Wednesday, December 28, 2011

First Christmas in Finland

We had a wonderful call on Christmas morning with McKay. After Church they were invited to a member's home, and then went back to their apartment for the rest of the day. The three days from Dec 24-26 are "Red Days" meaning that they cannot do any contacting - so if they don't have any appointments with members or investigators, they are supposed to be home. He received two packages at their Zone Conference last week, so they had things to open on Christmas morning.
A happy mom talking to her missionary son on Christmas morning

Since Monday was a legal holiday, the libraries were closed so they couldn't email until Tuesday. Here's the message we received:



Hey again everyone,

So great to hear your voices on Christmas. Sure do love you all.

So....I'm gonna be honest, I don't have much to talk about today...I just talked to you, and this week wasn't really all that interesting.

It's great to be back out doing work. Red Days are awful. It was so hard to just watch people walk by and not talk to them. We really want to pack our next couple of Red Days with appointments so we're not stuck inside.

Happy New Year, can't wait for Mother's Day. President has approved Skype, so that'll be fun to look forward to, sorry I didn't get it set up for Christmas.

Love,

Elder Hansen

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's 6 days till Christmas and still no snow....

What kind of Finnish winter is this? I get all worked up and prepared to endure the most painful, coldest winter of my life, and it's barely a couple degrees colder than home! Turku's weather is actually remarkably close to Portland's. It's just overcast and rainy right now, nothing I'm not used to. I hope President sends me to Oulu or Rovaniemi for next Christmas.

But anyway, hello again all.


We've had a fantastic week this week. Elder H is a stud. We're very, very different, but we get along great and we're having unbelievable success so far in our first week. He's from Burley, Idaho, the second of four kids. He's been in the country for ten changes now (13 months) and this is his seventh city! He's changed almost every single change. I'm actually really grateful to have stayed in Turku for a while. I get to develop friendships with members, watch investigators progress, and best of all I don't have to pack! Elder H came through and basically cleaned house when he got here, changed all the furniture and threw away a lot of stuff that I didn't really care about, but wasn't really willing to throw away because it didn't bother me. The one thing I absolutely refuse to let him toss is the rubber rat Elder C put in the fridge. Just too much sentimental value there. Don't ask about the rat. Elder H has already brought a lot of really fun, new ideas to our teaching and I can't wait for what the next 6 weeks will bring.

Monday:

My last day with Elder C, so of course we spent the evening at M's. We had a birthday party for me and a going home party for Elder C. it made my life. They got me a little stuffed monkey and I love it. I would send some pictures, but the cord I have is only an A/V cord, so I'm going to have to buy another one or just have you guys send me the right kind of cord. Had a great lesson after the festivities, and it was really hard to leave.

Tuesday:

Train to Helsinki, my last lunch with Elder C, then a train back. Elder H didn't even have time to unpack, we had two appointments that night. One of them was with that woman, S., who decided to drop us because of her family pressure, then came to church on her own and said we could teach her. In this teach we set a new baptismal date with her! She's totally ready and committed to be baptized. Barring any disasters it will go through. She has decided to not even bother telling her family this time, though. The natural man inside of me is fist-pumping over that, in a completely irreverent, stick-it-to-the-church-of-the-devil kind of way, but the better part of me is very sad about that. This gospel is meant to unite families. S expressed great faith and excitement of the potential for progression after this life. O, how great the plan of our God.

Wednesday:

We had (or thought we had) a DA in the morning, but I took us to the wrong address!! So, we started to make our way over to the right address, and I decided to take us on a shortcut through some woods. Yeah, well, apparently those orienteering skills still need a bit of work. We went completely the wrong way and ended up farther away than when we started. So, feeling horribly embarrassed, I called the member to let him know we were just going to have to cancel and come another time, but it turns he wasn't even aware we had an appointment that day! I had set up the appointment with his wife, I distinctly remember that, but apparently something fell through the cracks. This poor, old member. I think we've thoroughly confused him too many times now. (We have lots of stories with him).


After this we went home and tried to salvage the day. All we had was one appointment later that evening, so we decided to tract. I had an impression to try an area Elder C and I had considered, but never actually made it to. So we did. One super awesome man let us in. I've decided to always make it a goal to leave something with a contact or potential investigator, especially if it's going to be a while before we get a chance to meet them, and it really paid off in this instance. Our teaching got interrupted by this man's wife coming home. His wife immediately began telling us about her religious background (she is a very strong Christian), and how she wouldn't need to change, but was happy we were teaching her atheist mies
[husband]. The Spirit wasn't exactly present, so we settled for just a return appointment, gave them the Book of Mormon, and planned to come back in a few days. In those few days in between our appointments, the wife, who had originally been so opposed to the book had begun to read. She read everything before the pictures and was loaded with questions for us when we came back. She admitted that she didn't belong to a church right now and was looking for one. Ironically, she was now more interested than her mies. The presence of the Book of Mormon in her life completely changed her outlook.

Thursday:

I don't remember. It was a long day. Lots of tracting. Not much success, but a lot of time to talk with Elder H and get to know him more.

Friday:
My birthday!!! We went out contacting and found one really awesome potential, whom we are supposed to call today. Other than that, we had our weekly planning session, and went to Ward Council. yaaaayyyy.....

Saturday:

Great teach with S. Found out she already lives a lot of the standards of our church, like keeping the sabbath day holy and stuff. Other than that, see Thursday. Lähetystyötä [missionary work]

Sunday:
We had a little Christmas party during the third hour of church and it was really great, except for the plum sauce on one of the Joulutorttus (not sure what the english word is)
[mincemeat pie] was super hot! I took a bite and it got stuck on the roof of my mouth and it burned so bad that I now have blisters up there! not fun. especially when they pop.

We got to our return appointment with the Wednesday family early and decided to tract the area. I assumed we would simply begin again where we had left off in this area a few days earlier, but while we prayed I felt a distinct impression to try the other side of the street instead. On that other side, we tracted into a door, right next door to a member, and the woman was completely prepared! We talked at the door about the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, the Plan of Salvation, and the importance of families in our church. We asked if we could come back and she set an appointment for the next day. After we left, she went and knocked on the door of her nieghbor, our member, and expressed her excitement about our visit. We learned later from that member that this woman had witnessed a few of her friends join the church while she lived in Sweden. She has a husband and two small children at home, and she actually expressed concern to our member about how she can be sure that her children want to participate in our lesson as well! Such a miracle to witness the work of the Lord's hand in preparing his children to accept this gospel.

I was reading in the Book of Mormon this morning, and twice in the 27th chapter of 2nd Nephi, the Lord says: "I am able to do mine own work"


This is not our work, but his. We are but his agents. We represent Him. He accomplishes His work and allows us this short time to participate in it. I'm so grateful for that.

Can't wait to talk to you on Sunday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Elder Hansen

Monday, December 12, 2011

Welcome Home Erik

Hyvää Päivää! [Happy Day!?!?]

Miten menee? [How's it going?]

First of all, Erik. Welcome home. Congratulations on completing one of the greatest achievements anyone, in any part of the world or in any period of history, has ever completed. Such is the magnitude of an honorable, full time mission. You've been a phenomenal example of magnifying your call and giving your whole heart and soul to the Lord. I will continue to draw on the power of that example the rest of my mission. Thank you, brother. I love you.

Mom, still no luck with that family you mentioned in your email. We have three potential families we've been trying to meet with for a while now, though, so we'll see. Also, turns out that family was the referral, we just didn't realize it at the time, so hopefully it was a sign and it all works out.


