We've had a great week of teaching, planning, and of course, occasionally getting lost. We've done a lot of service for those we love, which has been an especially rewarding aspect of my missionary service. We have a friend, Keith, who is rather fond of Pepsi. We noticed that he had quite a collection of empty bottles piled up at his house, and asked if we could take them in to be recycled for him. He gave us 3 large bags full of empty bottles for us to do with what we would. During our conversation with him that evening, he, as always, waxed philosophical about an array of topics, including helping the poor. "I life a life of relative luxury" he said, "Many people do not have what I have. I sometimes go to the store and feel bad for spending 2 euros on chips, when 200 euros can save a person's life in another country. But I really want the chips!" We walked out of that lesson, bulging bags in arms, wondering how we would spend the spoils of our bottle return. The next day, our prayers on this topic were answered, as another friend of ours humbly stated that although he enjoys church, he read in the Restoration pamphlet that men wear button-up shirts and ties, and that he feels a little out of place in his tshirt and jeans. I wrote a quick note down in my planner about the first thought that came to my head, and I was glad to hear that Sisar Schellenberg was on the same wavelength. After hauling all the empty Pepsi bottles to the mall and turning in the receipt for cash, we headed off to a nearby Kirpis and within a few minutes, found a light-blue button-up shirt that looked to be just his size. We commandeered a couple of ties from the elders, added a warm cap and some herbal tea (his throat had been sore last week) and wrapped it up in some makeshift wrapping paper, with a "Onnellista Isänpäivää" note, just in time for Finnish father's day. The look on (Tony's) face when we gave him our package at the door made everything worth it. We're excited to tell Keith about how we spent the bottle money (and give him a bag of chips we bought with the left-overs) and to continue to work with Tony along his journey towards baptism (hopefully on the 20th of December!)
We have another investigator who is on vacation for a week or so. Wanting to let her know how much we care, even though we haven't met with her much, we wrote her a note and set out one night to drop it into her door's mail slot. Our bus wasn't coming for a while, but another bus soon arrived, which would take us fairly close to our desired destination. Sometimes, fairly close isn't close enough at all, and we were lost for 3 hours or so, wandering around the wintery darkness of Vantaa, trying to find any recognizable sign of her area. Long story short, we were blessed to find people to chat with along the way, and we delivered the mail just in time to arrive home at curfew. This was the second time this week that we were hopelessly lost, but we are now very good at finding our way back, should we venture too far out in the Elielinaukio direction.
This week was a blast from the past in a couple different ways. We had splits with the sister training leaders, and I was able to chat with Sisar Nielsen about her recent exchange in Lappeenranta. I'd heard from Joy that there had been three baptisms a couple weeks past, and at first I wondered whose children had possibly turned 8. I couldn't think of anyone, but how could there have been so many convert baptism in such a short amount of time? Sisar Nielsen confirmed one of my guesses, a young girl Sisar N and I had begun teaching together. I got emotional when she told me about the other two. The husband of one of the sisaret from the ward had long investigated the church, even posted church links on his facebook page and invited others to learn more, but never been baptized. While we visited them, we boldly asked him how we could help him prepare for baptism, and eventually, the temple. He finally decided to take the leap of faith and was baptized! I teared up, knowing how much this means to his wife and to their lives together. Now they can prepare to go to the temple as a family to perform more ordinances there. I was again thrilled to hear that the woman's daughter has a boyfriend who accepted everything the sisaret taught, and was eagerly baptized. How wonderful to hear about the work going forward in a beloved area, with beloved people! Even though I'm sad to not have been able to attend, I am overjoyed to have been a part of these peoples' lives for a small moment.
I was also pleasantly surprised to receive a large envelope in the mail the other day. When I looked at the return address and the stamp labeled, "La Suisse" I excitedly opened the package to see a bundle of letters written to me by Geneva stake young women. A few weeks ago there seemed to have been a mini-MTC activity, and some of my favorite youth from my old ward wrote me letters. Some of them expressed doubt as to whether or not I would remember them. OF COURSE I remember! How could I forget? The best experiences I had in France were often related to my church service there. I'm excited to write replies (in my somewhat rusty French) expressing my love and appreciation, and encouraging these young people to be strong disciples of the Lord and to prepare for a lifetime of missionary service, with or without a name tag. (My toveri, who has visited family members in Switzerland, also enjoyed sharing some of her favorite Swiss chocolate.)
Each day I've been given opportunities to see how far I've come on my mission. It's an enormous blessing, and testifies to me of my Savior's love for me, and the effects of His Atonement. I've long felt that giving service has been a weak spot in my gospel activities, and looking back at this week, we've spent much of our time between appointments serving those around us. When did the Lord help me turn this weakness into a strength? I never perceived it happening, and yet now it's a cherished activity to bring a treat to someone in need, or deliver a surprise Father's Day bundle. I recently read over a page in Preach My Gospel (what have you learned from this inspired manual lately, by the way?) which had absolutely no markings, and covered it with insights and highlights. I've just finished the dreaded Isaiah chapters in my Book of Mormon reading, feeling that I've understood them much better than I ever have. My journey into the Book of Revelations has similarly been extra insightful. I want to testify that these things are possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, who gives us abilities beyond what we can manage on our own. He magnifies what we cannot see, lifts what we cannot lift, and inspires our minds to do the will of the Father. It comes with faith and diligence, but to those who seek, the unparalleled power of the Lord is offered all because Heavenly Father loves us that much. What a joy it is to learn and grow in the service of others, and ultimately, the Lord!
This church is true. I feel the power of the gospel every day in my life as I try to serve the Lord to my best ability. May you feel similarly as you take time to examine yourselves and see how the Lord has "(made) weak things strong" (Ether 12:27).