That's right, I saw grass this week for the first time in months. Elder L and I stood there and just stared at it for a few minutes. It was that beautiful. I also just learned that the driveway to our apartment building is dirt not asphalt. Who knew?!
Yep, the weather was probably the highlight of this week. Reached above nolla [zero] for the first time since I came to Jakobstad. Elder L didn't believe me when I looked at the thermometer and told him what the temperature was outside. Unfortunately, it was back to -14 when we went out to run this morning.
The weather is really starting to make it difficult to bike. The snow has started to melt away, but it leaves behind solid, thick sheets of ice all over the road. To make matters worse, I temporarily lost my bike key and had to ride Elder L's old bike for a few days. It's...hard to explain. This is a bike he put together himself out of spare parts from old missionaries' bikes. It's frame is purple and blue, rusty, and too small. It has no hand brake. The back wheel is actually bent out of shape so the whole bike shoots out to the right everytime you pedal. That bent wheel also generates friction, so you have to continue to work even going downhill just to keep it moving. So imagine me riding that beast, going down a hill about 100 yards long on a steep grade over solid ice just clinging for dear life and you know essentially what I did all week. It was great!
So Monday we met a man from Libya, who fled during the massive civil war that started last year and is here as a refugee. Way cool guy. He has a baptismal date now! He says he's Christian, but we still had to get approval before we could teach him. Apparently that kind of thing has to go all the way to the Quorum of the Twelve. I didn't know that, but it makes sense because if we teach people and they get put in the wrong situation because of it, they could be killed. Yeah, apparently the world isn't as good of a place as we thought. The best part of his story, ironically, actually comes from when he bailed on a teach. He wasn't home when we knocked on his door, so we left. On our way out our Iraqi recent convert calls us and says, "Hey, I saw you out my window, you want to come up?" So we went to go share a short message with him. I've actually picked up a little German from all the time we've spent with him. (He speaks Arabic, Curdish, and German, and Elder L speaks some German, so our lessons with him involve a lot of pictures and charades - really fun). So that was great, but it gets even better! As we're leaving his place, we see K, the Bulgarian godfather, sitting in his car on the street. So we go talk to him and tell him we have an appointment with his daughter and son-in-law soon and invite him to come too. We had, luckily, just gotten ten Bulgarian copies of the Book of Mormon from the office, so we gave one to him and ran home to get the rest to bring to the teach. We show up, and there's three Bulgarian families there waiting for us! Then Sunday, three other families came to church! This one family, the daughter and son-in-law are kind of leading everyone into this. They love it. Unfortunately we want to teach them all at the same pace, so those two have heard the message of the restoration three different times now. I feel bad for them. We're gonna move on to the Plan of Salvation soon. But this family keeps getting bigger and bigger and they just can't wait to keep inviting more people! Our ward was shocked that we had six investigators in church on Sunday.
Probably the greatest highlight of my week though, was Saturday night. We had a teach with the man from Libya, at our Iraqi recent convert's place, so they could speak Arabic (the Libyan's English isn't as good as we would like). the Libyan bailed, so we had another opportunity to sit and visit with H (Iraqi recent convert). H left Iraq after his parents and brother were killed for being Christian. He's now here as a refugee, and this week we find out whether he gets to stay or whether they will send him back to Iraq. You would expect him to be incredibly stressed. But instead, he had made us a full Iraqi meal, with this special kind of bread and yogurt and cheese. Very, very simple and humble, but it fills you up fast. He's recently discovered Susan Boyle on YouTube, and he loves the video of her singing "I dreamed a dream" on Britain's Got Talent. Played it over and over until I basically had it memorized and he laughed his head off every time. There was just such a wonderful, indescribable spirit in that room as we sat and talked about everything except what will potentially happpen this week and raised this good man's faith and spirit. We know how much he loves this gospel. He badgered two sets of missionaries in two cities until he got a Book of Mormon in Arabic and got baptized about three weeks later. One of the most happy, humble men I've ever met.
Well there was probably more I had planned to write but I can't remember now. To all those within the sound of my voice, I love you from the bottom of my heart. I want to close with a story a very good friend wrote to me in a letter this week. Sitting in church one Sunday, a thought from a speaker stuck her. She turned to her little six year old cousin and said, "Hey, Heavenly Father loves you!" To which her little cousin replied, "I know that, I've known that since I was five!" Kids.
I know Heavenly Father loves me. And He loves all of you. I've known that since I was five.
[PS - just got a quick separate note about transfers from McKay -- he and his companion are both staying in Pietarsaari/Jakobstad, and they are both very happy about that]