We left on Friday to Moscow and then to Finland for my first visa trip. On the trip were about 15 of us: the group I came with from the MTC and the group that is two transfers older than us, which consists of 3 missionaries (including my companion, Elder Wheeler). We arrived in Moscow and had enough time to visit Red Square and I was able to take (shamefully) the standard “I’m standing in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral” picture. We also ate Mcdonnalds there :). After several hours in Moscow, we flew to Helsinki and had a bit of trouble finding the temple. When we arrived in the visitor’s center/temple housing we didn’t know where to check in or what to do. There was some sort of meeting going on and a lady walked out to help us. She asked us in broken English what we needed and how she could help, and we responded, hoping she would understand. It was obvious that she didn’t speak very much English, and we definitely didin’t speak Finnish. We explained we were the missionaries from Russia here for a couple nights. Then a breakthrough was made as we discovered she didn’t speak Finnish either, but she was from the Samara Mission in Russia on a temple trip with other church members from Samara. We then were able to communicate perfectly in Russian and she expressed her delight of seeing Russian missionaries in Helsinki. She was just so glad to see us all and said it was wonderful that we were here and that she saw us before her group left the next day. Finally we were all checked into where we were staying for the night. The next day we were all able to attend the Helsinki, Finland temple, which is absolutely beautiful. And I think that they took all of the good art that is absent in other temples and put it all in Helsinki. Those paintings in that temple are gorgeous.
Later that day we had free time to see Helsinki. My companion and I went to the “Old Helsinki” part of the city and saw some of the important buildings, statues, etc. We also found a Modern Art Museum designed by the famous architect Steven Holl– the building was amazing and it was sooo nice to walk through that building and see other architecture in Helsinki that was just such blatantly contrasted with the Soviet concrete apartments that are EVERYWHERE here in Russia.
Helsinki was a great city. Everything was clean, nice, designed well, efficient. I approve.
And now we’re back and ready to work. We spent the day yesterday doing some hard core planning and setting goals for all that we can get done here in Kemerovo this transfer. The assistants are coming for exchanges today and tomorrow, so we’ll be able to meet with a lot of people, including females that we wouldn’t normally be able to meet with (because we’re only one companionship in this city).
Thank you all for your letters today. I almost read them all, and I’ll finish them up on my camera later today.
Grandma, thanks for your letter. Do you know what city the Stewarts served in?
Jisu, my companion Elder Wheeler is great friends with Elder Barwick and we were frustrated that we couldn’t tell in the picture which one is Whitney.
Chris, thanks for the email– i really hope things lighten up for you. College can be tough– you just have to push through until things get easier. And that time will come, don’t worry. You’ll have a relaxing winter break, just hold on until then. Do your best and remember that I’m praying for you. Also, I’m putting your letter in the mail today. It’s long.
The rest of the fam: mom, dad, parker, hadley: I should be getting letters out to each of you in the next couple weeks or so. Just a heads up. Dad, thanks for that story– that was really touching. I’ll tell it to my companion, thanks; it was very encouraging.
Taegan: I’m excited for your book publication thing, lol
Amber: Letter coming your way too, and thanks for the emails 🙂
Sara: I really like your little update emails; thanks. I’m glad your wisdom teeth worked out, haha
and Justin– thanks for the music update. Along the lines of music, we were talking to a guy at a market the other day trying to buy ties from him. Once he found out we were from America he said “I love american music” (all in Russian) “Without a doubt, the first place of music for me, absolutely has to be Michael Jackson. He’s just– ahhh, amazing. The Beatles? Yeah… maybe number two… and Frank Sinatra, number three, but Michael Jackson will always be number one.” I told him I also really love Michael Jackson. It’s actually not rare to hear a Michael Jackson song playing on the radios in buses around here… so yeah… props to Michael Jackson.
Alright, I’m out of time.
Again, thanks for all of your encouraging emails. Pray for us here in Kemerovo– we’re going to try to have more people than we ever have had before at sacrement meeting, and we just made contact recently with a former investigator– he says over the last few months he has lost everything. But he still reads the Book of Mormon, he says it gives him inspiration, and he still prays. He is very excited to meet with us and he sounds like a very humble guy. I feel that he may be perfectly prepared and ready for baptism. We meet with him tomorrow.
Thanks for all your prayers and support,