Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 5th

Terve!

So good to hear from you all, and I got your Christmas package this week! Mom, you were right in assuming that Thanksgiving is a North American holiday-- the families that we spent thanksgiving with had some sort of connection to America.

This last week was really really great! Yes, the daylight hours are getting increasingly shorter and the days are getting colder-- but it's actually been surprisingly warmer than I thought it would be. Heavenly Father has definitely been merciful with my first winter in Finland! The first snowfall finally came last night-- but it's honestly about what we experience in Texas. Right now it's just a very thin layer, and it's more ice than anything else. I'm so surprised that it's taken this long! I came here expecting snow in October! But I'm actually excited for the snow to come now. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas :)

So many good things happened this last week. First of all, our investigator from Albania is doing really well! Our teach with her last week was probably the best one we have had with her so far. She spoke of how much peace she feels when she meets with us and how different it feels from anything the world has to offer. She understands that her decision to get baptized will be a life-changing one, but it's sounding more and more like something she wants to do. She came to church yesterday and really enjoyed it! It was fast and testimony meeting, and she really liked how everyone spoke from their heart. She is a really neat lady, and it has been such a blessing to teach her.

Then we had district meeting in Lahti. District meetings are always really great. The theme of this one seemed to be not getting discouraged, which was really good for me to hear. It is a lot easier to get discouraged as a missionary than I realized it would be, so it's always good to step back and look at all of the miracles that I've witnessed and realize that the Lord is with me.

"...let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

It's so important to remember that I'm not in this alone--that we all are never alone-- and that once we've done our best, we really can just leave the rest in the Lord's hands.

Then on Saturday, I had my first ever splits! It was so much fun! The sisters from Turku-- Sisar Crowther ja Sisar Shreeve-- came here to Tampere for the day. It was a great learning experience working with other missionaries and seeing how they do things. Another highlight from a really great week :)

Before I go, I also wanted to tell you of a Brian Regan experience I had yesterday. As we were leaving our investigator's apartment after one of our teaches, they said goodbye and safe travels, to which I replied "kiitos, samoin!" which is the equivalent of "thanks, you too!" I laughed so hard.

I love you all! Thanks for your continued support.

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

November 28th - 6 Months

Terve!

Family, can I just say how much I love you? My letters home once a week don't seem to do it justice. Just know that I love you all, very very much. It just makes me happy to hear from you all every week and hear what everyone is up to. I'm so glad you all had a fun thanksgiving. I can just imagine Tyler and Arianna hanging out together. (and that picture of Adam is so cute! haha.)

We were really blessed to spend thanksgiving with a family here in Tampere-- and probably 20 or so of their close friends and family as well. It was a lot of fun. The food was delicious, everyone went around the table and said what they were grateful for, we shared a message about gratitude and then everyone sang while I played the piano. Then the next day we had a lunch appointment with another lady in our ward-- and she surprised us with a thanksgiving meal as well! We are definitely well taken care of here.

The highlight of my week was probably the teach that we had with our investigator who is originally from Albania. We read from the Book of Mormon with her-- we read from our Finnish copies while she read along in Albanian. She spoke with us about how she grew up in Albania where religion was forbidden. She told us of the first time she ever read from the bible and a bunch of other neat experiences that have helped to build her testimony of God. Our member who came along with us told her that Heavenly Father is mindful of her, and because he knew that she was searching for truth, sent the missionaries to her. Yes!!! I love it when members just say the right thing at the right time. Our investigator prayed for the first time with us, and it was a really beautiful prayer. Our member told her that her prayer was "täydellinen" (perfect), to which our investigator replied that it "just came" to her. One of those experiences that makes me grateful to be a missionary.

Mom, thanks for sharing those quotes from President Uchtdorf. While I love all talks from general conference, his talks have always had a special place in my heart and always seem to speak to me more than anyone elses. I was reading one of his talks recently in personal study called "Continue in Patience." Here was a quote from it that really stuck out to me:

"As the Lord is patient with us, let us be patient with those we serve. Understand that they, like us, are imperfect. They, like us, make mistakes. They, like us, want others to give them the benefit of the doubt."

That's actually something that I've come to learn as a missionary. I have felt of the Lord's patience with me, for which I am so grateful. And I am constantly reminded that I am imperfect, I have been called to serve with imperfect people and to teach imperfect people. But the gospel message which we share is perfect! I am so grateful to have it in my life.

I love you all!

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

November 21st

Terve!


Sounds like everyone has an exciting thanksgiving weekend ahead of them! We too will be celebrating with a family in our ward-- the husband is an American, and they have the missionaries over for thanksgiving dinner every year. We're excited about that! Maddy, you look absolutely adorable in your pictures! I hope you had a blast! I always loved performing in musicals. SO jealous that Boyd did Phantom of the Opera-- I think that or Wicked would be my top two musicals that I would want to perform in.

This last week was pretty good. It's finally gotten down to freezing temperatures, but still no snow! We had some great teaches this week, and we got two new investigators! We also had a really great district meeting here in Tampere with President and Sister Rawlings. We were well fed (both temporally and spiritually), as we always are. The highlight of the week for me was probably stake conference on sunday. I was a little out of my element-- we met in this really nice, big building and there were so many people there! It's been so long since I've been around that many Mormons. But it was a really nice meeting, and such a blessing that I could understand what all of the speakers were saying. It's a big contrast from my first few weeks in the country! Sister Rawlings grabbed me after the conference and said there was someone she wanted me to meet-- apparently there's a Texan in our stake! She was a really nice lady from San Antonio who is getting her PhD in Finland. Small world! I also met another lady who is married to a Finn who served his mission in Dallas a few years ago.

In closing, I want to share a thought that President Rawlings shared with us in district meeting this week. First, here's a quote that I found this week in the book Daughters in my Kingdom:
"The cultivation of Christlike qualities is a demanding and relentless task--it is not for the seasonal worker or for those who will not stretch themselves, again & again" --Spencer W. Kimball.
I really liked that quote because it is so true, and it's important to remember that our pursuit to become more Christlike won't be easy, just as Christ's life wasn't easy. But in district meeting, President Rawlings taught that we aren't alone in our pursuit to come unto Christ. Christ 's atonement covers sins and pains, but it also strengthens and sanctifies us. He taught us from the context of teaching this concept to our investigators when approaching baptism, but the same applies to all of us as we continually strive to come unto the Savior.

I love you all, have a GREAT thanksgiving week!

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14th

Terve! Ja Hyvä Isän Päivä! (Yesterday was Father's Day in Finland.)

Yesterday was also the Primary Sacrament meeting. It was really cute. So mom and dad were at a fireside for prospective senior missionaries? You must be getting old. :) Just kidding, but that is so great that you have a mission in your plans. Oh, and another thing: I had (yet another) dream that Tyler got his mission call, only this time it was to Hawaii.

Anyways, a lot of really great things happened this week. A lot of really not-so-great things happened as well, but I think that the greatest lesson I learned from it all this week is "Come what may and love it!"There is so much about our situations or what happens to us that we can't change, but we can be happy regardless of our circumstances. One absolutely amazing, miraculous thing that happened this past week was a few days ago when we were following up with a potential investigator. We knocked on her door and she let us in, but apologetically said that she had forgotten about our appointment and was busy setting up for a birthday party with her friend. I told her we could set up another time to come back and I decided to poke my head in the kitchen and say hi to the friend. I couldn't believe my eyes! Her friend was none other than the mom of the Angolan family we had taught! It was such a tender mercy because it has been over a month now since I've seen her. We were so excited to see each other, and I asked her if they've been able to talk to her husband's dad at all yet, and she said no, but that he had promised to call them that day. So, I'm still not 100% sure of everything that has happened there, but we continue to pray for them every day. That was probably the highlight of my week.