Well, the biggest news for this week is that I got my very first "change call" from President. I'm staying in Turku, at least for one more transfer and Elder H will be joining me. He's been out close to a year and I'm really excited to work with him. I actually met him once when we were in Helsinki together for a day, and I know we'll get along really well. The flip-side of this is that means Elder C is going home. I can't believe it. I'm going to have to learn how to do missionary work without him. It's going to be hard. He's one of the best there ever was. We've worked hard together and seen miracles as a result. I've loved every second of working with him and I'm going to miss him a lot. We go to Helsinki tomorrow morning, where he'll stay for a couple of days before flying home on Thursday. Tuesday night I'll be back in Turku with Elder H and we'll get right back to business.

Not as much to report on this week as there has been in weeks past, but it was a decent week.


Monday:
Tried to go to the art museum, but found out it's closed on Mondays. Bummer. So P-Day wasn't quite as good as we'd hoped. We did find some awesome muffins at a little bakery in the mall though. We had a DA, which turned into a little bit of a hassle because the father wasn't home so we had to go back out, but it was a holiday in Finland so we couldn't tract. We had to just go contact and there was no one out at all....It's ok, though, had a good chance to just talk with Elder C.

Tuesday:

Not much happened. We had a really spiritual teach with one investigator, but she just can't decide that this is something she wants to do, so we can't keep teaching her anymore.

Wednesday:
Practiced some orienteering with Elder C. We were heading to an appointment, and the bus dropped us off right in front of...nothing. Just a big empty field with some light snow and one strange, unofficial path running zig-zag through it. We didn't really have another option, so we just started walking though the field, up the hill, and over to where some kerrostalos
[apartment buildings] were. We were all ready with the map book to figure out where to go next, when instead we just looked to the right and discovered that this was the building we were looking for! Things just kinda seem to work out for us like that. The really fun part was running back down that hill in the rain to catch the bus to our next appointment. We were slipping everywhere. So much fun. By the way, those Cole Haan shoes I've had for a couple years now, yeah they don't have any grip on the bottom at all. They're gonna have to be mostly summer shoes.

Got to meet with M and her family tonight, too. Her youngest daughter's new favorite word is my last name. She says it all the time, just randomly, whenever she wants. She has way too much energy and loves to dominate our teaches by shouting out random things (esp. my name), but we love her to death anyway.

Thursday:

Kieli Koulu
[language school] in Helsinki again. The last time I'll be making that trip with Elder C. It was fun though. I got to see my "baby Finns" (the district right behind me), whom I hadn't seen since the MTC. They're all doing great, they make my language skills look pretty pathetic, the punks. Road tripped back to Turku with the Rauma elders. I really like those guys. It was a fun car ride.

Friday:

We had our ward Christmas party and one of our investigators came! She had told us the day before that she was sick, and didn't think she could come, but then called us back and said that if we could find her a ride, she'd come. Our members pulled through and got her a ride. It was great for her to be there. She said we can start teaching her again too, which is awesome. Her family really doesn't like the church and even though she's 65, her 90-something year old father still has the power to tell her what to do with her life. So we have to hope that she'll have enough courage to do what's right, and hopefully we can find her some really supportive friends at church. We (the Sisar lähetysaarnaajat ja meitä)
[the Sister missionaries and us] sang a song as part of the program and I actually managed to sing a part. Pretty crazy right?

Saturday:

Splits in Rauma. Good work.

Sunday:
We had a teach booked pretty tight after a DA, and we were in such a hurry that I didn't check the phone to find out the teach had cancelled until we were already in his building. Yeah, nice work greenie. We decided to stick around and tract his building anyway, and while doing so, he came home! He was really confused about why were there, but he let us in and we got to teach him and set another appointment. He has a lot of trouble believing in God when he can't see him, and really wants some kind of sign, but he at least seems sincere so hopefully we can help him find what he's looking for.

Well....yepp that's about it. Talk to you all next week I guess. Take care of yourselves and enjoy your break. Maybe do some missionary work. People here are getting way too busy around Christmas time when the whole point is to do the opposite. Funny how the world works.


Love you all,


Elder Hansen

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sugar Puffs

Hello again everyone,

Hope you all had a great week and that life is just fantastic. Erik, I can't believe your service is coming to an end. Congratulations on everything you have done. You've been a powerful example for me and I'm so grateful.

We had a bit of a slow week this week. Not as many people to teach as we have had in the past. That did mean a lot of time for finding though. Which leads to some great stories.


Monday:
Had a great P-Day. I've gotten a ton of letters from a bunch of my friends from my freshmen ward, so I had a lot of writing to do. After answering all those though, Elder C and I decided we should probably find a different activity to do on P-Day. We needed to explore this city a bit more. (We're going to an art museum today.) We had an appointment with a family in the ward Monday night. They're awesome. Their dog is huge though! It was the friendliest, nicest, quietest dog ever, but it weighed close to a hundred pounds and it's head was bigger than mine! I'll have to send you the picture. We had a great lesson and found out about some people in their lives we can pray for. Very spiritual lesson.
Also, while doing our grocery shopping, we found a cereal called "Sugar Puffs" with the cheesiest, cheapest looking, knock-off "honey monster" character on the box. We laughed so hard and promised each other never to buy it. Until we looked on the back and found out there was a cut-out mask of this "honey monster" character on the back of the box. So we bought it. It was terrible cereal, with no nutritional value at all, but that mask made it so worth it. Elder C now wears it to quiz me on Finnish and I can hardly talk because I laugh so hard every time I look at it.


Tuesday:

Had a chance to give a blessing to a sick woman we went to visit. She's not a member, but afterwards she talked about how good she felt during the blessing and she seemed brighter and happier after it. I love the power of the priesthood.

Wednesday.

Had a great district meeting, Elder C's final one. We had an awesome testimony meeting to end it. If you ever want to invite the Spirit, wherever you are, bear pure testimony. It always works.
Splits with the Zone Leaders the rest of the day. They're great guys, learned a ton from working with them.

Thursday:
Two of our three appointments fell through, so we had some time to tract and go try to contact formers. On the bus out to one of these formers, a woman tried to sit down next to me. She didn't notice my stuff was on that seat until she sat on my backpack though! She got up, and I quickly moved my backpack, but before i could move my hat and gloves she sat down right on top of them! I had no idea what to do except to pray that she would get off the bus before me so I didn't have to awkwardly ask her to hand me my stuff from underneath her. So awkward. While we were out walking around, Elder C gave me the sentence: "This building is made of rocks" to translate into Finnish. I didn't know how to translate it, so I just looked straight back at him and, with a perfectly straight face replied, "yes, it is" He started busting up. I love the great relationship we've developed over the past two transfers. It will be very sad to see him go.

Friday:

Had a blood drive at the Church. Unfortunately, missionaries aren't allowed to donate otherwise I totally would have. I think we really made a good impression on the Red Cross volunteers, both with how many people showed up and in the way we worked with them. When we went tracting later that night, we found a building that unfortunately was full of rather hard hearted people. One of them, a very old woman, looked at the Book of Mormon and frantically tried to cover her eyes with one hand while attempting to close the door with the other and murmuring something completely incoherent. We were so confused we just kinda sat there. It took her an awkwardly long time to close the door. We had a good laugh about that door. Also learned a great saying in Finland. If you want to say something works really effectively or intensely, you can say, "Toimi niin kuin junan vessa" Yep, it works like a train bathroom. Finns.

Saturday:

Weekly Planning Session, then missionary work.

Sunday:
Great fast and testimony meeting. Tried to go contact a few referrals, but no luck. One of the buildings we were in, though, produced a little miracle. We had come to the building to find a referral, only to realize that the address was incomplete. So we sat down and prayed. While praying, I felt like we ought to just stay in that building anyway and tract it. The very first door we knocked, we found a family. It wasn't a good time for them, but they said we could some back. We gave them an invitation to our Joulu Juhlat and made a plan to come back and visit them later.

So grateful for the time I have here. Not all of it will be perfect, and some of it will be very, very hard. But I know it is possible, and that's good enough for me.


