Saturday, December 22, 2012

Secret Buddies


Hey everyone.
We have some exciting plans for Christmas. We are going to be with awesome members and eating and hanging out with them, pretty much the same as last year. Also, we have some good ideas for our Christmas District Meeting. I am going to try and pull off a "Jack Corners Pie" and give little presents to everyone in the district. And then after that, hopefully some caroling. We have a lot to do but I will let you know how it all goes down.
This week we had splits with everyone in the District. It was fun being with them all but it pulled us out of the city for a good chunk of the week. I cant remember a lot of the highlights but just trust me... it was good.

We had a district meeting and it went well. We have been doing secret buddies (just the same as family home evenings back in the good ol days) with the district and last week was the week we told who had who. The first few tries of doing secret buddies did not turn out too well (#1 problem: laziness) but everyone has caught on and it is really fun to see everybody sneaking gifts and candy around. We will do it again this change. Which by the way, we got the phone call and both Vanhin Oberhansley and I will be staying in Kuopio, so it looks like Ill be here for the remainder of my mission.

I cant think of too much else, except that we have an investigator with the craziest dog I have ever scene and it is literally jumping on us and chewing everything the entire time we are there... haha. And also, for Zone Conference we will be going up to Rovaniemi (the most north missionary city in Finland) where Santas village is. It will be a good time.

Ok have a good week. Sorry my brain is sort of scattered. It is that darned Christmas too much to do feeling. But, Im excited for it and we are doing well.

Love you all.
Merry Christmas.
Vanhin Merkley

Sisu in the Coldest City

This week we had a district meeting in Savonlinna and afterwards went to the castle. It is a sweet old one and we got to walk around and take a tour of the inside. The Finns have a long period of defending themselves whether from the Swedes or the Russians. There is a word in Finnish "sisu" which means like grit or guts only better and they definitely have a lot of that. We then went to kebab after. Kebab is a huge stable to missionaries in Finland. When we go out to eat, 99% of the time its kebab. Which is tricky for a vegetarian, but I have been able to find the few meatless items on the list so I cant complain.

We then had splits in Kajaani. Which is not the most north, but it is the coldest city where missionaries serve. And it was cold. I was used to a bit warmer weather and was not dressed right so I was getting pretty dominated. But the good thing is that my fingers and toes were only black and are now just a dark purple. Just kidding but it felt like it.

Vanhin Oberhansley and I have a tradition to do something fun every saturday night for dinner and this week we bought a puzzle to do. We were going for a Christmas puzzle because it is a family tradition, but all we could find was a polar bear puzzle. Close enough though. We have been putting that together and we now even have some glögi. Which is a good Finnish traditional Christmas drink.

We were teaching a lot this week and things are moving along. We found a really cool couple that like to travel a lot. I could see myself being good friends with these people. For one, the guy was wearing a tie dye shirt. And when we went back the next day, he was wearing the same tye die shirt. They are super cool and nice and hopefully will come to the ward Christmas party this week.

Thanks for everything.
I love you all.
Vanhin Merkley

I May or May Not Have Fallen


This week was a fun one. We went down to Helsinki because Elder Oberhansley had his 6 month language class. We chilled with the A.P.s which is always a party because its Haws and Carr from my MTC days. Its always great to see them they are a ton of fun. We were reminiscing about the good ol´days back in the MTC. I have so many great memories from those times and a large part was because my group was so sweet. I got really lucky. We played floor ball in the morning and it reminded me of how out of shape I am. I have not put on any weight but Im just not used to running a lot. Ya, Im that kid now. I also had a chance to go to the temple. It was really quite and peaceful and really sweet. Finland is super dark these days and so it had a really cool affect with the cold dark outside, and the warm lit up inside of the temple. Very peaceful. Then we had to hustle back to make our train but there was tons of traffic and so the APs eventually told me to hop out of the van and hoof it to the train station (usually not allowed, but it was an emergency...) And so I get out and book it over to my companion who was carrying a load of supplies. I noticed that my backpack was not there. Our exchange went like this: "Wheres my backpack" "What do you mean?" "Um... dang. Ok, nevermind Ill live..." And so without my backpack we took off running for our train. It was slippery and I may or may not have fallen a few times, but its ok because Elder Oberhansley said I looked really graceful still. In the end, our train had already left and we missed it. So, it was back to the APs apartment so that we could make the train the next morning. But, the bright side was that I got my backpack back.

Our tree was dying really really fast. I think at this point it has a grand total of 5 pine needles still remaining. It looks quite charlie brownish but we are keeping it.
We also had another thanksgiving because an American in our ward forgot it was a week ago. So, we celebrated again. I told him that for us, this is even better than in America.... 2 thanksgivings, who woulda thought.

Thats about all. Things are cold and dark but good. Thanks for the love and support.
Love you all,
Vanhin Merkley

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Power of Prayer

I know the power of prayer to be real and my prayers have been answered. 