We also had a really great teach with one of our investigators where we taught the plan of salvation and emphasized the importance of this life and repenting of our sins. She started to cry and said how she's never felt this way before in her life, but shortly before she started meeting with the missionaries, she felt a need to receive forgiveness from God. It was really powerful. After the teach she really wanted to feed us, and so we had this Greek food called Halva (I think?) It was really interesting, but it meant a lot to me that she did that for us. She is such a neat lady!

Well family, I love you! What are everyone's plans for thanksgiving?

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

November 7th

Terve!

Thanks for the pictures! Everyone looks so great, and congrats to Mallory! Sounds like you had a great trip to California. Things finally seem to be getting settled back in here in Tampere. This last week was a little crazy with all of the changes that were taking place. Tuesday consisted of nothing but driving to and from the train station: dropping off Sisar Herde in the morning, picking up Sisar McBride from Jyväskylä and Sisar Merkley from Helsinki (they were my companions for the day before they headed to Jyvaskylä the following morning); dropping off the old zone leaders and all of their luggage, picking up the new zone leaders and all of their luggage and then finally picking up my new companion Sisar Brailsford at night! I was glad when the day was over!

Sisar Brailsford is really great; still getting adjusted to the new city, but I'm really excited for this new transfer we have together. She is from Pleasant Grove, UT. I also learned this week that she is afraid of dogs. We were out tracting one night and a big dog came up to the door and she just started backing away, so I had to jump in front of her and do the door contact. It was really funny (probably not to her, but she said she was glad to have a companion who wasn't afraid of dogs.) Sisar Herde is now back home in Utah, which is so so weird to think about. Tampere almost feels like a different place with a new set of missionaries here, I don't really know how to describe it. It's just weird because the places and all of the ward members are still the same, but it still just feels different with different missionaries here.

Anyways, the new transfer has gotten off to a really great start. We currently have 3 investigators that are progressing really well. I've also noticed this week that my understanding has increased a lot. It is seriously the best feeling to have a conversation with someone in Finnish! I still can't understand everything, and it can be frustrating sometimes, but the Lord really does help his missionaries! I also have to remind myself that I still have time to learn. Growth is such an interesting thing. We all want to grow in some capacity-- be it our language ability, our faith, our knowledge or whatever-- but rarely do we want to put in all the time and effort that it takes to get there. I know that's how it is for me at least. I've learned a lot about growth as a missionary-- and I know that I still have a lot more to learn about it. There's a really great quote from last April's conference-- I think it was Elder Johnson, but I'm not sure. Anyways, he said:

"Sometimes we want to have growth without challenges and to develop strength without any struggle. But growth cannot come by taking the easy way. We clearly understand that an athlete who resists rigorous training will never become a world-class athlete. We must be careful that we don't resent the very things that help us put on the divine nature."

I love that quote! It really helps me to keep things in perspective when I ask myself "Why is this so hard?"

I love you all, and I hope you all have a great week!

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween

Happy Halloween!

No, they don't celebrate halloween in Finland, but we celebrated among ourselves as missionaries at our district meeting this week. Our district meeting was in Lahti, and beforehand we ate out at Harald's, which is a really fun, viking-themed restaurant (see attached picture :)). This last week was really good. Pretty emotional, with all of the changes that will soon be taking place, but a good week nonetheless!

So, speaking of changes, Sisar Herde will be leaving me tomorrow morning :( Our ward sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" to her in sacrament meeting and we both bawled like babies. Sad, but inevitable. We serve here in Tampere with the Zone Leaders-- Elders Lytle and Esplin. Elder Lytle will be going home with Sisar Herde, and Elder Esplin is leaving to go train a new missionary in Jyväskylä, which leaves me as the only person in Tampere who knows where everything is, the members here, etc. So, I'm sad to see them go as well, but I'm also excited for the new change. The new zone leaders here will be Elders Clegg and Manwaring-- Elder Manwaring was in my MTC district! And my new companion is going to be Sisar Brailsford, who Sisar Herde trained in Oulu right before she trained me! It's kind of fun that now Sisar Herde's two babies are going to be serving together. I have heard nothing but good things about Sisar Brailsford from Sisar Herde, and Sisar Herde thinks we will get along really well together. So tomorrow is going to be really crazy with a lot of comings and goings at the train station, but i have no doubt that once we all get settled in, it will be an exciting transfer ahead of us!

We were able to teach the family that we raked leaves for last night-- and the wife is now an investigator! She seemed a little hesitant, but she was open to it, and I think her husband really wants to see it happen for their family. They have 3 adorable little kids who have already warmed up to us. Being with them is a lot of fun. It's so funny (and a little discouraging) to hear little kids speaking Finnish. I feel like their little 2-year old speaks better than I do! Haha. She certainly understands better than I do; understanding has been the hardest thing for me, but it has improved drastically in the past 3 months.

Anyways, I love you family! Te olette mahtavia!! I haven't counted how many hours of sunlight we have, but daylight savings ending certainly didn't help things-- it was dark before 6 last night! So excited for the winter! (and it still hasn't snowed yet.)

Rakkauddella,

Sisar Shaw

October 24

Terve!
 
So good to hear from you all as usual. Yes, it is super weird to think that Adam Buys and Bill Kemsley both have their mission calls-- but congrats to them and I know they will be great missionaries! Maddy, thanks for being so thoughtful as to send me a package :) That should be sent to the mission office, yes. Letters can be sent to either the mission office or to our apartment in Tampere, but I would suggest sending them to the office-- that way they get forwarded to me if I ever get transferred or something. (and on the subject of packages-- I've been missing my Jericho Road CD that I got for christmas-- so if you want to send that to me, it would be appreciated. But if not, that's okay too :))
 
What an exciting event you all had on Saturday! It really is such a beautiful thing to see someone accept the restored gospel of Christ and enter the waters of baptism. Shirley sounds like a really special lady :) Needless to say, we were very dissappointed that our convert baptism didn't happen on Saturday. This past week has been rather difficult. One particular day we were feeling especially discouraged, ate some chocolate ice cream and asked ourselves "what can we do to get out of this rut?" Quite frankly, we didn't know the answer (or at least recognize it right away) but we knew we needed to get to work. We went out that evening to go visit a family in the ward-- the Dad is less active and the Mom isn't a member-- and we could not have planned it better. We got there and the grandma was out in the yard playing with the kids, and I asked if their parents were home. The parents came out a few minutes later and we asked when we could come back and visit with them, and they agreed that we could come back next Thursday. We then asked if we could help them out at all, and as it turns out they were about to rake their yard. They asked if we were busy and we jumped at the opportunity! It was the best way we could have spent our evening. I know it sounds cliche, but it really is so true that when you lose yourself in the service of others, you really are just happy! Sisar Herde and I left their house that night just beaming. We are praying that the mom becomes an investigator!
 
We talked with our mission president this week about our disappointment, and he told us that he has been praying for our Angolan family, and although he didn't know how, he just felt like things were going to work out. I really wanted to trust him, but I didn't see how it would be possible. He encouraged us to have our district pray for them-- we asked our entire zone to do so :) I've been praying for them every night, but I always seem to add the disclaimer "I just don't know how it's possible, Heavenly Father!" Well, shame on me. I learned a powerful lesson this week. We learn in Matthew 19:26 "with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." I may not be able to see things clearly with my limited vision, but that's why it is so important to develop faith and trust in the Lord. It's hard, but it's important. We received some news on Sunday that lifted a huge weight off my chest and gave me hope that things really will work out. Although they have not responded to our attempts to contact them, our Angolan family has spoken with the Bishop and apparently in their culture, what the patriarch of the family says goes, and he said that they couldn't get baptized, and from what we can piece together, he probably forbid them from meeting or talking with us as well. This family is going to their Dad's soon to have a big family-council type thing to discuss the matter and they asked that the ward pray for them. They know it's true. They know it's true! It felt so good to hear that. So we will continue to pray that the dad's heart will be softened-- the situation sounds a lot like King Lamoni's father in the Book of Mormon. While we still don't know how things will all work out, I have such hope that it will happen for this family. I don't know when, but I am sure that it will.
 