Love,

Elder Hansen

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hyvää päivää [good day]

Hope you all had a wonderful Kiitospäivä (Thanksgiving). We had a pretty normal, tiny meal, but I at least made mashed potatoes and gravy. And we had turkey sandwiches so it was almost all there. I felt pretty good about it until our Ward Mission Leader pulled out his phone on Sunday and showed me pictures about the 11 pound turkey they ate and kept ranting about how good their pumpkin pie was. Just can't win sometimes.

We had a really crazy week this week. We actually spent the entire week in Turku though, which was nice. We had a lot of cancellations this week, including two really promising new investigators who bailed a couple days after the first teach. I felt so bad for one of our members. He's retired, so we know he's free every day and we can always call him to come to teaches. We called and invited him to one teach on Tuesday, but that fell through so we called him back and cancelled. We knew we had a teach set up for Wednesday though, so when we called him to cancel the Tuesday one, we got him to come to the Wednesday one. Then the next day that one cancelled too! So we called him, cancelled, and got him to come to a teach on Thursday....which also cancelled. Somehow not frustrated beyond all belief, he agreed to come to a teach Friday, but that one cancelled too!!! The only problem was that...uh...we kinda forgot to call and tell this member the final time that that teach cancelled. So he actually did get to show up to a teach this week, the problem was neither the missionaries nor the investigator showed up....oops. He wasn't upset at all, thankfully, but he came up to us on Sunday and let us know, kindly, that he's serving in the temple this week, so we probably couldn't call him to come to teaches.
I don't know that we'll have quite as many teaches this week, though. All our investigators just keep getting baptized, dang it! Our district had another baptism this week, up in Rauma, giving us three in as many weeks. So wonderful.

Speaking of which, we completed a baptism this week by confirming M a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was my great opportunity to perform that sacred ordinance. It felt great. I know she's prepared and ready to be a member the rest of her life. She loves the scriptures and this gospel. She received a triple combination from the ward as a baptismal gift a little over a week ago and she's already read the whole thing! I don't think I've ever even read the whole thing! She was like, "If you ask me what else I did, I'll say I didn't do anything, but it felt great to read" Not only that, she also just likes the church, the organization itself, and the people. We have a lot of wonderful saints here.


Dad, you asked about the ward here. It's actually a pretty decent size, but there are a lot of inactives. If everyone was active it would probably be a little bit bigger than our ward at home. For right now, we fill most of the chapel. There are a lot of families with kids, but our young men's program is lacking (gotta find some Aaronic Priesthood age investigators). The young women are excited because, even though M's daughters can't be baptized yet, they all plan on just being active members of the ward anyway until they can get baptized.


I gave a talk in church yesterday! It wasn't anything too inspiring, I just talked about the importance of always staying positive and choosing to be happy. I shared (or at least I'm pretty sure I shared) the idea that when we put our trust in the Savior and choose to be happy, then we have him in front, leading us along the path, as well as behind, supporting us. He is all around us when we will trust in him.


I love you family, have a great week.


Vanhin Hansen

Monday, November 21, 2011

A baptism in Turku

Hyvää päivää kaikille [Good day to all],

That's right, we finally got snow here. Well, sort of. It snowed a little last night, but it had all melted by the time we got outside. Still, it means winter is finally coming. It gets dark here around 4:30 now so most of our best work happens in the dark. Yeah, how's that for irony? It's definitely getting cold, we had -2 last night while we were getting home. [Celsius, not Fahrenheit]

Thanks for all your emails about taking time off and not having anything to do for five days this weekend. It's nice to remember what the real world is like sometimes. Ha! No, just kidding. But Thanksgiving doesn't exist here in any form, so there's nothing to get excited about this time of year except that Christmas is coming soon-ish...sorta. Wheeee.....

There's plenty for missionaries to be excited about though!! There's one baptismal date left in our district and if it works out, that'll mean three baptisms in three weeks in this district. As Elder C put it last night, "Yeah, the devil's kinda upset with Finland right now" Here's how the week went:


Monday:

Had some fun shopping with Elder C. We found this awesome gelato shop and we're going to go there every week so we can try all the flavors before he goes home. Also had two really awesome, spiritual teaches and set a new baptismal date!

Tuesday

Went on Splits up in Rauma. Elder C served there for quite a while, so I know it was fun for him to be back up there and see all the places he used to go to. I worked with the junior companion of, which meant I was senior companion for a day. This Elder was in the district right behind me in the MTC, so it was fun to see him again and work with him. We, unfortunately, didn't have much success. We even got the police called on us when one woman was really upset that we had gotten into her locked building. But hey, someone held the door open for us, so technically we didn't do anything wrong. We hightailed it out of there before the cops showed up. Who knows if she even called?

Wednesday:

We stayed the night in Rauma Tuesday night, so we didn't get back to Turku until about 2 in the afternoon. We had four teaches planned for that night, but two of them cancelled, which was a bummer. Still ended up being a great night and M's baptismal interview went great. Everything was all set up for Friday.

Thursday:

District Meeting with President and Sister R. SOO GOOOOOD!!! It was all day (9-6), but it was really inspiring. We talked a lot about some technical, practical things (like keeping better records in our area books) that can help our mission work way more effectively as a unit. That's one thing I love about President R. He has a great vision of getting this mission to all work together as a single unit to move forward. It's so great. He talks a lot about "Rending the veil of unbelief"
[Ether 4:15] meaning that it's time to tear down the idea that the church just isn't going anywhere in Finland, or in Europe in general. He was pretty blunt about it. He said, essentially, when people believe that the church just can't go anywhere, that people aren't prepared or interested or they won't change, they deny the power of the Atonement. The time for being "realistic" is over. What is actually realistic is far beyond anything we can imagine. I know that sounds like one of those grand, optimistic, cheesy missionary slogans, but hey I'm a missionary so it works.

Friday:
M's baptism. Best day of my life. I think it was the best day of hers too. All her family came (I think they may have even outnumbered the ward members in attendance) which was great. There's so much love in that family. Our new baptismal date also came, even though she felt sick earlier that day. I felt so much peace while I got to watch Elder C baptize M. This is someone whose life has actually changed as a result of the gospel, and we've gotten to see it from the beginning, all the way to now. (I won't say till the end, because the end will never really come). This is someone who was really to receive, and ready to give. She's going to be a future leader in this ward. Her faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ exceeds anything I've ever seen. She just looked so happy the whole night. So great to see.

Saturday:

Nothing really big happened. We had some miracle members pull through and come to teaches, but other than that, we just worked hard. Good day.

Sunday:
Stake Conference in Tampere. President and Sister R spoke, gave some really great talks. All our teaches in the evening fell through though, including the one with our new baptismal date. Her sister apparently told her "It's me or the church" and she couldn't choose the church over her family. It really hurts to see people you have taught and come to love make wrong choices, but hopefully, in the Lord's time, she will have another opportunity to accept all the blessings of this gospel. Hard to end the week on such a sour note, but we'll keep moving forward.

Love you all so much, keep doing what's right. And don't worry about what other people around you are doing. Comparing yourselves to others doesn't get you anywhere. If someone does something that you like, try to emulate them. Try to take what they do and apply it to you, but don't get caught in the trap of trying to keep up or one-up. That's a lesson I had to learn really fast out here.


Have a great week.


Elder Hansen

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another trip to the temple

No moi,

Had a great week this week. Our district had 26 member teaches!!! President set a mission goal to get 100 member teaches this week, so I think we did our share. Still a ton more we can do though, we can always do better.

Monday:

Had our first "normal" P-Day, but we spent a lot of time just at home, writing letters and such. We've got some fun plans left for the last few weeks before my companion goes home. Dad, I promise I'll send pictures. We watched Finding Faith in Christ with our investigator and her family tonight. That's such a powerful movie. If you haven't watched it a while, now is the time to repent and watch it. It's such a great testimony of the Savior.

