pretending not to be home will only get you another visit in the near future. Save everybody some trouble, and just politely say, "No thanks".
I've said it before, but we have some seriously wonderful branch missionaries in Oulu. There are two elderly ladies who live together, and anytime we're in the area and have extra time, we stop by, and they are always willing to have us come in, and feed us something. This week they helped with our hour of language study. We did a bit of the point-to-an-object-then-I-say-its-name-suomeksi game, and it was actually pretty helpful. We almost always have a member at a planned lesson. They love our investigators, have us over for meals, give out copies of Mormonin Kirja, and do anything they can to be helpful.

This Sunday we had a record number of people at church. (I don't know if this is accurate- it just seemed like more people I've ever seen here by far). Part of that is due to one of our fantastic member missionaries, Veli "Caruso". His baby boy received his name and blessing today. He is British, while his wife is Finnish, so it's been hard for them to pick a name that works for both cultures, and that they both like. So far, he's been known simply as Jellybean. Veli Caruso blessed him in a combination of broken Finnish and English, and it was a beautiful, sincere blessing. Some members also brought friends along, and we had investigators come, as well! Annie came with her two sons, and did much better this time, although she got bored again halfway through Relief Society. But hey- progress from last time! Rosie hasn't come in a month, and we pray for her every day. Hopefully she can come to the Finnish Independence Day party this week and get to know branch members better.
There were people buzzing all over church today, so it was a bit distracting and overwhelming at times, but in a very good way. Good to see so many people around. Hopefully this won't be the last time I see a Sunday like this in Oulu.

Well, tomorrow before the rise of the sun (which really isn' saying much here) we head out to catch a plane to Helsinki for new missionary training. The two of us will be staying with sisar Knapp and her trainer, which I'm pretty excited about. I'm excited to swap stories and see how the work is going in other parts of Suomi. Until next, next Monday!

-Sisar Hansen

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