Indeed, it has been getting colder and colder and darker and darker-- I'll have to send you a picture soon of me in my Finnish winter gear! Still hasn't snowed yet, but I have a feeling it will happen any day now. I'm really okay with the fact that the snow seems to be taking its time :) On a sad note, my trainer will be going home in a week. I feel like we have been through so much together these past two changes-- we've laughed together, cried together and grown so much together. She will be missed! By this time next week, I will know who my new companion is! Time is just flying by here. My 6-month mark is fast approaching. Can you believe it?
 
Well, I love you all! Trust in the Lord and make it a great week!
 
Rakkaudella,
 
Sisar Shaw

October 17

Dear Family,

Thanks for your uplifting letter. I definitely needed to be reminded that it's better to look up. We experienced some of the highest highs but also some of the lowest lows of my mission in this past week.

I'll start with the highs. We had three teaches with our Angolan family this week, and they all went really really well. We taught them the Word of Wisdom on Monday, and they were both committed to living it (the wife said that she already was!) We taught them about the law of tithing on tuesday, and they really surprised us by saying that they actually already had a tithing slip, and were wondering when we were going to teach it to them. They felt like it was their "velvollisuus" (duty, responsibility, or obligation) to God to pay tithing. Then on Wednesday we watched the movie "The Restoration" with them, and we could all feel the spirit strongly. After watching the movie, they expressed to us that they felt the spirit strongly and that it felt so right, and they were excited to show the movie to their friends! These teaches we had with them were such incredible experiences.

Towards the end of the week, however, Sisar Herde and I were starting to feel like something wasn't right. Our fears were unfortunately confirmed on Sunday. Our investigators did not show up at church, and we left right after sacrament meeting with a recent convert to go talk to them and encourage them to go forward with their decision to get baptized. Their friend answered the door and said that they weren't home. We asked when they would be home, and she said that she didn't know. Their car was parked outside, and they texted us right after we left their apartment, which led us to believe that they were hiding from us. In the text they said that they had spoken with their father and he said that they couldn't get baptized, so they cancelled their baptism. It was a really weird experience, and needless to say, it was really sad. We had seen this family progress and seen the gospel start to change their lives. Of course we don't know the whole situation, but that's probably why it's so hard. It's been pretty discouraging, but Sisar Herde and I are resolved to work hard over the next couple weeks (her last couple weeks in the country!) and trust that it is all in the Lord's hands.

To answer some of your questions, it has actually not snowed in Finland yet (or at least here in Tampere.) Weird to think that it already has in Provo! I've been doing pretty well with the language. Granted, it's still difficult, but I had a couple of cool experiences this last week. After I had offered a prayer, a member told me that my R's were "exceptional." It felt good to hear, because when i first started learning Finnish, I didn't think I would ever learn to roll my R's! And then I was having a conversation with another member in church yesterday, and well, that was just it. I had never been able to have a conversation with her before because I could never understand what she was saying, and after a few minutes of talking to her yesterday, I just thought "Hey, wait a minute, I'm actually understanding her!" Always a good feeling. I've still got a ways to go before I'm where I want to be with the language, but I have to remind myself that I've only been in the country for two months, and the Lord really has blessed me to learn this language.

Thank you for the pictures, and thank you for your wonderful examples. Keep doing what's right and following the spirit. The influence of the spirit is real, and we must simplify and sanctify our lives so that we can be in tune with its promptings. Therein lies the challenge, but therein also lies the promise. I'm so grateful for the gospel in my life.

I love you all!

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10, 2011

Things are going really really well with our family from Angola. I'm just so uplifted every time we meet with them. It's been harder to meet with them because they're both really busy, and there's hardly any time when they're home together. They didn't come to church yesterday, and it was the first time they hadn't come since we started teaching them. We called them to see if they were coming, and the mom said she was sick. We were way bummed because we were planning on teaching them during the sunday school hour since we weren't really able to teach them last week. So, we drove out to their house and dropped off a dessert that we had made. If nothing else, it was just really good to see them, and we were able to set up a teach with them for tonight! They are seriously the coolest. When we set up the teach the dad said that they really wanted to learn more and hear what they missed at church! Things are still looking good for their baptism on the 22nd!

We had a couple other pretty cool experiences this week. We've had this investigator, I'll call her Marja, who we've been teaching since we got here and a couple weeks ago we had a teach with her where she basically told us that she didn't want to waste our time anymore because she doesn't want to get baptized. We were pretty sad about that, but things honestly ended about as well as they could have. Then, Sister Herde and I were invited to the Zone Leader/District Leader meeting in Helsinki this week and I was talking with one of the elders who is serving in Helsinki right now and he said "Hey, I heard you're teaching Marja right now!" (Marja's mom is a recent convert in Helsinki, so that's probably how he found out.) I kind of smiled and said "Well, not anymore, she dropped us last week." He looked really surprised and said that he had heard that Marja and her little sister were planning on going to general conference, but Marja fell and hit her head and ended up in the hospital! We were really worried about her, so we called her the next day to see how she was doing and she sounded a lot better. It was hard to hear her voice on the phone because we realized how much we missed her! So we made some dessert and took it over to her apartment that night. She was really excited to see us and said that she had been really wanting something sweet, but wasn't able to go to the store. She then asked us when we could meet with her this week! We were shocked to hear that, but really happy nonetheless! So we have a teach set up with her for tomorrow!

Okay, story number 3: We didn't have anything planned for Saturday which, as a missionary usually means a day full of tracting. So, we started tracting for a few hours, but nothing was happening. We took a little break to pray and we felt good about traveling across town to go check up on a potential investigator. At the bus stop, a man approached us and started talking to us before we could approach him! We talked for a little bit, got on the bus, and continued talking on the bus. He even handed us his phone number before we could ask for it! We then had to switch busses to get where we wanted to go and we started talking to a girl who was probably in her 20's. We started talking about the Book of Mormon and asked when she had time for us to explain it more. Her reply was "now." So, we gave a lesson about the Book of Mormon right there on the bus! She said that she already had a copy of the Book of Mormon, but now she really wanted to read it. By the time we got to our potential investigator's apartment, she wasn't even home, but it was just cool to see the Lord place people in our path that day.

Have a great week and remember-- it's better to look up!

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Fun Pictures

My district in front of a Finnish castle



Me, Sisar Herde and Sisar McBride infront of the Helsinki temple

A typical P-Day activity--jumping in fields, of course!

More reasons to love the Finnish fall





October 3, 2011

Terve!

It was great to hear about your adventures in Colombia and see some pictures (and yes dad, I was very proud of you for talking with the taxi drivers!) We had another great week here in Tampere. Wasn't conference awesome? We watched the Relief Society and Saturday Afternoon sessions rebroadcast in the afternoons Saturday and Sunday, but we did watch the morning sessions live (at 7 at night... and it was so dark outside! the days keep getting darker and darker.) We have yet to see the Sunday afternoon session. And actually, they showed the broadcasts in english in the institute room at the church, which was a huge blessing, BUT for whatever reason, the english broadcast wasn't working during the relief society broadcast, so I had to watch that one in Finnish. And actually, I was able to understand quite a bit. I think it's because the translators speak really clearly and use proper Finnish-- listening to native speakers at church is a lot more difficult for sure.

