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


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:]

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.


Elder McKay