9 months down...9 to go baby!! WOOOHOOO!!!
HELLOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Man, where do I even begin! Probably should talk about the title of my letter...guys...my halfway mark is on Wednesday...HOLY COW. Where does the time go? I seriously can't believe it! I have so many different little "rites of passage" to do on Wednesday that I have saved for my halfway point! I can't tell you what they are though...that would ruin the fun :) This is nuts! Also, did anyone else just realize other than me that being a sister missionary is like expecting a baby twice...two sets of 9 months...kind of an interesting perspective...was that inappropriate to say? I don't know :) , but anyways, it has been the most incredible 9 months of my life! I have loved every second. Hardest 9 months of my life...uh YES! Would I trade them for anything? Uh...NO!! I love being a missionary and I love that I have 9 months more of this wonderful life! It's the best!!!
2nd thing...OH MY GOODNESS YOU MET SISTER FRONK!!! Holy cow...I about died when I looked at your pictures...yes I am crying! She looks like she belongs in our family! She is so wonderful and I am so happy you got to meet her! She really is one of my best friends and I am just so glad you were there! This is the best day ever!!
3rd thing...EMMA RUSSELL IS GOING TO PERU!!!! Holy cow....this is insanity! Emma, I don't even know if you read this, but I am SOOO excited for you! Seriously, you are going to love being a missionary! How cool that you are leaving at basically the same time I left! It is a great time to be in the MTC!! Wait, you will probably actually go to Peru, huh? Oh man...you are way too cool! :) They are going to love you down there and you are going to love being a missionary! I am so excited for you and I love you so much!! Send me your e-mail so we can be besties/sisters/cousins forever!! hahaha I love you!!
Wow, I have been looking forward to emailing this whole week! I knew you were going to meet Sister Fronk and that Emma should have received her call! I have been reflecting a lot this week about all the things I have learned on my mission. Actually, that's false, I don't have time to think about all the things I have learned on my mission. But I hope you all know, more than anything how much I love Heavenly Father and my Savior and this work! It is so wonderful. I don't know what else to say about it! It's amazing how hard it is and how many struggles you have, but the joy you feel is like nothing else I have ever experienced. It's funny because it's not just even joy doing the day to day things we do as missionaries, but your love for EVERYONE increases. That includes all your family, friends, and all the people who influenced your life for good before your mission and all the people who have influenced it during your mission. Honestly, I know I am so happy because I love you all so much! I love the Finns so much! I love my companions so much! I just love everything. It's amazing what can happen to us as we allow the love of Christ to fill our lives. That comes as we pray for his love to fill us. Anyways...I just LOVE you all with a capital/capitol (#dontrememberenglish) L! You are so wonderful!!
Well, this week on "Something Finnish", let's talk about Angry Birds. BTW, I really can't remember all the things I have already told you, so if some of this is repeated, then sorry and this is really embarrassing, but hey, you can never know too much about the same thing, right? Anyways, I don't know if you know this, but the creator of Angry Birds is from Finland. If anyone wants to know why that is funny, come and try to sleep through the night in Finland. The birds are MENTAL. They sit outside and squawk and chirp and beep and buzz and cry and yell and scream and do every other sound you could think of. Seriously, it's amazing. I think they have some sort of an "Angry Bird Orchestra" that performs outside our apartment building each night. Luckily we have a fan, so we can't hear too much during the night, but they are always there without fail in the morning. Anyways, I guess some Finnish man thought they were pretty crazy as well, but he decided to do something constructive with his whining so he created Angry Birds and is now making billions of dollars! So there ya go...fun fact for the day!!
Oh yes, little sidenote...it is really hot in Finland...let me 'splain....they don't have air conditioning in their homes or buildings because... it's not usually necessary...but man, on those days when it is warm outside, we cook like little dough balls. Especially in the church...it is nice and toasty! I am hot as I am sitting writing this email in the church! I know it's not anything to South America or Mexico or the Philippines, but man...it's roasty toasty! I sort of have a tan line...my skin went from translucent to how it was when I was born! I am coming back to life! :)
Sisar Pace and I are doing pretty well. I have never had so many disagreements with a companion before, however, and it's really hard for me to understand her. She has a lot of really good ideas, and I really made it a priority and goal at the beginning of this training experience to acknowledge and try her ideas. I wanted her to know that I am her trainer, she is my trainee, but we are also companions and I value her opinion. She is very wise and an incredible missionary, but she does think that it should be her way or the highway. She likes to say, "It's not like I think I am better than you or anything, but I think you should do this like this" or "You should probably work on that" or "If I were you, I would do things this way". Not going to lie...it's hard not to let it bug me and to just shrug it off. We have extremely different sense of humors, and what she says are jokes, I would only say to someone if I really wanted to insult them. I have been praying SO HARD that I would be able to love her and understand her, because honestly, sometimes it's hard. I don't know everything, but I do know some things, especially stuff I have learned on my mission.