And our investigators came to conference!!! (The couple we are teaching who are from Angola.) They make us so happy. It's been really neat to see them and their faith grow as we've taught them-- and they've certainly helped us and our faith to grow as well. I know i share bits and pieces of their story with you in each email--and the story's still in progress, but I want to share some of the miracles we've been able to witness with them over the past several weeks. We were super excited when we first committed them to baptism, but later found out they weren't married. Our mission president called us and told us to get started with wedding papers right away because it can sometimes take months to process when they're from out of the country. So we were bummed about that, but we got them started on their wedding papers and they were happy to do so. Then we later found out that they actually had been married, but it was a tribal marriage in Angola (meaning no paperwork) so our mission president told us that they could actually get baptized before their wedding, but they still needed to get married by Finnish law. So now we are looking forward to a baptism later in October and a wedding in December!!! The family has shared with us a little bit more about their story and how they came to be interested in the church. Basically, the dad didn't like that their family wasn't going to church every week and they really wanted to find a church to go to. They were really impressed with their friend's church in Pietaarsari (and their friend was a recent convert there), so they decided to check it out. They thought "I'm sure they have a church like that here in Tampere!" They've expressed how much they enjoy coming to church, and they already fit in so well with the ward here. Recently they shared with us about how just a few days after meeting us for the first time, the dad was able to find employment. They are so good about recognizing the Lord's hand in their life. They've also shared with us about how now their little 3-year-old son reminds them they need to pray every night before they go to bed! Just today the dad was talking with us about some of the talks that he really enjoyed from conference. This family is simply amazing! They are always expressing their thanks to us, but we're often like "No, you don't understand! You are AWESOME!" As I think about this family, I think about how little work I seem to have done. They really are just prepared for this message, and it's almost like being a bystander and witnessing a miracle occur. I am always so uplifted whenever I'm around them. I just love them so much!

In other news, we had a great zone conference this week. I was able to see both of my old companions from the MTC, Sisar Christofferson and Sisar Shreeve. Love them both! We received a lot of really great direction and counsel. My mission president shared the words of Oliver Cowdery, when he spoke of how amazing the days were that he was able to spend at the feet of the prophet Joseph Smith. I feel he same way about the days I am able to spend with my mission president and his wife. They are some of the most amazing people I've ever met. I always learn so much from them. One thought that they shared that I really liked was that to become perfected in Christ means to be perfectly loving. And it's true, the most Christ-like people I know are the most loving people I know--people who just have that gift to make you feel like the most important person in the world whenever you talk to them. Those are the people I want to emulate! I'm so far from that point, but that's why the Lord has given us this life. We can look forward to a lifetime of growth!

I love you all, make it a great week!

Sisar Shaw

September 26, 2011

Terve Terve!

This last week was really great. It got off to a really slow start because Sister Herde was sick for the first couple days. I had my first experience staying inside the apartment all day with nothing to do but study! Hauska! But things started to pick up towards the end of the week. We had a great district meeting in Jyväskylä on Thursday. I always have a lot of fun and learn alot from my district, they're really great. We also had some really great teaches with our investigators this week.

Our family is continuing to progress well, and the ward continues to be really great in fellowshipping them. They're practically part of the ward already :) We taught them the law of chastity this week, which we were a little nervous to do, but they always put us at ease whenever we're with them. They're just awesome. And they want to get married! And since the ward here is AWESOME, one of the members took the intiative to get us some wedding papers before our teach. So we went to the teach with wedding papers in hand and the bishop came along too! I couldn't have planned the teach to go any better. We talked some more about their kaste (baptism) and the mom brought up her concern that she's already been baptized before, and she thought that we were only supposed to be baptized once. It turns out that the bishop is a convert, and he replied "Well, I've been baptized twice, but only once by the right authority," and  that really helped to resolve her concern. The teach was just a lot of fun as we tried to involve their little 3-year-old son too. He helped us with our "Gospel of Jesus Christ" visual aid and during the teach he sat right in between his dad and the bishop with fake reading glasses on and the Mormonin Kirja open in his lap. It was pretty adorable. After our teach the bishop stayed to help them fill out all the wedding papers. Before we left, they asked us if we were coming to church on Sunday, which  was a good sign. When I asked if they were coming too, the mom replied "of course! My skirt's  all ready!"  And then church on Sunday was really great. They were a little late, so we were worried that they weren't going to show up, but they did! It was fast and testimony meeting, and it was really great to sit next to the mom because everytime somebody said something in their testimony that she really liked,  she would nod her head.  So cool. And they stayed for all three hours of church, which they haven't done before. Sisar Herde and I taught gospel principles with them, and it was really great. Then in relief society we were sitting with the mom and we didn't have any hymn books nearby, she obviously wasn't familiar with the songs and Sister Herde and I don't know the Finnish words, but she had a really great attitude and just started putting her own words to the melody :) It made me laugh, and Sisar Herde and I followed suit. After church, they met with the bishop in his office, probably to work some more on wedding papers and stuff, but it just made me really happy that they already have a great relationship with the bishop, and that the bishop is so willing to be involved with them. I just love this family so much, and each week continues to get better! They've already made friends with some of the members in the ward, and I just leave church every week feeling happy! (Even though we attend 5 hours of church and I'm usually super hungry.)

Today we had an awesome P-day. One of the members here works at Särkäniemi, which is an amusement park right next door to our apartment, and he got us in for free! We got to go to the aquarium, plantarium and a dolphin show there. There's also this really high tower you can go up and see all of Tampere-- it's actually the highest tower in all of Scandinavia! Anyways, it was a lot of fun and I wanted to send you all pictures but I forgot to bring my camera with me to email, so you'll all just have to wait till next week!

Well, we have an exciting week ahead of us. We have a zone conference on Thursday, and then we have the amazing opportunity to listen to a prophet's voice at general conference this weekend. (fun fact-- we will actually be watching the morning sessions of conference at the exact same time! It will be 7:00 at night in Finland, however.) I always love general conference. We can feel uplifted and receive answers to questions. I'm not sure I've ever met anyone as excited about general conference as Sister Herde-- she is just like a little kid at Christmas! Which really, is how we all should be.

I love you all. Thank you for your continued support. I really am blessed with a great family :)

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19 - Week 6

Terve! (or should I say Hola?)-- ja hyvää syntymäpäivä, Kyle!

So good to hear from you all as usual. Dad, I hope you are loving every second of Colombia. I have a small glimpse of how special that experience must be for you.Finlandand its people already have a very special place in my heart!

This past week was amazing! It started out Monday night, we committed our family to baptism!!! And then we were super sad to leave them and go to Helsinki, but we kept in contact through texts and calling, and we had the elders here in Tampere teach them the Plan of Salvation while we were gone.

Our week in Helsinki was like a vacation. Every day was spent in a room filled with some of my favorite people in the world--namely President and Sister Rawlings, my companion Sisar Herde and my elders from my MTC district (and their trainers.) We were richly fed (both spiritually and temporally.) And then Sister Herde and I were really spoiled and we spent the nights in the mission home with President and Sister Rawlings which meant home-cooked meals, comfy beds, surrogate parents and morning runs by the Baltic Sea! President Rawlings and Sister Rawlings would tell us how nice it was to "have daughters again," but Sister Herde and I were the truly lucky ones. (Oh, and it turns out that I actually worked with one of the Rawlings' daughters in the CTL... small world!) At the end of the week, we all had the privilege of witnessing the baptism of a family that the AP's taught here in Helsinki. It was a beautiful experience.

