Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
(The year that wasn't supposed to exist)

The week after Christmas is usually a pretty relaxed one for the Finns. But it wasn't for us. After the Christmas holidays, we looked at each other, shrugged, and said to ourselves, "well, back to work." Thursday morning, a man called me. He was drunk. He told me he hated his life and wanted desperately to change. At first, I was very wary of the idea of meeting with him. I've met with other people much like him, in very similar circumstances, and the end result was not pleasant. But, after a long discussion with him on the phone, and prayer and counsel with my companions, we decided we could at least give him fifteen minutes. We arrived at his apartment, where we couldn't even see the floor due to the mess of loose, dirty laundry, paper, odd electronic equipment, and other junk. He yelled and hollered and spewed on and on about all of his addictions for what seemed like eternity, and eventually, we agreed to come back to help him clean his place the next day. As we arrived the next day, I was not exactly pleased to be there. My motive the entire visit was to get it over with. As we were cleaning, my attitude worsened. That is, until I saw a picture of him. Staring back at me was a clean shaven, neatly dressed, slightly younger looking version of this man. He looked happy. There was life in his eyes, the light of intelligence. Rays of hope. I realized in that moment how horrible I had been. Underneath this man's current exterior was that man. He was still there, we just had to find him again. My love for that man increased a hundred fold in that instant as I thought about the way the Savior must sometimes have cause to think about me. Who am I to judge another, anyway?

Just last night, I learned another powerful lesson. A young mother, with whom we have just begun to meet, and who seemed to be progressing well, sent us a text informing us that she had been reading about the church and decided that she no longer wished to meet with us. I was so depressed. We made plans to call her and try to talk it over with her before just letting her go. I knew it would require the guidance of the Spirit. So, before making the call, I knelt down by my bed and prayed. I asked for the Lord's help in knowing what to say to this woman. I felt the peace of the Spirit come over me. During the call, she agreed to let us come over again, to explain all these things she had read in person. We are going back Tuesday night, and with the Lord's help, we will be able to help her overcome these fears. I am so grateful for the Lord's help in that moment.

Sorry this is short, but don't have much time today. Have a happy new year!


Elder Hansen

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Skype for Christmas

We got to Skype with McKay today - he looks and sounds great. He is really enjoying his current assignment in Espoo, and says that the members have taken very good care of them for the holidays.

McKay as Santa Claus at the ward Christmas Party:

Street contacting in Espoo:

The Helsinki Temple:

"Hyvää Joulua"from Elder Hansen:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Is it illegal to wish a happy birthday to yourself?
Hey everybody,
Elder Clegg decided to go out with a bang. Mostly in his checkbook. We had some fun buying presents for his family (and a couple for him as well). Also felt a little strange ("sketch" as he would say), because he didn't want to have to take euros home with him, so he bought everything this week in cash. Is it weird to anyone else that carrying around cash is considered a strange and rare occurence now? Just saying...
Wonderful Christmas miracles were abundant as well this week. Our new investigator, for example. He is actually a former, but in looking through the area book and thinking about upcoming plans, I penciled in the idea to stop by him. As the day arrived, we ended up having some time to work with in his area, so we knocked on his door. He was surprised, but pleased, to see us. He said: "I had a feeling you guys would be here soon. I've been thinking a lot about you." So we went in and taught him. We got caught up on what we had talked about the last time. He's a fairly passionate person, which makes all our discussions interesting, but he told us again about his struggles between his studies and his faith (he's a devout Catholic studying bio-chemistry). We testified of truth, and how truth is always truth, no matter where it be found. [John A. Widtsoe reference - courtesy of the Parkins!] We testified of Christ's love for him. At the end of the lesson, we asked if we could come back and begin teaching him again. He said of course, and genuinely thanked us for coming. We came as angels to a man who needed our help. That feeling never gets old.

The story gets better. In the next lesson, just a few days later, he told us that if he knew this was true, he'd be willing to walk right out the door and stand by us all day long "preaching the good word," as he said. We have a return appointment tomorrow to find out what type of answer he has received to his prayer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
We also made great progress with a woman we've been teaching for a very long time. She says she wants to be baptized. She says she knows this will be a "fresh start" and a "new beginning" for her, and so, with that in mind we've consistently invited her to be baptized, but every time she tells us she's not ready. As we entered her home to teach her this week, we felt impressed to ask her about her feelings about Joseph Smith and the Restoration. So, after the prayer, we did. This woman has been taught everything twice, but apparently something about the Restoration didn't quite stick. Although from her attendance in church and her love for the people there, it would have appeared that all was well, something was still missing, and the Lord was gracious enough to quietly whisper what it was. There was a powerful spirit in the room as we testified and answered her sincere questions. We may have found exactly what has been holding her back from setting a date to be baptized. We may have a white Christmas here yet!
Having had training in answering difficult questions by teaching and not just reacting really came in handy during our school presentation in Haaga this week. We were asked by the young man presenting to answer most of the questions, because he didn't feel quite comfortable, and it was nice, because his teacher had prepared some very interesting ones to deal with. Our guess was that he had familiarized himself with Anti-Mormon literature at some point preceding the presentation. He began the lesson by saying "We'll now turn the time over to "Juha" and these two representatives from a...well...I won't say Christian church, but they come from the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." I'll admit, I was more than a little bit confused by that statement, but we let it go. After that, we had a great time getting all the kids to laugh and enjoy learning about the joy that comes from living the gospel and the wonderful time we've had getting to live among the Finns. We handed them each a copy of the Book of Mormon to look at as we talked about it, and a few of them kept them. I had been nervous and upset about doing the School Presentation beforehand, because the only other one I've ever done left a lot to be desired, but this one was a blast!

To top it all off, we had our Ward Christmas Parties this week! Espoo 2's was on Friday, and Thursday morning we got a phone call from the chair of the activities committee. They had had a lot of cancelations and they desperately needed an American Santa Claus to fill out their Finnish "Joulupukki", American "Santa Claus," and Russian...something who shows up on New Year's Eve? not sure what he's called still, but anyway. So, on cue, yours truly, in a bright red jacket, black sweats, red suspenders, red and white striped socks, and a beard going down to by waist stepped into the cultural hall with the loudest "Ho, Ho, HO!" I could muster (got some voice training beforehand from some of the more musically inclined in the ward) and took my place in the trifecta to judge the contests and hand out the presents. The dang beard made it a little difficult to eat, but it made for a great joke when I quickly pulled it down, shoved the cookie in my mouth, and snapped it back up, then made eye contact with one of the younger kids in the room. His eyes were about as big as dinner plates. I'll be sure to have pictures ready to send to you all on Christmas. I hope.
Church was fun, as always. A fairly quiet birthday and a great farewell DA for Elder Clegg's final teaching appointment as a missionary. All in all, not a bad week.
love you all, time to go.
Elder Hansen

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy (Early) Birthday to Me


My birthday's coming up (just to be that one guy that always talks about when his birthday is).

Funny thing about missionary work, when I finally have time to sit back and think, I have trouble remembering what happened five minutes ago. Thank goodness I'm keeping a journal. Although I do admit, I've been a little lazy lately. But, I'm coming at you from Helsinki, in the mission office again on Monday. Last night we had to deliver a few things that we had borrowed, so we decided to just come over to the AP's place after it wasn't efficient to teach anymore, which meant we couldn't make it home on time if we were to long story short, we played sähly again this morning!