Tuesday:

We went to a teach with one of our new investigators that went really, really well. We had a little miracle getting a member there, which was great. Talked about the Restoration and Joseph Smith. She's been taught by the missionaries like 15 years ago, so she knows a lot about the church, and she believes in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, she just needs the faith to be baptized, even though her family probably won't approve.

Wednesday:

Had a great DA with an older couple in our ward. Very sweet. When we were leaving, the sister went and grabbed what she called our "pikkujoulua" (little Christmas). They had bought us advent calendars and Christmas chocolate. Score! These members are so great. Love this ward.

Thursday:

We went down to Helsinki again for another Kieli Koulu
[language school], which meant I got to go to the temple!! I love that temple so much, it's so beautiful. I'm so lucky to have gone twice now. Some missionaries have gone once after having been out for a year or so, and some have never been! I feel so blessed. I also got three letters while we were at the office, which, you know, was pretty fun. :)

Friday:

We taught one of our new investigators today. We finally have a man to teach! All the priesthood is wondering when we're going to find someone for them to fellowship. In the middle of the discussion, I had a wonderful experience. We found out he was really interested in what happens after this life. So, I asked him, "Brother Smith, what would you be willing to do to receive a knowledge of what happens to you after this life?" He thought for a second, then looked back at me and asked, "Well, what should I do?" Best answer ever! We got him thinking and he trusts that we can help him find his answers, so our next teach should be great. He lives really far away, so teaching him regularly will be tough, but if he's ready, it will be worth the sacrifice.

Saturday:

We got to attend the baptism of one of the Sisters' investigators. Wow. What a wonderful experience. Our investigator came which was awesome! I think that really helped her feel ready for all the practical things that will happen on Friday. Oh yeah, did I mention we did actually set a new date. Yeah it's Friday. Super excited for her. One of our other new investigators came too, and I think he really enjoyed it because he came to church the next day! There is something extra spiritual about watching a baptism. When that man came up out of the water and smiled to his family (all of whom are already members) the joy in his face illuminated the whole room. I literally felt the Spirit go all the way down to my feet! I can't wait for Friday!

Sunday:

We didn't have any appointments set up today, which was a bummer, but it did leave us some time to go out to try to visit a referral who lives out on one of the islands. We tracted for almost three hours, in two different areas, with no luck. But, the time honored tradition of finding someone on the last door of the night has been renewed here in Turku. When the referral wasn't home, we decided to go to an area I had had a prompting about earlier. It was a small neighborhood, with not very many houses and a lot of construction going on. To be honest, when we arrived there, I doubted the prompting a little bit. I wondered if the prompting hadn't been about the other, bigger, better lit area down the street. But I felt something nudge me in only the way the Spirit can to keep going, so we started tracting. Finally, at the last door we had time to knock before heading to the bus, we found her. This wonderful mom and her young daughter who are so ready to receive the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for them. I'm convinced Heavenly Father holds the best ones for the last door so we can end our day on a good note.

Love you family, thank you for your emails and your prayers.


Elder Hansen

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Start of Transfer #2

Hei family,

So, sorry to start off with bad news, but our baptism didn't happen this week. It is, however, turning into a very powerful lesson of faith and patience and trusting in the Lord.
 
We were setting up our baptismal service - all that was left was the interview. We knew how powerful her testimony was and that she had not had any problems with any of the commandments, so we weren't worried about the interview at all. However, to our shock, after the interview it was suggested that the baptism be postponed for a couple of weeks. We had no idea why and the elder who had conducted the interview couldn't explain why he had suggested we wait, except that that was the impression he had received. I was more than a little disappointed, and so was our investigator, but we had no other choice, so we prayerfully began to plan new topics to teach her that would help her prepare to be faithful to the baptismal commitment the rest of her life. The next morning, she called us and said "Well, I know why it got moved." Her family would have been unable to attend the service had the baptism taken place on the original date, and although they have not been supportive of her at all in this decision, they still had a desire to be there for this important event. Now that it has been moved, it seems they will be able to attend. Our investigator's mother actually came to church with her yesterday and will hopefully be at our lesson with her tonight. I admire this woman's faith so much. She saw the answer before we did. She sees the answer in everything. This may have been the only reason it got moved, or there may in fact still be more work to be done to prepare her, or maybe my companion and I just needed a lesson in patience and humility, (or perhaps some combination of all of the above) but whatever the case I know that the Lord's hand is at work and it is miraculous to see.

Also, our Finnish companion got transferred already, so it's back to just the two of us here. It's too bad, I had a lot of fun being his companion, and it really did feel like we were going to be successful together.

So there's this one member that has us over for a ruoka sopimus
[dinner appointment] every single week. It's great, and he usually takes us out for pizza, which is fun. He's one of the most eccentric people I've ever met so it's always so much fun to be with him. Anyways, while we were talking he was coaching me on pronunciation, he would pick all these really strange words and make me say them over and over until I got it right (thankfully I didn't take too long on every word). Found out something funny. In the sentence "May we come tomorrow and meet your family?" there are two very critical a's. If those two letters are left out (one in the word for "may we" and the other in the word for "to meet") the sentence becomes: a frog will come tomorrow and kill your family. I love this language. While we were leaving, I thanked him for helping me with my pronunciation because I really want to be clear when I speak. He chuckled a little at that, and then explained that the word for "clear" also often means "sober." Yes, it would also help if I stayed sober as a missionary.

One another night, we had an appointment fall through, so we decided to try to contact a few potentials in the area. While tracting their buildings, we found very little success, and decided we needed to pray before continuing in this area. We went outside and prayed, and both received the answer to continue in the next building. While in there we found three potentials, one of which gave us an appointment for the next day and she is now one of our new investigators!


I love you all, thank you for all your support and prayers.


Rakkaudella,

Vanhin Hansen

Ed note: From Google translate, here is the translation for "May we come tomorrow and meet your family" - Sammakko tulee huomenna ja tappaa perheesi

And here is the translation for "A frog will come tomorrow and kill your family" - Saammeko tulla huomenna tapaamaan perhettäsi


Glad it's him. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

New Finnish companion

Hey family,

I've got some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is, I'm now the third best Finnish speaker in our apartment. The good news is we got a new companion!!! And he's a native Finn!!!! He's the first native Finn who's been called to Finland for a few years and we're really lucky to have him with us. Brings our total number of missionaries in Turku to 5 so we're ready for the work here to just explode. It's also great to be able to ask him anything about Finnish that I want. He's only been with us for four days and I've already noticed my language skills improving.


Monday:

Met with _____ again and had a wonderful teach. It's so wonderful to see how the joy of the gospel has entered her life. She even said she felt like she was "born Mormon" and had just been waiting to find this all her life. So excited for her baptism on Saturday!!!!!!

After that teach we went Home Teaching with the member who had come along with us. Felt good to pay him back for his awesome work. We met with a young woman who used to be less active, but has been coming to church regularly the whole time we've been here. Talked about the Book of Mormon. We found out her boyfriend isn't a member, and asked her to invite him to take the discussions. She was really hesitant, but she brought him to church yesterday. We asked him if he would want to investigate the church and he said we'll see. I think he will eventually. He's a great guy.


Tuesday:

We went to our leadership training in Helsinki and were delayed by an hour and a half on the train by fog. Yeah, sitting on the train going nowhere for an hour and a half....yeahhhhhhhh. But once we finally got there, it was great. Loved getting to meet with the President and his wife. They did some great teaching and we worked a lot on improving our teaching skills. I also got to see everyone from my MTC group, which was a blast. I've almost forgotten what it was like in the MTC already. Heck, I can barely remember what happened last week to write this email. It's crazy how fast time goes.