By the end of the week, I knew it was going to be hard to go back to Tampere, but upon arrival Sisar Herde and I received the best "welcome back" present we could have hoped for! Our family came to church again, and the ward was amazing in really fellowshipping and welcoming them. There was a member waiting outside the church building before they came up to greet them, and another member was sitting in the chapel with seats saved for them. After sacrament meeting, several members asked the family if they would stay for "pyhä koulu" (sunday school.) They didn't end up staying, but they asked us when we could come teach them this week! There was only one day this week that seemed to work with both of our schedules, but the Dad ended up switching one of his evenings around because they really wanted us to come over twice this week. We could not ask for more golden investigators! And then, as if things could not get any better, one of the members overheard when our teaches were with them and offered to come along to one of them! Sometimes it can be a little stressful to try and find a member to come on a teach with you, so it was perfect. Before we left the church building, we talked with the Bishop and thanked him for the wonderful support from the ward. And things got even better! The parents in this family we are teaching actually aren't married to each other, so they will need to get married before they can be baptized (and they expressed a desire to get married in our church.) Anyways, the bishop offered to come along on our other teach with the family this week so that he can offer to marry them and arrange a time for the wedding! We have an exciting transfer ahead of us!!! We already have such a love for this family and a real friendship with them-- which is amazing when I think about how inadequate my language abilities are. But the language continues to get better! I can already see a difference from when I first came to the country till now! I've officially been here for a transfer! Aika rientää! (Time flies!)

I learned a lot from this past week, and I thought a lot about what I wanted to share with you in this email, and one thing that really stuck out to me was the power of language. Language is something that I've thought a lot about as I've embarked on this adventure in Finland. The scriptures speak a lot about the power of words. What we speak is what we are and if we want to be Christ-like, we should speak pretty well. James 3:2.

Well, I'm out of time, I love you all!!!

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 12 - Week 5

Terve! (ja hyvää syntymäpäivä, Steven!)

So good to hear from you all as usual. One of the elders here actually told me the result of the BYU-UT game right before I read your email, and I actually cheered to hear that Texas won-- but I would have been happy regardless of the outcome.

Well, Fall is now here in Finland. I was really grateful to enjoy about a month of really nice weather, but now starts the rain and the cold (and eventually the snow...)

This past week was actually probably the happiest I've had so far on the mission. It's just so amazing to think of all the discouragement and disappointments we face as missionaries everyday, but all it takes is one experience to turn it around and make all of the discouragment worth it. Early in the week, we received a referral from the elders in Pietasari. A recent convert there of about 2 years wanted us to go teach his friend here in Tampere. So, we went to go visit them on Thursday. We were fairly nervous beforehand, but they were actually really excited to see us and immediately told us to come into their house. They are an adorable family from Angola (Husband, wife and cute 3-year-old son.) It's been really cool for me to talk with them because since they are foreigners, Finnish is their second language as well (so they speak Finnish that i can understand!)

 Anyways, they are awesome and very receptive to our message. It turns out that the husband actually asked his friend in Pietasari to send us to him! We gave them a couple copies of the Book of Mormon-- one in Portugese (their native language) and one in Finnish and invited them to come to church on Sunday. And they did! It was an awesome day. The family got all dressed up, they followed behind Sisar Herde and I in their car so we could show them where the chapel is (oh yeah, did I tell you we have a car here? It's pretty great.) and they even brought their Book of Mormon with them! We talked with them afterwards and they really seemed to enjoy it and they even talked about coming again next week. It is unbelievable how happy this family makes me and Sisar Herde; like I said earlier, this past week I was probably the happiest I've been on my mission so far.

Here's the one down-side: Sisar Herde and I have a training meeting in Helsinki all week this week--we leave tomorrow morning and return Saturday night. We've actually been looking forward to this meeting the entire transfer, but now that it's here, the work here in Tampere is really starting to pick up--but now we don't have any time this week to meet with our investigators! As a result, we opted out of a "normal" P-day today and we have 3 teaches set up later today: one with the family I was telling you about, one with another investigator and one with a potential who hopefully becomes an investigator.

In closing, I just want to say how much I love being a missionary! I have already developed such a love for the people here in Tampere. The day I get transferred out of here will be a sad one (but hopefully that won't be for a while) I won't lie, I haven't been here for long, and I can already tell this mission will probably be the hardest thing I've ever done. But I think about how much I've already learned on my mission, all of the people I have been blessed to meet, and all of the miracles I have already witnessed, and I already can't imagine my life without a mission.

Sorry my mind is kind of all over the place right now-- so many exciting things are happening. Hopefully my email is coherent anyways. Minä rakastan teitä paljon!!!

Sisar Shaw

P.S. I finally figured out how to attach pictures using a public computer. Enjoy!

Arriving In Finland - Katie With President and Sister Rollings

Katie's apartment in Tempere

Katie And District Visiting Finnish Castle
Helsinki Finland Temple

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 5 - Week 4

Terve!

Oh, that's right, it would be labor day in the states. I've just been in a different world lately. Every once in a while I have to remind myself "I'm in Europe. I'm in Finland." WEIRD! (but so cool.) Good to hear from you all, as usual. Erica and Maddy, it sounds like you're both doing great things. Did you buy slurpees after you broke your PR? The house must seem a bit emptier with Tyler gone, but I'm sure you girls are loving having your own rooms. Maddy, it's great to hear that you're really into "gospel" songs now. I've been pretty into that too. In fact, as a missionary, it's all I listen to :) Sisar Herde and I discovered this Finnish Christian singer named Edellmann (ehh... not sure how to spell it.) Anyway, he's pretty great. Hymns in Finnish are kaunis!

Mom and Dad-- what an amazing opportunity to return to Colombia! Even in my short time here in Finland, I already hope that I can return to visit someday :) And I would love to stay with a family we helped to enter the waters of baptism--but first we have to find that family! Good to hear you received the letter and picture from President Rawlings. One of the Senior missionaries here asked if you had gotten it, and I said I didn't know. She will be happy to hear that you did :) (and if you want to scan said picture and email it to me, feel free :))

President and Sister Rawlings are two of my favorite people in the world. They are both so filled with light, and you can't help but feel happy and uplifted simply by being in their presence. This last week we had a combined Zone Conference in Helsinki where we were able to listen to them speak. Always an amazing experience. I was able to see my companion from the MTC- Sisar Christoffersen, which was really great, as well as Kyle and Tess' friend Sisar Crowther (who is Sisar Christoffersen's trainer) and a couple of the elders from my district in the MTC. It was a great experience.

On Saturday we had an amazing teach with one of our investigators. We've been struggling with her for a while, wondering how we can teach to her needs. At times it didn't seem like she was progressing, but she's always been willing to continue to meet with us. We've prayed and fasted to know what to do, that her heart would soften and I feel that we may have received our answer. Our investigator asked if it was alright if her mom came to the teach because she was in town. Her mom is a recent convert who lives in Helsinki. Of course we said yes. It was the best thing that could have happened. Having her mom there was a huge blessing, and they both came to church on Sunday! (Which was fast and testimony meeting, and yes, I bore my testimony in Finnish :)) Just before coming to the library to email you guys, we saw our investigator walking down the street, so we hopped off the bus and ran to catch up with her. We walked her to her apartment and talked for a little bit. She was very excited to see us and she asked us when we could meet with her this week! We love her so much, she is a huge blessing to us.

Well, I love you all. I look forward to hearing from you all again next week and telling you more about our exciting adventures as the Lord's servants here in Tampere.

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Saturday, September 3, 2011

August 29 - Week 3

Terve!

This past week flew by. I can't believe it's P-day again! Hearing from you all was so wonderful. Tyler-- I can't believe you're in college!!! It sounds like you're already having a wonderful experience. Good to hear that choir (might be?) in your plans--you'll have a blast. And, not gonna lie, super jealous that you and Kyle are going to be taking biology together--I still need to take that class! Haha. Oh well, there is no where else on earth I would rather be right now. But definitely let me know how school goes. I'm sure you'll love it.

