Yep, the crash even happens to missionaries.
Hey again, shouts a familiar voice all the way from across the water,
How was everyone's Thanksgiving? When asked to describe a traditional American Thanksgiving this week, I summed it up as a day when we sleep too much, eat too much, and lay on the couch too much. It got a laugh like a quarter of the time. My Thanksgiving ended up being anything but traditional, but I still ended up eating so much food that I wish I could've had all the time to sleep it off. We got fed by members almost every day last week, and on top of that the Haaga sisters gave us some of their Thanksgiving leftovers (the real American stuff), so after a huge meal of meatballs and mashed potatoes provided by the bishop and his family last night, Elder Clegg and I collapsed on our beds and had to exert the very last of our strength to get back up and plan for today. That planning meeting was....less than successful. I will never, ever complain about not being treated well by the members in Finland.
Our actual Thanksgiving dinner was actually on Friday, with an awesome American family from Arizona. They have two really young kids that were pretty wild, while the two big sisters tried to help Mom calm them down. Very fun. They had also invited a couple of other families from the ward that we haven't gotten to know very well so far, so that was really nice. The food was the most American I've had, and while I've developed a taste for Finnish food, that taste of home was very much appreciated. They actually told us that one of their friends was super excited when she found a big, whole turkey to cook on Thanksgiving, until she realized...it was a chicken...thank you, Finnish language, for messing with Americans. (Anyway, man this guy talks a lot about food....on to other things).
So on a missionary work-ish note....
This week we had a few errors in following up with investigators, which is the main reason no one was in church. One investigator in particular may not have come anyway, but I'm sure our failing to find them a ride didn't help. We got caught off guard a bit, and procrastinated. Major repentance is already underway. We feel like she's very nervous about coming to a new place, so we're planning on having a church tour with her, and having a couple members along (in addition to her member husband) to help her feel more confident in coming to church.
Our other miracle investigator from last week, the one who just popped out of no where, was taught, and made progress this week, but without a member present for his lessons, things moved much more slowly. It wasn't quite as deep of a lesson, nor was his commitment as strong as to push him towards the Lord. He's very excited about meeting with us, but unitl a member is there and is the one to do the inviting, I feel like he won't progress into deep conversion or commitment. It will stay surface level and revolve around gaining knowledge and facts about the church.
That being said, I'll stop verbally berating myself and focus on the positives. We had some wonderful experiences following up on potentials and preparing for them to explode into powerful new investigators. We have one potential that was found by the Nietsytpolku elders and they've made the hand-off incredibly smooth. The potential actually ended up contacting them to reschedule (not just cancel) the appointment. He is a young father. We've been praying for someone like him.
We also have a less-active man in the same ward as the potential above, who has started the long road back to full activity. He has been inactive for a very long time. He told us that most of his friends don't know he's a member, and mostly that's just to protect the reputation of the church. But he's trying. When we started talking, we made no attempts to hide why we were there. We boldly asked him where he thought he was, and what he was willing to do to again regain the faith to follow the Savior. He actually thanked us, saying "guys, a lot of missionaries have just come in and been shy. I've wanted to shout at them, 'Challenge me! Be Bold! I like that,' so I appreciate that we're having this conversation." He definitely has a long way to go, and has doubts about whether it is even possible, but as we lovingly invited him to think about small things he could change, he actually ended up saying, without us even inviting, "Well, I guess I could start by reading the Book of Mormon every day, and see how that goes." I asked him to say the closing prayer, and he really hesitated, but when he finally began to speak, he uttered one of the most sincere prayers I've heard in a while. I could literally hear the distance between him and Heavenly Father as he prayed, a combination of estrangement and nervousness, but I could also hear, faintly, a real desire to return and to be close to him again. His mother will be coming to visit in the beginning of next year, and he's promised to come to church with her.
Another miracle moment from this week happened on Saturday. We had planned to go visit a part-member, inactive family that our Ward Council had referred us to just prior to a lesson. As I prayed Friday night, though, I felt that it would be much better to go after the lesson. I mentioned the feeling to Elder Clegg in the morning, and he mentioned another use of that time before the lesson, that was also something we desperately needed to do. It all clicked. When we arrived at the family's home following the lesson, no one seemed to be home. I was a bit confused, because we had been sure we should be there at that time. As we started to leave, the son rode up on his bike and let us in. His father came to the door, and in the brief chat we learned that no one would have been home had we come at the earlier time. We have an appointment set up for next Saturday (unfortunately with the busy week we have that was actually the very earliest we could even make it), and we are very excited to meet with them. They know a few other Filipino members that Elder Clegg met in downtown Helsinki.
Finally, while meeting with a member family this week, we really wanted to help them work with their neighbor that they had mentioned to Linden and Esplin before they left, but that I had never heard of from them personally. Unfortunately, the spirit was just not right during the thought we shared after eating. They all looked exhausted. To have asked them there would have been overkill. But, as the mother of the home was seeing us of, my companion plucked up the courage to give it a chance. He asked if there was anyone we could pray for, and her mind immediately went to that family. We agreed to pray together about them and see a few days later what ideas had come. I've already had a couple ideas come to mind and I can't wait to tell this member about them. I think she'll be really excited.
That's just a taste of a host of miracles I could go on and on about. This area can and will explode before Christmas if only we can keep our minds focused and the pedal to the floor (not literally, Mom, don't worry).
Yesterday was our Primary Program in the second ward. Tons of wonderful kids with great testimonies and really well put together. The greatest moment of all came directly following a rousing rendition of "Nefin Rohkeus" (Nephi's Courage). As the kids got done belting out the final chorus and the last notes from the piano faded into the air, a four year boy on the front row raised his arms high in the air and shouted, "YES!" The place went nuts. I tried really hard to stop laughing, but I'm pretty sure I kept laughing about that the rest of the day. Evidently, their music director had developed a habit of giving them all a hidden thumbs-up when she felt like they had really nailed it, and that was what prompted the little boy's eruption. I love Primary.
I love you all. Thanks for the pictures, Dad. Wishing everyone the best this week as we now (officially) get to start looking forward to Christmas.
P.S. I got a nickname from the Bishop's son at dinner last night: "Hanski" Basically my last name put into Finnish youth slang. I think I'll keep it.