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