God Gave Us Families
Hyvää Päivää teille kaikille! :) How in the heck are you all? I just have to say, thank you again for all the love and emails and support. Seriously, I am so blessed. I have been blessed with the most wonderful friends and family. It's so amazing to me how there really are no coincidences as to who our family and friends are, but I lucked out. I think I snuck into the "Awesome Family" line on the way down from heaven and they shot me down here to all of you. It was a good move on my part. I'm glad I did it!
First off, I just have to say how much I loved Conference. I still haven't listened to the Sunday Afternoon session, but we are watching it later today. It was such a powerful conference. Oh my word. Sister Rochette and I talked about how much more straightforward and to the point the talks are. It's just evidence that we are preparing for something great, aka the Savior to come back. What a glorious day that will be. I will talk a bit more about our Conference days later, but just wanted to give a little shot-out. Also, I hope Moab was fun. My word, I bet you just had the time of your lives. I saw the arches at the beginning of Music and the Spoken Word and I thought about all of you. I can't wait to see pictures.
I thought it would be cool to give you a little update on what we are doing in our area. I am sure you are all just dying to know. :) This is mostly for my benefit so I can remember later in life, but we are doing really well in our area. We haven't achieved the Standards of Excellence yet, but we have been consistently finding new people to teach and our number of referrals from members has shot up. We have really focused on giving short, powerful messages to our members, building trust with them, and praying with them over names of people they thought might one day accept the gospel. Last week we received 5 member referrals of solid people that really want the gospel. It's been amazing and we are working on contacting them all this week.
We have really refined and organized our area book and it is just a machine. I have found more investigators than ever on my mission as our area book has been up to date. We don't ever lose people. We follow up with them quickly after we get their information and we have seen miracles because of it. We are working closely with members and we have developed this calendar where we call members and ask them what day of the week usually works for them to come on lessons. We then map it out on this calendar so immediately when we set up an appointment with someone, we call a member and it's all taken care of. It's been SO much easier than scrambling around the day before an appointment, trying to call all of the members and see who could come with us. I think the members appreciate it so much more. I know they want to help us, they just need to know enough in advance. President Watson has talked about how important it is that we don't ever feel entitled to members as missionaries. They have their own lives and it really is a huge service when they come with us. I love the members in these wards so much. They are wonderful! Anyways, that's the run down on our area. We are having a lot of success. Heavenly Father is helping us so much. It's amazing to see.
We had a great week this week. Remember the story I told you about the woman we met running and then she came to a temple tour? Well, we had a lesson with her last P-day and her husband and 2 kids were there. They are such a cute family. They are from India. I love Indian culture. They are so kind and respectful. When we went in their house, the husband helped us off with our coats and escorted us to our seats. After everything we said they would respond with, "Yes Sister" and a little bow of the head. I am 99% sure that they went to a Catholic school as kids and the only sisters they knows are the nuns that worked at the school. Haha nonetheless, it felt nice to be respected in that way. I could get used to it! They had also made this HUGE cheesecake with fresh blueberries on it. I felt bad that they went to such great lengths to make our experience meaningful, but it was really nice. The kids are so cute. They have a 9 year old boy and a 5 year old daughter. I can't tell you their names, but the boy's name may or may not be Grandma Parkinson's maiden name...pretty easy for me to remember. :) Anyways, they really made us feel special.