This past week has been so close to miraculous. I know we pulled off a few miracles, and I'm so grateful for those, but so many other things fell just short. Like Monday, we had a lesson set up with a young couple. We were so stoked! This was exactly just the type of couple we love to find. Exactly the kind we need in the church. As we talked, we hit it off well right away. We had a wonderful time talking with them about their families and their young son (only three months old with REALLY big eyes that kept going all over the room). Everything was perfect. He talked about how he hadn't ever found a church he really liked, and she was talking about how her faith in her church had waned a little bit recently (homosexual priests, priests that reject the Bible as "holy writ," etc.) They seemed so interested to read and come to church. the end of the lesson, they decided that they didn't necessarily need to meet with us again. I was so crushed. But, Elder Clegg made a really good point. Maybe now isn't quite the time. But they know where the church is and what we believe. They have a Book of Mormon. And when they want to know more, they'll come find it. People have been doing that all over Finland lately.

Most of our other lessons canceled this week, and it's just going to get harder and harder each week as we get through the holiday season. But, on the upside, we already have places to go on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I'm going to try to set up a place to Skype on Christmas this week and let you know by next Monday what the plan is.

Another on the list of miracles that weren't, we got to give a church tour to one of our the comfort of her own home! She's a wonderful, loud, fun-loving African lady, but she just didn't want to leave her house to come to the church for a tour. So, we went to the church, snapped a few quick photos, and took it over to their place. We got to talk to her about what goes on at church (something we've done a lot with her, but never felt like it was actually effective) while she could actually see what it would look like right on her own TV! We had a blast with it, but unfortunately, she still didn't come to church. Even when we offered for her to come at 2:00 instead of 10:00 in the morning if that would be easier. Come on!

On the other hand, one of my favorite moments of this week took about five seconds. We were out in Lohja, a small city pretty far away from Espoo, and we drove past the street of a less-active woman we've been meeting with for a few weeks. This past week, after getting back from a weekend trip with her husband, she sent us a text saying that she really just couldn't do anything anymore. She asked us just to pray for her, but she didn't think she was up to meeting with us. But, as we drove past, the thought came to go visit her. We had already planned to go visit later in the day, so I just tucked it away. But the thought came again. Go visit her. The teenage moron inside me answered, Yeah, I already said I would. Then Elder Clegg says, "Hey, let's go say hi!" So we did. We dropped off some pulla and said hello. I've never seen her face brighten up so much. I honestly don't have words to describe the joy on her face from the smallest gesture. Great day.

The simple hazards of missionary life still persist. Saturday, as we were eating lunch with a recent convert, a small chunk of potato from my stew tipped off the end of my fork and dropped straight into the bright red berries on my plate. Splat. Red juice now all over my tie and shirt. Looked a little like I just got shot, to be honest. Thankfully, our elder's quorum president was with us at the appointment, so he taught me a new trick for stains: baking soda and water. Worked great. Plus, since I got to exchange my shirt and tie for Elder Clegg's sweater for the rest of the appointment. Now, I love being a missionary, but not having the tie on for an hour or two felt pretty nice....(that's one of the few trunky thoughts that's gone through my head lately. One of the casualties of killing a third companion in a row).

I love Sunday. One of my favorite days of the week, every week. This week one of the young men was messing with his younger sister, trying to shove her into closets and classrooms to "get rid of her" (it was all in good fun, I swear). After one of his failed attempts she walked past me and I gave him a high five, pretending to think that she wouldn't see. She pretended to get in a huff and stormed off. Reminded me a lot of a good friend of mine actually. I love these wards. One of the major upsides of always sending my companions home is that I'm always sure of staying :). Hoping to have a few more investigators who work up the courage to come to church and experience it for themselves.

Have a great week!


Elder Hansen

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Winter Has Landed

Hey family,

We had a great week this week. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about Espoo, because I wasn't there for most of this week! Monday was great, we had a really interesting lesson with a woman we've just started teaching recently. She has been taught a lot previously, and she had a lot of deep questions about ordinances and covenants. She brought up an interesting thought - if someone has been sealed to another person in the temple, how can anyone on earth break that sealing? I brought up the scripture in Matthew when Christ gave Peter the power to loose on earth and in heaven, but that didn't seem to answer her question. So, we decided to go back later in the week after we had studied more about it. She at least still agreed to come to church the following week. But, we had to drive to Marjaniemi (east Helsinki) to sleep in the assistants' apartment overnight for companion exchanges on Tuesday. So, we stopped by President Rawlings' house on the way over there to drop something off, and while we were there, we posed the same question as him. He immediately brought up the same scripture we had used, but when we mentioned that she hadn't understood that, he took us to scripture after scripture that explained how ordinances and covenants work and when they become valid. Now, part of it is just the dorky missionary side of me right now, but I loved that. And, of course, the answer is always more simple than we want to think it is.

Played sähly with the assistants and the Marjaniemi sister missionaries for exercise in the morning. The APs play two or three times a week, so they're pretty good, and I had to work pretty hard not to get frustrated some of the time. I finally lost it when, after I denied his first shot, one of the APs grabbed the rebound and five-holed me! But it's ok, I got over it.

I stayed in Helsinki for exchanges that day, but Elder Clegg took good care of Espoo for me. We've started teaching a young less-active girl who just moved here from downtown Helsinki, and by the end of the lesson with her that day, she was asking how we could help her get a patriarchal blessing! She was supposed to go to institute, and come to church this week, but didn't show for either. Bummer.

Drove to Kerava for district meeting, which went ok. And then the new sister in our district made us traditional Cambodian food. Best noodles I've ever had. I love that she's in our district. She's from Cambodia, but has lived in Turku for a number of years now. She was talking about sending in her mission papers when I was serving there last year, and I was excited for her then, but now she's not only in Finland, she's in my district! She's a great missionary, too. Very humble. We'll be happy to be getting many more like her with the age change. (We'll have something like 40 sister missionaries in our mission by this time next year, up from 13 right now!)
Slept over with the assistants again.

Sähly again in the morning, this time with Elders Oberhansley and Kääriä along. They've been in the country for six months now! I can't believe how fast that's gone. Really fun to catch up with both of them, Pietarsaari is doing well. I found out that Kevin, the Somalian man I had been teaching with Oberhansley, but who never made any progress got baptized!! Way cool! Also, kielikoulu [language school] went great! We made a homemade pinata, and took them out in the snow to hit it, quizzing them on vocab before they could take a swing. One of them hit it so hard, and so awkwardly, that it ended up swinging back to hit him in the head! We eventually just had to let them take their blindfolds off so they could actually hit the thing, and then we wound up just going inside to cut it open because the plastic broom handle we were using as a bat broke on the thick cardboard pinata. yepp...go Finnish cardboard I guess. But we still had a good time.

Zone Leader Council. All day meeting. 

We did missionary work.

I love church here. We always just have so much fun! This week, a really old member in the second ward prepared a musical number before testimonies were borne. It was so special. He's a really interesting fellow. He speaks with a bit of a slur, and after hearing him sing, we're pretty sure he doesn't do it very often. But he sang louder and harder than anyone has for a long time up there. He sang his heart out. In all reality, his song was a prayer to his God and as powerful a testimony as he could bear. And I could feel it, even if I couldn't understand a single word. The piano player got up and gave him a big hug after he was done.

Hey I gotta run, we're going to go spend some time in downtown before we go back to pick up our car. Love you all!

Elder Hansen 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Post Thanksgiving crash

Yep, the crash even happens to missionaries.

Hey again, shouts a familiar voice all the way from across the water,

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? When asked to describe a traditional American Thanksgiving this week, I summed it up as a day when we sleep too much, eat too much, and lay on the couch too much. It got a laugh like a quarter of the time. My Thanksgiving ended up being anything but traditional, but I still ended up eating so much food that I wish I could've had all the time to sleep it off. We got fed by members almost every day last week, and on top of that the Haaga sisters gave us some of their Thanksgiving leftovers (the real American stuff), so after a huge meal of meatballs and mashed potatoes provided by the bishop and his family last night, Elder Clegg and I collapsed on our beds and had to exert the very last of our strength to get back up and plan for today. That planning meeting was....less than successful. I will never, ever complain about not being treated well by the members in Finland.