Anyways, yesterday she decided to tell me, ever so sweetly, some of the things she thinks I do wrong and I just looked at her and said, "Sister Pace, I respect you and your opinions, but you are asking me to change who I am and to become who you are. You are wonderful, but I cannot and should not be you. We are different for a reason and if I do things that really irritate you, please let me know so I can work on them, but we need to work together and we CANNOT be critical of each other or this will never work." Dad and Mom, your letters last week helped me more than you know...they have been running over in my head all week, but anyways, we had a good talk, and I really listened to her and asked her questions about her friends, family, and her life. It's amazing how the more you learn about someone and their background, the harder it is to be frustrated with them. Yes, she is super sassy. Yes, she hurts my feelings a lot, but I know she doesn't mean it. This is really good for me and I hope for her as well. I am learning how to not get offended...EVER...and I don't really know what I am teaching her, but I am sure it's something. It's amazing how on those days when I pray REALLY hard that I will love her, I do, and the work and everything else goes so much better! Christ's love man, it's the only way to go! We can love anyone when we love them with the love of Christ. I know that is true, 100%!
Anyways, We had a pretty good week this week! We had the best day ever scheduled for Tuesday. We had an appointment with Chau in the morning, a lesson with Jan and two awesome YSA's from our ward, and then a church tour with Markkus scheduled with this YSA who is always super busy, but had time to come on Tuesday. Then we had 2 dinner appointments with members and a lesson scheduled with our Less active, part member family that we are working with. Monday night, I looked at our schedule and thought, "Dang...this has the potential to be the best, most productive, successful day of my mission." So I went to sleep with flowers and sunshine in my head...woke up next morning to both of our investigator lessons cancelling, but oddly enough, I wasn't frustrated. I really felt like we did all that we could do and put it in the Lord's hands. Everybody goes on vacation in Finland during the summer...members included. It's hard to get people to lessons, but we are REALLY trying and the Lord is blessing us for our efforts! Anyways, those two appointments fell through so we haven't met with Markkus or Jan yet, but pray for them. We have appointments scheduled for this week!!
On Tuesday night, we met with the Less Active/Part Member family. The mom, Tuulia, and the husband, Caius, are divorced. Both finnish. Both still members. Both less active. Both in our ward. Kind of an awkward situation. Anyways, they have 5 kids, 2 have been baptized and 3 are baptismal age, but haven't been baptized yet because they don't come to church. The bishop has really been wanting us to focus on them lately, and we have tried, but they just don't answer calls and are always busy. Anyways, thanks to Heavenly Father, we had an appointment with them on Monday. I am not going to lie, I was TERRIFIED!!! There was a lot riding on this lesson and I just felt super inadequate. I know that is a tool Satan uses to get at all of his missionaries, but I just remembered what Sister Fronk told me before she left, "If you love the people you work with, you will never fail." I decided right then and there just to love Tuulia and her kids as much as I could. We got to know them a little bit and she was super warm and friendly. I was actually really surprised and was feeling pretty good, but then I knew that we needed to bring up the fact that we want to teach her kids. I said a quick prayer in my heart, and just told her, "Hey, we would love to come and teach your kids about the gospel." She smiled and said, "Of course, I would love that too." I asked her little daughter, Ronya, if she would like to learn more about Jesus, and she said, "Kyllä. Minä uskon Jumalaan ja Jeesukseen," or "Yes. I believe in God and Jesus." I love primary age kids. Seriously, they have the most pure spirits and desires. It's incredible. I just feel so bad for this sweet little family though. It's a really sad situation. Tuulia has kind of been barking up the wrong tree. She has a 20 year old boyfriend...she is 45...and he lives with her and her kids. The spirit in their home was so sad. I just walked out feeling pretty junky. I know that they need the light of the gospel back into their lives and in their home. Pray for Tuulia, Ronya, Caspian, Benjamin, Tiina, and Caspar. They are awesome and we hope to see them baptized soon!!
