On Friday we drove up to Mikkeli, which is about 150 miles north of Helsinki. The road was very good, divided highway almost the whole way. The day was overcast so the fall colors weren't as brilliant as they would have been in full sunshine, but it was still gorgeous. The country is mostly forested - predominantly birch, spruce and pine. Finland is the most heavily forested country in Europe with 76% of the land covered in forests. A large portion of the remaining area is lakes, with the largest number of lakes (180,000) than any other country. Mikkeli is at the southern end of the lake country, with mostly forest between Helsinki and Mikkeli. The forest and lakes create beautiful vistas. While most of the forest stands are mixed, you come across some stands of one kind of tree. The birch stands are particularly impressive as this picture suggests. Finland is also very rocky. Almost anywhere there is a cut for a roadway there is solid rock - with amazing color contrast between black, charcoal, purple, pink or red.
On the way to Mikkeli we made two stops to visit people I first became acquainted with 45 years ago when I served in Finland. The picture to the right is Anja Multamäki. Her husband was the branch president in Savonlinna when I served there. This picture is in front of her small home in Mäntyharju, which is next to her son, Lauri's home. She took us inside and we had a pleasant visit - looking at family pictures. She showed us one picture of the whole family (less two grandchildren) taken on their 50th wedding anniversary. What a wonderful occasion it must have been to have children from both Finland and the United States come and celebrate with them! Her husband, Heikki, passed away two weeks later. He was a remarkable man and particularly kind to us missionaries.
I will always remember the Thanksgiving party the Multamäkis hosted for the branch and missionaries in 1967. It was in their home and Anja prepared a turkey dinner. Turkey was not easy to come by and probably very expensive.
This picture was taken in Lauri's kitchen. He is now the branch president in Mikkeli. But was only a year old when I was here as a young man. He prepared a very nice meal for us including chicken soup, lox, and homemade currant mehu (juice). Everything was delicious!
Our next stop was in Riistina, to the family homestead of Mauri Fagerlund. Mauri passed away 17 years ago. His widow, Tellervo lives there with her new husband, Heikki. Anne and I visited there 27 years ago and spent a few days with the Fagerlunds. It was on about this spot that Mauri told me in his loud energetic voice, Lauri, joka päivää sinun täytyy kertoa Annelle, Minä rakastan sinua! - Larry, every day you must say to Anne, I love you! Mauri was not a typical Finn. They are usually reserved and reticent people. Mauri was just the opposite, always jolly and very expressive. He was a big man and his enthusiasm was contagious.
Tellervo, on the other hand, was typically Finnish. She is small as you can see in the picture, and much more reserved than Mauri was. They spent a week with us in the Utah, just after we were married. We love them very much!
This is the chapel in Mikkeli. It is small, but very clean. It is located just at the bottom of the hill which is a main feature of Mikkeli, with an old water tower on top, surrounded by a lovely park.
We attended the institute class, which inlcuded only four students. Sister Sohkanen, was the teacher and interacted very effectively with the students.
Our assignment is to support, encourage and be an example to the YSA - young single adults (ages 18-30) in the Helsinki Stake. We have almost 300 YSA on the rolls in the stake. Most are in the 7 Helsinki area wards. There are smaller groups in Mikkeli, Kouvala, and Lappeenranta.
In Mikkeli there are 13 young single adults on the ward roster - 5 are on missions, 1 has relocated to Florida, 1 returned missionary is temporarily in Lithuania, and 2 are less active leaving these four - Wili, Taru, Essi, and Jenna.
The class was excellent. They discussed what Zion means as found in the scriptures and what it means to be a Zion people and to build up Zion. All of them participated. After the class they stayed and visited with us for about 45 minutes. Wili and Essi are in their last year of high school. Then Wili will do his required 6 mos. to 1 year military service before going on a mission. We showed them some of our family pictures and discussed why we decided to come serve a mission. I introduced one thought about Zion that they had not discussed in the class - the term Mount Zion as a reference to the temple. I encouraged each of them to prepare themselves for temple marriage and to raise a righteous and faithful posterity. The most important work that any of us will do to build Zion is in our own lives and in our own families. We felt a very strong spirit as we visited with these very remarkable young people.