Our actual Thanksgiving dinner was actually on Friday, with an awesome American family from Arizona. They have two really young kids that were pretty wild, while the two big sisters tried to help Mom calm them down. Very fun. They had also invited a couple of other families from the ward that we haven't gotten to know very well so far, so that was really nice. The food was the most American I've had, and while I've developed a taste for Finnish food, that taste of home was very much appreciated. They actually told us that one of their friends was super excited when she found a big, whole turkey to cook on Thanksgiving, until she was a chicken...thank you, Finnish language, for messing with Americans. (Anyway, man this guy talks a lot about food....on to other things).

So on a missionary work-ish note....

This week we had a few errors in following up with investigators, which is the main reason no one was in church. One investigator in particular may not have come anyway, but I'm sure our failing to find them a ride didn't help. We got caught off guard a bit, and procrastinated. Major repentance is already underway. We feel like she's very nervous about coming to a new place, so we're planning on having a church tour with her, and having a couple members along (in addition to her member husband) to help her feel more confident in coming to church.

Our other miracle investigator from last week, the one who just popped out of no where, was taught, and made progress this week, but without a member present for his lessons, things moved much more slowly. It wasn't quite as deep of a lesson, nor was his commitment as strong as to push him towards the Lord. He's very excited about meeting with us, but unitl a member is there and is the one to do the inviting, I feel like he won't progress into deep conversion or commitment. It will stay surface level and revolve around gaining knowledge and facts about the church.

That being said, I'll stop verbally berating myself and focus on the positives. We had some wonderful experiences following up on potentials and preparing for them to explode into powerful new investigators. We have one potential that was found by the Nietsytpolku elders and they've made the hand-off incredibly smooth. The potential actually ended up contacting them to reschedule (not just cancel) the appointment. He is a young father. We've been praying for someone like him.

We also have a less-active man in the same ward as the potential above, who has started the long road back to full activity. He has been inactive for a very long time. He told us that most of his friends don't know he's a member, and mostly that's just to protect the reputation of the church. But he's trying. When we started talking, we made no attempts to hide why we were there. We boldly asked him where he thought he was, and what he was willing to do to again regain the faith to follow the Savior. He actually thanked us, saying "guys, a lot of missionaries have just come in and been shy. I've wanted to shout at them, 'Challenge me! Be Bold! I like that,' so I appreciate that we're having this conversation." He definitely has a long way to go, and has doubts about whether it is even possible, but as we lovingly invited him to think about small things he could change, he actually ended up saying, without us even inviting, "Well, I guess I could start by reading the Book of Mormon every day, and see how that goes." I asked him to say the closing prayer, and he really hesitated, but when he finally began to speak, he uttered one of the most sincere prayers I've heard in a while. I could literally hear the distance between him and Heavenly Father as he prayed, a combination of estrangement and nervousness, but I could also hear, faintly, a real desire to return and to be close to him again. His mother will be coming to visit in the beginning of next year, and he's promised to come to church with her.

Another miracle moment from this week happened on Saturday. We had planned to go visit a part-member, inactive family that our Ward Council had referred us to just prior to a lesson. As I prayed Friday night, though, I felt that it would be much better to go after the lesson. I mentioned the feeling to Elder Clegg in the morning, and he mentioned another use of that time before the lesson, that was also something we desperately needed to do. It all clicked. When we arrived at the family's home following the lesson, no one seemed to be home. I was a bit confused, because we had been sure we should be there at that time. As we started to leave, the son rode up on his bike and let us in. His father came to the door, and in the brief chat we learned that no one would have been home had we come at the earlier time. We have an appointment set up for next Saturday (unfortunately with the busy week we have that was actually the very earliest we could even make it), and we are very excited to meet with them. They know a few other Filipino members that Elder Clegg met in downtown Helsinki.

Finally, while meeting with a member family this week, we really wanted to help them work with their neighbor that they had mentioned to Linden and Esplin before they left, but that I had never heard of from them personally. Unfortunately, the spirit was just not right during the thought we shared after eating. They all looked exhausted. To have asked them there would have been overkill. But, as the mother of the home was seeing us of, my companion plucked up the courage to give it a chance. He asked if there was anyone we could pray for, and her mind immediately went to that family. We agreed to pray together about them and see a few days later what ideas had come. I've already had a couple ideas come to mind and I can't wait to tell this member about them. I think she'll be really excited.

That's just a taste of a host of miracles I could go on and on about. This area can and will explode before Christmas if only we can keep our minds focused and the pedal to the floor (not literally, Mom, don't worry).

Yesterday was our Primary Program in the second ward. Tons of wonderful kids with great testimonies and really well put together. The greatest moment of all came directly following a rousing rendition of "Nefin Rohkeus" (Nephi's Courage). As the kids got done belting out the final chorus and the last notes from the piano faded into the air, a four year boy on the front row raised his arms high in the air and shouted, "YES!" The place went nuts. I tried really hard to stop laughing, but I'm pretty sure I kept laughing about that the rest of the day. Evidently, their music director had developed a habit of giving them all a hidden thumbs-up when she felt like they had really nailed it, and that was what prompted the little boy's eruption. I love Primary.

I love you all. Thanks for the pictures, Dad. Wishing everyone the best this week as we now (officially) get to start looking forward to Christmas.

Elder Hansen

P.S. I got a nickname from the Bishop's son at dinner last night: "Hanski" Basically my last name put into Finnish youth slang. I think I'll keep it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving


Wishing you all an early Thanksgiving all the way from Espoo! Don't worry about me by the way, one of the blessings of being in a big city is there are a few American or part-American families here, so I'll be having a nice Thanksgiving right along with you all!

I can't believe this week. Not every moment was the best, but looking back on my feelings at the beginning of the week, I didn't think my attitude in this moment would be quite as positive as it is. Monday was a prime example. Just as Linden and Esplin are in the full swing of packing and getting ready to go home, we get a call from some members asking us to come help them paint the apartment they were moving from. I was nervous that it might put some pressure on us, but it ended up taking just the right about of time, and was a lot of fun. They had nice big rollers, which of course meant that Linden ended up rolling Esplin instead of the wall, and getting white paint all over his black slacks in the process. Who wears dress slacks to a paint project? Only a missionary on his way out.

Tuesday we had another one of those "farewell appointments" with one of my favorite families in Espoo. They have three boys, one who just returned from a mission in Sweden, one about to leave for a mission to Japan, and a 17 year old, who just laughs all the time. Their parents weren't home, so it was just the three of them there, and we had a great time. At the end, we practiced teaching the Restoration to them and had the son about to leave on his mission teach with us. But four missionaries is too many, so Linden decided to become one of the investigators and had a ball with it. Kept going off about how he "knew we were prophets" and how his "nieghbor back in his home country used to be a prophet." The funny thing is, that's actually happened to all of us.

Tuesday night we drove down to Helsinki to drop off the two homebound ones and pick up Elder Clegg. Ended up shuttling a lot of changing missionaries to and from the train station, which we weren't prepared for, but it didn't end up being to much of a problem. A bunch of twenty year olds in the biggest city in Finland, none of whom have ever done much more logistics than who's bringing the root beer to the sleepover, could have been a disaster, but I guess two years as a missionary actually does teach us something. Elder Clegg and I ended up staying the night to play sähly with the assisstants and a few others in the morning, which meant I had to sit out...again. Very painful, but, Mom, just want you to know I was responsible.