This last week we had an amazing, humbling experience. We haven't had much success finding yet (although we certainly have hope!) and we decided to start a fast. Immediately after we started our fast, we received a call from the elders here in Tampere. They asked if we were sitting down. Long story short, there's a lady in our area who wants to get baptized and they set a date with her for September 10th! Now, to explain a little more, our first sunday here, one of the members said she had a friend who might be interested. We asked her for her number, but she was reluctant to give it, so instead she asked for ours and said her friend would call us. A week passed and nothing happened. We tried getting a hold of the member, and we didn't see her at church on Sunday--the situation didn't look super hopeful. It turns out that the member gave her friend the wrong number--so she had actually tried calling us! Luckilly, she had the elder's number as well, so she called them and they were able to meet with her. Since she is in our area, the elders are handing her over to us. Words can't describe the joy that Sisar Herde and I felt! It was definitely one of those moments that makes you so grateful to be a missionary. It was so humbling because we didn't do anything-- it really is a complete miracle. But it taught me a great lesson. Miracles come when we do what the Lord expects of us-- so it is in all aspects of our lives, and just as in the case of this story, sometimes the blessings aren't necessarily a direct result of your efforts-- but they undoubtedly come! Sisar Herde and I have been doing what the Lord expects us to do. Sometimes the blessings come after doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether or not you want to do it.

Well, we have an exciting week ahead of us. We have a combined zone conference on Friday in Helsinki, which we're very excited for! One of the greatest blessings that I have received in my short time as a missionary in Finland is my association with the other missionaries here. It is so humbling to be serving with the people I am serving with. Without exception, the missionaries here are stalwart and amazing! Humbled really is the best word to describe how I feel to be a missionary here.  I am so blessed to have this experience.

I love you all. You guys are awesome & I look forward to hearing from you all next week!

Rakkaudella,

Sisar Shaw

Monday, August 22, 2011

Week Two In Finland

Terve!

This past week went by very quickly. It was so good to hear from you all. It's so weird to think that school is starting back up again-- you were all still in school when I went to the MTC; now I've only been in Finland a couple weeks, and school's starting back up again! Time flies for sure.

Yes, you should all be very jealous that I get to enjoy such things as amazing weather and strolls to the baltic sea, but soon enough that will all change and I will be wondering how I can possibly survive the Finnish winter... definitely not looking forward to that! For now, I'm trying to enjoy the weather while I can. Tampere is a nice area,  and I can just imagine you all looking it up on google maps. You should see if the new church is there. Its address is pelleruonkatu 1.

To answer some of your questions, Sisar Herde and I are pretty much building our teaching pool from scratch. The elders here are keeping themselves busy with people to teach, and unfortunately we did not inherit any investigators from them. There is one girl here they taught a couple times that they gave to us; she apparently lived as a foreign exchange student with an LDS family in Canada and would like to be baptized-- her parents said that she needs to wait until she is 18 and everytime we try to get a hold of her, she says she is too busy. It's a little sad. But, we did get a new investigator this week, and she has been a great blessing to us. She is definitely a tender mercy from the Lord. Her name is Inga, and Sisar Herde met her while she was serving in Oulu. Inga's grandma was baptized in Oulu, and Sis. Herde met Inga while she was visiting her. She said she wasn't interested in meeting with the missionaries then, but when Sisar Herde got the call to come to Tampere, she thought to call Inga. I am so glad she did! We gave her a tour of the church on Tuesday and had another teach with her Thursday morning. She has a lot of questions, which is great. She is a genuine seeker of truth. She came to church on sunday, and the members have been great in fellowshipping her. I already care about her so much, and I can definitely see her getting baptized. Hopefully she has the same vision for herself!

Well, the highlight of this past week (besides Inga, of course) was district meeting on Thursday. It was in Hämeenlinna, which is a quaint little Finnish town (but then again, I think all Finnish towns are quaint). I think "quaint" is the right word I want to use anyways, I guess I'm not entirely sure what it means. Anyways, my district is awesome. It was a bomb meeting for sure. Afterwards, we went to the local castle. It was way cool. It made me really grateful to be serving in such a historically and culturally rich place. Pictures will hopefully follow shortly!

Well, I love you family! I am so grateful for your wonderful examples and continued support. In closing, I want to leave you with a plug for member missionary work. I never realized how important it was until I came on my mission, but I know that missionary work cannot move forward without the help of the members! There were a couple really great quotes about this in the last general conference. The first is from Elder Ballard:
"Another way we can serve Heavenly Father’s children is through missionary service—not only as full-time missionaries but also as friends and neighbors. The future growth of the Church will not happen through just knocking on strangers’ doors. It will happen when the members, along with our missionaries, filled with the love of God and Christ discern needs and respond to those needs in the spirit of charitable service.
When we do this, brothers and sisters, the honest in heart will feel our sincerity and our love. Many will want to know more about us. Then and only then will the Church expand to fill all of the earth. This cannot be accomplished by missionaries alone but requires the interest and service of every member."
And the second is from President Uchtdorf:
"There are times when the Lord reveals to us things that are intended only for us. Nevertheless, in many, many cases He entrusts a testimony of the truth to those who will share it with others. This has been the case with every prophet since the days of Adam. Even more, the Lord expects the members of His Church to “open [their mouths] at all times, declaring [His] gospel with the sound of rejoicing.
This is not always easy. Some would rather pull a handcart across the prairie than bring up the subject of faith and religion to their friends and co-workers. They worry about how they might be perceived or how it might harm their relationship. It doesn’t need to be that way because we have a glad message to share, and we have a message of joy."
We have been sharing these quotes with the members here when we meet with them, and I thought that y'all might enjoy hearing them as well. I know you are all great member missionaries, and such an example to me! If you ever have any missionary experiences, I would love to hear about them!

Love,
Sisar Shaw

Friday, August 19, 2011

Minun ensimmäinen viikko suomessa! (My First Week In Finland)

Terve!

Sorry it took me a while to email you guys. Our P-day was on Monday, but apparently you can't use the computers here unless you have a library card and I can't get a library card until I get my Finnish social security number, and I'm not sure when that's going to come... I tried using my companion's card on Monday, but it won't let you log in for more than an hour a day. Anyways, hopefully I haven't kept you all in too much suspense!

Finland is great! The first couple of days I had to keep pinching myself and reminding myself that this was for real! The weather right now is perfect, and there's all these beautiful lakes and trees everywhere. Our plane ride over here was quite an adventure. Our luggage didn't make it with us when our mission president was there to greet us at the airport. That eventually got sorted out, but we spent the first evening at the mission home where Sister Rawlings had prepared us a delicious meal. She is quite the cook, and you'll be happy to hear, mom, that she is very healthy. She fed us quinoa. Anyways, we ate and were uplifted by the words of our mission president and some of the departing missionaries. I went for a short walk with Sister Rawlings and one of the other sister missionaries to the edge of the baltic sea... it was absolutely breathtaking! I so wish I had had my camera with me so I could have taken a picture. That night we stayed with some of the sister missionaries living nearby in Haaga. President Rawlings told us to not set any alarms and just let our bodies get the rest that they needed... we were all shocked but very happy to hear that. Let me tell you, jet-lag is killer. But, I got to sleep in till about 9 and it was glorious. The next day we went to the Helsinki temple to sit on the grounds and have some time to reflect. The Helsinki temple is beautiful. Definitely my new favorite. Afterwards, we went to the mission office where we received a little orientation and everyone received their first companions and area assignments! It was really neat to see and just know that everyone was going exactly where they needed to go with exactly the right companions.

So, by this point you're probably dying to know where I am and who my companion is. Weeeellllll, I am in Tampere with Sisar Herde! It's really cool because Tampere has been closed to sisters for a while now, but I knew I really wanted to go there, so I was hoping we would eventually get enough sister missionaries so that I could. Well, it happened! Sisar Herde is great. She has only two transfers left, both of which are most likely going to be spent with me in Tampere, but we'll see. We actually both found out that we have the same major at BYU! She's really great, and we're both really excited to be here. Another really cool thing that we learned upon arrival is that the members had prayed us there. The Tampere 1st ward has seen a lot of success with the Elders here, and last week in sacrament meeting one of the members of the 2nd ward prayed that they could receive missionaries. Sisar Herde and I arrived on Wednesday. Needless to say, the members have been great and they love us already. The church building here is by far the prettiest church building I've ever seen. It's brand new, and such a blessing to the members here. I'll definitely have to send you all a picture sometime!

