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!

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