Friday probably ended up being the craziest day. In connection with companion exchanges, we had been asked to participate in a young men's activity all about missionary work. While my companion took another missionary and two priests along to a lesson and some finding, I stayed back with the other missionary's companion at the chapel and worked with the deacons and teachers on talking to their friends about the church, and especially about the Book of Mormon. It was so much fun! I would like to think I was that much fun to be around when I was twelve, but I'm not totally sure. They all came up with their own ways of talking to their friends about the Book of Mormon, ranging from a long explanation and testimony about why this book has been so important to them personally and how it will bless their lives to one who just threw it at the one pretending to be his friend and said, "Take it. Read it." I think I'm friends with the youth here now, but they might just be pitying me.

This week we also saw a lot of breakthroughs with our investigators, both before and after Elder Clegg got here. There was no secret, just hard work. Or rather, perhaps it was that the secret was different for each individual investigator. For example, with one with whom we have met for quite some time now, we set up a baptismal calendar, talked more seriously about baptism and redefined our expectations. It was wonderful! This is a part-member African family that is now on their way towards becoming a complete, active member family. With another, she is already set on being baptized "in the future," but wants to stabilize her life prior to her baptism. We talked about her with our ward council. Because she had been in church, these members knew her and cared about her. One of them suggested a fairly recent convert in a nearby ward who had gone through similar circumstances. We brought this member along to a lesson the following day, and she was perfect!! Our investigator needed a lot of emotional support, which the member supplied both in the lesson, as well as after, when she stayed and ended up setting a baptismal date for us with our investigator! I really learned how to trust member's inspiration this week.

Sometimes, though, the Lord still shows us that this is his work. We fasted on Sunday for M, our Estonian investigator, whose progression to baptism has been interrupted due to pressure and talk from co-workers and others. That whole day I felt very peaceful. We won't be able to talk to M until Wednesday, when she returns to Finland, but the Lord blessed our efforts with other, unforseen miracles. In the Espoo 1 ward, a man I didn't recognize walked into sacrament meeting and sat down. After the meeting, a member ushered him into the gospel principles class, where we had a chance to teach him. Turns out he visited the church six years ago, and out of nowhere decided that day that he would like to come again! We asked if we could come visit him, and he said of course! We have an appointment with him tomorrow. Although he came to the first ward, he technically belongs to the second ward, which makes him an even greater blessing and answer to prayer, because with all the work we've been doing in the first ward's area, finding in the second ward has suffered quite a lot.

Sunday night, Elder Clegg and I just looked at each other. We had been through a long week, fasted that whole day through six hours of church, and finally finished long call-in reports. It was nice to go to sleep, and definitely not easy to get up this morning, especially when it's so dark. But, I've never felt so satisfied with the work I've done.

Thank you all for your letters and support and love. I love you all and miss you very much.


Elder Hansen

P.S. Looking for concrete examples of how you know that this is the only true and living church and/or how the church structure has been a blessing to you. A lot of investigators keep bringing up the idea that they like that there are more churches to choose from so they can pick "their own way" etc. thanks!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How far away is that plane? Oh, you're already on it....

Hyvää huomenta,

Elder Linden and Elder Esplin have been making that joke about the airplane flying overhead being "two weeks away" forever now, but that week has actually arrived. Tuesday night I drive down to Helsinki, drop them off, stay the night, and drive back to Espoo with my new companion, Elder Clegg, the next morning. Thursday morning, Elder Esplin begins the twenty-four hour journey home, and Thursday afternoon Elder Linden gets tossed into the ocean and swims home. Just kidding. His flight is an hour from Helsinki direct to his hometown. Because of the time switch, he'll actually land only twenty-five MINUTES after he takes off. Lucky dog.

But that doesn't really affect me, right? So why am I talking about it? Well, because I'm going to be dealing with it again before too long. This next transfer is also Elder Clegg's last in the mission. I'm trying to figure out why President sends missionaries to me just before they go home. What does that say about me? I'll let you all use your imagination.

Despite two soon-to-depart missionaries living in our apartment, we managed to get some wonderful missionary work done this week, and in perfect timing too, because this weekend was stake conference! We recently had a new temple presidency set apart, so the theme for the whole conference was temples. There were some great messages shared and it made me very grateful for the number of times I've been able to attend the temple as a missionary. I'm still trying to get used to having the temple in our area, though, and seeing it so often. Every city I've been in has their giant Lutheran church, that almost just belongs as much to the culture as it does to the religion, because it's so present in the center of the city. Every time I drive past the huge spire with Moroni on top, I have to stop and remind myself, "oh yeah, that's OUR big church." I love the Finland temple so much. A very good friend of mine, baptized about a year ago is eligible to attend the temple now, and I'm so anxious to hear whether or not she will be able to go soon. I sent her a letter a while ago, but haven't heard back.

Unfortunately, I missed our lesson with M this week, and sadly it seems like some of her friends at work have not been very supportive of her investigating and she's worried about the pressure that would be put on her when she gets baptized. I was on exchanges with Elder Oberhansely. It was so much fun to work with him again and talk so much about the time we had spent together. We ended up teaching C, our african mother investigator, who has been moving pretty slowly, not really wanting to commit to be baptized on a date, but still very excited about the idea in the future. Stake conference was a very different experience for both of them. Here's what I wrote to President:

"Stake conference this weekend was an absolutely miraculous experience. On one hand, I'm very sad that one of our investigators, the one with a baptismal date, missed out. She had a ride scheduled and set up with her friends, but sent a text just a few minutes before and canceled. We are rather worried that pressure from her friends and co-workers has been getting to her, and that she is nervous, so we'll be sure to role play that prior to our lesson on Wednesday. Very timely counsel from you today.

"On the other hand, one of our other investigators finally found the true reason for coming to church. She has been investigating for a long time, but has had marriage and family troubles that have been difficult to handle and have hindered her progression. We've talked with her many times about how we find peace and rest in church when we set aside that time for the Lord, but she always seemed a bit skeptical of that, despite the number of times she's been in church. Sunday night, I gave her a call to see what she had thought during Stake Conference and double check our next appointment. She raved about the spirit she had felt, how peaceful she had felt, the revelation she felt she had received for her family, and even how well she understood the Finnish when the English translation was malfunctioning! She loved church, and the best part is, we had little to do with it. She has a wonderful friend and fellowshipper doing all he can for her - inviting her, giving her a ride, finding someone to sit with her and watch her children so she can concentrate. I felt just pure joy at the thought that she had such a wonderful experience."

This mission has really high goals set for the end of the year. Like REALLY high. It's going to take a lot of faith and hard work if we're even going to come close. But I think the best thing to remember is something Elder Esplin always says, "Look, it's not about people, it's about numbers, and if you're having fun, you're doing something wrong." I hope you all can catch the obvious sarcasm in that. As these two get ready to leave the mission, I've thought a lot about how many people's lives they've touched and the friends they've made, whether, member, investigator, less-active, etc. Life is about people.

Go make somebody smile this week.


