Wednesday, March 16, 2016


We're home!!!

You can tell by our smiles that we are happy to be home.  Our lives have been pretty hectic the last few weeks, and will be for the next month or so as we get re-settled into our home, and visit family who live out of town.  But it is all good - except for one thing!  We miss our friends and young adults in Finland!!!

The last picture of us with our name tags!
We were pretty tired after traveling for almost 24 hours,
but the excitement of seeing the family kept us awake and alert.
We arrived quite late in the evening, so only about half of the family was able to meet us at the airport.  But it was a wonderful welcome, indeed!  The little girls were very proud of the signs they made.  They are now proudly displayed in the back hall of our home.

Anne with Rose.
We had several height comparisons.  Our teenage grandchildren have really grown.
Faith is just as tall as Granma Anne!  Brandon has almost caught up with me.

Jackson proudly displaying his Finland flag hoody!

I was blessed with hugs and kisses from these two sweethearts.  Aren't the posters great!

Check out Rose's poster.  Lot's of detail!  The younger grandchildren have also grown.  A lot of changes in 18 months.
Our first morning home we woke up to this beautiful sunrise!  We love the view from our home at any time of the day!  Actually I had been awake for some time when it finally began to get light on the horizon.  But after two weeks we are back on California time.

The family came over for our traditional celebratory waffle breakfast!  It was wonderful to sit around the kitchen table and just visit.

Beth and I get acquainted at the breakfast table.  How wonderful
it is to spend a little time one-on-one with my family members!!

Five generations!!!  Grampa Gene, Anne, Angela, Jessica, and Emma!

Twenty of our thirty grandchildren and both of our great grandchildren!

All the excitement (and the jet-lag) was too much for me!
No, I am not dead!  In our family I am well known for falling asleep
regardless of what may be going on around me - in this case 20
grandchildren playing, laughing and screaming!
On the following Saturday we were able to attend the baptism of our granddaughter, Clara.  We are so grateful that she waited a few weeks so that we could be there with her on this special occasion!  Afterward the family came over to our place for another round of family fun and feasting!

Clara with her parents, Ben and Emy.

Most of the family was able to attend the baptismal service.  

A family get together wouldn't be complete without the world famous animal game!  It has been played in Kiev, Vladivostok and Finland!!!

Below is the view from my home office.  How I have missed this view!

Riding around the farm with granaddaughter, Rose,
and great-grandchildren, Emma and Bennett.
Teaching another generation the only answer to the question,
"Where shall we go?"
"To infinity and beyond!"
We are also enjoying getting back into regular Temple service at our home Temple.  We enjoyed serving in the Helsinki Temple very much.  I was able to attend our grandson, Sam's, endowment session as well as renew my service as a Temple sealer.  What a great blessing the Temple has been to us and to our family!  We love the Lord's House and serving there.

While I was slaving away on the farm, Anne took a girls' trip with our daughter, Angie and her daughters to Jackson Hole, Wyoming!

After two and a half weeks at home we are pretty well adjusted to our former routine of life on the farm and with our family.  But a day doesn't go by that we don't miss our wonderful young adults and missionary/temple family in Finland and Turkey, Vietnam, Colombia, etc.  We continue to be grateful for the internet and modern communications media that allow us to stay in contact with them, as we did with our family, while in Finland!

We will be giving our mission report at church on Sunday, March 20 at 12:30 pm at 252 North O Street, in Lincoln.  We would love to have any friends or family who can make it join us.  We had thought about a reception at the house afterwards, but decided to wait until our annual Easter egg hunt the following Saturday.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Farewell to Finland!

Our farewells began in December, as we said goodbye to our Turkish boys.  We have truly come to love Eren, Gökmen, and Emre in just the few short months that we have gotten to know them.  They are wonderful young men.  As members of the church Eren and Gökmen will help establish a strong foundation for the church in Turkey!  They are truly pioneers and we look forward to staying in touch with them - and even visit them in then next year or two!

Eren was the first to leave just after Christmas!

Gökmen and Emre with Sisters Carter and Kwok.

At the airport with Gökmen!
Jean-Louis was the next to depart.  He returned to France in January and has since gone on to Bogota, Colombia where he will be working for at least a year.  Who knows we may get a chance to travel south and see him!

We were able to go to the Temple with Jean-Louis for the first time, the day before he left Finland.
It was a wonderful experience for him and for us as well.  We were joined by Claire, which always
brightens any experience!  Anastasia was also there.

