Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the history of Sisar Hansen's mission, I present to you, a BAPTISMAL DATE! Now, I'm not the type to count chickens before they hatch, and this doesn't guarantee a baptism in Lappeenranta, but our good friend Dave has agreed to be baptized in July, provided he gets a solid answer by then. He is very sincere, and has a lot of questions and concerns that would only come from somebody who was really searching for the truth. He unloaded on us a bit in our last lesson, and I laughed a little bit, because he didn't realize that every single member of the church has had his same thoughts or feelings at some point. He's changed a lot in the short time we've met with him- in our last lesson alone he went from, "Why do people need all these little rituals to get into heaven?" to "I have a birthday party tomorrow, but I really want to come to church next week." in less than an hour. It was a very strong lesson, and I felt solid trust in my companion that whatever came from her mouth would be exactly what we needed, and she felt the same! It was our first time working with the member who came along, and she's a natural. Everybody said the right thing at the right time, and the Spirit was almost palpable.
As for the afore-mentioned birthday party, well, Dave will be attending because he is a professional magician!! After our lesson he asked if we'd like to see a couple of tricks, and he's quite good. He has a few that I've never seen before. One of the fun parts of serving a mission is the chance to meet a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, and with different talents. I'm learning to love every type of person on a deeper level than I thought I could. I'm learning to desire the best for everybody I meet. Even when peoples' behavior annoys me or is outright rude or unkind, I'm much more slow to criticize, and quicker to look for the good. Not to say that I'm anywhere near perfect at it, but there's been a definite noticeable change.
Speaking of loving the people you serve (and serve with), I got a letter from the oh-so-wonderful Sisar Dayton this week! She gave me some of the latest news from Lahti, and my favorite part, the part that made my hear melt- Hank got an answer!! He said he'd been praying a lot, and asked Heavenly Father to show him a sign that this church is true. Well, he went to the library and found a book on religions in Finland. He opened up the book, and the first page he saw was all about Myöhempien Aikojen Phyien Jeesuksen Kristuksen Kirkko! Then he ran into the elders, and had a really good feeling about it all. He still has a church attendance hurdle to get over before he can be baptized, but I don't think I've ever seen somebody progress on my mission the way that he has. Hank is not somebody I ever would have met if it weren't for my mission, and I'm thankful every day that he's been a part of it. This church brings people together in ways that nothing else can.
Another person I might never have met is my new best friend, Brigitte, aka the recent convert in our ward who gives us waaaaaaaaaaaay too much pulla every week. I've started making a game of seeing how often I can make her laugh. It gets downright ridiculous at times. "I know you sisters don't like fish, but fish likes you!" "How do YOU know? Do you TALK to them?" "Yes, I do!" Aaaaaaand, cue uncontrolable giggle fits from an adorable little old lady. Sisar Heggie and I want to make sure we have strong relationships with the members in our ward so they can trust us to teach their friends. A perk to that is that these members become our close friends.
This has been a highlight week. We taught a lot of lessons, prayed more fervently than we possibly ever have on a daily basis, and saw some miraculous results. Yesterday we went in search of a less-active member, and we walked past a young man sitting outside, listening to music. We went up and talked to him, and he told us he knows we're the Mormons, because he's a member! Uh.....WHAT??! Turns out, he hasn't been to church in years because he has severe sensitivities to dyes and perfumes. His name is on our ward list, but with no adress or phone number, so it was a miracle that we were able to find him and set up a time to come back and share a lesson with him later this week. I feel like my faith has finally decided to show up, and I've seen more miracles every day as the result. Like it teaches in "Preach My Gospel" (which we are all reading on a regular basis, I'm sure....hint, hint, guilt, guilt....) find people to teach starts with faith. There's a reason they call it a "leap of faith", because it is a risk, but God is in control, and He makes sure that His servants have solid ground to land on.
I love being a missionary! The longer I'm out, the more I can see the long-run miracles that I've been blessed to be a part of, and I'm thankful every day to have the opportunity to serve in a country as wonderful as Finland.