So, I feel like almost every one of these emails starts with a weather report, but when the weather is actually big news here, it's something I think about a lot. This time it's actually a pretty great story instead of me just complaining.
So Sunday morning, after six straight days of sunshine and clear skies, we walked out the door of our building to find about a meter of snow on the ground. I took one step into it and sunk all the way down to my knee. As we walked single file, in each other's footsteps to the car, I wondered how many people would be able to make it to church on time. We dug out our car and drove to the church building. Upon arrival, we found the entire parking lot covered with sooo much snow that we couldn't drive our car in. So we drove around the corner, found a place to park, and walked back to the chapel, only to find a veritable army of men and shovels clearing out the parking lot. Those that had been able to get their cars in had grabbed shovels and immediately begun plowing away all the snow from the parking lots to make room for the others who would shortly be arriving. As more arrived, more shovels materialized from trunks, as did hands willing to work. I stopped for a moment and looked around at the snow flying in all directions, the men, in dark suits and dress shoes not willing to let it stop them from clearing the way for others to come and worship their God together. When the main lot was clear, we moved on to one of the smaller adjecent lots. One of the boys ran ahead and turned around to snap a quick picture of all of us marching, shovels in hand with his smart phone. That's what the army of God truly looks like. When there is work to be done, they don't stand and watch. And they have joy doing it.
Later, in sacrament meeting, I realized more fully what a blessing it had been in the lives of so many. We have a less-active man we've been working with, who is just starting to come back to complete activity. He stood up in sacrament meeting and talked about how the previous day he had been trying to complete a challenge to cross country ski 30+ kilometers. As he started, he prayed and promised Heavenly Father that if He would help him finish the challenge, he would remember to pay the Lord back. Half joking, he said that when he showed up to the church that morning and saw all the people shoveling snow, he turned to the Lord again and said, "I didn't think you were going to recall the favor that fast!" But he also was out there shoveling snow with us. He menitoned his mother, his friends in the church, and the missionaries as some of the many who had been instrumental in bringing him back into activity. He's really been a pill in some of the lessons we've had, but it was so great to hear that something we'd said had really impacted him. It also reinforced my resolve to be a better friend and parent in the future, and not let someone's poor choices define my view of them. They need to know that I love them the way the Father loves them, and that I see them the way He does.
The rest of this week went by pretty quickly. We helped with a move last Monday for a few hours, which definitely left my back more than a little sore. I mean, one team of men can only lift so many beds, dressers, and cabinets up a flight of stairs. But it was a family we don't get to see often in church, so we were glad to help.
Tuesday we went to Kouvola for exchanges, which meant early trains both Tuesday and Wednesday morning to try to keep ourselves on schedule. I got to spend the day with Vanhin Helistö, the only native Finn in our mission, and an elder I got to serve with in Turku for a few days right after he reentered the country from the MTC in England. I really like spending time with him. We've developed a pretty good friendship. He was really bold with people all day long, which I really liked. I'm trying to be bolder with people now.
Wednesday was Kielikoulu in Helsinki again. Really fun group this time, lots of energy and very talented already in the language. Also got to do a baptismal interview right afterwards, which went great. One of the most solid candidates I've ever interviewed for baptism. She was so excited for it, but also for the fact that her family was going to be there to see it (her mother is less-active). Later, one of the office elders and I got to go eat dinner with a member and teach her friend. The lesson went okay, nothing too special. The food, though was soooooo good. Chicken wings cooked in....wait for it....Coca-Cola. Dead serious.
Speaking of food, anyone ever tried unleavened bread? Well, I can now say I have. We have a less-active man we're working with who is really into food science. He's been studying the acid levels in food and trying to keep his diet perfectly balanced and stuff. Anyway, this week when we met with him, he started by feeding us unleavened bread which he had made himself, topping with some kind of oil and veggie salsa. I don't think I'm going to go try to make it myself, but he was pretty proud of it, so we were happy for him. The whole lesson went a little funny when he held up the Koran and declared, "I know this book is true, too." We were worried until I asked him, "So, if you know this is true, why are you still a member of our church?" And he told me something to the effect of, "Because this church gives you the perspective to understand all other churches." I think that's mostly true. I'm grateful for the knowledge of the Restoration, but also the assurance and persective of the Plan of Salvation and the idea that all of God's children will ahve an opportunity to recieve the gospel, whether in this life or the next, regardless of the circumstances they were born into.
The rest of the week we did our best, but things just didn't really work out. We tried to talk to everyone, knock on doors, follow counsel from President, but things just didn't really go our way. We taught a lot of people, but they just weren't interested to actually investigate at this time. Other people set up appointments, but afterwards changed their minds. It's not easy, but at the end of the day, when we remember what the Lord has done for us, we know that when we've done all we can, it's enough for him.
On to bigger and better this week!
I love you all,