We have/had this investigator in Seinäjoki, Anna. She is pretty old...like pushing 85, but she comes to church every Sunday and just LOVES it. She is super hilarious and half the time, I have no idea what she is talking about. We have taught her on and off ever since I have been in Seinäjoki and Vaasa. This week, we decided that we would ask her to be baptized and kind of gauge the situation from there. We went to her house and she proceeded to tell us how Jesus appeared to her and told her that she should stay in the church she is in. Man, I hate when that happens :) JK but we are giving her to the Lord for awhile! Seriously, the funny situations you find yourself in as a missionary are priceless! I love it so much!!
We had an awesome day on Sunday. We went to church...ilmeisesti....isn't church the greatest thing in the world? I look forward to it like none other! Yesterday, the meeting was wonderful as always! Not going to lie, I know I am going to miss singing the hymns in Finnish! But after church, we finished our studies and then we set off to go heart attack some ward members, contact a referral, and go visit a member family. I love heart attacking people. It's such a small, dorky, sister missionary thing, but man...PEOPLE LOVE IT! Especially in Finland. I have told you how they don't express love very often, so when two american girls plaster big, bright hearts all over your door telling you how much they love you, it is a bit out of the ordinary, but man...they always either call us, text us, or talk to us in church about it. We had a dinner appointment this week with the Pettersson family...the wife is Finnish and the husband is Swedish, and they are wonderful! They have only lived in Vaasa for a year, but are always willing to help us with anything. Anyways, we heart attacked them and last night at like 10:25, Sisar Pettersson calls us, crying, and says, "Sisters, thank you SO much. How did you know we had been praying to feel loved and needed in this ward. You are angels. We love you both so much." Man...it's times like that where you just sit there and smile and think, "Is there anything better than serving others?" No, there really isn't!
We received this referral from a member about 3 weeks ago. His name is Zhang Feng...yes, yes, HE IS CHINESE!! I love CHINA!!! I love the people, I love the food, I just love them! Anyways, I have been pretty persistent about getting in contact with this referral A, because it's a referral, B, because he is chinese, and C, because the member who gave him to us said that he didn't know much about him, but felt like he had a great heart. Enough said! :) Anyways we have tried and tried and tried to contact this guy, but he is never home. Yesterday we decided that it would be the last time we would try to contact him. We show up to his door, all sweaty and dirty cause we bike everywhere, not expecting him to answer, but guess what? He answered...in his rubber ducky pajamas! It was awesome! We had a great discussion with him at his door and gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to a church tour on Saturday. He was so nice and way excited. We actually just received a text from him saying that he talked to his "mentor" in China and the mentor said that he couldn't meet with us. I'm pretty sure when he said "mentor" he meant "De-mentor". Who does that? Satan is working so hard to keep China closed. They really are the best people. Anyways, we want to take him a chinese Book of Mormon...we can't interfere with the laws of the land where we don't live or serve....go figure...but anyways...maybe something will come up! He is a wonderful guy and HE IS CHINESE! I have nothing further to say! :)
Anyways, after we contacted Zhang, we rode our bikes to the Raitila's house. Sidenote: I love riding my bike more than anything in the world. It is my new simple pleasure. It's coming home with me! :) But we had an awesome lesson with their family. Sisar Raitila is a supermom...Mom, you two would be great friends, she reminds me so much of you. Their daughters are adorable and are so sweet to us when we come. Their dad isn't a member, but the elders are working with him. Sisar Raitila bore her testimony yesterday about hope and how even though they don't know when their dad will join the church, they know he will and that makes every day worth living. Man, talk about rockstars. These members are amazing and I just love them all SO MUCH!! It's the best place in the world. Plus they gave us watermelon! It was way delicious! :)
Oh, way funny story, so we were trying to find the Raitila's house through this neighborhood. Sister Pace was navigating...we take turns navigating...and we were totally and completely lost. Neither of us knew where we were. We were driving down this neighborhood street and I glanced over at this house and saw a big flower in the window. I kind of smiled and thought, "That was a pretty flower," but kept going along. The spirit hit my like a bag of bricks and said, "That flower was attached to a shirt...someone was staring at you...go back and talk to them." I rang my bike bell...yes I have a bike bell...and told Sister Pace we had to go check this house. We walked our bikes up to the door and this older couple comes out and I asked, "Sorry, we are lost, can you help us?" The husband turns around and goes back inside, but the wife, Maija, stayed outside and was looking at the map, trying to help us at least find where we were. All of a sudden, her husband...probably in his 70s comes out carrying his bike and said, "Follow Me". I was like, "Oh my goodness, you don't have to take us over there, we just wanted to see where he were." He muttered something in finnish and waved his hand at us, as if to say, "Oh please, you will never find this place alone," haha but anyways, there we were, an old finnish man, Sister Pace and I biking through the Finnish forest. He got us right to the Raitila's house. We thanked him as he started to drive away, but Sister Pace and I both felt like we should take them cookies later this week to say thank you and hopefully to talk about the gospel, cause that's what we do. :) Anyways, it was a pretty funny experience...first time it's ever happened to me! It was awesome!!
