The Finnish word "Lahja" means gift. I think there is a reason the name of this place so closely matches it!
I have had a CRAZY time here already. In this first week, I have had more area-member-interaction than all of my first change in Porvoo. The members love to have the missionaries be a part of their lives. They are in the middle of doing a 90-day-reading of the Book of Mormon, specifically for missionary work here. How cool is that?! The missionaries didn't even initiate it, it was the members. They are great. I have been talking a lot with them about how we can help them achieve those things which they desire - our work to succeed! They have given a lot of ways for us to be involved in this area, including they are in the midst of setting up a set of classes to teach English for free to anyone that shows up, and then have a spiritual thought afterwards. They have already invited a lot of their friends, and it appears that if it works out, we will have a very full, very eager class. I'm excited!
I wish I could talk about everything that has happened, but there has just been SO MUCH. Getting used to a new area is difficult, even with a companion that knows it leading you. But the blind is to lead the blind here - let's just hope it doesn't end like it does in the Bible! (They are both brand new to this area. That's what he means about the blind leading the blind! ~Mom)
I actually have been very surprised by how getting used to Porvoo has helped me out here. I used to be very geographically-challenged. I couldn't lead you to my school without quite a few wrong turns. However, I am confidently remembering where we've been, who lives where, and how we can travel along roads I haven't been down yet! It's crazy to just know that I am going the right way, I always have sort-of surprised myself when I show up where I want to.
Well, I think most of the rest of what I want to address is in the questions, so! Here we go!
How was your first Sunday in your new ward?
The first Sunday was great! One of the things that we did was meet with the bishop. We called and asked for his aid in finding out how we can help the members here, and he was very shocked, yet eager to help. He actually used to live in this area some time ago, so his aid was invaluable! The members are so nice - From the number of them that greeted us and said they live in Lohja, I'm pretty sure over ½ of the ward lives in our area... WOW.
Have the dinners with ward members included any new recipes we should try?
Hmm, yes. Last Sunday was Mother's Day (it was great to talk with you, Mom!), and we did it at a family's house here in Lohja. I didn't know what was for dinner until after I finished talking with y'all, but when I stepped out and asked, they responded that it was a kind of noodle-and-BACON dinner. I felt really bad that Mother couldn't have any! I'll ask for how they made it, it was VERY filling, and VERY bacon-y.
Do you already have a favorite cook?
No, no... I am waiting until the end of this week and I try to get all of the members' names straight before I pick favorites. Plus, since Lohja Family Night was last night (everyone in Lohja gets together for games, a spiritual thought, and dinner), I have tried most everyone's food, but don't know who cooked what! I need to sort them out... give me at least a week, maybe two!
How is your new companion?
My new companion, Elder Greciano Raiskila, is a great Elder! He is probably the companion that I've bonded the quickest with, since we are both facing the same shot-gunning trials as one another, and we have very similar interests! I hope that this companionship will grow to be as good as my last - I'm not certain it can be better, but we'll give it a run for its money!
What is your new apartment like?
My first thought when stepping in was "big", now it has kinda evolved into "narrow". The areas are pretty spacious for missionary apartments, but the rooms are sort-of all combined with walls that make it so that almost every room can interact easily with the next, at the sacrifice of kitchen-space. It's a bit tight after the Porvoo apartment, I think I like that one a lot more. The good news is, I haven't really spread out with my junk a ton, so it will be easy to pack up and move out, whenever that happens!
What is the view from your door? or window? (Whichever one is more interesting!)
Yeah, that's kind of a disappointing one... The door leads into a building hallway, so that's no fun, and the window looks over... the parking lot and the backs of buildings. Sigh. The balcony is REALLY spacious, though! You can play Sähly in there!
What is something you learned this week?
It is important, almost no matter what the situation, to follow the rules as they stand. While there are understandable exceptions that may come up as you go, you must remember that each decision should not lead to you compromising the biggest rules out there. A simple "only this once" creates a habit - one that can be hard to get rid of. I don't want to talk about everything that made me learn how important this really is! Suffice it to say, this wasn't a learn-by-doing experience, so don't worry about my obedience levels here.
What is something you taught this week?
We actually got to teach someone at the FHE night yesterday. It was someone that we had actually walked into and tried talking to earlier, so after we got over that awkward bit, we got to get to know him. He's an Estonian man, so English was really the only shared language there, even if they can mostly understand Finnish and we can mostly understand Estonian... weird language commonalities. We taught mostly about Agency with him and about our loving Heavenly Father. I think in the end, he thought very differently about us than his intitial thoughts. Hopefully, we will continue to see him in the future!
What is something you hope to accomplish in the next month?
Hmm. I have been talking about this with Elder Greciano Raiskila, and I am honestly seeing this area as, although having the reputation of one of the hardest areas (minus the members), one of the most potentially untapped areas. I think that this area is already expressing many of the things that we seek for as missionaries, and it is up to our actual working to start to see the blessings! Imagine that.
What is something you want to share with us?
Wow, this is a hard question. I think I just want to kind of talk about family a little. Since we just have had Mother's Day, forgive me for addressing this a little late. Family is a great blessing that we have in life - we are able to learn and grow within it, we can experience some of the most important lessons we'll ever learn within it, and we should feel the love the God has for each of us within it as well. If there is one thing I miss most about being out here in the mission field, it's not the video games (I know, shocking), it isn't being able to understand 100% of a conversation (although that runs a close 2nd), it is being seperated so far from my family. I just wish that I could do the things that I normally took for granted - discussing books with my sisters and bantering with them about school-related trials, playing with my brother all sorts of interesting games and tricks, talking with my father about the different ways that we can think about something to learn an infinite amount of things (and by that, I mean an unquantified amount, since my father is so math-oriented), and being able to look at how my mother acts to not only tell, but show, a love for me and all of my family. Thanks for all of the examples and time you gave to me! I can't wait to treasure them all the more as I work towards coming home!
Well, that's about it. I'm going to try to attatch a pic of me and Elder Greciano Raiskila together, but these library computers are really slow, so let's cross fingers here...
Vanhin David Milligan