Monday, May 12, 2014

A Somewhat Unconventional Week‏

This week's schedule was a bit topsy-turvy. Tuesday we had a zone meeting (and the dreaded semi-annual language test! Dun-dun-duuuuuuuuun!) in Helsinki, for which we woke up at 5:30 to get on the train. Most of our zone lives quite close to the city itself- we missionaries in the Kouvola district are the outliers, and Lappeenranta may be the farthest away. (Oddly enough, Lahti, which is in a different zone, is closer to Helsinki than we are. It was a bit surreal to sit in the train station there for about 10 minutes, looking out to the exact apartment building that was so briefly my home, wondering how Sisar Dayton and all of our investigators are doing.) It's always exciting to see the new post-transfer lineup. There are maybe a couple missionaries from my MTC group in the Helsinki zone this time around. One of the sisters in Helsinki just happens to be Russian, and helped me with some of the (MANY) language questions that were bugging me. We talked a lot about helping investigators get started in the right way from the get-go, so that distractions are minimal, and the influence of the Spirit is optimal.
Can you spot what's wrong with this photo?
Old habits die hard, I guess. [It's addressed to the
"Lappeenranta Elders"]

After a couple of normal days, our sister training leaders came up for splits on Friday. Sisar Heggie took one of them out by bus to do service for a member, and my companion-for-a-day went with me on bikes to attempt to contact some formers, potentials, and less-active members that live on a little island just north of where we live. And you know what? Nobody was home. Not a single person we searched for was readily available to talk with us. This process of going out to an area to contact people usually takes longer than anticipated, and I thought we'd never get through our list of names in our timeframe, and well, partway through the afternoon I realized that we'd done just about everything I'd writted out in our plan (It didn't help that one of our lessons cancelled last minute). It looked like it'd be a downer of a day. I felt a bit stressed, being the only one familair with the area, and still barely knowing much of anything about it. I have to say, as a missionary, I have not felt the constant promptings of the Spirit, telling me at every moment where to go, and with whom to talk. I have rarely, if ever, gotten on a bus or train and just known who I needed to sit by. I felt a bit useless, but it was during those times of, "My goodness, it's only 2PM and I have no idea how to use our time, this is a disaster!" that simply by standing there and trying to figure things out, somebody worth talking to would walk past. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I've found myself thinking of that phrase as just an excuse people use to make themselves feel better when things don't work out. But I'm learning that just because the Lord doesn't send you a glowing burst of revelation and assurance, doesn't mean He's not preparing something great to come your way. Sometimes that's how our faith is proven- not just in the moments where we feelt discouraged, but also in the moments where we feel nothing at all and are tempted to wonder if anything we've been taught about revelation and the Lord answering prayers even works at all. It was a sweet call to repentance, and a reminder to me that sometimes God answers prayers in ways so small, that they are practically imperceptable, albeit real and effective.
 The nice thing about all the stuff that
 belongs to our apartment is that while
some of it is quirky and even gross,
we also have fancy glasses, perfect for eating torte
 with some milk in the fanciest way possible.
Saturday we got on a train to Helsinki (again!) for stake conference. We attended the Saturday evening session, spent the night with the lovely sisaret in Pasila, and went back for more on Sunday morning. It was an uplifting conference, and I loved seeing how many members from our small and far away ward were there. Sisar Fox, a recent convert, sat by herself on Sunday, so we decided to go give her some company and fill in the seats next to her. She doesn't speak much. When we visit her, it's hard to know what to say (even for Sisar Heggie!), and our visits are fairly short. But we can tell that she appreciates us, and she lit up a little bit when we asked if we could sit by her, and when I commented on how much I enjoyed the musical number as the choir took their seats. We also got to meet the less active children of our Relief Society president, who are interested in meeting with us when we can arrange a time. We had lots of people to talk to, and I felt so happy for all of the meaningful connections I've made with people during my time in Finland.    
Did we inadvertently pack the exact
same outfit for stake conference weekend?
Why yes, yes we did.

Sunday was Mothers' Day, which of course, meant SKYPE WITH FAMILY! A member graciously let us use her computer, (We do NOT trust the setup here at the church, despite the former Lappeenranta elders' claims that it worked just fine at Christman) even though her family was gathered at her house for a Mothers' Day party. They treated us like part of the family and asked us each a lot about ourselves as the other companion chatted with family back home. To be honest, I don't even remember much of what anyone said while I chatted with them through the computer's camera, but being able to see everybody and feel their love and support was the only part that actually mattered.

Although our Wednesday was a fairly ordinary day, it was the result of an unconventional experience from our second or third day in the area. We got a phone call with a referral from the elders in Tampere. It was a young woman who'd lived in Canada for a few years and made friends with a lot of church members. She went to church, watched General Conference, and even graduated from Seminary! She's now back in good ol' Lappeenranta, and we made a note in our planners to call her the next day. As we walked down unfamiliar streets after our appointments, we stopped the only persond around as she walked her dog and asked for directions to the nearest bus stop. I'm not even sure how we got on the topic (maybe asking how her English was so good?), but she mentioned how she'd lived in Canada for a while, and was actually already pretty familiar with our church. We took her phone number, and found that it was already in our phone! You've likely deduced by now that yes, we inadvertently contacted our referral on the street! We sent her some texts, inviting her to YSA activities, with no response for a couple of weeks. We then decided to give her one last shot and just straight-up ask her when we could come by to talk about the Book of Mormon. She texted back with a time, as well as her adress, and our lesson last Wednesday was one of the most spiritually satisfying lessons I've taught in the field. It was very brief, but powerful, and we look forward to meeting with Diana again later this week.
Preach My Gospel this week has reminded me of the importance of being direct and sincere, while still showing love. We've focused on that a lot as a companionship, even re-checking the text messages we send out to make sure the people we work with know that we have an important purpose, and that it's based on love for them and for the Savior. It makes a big difference when people know that you're not just there to chat or be buddies, but that your purpose is to help them progress and make and keep sacred covenants with Heavenly Father. It also makes a big difference to let them know how sincerely and deeply you care for them and what happens in their lives. The two things are interconnected. We invite them to progress and become better people because of love, and our bonds of friendship deepen as a result.
Who can you invite to progress towards baptism and the ordinances of the temple? I'm not just throwing this out there to be missionary girl in a faraway land. Take time to pray sincerely to know who is ready, then get in contact with your local missionaries and put together a plan to help bring this person to their Heavenly Father. We learned this week that 100% of the baptisms in the Helsinki zone this year have been from member referrals, and it's not a coincidence.
I love being a missionary!


Sisar Hansen

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