The lesson went really well. They honestly sort of revere us and it's really nice, but we want them to know we are normal while also maintaining the relationship. I think it has something to do with the fact that the member who was with us told them that we are "Messengers come from God." Apparently it made an impact. They are really excited to keep meeting with us. We talked about baptism and they were pretty hesitant to set a date, but they said they would when they know it's true. We are working on helping them see why it's important to set a date at the beginning, to show Heavenly Father our real intent and all. ;) We were only able to meet with them once because they went out of town for Easter, but they are really great. They have so much real intent and we are focusing on getting them to church this week. We will call them the F family. I am sure that just clears everything up! :) #finnishprivacylaws
We had a really good lesson with A this past week, our recent convert. Over the past few months, she has sadly turned into a less active. She gets frustrated when we say that church weekly is a commandment. In her old church, she said they could go whenever they wanted and no one called them or came and got them or "dragged" them to church. We have been really praying about how to help her. We have committed her over and over to read the Book of Mormon daily and to come to church, but something always comes up. Well, this week, we had the idea to teach her about Patriarchal Blessings and that she could receive one. As we were teaching about it, Sister Rochette explained that you have to have an interview with the Bishop before you can get your blessing and that you have to be living the commandments, including going to church weekly. She then asked A, "Would not coming to church stop you from getting your patriarchal blessing?" It was such a powerful question. At first, A seemed a little offended and the Spirit almost turned contentious. We were both praying so hard that they Spirit would help her understand how important keeping the commandments, all of the commandments, is. Well, she made some comments about how we don't understand how busy life is as missionaries because all we do is church stuff, but literally, the Spirit started working in her. You could see it. She stopped talking and just sat there for a while. You could just feel the Holy Ghost come back into the room and she said, "I know I need to come to church. God gives me 6 days and 21 hours, I can give 3 hours back to Him." Wow. There is nothing more powerful than the Holy Ghost and inspired questions. I gained a deeper testimony of those things that night.
So on P-day, we were standing at a train stop with our groceries and I had the thought to talk to this really scary man. I honestly didn't want to. He looked drunk and honestly really scary, but I had the thought to give him a pass-along card. Well, I didn't do it. I brushed the thought off thinking that no way that thought could come from the Spirit. Well, I went home that night and I just felt horrible. As I was saying my prayers, asking Heavenly Father what I could do better, that man's face popped into my mind. I felt so horrible. I asked Heavenly Father to forgive me and I made a promise with him that the next day, I would follow EVERY single prompting I got, regardless of who I was supposed to talk to or what I was supposed to do and then I went to sleep.
Well, we went to district meeting the next morning and I talked to all of the people that the Spirit prompted me to talk to. I didn't have a lot of success. People weren't rude, they just weren't interested. I always feel happy when I follow the Spirit, so I was feeling pretty good. After district meeting however, we were on our way home for lunch and I sat next to a lady on the train. I sat down and asked how she was doing and she looked at me with eyes as big as golf balls and shouted, "Don't you ever talk to me about your church again." Well, it wasn't the best feeling in the world, not going to lie. Especially when her yelling attracted the attention of the whole train, but it's whatever. I was especially confused because I had felt so inspired to talk to her. I knew it was from the Spirit. I was like, "Spirit, come on man, what are you doing to me?" Well, we got off the train and started walking home. As I was thinking about what happened, a lady all dressed in black walked next to us. The Spirit whispered to my heart, "You need to talk to that lady." I said hello to her, but she either didn't hear or didn't acknowledge that I had said anything. She turned and started walking around the building right next to our building. We kept walking around the other side and the Spirit said, "Go talk to that lady." Well, I remembered the promise I made to Heavenly Father, so we followed the woman in black, like literally followed her. We even had to jog a little bit, but we stopped in enough time so she wouldn't be freaked out. I called ahead to her and said, "Hey! Hold on a second." haha I am sure she thought I was crazy, but she stopped and we caught up to her. We proceeded to tell her that we were here as church representatives. We asked her if she had heard of the church. She told us that she had visited the temple 3 times when the open house was happening. We asked her why she had gone 3 times and she said, "Because of the wonderful feeling of peace I felt there. It made me want to go back." Well we then said, "You can have that feeling of peace with you always. When could we come and teach you about it?" She then gave us her name, address, number and set up an appointment for Thursday. Miracles people. It was pretty amazing. Her name is T. Pray for her. Following the Spirit works.
