Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Message 2016

Traditional Finnish Candelabra &
Nativity Scene

Dear Family & Friends,

MERRY CHRISTMAS! It is a lovely white Christmas in Joensuu, Finland. Everything is beautiful. The white lights of traditional candelabra are in the windows glowing and spreading the spirit and joy of Christmas!
Chistmas Cards

This is our second year Christmas in Finland. Last year we were so new to our new country that we hardly remember what it was like. The thing that we remember most is that the people loved us so very much. They embraced us and showered us with love and kindness.We arrived only a few weeks before Christmas when there were only a few hours of daylight each day. Everything was new to us. We were instructed to take our vitamin D3 to keep our spirits up. We were also encouraged to use what is called a happy lamp. It is a lamp that shines very bright and gives you a sunlight effect. We don't remember exactly when the culture shock disappeared. We found ourselves so involved with sharing the gospel through teaching Institute, assisting the young missionaries with investigators, home teaching, visiting teaching, baking for birthdays, celebrations, holidays and Family Home Evening. Then there were District Meetings every week and Zone Training and Conference every month.
Joensuu & Kuopio District Missionaries

We also had the assignment of inspecting missionary apartments in all of Finland at one time. Presently we have a fourth of the country for apartment inspections because there are now three other senior missionary couples, one living in each zone and they inspect the apartments in their zone. At the end of our inspection visit we have each missionary choose a gift from our gift bag. The gifts are things they can use in their apartment: cooking utensils, dish towel sets, cutting boards, mixing bowel sets, dish soap, hand soap, knife set, and trivets,

Here are some memorable moments from inspecting missionary apartments. We found a bathroom sink that was not draining in one of the Sister Missionary apartments. When we pointed it out to them one of them said, "It will eventually drain, it is okay!"  Another time one of the Elders said, "We can't find the trivets that are on the list and we don't know what they are, Elder Hunt can you show us what they are?" So Elder Hunt asked Sister Hunt to show the Elders what trivets are. She went to kitchen and opened up all the drawers one at a time acting and talking as if she were looking for something alive. The suspense was over when Sister Hunt pulled out a trivet from one of the drawers! She told them, "It's just a cork pad that you set a hot casserole or pan of food on."
Missionary apartments are all in
 good locations in  the various cities.

All the missionaries try to keep their apartments clean and livable so the spirit of the Lord can abide with them. This is a quote from our mission president, President Watson, that is on the inspection sheet that every missionary gets to read as they fill out the inspection forms. "The purpose of an apartment inspection is to encourage missionaries to keep their apartment clean and orderly to assure a healthy and safe learning and living environment needed in order to allow the spirit to be in the home (D&C 88:119 & 109:8). It is also to resolve any potential or existing problems. This helps to keep repair expenses to a minimum and assure that the missionaries are comfortable and safe. Any damage caused by missionaries should be reported to the mission office. It is also important to report any hazards that might endanger the safety of the missionaries." 
Senior Couple Missinaries, Elder & Sister Hancock 

We have gotten to know and love all the missionaries. They are the cream of the crop: So smart, so intelligent, so open minded, so honest, so willing to work hard, so obedient, and so spiritual. We are very appreciative of who they are so BRILLIANT! We thank the parents and families of all the missionaries for sharing their son or daughter with us in the Finland Helsinki Mission.
Lunch Time for Missionaries at Zone Conference 

We have very faithful members in our small branch of the Church here in Joensuu.  And we have some new members. A half Finn-half American man, who served here as a missionary 20 years ago, but who has lived in America since, recently married one of our member single mothers. Now he and his teen-age son have joined her and her teen-age kids, one daughter and one son. They are a good family. We also had a baptism of an eight year old boy. They all add joy to our small Branch of 53 members. Some of our members live far away in the country and the Branch takes care of them by delivering food or render service of shoveling snow and bringing fire wood into their homes. We are usually the ones along with the young elders who get to serve in these capacities. We love driving out in the country and getting to know the country folks.

