Zone conference in Oulu this week meant a lot more travel (I'm really starting to like traveling on trains), but the Lord really blessed our time while we were actually here this week.
We started off the week right with a lot of finding and teaching, even in only the few hours of work time on P-Day. As we were on our way back home for the night, a stern impression came to find just one more person that night. So I called back to my companion to look left as we came to an intersection. I would look right, and between us, I knew we could probably see someone to talk to. As it turns out, to the left, standing outside her apartment building was a young woman about twenty. So we rode over and talked to her. She was waiting for a friend to come pick her up, so in that short time we pulled out the Book of Mormon and quickly explained our message. Her friend pulled up on her scooter just as we finished testifying of the Book of Mormon's impact in our lives. The timing couldn't have been more perfect.
We had a couple of appointments with people we've had a tough time getting a hold of. The first was a Vietnamese man, who has consistently forgotten about our appointments despite our best efforts to remind him. This time, we waited at the church for five minutes and when he didn't come, we gave up and left. Just as we arrived home (five minute bike ride from the church) he called and told us he was on his way, but that he was having trouble finding the church. So we hustled back over, helped him to find it, and had a wonderful discussion with him. He's Christian, but somehow just doesn't have a great grasp on how the Atonement truly applies at a personal level. He's dealt with a lot of discouragement in his life, and made a lot of decisions that he's not happy about. We set aside our plans for teaching the Restoration and focused in on his needs. He completely changed. He started asking questions and trying to find truth. He left with the Book of Mormon, promising to read it. He speaks Swedish, and we really believe he could be a great strength to this branch.
The second was with an African lady who's really funny. When we showed up, she was like, "oh hey, yeah I'm just giving the baby a bath." So we sat in her house for fifteen minutes while we waited for her to finish giving him a bath, then lotion, oil, powder, and clothe him. Our member was a champ, though. Just sat there patiently the whole time, and even made a joke with the investigator about how he has six kids and completely understands. Gotta love members. the actual teaching part went really well, except that we had run out of English Book of Mormons, and thus had none to give her. Yeah, E missionaries. (baseball reference anyone?). But she still somehow agreed to let us come back.
Kinda turned into a hectic day, just dashing all over the city trying to visit potentials before we left for zone conference. We ended up finding a good chance to serve some members in the evening though, so it ended on a high note.
More service for the members, then train to Oulu.
Ultimate frisbee for exercise in the morning. So great. It's been forever since I've gotten to play. BOOM! I did take a pretty good knock to the head, though, which gave me a bad headache the rest of the day, but stuff happens. Plus I got a surprise package from the Fishers, so it sorta all evens out :)
Zone conferences with President Rawlings are great. I always leave with so many things I can do better. Honestly, it hurts a little bit, because I always know I have to repent and do so much better, and that involves a lot of personal change. This gospel truly was meant to "afflict the comfortable." But as long as I actually follow through and do it, I know things will work out for the better and I'll be happier in the long run.
6:30 am train back to Jakobstad. Yaaaayyyyyy......not. I actually slept better on the train than I did in the Oulu chapel though. Saturday was packed with appointments, one of them being the African lady we had promised to give a Book of Mormon to. The problem was, we still didn't have a Book of Mormon in English! So, we started to just search everywhere. Every closet, drawer, and shelf, under the beds, in the bathroom, whatever. No dice. We called our BML to see if he might have one, but he didn't answer. So, a bit upset with myself, I sat down to just wait it out, and opened up my package. Inside was a note, signed by all the Laurels at home. They had thrown in some candy too, which is great because my candy drawer has just run out (yes, Mom, I'm sorry but I do have a candy drawer...). Then, at the bottom of the box, I saw something that made my heart stop. Still partially concealed by packing peanuts lay a small, familiar-looking blue book. The Book of Mormon. In English. Ladies and Gentleman, no magician or work of man can rival the mysteries and miracles of our loving Father in Heaven. I no longer believe in coincidence. Unfortunately, the African lady bailed on us, but I took the miracle for what it was and gave thanks to God.
That afternoon we stopped by a potential that we've felt good about a number of times, but every time we go he's out of the house. So this time, when he wasn't home, we thought to ourselves, "why are we even here?" We had already tracted that entire building, but we decided to just knock on a few in there anyway. The door immediately to our potentials' left was our first door. A man answered, and as soon as he heard we were representatives from a church, he let us in. I'm always a bit skeptical about anything that easy, but once we started talking, his sincerity and faith in Chirst were so apparent. He is here from Romania, trying to make a better life for his wife and one year old son, who also live here. His Swedish was about as good as mine, so I was able to teach him most of the first lesson. He happily agreed to let us come back the next day and teach him more. He said our closing prayer. VERY INTERESTING. He made us all stand up and then essentially shouted his prayer to Jesus. Ok, so there's a little work to do. But hey, I've seen worse.
We went back to the Romanian, B. He was really excited for us. We taught him about the Restoration. He's Pentecostal, which I'm pretty sure is the dominant religion in his country, but when I taught him about Christ establishing his church, he wanted to know so badly why we had so many churches. We explained the apostasy and the role of Jospeh Smith in the Restoration. He finally asked us, "So what's the name of your church anyway?" We said this is the Church of Jesus Christ. He thought about that for a second. Then, he looked right at me and said, in English, "I'm in." He now has a baptismal date for June 30. Please pray for him and his wife to be baptized on that date.
Later, we met with that part member family and our investigator, M. It had been a while since we had met with him. We started by following up on his reading in the Book of Mormon, planning to transition to baptism right away. As we talked, though, it seemed apparent that he wasn't reading the Book of Mormon to gain a testimony, more that he felt that if he gained enough information from it, he would eventually come to know it was true. We disregarded our original plan and zeroed in on that one point. We taught him how vital the Book of Mormon is as a whole, and that we must ask Heavenly Father if the Book itself is true, not only things inside it. I told him that the Book of Mormon gives us only two options: either it is true, or it is not. It cannot be more simple than that. He thought about that for a long time afterwards. We committed him to pray that night and ask directly, if the Book of Mormon was true. we will be going back tonight to follow up. This could be his time. The Lord's hand is at work here.
I love you all so very much. Thank you for all your prayers and support.