Thursday, January 28, 2016

Frozen January 2016

The month of January has gone by so fast. There have been many wonderful and memorable events that happened in the first month of this new year. We are getting more familiar with the people in our area in Joensuu, Finland. The beauty of winter brings exciting new pictures every day. We found ourselves taking pictures with our cameras almost every time we step out of our home. We are also getting more sunlight every day which makes the blizzards not so dreary and cold. With the sunlight comes the crystal blue sky, cold and freezing, but beautiful.
When the sun is shining it shines through our bedroom window and into our living room. One day Sister Hunt gave a sunlight shadow demonstration. She made hearts, alligators, the first vision and other story designs with her hands with the sun shining on her back. It was fun for her because she loves the sunshine so much. When she was a child not yet in school she used to cry at sunset because she did not want the day to end. When evening came it met she would have to stop playing and go to bed because there was no electricity to give light inside her Navajo home. So all she could do was cry and look toward the setting sun. We are enjoying the short five hours of sunlight a day. We are sad when it's daytime and there is no sun light shining through a window.

People still ride their bikes and walk everywhere in the freezing cold and snow. The coldest temperature we've gone out in so far is -29 degrees F.  It is fun to watch families walk together on Saturdays. The Finns look forward to winter because they participate in many outdoor winter sports; ice hockey, cross country skiing, ice skating, ice fishing and more. When the snow does not come the people get worried and when it does come they are so happy.
They say that the children can have fun in the snow and that it is healthy for them. They love the snow and we are enjoying it with them. They know how to bundle up and keep warm no matter how cold the temperature gets. The trick it to layer your clothes. They serve as insulation and keep you warm.

We experienced our first missionary transfer on January 6th. Our wonderful Elder Bekmezian got transferred to Kuopio. It's a two hour drive from us. It is also the place where we go for our missionary District Meeting once a week. We were sad to see him go. But we also know that there are people waiting for him to be taught the gospel. Joensuu was his first area after arriving from MTC in Provo, Utah, USA. He was here before his companion, Elder Kontinen, who is a native of Finland. They were the ones who met us and welcomed us to Joensuu the evening that we arrived on a rainy night in November. We remember how happy, sweet, and polite they were. Even though we had arrived in Joensuu, it was dark and we were tired from driving all day from Helsinki. They were really a welcome site. We have come to know them both well. They are very smart and diligent. It has been an honor to work with them. Elder Bekmezian loves the people and speaks the Finnish language well. He was Elder Hunt's special tutor in Finnish grammar and language. We miss him but we get to see him every week at the missionary District Meeting.

We have a brand new missionary from MTC. His name is Elder Scott. We get the best missionaries in Finland. They are taught well at the MTC. They already know the language and the missionary lessons when they arrive in Finland. We love them. They come ready to work hard and dive right into what they have been sent here to do.

We had our first train ride. It was a good experience. We left very early in the morning to attend our first zone Conference in Mikkeli. We met other missionaries there and were joined by our Mission President and his wife. It was a very cold freezing day. We walked from the train station to the church which is about eight blocks. Sister Hunt had frozen eyelashes and eyebrows by the time we got to the church. We met for four hours with positive interaction. Our Zone Leaders ran the meeting very well. We had missionary reports, did role play, had language and gospel discussions, and President and Sister Watson each spoke to us. The main theme of the conference was be wise in your decision in working in these very cold weather months. The Lord is with you in all the good that you do for Him. We reviewed some things and learned some new things. It is always good to meet with other missionaries. They have re-energized and rejuvenated our spirits. Zone Conference is held every month in the four different zones of the mission.

Sister Hunt baked some cookies in Finland for the first time. She was successful in making peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies and lemon sugar cookies. They were all made from scratch. She made them for Family Home Evening and Institute class. She hopes to make other baked goods for treats and desserts.

A few weeks ago at the beginning of January she made her delicious fresh apple cake. That was her first time using the oven to bake something homemade. It was delicious as usual but this time it was made in Finland. Baking was Sister Hunt's hobby in America but now she does it to serve something homemade for our gatherings.

We established a regular shopping day. Sometimes it's sunny and very cold and at other times it is snowing, windy and cold. We have learned somewhat at which places to shop for our groceries and household items. But we are still learning and discovering new places to shop. Our first grocery shopping was very scary. Sister Hunt could not read the names of the food in packages to know what they were. Even Elder Hunt, who know a lot of Finnish, could not tell what many of the items were.  We bought food by their pictures or by their Swedish names (which are also written on the container since nearly 6% of the citizens speak Swedish) and it's close to English spelling. We did not know we were supposed to quickly bag our own groceries at the check out. We also did not know we had to bring our own bags or pay for new grocery bags at checkout. So we held up the line in learning these things. We learned to weigh our produce in the produce department and print out the price from the scales according to their numbers in their produce stands.  Now we've learned to bring back our own grocery bags that we bought earlier.

The river in front of our apartment building is completely frozen over. It was very interesting to watch as piece by piece turned to ice. When it snowed it was even more beautiful and white. It looks like land now. Many years ago when there were no foot bridges for crossing the river, parents put their school children on sleds and pulled them across the frozen river to school this time of the year.

Our boots freeze to the concrete floor as we step out of the car in our apartment's underground parking area. It is enclosed but not heated. It has large vents for fresh air. The first time our feet froze to the cement floor we were startled. Just for a second we couldn't move in any direction. It is a weird feeling. Then your shoes makes a crunching noise as you lift your feet off the floor. Now it is fun to experience that every time.

We are loving our mission. We love the people. We love our area where our home is. We are here to serve the people but they always seem to be serving us. We have made many friends. Elder Hunt is not so afraid to speak Finnish as he was at the beginning.  He has been studying the language diligently every day. Sister Hunt is slowly learning at a beginner level. Thank you for your love, prayers and support in every way. We love you very mush. Be of good cheer and may the Lord bless you.


  1. Gina and I can't believe how cold it looks there. We love to see how bundled up you have to be. We are so proud of you guys and happy you are serving the lord and the wonderful people you get to work with. I know you are a blessing to everyone you visit and work with. Keep sporting those hats, you look very handsome and beautiful in them. We love you guys...

  2. We love reading your blogs. Love the pictures. Love your hats and winter clothing-bet you love them twice as much as we do. You are such wonderful people, the people of Finland are so fortunate to have you there. Finland is ever bit as beautiful as you have always said.

  3. I really like all the detail of living in Finland. Lucille, I'm glad you're learning to use your own bags for groceries - hope that continues when you get home!