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.