It's going to be really nice to not have to come up with a subject line every week. Those things have plagued me for two years now.
We were on the road nearly the entire week this week, completing a series of language schools in each zone of the mission. It was an experience I will never forget, for sure, but I'm very tired on the back end of it. Got to see a lot of people that I likely will never see again except on Facebook, which was sad for me. This mission is full of great elders and sisters. I'm going to miss all of them.
But, that's enough of that kind of talk. I still have a week to go! At church on Sunday, I mentioned to a few of the members that this is my last full week in the city. One of them looked back at me when I said that and just said, "jobba hort!" (Work hard!). I'm sure that by the end of this week I'm going to be absolutely drained.
Monday of this week, we were on a train. Again. How many times in a row have I said that about Monday now? I feel like every P-day is spent on a train now. But, upon arrival in Helsinki, I dragged Elder Heki around to see a few of the nicer parts of the city on our way home. He told me he just wants to get back to his quaint, little city in Jakobstad. I don't think he's one for cities much, but I was having a blast being back. I think we got him convinced by the end of the trip there, though.
The language school on Tuesday went great! Elder Anderton and I were worried about the missionaries' ability to stay focused and awake since we were doing it in the evening after a zone training meeting, but they really shocked us with how much they had prepared for it. I don't think I would have been quite as excited for another long meeting after that zone training meeting (which evidently went a little longer than it usually does), but they were great. See, it's always hard for me to impress on you how much fun I've been having with these langauge schools, because most of the fun I have in them relates to Finnish, which I've become more than a geek about. But you guys don't speak it at all...difficult. Learn Finnish ok? Anyway, most of the highlights for me involved just how many questions they all had, and how the answers to those questions always led to more questions. We could have kept talking about Finnish all night! (We didn't, we all got home on time). But, there was one of the elders there for whom this meeting was a mind-blowing experience. About every three seconds he would pop halfway out of his seat and should "oh man! That totally makes sense now!" Made me feel good about my teaching at least. We had a little photo party afterwards, because I won't be seeing any of them again for a long time. One of them told me before he left, "You're a good one, Hansen. You'll be successful in whatever you do in life." Now, I'm not sure how prophetic those words can be taken given my track record, but it was still nice to hear.
Wednesday morning Elder Anderton and I worked on some top secret projects for President. He was having a blast with it. His excitement for it kept me going, but there's a ton of things President wants done by August 2. Kind of a rough deadline, President. Elder Heki and I got on the train that afternoon, which picked up the Seinäjoki elders as it passed through their city, and we rode the rest of the trip home with them.
Thursday morning was district meeting, and then we drove out to the dedication site in Larsmo, a place that, sadly, I never made it to in nine months last time I served here. It was a great experience up there! There's a small memorial on the site where Ezra Taft Benson dedicated Finland for the preaching of the restored gospel.
"On this sacred spot Finland was dedicated for the preaching of the restored gospel. Dedicated by Apostle Ezra Taft Benson 16 July 1946. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."
So, they were at the site two days after the 67th anniversary of the dedication of Finland for the preaching of the gospel.]
After we had some lunch up there by the monument, one of the local members comes traipsing right out of the woods right next to us! What added to the surprise was that she had just been out berry picking and brought us, not just blueberries, but cloud berries! Cool, Hansen, little orange berries....right? Wrong. Major Finnish tradition. People take vacations to Lapland just to pick these berries. They're about 80 euros a kilo. So obviously we got back down to where she had been picking them and started looking for more. She eventually had to just show us because we were hopeless at it, but we found a ton! At one point while she was leading us to them, I discovered why she was wearing large rubber boots. I think it happened right as I sunk my foot about ankle deep into a swamp that looked like solid ground. Sock completely soaked. Bummer. But hey, the experience was worth it. And we got back just in time to visit one of the great member families here before we had to go get on a train to Tampere. We talked with them about the District's recently issued challenge to each member of the district to bring one person into the church this year, whether through baptism or reactivation. They, like the wonderful members they are, had already prayed and selected the ones they wanted to focus on. All except the mom, that is. She had too many friends she had been thinking of sharing the gospel with, so she wasn't sure which two or three or seven she was going to invite to church first.
Friday in Tampere was another great langauge school. We tried to do a "sandwich swap" lunch, where everyone brought a sack lunch to trade with someone else, but when two of the elders forgot lunch altogether, the rest just brought frozen pizzas, and the sisters brought gourmet lunches they had spent real time preparing...it didn't really work out. In the end, though, everyone had food, I think. After the language school I filmed myself teaching a couple of the missionaries as an application video for the MTC. During the video, I had a hard time focusing on teaching, because I was sitting there just thinking about what the reviewers would think about every comment I made or question I asked. It was hard not to cringe when I knew I had made a mistake. However, by the end of it, I felt like I had done an OK job teaching, and the Spirit had really been in the room. I learned things, the three elders I taught learned things, and so at the end of the day, I think it accomplished its purpose.
Church was great again on Sunday. We had priesthood this week, which usually turns into a stereotypical High Priests Group debate....but there was a great moment of wisdom when we talked about the difference between Peter and the apostles and the young man who was asked to sell all he had and give it to the poor. The teacher explained that, "We don't know what happened to this young man, we never hear of him again. But we know what became of those who left their nets and all they had and followed the Savior." Another member piped up, "yeah, they all got killed." Great.
One week to go. Let's see if I can make it count.