Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012


So good to hear from you all, as always! P-days can ironically be some of the most stressful days as a missionary, but I love this hour that I can just sit and read your email and write to you :) Good luck with all the de-cluttering-- hopefully my stuff isn't causing too much stress :) My one request is that my brown down coat reamains intact when I get home-- but I think I left that one with Kyle and Tess.

All is well in Finland. This past week it has gotten much colder. A typical outfit now consists of wool tights, thermals, wool socks, leg warmers, boots, skirt, thick sweater, big scarf, down coat, mittens and a nice hat that covers the ears :)

Sisar Shaw And Companion 
In Cold Weather Gear

Yesterday it got down to about -14 (celcius). In spite of the less than comfortable weather, the scenery is BEAUTIFUL. With the trees and everything here, it looks like C.S. Lewis got his inspiration for Narnia from Finland. I have been extremely blessed this winter as it has been one of the mildest Finland has seen in a while. But it's definitely getting colder every day.

Finland As Narnia

This past week was a great week. We had a great district meeting in Jyväskylä where we talked alot about goal setting, with the start of the new year. Something that I have personally been focusing on a lot is being motivated by love. There was a great devotional given at BYU last year entitled "what if love were our only motive?" That question has stuck with me ever since, but I've been pondering it a lot more recently. I am so far from perfect, and I'm sure this will be a life-long pursuit, but I want to become the kind of person who does everything that they do out of love for other people.

We had some great teaches with a few investigators this week. The highlight was probably when we taught Sabbath-day observance to our Albanian investigator. It just clicked for her, and she committed to living it before we could even ask her to. She spoke of how she usually saves all her cleaning for sundays, but she should get it done earlier in the week so that sunday can truly be a day of rest. She is amazing!

We also had a really interesting experience this week-- we went to the church for what we thought was a meeting with our ward mission leader. Turns out we were guests at a wedding! We even had our own nameplates and everything. It was a couple in our ward who were sealed to eachother in the temple a few days earlier. It was a really beautiful occasion, but it was also really random and unexpected!

In closing, I want to share something I've thought about this week-- motherhood, of all things. But I was thinking at the end of the day one day of all the hard work and effort that goes into missionary work-- a lot of times without seeing direct fruit from it. But we keep moving forward with faith that we're doing the right thing and making a difference. I imagine that motherhood is very much the same way. I am sure that one day we will all have a clear vision of all the lives we blessed, but the trick is that we might spend most of our lives not even knowing. Well, mom, I want you to know what a profound impact you've had in my life. I know that you've put in countless hours of tireless effort on my behalf, and it has blessed me so much. I am who I am today because of you, and I want you to know that. And to Robin-- I admire your example of motherhood as well. You've set such a great example to me. And Tess-- I know you are going to make an amazing mother!

I love you all!

Sisar Shaw

Monday, January 2, 2012


 Finnish Grave Site on Christmas Eve

 Sisar Shaw In The Snow!

 Lutheran Church In Tempere

Sister Missionaries At Stake Conference

Onnellista Uutta Vuotta! (Happy New Year!)

Can you believe it's 2012!? 

While we didn't have a white Christmas, the snow came in time for new years, and now Finland looks about like how I imagined it would in the dead of winter. Snow, snow snow :) You'll be happy to hear that I'm adjusting to the cold weather quite well. Or at least, I've learned how to dress properly for cold weather. It makes a huge difference!

This week was a great week as far as "missionary work" goes. We had great teaches with all of our investigators, and we even found a new investigator this week! (Which is always one of the best feelings possible as a missionary.) I loved the holiday season here in Finland, but it is nice that things can resume back to normal now.

Speaking of the holiday season, this new year's eve was very different from anything I've ever experienced or probably will ever experience again. We had to be in our apartments by 6 because of all the partying that goes on that night, so we had an early dinner with this really sweet old lady in our ward and then we spent the rest of the night building a bunk bed. (A necessity with 3 of us in the apartment now-- Sisar Nelson has been sleeping on a mattress on the floor the past few weeks.) It was quite the adventure, but we successfully accomplished our task.

