My last full week in Finland went by all too fast. We had a lot of cancellations, which meant awkward holes in our schedule. It was a bit of a challenge to plan things out effectively, and it led to a bit of stress for the two of us Haaga sisars. It's amazing, though, how much the Lord takes care of us when we do His work in His way. We strove for obedience, and always tried to use our time wisely, even when nothing particularly good seemed to present itself as a possible plan. We just kept going forward until we found something, as tedious or stressful as that may be. We weren't sure how we would find new people, or fill in our time, but somehow it always worked out.
Change calls were a bit odd. I felt a bit detached as President informed Sisar Mendenhall of her new companion joining her in Haaga next transfer. Odd to know that I won't be moving to a new area or getting a new companion. My replacement has been in the field for a grand total of TWO transfers, which means that she is quite recently out of training, herself. This is a huge indicator of trust from our mission president, and from the Lord. I'm convinced, of course, that Tovereni will do a loistava job of helping a new sister get to know the area, but I can understand any nervousness on her part. A huge blessing for us has been that we've been able to arrange meetings for every day this week, which is incredibly nice during a time of transition. We've even booked some surprise appointments with a recently-returned-from-a-long-trip recent convert, and with an older less active woman who has been feeling too ill to visit for quite some time. It was very humbling to get her phone call this morning, after feeling blank to ideas in last night's planning session. We do the work the best we know how, and the Lord reminds us that we are in His hands. It takes more patience and faith than my natural man wants to put up with, but when I can remind myself of who really leads this work, all of the annoyances, irritations, and worries of missionary life melt away, and although I don't have a complete picture of what's to come, I know whose hand is holding the pen.
My last Sunday Suomessa was a good one. We had a knock-out correlation meeting with our ward mission leader (the best in Finland) and our new assistant ward mission leader (he's dynamite!) We talked about how we can best use the large pool of members in the ward to help with the work, and to get more lessons per week. During fast and testimony meeting, I was able to bear my testimony of the ways that I've been able to learn about the Savior on my mission. Sitting in the congregation was a woman from Oulu, down south to visit! She heard me testify in broken Finnish on my first Sunday in the field, and was there to give me a big smile and a hug on my last Sunday. The chapel was full, and it was a very energetic testimony meeting in Haaga. Our assistant ward mission leader bore a powerful testimony of how giving away a Book of Mormon was a poignantly spiritual experience for him. There were quite a few members who testified of missionary work. We felt so good to know that we were making a difference with the members, while we've sometimes struggled to find new investigators to teach.
I was given hugs, well wishes for safe travels (and a good husband from about 1/3 of all well-wishers- it's already started!) from lots of ward members, and I even added a couple pounds of chocolate weight to my luggage. I hope I've been able to adequately express my love to these people who help us in our work and who have become dear friends during my short time in Haaga. Photos were taken, goodbyes said, and we had a productive day of studying, planning, and door-ditching cookies at members' houses. Next Sunday I will of course attend the Port Angeles 1st ward, where I grew up. I look forward to seeing how it's changed and grown since my departure to the MTC. I'll miss the Haaga ward, and no doubt struggle at the thought of singing hymns in English.
And so begin my final four days as a full-time missionary. I've got two days left in Haaga, after which I'll spend a night in the Neitsytpolku sisters' apartment in downtown Helsinki, and then on to the mission office, the temple, the mission home, etc on Wednesday before heading out bright and early (or dark and early, since the sun still takes its time this time of year) on Thursday. I've spent a lot of time planning, praying, studying, and setting goals for my post-mission life, so as not to lose what I've gained here, as too many returned missionaries are prone to do. I'm confident in them, and in my ability to keep going on the good path, although I can't say much about the specifics of what actually awaits me back in the States. I do feel certain that this is the Lord's plan and His timing, and that as I try to stay active, study the scriptures daily, and serve others post-mission, I will always feel peace, knowing that I am safely in His hands.
How have the past 18 months been for me? Incredible. Difficult. Trying. Assuring. Refreshing. Motivating. Uplifting. Heartbreaking. Fatiguing. Humbling. So-awesome-there's-no-accurate-description-available. Take your pick.
I want to express my love for all you who have read my blogs, prayed for me, sent me a letter or an email or a card, thought of me, anything, while I've been on my mission. May we all have the opportunity to reflect on what goals can be set, and plans made so that we can assure for ourselves the guidance and protection of the Lord's Almighty Hand in our lives. May the progress we make today carry on to tomorrow, and so on and so forth. That's what it's all about, really. Onward and upward.