It was harder than I thought to say goodbye to Helsinki. I never thought I'd like a big city, but that one was incredible. Maybe it's just the mission brain. You get attached to places because of the people there. Like "P". That final lesson with him on Monday night was unbelievable. It was hard to tell him that I would be leaving, but I trust the Haaga elders to do a good job. I checked in with them last night about "P" and everything seems to be going well in preparation for his baptism, except for the date. Turns out there's another baptism in Marjaniemi and three different people moving that day, so they're worried that the turn out at the baptismal service would be pretty low. Anyway, after this lesson we had on Monday, that's nothing to be worried about. We talked about everything that would change as a result of both me and Clegg getting sent away, and then we taught tithing. I've had people take tithing pretty easily before, but never quite like "P". I wanted to be really sure that he understood what tithing was, so we explained that. He said, "fine, so what do I pay?" I thought he simply misunderstood, so I went back over the fact that it's ten percent of all our income annu...."No, no, no" P interrupts me mid-sentence, "I meant how do I pay it? Do I give the money to someone, or what?" I chuckled a little bit at that. Then, I figured, well, he's gotta know what's it's used for too, otherwise, he won't pay. So, I asked Elder Adams (one of the Haaga elders) to explain what tithing is used for. Then, it was P's turn to have a laugh. He just looks at us and says, "guys, obviously, when I come to the church next winter and it's 25 degrees below zero out there, I'm going to want the church to be warm! I told you already that I'm in all the way, you don't have to convince me to pay tithing." I think we almost died laughing the whole way home about that line. He's such a great man. I got a picture with him before I left and he made me promise to come visit when I'm back in Helsinki before I go home. Then he said simply, "You're very important to me." The humble way he said it made me want to just give him a hug.
Wednesday morning Elder Clegg and I got up early to get to the train station. It was kind of nice to be able to go just the two of us. Luckily I only bothered bringing one of my suitcases to Pietarsaari, I just left the other one in the mission office to pick up when I get back, so the only problem with us getting there without any help was one of Clegg's bags that no longer has working wheels. I'm really going to miss Elder Clegg, and that whole apartment. We had a pretty good thing going between the four of us.
My first week back in Jakobstad was nothing like I expected it to be. Well, actually it was and it wasn't. Let me explain.
I show up to the train station in Bennäs (small train stop village), the same small train stop I've come to so many times from Helsinki. Only this time they've done some construction on it and there's some large covered areas making it look a bit larger and more official. Elder Kääriä and Elder Heki were there to pick me up. Elder Kääriä has been serving there ever since he came to be my companion over eight months ago, so he just seemed to fit the scene. He's almost inseparable from that city now. He was also very quick to point out that he will have spent a grand total of one week there longer than me by the time all is said and done. I then pointed out that I was back for five days when I had surgery, so really he only wins by about two days. But he still wins. Phooey.
This weekend was Juhannus (Mid-Summer), which means that everyone left to the country for vacation and the city was virtually empty. We did manage to find a few things to do, though, which is great because except for scheduled appointments, Juhannus is a day we have to stay inside all day. That would have been awful. Unfortunately, that one appointment didn't go as well as we'd hoped. We scheduled a church tour with a Swedish-speaking girl who just moved here to study film. It was there that I realized how poor my Swedish has become. It was a little frustrating. And, despite our best efforts to invite the Spirit, she decided at the end of the tour that perhaps she'd seen and learned enough and wasn't really interested in learning anymore about the church. I felt a little bit disappointed in myself, and I wondered for a while after that lesson if I had somehow let the Lord down by not doing a better job of studying Swedish in the time I'd been away. I wondered why he had sent me back here when he knew how bad my Swedish really is now. "God doesn't send anyone to fail," was a sentiment expressed often by my bishop at BYU, and I chose to take that approach. Sure, maybe it didn't work out in that church tour, but I'm very grateful for the blessing and opportunity to be back in this city, and to speak what Swedish I still know. I'll trust that it will come back.
If I needed any encouragement, I sure got it on Sunday at church. Leif, the branch president, came and gave me a big hug as soon as he saw me. "A" and her kids were there, too, and I just about melted for those two kids. The BML's wife was happy to present their new baby, born right after I left, she is now eight months old! I couldn't believe it. "K", the Somalian man that Elder Oberhansley and I met together, who got baptized after both of us had departed, was the next to enter the front doors of that chapel. Overall, a couple of the older mummos I visited once in a while have passed away, and one is in the early stages of dementia, so she didn't remember me at all, but other than that, the branch is pretty much exactly the same as it was when I left it so many months ago. The same wonderful people, the same great spirit, the same strange phenomenon of singing in both Swedish and Finnish at the same time in sacrament meeting. I love this city.
Looking forward to the next few weeks.
Love you all,