We went on splits with the sisters in Kerava sisters this week, Sisar Forrest and Sisar Herrmann. Sisar Herrmann has been in Finland for about a month and I was able to go with her. She is an amazing missionary, plus she plays soccer and was even a sweeper so I mean, it was like a match made in heaven. :) We clicked really well. She had a goal to apply the gospel to everyone we contacted and to talk with everyone and I was just riding high on the following every prompting of the spirit train so I stuck with that as my goal. We had a great day. We felt inspired to do some tracting and we set up 4 return appointments for them. It was amazing. We had so much fun! She is a great sister! We talked a lot about how important it is to be yourself as a missionary. There really is no set way to contact or to teach. If we were all supposed to be the same, it wouldn't matter where they sent us. But for some reason, the Finnish people respond best to Sister Bitner's and Sister Herrmann's personalities. We are needed here for who we are. It was a good reminder for me and I was grateful we were able to talk about. Sisar Nyman sent me an email this week and commented on how amazing it is that all of the apostles have such different personalities, but we need each one of them. Something about each one of them touches our hearts. It's just the same with missionaries and people in general. We should never EVER try to be someone else. If you do that, I can promise you, you will never be truly happy. It's all about becoming your best self through the Atonement and then being that best self. That's what brings true happiness.
We had about 537983 dinner appointments last week which was great. I wanted to share something with you that one of the cute little old Finnish members said to us. We got to her house and went inside and asked her if there was anything we could do to help. Now normally, Finnish members say no, but her "no" was very serious. She said, "Absolutely not. You go sit and rest. Missionaries represent Jesus Christ. When you are at our home, it is as though Jesus Christ is here, so we want to give you our best." Oh my goodness. It was the most humbling thing I have ever heard. I was so grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a representative of my Savior for 18 months. What an honor. It was cool to hear that that is really how people perceive us. We really are "messengers sent from God." I thought it was pretty awesome!
So for my spiritual thought this week, I wanted to write down some thoughts I had from each of the sessions of Conference I have watched. I will start with the Saturday Morning session.
Saturday Morning: I loved Elder Packer's talk. My goodness, is there anything better than his cute story about his wife? I was so amazed at how much Conference focused on families, marriage, and honestly true love. From Elder Packer's talk I learned that true love really is out there and we shouldn't settle for anything less when we are looking for a spouse. I loved that. I don't remember who said this, but I loved the thing, "You life me and I'll lift thee and we'll ascend together." What a great motto. This applies in any relationship. If you both focus completely on caring for the other person, then you will both be taken care of. Kind of a "duh" concept, but if we all lived that principle, the world would be a much better place. I also learned from this session that we cannot be paralyzed with a fear of the future. Fear and Faith cannot reside in the same heart.
Saturday Afternoon: I learned from this that it requires effort to remember Christ. We promise to do that every week during the sacrament, but it requires greater effort than I realize. I know I need to pray for help to remember Him always. We should always live with reverence, respect, and awe for the Savior. I also loved when someone said, "Ultimately we will have no excuse." There really are no excuses in the end of all things so stop making them now. I loved, "A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying" and if we don't keep trying, we are just latter-day sinners. If we don't endure, we are just latter-day quitters. That's a really good reminder.
Sunday Morning: Put down the phone. Make time to marvel at the world and to actually TALK to people. I learned that I need to marvel at and enjoy Finland and enjoy my last month here. I just love that world, MARVEL. It's a good one word sermon if you ask me. I loved Elder Holland's talk. Holy cow, how powerful was that. The Savior reaches to us with brotherly hands and determined arms. I loved the story he used to illustrate the point. I have felt like that so many times in my life, but especially my mission. Just that feeling of dangling and grasping for something. I loved the phrase, "Grasp me as I fall, hold me with thy might." It made the one-liner file in my brain. I learned also from this session how much I want to live life to the fullest. I want to laugh a lot, cry a lot, love a lot, travel a lot, and just be a real person. It's such a beautiful life when we do that, and it's only possible through the Savior. I think that is why "Meet the Mormons" is such a great movie. It shows 6 people who have really lived life to the fullest because of Jesus Christ. It's amazing!