Life in the field is harder in some aspects than I expected, but also easier in others than I expected. The language actually hasn't been as hard as I expected. I still can't really understand what most people are saying or express myself as well as I would like, but I know enough! The Lord has definitely blessed me with this language. Haha, some people here have literally been in shock when they hear that it's only my first week in Finland. I know that my growth in the language will be slower than I want, but I know it will come.

Well, in closing I want to share an experience that we had yesterday. We were riding the bus (we ride the bus everywhere) and usually, people will avoid sitting near us--Finns tend to keep to themselves. Anyways, this older man ended up taking the seat facing us, although there were plenty of other seats around he could have taken. He asked us if we were the mormons. We were shocked and ended up having a relatively lengthy conversation with him (we ended up missing our normal stop, but we figured this was more important anyway.) Apparently he has a Book of Mormon, had met with the missionaries years ago, and was thinking that maybe he should learn more about our church. Of course we were very happy to hear that! We invited him to church on Sunday, he said he couldn't cause he's visiting his grandson. We asked him for his number so we could contact him later. He called our phone to make sure that we had his correct number! It was probably one of the neatest experiences I've had so far. The Lord is preparing people everywhere!

I love you all. Thanks for sending those pictures! My nephew is adorable. Good luck as school and everything starts back up again! (Enjoy BYU, Tyler! You will love it!)

Sisar Shaw

Monday, August 8, 2011

Last week in the MTC

Terve, minun perheeni!
 
Olen hyvin innostunut menna Suomeen!!! (Hello, my family! I am very excited to go to Finland!!!) Haha, I'm really not sure what else to say. Suomi is all that I have on my mind now. I can't believe my MTC experience is coming to a close. Some days it feels like I've been here forever, and others feel as though I just arrived yesterday. You really lose all sense of time here. But I've LOVED my time here. I came to love my district, even when they acted like the 19-year-old boys that they are. I love the language, I love teaching, I love the gospel. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to miss the MTC-- this really is a great place. But now-- off to bigger and better things!
 
My district and I all survived our consecration week. I was amazed to see how much we have all learned in our (relatively) short time here at the MTC. Some of the elders in the younger Finnish district told me yesterday that it was weird to hear me speaking english. It feels weird to speak english! And if that's how I feel after only one week of only speaking Finnish, I can't imagine how I'm going to feel after 18 months.
 
We had a pretty cool experience on Sunday. Some news station in Finland did a report on Mormon Missionaries. Our Branch presidency showed the clip to us. So. Cool. It was really hard to understand the news reporter-- native Finns speak tosi nopeasti (very quickly), but when they interviewed the missionaries, we could understand everything they said! It was cool to see them walking the streets of Finland and contacting people--it made me very excited to go (more so than I was already.)
 
We received our travel plans on Thursday. We leave the MTC at 4:00 AM on Monday (yay...) Our first stop is Washington D.C. at 1:30 p.m. (local time.) We will then have a 4-hour layover, so that will probably be the best time for me to call you guys (so open up your schedules! I'm so excited to talk to you!) Our next stop is Frankfurt and then Helsinki! We will arrive in Helsinki at 12:15 PM on Tuesday. It will add up to be about 24 hours of traveling. Piece of cake when you're a Shaw. I've been on much longer car rides. It will be quite the adventure though. I've never been outside the country. Dad, I imagine my experience will be very much like the one you had when you arrived in Bogota. Being immersed in the language will be good though. The native Finns (and my teachers) here keep telling me that that's how I'm going to learn the most.
 
Well, I love you all so so much. I love hearing from you and how things are going on the homefront. Wish I had more to say, but I will talk to you all soon! 
 
Rakkaus, rauha ja siunaksia! (love, peace and blessings!)
 
Sisar Shaw
 

Consecration Week!

Terve!
 
This past week was pretty exciting. (By MTC standards, anyway.) My district and I started our consecration week yesterday (se tarkoittaa etta me emme voi puhua englaneksi--vain suomea!-- It means that we cannot speak in english-- only Finnish!) So this next week will be interesting. We'll see how it goes. I was called to be the coordinating sister this week--I guess it's comparable to a Zone leader, but I have stewardship over the sisters in my zone. The calling really surprised me since I'm only here for 2 more weeks (12 days!!!) and they usually call a sister who still has a lot of time ahead of her. In all honesty, I'm glad that I only have the calling for 2 weeks--it's definitely a responsibility! On sundays here at the MTC, we usually have a lot of time on our hands for personal study--hours upon hours--and I usually don't know what to do with myself! But this last sunday I didn't have any personal study time cause I was in meetings all day! I think the calling will be good for me, though, because it will help me to remain focused my last couple weeks. In other news, our fire alarm went off at 2:15 in the morning the other night. It was nuts, but fortunately there was no fire. Just a terrible inconvenience!
 
Arva mita! (Guess what!) I will get my travel plans either today or tomorrow!!! Next week I will be able to tell you exactly which stops I will take and when my layovers will be, and we can plan a time that I can call y'all from the airport! This is so crazy. I have been at the MTC for so long, although some times it feels like no time at all. Time flies by for sure. In two weeks time, I will be writing you from SUOMI! (I hope you all can sense how excited I am :)) I still have a loooooooooong way to go for sure with regard to the language, but this morning Sisar Fitzsimmons (the Finnish sister going to Russia) complimented me on how well I spoke, and said that she hopes to speak Russian as well as I do Finnish by her 10th week as well--I told her she will probably speak it even better! She's probably the nicest person I've ever met. There are a couple other Finnish missionaries here that I have a very hard time understanding-- it's a little disheartening because they are natives-- these are the people I will be interacting with soon! I have to remind myself to be patient. I have only been learning the hardest language in the world for about 8 weeks (Which is confusing--we've only been here for 8 weeks, but it's considered our 10th week.. go figure. By the time I leave, I will have been in the MTC for 10 1/2 weeks.) I dream of the day that I think and dream in Finnish and start forgetting english words! 
 
I love you all,
Sisar Shaw
 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

8 down, 3 to go....

Terve!
 
It was so great to hear from you all this week! Good luck with braces, baby teeth and wisdom teeth! (That should be fun, Tyler. I remember my experience well. Can't wait to hear all about it.) By the way, Tyler, I had a dream that you received your mission call to the New York, New York South mission, English speaking. I know you're still a year out from going on your mission, but when the time comes, that will be my state-side guess for you!
 
Well, my MTC experience is coming to a close! 19 days and counting! We don't have our travel plans yet, but probably will in a week or so. When Sisar Christofferson left, she made stops in Washington D.C. and Amsterdam (I think.) It was interesting to hear that you had your sacrament meetings in Spanish at the MTC, Dad. Ours are definitely in English, and I'm pretty sure all of the sacrament meetings here are held in missionaries' native languages.
 
I actually met the Sister Shaw that is going to the Phillipines; I didn't realize her first name was Katie as well.
 
Anyways, this past week was like any other, filled with lots of learning. The MTC is a great place to be, but lately it's been harder and harder to remember why it is I'm here. I've been here so long it's beginning to feel like this is my mission and I lose sight of the fact that this is only to prepare me to preach the gospel in Finland. I'm way excited to go; more and more so the closer it gets, but I want to love my MTC experience until the moment I leave, and it gets harder the longer I've been here.
 