We were able to take Anastasia, Claire and Jean-Louis for a farewell dinner
after our visit to the Temple!
Not a farewell, but a preview of one to come!  We were able to FaceTime with our grandson, Sam, and his family as he opened his mission call.  He will be going to the Spain Madrid Mission at the end of May!!!  Sam will be a great missionary!  We are so grateful for the technology that has enabled us to stay in touch with our family while being apart from them for the last year and a half.

Two of the most spiritual experiences we had while serving in Finland were the senior missionary conferences we participated in at the Mission home.  We are so grateful for Pres. and Sister Watson and their inspired leadership, as well as all of the other senior missionaries with whom we were able to serve.  We have renewed and made many friendships which will be cherished forever!
From left to right: Sister Airto (office), Sister  Peckham (office), Brashers, Melbys (office and Kuopio), Ericksons (former companion and Temple missionaries), Watsons, Sister Wade (office), Doxeys (Temple), Hunts (Joensuu), Rackers (Temple), and Smiths (office).

Forty-eight years ago, I confirmed Tuula Leisti in Lahti.  We were able to get reacquainted when she visited the Helsinki Temple.  On her last she came with her son and daughter-in-law!

Claire Yu and Ellen Liu treated us to a wonderful home-cooked Chinese dinner.  Everything was super delicious!  We are hoping that they may come visit us this summer!!!  Wonderfully sweet young ladies!

When I served in Tampere 47 years ago I was able to help teach Risto Lehti.  Later Risto and Piirjo-Riita's daughter, Anni, came to live with us in Claifornia as an exchange student at Del Campo High School.  We were able to visit them with Elder and Sister Erickson shortly before returning home.  The tapestry is a traditional Finnish ryijy.  We had a very pleasant visit.

Early in our mission we met Zhibai Zhang, from Harbin, China.  He plays the oboe in the Kymeenlaakso Symphony Orchestra.  But since he lives about an hour and a half from Helsinki, we were only able to visit with about a half dozen times over the 18 months.  Just before we came home he happened to be in Helsinki and we had him, along with Claire, Ellen, Sister Carter and Sister Bruce to our home for Sunday dinner.

Our dinner guests - Zhibai, Claire, Ellen, Sister Carter and Sister Bruce, who is finishing her mission this week.
We were treated to our own private oboe recital.  Zhibai played
several pieces including two Chinese compositions that were
hauntingly beautiful!

At our last Family Home Evening at the institute center we were treated to a farewell party.  Here we are with many of the young adults whom we have come to love so much, and whom we already greatly miss.  They are wonderful!!!!

L-R Anastasia from Moscow, Elin from Sweden, Anni Marjanen (the YSA rep
from our ward with whom we worked), Hille and Samuel (the stake YSA
reps, with whom we also worked very closely).

Heikki was met by the Elders on the street.  He wasn't interested in the church, but expressed an interest in helping us with the Finnish class for foreigners.  We grew to become good friends!  Unfortunately his work in Helsinki concluded in December and he moved back to his hometown about 4 hours from Helsinki.

We stayed in touch via email and he surprised me by showing up to one of thelast Finnish classes we had.  He spent the night in Helsinki and we had a very pleasant lunch the next day.  Heikki is deeply religious and hopefully will consider studying with the missionaries.  The good news is that he is coming back to  Helsinki in April and will continue helping with the Finnish class.
With Heikki, at Central, one of Anne's and my favorite restaurants.
One of many highlights of my mission was teaching an English language institute class for non-Finnish speakers.  In the 2014-15 term it was hit or miss, with only a few students participating.  But this year, thanks to a nucleus of Eren, Gokmen, Elin and Claire it grew to where we have 9 to 12 students attending regularly, even after my Turkish boys left in December.
L to R: Elin (Sweden), me, Linda (Bolivia and Finland), Claire (China)
2nd row: Eric (an investigator from Korea), Joe (new convert from Nigeria), Jonathan (from Sierra Leone), Noel (new convert from Italy and Ivory Coast), and Hai (Viet Nam).
We also had a farewell party with our Finnish class and English language institute class.  We enjoyed a potluck dinner with TONS of food from all over the world!  It was super delicious and a delightful evening.
Our international potluck dinner.  Standing at the head of the table is Wille, who joined the church last March and will begin
a mission in England in May.  He and Linda participated in a mission preparation class I taught as well as helped with the Finnish for foreigners class!  Linda is also planning on a mission.
Following the dinner we had an impromptu talent show.  I had previously asked Claire to bring her pipa, as we had never had the opportunity to hear her play.  All of the other participants were volunteers on the spot!
Claire played her pipa, Chinese stringed instrument.  She
played one of her favorite Chinese melodies which was
very lovely.

