We traveled to Oulu for our mission conference where a general authority spoke to us. Elder Dyches spoke on several topics. That, "...difficult and hard times in your life are building you", he said. He added that the forests in Finland are many and the trees with their deep roots are tall and straight reaching towards heaven. That spreading our roots deeper into the soil will help us grow tall above the forest. We will grow by following the Lord's teachings of repentance and enduring to the end, becoming pure and clean. He quoted many of the Book of Mormon stories on repentance and conversion. Elder Dyches is a former medical surgeon. He told of a difficult surgical and intense surgical procedure on a cancer patient that lasted 24 hours. Because he was the lead surgeon he slept only 1.5 hours through the night. When his nurse came back the next morning and saw that he was still there she commented how hard it must have been for him. He answered that it was hard but that there was one other time it was harder. He was asked when that was. He answered, "When I 20 years old and served as a Mormon missionary in Germany." By this time the other members of the O.R. team had returned and they all listened to his story. He had a captive audience and told them of his mission experiences and how difficult it was. After sharing that story with us he admonished all the missionaries to stay focus even after calling home on Christmas day.
The mission conference was a good learning experience. We heard many good talks and fun workshops where we were taught how to interact with the people in different ways. After a day of conference we had a dinner with all the young elders and sisters then drove 6 hours back to Joensuu on slick roads, in the dark and in the falling show.
We were invited to many Christmas dinners. We saw many decorated Christmas trees and decorated windows with white lights. There are hardly any colored lights. The most common decoration is the seven candles (now electric) in the windows. Next year we will have one in our window. This year we are only learning. Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve. We hope everyone has had a wonderful and memorable Christmas.
We are learning a lot of things. In a month we have learned many wonderful things about our mission in Joensuu, Finland. The members of the LDS Church are very caring and they love us. They are always willing to help us in any way possible to make our stay here a pleasant one. We are here to serve them but they are serving us more than us serving them. It is a wonderful place to serve our mission. We love it here. We love the people. We love the Lord. Thank you all for your love, prayers and support in every way. We love you very much. Have a Bright and Happy New Year!