Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

asdfghjkl!!!

No, that's not Finnish, I just can't seem to think of a good expression that properly conveys how excited and joyful and just stinkin' happy I am right now. Happy because of the work that I have the privilege of doing here in beautiful Finland, and so happy to hear all of the wonderful news from my family. Tyler, I'm relieved that my package got to you safely. I was so happy to hear about the amazing missionary experiences you are all having--there is nothing else like it!!! Some of my favorite experiences of my mission have been as we've done FHE (perheilta) at member's houses with investigators. So fun! And so happy because I HAVE THE CUTEST LITTLE NIECE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!! Congratulations to Kyle and Tess (and aunt ariana :)) You two are going to make wonderful parents.

Well, glad to hear all is well on the homefront. Things are going really well here in Finland. I was looking through some of my journal entries from this past week, and on two different days I described the same week as both "trying" and "SUCH a good week." But that's how life goes, I guess. In spite of the hard stuff (and sometimes because of the hard stuff) we really can find joy in the journey. We actually talked about this topic in district meeting this past week--we had such a good discussion and I talked about how things were really hard for me when I first came in the country, but I just did my best and figured that I would just get used to it, and things would get easier. And now that I've been doing this for over a year now, I realize that it really hasn't gotten any easier! That has maybe been one of the biggest surprises on my mission. Other members of my district agreed with me. Some even expressed how some things are even harder now than when they first came in the country. But then on the other hand, i talked about how looking back at all of the different phases of my mission so far, I received just enough tender mercies from the Lord to keep me going. And here I am now :)

Well, the tender mercies of the Lord were certainly upon us in abundance this week. Kai's baptism was a really special day. It was actually really stressful for me and Sisar Shreeve-- we were doing ALL of the behind the scenes work-- but everything came together perfectly (except that the water was too hot... whoops!) and the important part was that Kai and Sini and her husband were able to enjoy that special day. Sini's mom even came to it! We were also able to get an investigator there-- he really enjoyed the service, and the ward was really amazing in fellowshipping him--and as a result, he expressed a desire to come to church! There were just so many little things like that this week that were so cool. I wish I could write them all.

On sunday, Kai was confirmed in sacrament meeting. We invited his father to come, but he replied that he probably wouldn't be there. It was about the response we were expecting. But we were praying anyways that he would come. And wouldn't you know it. HE CAME TO CHURCH!!! For the first time ever! We were so shocked, and so happy. He seemed really happy to be there too. Sini said that "he surprised them." Wow. So this weekend was a really good one :)

Well, that was probably the highlight of the week. My mind is all over the place right now, I can't concentrate hard enough to write anymore. Haha. But I'll send a few pictures, each of which should be worth 1000 words or so.

I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

Rakkaudella,
Sisar Shaw

June 11, 2012

Terve!

Well, I think I'm turning into a Finn. My choice of breakfast this morning was rye bread and butter.

Wow, this week was AMAZING! I hardly know where to start. But maybe we'll just start from the beginning. Monday night we housed the sisters from Oulu and Turku at our apartment, and I probably got the worst sleep of my mission, but we had a lot of fun together. And then Tuesday was the mission conference. Wow. So incredible. I didn't know you could fit that much happiness into one room. It was so good to see everyone from the mission--and this was the first time that a mission-wide conference for Finland has happened in decades. But on the other hand it felt rather small--but we have a really small mission. 60 or so missionaries. Elder Kopischke from the area presidency and his wife came to speak to us. I'm sure it was good for the one German missionary in our mission to speak to them in his native tongue. I was asked to put a musical number together--which didn't surprise me, I seem to get asked to do that a lot-- but it was a little stressful seeing as it was physically impossible to practice before the morning of. But it turned out really well. We sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" in 4-part harmony. I love singing :)

On Wednesday we had a teach with a recent convert who I think would be really good friends with Maddy. She's a really funny 12-year-old girl. We hiked the highest point in Helsinki and had our teach at the top. It was raining on the way up, but after we said a prayer to open the teach, the rain stopped! We had a great time.

Thursday was one of our last teaches with Kai before he gets baptized. We taught the Word of Wisdom and started planning things for the baptismal service. He really wanted one of the elders from Hyvinkää to perform the baptism. I told him that we'd have to check, but we made a few phone calls and Elder LeMoine got permission to come to Haaga for the baptism! Saturday is going to be a very special day.

On Friday we had a teach with the recent convert's daughter (I should give her a name... Päivi.) Anyways, it was our first without her dad there, and I think it was really good for her. (In fact, we saw her dad at stake conference on Sunday and he told us that she asked that he not come to her teaches anymore...haha.) It was a great teach and she was able to tell us a lot of the concerns that she had about her baptism. A huge factor is that her mother still hasn't given permission for her to, so we're praying for that. Päivi is a very sweet girl.