This week was absolutely wonderful, I can’t even explain it! I was able to go back to my area in this ward and go visit a lot of the members there! I visited Antonio, whose wife that got baptized in March just had her baby and they are preparing themselves to get sealed in the temple when she fulfills one year in the church. We then ate with the Zapata family, where I recently attended their sealing. We visited the only less active convert that was in that area and aside from all her problems that she has recently faced, she committed to go to church and luckily I had the opportunity to go in the morning to church because Antonio asked me to participate in the baby blessing! 
One of my most sincere desires these last few weeks has been to end the mission with all of my "heart might mind and strength" and I have prayed for it. I recognize your prayers as this week I have felt more exited, positive and happy than any other. I don’t understand where energy comes from, just natural energy, and know that sometimes it is just a gift from God. I have been waking up every morning just completely exited for the day and to be able to look for opportunities to serve. This week will be something real special as well cause Ricardo, our investigator that is going to get married instead of asking his wife "will you marry me?" and giving her the ring, cause it was obvious that she was going to marry him, he said "will you be my wife for all eternity" ...not too shabby Ricardo. I think I’m just as excited as he is for his marriage!
The words of Ben Harper many times echo in my head "I am blessed" 
I know the Lord loves and guides us; I know and feel of the domino reaction of helping just one person. I have been able to witness first-hand the miracles that have taken place in Matamoros just cause a dopey kid decided to serve a mission. The people I have had the opportunity to teach, have taught and baptized their family and although I might not have been part of the baptisms of the family I think "what if I would’ve just stayed home" It fills me with the biggest sadness knowing that I might have not found these people to teach. I have found greater joy in this mission than in any other calling. I know that God desires to favor those who have faith.
Every day I have confirmations that the Lord is pleased with my work and inspires me to continue. Dad thanks a lot for your letter, if I wasn’t in a cyber cafe with other people I would have cried. I am grateful to have a better conviction of the feelings and impressions of the spirit.  Love you with all of my heart

Elder Shaun Rhodes

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Turkey Lunch & jalapeno chilies

Well I took your advice yesterday, even though it wasn’t given to me and had to part with my Brown suit… I’m stoked for the kid; he’s getting his mission papers in quick. I’m glad you had a wonderful thanksgiving. Here it was perfect weather, turkey lunch and it really wasn’t too bad. The only thing that made me laugh was that jalapeño chilies were brought out… I passed this occasion.
The highlight of my week was actually last night when we found a recent convert a little depressed, she said more depressed than normal, and we were able to explain the single most important thing that has happened in history, the atonement. I thanked my father in heaven last night for knowing and understanding what the atonement is really about. Testifying is great. It’s really been the best thing as a missionary is testifying and teaching.
This week there was a ward mission activity and a few investigators came. It was the Mexican Revolution and we made treats called Buñuelos... they were delicious, we have a wonderful ward mission leader and it’s great to plan our work with him.
The pics were great and thanks for your help. My comp is doing pretty wonderfully, we had a nice talk last night and we realized that all he needs is confidence in himself. President this week in an interview was telling me my purpose of being with him and it’s definitely a challenge but it’s so far been a nice one.
Have a super week
Elder Rhodes

Thanksgiving in Oulu


This week we had the big Thanksgiving zone conference down in Oulu. It was really good and the food rocked. They had all sorts of pies but I was already loaded up from the humongous fruit bowl so I almost didn’t have enough energy. Of course, I came to my senses and stuffed down some pie but I was quite full. The only downer about Thanksgiving is that there is no time for a nap afterwards and we headed out and did some missionary work, the whole time being in the post Thanksgiving dinner grog. It was a day full of thanks, but that was one aspect that I was NOT thankful for.

We drove the next day back to Kuopio. I drove the 3.5 hr trip back. My legs were super tired but it was a fun road trip. Finland is really dark these days and so the whole trip felt like it was nighttime. It will continue to get darker and darker until around the 21st sometime. Right around the time that the world will end. My chances of ever seeing the sun again are not to hot at this point. Are people going crazy about that over there? It has been mentioned a couple times here but overall, the Finns are fairly sensible people.

We found a stand for our Christmas tree. We grabbed a bucket and a ladle and headed out to a forest by our house to get some dirt. We dug up a nice bucket full and headed back home. On the way back, we were talking about if any missionaries in Kuopio had ever used the ladle in the same way we just had. The answer: Probably not. But it got the job done and our tree is sitting pretty now. 

Thats about all that comes to mind. Things are great here. Oberhansley is a champ.

Thanks for the support and love.
Love you all.

Vanhin Merkley

The Kuopio Gazette


We got a change call and Elder Helistö left and I am with Elder Oberhansley. I will probably stay here in Kuopio with him for the rest of my mission. Wild.  Vanhin Oberhansley is a lot of fun and we get a long super well. His personality is very relaxed and goofy (He sings Michael Jackson, like Michael Jackson with all the EEE and AAW´s you can imagine haha), but we still get down to business and have been doing a lot of finding this week. By finding, I mean looking for investigators, but also we found a very suitable tree for the apartments Christmas tree. We were taking a break and went out to the woods to.... uh.... look around at stuff.... and we saw a bunch of branches cut of from a pine tree. We found one that looked exactly like a mini pine tree so we hauled it to the car and eventually to the apartment and are now trying to find a way to make it stand up straight. But what a good find! We were pretty pumped.

Also, we had this idea to make a weekly newsletter and send it out to the district to let them know what is going on in the district. We are calling it the "Kuopio Gazette" and we made the first one today. It has details about what is going on in each city, the numbers for the week, a few quotes and even a comic strip. We were pretty proud of it and think that it will be a hit. Every week will be a challenge but it was quite fun to make and did not take that much time.

This week there was a baptism in Kajaani and we went and I gave a talk. I had a joke prepared at first but chickened out and didn’t say it. Isn’t that the worst? The service went really good, and the guy seemed very happy. While there we met with this really great family who are all recent converts and very happy people. They were talking about how great of an impact the gospel has been in their life. They had a really great feeling in their home and it made me think a lot about how living good principles can create so much happiness.

What I meant about the good feeling felt in the home of people who have good standards is that you can tell a difference from the homes where the priorities are in order from the homes where they perhaps are not in the right order. When people are not looking to just satisfy their needs but are instead focusing on others, the people around them are happier and they themselves are happier. It is interesting how it works. When we help others, it helps ourselves. The gospel teaches very good standards and really helps people keep their priorities straight.

That’s about all for this week. Thanks for everything you all do. I love you all.  Have a good week.
Vanhin Merkley