Elder Hansen

P.S. The countdown to Christmas is already on. One missionary has an advent calendar counting down to the time the rest of us usually start our advent calendars, and this morning I came running out of the bedroom riding a "Joulupukki" like a horse and Esplin died laughing. Joulupukki is the Finnish name for Santa Claus, but the words Joulu and pukki mean Christmas and goat. So they make these little goats out of hay every Christmas that are really cool. That story wasn't nearly as funny with all the explanation. Use your imagination! And know that I actually am going slightly insane out here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Last Week for the Troika

Sadly, this week will be the last full week together for Linden, Esplin, and I before they go home. And they won't let me forget it. I've finally given up fighting the trunky comments and just gone along with it. Saves me a lot of stress. This weekend I'll get a call from president about my new companion, and next week we'll start a new chapter. At least I know I don't have to move for at least six weeks. I hate moving....
On that note I'm going to skip the traditional salutation at the opening of a letter, mostly because, of the myriad of Finnish greetings I could throw in just to mix things up, I've already used the ones I know how to spell, and to butcher one would just be embarrassing. Or I might write something more than inappropriate by mistake. One letter off in Finnish can be that way sometimes....
This week has been something of a roller coaster. After Elder Esplin finally recovered from a terrible cold, that actually managed to turn into something of a slight lung infection, Elder Linden decided to get sick. We ended up just leaving the apartment to go to our appointments, then coming back to rest up in between. So with me still hobbling around a little trying to recover, we looked like quite the pathetic trio. The old man and sinking ship jokes were coming in from all sides. Elder Esplin actually decided to make a comic about it, in which he depicts Elder Linden (in non missionary clothing) standing on the back of a sinking ship shouting nothing in particular, me in the middle trying to steer the ship while making phone calls and sitting down, unable to stand, and Esplin on the front checking his watch and thinking about girls. Hey, it's always fun to have a laugh at your own expense.
Aside from that, we did actually get to do some missionary work this week. M, our Estonian investigator, has set a baptismal date for the 17th of November! And that's something to celebrate. It was such a wonderful lesson. She really was nervous about saying yes, but our member (now apparently one of her best friends) was the perfect, most supportive friend ever. If not a missionary, I might have hugged her. I love how natural the gospel is. When we are open and honest, the Spirit can guide us and talk to us so simply about how the gospel can bless our lives. At times, I fear our modern culture leads us to try to organize and catagorize and otherwise -ize up the gospel, because there needs to be structure. There needs to be order. We need to be able to separate ideas and concepts. But in lessons like this one, those borders between the "5 steps of the gospel" sort of slipped away. I liked that. It's really not just steps we take. It's not even really a process that we repeat throughout our lives, although that is a closer analogy. It is our life. When we are truly converted, we live those five priniplces simultaneously. Food for thought. I didn't really think about most of that until I started writing about that lesson and it all hit me at once so I figured I'd write it down. I'll get off the soapbox now.
At last night's lesson, I casually asked M in the beginning how she felt about her baptism. I expected a fairly generic response, the type we usually get to that kind of question, but instead, she pulls out a huge list of questions and says, "So, if I understand correctly, I'm going to have to change some things about the way I live when I get baptized. I have some questions about that." Turns out she's been reading the gospel prinicples manual in her spare time, and is about halfway through it! She's gane all the way from "God is our Heavenly Father" to fasting! She told us she wakes up at around six every morning and just reads until she gets ready to go to work. She used to sleep in, but now she feels like Heavenly Father is waking her up to help her to read more. We would prefer that she would read a little more out of the Book of Mormon, but we give her assignments to read in between appointments, and that should help. Honestly, when my only concern is that she's reading too much church literature, do I really have anything to complain about? She's really grown attached to the sister that has been coming along to her lessons. I think I mentioned this a little last week, too, but last night, when that sister was out of town and only her husband could be there, she actually made a comment about wanting another woman there to be able to support her. I had never really thought about that before. But it really makes sense. It would be really nice if we could have sister missionaries in every city and they could teach the women and we could teach the men. Or if we could just not have to worry about the rule regarding meeting the opposite sex (we are not allowed to unless another adult of our own sex is present), which means that for elders to bring a sister to a female investigator, we have to go as four or five people to the appointment, something Finns just don't like doing. But, that's enough of that. These are the little complexities of missionary work that I deal with every day, but that I haven't written very much about, because I imagine most of you reading this either still don't entirely understand, or really are just bored after that type of detail.
So, how about something more interesting. One of the other things that's helping so much in our lessons with M is her dog. One of the most friendly dogs I've ever met. A bit too friendly. She loves us, and whenever we don't pay enough attention to her, she comes up and, for example, puts her snout all the way up my pant leg, or jumps on Esplin's lap and tries to kiss him. On the upside, I've really been working on being less intense and more relaxed, especially while teaching lessons, because I find the mood around me tends to be more heavy than I want it to be. Last night I actually did a pretty good job and just letting the pure joy of the gospel come out when I spoke, instead of focusing on the words I was going to use, for example. I'm still not perfect at it by any means, but while I practice and try to get better, it really helps to have a friend like Evita (the dog) to lighten the mood when things get a bit too heavy.
Well, we have to go, sorry there's not much more, but next week I'll do better at writing down the other stories I want to tell you about.
Elder Hansen

Monday, October 29, 2012

Never been happier

Moikka! [Hi!]

Well, it's felt like a bit of a short week for me this week - I was in Pietarsaari until Thursday, when I got to make that wonderful trip once again, all the way from Pännäinen to Helsinki. I wish I could actually tell you all how strangely attached I am to that route. A nice (very Finnish) chat with the young man next to me, and one of the train conductors, usually a very boring, dull type, actually had the entire car laughing just in the short time it took for him to come through and check tickets. At one point one of the other passengers called out, "isn't it nice when work is a pleasure?" To which he responded, "I know right, I feel the same way."

We are having problems this week trying to just set up consistent appointments with our investigators and set up teaching schedules. In my last area, our investigators had regular schedules that allowed us to essentially set standing appointments. This made planning very simple and easy. Unfortunately, we do not have that luxury here. But, in our weekly planning session, we have adjusted by planning a rough time when we know they have been historically free, in place of a specific one hour block, thus allowing ourselves to be more flexible to conform to their constantly changing schedules. This takes a lot more work in terms of following up and keeping track of everyone, but when have missionaries been afraid of hard work?

Investigators in church is critical to their conversion. We had three investigators in church this week. They all loved it. One came, even though she was incredibly tired, just because she knew it was right. That, and our Ward Mission Leader has become something of a miracle. This week, prior to our appointment with this woman, the Spirit told him to go a little bit ahead of time. He did, and found her waiting outside her apartment. He had never met her before, but again following the Spirit, he walked up and introduced himself. He found out that she was in a bit of a panic trying to figure out how she was going to be able to pick up her children from daycare, and immediately offered his help. We were shocked to see him show up with her and her daughters to her apartment just a little late for the appointment. We honestly couldn't believe it. This is what can happen when the members do missionary work by the Spirit, with love.

Our star investigator in the other ward has also found great friends. When she explained that it might be too expensive to drive all the way to church this week, our member couple along with us piped up and said, "oh, just drive to our home and we'll give you a ride the rest of the way!" This investigator made it to church and had a wonderful experience. She even felt comfortable enough sharing some of her own experiences in our gospel principles class! I am convinced it is simply because she felt that the members around her were motivated by sincerity and love, the way we all want our friends to be.

We had a nice dinner with that one family this week, this time as actual members. They were still just as crazy, though. They bicker like you wouldn't believe, but it's all just in good fun. That's just their humor.
"You made it, huh? I chopped it all up!"
"Yeah, you chopped it up with all the right spices and I just through it in a bowl, right?"
"I'm not talking to you anymore"

Or the slightly more extreme:
"Eat your vegetables"
"I don't want to, they give me gas"
"How would you know, you never eat them."
"Ok, fine I'll eat them, but you'll be paying for it tonight."

I've never been happier in my life. I won't lie, living with two missionaries who are getting ready to go home isn't easy. Nor is having an area the size of ours, nor so many members that I wonder how I will ever get to know them all or be able to work with them effectively. But, I'm going for it. There's work to do, and it's not my job to think about how hard it is. It's my job to keep going until He tells me to stop.


Elder Hansen

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Best Family I've Ever Taught

Hey everybody,

It's been a wonderful week. Elder Linden had one of the greatest moments of his mission. Let me tell you about it:

When I arrived in Espoo, Elder Linden and Elder Esplin were talking up the most incredible family they had met and were so exited to meet again. In fact, this family wanted to invite us over to eat with them and talk more about the Book of Mormon, but they were having trouble getting a hold of them. Finally, we managed to stop by their home and set up an appointment. We were stoked! They warned me this couple might be a little bit crazy, maybe partiers, but hey, I've seen people change before. We show up for the appointment, and all my suspicions were confirmed. He answered the door in just his underwear (actually a fairly common thing in Finland, at least while we're tracting and people aren't expecting us). We walk in, and on the fridge I see a magnet that says, "The first fifty years of marriage are the hardest." Great.

