First of all, things are looking up here in Lahti. We've had a couple of wonderful lessons with Hank this week, one of which he practically taught himself as we asked him questions about faith and baptism, and he discussed with us what he learned from his topical guide research. Oh, and there's also the fact that HE PRAYED!!!!! After weeks and weeks of trying, he finally prayed out loud with us to close our lesson, and it was beautiful! He prayed and said, "Thank you for sending the sisters to open my eyes to spiritual things." I LOVE HANK SO MUCH!!! He's been one of my dearest friends on my mission, and perhaps the investigator who has had the biggest impact on me. He's a wonderful person, and it's exciting to see him progress over time. Our friend who showed up to church all those weeks ago in a rainbow hoodie also continues to show progress. He looks happier every week at church, and his black corset was particularly becoming yesterday. Our investigator from Estonia, Ellen, is one of the most tender-hearted and sincere people I've ever met. She told us that, "Maybe this is silly, but sometimes I wonder if I came to Finland so I could read the Book of Mormon and learn about the church from the missionaries." Not silly at all! Yesterday she had a very profound spiritual experience at church, and the next step is getting her a date to be baptized so she can claim the blessings of the gospel! It's been a privilege to be a part of seeing the work take off here. I've been able to look back on the past two months and really see how we've found the elect, and how things have really shaped up quite nicely over a relatively short period of time.
Thursday morning we were doing our weekly planning, wondering how we would work around so much uncertainty in the next week's schedule, when the phone rang. It was President Rawlings, giving us our change call a day or two earlier than expected. No more uncertainty here, as tomorrow morning I'm getting on a train and heading out east to Lappeenranta! "But wait!" you protest, "There are no sisters serving in Lappeenranta! That's an elders' area!" It WAS an elders' area, but now Sisar Heggie (coming straight from Oulu, after serving with my dear Sisar Nyman!) and I are replacing the elders, and completely starting over fresh. In mission slang, we're "shotgunning" the area, which is something from my list of things about change calls that make me nervous. We'll arrive by train tomorrow morning, the elders will show us our apartment, help us get settled, and then they'll head out themselves, and it'll be just the two of us working a previously-unfamiliar area! We will be the first sisaret in the Kouvola District, which is the south-eastern part of the country. And the part about my change call that made me squeal? Lappeenranta's area includes the Russian border. As some of you may know, I had a secret wish to get my mission call Russian-speaking. With us being so close, President Rawlings suggested that it may be wise to start picking up Russian! Aaaahhhh!!
The Lappeenranta elders have, no doubt, been working hard to prepare the area for us sisters. I remember when Sisar Vath and I left Oulu, we had a larger-than-average list of things to do and write down for the incoming sisters taking our places. The day after we got our call, they called us, and the first thing I hear is, "What do sisters like to eat? We're going to go grocery shopping for you, and we need to know." Perhaps more than taking over an area, I should be concerned about inheriting an apartment from elders......
Sisar Dayton will stay in Lahti for her third change (Lahti will be her Finnish hometown), Vanhin Keddington will stay and train, and Vanhin Stimpson had his dream come true, and he will spend the spring up in Rovaniemi. He said he screamed when President Rawlings gave him the news. I'm a little bit sad to leave this place, but mission life is all about change, and I'd rather be the missionary that leaves every change, than the one who stays put half of their mission. I'm proud of the work I've done in Lahti, and this place and these people have helped me grow immensely. I think it's your second area, not your first, that has the greatest impact on growth.
This week in Preach My Gospel I learned that planning out missionary work and setting goals is an act of love, as it shows faith in Heavenly Father and a willingness to do His will, and love for others, as we take seriously our responsibility to share the blessings of the gospel with them. What did YOU learn?
Thanks for all of the love and support! It's wonderful to know that no matter what happens out here, I am not alone.