Is it illegal to wish a happy birthday to yourself?
Elder Clegg decided to go out with a bang. Mostly in his checkbook. We had some fun buying presents for his family (and a couple for him as well). Also felt a little strange ("sketch" as he would say), because he didn't want to have to take euros home with him, so he bought everything this week in cash. Is it weird to anyone else that carrying around cash is considered a strange and rare occurence now? Just saying...
Wonderful Christmas miracles were abundant as well this week. Our new investigator, for example. He is actually a former, but in looking through the area book and thinking about upcoming plans, I penciled in the idea to stop by him. As the day arrived, we ended up having some time to work with in his area, so we knocked on his door. He was surprised, but pleased, to see us. He said: "I had a feeling you guys would be here soon. I've been thinking a lot about you." So we went in and taught him. We got caught up on what we had talked about the last time. He's a fairly passionate person, which makes all our discussions interesting, but he told us again about his struggles between his studies and his faith (he's a devout Catholic studying bio-chemistry). We testified of truth, and how truth is always truth, no matter where it be found. [John A. Widtsoe reference - courtesy of the Parkins!] We testified of Christ's love for him. At the end of the lesson, we asked if we could come back and begin teaching him again. He said of course, and genuinely thanked us for coming. We came as angels to a man who needed our help. That feeling never gets old.
The story gets better. In the next lesson, just a few days later, he told us that if he knew this was true, he'd be willing to walk right out the door and stand by us all day long "preaching the good word," as he said. We have a return appointment tomorrow to find out what type of answer he has received to his prayer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
We also made great progress with a woman we've been teaching for a very long time. She says she wants to be baptized. She says she knows this will be a "fresh start" and a "new beginning" for her, and so, with that in mind we've consistently invited her to be baptized, but every time she tells us she's not ready. As we entered her home to teach her this week, we felt impressed to ask her about her feelings about Joseph Smith and the Restoration. So, after the prayer, we did. This woman has been taught everything twice, but apparently something about the Restoration didn't quite stick. Although from her attendance in church and her love for the people there, it would have appeared that all was well, something was still missing, and the Lord was gracious enough to quietly whisper what it was. There was a powerful spirit in the room as we testified and answered her sincere questions. We may have found exactly what has been holding her back from setting a date to be baptized. We may have a white Christmas here yet!
Having had training in answering difficult questions by teaching and not just reacting really came in handy during our school presentation in Haaga this week. We were asked by the young man presenting to answer most of the questions, because he didn't feel quite comfortable, and it was nice, because his teacher had prepared some very interesting ones to deal with. Our guess was that he had familiarized himself with Anti-Mormon literature at some point preceding the presentation. He began the lesson by saying "We'll now turn the time over to "Juha" and these two representatives from a...well...I won't say Christian church, but they come from the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." I'll admit, I was more than a little bit confused by that statement, but we let it go. After that, we had a great time getting all the kids to laugh and enjoy learning about the joy that comes from living the gospel and the wonderful time we've had getting to live among the Finns. We handed them each a copy of the Book of Mormon to look at as we talked about it, and a few of them kept them. I had been nervous and upset about doing the School Presentation beforehand, because the only other one I've ever done left a lot to be desired, but this one was a blast!
To top it all off, we had our Ward Christmas Parties this week! Espoo 2's was on Friday, and Thursday morning we got a phone call from the chair of the activities committee. They had had a lot of cancelations and they desperately needed an American Santa Claus to fill out their Finnish "Joulupukki", American "Santa Claus," and Russian...something who shows up on New Year's Eve? not sure what he's called still, but anyway. So, on cue, yours truly, in a bright red jacket, black sweats, red suspenders, red and white striped socks, and a beard going down to by waist stepped into the cultural hall with the loudest "Ho, Ho, HO!" I could muster (got some voice training beforehand from some of the more musically inclined in the ward) and took my place in the trifecta to judge the contests and hand out the presents. The dang beard made it a little difficult to eat, but it made for a great joke when I quickly pulled it down, shoved the cookie in my mouth, and snapped it back up, then made eye contact with one of the younger kids in the room. His eyes were about as big as dinner plates. I'll be sure to have pictures ready to send to you all on Christmas. I hope.
Church was fun, as always. A fairly quiet birthday and a great farewell DA for Elder Clegg's final teaching appointment as a missionary. All in all, not a bad week.
love you all, time to go.