Sitting down, she offers to say the opening prayer. She was a member of another faith, one that I know prays VERY differently from the way we do, but we love it when they volunteer to pray with us so we said sure. She starts of by shouting, "Kiitos, KIITOS, KIITOS!" and, as she takes a breath to continue, he shouts, just as loud, "AMEN!" ending the prayer completely, as he, Linden, and Esplin erupt into a fit of laughter. Great. I was shocked. I mean, yeah it was kinda funny, but still. Not respectful. But it gets better. We then proceed through him telling us his dream of how three famous athletes came to his door, and so when he found out we were now three instead of two, he took it as a sign that he had to call us back. He asked us questions about Mitt Romney, to which we tried tactfully to respond that we don't really know much about it anyway, and it's not our place to talk about that kind of thing. When Elder Esplin started to cough, he offered him whiskey to help his throat. Explain Word of Wisdom. He asked about the church's stance on homosexuality, abortion, the gift of tongues, Rustafarians, etc. This entire time, as we try in vain to bring the lesson back to the Restoration and the Book of Mormon, Esplin and Linden cannot stop laughing. In fact, at one point, he was laughing so hard that he ended up on the floor! Finally, as we tried to invite them just to read the Book of Mormon and come back another time, Esplin is fighting back another fit of laughter. He says, "I can't do this anymore!!" The man stands up and says, "Hi, I'm Brother (Smith) and, uh, you just got punk'd."

Fake. The whole thing. These were two very active members, and two very good actors. She works in the temple, he's studying business. Elder Linden had been planning this for weeks. I was actually so impressed by the amount of preparation it took to set that up that I had to just sit back and take it in for a few moments. Easily the best prank that's ever been pulled on me. And it ended up being very good practice in dealing with difficult to answer questions.

As for the rest of the week, I'm really becoming a fan of Family Home Evening. We held one with one of our recent converts just a few nights ago, to which she invited her parents and a friend. We had a wonderful evening together playing games and eating and talking about the Book of Mormon. This was the first time her parents found out she was a member of the church, and she was so nervous! But in an environment like that, where the Spirit can reside, especially so focused around families, it was one of the most fun evenings I've had as a missionary. It set our recent convert at ease, her mother accepted the Book of Mormon, and her friend promised to come to church!

Saturday I got back on the train to Pietarsaari to come back and wrap up some unfinished business. It felt great to be back, even though I haven't really been gone very long.

So, I know this one is a little short, again, and I'm sorry, but more details to come in next week's email, I promise. 

Love you all.

Elder Hansen

Monday, October 15, 2012

Second week in Espoo


I love libraries. I also love Finns. So it's really easy to just laugh and smile when I find out that the reason my new library card was impossible to work with last week was because the librarian accidentally entered the current date instead of my birthdate in the slot intended for my birthday. Something about a one week old kid setting up time to use the internet just didn't sit well with the library system, and I think I can understand that. On the bright side, the time-space continuum has been rectified, and I'm now twenty years old again.

This week was an absolute blur. Easily the fastest week of my mission so far, and Elder Linden was absolutely no consolation as he reminded me, "It only gets faster." Great.

My journal tells a very interesting story about this week. I began every day complaining over this and that, some random problem that arose, and how frustrated I was about it. However, the mood always changes as I get to the end of the story for that day, as I realize that nothing was as serious as it appeared in the beginning. In fact, the opening lines of all my journals this week actually appear rather ridiculous considering the ending.

Take Monday for example. The story above about my library card had me upset. I was pretty ticked off about how it hadn't worked and no one had been able to address the problem. It had wasted my time and my companions'. However, it forced me to use Elder Esplin's computer and his leftover time, while he just had to stand around awkwardly, placing him in exactly the right position to talk to a couple of people who were sitting across from us, had seen our nametags, and were looking up information about the church because of it. He had a wonderful discussion with them and cleared up a lot of the "facts" they had found on these "credible internet encyclopedias." ("Everyone can write whatever they want, so you know that you're getting the best information possible" -- Michael Scott). We also had a Family Night out in a place called Lohja, and had such an incredible evening. We watched a couple of the "Mormon Messages" clips, and just had a small discussion about each. My favorite one right now is one called Reclaimed. Go watch it. The Spirit in those short discussions, and in the chatter of fellowship that followed as we ate, was enough to make me forget all the frustration of earlier. Plus there was a little four year old with absolutely no fear. Just said whatever was on his mind to whomever he wanted. Yeah, it was pretty great.

Or how about Friday. First driving lesson. It did not go well. Tried to reverse. Stalled. Tried again. Stalled. Get halfway out of the spot. Stalled. Finally got out of the spot, around the corner, switched gears, pulled up to an intersection, got cocky. Stalled. Ripped the E-brake and yelled to Elder Linden that he was driving. Yeah, it was pretty bad. It could have ruined my whole day. But, instead we went off to do service for an investigator. It was way fun, chatted it up with her nine year old son while we pulled ivy down off the fence and got to tear apart an old deck. I was still apprehensive, though, because our very intense, slightly impulsive ward mission leader had scheduled Member Exchanges with us so that we could have a member go along to a lesson, but not have all three plus a member there. That left me to go tracting with another member, something I've never done before, and didn't like the idea of doing. But against all odds, it worked. And I felt way happier the rest of the day. Frustrating moments will always be a part of life - that's just the way it is. Like how I accidentally left my jacket in H&M in the middle of writing this email, causing my companions to have to go back and get it with me (There's a reason I get called "junior" in this companionship). But the next time I feel all that stress start to build, I'm going to try something I've never done before and just see where it takes me. I bet I'll wind up happier. That said, I'm working on a list of crazy new things to try -- any and all suggestions welcome.

Speaking conveniently of brand new things, I had the chance to perform a baptismal interview on Wednesday. I thought at first it might be a little bit awkward or strange, but it wasn't. It was new, exciting, and the candidate was incredibly prepared for baptism, which made it really fun. After the interview was over she turned to the missionary who had taught her and said. "now go find some more young people." There was just a good spirit throughout the whole visit.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I walked into church on Sunday. Nine months in a small branch got me very accustomed to seeing forty to fifty in sacrament meeting and having a small, cozy atmosphere. In Pietarsaari, the missionaries are nearly integral. In Espoo, the missionaries might actually get lost in their own chapel. The first ward was great, lots of good people and some pretty impressive youth speakers, but when the second ward showed up, my companions kept laughing at the look on my face. I felt like I'd stepped back into the United States. The Espoo second ward is one of the largest wards in Finland. The whole chapel was packed all the way to the back row, and all of it was families.

Other random notes about our new area: We have a lot of American families living here for work. One of them had us over for dinner last night. Homemade pumpkin pie for dessert. Yeah. I could get used to Espoo.
Also, the first night I arrived, we were sitting around when all of a sudden a siren starts blaring. Esplin and Linden got all excited and Linden told me it was a bomb. I laughed and asked what it really was and he just smiled back until I heard a small clap and then a rumble in the distance. Turns out it was a bomb. They're doing some blasting not too far away from us, so we get to hear it.

Any questions? Man, I love you all so much. Thanks for all your support and encouragement. Have a great week!

Elder Hansen

Monday, October 8, 2012

First week in Espoo

The only problem with Espoo right now? Going south didn't get rid of the rain.

Hei everybody,

Unfortunately going to have to keep this one a little shorter than usual, because missionary rules are causing a slight inconvenience in the form of a library card that declares me still under fifteen years old, and my slightly less than convenient inability to leave my companions to go take care of it....