I saved the Women's meeting for last, because it was SO STINKING GOOD. Holy cow. That first song they sang with the line, "God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be" hit me like a sack of bricks. I bawled like a baby as I thought of our family and how that line is 100% true. I wouldn't be anything without my family. You are everything to me and I am so grateful for all of you. I had the distinct impression as I watched that session that nothing can ever stop our family. We are in this together and I know that we will continue to grow strong and to be better. Nothing brings me more joy than that. I also had the thought during the meeting that I needed to give you all a "One for the Day." So here we go:
Dad, your one for the day is how well you hold the Priesthood. You are everything that a righteous Priesthood holder should be and you have always been the rock of our family. I thought of all those times when you led our family in prayer, scripture study, and family home evening and I was really overcome with gratitude for you and for the love you have and respect you have for the Priesthood you hold. Thank you! I love you!
Mom, your one for the day is your determination to have the Spirit in our home. I always remember as a kid how you would say, "Satan will do anything to get the Spirit out of our home and we can't let him win" and you really fought back against him. As a result, I have a testimony, all of your kids have testimonies of the gospel and we love each other deeply. That would not have happened without your righteous desires and determination against the adversary. Thank you so much for that example. I love you!
Joce, your one for the day is your passion for everything. You live life to the fullest. You NEVER do anything half-heartedly. You don't love half-heartedly and you don't work half-heartedly. You have inspired me to be passionate and to be true to what I love. Thank you for that. I love you!
Anne, your one for the day is your kindness and your love for peace. You have always been a peace maker and that is one of the greatest Christ-like attributes that can be developed. You just have it in your soul. You love with the love of Christ and you leave everyone around you feeling uplifted. Thank you! I love you!
Lauren, your one for the day is your loyalty and companionship. You are the best friend that anyone could have. You love deeply and you love completely. You don't love just a part of a person, you love the whole person for exactly who they are. You have always loved me that way and I appreciate and love you more than you know. Thank you! I love you!
Luke, your one for the day is your happiness and your desire to have fun. You brighten up any room you go into and you always make me smile. You want nothing more than that the people you love and the people around you are happy. You are a natural leader and you draw others to you with your sweet heart and your goodness. Thank you for your example. I love you!
Caroline, your one for the day is your desire to work hard and to do your best, always. You always succeed at what you do, and that is because you work so hard and are so diligent. You are so incredibly smart and talented and you have a great influence on those that are around you. Thank you for influencing me for good. I love you!
Well great, now I am crying. haha :) I have the best family in the world. I was on the train yesterday and I sat next to this lady and I showed her our family picture and tears came to her eyes...guys this was a Finn, and she said, "This is the most beautiful family I have ever seen. You tell them that I said they are beautiful." Wow. I couldn't agree more. You all shine with the light of Christ and I really am humbled to be your daughter and sister. God really did give us our family to help us become what He wants us to be. I hope you all know that I am always here for you. I am here for you whether I am in Finland or home and I can't wait to come and see you all. It will be so wonderful! I may pass out with happiness. Have a stretcher close by! :) Have a wonderful week. I love you so much!
P.S. "Something Finnish" They have this famous Easter dessert called Mämmi. It is basically rye pudding and it honestly tastes pretty nasty, but when you put lots of cream and sugar on it, it tastes pretty good. haha I am so American, and proud of it! :) I love you!
|The traditional Finnish Easter dessert, Mämmi....it looks gross, but its pretty good!|
|I love Mämmi|
|You put a lot of cream and sugar on it and then it tastes good|
|...I'm pretty sure you can do the same thing with dirt, but you know... it's whatever :)|
|Sister Herrmann and I on splits in a graffiti tunnel|
|The sisters at conference, and some members!|
|My boots have gone the way of all the earth...as I was running they busted open...R.I.P.|
|My companion made me an Easter basket...she even hid it in the sauna.|
|A little angel gave me some Cadberry creme eggs for Easter...wow. Best gift ever!|