I had an interesting experience yesterday in sunday school that I think might make you smile. It was a very interesting lesson, and the teacher kept grilling me with factual questions. First of all, let me just say how difficult it can be to answer people's questions when they are fishing for a specific answer in english! You can imagine how difficult it was in Finnish. I felt really small in that moment, but I though of the loving words of my mother to a 6-year-old Katie: "Have tough skin like a rhino, but treat others as if they are as delicate as egg-shells." So I didn't let the teacher's questions bother me. I had tough skin like a rhino :)

I love you all! Thank you so much for sending me the Christmas card! Everyone looks great! (And Maddy and Erica-- I can't believe how LONG your hair is getting!!! So jealous!)


Sisar Shaw

Tapaninpäivä (Boxing Day)


It was so good to talk to you all on sunday! It almost felt like being back at home when we skyped. So it felt really weird to step out of that room and "back into Finland" when it was over. This past week was really great, albeit very different from any other week I've had as a missionary so far. I know we talked about some of this over skype, but you're getting it all again!

This week has been a little frustrating as far as "missionary work" goes, as no one seemd to want to meet with us because of the holiday season. But we did have the wonderful opportunity of spending time with a lot of the members here in Tampere. Let me just say that we were well taken care of on Christmas. The members here are amazing!

We spent Christmas Eve with an older lady in the ward and her 2 daughters. She lived pretty far away, so she drove us to her cute little Finnish cottage out in the middle of the woods. And on the way there, we saw Joulupukki! (That's the Finnish Santa Claus.) The Finns have this way fun tradition where Joulupukki personally visits every home on Christmas Eve to deliver presents (usually a family member dressed up as Santa.) It was really fun to see this jolly old man in a red suit walking through a Finnish village--the kind of thing you only hear about in stories! We then ate a traditional Finnish christmas dinner-- ham, mushroom salad, potato and sweet potato casserole, carrot casserole, beets, basically a bunch of little side dishes, and all very tasty!

Before we went home that night, we had requested to go to a cemetery. I've heard about this beautiful tradition that the Finns have of putting candle lanterns on the graves of family members on Christmas Eve. It was even better than I imagined. I'm sending a couple of pictures, but they really don't do it justice. The member we were with gave me a candle to light and place on this stone block which was filled with candles placed in memory of family members who weren't buried in that specific cemetery. So I lit the candle and placed it there in memory of Grandma Shaw :)

Then Christmas Day was really great. After church, we went to another older lady in the ward's place and had another traditional Finnish Christmas Dinner. Afterwards, we went to another family in the ward and that's where I skyped you guys! Then on Tapaninpäivä (Boxing Day), we went to another family in the ward for lunch. When we got there, the mom asked if we liked traditional Finnish Christmas food, to which we replied that we did. She said "Great! We're having lasagna!" She figured that we had probably been having a lot of the same foods the past few days--which we had--so her lunch was definitely a welcome treat. Then we spent the evening with another family. We had yet another traditional Finnish Christmas meal, and we went Christmas caroling with them afterwards. It was a lot of fun!

The other highlight of the week was zone conference. We were fed a traditional Finnish Christmas meal (surprise!) prepared by our office staff. It started with a bowl of riisipurro--or rice porridge, which is actually very tasty (once you've added sugar and cinnamon :)) and in Finland there is a tradition of placing an almond in one of the bowls of riisipurro. As the tradition goes, the recipient of the almond will be married within the next year. I could hardly believe my mouth when I felt the almond in it. Upon finding out that I received the almond, President Rawlings asked with a very concerned look on his face, "Will you have time for that?" I replied that I'll have a month--I go home 11 months from now. He laughed and said that "that's enough time. It would go against the advice of your mission president, but it would be enough time." His wife decided that maybe receiving the almond meant getting married within a year after coming home from your mission. Haha. We'll see!