That's the way my day started this morning. Fitting with the type of week it's been. Left Pietarsaari after a couple of last goodbyes. Once I got on the train it was hard to look back, because I was looking forward so much to being in Espoo with Elder Linden and Elder Esplin. The train ride went suprisingly fast this time, and left me wondering how many times I'd be making that same trip the rest of my mission. When I got on the platform, the elders grabbed my stuff, threw it in the back of the car, and took me straight to dinner with a member family. Pretty great welcome to the area.

Friday was Zone Leader Council, which meant a trip to the temple in the morning! Decided to try a session in Swedish, and it went really well. It's really interesting to notice the things that stick out more when heard in a different language. Sometimes it changes my understanding of things just slightly. The funny part about this whole trip to the temple was actually that it almost didn't happen for us...Elder Linden and Esplin had to get their recommends renewed, because the thought had slipped their minds to request an interview with the President. Oops. So Thursday night we drove to the mission home. President Rawlings was in skype meeting with his mission presidency, so we spent some time helping Sister Rawlings in the kitchen, getting lunch ready for the next day. We had a great time, Elder Linden had some funny questions to ask that had been on his mind for a while, including everything from how can I improve my relationship to my Heavenly Father to are engagement and wedding rings both essential to what should we call our tri-panionship? Sister Rawlings gave some pretty profound answers - our favorite being her suggestion for our tri-panionship nickname: The Troica (or Troika not sure how to spell it, it's Russian).

We spent the night at the mission home and got up early to go play sähly with the assistants, the Tampere elders (who had stayed with the assistants when their car overheated outside Hyvinkää), and the Marjaniemi sisters. Not gonna lie, I felt a little sore afterwards. Probably need to take it easy in the future, but it was a lot of fun.

General Conference was amazing of course, made all the better by being surrounded by so many wonderful Finnish members. (Plus one member from Stockholm that knew Elder Linden! Fun surprise.) We had one man, not a member, just sort of wander in off the street and no one knew where he was from, so we got him a seat with some members and eventually got his information. He lives in Neitsytpolku's area, and he was interested in having missionaries come to visit, so we'll be excited to hear about what the Elders down there can do to help him.

Gotta go for now, time for grocery shopping and then Elder Linden is going to teach us to drive stick. Wish me luck. Pray I don't break the car.


Elder Hansen

Monday, October 1, 2012

Transfer to Espoo

Good Morning everyone,
We helped a man in our branch move a few things from to his new home early this morning, and while we were doing it, he showed us what he called his "Holy of Holies" - the room where he keeps all his fishing nets. He's a fisherman, and he loves it, and after hearing they way he talked about it, I thought about being a fisherman when I grow up. Maybe it's just because I've been living with so many fishermen for the past eight months, but there just seems to be something pleasant about it. "Almost thou persuadest me to be a fisherman..."

So the big news this week is that change calls have come and gone once more. This time, I will be leaving. Eight and a half months ago, I arrived late on a dark winter night with a wonderful Swede as my companion. I had no idea then, nor can I fully comprehend even now, how significant my time in this beautiful city would be, and certainly will be for the remainder of my life. I cannot express how much I love this city and its people, this chapel and its branch. President Rawlings has many times called Pietarsaari his "Garden of Eden." I disagree. While Eden was something of paradise, this place has been for me more like a small piece of heaven on earth. It's been strange. Due to some recent circumstances, President actually had to spill on my change call a week ago, so I've known this entire week that I would be leaving. It's made me appreciate so much more everything that has happened here, and I tried so hard to soak everything in over the past week. But no amount of pictures or journal entries (which I realized last night have been seriously lacking - oops) or stories will really ever capture the experience I have had here in Pietarsaari (Jakobstad).

Monday of this past week was fairly normal. We've had a regular schedule with M and N on that night, which has been a real blessing. This past week, I began the lesson by simply asking, "So, what questions do you have about the church?" They've developed a habit of throwing tons of random questions on us at the end, and since N has to rush off to work, it's hard to answer them effectively, so I thought we'd just start with that and see where it went. It went quickly to them baring their souls to us. I couldn't believe how quickly the conversation transitioned from them talking about the differences between our church and the Lutheran church to them telling us story after story of why their life has been so difficult. Just a simple question and some loving responses, and their trust in us seemed to blossom like never before. I could not believe how powerful the Spirit was as we bore testimony to them of how their lives can and will be changed through the power of th Atonement. I'm so grateful that I know how wonderful the Atonement is, so that I can share that beauty with others.

We also had the chance to stop by a former investigator on Monday. She wasn't home, but her husband was. I chatted with him lightly for a little while, thinking to just build a nice friendship with him as we teach his wife, because he hasn't previously shown any interest. As I was wrapping up the conversation and starting to walk away, my companion pipes up and starts to ask this man why he became interested in the church in the first place. After the man answered that it was his wife and not he, who had actually met with the missionaries, my companion again boldly asked, "Oh, well, why not?" The man just looked back at him funny, as if he didn't know what to say. I asked if his wife had ever talked about the Book of Mormon with him. She hadn't. I pulled one out a showed it to him. We talked about the "questions of the soul" and how the Book of Mormon answers them. I showed him the introduction and he immediately began to read, almost as if he had forgotten we were there. I awkwardly tried to slip our card into the page so he wouldn't lose his place when he closed the book, but he just pulled the card out, set it in his pocket and kept reading! As we left, he seemed so excited to read this book. All because my companion was bold enough to open his mouth.

Tueday was my final visit to A and the kids. They were with their dad on Sunday, so it was the last time I will see them, perhaps for a very long time. A had explained to her daughter that I would be moving and her daughter just kept asking her, "but why?" It was almost painful to say goodbye. In their true spirit and fashion, the lesson was as hectic as ever. A's daughter even decided to give me a kiss at one point. uhhh....yeah. A scolded her a little, my companion just laughed, and I tried to flip to the next scripture in the lesson. Kids. Actually turned into a great lesson. We talked about the law of the fast and tied it to the law of consecration and church history. Finally we found something to teach A that she didn't already know and hadn't already researched on her own. She's so great. When she said goodbye to me on Sunday, there weren't really words left. We've been through a lot in these past eight months, and there wasn't a lot left that needed to be said I guess. Just a firm handshake and a "Vi ses." She bore her testimony in sacrament meeting, and I really felt good knowing that she's here to stay. Her faith really exceeds almost anything I've ever seen.

I found it almost as hard to say goodbye to K, my good friend in his wheelchair. We visited him a couple of times this week, and when I told him I would be transferred, he said he wanted the mission president's phone number so he could call him and demand that I stay. Even his wife, who hasn't really shown much interest in participating in our lessons, was surprised and a little disappointed to hear that I would be transferred. I'm not really sure what I did to deserve the kind of respect that they show me every time I'm there, but I've been so grateful for all my visits in that home. He's taught me how to listen, and how to be patient when I need to listen longer than I want to. He taught me how to love despite what's on the outside. He also taught me to speak Swedish, because with only American companions for the first three months of teaching him, I really had to learn fast. He taught me to trust in the Priesthood that I hold. Once when he asked for a blessing, I was worried that it somehow wouldn't work the way he wanted or something, and he would lose interest because of it. That, and the fact that we had no oil to perform a blessing. But, we put our faith in the Lord, went to the store, bought oil, consecrated it, then went and gave him a blessing. Two days later, he felt like a completely new person. He still talks about that blessing (now almost a month ago) every time we see him. I hope and pray that he will let Elder Kääriä continue to come, and that he will trust in him and this message more than he just trusts in me. I haven't done anything special. I've only been the instrument. And what a joy it's been.