Wednesday:

More training. Good stuff.

Thursday:

Kieli Koulu [langage school], and we met our new companion. Great day, lots of fun learning and practicing Finnish.

Friday:
Lähetystyö
[missionary work]

Saturday:
Great district meeting. Wonderful spirit. I'm sad our district is going to change so much this transfer.

Sunday:

Primary Program in Sacrament meeting. Probably the first sacrament meeting where I actually understood everything. It was a much smaller primary than I'm used to seeing, but they were all so wonderful. We have such a great ward here. Spirit was very strong. I wish we could have had a few more people in church, but such is life.

We'll I gotta go. Pretty busy day today. Love you all. Keep pressing forward.


Elder Hansen

Monday, October 24, 2011

Making Pulla


McKay sent a few pictures today - they made pulla at the home of one of their investigators.

Excerpts from his email:

Monday:
I got my first haircut in Finland from a member in our ward. He's actually really good. Except that it's getting really cold here and I now have basically no hair so my head practically freezes every evening while we're out talking to people. Fun stuff.

Monday night ______ invited us over to make pulla. Think Pluckit/Monkey bread/whatever the majority of the world actually calls it in individual rolls. So good! It took a little while, so we were there longer than we planned, but she gave us a ton of pulla to take home, so it was basically worth it. She's so great. I can't wait for her to get baptized.

Tuesday:

We did missionary work.

Wednesday:
We had a man call us out of the blue and immediately start talking about how he was sitting there reading the Liahona. We were like, "uh, who is this?" Turns out he's a man who has investigated the church a few times, most recently in like 2009. I hope we can make a difference this time and help him to be baptized.

Friday:

We found a woman who is reminds me so much of Aunt Susie. It was so crazy. The whole time I was talking to her I was like "wow, she sounds, acts, talks, laughs, everything, exactly like Aunt Susie" almost made it hard to think about what I was trying to say. I read from the introduction to the Book of Mormon, and when I looked up to explain it, she was crying. She said she felt the way she did when she sang songs in church. We testified that that was the Spirit, the love of God, and she started crying again. I was like, this doesn't happen to Finns. This is a big deal to her. She set up an appointment to meet with us and she's now reading the Book of Mormon and trying to figure out if baptism is right for her.There is so much power in the Book of Momon!

So Sunday night we decided to leave a little early to get catch our bus, to give us time to talk to people along the way. We talked with every single person we passed, with almost no success. It also made us miss the bus, but we weren't worried because we knew we were doing what we needed to do, and we had plenty of time before our teach. While waiting for the next bus to arrive, a young woman came and waited next to us. We started talking about her, where she was going, what she was studying at the university, and then the conversation naturally transitioned to who we were and what we were doing. We began to talk a little about the message of the Book of Mormon, and how it is evidence of Heavenly Father's love for us. She was quiet for a moment, and then she just started to cry. She opened up and told us about all of the struggles she has had recently and all the stress she has been under. We continued talking and bearing testimony almost the entire bus ride. She felt the Spirit so strongly and I know what we said helped her. As she was getting off she gave us her number and told us we could call her sometime and talk more about our message. I hope we will be able to teach and baptize her, but even if that doesn't work out, I know we helped heal her spirit through bearing testimony and providing her the feelings of the Spirit she had been longing for without even realizing it. That, to me, is what it means to go about doing good.

We get to go to Helsinki for a few days this week for some training with my MTC group. Really excited to see all of them again.


Have a great week everybody. Thanks for all your emails.

Elder Hansen

Monday, October 17, 2011

Four Weeks in Finland

Got a great email from McKay this week. He told us the two key highlights of the week were:

Biggest highlight: _______ and all 3 of her daughters came to church this Sunday! So great. We actually saw them walking in front of us into the chapel and the image was just so funny. Mom walking ahead, oldest daughter right beside her, second daughter trailing, head down, and the youngest stomping along in puddles the whole way. So great. And everything went well with them getting to classes and everything. We actually didn't do a thing. Just asked the members to do it and they all pulled through. I love this ward so much. If President leaves me in this city my entire mission I will be happy. This family has really started to like us too. We're heading over to their house to make bread with them before our lesson tonight (she's started feeding us little treats almost every lesson now) way excited for that.

Second biggest highlight of this week. Elder C was teaching language school in Helsinki so.....I GOT TO GO TO THE TEMPLE! It was so incredible. Easily my new favorite temple. It's small, and it works the same way as the Newport Beach temple (which I really like), and it's so, so beautiful. Love every bit of it. And I did it all in Finnish. It was so hard, but I actually understood more than I thought, just go a little lost on some of the parts. Such a great experience just to sit in the Celestial Room there. Want to go back so bad. I also finished reading the Book of Mormon again. I prayed, but didn't feel much, just sorta normal. I thought that was weird. Especially as a missionary, I was expecting some great, miraculous experience. But nothing came. That was in the morning. Then that night, as I was writing in my journal about it, my answer came. I wrote down some really powerful thoughts and testimonies about the book that came to my mind while I wrote. I love the Book of Mormon, I have such a wonderful testimony of it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hansen Missionaries in the Nordics

For the next two months, our two Hansen missionaries will be separated by just 600 miles (click image to enlarge):

Monday, October 10, 2011

First Splits

Highlights from McKay's email today:

"So we taught _____ and her daughters three times again this week. The mother, she's always there, but Saturday was the first time we actually had all of them there for the whole lesson. Still, they're all planning on being baptized, they just have varying levels of understanding of what that actually means. She came to church though! That was so great. She came for Sacrament meeting with her 13 year old daughter. It was so great to see the ward rally around them. The bishop's wife and all of the young women took them on a tour of the building before they left. So, the first time I've seen an investigator I've found come to church. Really wonderful experience."

"Had my first experience with splits this week. That was fun. My companion had to go to a leadership conference in Helsinki on Friday, so I worked with one of the Vaasa elders all day. He was great. We only had one teach set up that day and it fell through, so we spent the whole day finding. We talked to so many people, but no one was interested. Got one phone number the whole day and that was it. Oh well. The really fun part was ward council without my comp. Yeah, been here three weeks and I had to go to ward council by myself. Well, not by myself obviously, but my companion for that day didn't know anything about the area so he couldn't help me report on anything. But....I did it. Only had to use English once actually, which felt great. The way to know how much you're progressing is to do something you've never done before. And usually, you can do more than you think.


"So, last Monday my companion and I were out contacting by the river. It was getting late so we turned around and started to head for home. We stopped one woman and started to talk about the purpose of life. We asked what she thought and she said, "well, actually I was talking about that with my fourteen year old son today, and I just didn't know what to tell him" GOLDEN. We went into a discussion on the Plan of Salvation, then on prophets, on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and prayer. We opened and used the Book of Mormon while we talked. She said she felt something different, something new while we talked and we testified that this was the Spirit, telling her this was true. It was so wonderful. Easily the best conversation I've ever had with anyone about the gospel. At least, in Finland. She couldn't set up an appointment right then, so she got our number and promised to call. I was worried, because usually that means no, but she actually called! We're teaching her tomorrow. Then, a couple days ago we were walking in Turku and we saw her on the street and she waved to us! Apparently she's really excited for us to come over and teach her family. Please pray for us when we teach. These people need this gospel and the church needs these people.

"We've started teaching a couple really nice guys from Nepal. They're both really excited about the idea of prayer. The problem is, we haven't really been able to explain the notion of praying out loud to them well. We taught one of them this morning and when he said the closing prayer, he said 'Dear Heavenly Father.......there was about a minute and a half of silence......in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.' Hey, at least that's a start.

"I hope you feel the Lord's hand at work in your life every day, because He is there. I feel His presence constantly. Always remember who you are."


