It's been one of those big weeks that seems to go on forever. We did companionship exchanges on Tuesday, and I got to be with my dearest Sisar Nyman for a day. We talked to a lot of people, although there were quite a few times when all we could really do was nod and smile in response. I've gotten really good at those Finnish vocal fillers "Niin." "Totta." "Eikö Niin?" "Siis." "Muttaaaaaaa..." The language is feeling more and more natural to me, which is great. I love being able to make phone calls and contact by myself. Sisar Nyman and I taught a great lesson with the African man I taught with Sisar Vath on my first day in Oulu. He's opened up a lot, and the conversation really flowed. One of the greatest things about this mission is seeing people- investigators, members, missionaries, yourself, change. God really does work miracles with us to change our hearts for the better.
We had a lot to do last week to make sure that this week runs smoothly. Change calls came on Friday, (more on that later) and Sisar Vath and I were pretty sure that at least one of us would leave, so we had to make sure that everything we needed to record was done clearly, and that our weekly planning would be easy for a new-to-Oulu missionary to follow. I don't think people realize how much paperwork goes into missionary work! But I'm always thankful when people have recorded things well for me, and I've seen some pretty awful previous Teaching Record entries (The summary of one lesson some elders taught years ago simply says, "Cried". Okaaaaaay....) I'm determined to be a good paperwork missionary, and the past few days have really been a test of that.
Friday night we had interviews with our mission president, President Rawlings. He and Sisar Rawlings were in Oulu for the weekend, since there was a district conference (A stake conference when there aren't enough wards to make a stake, like up here in the north. A stake, for any who don't know, is a grouping of several congregations throughout an area.) I love Sisar Rawlings tons, so it's always great to see her. As for my interview with President Rawlings, well, it didn't go quite the way I'd expected it to go. We chatted for a bit and talked about my feelings on the mission, etc. and then he asked if he could use the time to give me my change call. We've all been expecting Sisar Vath to leave, since she's been in Oulu almost a year now, (She is, in fact, heading down to one of the Helsinki areas). What I didn't expect was to get a change call to Lahti! I had to ask him where that was, and he tried to describe it, but when you've spent some time in the north, everything in the south just kind of mushes together. I had to just look it up on a map when I got back home. It's about an hour north of Helsinki, and it's in the Tampere stake. President Rawlings said it's a college town, with a young and energetic ward. My new companion will be my first American companion, Sisar Dayton, and she's been in Finland one transfer longer than I have. Wow! My night train down south leaves tomorrow night, so I still have a couple days to say goodbye to Oulu. I love this place. I'm sad to leave. My hardest goodbye will no doubt be to Sisar Nyman (staying in Oulu), who has been either my companion or in the same city as me for my entire mission. I love her more than words can say. But I'm excited to see more places in Finland, and meet more people. I'm excited to go to this city I've never heard of before, because I know it's where the Lord needs me. President told me that some of my specific qualities made me seem like the perfect person to head down there and participate in the work. Plus, "Minä lähden Lahteen" is kind of fun to say! (Translation: I'm leaving for Lahti.) There are a lot of changes going on throughout the mission. I heard that at least one person from every city is leaving or transferring! I think only 4 of the 12 missionaries in the Oulu district are staying put. Hopefully this means big things for Finland as missionaries enter new areas with fresh perspective.
Now there's a lot of packing, cleaning, and note-making to do. Two new sisters will take over the work in the Oulu Sisaret Area B, and so we need to make sure they know where to buy food, send emails, attend church, and meet with our investigators. They're both transferring from Helsinki, so I hope they get used to the bike-riding lifestyle here, although Oulu is such an excellent city for biking, that shouldn't be too difficult. I pray that they will have the skills, wisdom, and spirit to take care of this area and work successfully with these people who I have come to love so much. I'm sure they'll be great!
We had an excellent District Conference. President Rawlings talked about what seems to be his favorite topics- praying always, and submitting to God's will for us. He talks about these thigns with us missionaries often, but they're important, and will change the way we do missionary work if we follow his counsel. Sisar Rawlings gave a great talk in Finnish about reaching out to help others. One of the new converts in Oulu was called on to extemporanneously share his testimony, and he of course, did a great job. He always sees the gospel from a very logical perspective, and it's brilliant. His thoughts and questions in Gospel Principles class make me wonder why, in my 24 years of going to church, I never thought of things that way before. The Spirit in the room was practically palpable the entire time. Sisaret Vath, Francis, and I sang a semi-impromptu arrangement of "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" in Cambodian, Finnish, and French. (You get used to the last- minute musical numbers pretty quickly as a missionary.) I even accomplished one of my personal goals, which was to make friends with a very shy 4-year old in the branch. She smiled and made funny faces at me during the meetings, and even Elder Horseley commented that I finally did it, so that was a big bonus. After the conference on Sunday, there were a lot of people to see and talk to, and say goodbye to. There were schedules to solidify, pictures to take, and temple recommend interviews to conduct. That's right, I gave a temple recommend interview after District Conference! Okay, not really.....But Sisar Rawlings asked me to come along so I could translate from Finnish into French for an African member of one of the district branches. With Finnish heavily engrained in my mind, I struggled to recall the right words, which were so familiar to me when Iived in France less than a year ago (lately when I try to speak French, Finnish words come out in a French accent!), but it was successful in that we all understood each other, and this man was able to renew his recommend. That was one for the journal! Dear Francophone blog readers: This is a hint for you to send me some mail en francais sometime, so I can practice!
One of my goals this week is to think more positively. We missed a phone call in all of the business of conference, and as a result, one of our investigators couldn't make it to church. BUT we talked to him this morning, and he still wants to meet later this week, and all is well. What could be a downer of an experience, is really a learning opportunity for next time, and in the end, it all turned out okay, so everything is alright. This mission is going alright. My life is going alright. My experience was a good reminder that sometimes unfortunate occurrences are just little bumps on the path to better things. I hope to cultivate this attitude more in my day-to-day life throughout my mission.
And thus I end my last blog email from Oulu. Rakastan teitä!
And thus I end my last blog email from Oulu. Rakastan teitä!