Hei the family,
Week one in a new area is always a little different. This week, that was an understatement.
Picking up right where I left off last week, after the Fazer Factory Field Trip, we went back to the office for email, spent a little more time with the other missionaries, and then took most of my stuff to the Nietsytpolku apartment to make the actual move on Tuesday a lot easier. After that, we had a dinner appointment with a part-member family who had lived in the states for about half of their marriage. They speak half-English, half-Finnish with us, including when she was talking to us about all the spicy Mexican food in the states, saying “Yeah, mina en voi syödä hot stuff.” (I can’t eat hot stuff). It was pretty fun. Unfortunately, I think they’ve had too many experiences with missionaries coming over and asking her husband (not religious at all) probing questions that make him uncomfortable, because every question, no matter how simple, she answered for him. What can you do?
Saying goodbye to Elder Manwaring Tuesday night was a bummer. He was a great companion. But I’m having a great time serving with Elder Edwards. We have a great office staff that’s about as geeky for computers as Edwards is (he fixed computers with his dad for a living before his mission). I mean, they all got stoked over getting a new printer with duplex ink for the office or something like that. Anyway, that’s not that important. The important thing is that the office takes more time than I thought it would, and we ended up spending almost all of Wednesday in the office.
Thursday I finally got to meet R, our investigator from Iraq. He’s a refugee here, seeking a long-term residence permit. He has a friend who was recently baptized in Oulu who told him all about the church and so he just wants to learn everything he can about it. He’s been reading the Book of Mormon for about a week and is already almost all the way through 2 Nephi! Every time we tell him anything or read a scripture with him, he just looks up and smiles through slightly crooked teeth and says, with a bit of a lisp, “Yeah, it’s great. It’s really great.”
R. started smoking about a month ago, but ever since his friend told him we don’t smoke, he’s realized how bad it is for him and been trying to quit. But…it’s not easy. As we explained how our bodies are a temple and that’s why we don’t intake harmful substances, he immediately started committing on his own to get rid of alcohol and tobacco right away. At the end of the lesson, he asked if we could give him a blessing to help him stop smoking, which Edwards did. The simplicity and sincerity in Elder Edwards’ words and the purity in R’s faith helped call down a spirit to that room, the likes of which I haven’t felt for a long time. After the blessing, the intensity of the spirit in the room enveloped each of us. None of us dared move or speak for a solid few minutes. Just stood there in silence, waiting for some unseen signal to break the spell. A few moments later R obliged by raising his hand to his heart and whispering, “Something happened.” He stood up and slowly put on his jackets and Miami hat. Then, he gave both of us a hug and walked out the door. Elder Edwards and I had to talk for a long time about that experience, but even after a long discussion, no words can accurately describe the feeling we had after that meeting. Right now, we’re a little worried because R didn’t make it to church this week and he isn’t answering his phone, so he may have already been deported or moved to a new location. No matter what happens, though, the Spirit wrought a change on all of us in that room that day. Elder Edwards and I are both very grateful to have been there for that experience.
The only thing more shocking from this week than that lesson was, ironically, the one that directly followed it. From R to a Pentecostal missionary. Unfortunately, it turned almost instantly into a fight. I tried three different times to figure out why he was meeting with us, and finally figured out that his whole goal was to get as many Mormons as possible to join his “brotherhood,” so no matter what I said, he was just looking for a way to prove it wrong. I started by reading from Peter, where he says that “no scripture is of any private interpretation” and then explained why the Book of Mormon taught the same truths as the Bible, while filling in some gaps in Christ’s doctrine, and most important, showing to the world that God has indeed called a living prophet. To which he responded by asking about Kolob, plural marriage, how the gift of tongues works in our church, and why the pictures in the Book of Abraham are actually heathen images and he can see them himself if he wants to. I did everything I could to answer using the Book of Mormon and show how, no matter what, it all really came back to whether or not the Book of Mormon was true, but he really just wasn’t listening. He didn’t want a copy of the Book of Mormon to read on his own. He asked us after the meeting when we could meet again, but I wasn’t exactly inclined to meet again.
Anyway, I love being in the office so far. We're in here about twice a week for a few hours. Most of our time is still spent doing missionary work, and in another few weeks when the new missionaries come (FOURTEEN OF THEM ON APRIL 16), we'll basically be out of the office altogether, I think. We have a great office staff here, and Elder Edwards and I have been friends for a while, so I'm loving life.
Except walking is definitely different than being in a car. See, we walk a lot. Which I have no problem with, until of course there are long sheets of metal just left on the side of the road and I happen to brush past them just as the wind carries my pant leg right onto the corner of the sheets of metal and cuts an eight inch tear in the front of my pants. Sister London (the senior office sister) said she might be able to fix it so that it'll last at least until I go home, so we'll see what happens.
So, the subject line. Sunday was great. I love this ward. But everyone was making a fuss about how there were so many people there yesterday! I had no clue why, it was all new to me, but it seems like there was a surprisingly large amount of people there. Turns out a bunch of American kids from California are here with their choir! Cool right? About ten of them, two of whom weren't members, showed up to church! Later, we went to their concert. They were pretty spectacular in this old, stone church that was nearly a perfect circle and the acoustics were incredible. They sang a bunch of old American southern spirituals, which I'm sure were a bit strange to these predominantly Lutheran Finns, but they were my favorite. There were some other more reverent songs, too, though. But anyway, about ten of these kids were members, and one has already put in his papers!!! He's in HIGH SCHOOL! We also found out that one of those ten who came to church with us was totally inactive, something no one in her own choir even knew. So, one of the missionaries who was there with me is going home in a few days, and he fully plans on stalking her on facebook and reactivating her! Too bad he lives all the way in Sweden...bummer.
Hey, life is great. I love you all. Keep smiling!