First, a very brief 2013 in review:
I opened 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. Over the course of the year, I was in 7 countries, not counting airports. I flew on 17 flights. I attended church in 3 languages, and spoke in church in all 3 of those languages. I got the surprise of my life when my bishop in Geneva asked me to re-think missionary service, and he was right! I got my papers in February, came back to the States in May, and got my mission call to the Finland Helsinki Mission on June 1st. I went to the Seattle temple for my endowment on June 8th. I left for the MTC August 21st, became a 3rd-time aunt on the 22nd, and arrived in Finland on October 23. I spent the last couple months of the year in Oulu with some fantastic people. I've been blessed with an enormous amount in 2013, and I'm excited to spend the entirety of 2014 serving the Lord full-time.
This week was a hard one. It went by faster than I can even believe, but a lot happened.
December was a month where we were able to find more investigators and more potentials than we previously had. However, January is turning out to be the time when nobody wants to make solid return appointments. I know that there's somebody out there right now, waiting for Sisar Vath and I to come bring them the gospel message, but it's hard to see many results of our work right now, which has been especially trying for me this week. We made a particularly difficult decision after much prayer and discussion, to give Rosie some space for a while. She has a testimony, more than she thinks she does, but life is getting in the way, and her progression rate has slowed down dramatically. She lives quite far away, actually, so hopefully a blessing of this is that we can now use what used to be travel time to explore other areas and find somebody who is more prepared to make commitments and covenants. We love Rosie, and we can see her being baptized, but now is not the time for her to be prepared to make those changes and commitments.
On P-Day, Sisar Nyman and I went boot shopping together while our companions wrote letters at the other sisters' apartment. We went all over, looking for the right boots at the right price, that would be durable, stylish, and fit well either with thick winter socks, or thinner fall socks. I'd found a pair my first day in Finland in the basement of President and Sister Rawlings' house that were left behind by a departing sister, but they were already a bit worn, and by December, I felt self-conscious just wearing them in public. As things often go, the last place we had time to look had the perfect pair of boots, at a more-than-perfect price, and unsurprisingly, Sisar Nyman and I went home with the exact same pair of boots, and matching shoe polish kits. We waited this long to go shopping because there are a lot of sales after Christmas, and we didn't want to take up more than one P-Day looking for boots, so being able to find the boots we found with the time constraints we had was a blessing and an answer to my prayers. God cares about little things like this. He knows how important it was for me to find what I needed on that day, and it worked out just in the nick of time. When I zip up my nicely-polished, wool-lined winter boots, I think about how Heavenly Father takes such good care of me.
We continue to work a lot with members and to teach them how to be better missionaries. We're doing more roleplays with them, so they can feel comfortable talking to people about the gospel in everyday situations, and about inviting others to church, or to meet with us. The members feed us very well here, even when we don't expect food, which shows their love for us and our work. I'm getting more used to the food here, and I even ate an entire bowl of fish soup the other day, and it wasn't so bad! An older sisar who lives alone, the one who made us all socks for Christmas, asked us during a visit if we'd like a snack. She put a couple hotdogs on each of our plates, then decided she might as well finish off the package, so our "snack" ended up being SIX hotdogs apiece, pickles, beets, an egg for Sisar Vath (I hate eggs, so I passed), herbal tea, and cake! THEN she told us to take home all the chocolate from her candy dish. Another elderly sisar had her 96th birthday, and when we visited, she gave us an entire spongecake pastry roll, fruit, juice, and pieces of other cakes, as well as some cookies, and a couple of knit doilies sitting in her drawer (to remember Oulu). I am always blown away by the thoughtfulness and generosity of the members here.
We're not sure how this week will go- planning has been hard since we let Rosie go, and since we can't solidify appointments very easily. But we have faith that the right opportunities will come up for us. We've been trying to explore more of one of our areas where we have no members, potentials, or investigators. It's a slow start, but the Lord needs to bless the people in Area 5 as much as in all the other areas, so we're doing our best to get to know new places and new people. Sisar Vath has been an amazing blessing and support to me, and I feel like we've never been closer. Her silly sense of humor makes long bike rides down people-less roads enjoyable, and her faith is inspiring in those moments when I just want to break down and ask why I'm even here. But there's somebody waiting for Sisar Hansen here in Suomi, so the work goes on.
This gospel is the greatest gift I've ever received. I am filled with more hope, understanding, love, peace, (insert virtue of choice here) because of it. It's made me who I am today, and will continue to shape me throughout my life. I am the best version of myself because of it. And this mission, although it pushes me to my breaking point sometimes, is helping me to see this all more clearly than ever before.