First of all, before I get into the more spiritual things, I'll share a silly story from this week. We were teaching an investigator, Jerry (name of course changed from the original, as I do with all Finns mentioned here. President Rawlings got after those who use real names in their blogs, so it's a good time to clarify this point, so nobody can accuse me of using unauthorized personal information.) and I had a nasty case of the hiccups that would not go away! He asked me to say the opening prayer, and I hic-ed my way through the entire thing, making it hard for anyone to keep much of a straight face afterwards. I stayed pretty quiet for a while during the lesson, only speaking when I felt like it was really important, because I didn't want to be a distraction, but that itself turned out a bit distracting, and so he eventually gave a glass of water (our member present cheered me on- juo! juo! juo! drink! drink! drink!) and that was that.
Also, the one day we didn't go out and run in the morning, we ended up barely making, or barely missing, all of our buses, so we ran all day anyway! Sheesh!
Sisar Dayton and I have been extatic the past week, telling everybody about it. All in all, we had THREE investigators come, which is the most we've ever had at church meetings in one weekend! Jerry came, which was a miracle, since he's never been to church in Finland (the sisters from another country originally taught him and went to church with him, and he splits his time between here and there, so they teach him via skype in between our meetings with him in anticipation of his return to their neck of the woods- complicated, huh?) He seemed a bit overwhelmed, but he has a good member friend to help him understand things better, and we'll of course talk about it next time. Hank came, and we felt like all of the talks given during the session he watched were absolutely perfect for him. He said he came with a question- "Is this religion the right one?" but wasn't sure he felt an answer. He likes to take things slow, and thinks things through a lot, so hopefully we can help him understand how much God really did answer his questions and concerns last night. He really loved the choir-they sang some very powerful numbers.
Also, our BRAND NEW investigator, Reggie, came! Funny thing is, he's our new investigator BECAUSE he came to conference! As it turns out, the elders stopped him on the street, invited him to come watch, and he came. To Every. Single. Session. He told the elders that it was amazing, how it was almost as if the speakers were speaking just to him! (The way conference should be!) They took the time to teach him about the Restoration of the church between sessions, and he's apparently watched the "Restoration" DVD TWICE already! He's either been specially prepared, or he's got a few screws loose, but we talked for a bit, and he just seems to be a bit shy and twitchy, that's all. Since he lives in our area, he's been put in the hands of us sisters, and we have an appointment with him today where we'll review conference with him, and invite him to be baptized!
There were a lot of really strong themes this conference. Love. Standing up for your beliefs, even if you stand alone. Making and keeping covenants. Using the power of the Atonement to change for the better. The inevitability of adversity versus the power of agency. We are all united. I wrote down 7 questions in different colors, and then went back over my notes after conference, and color-coded them to see how many times I'd received answers to each question. The results were amazing! I got multiple answers to every single question except one very specific one, and since the time difference makes watching conference a bit awkward, we still have one more session left to view sometime this week, so I'm sure question #7 has an answer there!
A lot of our church leaders spoke very boldly this conference, which I loved. We need to decide where we stand in this life. Are we on the side of the Lord, or are we with the world? This is one of the biggest things I've pondered over and over about throughout my missionary service so far. How often do we claim to follow Christ, while holding onto things of no value, or worse, things that ultimately drag us down and prevent us from reaching our full potential? How easily we forget the Savior in all of our everyday business! I was struck with the realization that, even as a missionary, I don't keep Him in my thoughts nearly as much as I should! I wonder if one of my purposes on this mission is to learn the habit of always remembering Him- mission life is hard, and yet I still sometimes forget how weak I am, and what the true source of my strength is. Definitely something to repent of! Luckily, I have reminders almost daily of ways I can improve and come closer to Christ, and maybe one day I'll finally get the hang of this being-a-converted-disciple-of-the-Lord thing!
I'd really love to hear what you all learned from conference, and what you favorite themes were! Write some comments! Send me an email (or better yet, a letter!) Even better, of course I'm going to ask you what you all learned from Preach My Gospel this past week, and then follow up next week, and let you know what I've learned! I love the emphasis on member missionary work that lets those who never served, or who served long ago, feel the joy of serving the Lord through spreading the gospel. I hope you're all excited about it, too, although I know it can be even scarier without the name tag than it already is while wearing one!
This is an exciting time. Lahti has a lot of potential to become a city rich in the gospel. There hasn't been a convert baptism here in years, and we are so close to changing that, as we pray and work and seek inspiration to find "the one" every day. I'm learning to love others in a way I never thought my imperfect self could, and I know that this truly is the place the Lord needs me to be, even though all of the purposes aren't entirely clear from my limited view.
Kiitos from all of the support and prayers- I'm trying to not let any of you down because I can feel how much love is often sent my way!