Friday, October 7, 2011

Letter from Finland


We received a letter from McKay's mission president today, with a photo taken upon his arrival in the land. Here's an excerpt from the letter:

"Your son, Elder Hansen, arrived here in Helsinki, Finland on 20 Sep 2011. His testimony and enthusiasm for the work are fully evident. [We] enjoyed meeting and working with him as he came through Helsinki on his way to the field. As we were at the temple, driving from the airport, he thoughtfully wrote his feelings and looked up and the sun shone through his smile. It is a blessing to have him here with us. After prayerful consideration, Elder ______ has been chosen to be your son's first companion and trainer. Elder ______ was released as an Assistant to train your son.

"We want you to know that we encourage the missionaries to write often and to share their positive experiences with their families. You are encouraged to write to him weekly. As we are certain you know, missionaries love to get mail. He may email his immediate family each week and you can forward his emails to interested persons. If people outside his immediate family want to correspond with him directly, they should write to him in care of the mission office. The mission office mailing address is:

Finland Helsinki Mission
Nietsytpolku 3 A 4
00190 Helsinki
Finland

"We know he will love to hear from his ward, family, and stake, as well as from his friends.

"Elder Hansen committed to his bishop and stake president to serve a full-time mission. He also has committed to put his personal life on hold. He has clearly done that, as he arrived here full of inspiration and a commitment to serve how and as the Lord directs. Brigham Young said: 'Let your minds be centered on your mission.' We know there will be many spiritual and growing experiences here which will be a source of joy for ELder Hansen and your entire family as he assists in building the Kingdom in Finland."

Monday, September 26, 2011

First Area - Turku

Heard from McKay this morning. He let us know that the mission president had advised them that because of privacy laws in Finland, we need to be really careful about what gets posted online. No references to individuals, etc. So, rather than posting his emails, we'll just provide highlights and excerpts.


His first area is Turvu, which is apparently the oldest city in Finland, and the former capital. From Wikipedia:

Located at the mouth of the Aura river in the southwestern corner of Finland, Turku covers an area of 245 square kilometres (95 sq mi) of land, spread over both banks of the river. The eastern side, where the Cathedral of Turku is located, is popularly referred to as täl pual jokke ("this side of the river"), while the western side is referred to as tois pual jokke ("the other side of the river"). The city centre is located close to the river mouth, on both sides of the river, though development has recently been expanding westward. It has a population of about 300,000, and is the third largest city in Finland. To the west is the Turku Archipelago, consisting of over 20,000 islands.

His companion is from Utah, and was most recently one of the assistants to the president. There have only been Sisters in Turku for several months. The Sisters cover the Turku II ward (north side of the river), and the Elders cover the Turku I ward (south of the river).

 Chapel in Turku

McKay said the flight was great - Lufthansa treated them very well, apparently. They kept making references to President Uchtdorf on the flight. They got registered in Helsinki, had "an awesome dinner" at the mission president's home, and he said he "slept really well."

After three days of mostly ineffective proselyting, including a Saturday that he described as "one of the hardest days of my life," he had this to say about Sunday:

Such a great sacrament meeting. I was invited to bear my testimony. They didn't hold a normal fast and testimony meeting, they actually had two speakers after my companion and I bore our testimonies, not sure why, but it was a great meeting. I had a lot of people come up to me afterwards to tell me how good my Finnish sounded. In fact, several of them were convinced that I was from Sweden or Denmark, and definitely not America. Probably the best compliment I've ever received. Better than that though, the members love us. They're all so wonderful and so willing to help. Set up a lot of appointments with members to try to get referrals and help them with their callings. The wonderful thing is, they all want to have us over for dinner too.

Sunday after church, we went tracting to find a family. We had had a good feeling about this one area, but after about an hour of knocking doors, we had nothing. We placed on Book of Mormon and had a nice Lutheran lady say she appreciated what we were doing and gave us an apple from her tree, but no one was interested. So we decided we were in the wrong place. We wanted to find some apartment buildings or townhomes so we could hit more doors in less time, but there weren't any nearby, so we just started walking. Eventually we saw some off in the distance, like waaay in the distance, so we just started walking towards them. On a back road, where no one else was walking, riding, or driving by, and where it didn't really look like anyone with any sort of life would be, a woman and her young daughter started walking the other direction towards us. I stopped them and the words just started flowing. I talked about our message about families and the Plan of Salvation. She mentioned that she had been looking for a church and tried a few before, but never really stuck with it. She said she had heard of the Book of Mormon before, but had never actually seen one, and was grateful to take it. When I ran out of ideas, my companion took over and set up an appointment for tonight. Such a neat experience, and now we finally have a family to teach. We were so grateful to Heavenly Father for helping us to find them. Not exactly your typical 'Last door knocked' story, especially because the apartment buildings we were walking towards ended up being locked, but it was great. Afterwards, I read a quote from Elder Neal Maxwell that says talks about how God blesses us. He said it's never an explanatory joy that comes, only a compensatory one. Meaning, that the joy we feel won't always come as a direct result of good that we do, but it will come. And when it comes, the joy we feel will be greater than the pain or struggle we had to go through. The Lord will bless us when we do what is right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Arrival in Finland

McKay left the MTC yesterday morning, and we were able to talk to him for about a half hour - he called us from the SLC airport. The caller ID said "Ralph Allen" so we were a bit confused. Turns out that as he was getting ready to call us from a payphone, a man came up to him and offered to let him use his cell phone. After we finished the call, I texted Brother Allen to thank him. He wrote back: "You're welcome. I was him 15 years ago headed to Estonia. He looks good and will do well."

We had a really nice talk with McKay - he sounds so great, and so excited to finally be on his way to Finland. He said that the language is coming along nicely, but he's sure there will be a big difference between MTC Finnish and what they speak in country. But at the end of the call he bore us his testimony in Finnish - a good memory for us all.

We received the following email from him this morning:

Hey family,

Don't really have any time to write, they just wanted to give us a chance to let our families know we made it. So this is me telling you that I made it. Ta da! Finland is the most beautiful place I've ever been to and I never want to leave.

Flights weren't too long, but I'm still pretty jetlagged and really really hungry right now. Glad we get to eat soon.


Love you all very much. I get to write my real email on Monday. Moi moi!


Elder Hansen

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pictures from the MTC

We just received a few pictures from McKay:

 McKay and his good friend Michael Schnell from our ward.

 MTC District

 With his cousin, Brett Hansen

Part of his zone

 Jedi

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Last email from the MTC

Ed. Note: We got a call from the MTC the other day, telling us that McKay was having problems with his knee, and that they were sending him to see a specialist. But it sounds like it's not too serious. Also, we got his travel itinerary - he leaves SLC at 10:47 am on Monday 9/19 and arrives in Helsinki at about noon on Tuesday 9/20, with stops in Chicago and Frankfurt.
Here's his email from this morning:
Dear family,


OK first things first. My knee is fineeeee. It's just some discomfort, probably a little inflammation, but it's no big deal. The church is just super protective of its missionaries so they're sending me to a specialist to make sure it's nothing serious. Which I already know it isn't, so don't worry. 
I'll try to call you from Salt Lake and not call from Germany. Basically, once that flight takes off from Salt Lake, I want to be all business, totally 100 percent missionary mode.


Erik, so great to hear about your time with Elder Bednar.  I love hearing your stories about the Chinese people you're teaching. One of our teachers is playing a Chinese man as a "progressing investigator" right now, and he's so hilarious. I can tell he actually taught a lot of Chinese in Finland because when I read your stories of actual Chinese, it sounds EXACTLY like Veli Thatcher as "John". Can't wait to be less than 500 miles away from you in about a week. Can't wait.