I did have one experience this week that was awesome. I was standing in line at dinner, one of my elders walked by and I said something to him in Finnish. The elder in front of me in line turned around and asked me if I was from Finland. I said no, and I pointed to my nametag and said I was going to Finland on my mission. I looked at his nametag and noticed it was in Finnish as well. I had heard that there was an elder here who was going to Finland who already knew Finnish, so he's only here for 3 weeks, and they put him in an English district since he already knows the language. I put two and two together and figured out that was this elder. We continued to talk, and then he asked me "are yousure you're not from Finland?" He thought I sounded like a native! He had a hard time believing that I only started learning the language on May 25th. That was a great boost to my confidence. But, like Paul says in Phillipians chapter 4, I know both how to abound and be abased. I went back to class after dinner and our teacher gave us some sentences to translate into Finnish... and I got them all wrong. Haha. I'm still struggling with the grammar.
 
Anyways, my time is almost up. I love you guys! Make it a great week.
 
Sisar Shaw

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 7 (July 13)

Terve!
 
Glad to hear you all had fun at Bear Lake! Sounds like it was a blast! And Happy Anniversary to Kyle and Tess! Can't believe it's already been a year, congrats!
 
The MTC is a great place, and this week was no exception. Ode Nef and I were joined by Sisar Shreeve this week. Sisar Shreeve is from Alaska, so she is more than prepared for the weather in Finland. We actually figured out that we both received our calls on the same day--her availability date was about a month before mine, but she was called to report to the MTC six weeks after me. I'm really grateful that I got to leave when I did and didn't have to wait too long! It's nice to have another Finnish sister again. It's weird being the "Mama Finn" now. I think it's so funny that the new Finnish missionaries look up to us and think we know so much. We've only been here 6 weeks longer than them, but then again that is exactly how the elders in my district and I viewed Sisar Christofferson. She was so much older and wiser and more mature than we were. But I like it. Being the Mama Finn is great.
 
It was really cool having the new missionaries come in this week also because it helped me to realize how much we've learned in such a short amount of time. It's easy to lose sight of the miracle that is learning a language at the MTC. There are 3 Suomalaisia (Native Finns) at the MTC now-- a Sister going to Russia, a Sister going to Czech Republic and an Elder going to Sweden. I love talking to them! They are all really great and really patient with our limited capacity. Of course, they recognize that their language is crazy hard. One sister said she was really grateful that she learned Finnish the way she did instead of how we are learning it. Still, I think learning Finnish is fun, in its own way. It can get pretty frustrating when you realize how much you don't know, but it's really interesting to see how the language is structured and recognizing patterns and stuff--maybe I'm a nerd but Finnish is a way cool language.
 
Sisar Beckwith, one of the Finnish teachers here, received a letter from Sisar Christofferson last week. Apparently she already has 7 investigators and 3 baptismal commitments! I knew she would be a great missionary, and it's so encouraging to hear how well the work is going in Finland. Sometimes I just want to go there right now! Other times I wish I had more time to learn the language. Either way, I leave August 8th! It's coming up soon! I'm stoked. I know it will be rough at first, but I have heard nothing but good things about Finland--the land, the people, the culture--and I can't wait to experience it for myself. For the time being, the MTC is a great place to be. Sometimes I get a little stir-crazy, and it's a little disheartening to think of how many groups of missionaries I have seen come and go since I've been here, but I think being here for 12 weeks is a great opportunity. I can't wrap my brain around the fact that English-speaking missionaries are only here for 3 weeks. That's about enough time to get used to it and then leave!
 
Well, I love you family. Thanks for your continued support. Everyday I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to be serving a mission. You guys are the best! (Te olette paras!)
 
Sisar Shaw

Week 6 (July 6)

Terve!
Good to hear you are all having a good time at Bear Lake! Did you see any cool firework shows? On Saturday night, we had the closest thing to a party we'll probably ever have at the MTC. We had a very nice presentation that included music and a keynote speaker, and then we all got ice cream bars and watched the fireworks from the Stadium of Fire (sort of... they were pretty hard to see through the trees of the MTC, but it was cool nonetheless.) It made me wonder how your 4th of July was going. Did Adam get to see the fireworks? Did he like them? Something that I really enjoyed at our 4th of July celebration was when we sang the national anthem. We hardly ever get to sing all 3 verses, so it was really cool to sing them all, especially when we sang:
"Then conquer we must,
when our cause it is just,
and this be our motto:
In God is our trust."
I think it is the perfect anthem for missionaries (I might have butchered some of the words, but the message is really cool.)
I continue to love it here, and I continue to feel like I never get enough sleep. I am truly amazed that I am able to get up at 6:30 every morning and make it till 10:30 every night! It's tough, but it's a lot easier when you know it's for a good cause. When I hear my alarm go off every morning, I think of Nephi's final words: "I must obey, amen." Haha. We had a pretty cool fireside on Sunday. Jenny Oaks Baker came, shared some great spiritual thoughts with us and played her violin for us. She is amazing! I recommend buying her new CD (I think it's called "Then Sings My Soul") She truly has a gift.
We get new Finns today! I'm a "Momma Finn" now! My new companion's name is Sisar Sheeve (I think... I haven't met her yet, but I can't wait to!) It will be nice to have another Finnish sister around... it's been pretty rough with just me and 6 elders the past couple weeks. My elders are great though. I will be sending some pictures in the mail this week (finally!) so you guys can see a little bit of my life here at the MTC. I think you'll enjoy them!
Well, I love you family. (No, minä rakastan teitä, perhe.) I love to hear from you every week. I'm beginning to lose sight of life outside of the MTC, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Before you know it, I'll be in Finland! Crazy, but very exciting to think about!
Sisar Shaw

Week 5 (June 29)

Terve!
 
This past week was amazing! Of course, it came with its hard things too. Before my companion left for Finland, she and I taught together, which was possibly the most frustrating experience I've had at the MTC. I would try and keep up with everything that she was saying and everything our investigator was saying, but it was difficult. At one point, I wanted to cry, but fortunately, I held myself together, and I was able to say something to out investigator (in what I hope was grammatically correct Finnish) that really helped him to understand what we were teaching. Overall, it was a great experience and I think I got a taste of what it's going to be like in Finland. Finnish really is a beautiful language, and I feel so blessed (and humbled) that I get to learn it and teach the gospel in it.
 
Sisar Christofferson left for Finland on Sunday, and it's been hard without her. She and I got along really well, so I miss her a lot but I'm so excited for her, she was so ready to go. On Friday, we got to hear from Elder Bednar. It was awesome! He was very bold with his remarks. He talked about how to be a "Preach My Gospel" missionary. As amazing as it was, though, my favorite part about Friday was when my district and I got to spend an hour with our new mission president after the devotional. President Rawlings and his wife are saints! They are some of the strongest, kindest people I have ever met. The spirit in that room was very strong, and that experience got me very excited to go to Finland... I'm almost halfway there!
 
Yesterday, my district and I had our first SYL (Speak Your Language) day--that is, we spent the entire day speaking only Finnish. I was surprised with how well we all did! The only frustrating part is trying to communicate with someone who doesn't know Finnish, but we were all able to communicate with each other very well. The most rewarding part for me was when I met a native Finn at dinner yesterday--a sister who is going to Russia-- and we were able to have a conversation in Finnish! Although it was short and simple, it was really neat that I was able to understand the things that she was saying and the questions she was asking me, and I was able to answer in a way that she understood!
 
Have fun driving to Idaho... definitely not jealous of that, although my plane ride to Finland will probably be just as long as your drive. How long will you be at Bear Lake? Can't wait to hear about it. Also--I really wanted to send you some pictures this week, but the bookstore messed up my order--I'm not sure how that's possible, but I've ordered some more so hopefully I will be able to send you some soon!
 
I love you all,
 
Sisar Shaw