On Saturday we went to the temple when Sini went for the first time to do baptisms for the dead. It was such a good experience-- for us, and for her. It's been so long since I've done baptisms. I had to smile when I saw that one of the names I was doing was from Texas :) Then at the adult session of stake conference that night I sang with a group of women from our ward "Tule Lähde, Siunausten." But you might know it as "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

Then Sunday was such a happy day. One of those days where I couldn't stop smiling. Before the general session of stake conference, we held a meeting for all of the recent converts in the Helsinki stake--so all of the missionaries were in attendance as well as President and Sister Rawlings and Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the seventy. Sini was there with Kai and also one of her step-sons came too! It was so miraculous. Sini was just beaming as she said it was the first time that he ever wanted to come to church with her. Elder Jensen came up and talked to Sister Shreeve and I and asked "so, is this a family that you're working with?" It was so neat to talk with Elder Jensen about one of the greatest joys of my mission. It was such a great meeting, and so amazing to see the range of people there who had all gotten baptized within the past year--everywhere from an 18-year-old boy who was introduced to the church through his high-school friend, and said that his decision to become friends with him and join the church was the best he ever made--to a 70-something year old man who was baptized just a couple months ago. The gospel really is for everyone.

And then stake conference was simply amazing. Maybe it was just good to hear a talk in my native tongue again--but the spirit was definitely there in abundance as Elder Jensen spoke to us. (And funny story--I lit up as I recognized the voice of his translator--the same guy who did the voice for our language training materials in the MTC. So wierd to put a face to it. haha.) Anyways, I would like to share one story that Elder Jensen shared from his mission. He served in Germany at a time when their missions were 30 months long (so he said "to those of you who are here for 2 years, buck up!") He was still brand new in the country when his companion and he decided to go to a meeting of local Lutheran priests. He said that he only knows what happened because his companion later translated for him (I can only relate too well!) At the meeting, one of the priests got up and started talking about "Two American boys" who were causing them some trouble. He said "You can be nice to them, but you don't need their message. We are Germans. They are Americans. We have Martin Luther. They have a man named Joseph Smith. We have the Bible. They have a book called the Book of Mormon." When he had finished speaking, Elder Jensen said that the priest "made a mistake" and asked "would anyone else like to say anything about these two American boys?" Elder Jensen's brave companion raised his hand. He then spoke to the group of priests and said "We are the two American boys you are talking about. We are Americans, but we are trying to speak your language. We believe that Martin Luther was a great man. Joseph Smith finished what Martin Luther started. We believe in the Bible. But why do we need to limit God? He has spoken to us again through the Book of Mormon." And then, Elder Jensen said that his companion "made a mistake" and said "and now, my companion would like to say something." Elder Jensen said that then, he did what we all have to do in gaining a testimony, and took a few steps into the dark. In the best German he could muster he said "I know." He spoke of what a pivotal moment it as for him in gaining his personal testimony.

Anyways, what an amazing week, and we have yet another amazing one ahead of us. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. I love you all.

Rakkaudella,
Sisar Shaw

June 4, 2012

Terve!

And Happy Sweet 16 Erica! (When did that happen!? I just turned 16 like yesterday.) Hmm... In Finnish that might translate to: "Onnelista suloista kuusitoista, Erica!" Anyways...

Great week. Got off to a crazy start with the Russian sisters still here (all of whom are originally from America... They serve in the mission that covers Siberia... sounds even colder than Finland!) and Sisar Braegger left for Jyväskylä on Tuesday and then Sisar Shreeve came into Helsinki with Sisar McBride, who finished her mission and flew home on Thursday! So things were a little crazy and we had a full house for a while, but it was so much fun. Said goodbye to the Russian sisters on Wednesday and to Sisar McBride on Thursday, so Sisar Shreeve and I finally returned to normality on Friday... which left us with a pretty short week, but we were still able to get 20 teaches in. The Lord really is blessing us for our efforts here.

The week got off to a pretty exciting start. It was our last P-day activity together as a district--we hiked the highest point in Helsinki (which took maybe 5 or 10 mintues...Finland never was known for being very mountainous) and played a game of ultimate frisbee afterwards. And to end it all, one of the elders got hit in the face with a frisbee... so that was the end of the change :) Haha, he's doing fine, so don't worry, although he did get to wear a cool pirate eye-patch for a couple of days. It was kind of a funny way to end things.

The new district seems pretty cool as well. At district meeting on Friday, one of the elders said "Welcome to the retirement home!" I didn't understand what he meant at first, but apparently we're the oldest district in the mission (based on number of transfers we've all been in the mission.) It was so hard to believe--here I am in this room with a bunch of people who were all considered super young in the mission not that long ago (myself included.) Time is such a wierd thing. They added it up, and I think it came out to be a total of 78 or so changes between 4 companionships. Wierd.