This Sunday was a hard one. I actually managed to keep my emotions in check for all the meetings, but walking away from the chapel I took a look back and got choked up. A lot of people had nice things to say to me. I felt so loved and so blessed. One old lady came up and, with tears in her eyes said, "You have meant so much to me." I don't really remember what I would have done to deserve the kind of praise I received. My BML's wife said to me, "Some missionaries you forget, and some you remember. You're one of the ones I'll remember." I never thought I would be one of the missionaries to travel back to the places I'd served in after my mission, mostly for fear that it might not be the same when viewed from a non-missionary perspective. But now, I'm not so sure. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself back here before too long.

I'll be heading to Espoo on Wednesday. From the smallest city in the mission to the largest suburb of Helsinki, covering two wards. Luckily, we have a car! I'll be with my great friend Elder Linden again, and we'll be in a threesome for the next six weeks. The temple is in my new area, and I hope I can see it often. I love the temple. Elder Borcherding, a German, will be coming here to take my place, and I'm so excited to see what he'll do for this area.


love you all,

Elder Hansen

Monday, September 24, 2012

Apple Season

Tervesaurus Rex (that greeting brought to you all by Elder Hoggard),

With Fall comes apples. And when members have food that they don't know what to do with, they give it to the missionaries. Translation: We're drowning in fresh apples, apple pies, apple crisps, apple cakes, and now these little sliced, dried apples that our branch president gave to us last night. I love this time of year! Those dried apples have a pretty cool story actually, they're rings. They cut them with this cool device that has a big vice-grip that locks it onto a counter, a two-pronged spear on the end that cores the apple while a drill screws all the way through it, slicing it into horizontal rings. That probably didn't make sense but, essentially, it looked more like something that belonged on Dad's workbench than in the kitchen. That's Finland. I love it.

This week was so hectic. I don't think my companion will ever forgive me. We had a couple of great lessons set up for Monday, but we also needed to be in Seinäjoki for companion exchanges on Tuesday, so the only solution was to get up at 5.00 to catch a 6.00 bus to Pännäinen to get on a 6.30 train. Elder Kääriä hates mornings, so he wasn't too pleased by the idea, but it worked out just fine and he got to catch up on some sleep on the hour and a half train ride. I thought it was beautiful at that time of the morning. Everything was so quiet. Plus, we got so much done that day.

Tuesday night, everyone slept over in Seinäjoki, so we would all be ready for District Meeting the next morning. Actually, it was mostly so that we could all get up a 6.00 and go play soccer together in the rain. We had a blast. Plenty of collisions and stumbles, leading to a lot of muddy clothes and wet backsides as we marched back home. One of our new missionaries scored the winning goal on an assist from yours truly. But who's counting?

Wednesday was district meeting, which means we talked about a lot of stuff that probably doesn't mean a whole lot to all of you, except for one thing. Mosiah 22:14. We spent a long time in district meeting talking about how we help people attend church. There are a lot of details they need to know before they step into this entirely new environment, but the most important, at least in my mind, is that we do as King Mosiah did, and "receive them with joy." I've always liked it when someone came up to me and said, "hey, are you new here? Welcome. It's good to have you here." Or something to that effect when I was visiting somewhere new.

Wednesday afternoon, our Branch Mission Leader picked us up straight off the train and took us home for a dinner appointment. His one year old daughter has really started to love the missionaries. We even have a nickname there now. She calls us "Na" because she can't quite get "missionärerna." She also was very happy to show off how she could mix the vanilla cream all by herself, and feed her daddy his cake. We always laugh, because our BML (big, strong, moose-hunting man) turns into a huge softy around his daughter. He always just looks back and goes, "just wait till you have your own kids."

M and N are doing really well. They've developed this habit now, though, of asking tons of questions right at the end, and it makes it really hard to wrap up lessons and commit them to act on the message. So we'll see how it goes. When we invited them to be baptized, they said they would discuss it together during the week. While not a yes, it certainly wasn't a no, and in any case, that's not my point. It made me so happy to see them pursuing this idea together. They are a family, and we want them to be an eternal family, so the two of them sitting down, talking about it is about as perfect a way to decide it as there can be. Plus prayer and including Heavenly Father, of course. We had some really fun discussions with them about the Word of Wisdom this week. Everyone gets hung up on the fact that we use water instead of wine in the sacrament.

District Conference yesterday was amazing. I took a question there and thought about it during the whole meeting, and came out with a full page of notes as an answer to my question. Chalk one up for personal revelation. Also got to hear a testimony from a mother in our branch who sent her daughter off to the MTC last week. A bit of a strange experience to see that from the missionary point of view, but it made me so grateful for all the parents and families who support their children in making this decision. This is the greatest experience of my life. I asked that same member about her daughter's progress in the MTC and she said, "oh she sent an email telling us how she's not homesick at all. She's just being mean to her poor mother." I laughed pretty hard at that. I do miss you, fam. You're great. Love you all to pieces. But it will take a lot to pull me away from this beautiful country.

Have a great week! Thanks for all your emails, they make my day every preparation day.


Elder Hansen

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bikes and UFOs

Hey everybody,

This was one of the most fulfilling weeks of my mission. We had some wonderful, happy experiences, learned a ton, and are really happy about where the work is going in Pietarsaari right now. The week started off with a really full P-Day - had to get Elder Oberhansley his bike that got left behind when he was transferred. Remarkably efficient. Just dropped it off at the bus station, filled out a form and we were gone. Ran straight from that to a meeting with our Branch Mission Leader. We had such a great talk. We went through thw whole ward list and talked about all the people we could be doing more for. Also talked about more ways to get people excited about doing member missionary work. Looks like we're going to be teaching priesthood in a few weeks. Hope I'm still here!

Monday night with M and N was one of the happiest lessons we've had with them. Usually they are pretty quiet, but this time we found the right lane to run down (talking about their children and blessings for families) and the change was indescribable. They brought up a lot of their questions and concerns that had remained dormant for this whole time, and we really helped them see how Mormons are normal people too. Yes, we still have Christmas and Easter and birthdays. They may or may not have asked about UFOs and the member who taught with us may or may not have given them a less-than-Preach-My-Gospel-type answer, but that's ok because the Spirit was there, and it covered for my mistakes in teaching.

We've also started meeting with an older man, E, whom Elder Dastrup and I found together all the way back in April. He's a really nice man who has been through a lot of hard tragedies in his life, but has remained humble because of it. He just sincerely wants to learn more about Heavenly Father and the plan for his life. He tends to tell a LOT of stories from his life in our lessons, making it tough to actually teach, but he's a nice man and he's teaching me patience. In one of our lessons, we just read from the Book of Mormon with him, and something changed. He was quiet. He listened when we taught, and had perfect answers to our questions. The Book of Mormon really is a pure channel for the Spirit to use. He was great at our ward harvest festival on Saturday, too. We showed up to bike with him there (did I mention he rides a sweet tandem?), and he had on a sweet blue suit, bright yellow shirt, and purple tie. This guy is just golden. He also mentioned how, since he started meeting with us, he hasn't felt as tired and doesn't feel as much of a need for his allergy medication anymore! Love seeing miracles that come from the Spirit.

Speaking of miracles, the Lord really worked one through us with K, the wheel-chair man. He was sick, and decided to try "our way" as he called it. We gave him a blessing through the priesthood and a few days later he told us, "I feel like a whole new person." He's such a great man, but unfortunately we're worried that he's starting to feel this is true, and doesn't want it to be, because he's been hard to get ahold of for a few days. He also doesn't know my name, have I mentioned that? He just calls me Äldste Broder (the big brother) and Elder Kääriä is the little brother.

He's not the only one to forget my name this week, though. Our Elders Quorum President forgot it in priesthood meeting. Good humbling experience. Look, they only like you because you have a nametag that says, "Elder". As Elder Uchtdorf said, "They will love you...but don't you ever inhale it."

Gotta go. Have a good week.