I learned not to judge through my mission in Finland. My second posting was in Joensuu, (How I got there is a story in itself), and I was stationed there for quite a long time. Early in my tour we picked up two investigators, (sisters who lived together) who immediately took the church and the missionaries to heart. They were poor, but insistent and every week we went there to teach them a discussion and have dinner. We taught lessons that no one had ever heard before. We were teaching lessons out of the INSTRUCTOR, we were teaching lessons out of the ERA. We taught ourselves dry. We tried to drop the two sisters, but they came to church every week (and that was hard because we moved church around and it became a pattern for members and friends to check the want-ads in the Joensuu paper on Thursday to see where Sacrament Meeting would be held.)
Neither of the sisters would pray verbally or contribute to any great extent in the discussion. It was mainly a one way lesson. In addition one of the sisters had two sons who were "flathats" the term for the incipient gangsters in the area. They would periodically come by and try to make us feel unwelcome. This went on for ages. Finally they transferred my senior companion, and sent me another. Things simply repeated themselves until a month or two later when I mentioned that I was expecting a transfer soon. They suddenly became excited about baptism. Elder Peterson and I were not sure we should baptize them. We were not sure they had a testimony of the gospel or if they just found some social comfort in coming to church and having missionaries call. We contacted the District President, the Mission President and the decision was made to go ahead and baptize them. I don't think either of us felt terrific, but we really liked the two sisters.
As I remember, I actually was transferred just a couple of days before the baptism, which distressed them, but Elder Peterson contacted me and let me know that they did get baptized. I was glad, but doubtful that it would last.
I was sent to Pori where a few months later, my companion, Elder Burke and I met a "golden family". There was a father, mother and, I think, four children. The children were beautiful and brilliant and spoke multiple languages, the father was a professional and had both education and wealth. When they joined the church, I was sure I had baptized a potential Stake President. I was high as a kite.
Ten years later, I returned to Finland as a Fullbright Fellow. One of my first acts was to look up people whom I had taught. I didn't actually look up the sister of whom I had had such doubts in Joensuu. I happened to be lecturing at Jyvaskyla, and went to a (Mission/Stake- I can't remember the exact status, but I think it was still "Mission") affair. I think it was a youth conference. The sister from Joensuu was there, and I was thrilled that she had been in Mission Relief Society Presidency, and held a major calling at the time. One of her two "juvenile delinquent" sons had been injured in an accident, but both had joined the church, one to be Joensuu Branch President and the other to be a District President. The other "golden family" I met in Helsinki. They were nice, and happy, but the only one who was still active in the church was a daughter to had gone out to BYU and married an American.
I guess that the message is that we don't decide who is golden. The Lord does and it is not our task to try to second guess Him.
Contributed by Richard Johnson
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