Our Christmas is all about serving the people of Joensuu. We have invited and served Navajo Tacos to different families as our Christmas gift of love and appreciation for them. We also baked many Christmas fruit cakes that we delivered to the Branch members and friends. We have just taught our last Institute lesson for the fall semester. We serve a light meal for supper before the lesson every week. It has been rewarding for them as well as for us. It gives us physical and spiritual nourishment. Our students brought food to prepare and together we prepared it and served it. We have gotten to know them and love them very much. It is now their Christmas break and some have gone home to their home cities away from Joensuu. They will be back in school after the New Year at which time we will begin the Institute class again.
In the center are Elder Leetham & Elder Bowden.

We have the two great missionaries serving in our city. They are Elder Bowden and Elder Leetham. They are hard workers and do many hours of street contacting. That means they talk to all the people they encounter out on the street as they walk around in town. They ask the contact if they have a smart phone and if they do, which most do, they share the gospel by having them find the Christmas message video, "Light the World". It is about Jesus Christ showing his love for the people by the many miracles He has performed while He was here on earth. He is a perfect example of love and service. Then it shows of how each person can follow His example in lighting up the world with His love at this Christmas season. It is a wonderful Christmas video that touches the hearts of all people everywhere to do good. Elder Bowden and Elder Leetham have many teaching appointments and we assist with some of them. This is Elder Bowden's second Christmas in Finland. It is the first Christmas for Elder Leetham. We all as missionaries have many Christmas dinner appointments with our Finnish members and friends.
Luke 2:1-20 The wonderful story of the birth of our
Savior Jesus Christ.
The Three Wisemen Followed the Christmas Star to
Find  Baby Jesus.

We love our mission. We love the people we serve. We know God and Jesus Christ love us and answer our prayers. At this Christmas time we have come to love and understand more of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. He is truly the precious gift sent from our Father in Heaven. Jesus gave us the most wonderful gift of the atonement and a well-marked path leading us back to our heavenly home. Christmas is a joyful time to share the gospel in many ways. Thank you for making it happen in your part of the world. We pray the Lord to bless you in your righteous works. 
Thank you all for your love and prayers. 

We Love You Very Much!
Elder & Sister Hunt๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š  
Christmas is celebrated in homes all over the world,
including here in Finland.
People attend church to worship on
Christmas Day.
A Christmas Catus in Kuovula Chapel
Food at our Zone Conference
Rice Haystack for lunch at
Zone Conference
Assistants to the President Elder Allen & Elder Nissen

Visiting during lunch to catch up on things.

Finishing up lunch at Zone Conference

Elder Hunt shoveling snow at a Member's
country home.
We got stuck in the snow & Elder Hunt dug us out!

Beautiful winter country road.

Nice & warm winter country homes.

This day a few came to Family Home Evening.

Sister Hunt caught going for seconds!

This is just before sunset at 2:47 PM. It sets in the south.

Our beautiful full moon last week.

May you share your light of Christmas!

Sister Hunt making a food delivery.

We Love You Dearly!
May God Bless You!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

November Highlights

We rejoice in knowing that we were called to Finland by
our Prophet through inspiration.
We can't believe that the month of November is over and we are now in the Christmas month. There are so many good events and activities going on. We are working harder than ever and we are hardly ever home any more. There is so much to do and so many places to go in being an example and in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. We love every minute of it!

Every month we travel to Mikkeli for our missionary Zone Training. It is always an uplifting meeting. We enjoy visiting with all of our zone missionaries. They are all super and bright young missionaries. Their parents, especially their mothers, would be so proud of them to be serving with such dignity and honor.
On the way to Zone Conference.
Our District is a part of the East Zone.

Elder Hyer enjoying the Branch Father's Day refreshment.
Elder Hyer received a Mission Accomplished cake
from the Sisters.
Good-bye to Elder Hyer at the train station. He traveled with
his two companions.
Of all the missionaries that we have worked with here in Joensuu, Elder Hyer is the first to end his two year service here. He fit right in with the natives. His Finnish language was excellent. We said our farewell to our wonderful missionary, Elder Hyer, that we love so much. He is truly a "Mission accomplished" and a "returned home with honor" missionary. He has touched many lives all over Finland, where ever he served, lived and taught. He has served as our zone leader and district leader and trainer to our new young missionary, Elder Leetham, who had just come out of the MTC a couple of months ago. We all miss him. But we also know that he has a good life ahead of him in his homeland of America.