It's been an awesome week this week. Except for the fact that we all went a little crazy when we got our travel plans. I started packing early this morning. I just can't wait to get to Finland. Veli Stewart, the other group's teacher who has been helping in our class twice a week now that school has started and everyone's schedule is all crazy, showed us a bunch of pictures of Finland and we all almost died. Seriously, probably the most beautiful place I will ever see. Puts Hawaii to shame most of the time. SO COOL.


Our devotional last night was from Elder M. Russell Ballard. So fantastic. Had a lot of really specific advice about using Preach My Gospel more effectively and things like that, but one of the best things he said was actually a quote from the Prophet Joseph, spoken to Wilford Woodruff as he was preparing to head out as a missionary. The Prophet reminded him, "No matter what comes, round up your shoulders and bear it." Great advice. I've faced a lot of adversity in the MTC, and mostly from sources I didn't expect it to come from. Like this business with my knee. Couldn't have expected that, but it's here, and I'm going to work through it just fine.


Other things he said:


"Keep the Gospel as simple as possible when you teach" I think that's so true. Too often (especially in Gospel Doctrine) we try to overcomplicate the gospel.


"Keep focused on the Atonement of Jesus Christ" yeah, enough said.


"Pray with faith and determination*"

*"Another word for determination is goals"


And finally, he quoted Pres. Hinckley and said, "Teach the missionaries to be themselves." We have to be genuine when we teach. We are not there to sell a product, to convince people to join, or even to be charismatic in our spreading of the gospel so that people will want to be our friends. We are to be ourselves, and be our best selves. The best example is the extraordinary life of a Latter-day Saint (pretty sure that was also President Hinckley).


I read something really interesting this week. I've started studying the New Testament again. First, the Epistle of James might be my new favorite book in the entire Bible. Just loaded with doctrine, especially relating to faith and the need to act. Love it. Second, read through the gospel of Matthew and count how many times it says "that the word might be fulfilled...." Christ truly came as the fulfillment of all prophecy. In Him and His great sacrifice, we find fulfillment. So interesting to read. And also to trace back through the Old Testament to find those original prophecies. Most of them are actually there if you do some digging.


Last, I love some of the Finnish translations of scripture. When Christ says, "Come follow me" in Finnish the translation is "Lahde minun mukaani" which means literally, "leave along with me." When we choose to take up the path of the disciple, we must of necessity leave where we are, either physically or spiritually. The comfort we can take is that no matter where we are asked to go, either literally or figuratively, it will always lift us higher if we are following the example of the Master, the one who has walked this path before us to pave the way. I love my Savior.


Time's past gotta run. Love you all very much.


Elder Hansen

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The goal is in sight

Terve perheeni!!


Less than two weeks to go until we ship out to Finland. I literally cannot wait. The goal is in sight. We still dont have travel plans yet, though. 
Mom, got the package you sent. Thanks so much! But....I probably don't need anymore junk food while I'm here. That's all anyone ever gets so we're about up to our waists in candy, cookies and brownies in our residence hall. But I did really appreciate it when it came. It came at exactly the right moment for me. Oh yeah, Dad, got the article about the Lithuanians. Pretty cool. Didn't know basketball was so big over there. Can't wait to see what the Lithuanians say about it, but I don't know if any of them are real big on sports, so we'll see.


Hilarious Finnish story from this week! Sisar Shreeve was practicing a door approach, and she introduced herself and talked about the church just fine, but when she went to introduce her compainion, she said, "...ja tama on minun rakas poikani....OOPS!" (Tama on minun rakas poikani = this is my beloved son...she had been trying to memorize the First Vision in Finnish right before this). So funny. We almost died. We've been having a lot of moments like that lately. Not necessarily in Finnish either. Later, Vanhin Bishop said something wrong in Finnish and Sisar corrected him, and he goes, "I don't care if it was grammacially correct!" To which Sisar responds, "You mean, grammatically?" So funny. He just threw up his hands. We're all starting to get a little overloaded with Finnish, so we start busting up at almost anything. Really trying to buckle down and focus though. I want the end to my time in the MTC to model how I will end my mission. This is the test. It's easy to work hard when you aren't tired. But when you're tired like we are now, that's when you prove to yourself and to the Lord that you can keep going forward. If I can finish strong here, I can finish strong in the field. Elder Jay E. Jensen quoted President Monson last night in the devotional when he said, "Decisions do determine destiny." To quote one of my all-time heros Qui-Gon Jinn in a similar vein, "Your focus determines your reality." (Yeah....Hoggard teases me about my closet Star Wars obsession all the time.) But it's true. Once your mind is truly set, you can begin to move forward. Until it's set, you're just sort of stumbling along. You might have some success, but heck, even the blind squirrel catches a nut once in a while.

[Here is a video of a door approach they came up with:]

video


Had an awesome experience in a teach the other day. We challenged "Heiki" to get baptized, but realized we hadn't talked about a date yet! So I just smoothly pulled a date out the air, September 10th. Then, to cover myself, I was like "well, we want the second saturday in September, not sure if that's the tenth or not." Pretty smooth right? Well, turns out the second Saturday in September IS the 10th. Boom. Not sure if that counts as inspiration or luck, but I like to think it's the former.


Well, family I love you. Erik, so great to hear how things are going in Denmark for you. So jealous about you fireside with Elder Bednar coming up. Gonna be awesome.


Love,


Elder McKay

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"We have heard the voice of an apostle"

Terve Perhe! 

Yes that's right. The long awaited time has come and the silence is broken. Okay that's a little dramatic, but seriously, we've been waiting to hear from a member of the Twelve at a fireside or devotional for the whole time we've been here. That's not meant to detract from the other speakers, all of whom have been fantastic, but hearing from an apostle is always something special. Last night was no exception. We knew it was someone big because they wouldn't show who it was on the slideshow they have running before the meeting like they usually do, and twice before the meeting started they had someone stand up and talk to us about proper respect for servants of God. Then while we were singing prelude hymns, none other than Elder Jefferey R. Holland walked into the room. I almost passed out. We all got so excited. His talk was fantastic. Think like his talk on the Book of Mormon last conference good. And just as intense. I wish I could include everything he said, but there just isn't time. He talked to us for so long about the burden that we bear as the missionaries of this dispensation. All the significant missionary work of the history of this world is being done by the members of the church in this dispensation according to Elder Holland. He said, "Prophets, apostles, and missionaries of old took heart, even when they saw their own failed efforts and their people begin to fall into apostasy, because they saw our day and your efforts and the success of missionary work in the last days." And then he got very serious. You all know the voice. It's the one he used in his Book of Mormon talk. He said, in the voice of one ordained to speak on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Many have given their lives, some as recent as four days ago, for this work. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT to disrespect their sacrifice by not giving your whole heart and soul to this work." Yeah, I'm gonna think about THAT the next time I want to complain about being tired or that the language is hard. Incidentally, does anyone know what he was referring to to when he said "four days ago." I wish I could've counted the number of times he used the words "you have no right" last night, hammering home the gravity of our work and our need to take it seriously. Not just to take it seriously. It was deeper than that. It's that we should make it a part of us permanently. It should never leave us. He said the thing that makes him the most upset is when missionaries return home and immediately go back to the way they were without any knowledge of why they left in the first place. I already don't ever want to come home, so I think I'm on the right track. I've become lost in this work. No, not just the MTC (because yes, I have forgotten that BYU has started up again), but this work. I can't stop thinking about Finland and the people I will teach. 

Elder Holland talked a lot about the idea of "passing the baton" in our church in terms of missionary work and leadership service and everything. We always pass on the responsibility. Then he said, "Take me for example. I've got one foot in the grave, and the other on a banana peel. I'm almost out of here." Hilarious. But really sad. I really hope it's a long time before we lose him to his continued work beyond the veil. 

