Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hundreds of waving candles

Hey everyone-

My transfer to Joensuu is great. I love it. It is different than Helsinki but it has a really nice little city feel. And the ward is small and friendly and really take a notice of the missionaries. Whereas in Helsinki we sort of got lost in the sea of people. It is also a really pretty place with a huge river in the middle of it. Unfortunately, it is winter and usually too dark to see anything... My companion is great. He has a really great heart and works unbelievably hard. Joensuu has 2 other missionary companionships in the district. It is a bike city and I was hooked up with a really good bike for free from a member in Haaga. Such a blessing. Not to much snow yet, mostly still just wet. It is a suprisingly warm winter here in Finland. Woo!

This week we went to Rovaniemi. The most north city for missionaries in Finland and had a Zone Conference. We had to take a 4 hour train down to Helsinki and then a night train up so that was sort of stinky but it was really cool to be way up there. We went to Santa’s workshop, which was cool and really fun.

The night before Christmas was really fun. In Finland, they open presents on the 24th and so we were invited to a members house for that. We had a great dinner (the dad used to be a chef) and then opened presents with their 2 daughters (21 and 18) and a recent convert from the ward who is really really great. They gave us 18€ to use at any restaurant in town. Super nice. It was great to watch everyone get so excited about their gifts. And then after one of the daughters brought out the guitar and played some christmas songs. Which reminded me of our family. I was so thankful for the family making us lonely missionaries feel at home for the holidays. When they finally took us home we stopped at a graveyard and lit a candle for deceased relatives. (It’s a christmas tradition in Finland) It was so pretty with it being dark and quiet with hundreds of waving candles while surrounded by forest. It really got me deep in thought and had a big effect on me. It was a great night.

The next day, we went to church for an hour. And then we went to a members and ate another christmas meal. We then sat and watched the Christmas church videos which were really peaceful. So peaceful that I actually dozed off, and when I woke up I noticed that the member AND my companion had both fallen asleep haha.

Then of course we went and skyped home. Calling home is always interesting. There are thousands of things to talk to and it never lasts long enough. And then after you are always remembering things you forgot to mention and trying to remember the things you actually did talk about. Its like having a one bite of pie and then having it instantly taken away from you and the rest of the day you just keep trying to convince yourself that the one bite was enough, even though it obviously wasnt...Haha. Oh the bittersweet taste of calling home.

I’m really thankful for you all, both family and friends. Just know that I thought a lot about everyone during this Christmas Season and that I missed being home. But, I had a really great Christmas. It was so sweet to be in another culture and see how they celebrate the birth of the Savior. My faith has really been growing lately and I have noticed a difference in how I feel. I just feel better. I am coming to understand things about life that would have taken me a long time to figure out had I not been on a mission. It is altering my whole life path, and I know that it is a change for the better. I’m so thankful to be here.

I love you all.

Vanhin Merkley

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