Elder Bowden and Elder Leetham returning from a
missionary transfer.
Eternal friendships are formed in doing the Lord's work.
After Elder Hyer left our new elder, Elder Bowden, came in on the train with Elder Leetham.  We welcomed him to his new home and area of missionary work in Joensuu. We are happy that he is here. We already love him. He speaks the Finnish language very well. We look forward to working with him.

We enjoy traveling to other cities to inspect missionary apartments. We check for many things to keep their homes a place where they can return each evening to a comfortable and spiritual place after their day out teaching. Some of the things we inspect is that each apartment has a fire extingusiher, a fire blanket, smoke alarms, CO alarms, that appliances and drains are working properly, and to make sure they have tools to fix things if they should break and have enough dishes other kitchen things. We help them with repairs and show them how to maintain their appliances in their apartments. All the missionaries are wonderful to work with.

Back in Joensuu we had fun making Karjalan Piriakkas as a Family Home Evening activity with a family. After making them we ate them for dinner.

Karjalan Piirakka-Finnish
flatbread with rice filling.
Elder Hunt & Elder Leetham,
the expert piirakka makers.
Elder Hyer, Sister Hunt, and Elder Reeder helping out, as well.

Father's Day Table

Father's Day comes in Finland in November. It is a very special day honoring fathers and it is celebrated like Mother's Day in America. Our Branch members honored all the fathers in our Branch by making and serving beautiful and delicious cakes. The main cake is decorated with berries and mint. The brown cake is called the Hunter's cake. It is a delicious fruit cake with carmel in all shapes representing horns and antelers of reindeer and moose. Then there were two other cakes. The one with hearts and roses represent young and new fathers. Then there is the fun cake for busy fathers who like to eat and run. Fathers are special. We see them pushing strollers with their infants and/or walking with their young children. We see them shopping with their children while the mothers are at work. Often while the mother is at work the father is home taking care of the children, then when the mother comes home and the father goes to work. It is heart warming to see families working together taking care of their children.


Elder and Sister Hunt were invited to Kouvola Branch annual Thanksgiving dinner as they would be inspecting missionary apartments in the area. Sister Hunt was asked to talk for 15 minutes on Navajo culture, traditions and customs and also a little bit about Native American Indians. It was a short program but she was able to make it fun, interesting, informative, and spiritual for the Kouvola Branch. The meal was very delicious with turkey, salads, good Finnish breads and lots of desserts. Thanksgiving, which, of course, is not a Finnish holiday, is usually put on by the missionaries in their various loactions.

We also went to another Thanksgiving dinner in Helsinki during the two day 2016 Senior Couple Missionary Confernce and temple visit. There the dinner was Thanksgiving dinner American style that had lots of creativity. The conference was for all senior couples serving in the Helsinki Temple and all of the Finland Mission. It was a lot of fun to see and visit with them. We ended our conference with a visit to the temple.

A turkey made with sweet potato, pineapple, grapes and
fresh cranberries.
Senior couple missionaries enjoying Thankgiving dinner.

The beautiful Helsinki Finland Temple

President & Sister Watson facing the temple.

Other activities and places we experienced this November include driving on snowy and icy roads, viewing the Super Moon from our balcony window and one more Thansgiving dinner with our beloved branch member family in Joensuu. We certainly have been very busy with our missionary assignments and studies. With all that still going on Sister Hunt plans to bake Christmas treats to give as gifts to our friends, neighbors, members and missionaries. We truly love our mission. Thank you very much for your support in every way. We feel your prayers and love for us. We could not do it without you. We love you all very much. May the Lord bless you and protect you. 

Every day is a beautiful drive. All vehicles are
required to have studded snow tires, front & rear.

Because of clouds, it was a miracle that we were able to see
and take pictures of  the special Super Moon.

We love the temple and are very happy
to visit it when we go to
Helsinki. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š