Speaking of Finland, had my first full, complete conversation with a native Finn in only Finnish a couple days ago. It was short, he said more than I did, but it happened. It is in fact possible. 

Got an awesome package from Whitney the other day. All this candy and chocolate from Vienna (so good!) along with a nice letter and a copy of a scripture memorization technique. Really excited to start using that. 

So Elder Hoggard and I were practicing door approaches the other day and we came up with the greatest one ever. One companion stands at the door and says, "Hello. We have a message for you from God" whereupon his companion (standing out of sight) drops a Book of Mormon into his hands as though it fell from heaven. The first companion, with a straight face, and as though it was nothing, simply continues, "It's the Book of Mormon, may we come in and teach you about it?" Our teachers thought it was hilarious. One of them was like, "Why didn't I think of that? I totally would've used that in Finland." Either we're getting really creative as a result of the Spirit, or it's just time for us to get out of here. 

So one of the unfortunate parts of being in tht MTC for so long is that everyone thinks you're really old. I had some of our new english elders come up to us at lunch last week and say, with absolute sincerity, "so you're an RM right?" Do I really look that old? They honestly thought we were called to come back to MTC and just be zone leaders for young missionaries. I need to get out of here...... 

Family, my time on this strange thing called to internet is up. But before I go I want to write something I thought of while listening to Elder Holland speak last night. 

"If this burden is the cross Christ spoke of when he said to take up our cross and follow him, then I will bear it gladly, for I know that this burden will carry me forward much more than I will carry it forward." 

Love you all, 

Elder McKay

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Week 7

Terve Perheni!
So glad to hear your Summer is going well. I actually have forgotten that Summer vacation exists outside the MTC. Yesterday after gym we bumped into a group of kids walking home from school. It was the strangest feeling ever. Somehow, I don't know how, but somehow life seems to have continued in the outside world. I guess I wasn't as important as I thought, oh well I'll try not to take it too personally. Maren, so excited for you getting that job at Jamba this summer, I know that'll be great for you. Glad to hear you passed your smoothie test too, I said a couple prayers for you, but really, I always knew you'd make it. ;)
It's been so great to have Elder Schnell in my zone. It's like having a brother around again. We've had a lot of fun together this first week. Our only real problem is getting in our minds that we're supposed to refer to each other as "elder" now. I don't know that I'll ever really get used to that. He's Michael to me. Tell his family that he's doing awesome. Really. He'll be a great missionary. He just showed up with a little too much adidas product. It's okay, I think I'll forgive him eventually, but honestly Dad, how did you let that slide through? Great to hear about Patrick getting his call. Tell him congratulations from me. The Finnish missionaries have tons of respect for the Japanese missionaries because they're some of the only ones that can give us a run for our money as far as the language and the difficulty in the field goes. Got a great letter from Elder Francis too, sounds like he's doing awesome. I love Ben. And, yes Dad, Dillon Reynolds was in my quorum at BYU, he was actually my secretary first semester. Great guy. Really excited to have the Lithuanians joining our district. Our district is now Finnish, Estonian, and Lithuanian. Crazy huh?
I want to share some things I've learned and been working on over the past couple of weeks here at the MTC. My branch president, President Thorpe, who I absolutely love, challenged me to deepen my understanding of the Atonement. I decided to start by working through the list of tesitmonies of the Savior in the Book of Mormon. It's found on the opening page of lesson 2 of chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel. Some fantastic scriptures in there that I hadn't read for a very long time. I especially love Abinadai's testimony. Mosiah 12-16. Incredible. Especially chapters 15 and 16. I can't remember which of those chapters it is, but I'm pretty sure it's Mosiah 15:9 that talks about the Savior "standing betwixt them and justice." Absolutely love that image. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is such a miraculous thing. I love my Savior. I'm so eternally grateful for His sacrifice.
Another great image I've found and come to love is Enos. Enos 1:27 is one of my new favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon. Think about him for a second. He had Jacob for a father, so he probably had some incredible experiences growing up. He lived among the Nephites and was probably fairly wealthy and successful, had good status socially and within the church, and he had the responsibility to write in and pass on the plates. But of all the things he could have written, he considered the most important event in his life the day that he finally understood the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is how important the Atonement was for him, that's how important I want it to be for me. We use Enos with every single investigator we teach now.
Unfortunately, we don't have any really good Finnish stories this week. We did get Veli Mock back from vacation though, which we were all excited about. He's such a great teacher. I've learned a ton from him and he's been an awesome example to me. Bumped in to Boman too, which was fun.
Alright fam, time's up, gotta go. Thanks for all your letters, I read them all like gold. Sorry I can't respond to all of them.
Elder Hansen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lohikäärme

Terve Perheni!! 

Okay first of all, happy birthday Mom and Erik!! Sounds like you got spoiled Mom, you deserve it. 

HUGE NEWS: get a text to Brian Schnell ASAP. Elder Michael Schnell is going to be in my zone in the MTC!!! Super excited. Gonna be too much fun. 

Mom thanks for the package. Had a lot of fun knocking back that bottle of Martinelli's...all by myself. Some of the missionaries did a double take when they saw it. One of them was like, "where's your brown bag?" it was fun. Yes, Dad, you may roll your eyes now. 

Dad, thanks for sending your thoughts and your tribute to Grandpa. I loved reading it. Had a nice chat with Brett about it too. I don't know if I told you, but we actually live in the same residence hall, so I see him all the time. It's great. Love spending time with him. 

Had a great week this week, taught a bunch of fun lessons. We've started teaching each other as progressing investigators, which is fun, except for when we start laughing during lessons. Finns do this thing where they talk while they breathe in, just to keep talking, and it sounds really funny. So I did it during a lesson one time while I was the investigator and Elder Bishop just about lost it. Yeah, maybe not the most productive lesson, but it makes for a good story right? I'm glad our district is close enough that we can joke around with each other. Bishop and I also always go back and forth with movie lines, reminds of dinner at home. Maren and Reese, I need you to research the line "All good things must come to an end, let's end it together" we can't remember what movie it's from, and it's driving us crazy. Find out and send me a dearelder today. Please. [ed. note: Our resident movie line aficionado, Maren, tells us that the line is from "A Knight's Tale" - a Hansen family favorite].

The other night Piispa (Elder Bishop's nickname cuz it's Finnish for 'Bishop') and I were going back and forth about whose clock was set to the right time. Mine was about two minutes ahead of his. He goes well, would you rather have more time or less time? and I reply I'd rather be ON TIME! Yeah it was fun. 

We had an awesome devotional last night from Elder David F. Evans. He talked a lot about the purpose of teaching the role of our Heavenly Father in the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. It's so interesting to me to realize how often we ignore or forget the role of our Heavenly Father when we talk about the Holy Ghost and the Savior. I'll send you some of my notes in a letter later. 

Finnish is going. It's hard, but I feel like I get better every day. It just takes a lot of work. I ran into Andrew McKinley in the cafeteria and he told me that every time he thinks about complaining about the language he thinks of me and gets back to work. That made me feel better. We've been teaching Sister Thorpe, our branch president's wife, a new Finnish word every time we see her and she's actually developing quite an awesome vocabulary by now. She always says that it'll be our fault when she and President Thorpe get called to Finland on their mission.

No Finnish slip ups this week, or at least none that we're funny enough to report, but I do have a new favorite word. "Lohi" is the Finnish word for salmon, and k(a)(a)rme (that's the a with the dots over it, this computer wont make them for some reason) means snake. But put them together and "lohikaarme" means dragon. Yep don't ask me why but that's what it is. 

Alright, it's time for me to go. I love you all, thank you all for your love and support. Oh, Mom, there's a good reason I haven't mentioned the food. Yeah....  It's okay though, I'm eating as healthy as I can. 

Love you all, have a great week.