Elin played the Swedish national anthem on her harmonica!

Samuel volunteered to lip-sync if someone would sing.  So I
knelt in front of him and sang the Volga Boatman in Russian.
He even threw in couple of cossack dance steps to liven up
the act!

Tracy Lipp is a very talented musician, song writer and vocal
coach.  He is from Los Angeles, but has lived in Finland
for about 16 years.  He participates in the Finnish for foreigners
class, and is also studying the Book of Mormon.  We hope
to have him visit us this summer.

Hai is from Viet Nam.  He has been a member for about 3 years and is quite active.
He attends the Finnish class as well as the English institute class.  

Samantha and Jussi Uusitupa had us over for dinner to say goodbye.  They really
enjoy cooking, and Samantha introduced us to summer rolls and steamboat.
We want to try both with our family.  We will miss Jussi and Sam!

Anne (Netherlands) and Ilkka Arvio also had us over.  They will be the new
YSA advisers for our ward, and will be excellent role models for the young people!
They have the sweetest daughter, Sofia!
We also were able to enjoy a dinner with Pres. and Sister Watson at Amigo's, another of our favorite restaurants.  We so appreciated their love, support and guidance on our mission.  We were truly blessed to have become friends with them, and look forward to renewing our association on completion of their mission!
We were able to serve two mornings a week in the Helsinki Temple.  At our final Family Home Evening in Finland, the Temple presidency and missionaries hosted a farewell dinner for us.  They presented us with this thoughtful memento - a Finnish flag on a base made of the same granite used in construction of the Temple.  We will cherish this memento of both Finland and our Temple service fondly.

We had one final and very special surprise farewell.  Mac Ninisiri, came by to say farewell, and introduced us to Jenni, his fiance.  They were married the day we left Finland.  We are so happy for Mac and Jenni, and wish them well.  Mac was baptized shortly after we arrived in Finland and we grew very fond of him.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a great deal of contact with him for the last year or so, until this final visit, making it a very special occasion for both of us!

 Finnish missionaries just fade away into Finnair!

Saying goodbye to the Watsons with Sister Peckham at the Helsinki airport!
Next stop - HOME!!

We will forever cherish the friendships and fellowship which we enjoyed on our mission in Finland.  We have grown to love Finland, and Helsinki, as well as our many friends and associates in the Lord's service in that blessed country.  A piece of our heart will always be with Finland and the Finnish saints!

One last item.  We would greatly encourage any senior couples who are able to answer the prophet's call and volunteer for missionary service.  There is a real need for more senior couples to serve missions.  Your experience, leadership, and example are greatly needed!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Surprise Visit!!

What a wonderful surprise we had when Sister Heika Haag, with whom we worked in the Sacramento Temple came to visit for a day.  We spent a wonderful day with Heika and two of her cousins, Shaye and Alana Bastion.  We started the day off with a visit to the Sacramento Temple!

Coming out of the Temple after doing a morning session.  We first became acquainted with Sister Haag while serving in the Sacramento Temple, so it was appropriate to visit the Helsinki Temple together.  Like Anne and I, Heika, tries to visit local temples whenever she is traveling!  

Anne, Heika, Alana and Shaye in front of the Temple.  These ladies all have such beautiful smiles it was a delight to be with them.

Although it looks very different on the outside, inside the Helsinki Temple is very similar to Sacramento's.  It has been very easy to feel right at home in this Temple.  Although we have found wherever we have been around the world, we always find a warm and loving reception when we our local churches or Temples.

Not wanting to feel left out, I traded places with Shaye behind the camera.  I miss Elder Manfred Schutze, who served in the Temple with us last summer.  He would always make sure that my tie was straight!!

In addition to doing a little sightseeing we also stopped at the Hakaniemi kauppatori to shop for souvenirs and enjoy a hot lunch at the soup bar!

One of Anne's favorites is shopping at some of the many thrift stores.  Here Shaye, Alana and I try on some hats.  We had a really fun time with these young ladies.