Christmas has passed, and brought in its wake some startling news... I'm getting a transfer! Yup, the noin varma feeling I had about staying in Tampere to help an Elder get used to our area got turned on its heels last Friday. We were on a bus, and apparently President called, because all of a sudden my companion gets up in the back of the bus and walks all the way to the front to hand me the phone. After the initial greeting, President told me that I will be coming down to Helsinki, the Marjarniemi District, to serve in a special little town.
Provo!!! ...Wait a second, stupid autocorrect... Porvoo!!!
There we go.
Yup, I'm serving in a Swedish-speaking area. Just my luck. Yes, we still speak Finnish, of course, but apparently speaking Swedish is also expected there. Whoopie. As if I'm not having enough fun speaking to people in Finnish. I'm just joking, I'm VERY excited to pick up a few Swedish phrases, and to be serving so close to the ocean! We don't have our own ward there, so we go to the Marjarniemi chapel for church. It's a bit of a drive, but it's all fun.
Just so you all know what the weather is like right now...
Current Temp: -9°F -23°C
Yowch. It was freezing my nosehairs and eyelashes together when we had to walk to the church. It starts to warm up a bit next week. Not that I'll be here for that. It's -18 C down there in Porvoo now, though, so... Looks like the winter gear will still be making an appearance for a while longer.
Well, there's not much that happened this week beyond just CHRISTMAS. Which is to say, I had a TON of fun. We were at members' houses all 3 days of Christmas. That's right, 3 days. Finnish tradition is that it starts on Christmas Eve, with the official declaration of Christmas at 12 (right alongside the announcement of double-penalties for crimes and fines assigned during this time) and ends on our Boxing Day, which is Tapani Päivä for them. So, we had a lot of fun. I got to Skype my family as well, which was a great reminder of all I have waiting for me at home after I have done what is important. I can't wait already to speak to them in April! (Mom: I think he means May? Unless Finland celebrates Mother's Day in April...)
Well, other than all that, there's not too much beyond just these questions, so, here we go!
What is your favorite memory from your first Finnish Christmas?
It was probably all of the time spent with members just playing games. Since the 3 day period is no proselyting, it is important to still be doing something so we aren't just cooped up in the apartment reading and studying for 12 hours. So, we build up our relationships with the members. It was a lot of fun to see how their families are just like normal families! We also got to go with one family to a graveyard. During Christmas, there is a tradition to place candles at your family graves, and a family invited us to go with them to that.
What did you eat for your Finnish Christmas dinner?
Ham, Fish, and Potatoes. It was actually their leftovers from Finnish Christmas Lunch, but that's fine. The other dinners were VERY similar, Ham, Fish, and Potatoes. I guess that everyone follows tradition for 3 days straight.
Do you eat much fish?
Yup. I can't even remember all of the kinds I ended up eating, because they listed them all in Finnish. We almost were going to go ice fishing for some, too, apparently, but the family decided it was too risky a way to achieve dinner and instead just bought enough. My companion was a little disappointed by that, but I wasn't too much. Giant frozen lake, and purposefully breaking a part so that you can sit by it for an indeterminate amount of time? I will pass.
Have you tried reindeer, yet?
Nope. Too bad, really. I hear you get to try it more often up north, but I'm not certain about that.
What did you study this week?
I mostly studied the talks that my family sent me for the Christmas break. I really liked all of the Elder Holland talks that were sent, especially the one that talked about why we believe the nature of the Godhead to be as it is. The Trinity is something that most people are really confused by, and hearing what it is that we believe is the nature of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost makes sense to them. It's been interesting talking so much about religion, 24/7.
What did you teach someone this week?
Well, we didn't get to teach too much, but there was a rather good talk I had with someone, not an investigator or member, about just how Christmas is an important time. Since when we were going around on Saturday, we could go by bus again (the systems had all closed down for the week), so when I sat by someone, I started just to talk to her and ask about how Christmas went. She said it went fine, that it was good despite... something. I didn't understand what that "something" was at first, so after asking her again, she said despite Christ meaning nothing to her. So, I got into a pretty good conversation with her about why she has this ideal. She said she just didn't have a close relationship with God, and that she didn't feel any love from somewhere else, so therefore there is nothing for her. I then just bore simple testimony that to me, how we feel God's love is very much like how she feels love for her family. When she is far away and not thinking about them at all, it can be hard to remember that she loves them and that they love her. However, when she is making an effort to stay in contact with them, she feels happier because she is always striving to feel love from her family that is already there. In other words, of course she won't always perfectly feel a love of God and feel God's love unless she is looking for it, and I promised her that it is always there, able to be felt through our actions like prayer. Well, she got off soon after that, and she didn't want to volunteer any contact information, but I think she went away thinking about that comparison. I would like to believe that, at least.
Did you meet anyone new?
We didn't get any new investigators this week, no. But, I think that having new missionaries in this area will make them strive that much harder to find people that they can start to teach right from the very beginning, so that they can personally see and be a part of their learning.
Are you being transferred?
TO PROVO!!! Ack, PORVOO!!!
Do you know who your new companion will be?
Yes, it's an Elder Saunders, from somewhere in Georgia. He seems to be rather well respected by missionaries here, so I think I will enjoy being with him. But, I'll find out Tuesday night!
What is a fun mission memory you have so far?
I think that I really have liked just seeing people learn about the gospel. Even if it is rather like that bus ride, where I can't see anything that happens after that, the fact remains that I have been seeking outwards enough that I am making an effort to show people that striving to help them find a peace and comfort in their lives is something that I care about. I hope that I get to keep helping people understand how it is that they can feel peace and comfort always.
Well, that's it for questions! I will keep up the faith in Provo/Porvoo for the next part of my mission, but it doesn't change that I am here to do this responsibility from the Lord. I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a Happy New Year! (Speaking of which, pray for me again, because New Year's Eve and Day are both also Non-Proselyting days! Grr!)
Vanhin David Milligan