Well, I love you all family! Sorry I know that you've already heard everything in this email once already, but maybe it's good to have in writing? Make it a great week!


Sisar Shaw

December 19th

Editor's Note: The Shaw Family (Paul, Julie, Erica and Madeline) has recently made a life changing decision. We will be moving to the Salt Lake City area in 2012 and will be settled there by the time Katie returns from her mission. This email is her response to receiving that news.


Okay, your news that you sent in your email was alot to take in. I won't lie, I did start crying. Texas will always be home to me, but I know that it must have been a really difficult decision to make, and as hard as it will be, you will see blessings from it. Funny story-- so we email here at the church, and I read the news that you were moving to Utah out loud to the 4 other missionaries here in Tampere-- 3 of whom are from Utah. I started crying and the Utahn missionaries all started cheering and said "Welcome to Zion, Sister Shaw!" Haha. It's a lot to take in right now, and I'm honestly not sure what to think. But I know the Lord has great things in store for our family.

Well, things continue to move right along here in Tampere! Sisar Brailsford and I were joined this week by Sisar Nelson. She arrived in the country last week, and we are so excited to have her here with us! She is from Virginia, but has been studying at Utah State University-- so we have all 3 major Utah universities represented in our companionship right now! It's kind of crazy, I feel like I'm still a new missionary here, and I'm already training! (Luckilly, with the help of Sisar Brailsford :))

Haha, my mind is still kind of racing right now, and I will talk to you all on Sunday, so in closing I will leave you this spiritual thought/experience from this past week. So, in a previous week's letter I sent to my mission president, I was telling him about how I was just going through a really hard time. He sent this advice to me: "Please learn to laugh when things get difficult. That talent will stand you in good stead over a life with children. Look for the miracles and the influence of the spirit each day and write down what you notice. The Lord is watching over you!" So that happened a few weeks ago.

Then this past week, we went to Helsinki for a trainer's meeting and to pick up our new companion. As the new group of missionaries walked into the room, one of the sisters stuck out to me and I felt like she was going to be our new companion. Then, at lunch, President Rawlings sat next to me and whispered into my ear: "that sister sitting on the far end of the table over there is your new companion." It was the same sister I felt like it would be! I told him that, and he replied "See, you need to be writing things like that down!" That is something I'm still coming to learn. We witness so many miracles around us each day, and if we don't take the time to notice and write them down, we will likely forget them. But as we do write them down, we will see that the Lord is with us.



Sisar Shaw

December 12th


Thanks for your emails everyone! It was really cute to hear how Adam is saying everybody's names. It reminds me a lot of when Maddy was a baby. The days continue to get colder and shorter... somedays it's cloudy enough that the sun doesn't really rise at all... and it's dark by 3 or 4 now... and it's SNOWING!!! Finland finally looks like a winter wonderland! I love it :)

Also, we got some really exciting news from last week's change calls! I am now writing you from... (drumroll please)... still in Tampere, and still with Sisar Brailsford. But, we will be receiving a new missionary this week and training her together! We're both very excited.

So many great things happened this last week. One of the highlights was itsenäisyyspäivä on Tuesday (Finland's independence day.) We spent the day with some members, and saw probably one of the coolest fireworks displays I've ever seen in my life (no joke!) Our investigator from Albania continues to do really well. The teaches we have with her are always a highlight of my week as well. It is the best feeling to go home from a teach just beaming and feeling on top of the world! It's a feeling that's really hard to capture in words, but it is why I love missionary work :)

Tyler-- what a great experience to go to the MTC to sing! It seriously feels like I was just there yesterday. And now Adam Buys is there!? Weird. Mom, thanks for your thoughts about finding beauty in the midst of difficult things. It is really hard to do, but there really is beauty all around us. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it :)

Well family, I love you!


Sisar Shaw