Sunday was a great way to end the week. Finally got to see Sini and Kai after not being able to all week! When I asked Sini about her week she began to cry as she talked about what a difficult week it was. I hugged her and offered her some words of comfort that my own mother gave me (although I had to translate it into Finnish): Crying is a good thing, tears actually have a healing quality to them (something to that effect.) I hope she was able to feel that she is loved. She is so dear to me, and of all the friends I've made on the mission, she is the one I hope to remain life long friends with. Not too much longer till Kai's baptism! We also had a great teach with the daughter of the recent convert that we've been teaching for a while. She is doing so well, and we just found out that her dad is hoping for the baptism to happen the same weekend as Kai's! So we'll see how it all works out. It would be cool if it happens on the same weekend, but also pretty crazy. Her father is such a stalwart member. We met them at the train station before the teach, and we heard this voice call out to us: "Sisters!" He motioned for us to come over to him where he was talking to a man about the Book of Mormon. We gave the man a copy, and as we all walked away, I told him "well done!" He replied something to the effect of: "Well, it's the sabbath. I thought I'd be about my Father's work." Wow. What an amazing example.

Well, we've got another exciting week ahead of us. Mission conference is tomorrow!!! I'm sure it will be a great experience.

Have fun at girl's camp! (And a great, yellow week to everyone else!)

Rakkaudella,
Sisar Shaw

May 28, 2012

Terve!

Well, I survived change calls and will be staying here in Haaga for at least another 6 weeks. Sisar Bragger, on the other hand will be leaving to Jyväskylä, where she will be serving with my previous companion, Sisar Brailsford! My new companion will be Sisar Shreeve!!! I am so excited for the new change. As sad as I am to see Sisar Braegger go, I am so excited to serve with Sisar Shreeve. She and I were companions together in the MTC, so i already know what an amazing person and missionary she is :) I'm sure I have a lot to learn from her.

At the beginning of this past week, things seemed to be going a bit slower--not as much seemed to be happening. I remember thinking: "This is so boring! What the heck am I going to write about to my family?"

Be careful what you wish for.

We got a phone call from our mission president on Thursday informing us that there were three sisters from one of the Russian missions who were stuck in Finland for about a week because of their visas, so he asked if we wanted to do splits with them for the week. I laughed and said yes, it sounded like an adventure. It has been so much fun having them around--our week definitely did not end on a boring note. Although week-long companion exchanges is proving to be pretty crazy, it's also been a lot of fun. We've gotten pretty attached to these Russian sisters-- I'll be sad when they have to leave on Wednesday!

Our investigators continue to do well. I'm sure Sisar Braegger is sad to leave them. And it's wierd to think about teaching these people with somebody else. We had planned a baptismal date with our Kenyan runner investigator for this coming saturday--although now it's looking like it might not happen then either. I called him on saturday to see if he was coming to church, and he said no, because he was far away. Sisar Braegger called him sunday night to tell him that she was leaving and he told her again that he was still far away. So she asked "where is far away!?" Turns out he's in Norway! So, it's a pretty interesting situation. We asked why he was there, and he said he "just found himself there."

But things are still looking well for Kai's baptism on the 16th. His mom, Sini, is getting her patriarchal blessing today :) She is just glowing all the time. She really radiates the light of Christ. We taught Kai about the 10 commandments and keeping the sabbath day holy. We cut out pictures of various activities and asked him to sort them into which ones were sunday-appropriate and which weren't. He acedthem all. I was so impressed.

Other highlights from this week: We attended the temple as a district on Saturday morning, followed by our final district meeting of the change together on the temple grounds. I love the temple here in Helsinki, and I have loved being part of this district. I will venture to say that it's been the funnest district of my mission so far. We've had a lot of fun together, and this last P-day we all went bowling. I'll be sending some really great pictures of that :) Sad news is that with the exception of the AP's, every other companionship in our district will be changing. It's sad to see everyone go, but there are always amazing people to meet, so as sad as it is, change is also a really exciting thing (if we approach it with the right attitude.) I'll be honest, I was not impressed with our district at the beginning of the change. I thought they were kind of boring :) Clearly, I was way too quick to judge. Luckilly I quickly came to learn that each person in our district had something really great and unique to contribute. I hope I carry that attitude with me the rest of my life-- one of always looking for the good in others and just loving the people who surround you. It's a happy way to live.

I don't think I let any of the changes that are happening back home phase me anymore--it just gets overwhelming. But I'm so glad to hear that all is well :) I always love hearing from you and all that you're up to--but sometimes I forget that life still goes on back home. And a lot happens in a year (I officially hit my year-mark on Friday!) It's been especially exciting to hear of all the people from back home who are now leaving on missions! Missions are the best :) I know that the Lord has so many amazing things in store for them all! It's an amazing experience, and also very humbling. But words don't really do it justice. So I'm so glad to hear that so many will soon be experiencing it for themselves :)

Well, I love you all! Have a great and yellow last week of school!

Rakkaudella,
Sisar Shaw