Anyways, I have been thinking a lot this week about happiness. I was pretty sad at the beginning of the week. I really don't like when people are frustrated with me and I felt my companion was and I was just like, "Dang it...what am I going to do?" I prayed a lot...like all day...and just asked Heavenly Father to help me know what to do. The answer came so directly, it kind of caught me off guard. I was sitting one night, writing in my journal and the thought came to me, "Don't let your happiness be dependent on anything, especially someone else's opinion of you. You will have a long, unhappy life if that's how you decide whether or not to be happy." Two things caught my attention from that answer, A, it doesn't matter who it is, whether it's a companion or a spouse or a best friend or a parent or a sibling, whoever....our happiness cannot be dependent on another person. That song from "Tea for Two" kept coming into my mind this week, "I want to be happy, but I won't be happy, til I make you happy too." That song is a lie! :) Just kidding, it's a cute sappy, love song, but in the end, it's really true that we can't become so dependent on another "person" that whatever they say or do affects us to the point of making us happy or sad. Yes, we need to love everyone as the Savior loves them, but I know for a fact that when people said rude things to him or when people he loved did stupid things, it made him sad, but he didn't wallow in it or distract him from his true purpose. He pushed forward with love in his heart and served those around him. What a wonderful person!
But, I realized that it really is our decision to be happy. We literally have a choice, everyday when we wake up to decide how we are going to respond to situations during the day. I don't really know how to feel about that. It kind of puts some weird kind of pressure on us, but it also gives me such a sense of freedom. It doesn't matter where we are, who we are with, or what we are doing, if we rely on the Lord, put our trust in Him, and love those around us, we will not be able to stop ourselves from being happy. I have seen so many people in my life who have "put their trust in the arm of the flesh" and have suffered for it. It's a good lesson to learn, yes, but we can't put our trust in a sandy foundation. It's like in Helaman 5:12, if we build our foundation on Jesus Christ, we will NEVER fail. Never. It's impossible.
I love being happy. I hate being sad. Honestly, the greatest desire of my heart is that everyone can be happy. The best part is, the way to be truly, truly happy is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. You are all wonderful missionaries. You live your lives every day, thinking people don't notice, but trust me, they do. You are making a bigger difference than you know, just by being who you are. Heavenly Father loves each one of you so much. I know that is true because every night when I pray for you, I ask him to bless you and keep you all safe and to help you know that I love you and he loves you, and I feel his love for you come into my heart, and that multiplies and perfects my love for you. It's amazing how much Heavenly Father loves each of us. He really does. If you don't believe it, just ask him to see yourself through his eyes. I promise, you will never be the same again! The gospel is real. God's love is real. Pure, Christ like love can change the world. It has changed me forever and I am beyond grateful for it! You are the most wonderful people I know. Mom, Dad, Jocelyn, Anne, Lauren, Luke, Caroline, and everyone else who tries to read this and gets bored cause it's so long...hahaha....you are the most wonderful people I know. Be who you are. Invite others to do things with you. Help them experience the joy that we have because we know we can be together forever. What greater blessing is that? Have we not great reason to rejoice??!! I love you all so much and hope you have the best week in the history of forever!!! MINÄ RAKASTAN TEITÄ!!!!
Ether 12:4 It's my favorite scriptures! The gospel is our anchor! Make sure it's tied to a solid foundation! :)
P.S. I have thought about Nauvoo SOOOO much this week. It is the loveliest place, and the best people under the heavens! I love you all! LET ZION IN HER BEAUTY RISE!!! :)