Monday, January 30, 2012

First Week in Pietarsaari

Meetinghouse for the Pietarsaari Branch

(Yes I decided to start with the one greeting that is neutral across all three languages). I don't even know where to start with everything that's happened this week. I don't think I've ever been so tired in my entire life.

We'll start with the train ride. I got on the train in Turku (actually got to say a quick hello to Elder Hoggard who was arriving from Helsinki to replace me, which was fun), and had two hours of ALONE TIME....super weird. Actually one of the longest, most boring two hour periods of my life. I feel uncomfortable being alone now. Anyway, so I get to Tampere and the Assistants had told me I wouldn't even have to change trains, but when we pulled in, I realized the tickets for the second half of the ride were for a different train! So I scramble to get all my stuff together and just sorta step off the train onto the platform with absolutely no idea where Elder L would be, or which other train to get on. Thankfully he and the zone leaders came walking around the corner at that moment and we got everything all taken care of. Had a really good trip up to Pietarsaari, great talk on the train and set some really good goals for our companionship. Then suddenly the door to our little booth opens and a man walks in saying we're in his seat. We immediately started to move our stuff, until he realizes we're missionaries and he goes, "oh hey, I'm Veli so-and-so from Oulu" so we got to spend the rest of the trip talking with this member about his family and stuff. Pretty cool. What are the odds of that? We even did the invitation to prayer with him and are now praying for his daughter's non-member boyfriend. We get off the train in Pännäinnen (Pietarsaari is too small for a train station) and get in a tiny bus, more like a van, for a quick ride to P-Town. This place is soooo different from Turku, but I think I might already love it even more.

So we had scheduled to have our weekly planning session, but then our Branch President called us and said he needed us to come along to visit a member who lives 40 km away in Munsala. He didn't want to go alone because it the member's husband wouldn't be home. So we agreed...and three hours later we left. We weren't really sure why we were there, but this woman's husband, who isn't a member came home and we had a really good chance to meet with him while the branch president and the wife were talking.

Then things got crazy. They made us dinner, which we really appreciated, but we had less than an hour before we had to get back to P-Town to catch a bus to Kokkola for the night, so that we could catch a train to Seinäjoki for district meeting the next day. So we ate fast and packed up and they drove us to the bus station. Too late. Elder L and I decide we can just bike to Kokkola, but the member wasn't having any of that, she's going to drive us all the way to Kokkola, which is like an hour and half of extra driving for her! The only problem is we can't get a ride without a man in the car. So we start calling members, and finally find someone who can come, so the member goes to meet him at the church and we run home to grab some things for the trip. While we're at home though the member calls and says he can't come. So now we have to run to the church to tell the other member, who doesn't have a phone, that we have to find someone else. As we're running, we call this Chinese investigator who lives really close to the church and he agrees to come. We get to the church and have to run in front of the car to guide it to where this investigator lives, get in the car, drive home, grab a toothbrush and a suit jacket, and run back out. Good news is, we made it to Kokkola on time. It was a really long night. I'm not even sure if that story made sense, but it still doesn't even really make sense to me. It was a crazy night.

Planning meeting. Really spiritual. I can tell Elder L and I are going to have a lot of success together.

My very first teach in Swedish! Ok, well I didn't actually say anything, but I was in the teach and it was all in Swedish so it kinda counts. It was actually really frustrating to not be able to help at all. This couple we're teaching are neighbors to, and really close friends with, the member from Wednesday. Really solid. They actually asked if they could move their baptism up to the 5th instead of the 11th. When we said we needed time to teach them everything, they were like, "well you could just come every day if you want." They're really funny and have two small kids that I'm really good friends with. I love the way young minds work, you don't even have to speak their language to be friends.

I said my first prayer all in Swedish. it was one of the most indescribable experiences of my mission so far. The Spirit just flooded the room. Elder L said he felt the Spirit very very powerfully, even though it was such a rough prayer. No eloquence at all. Really neat. I love learning Swedish.

Church was awesome. Church here is always in two languages (one person speaks and another translates), so I had a translator for my talk. It was a little hankala
[tricky] to get the timing down, but it worked out. I was pretty proud of my talk.

Time to wrap up. Love you all, Mom I promise I'm keeping warm (found a new coat for 30 euros. Score!)


Vanhin/Äldste/Elder Hansen

Monday, January 23, 2012

Transfers: Moving to Pietarsaari!

No, moi! [well, hi!]

Sorry about the crazy schedule today, we had a school presentation in the morning. That's right, I went back to high school. It was pretty fun, but I'm not sure if it's the most productive missionary work. Good experience.

So the BIG news first: we got change calls this week and I'm leaving. Major bummer. I'm so sad to leave this wonderful ward with all its amazing members, and to leave E. and her daughters behind. I've developed such a wonderful relationship with that family and I want to keep visiting them. They've literally been there my entire mission! We found E on the street my fifth day here and we've been to their house at least once a week ever since. I'm going to miss them so much! The upside of all of this is: I'm going to Pietarsaari! It's up north on the west coast, and literally more than half of the city speaks Swedish instead of Finnish. They actually have sacrament meeting in both languages, crazy right? I'm officially learning two proselyting languages now. Somewhere in one of the letters the mission sent to me before I reported, it mentions having my family join me in praying for the gift of tongues. I'd like to invoke that now. I'm really excited to learn Swedish, it's just going to be super hard to learn two languages at once. Luckily, my new companion, Elder L, is a native Swede, so I'm pretty sure we'll get along really well, he's a stud.

We tried something new in our lessons this week. There was an activity in one of the recent Liahona magazines that had a little trivia quiz game with random facts about all the presidents of the church. We turned it into a little card-matching game and it went great! Mom, if you can find it, it would probably make a really fun Primary activity. All of the cards we made had little pictures drawn on them as hints about the trivia item relating to that prophet. When Elder H finished drawing one of them, he shows it to me and asks, "what does this look like?" I saw a bunch of red splotches of differing sizes running do the card so I replied, "blood?" To which he yells, "dang it! It's supposed to be the Hawaiian Islands!" Great moment for our companionship.


P-Day. Hit up some great sales and got some nice new gloves and a hat for like 6 euros each. Came really close to buying a way awesome gray coat, but it was more expensive than I would've felt comfortable with and not incredibly warm, I just looked super good in it. (vain moment over). The bishop's eight year old daughter invited us over for a DA, and Piispa was more than happy to oblige. That family is so great. They all love the missionaries so much. Gonna miss this ward.


Every single appointment fell through, except for E in the evening. So basically, it was still a great day. Once during our companionship study, Elder H was having some trouble focusing. I can't remember how it went, but our conversation ended with him standing on his chair, brandishing his toy lightsaber and saying, "I get it. You think I'm childish, and I just can't take anything seriously!" And I just had to laugh. He's been such a great companion because he brings small moments like that all the time. Really helps me relax and avoid stressing too much.


Splits in Pori. Great DA with this woman who calls herself the missionaries' Finnish Grandma. She made this awesome blue cheese salmon. SOOOOO good. Have I mentioned I've started to really like blue cheese? Well, I have. Also, the Rauma/Pori elders have a small, hand-held GPS that they carry around with them. They've plugged in all of their investigators' and members' addresses, so they can plan better, and if things fall through they can use it to find someone else in the area quickly. So I'm definitely thinking about getting one of those. They're number one.


Bus home from Rauma to Turku, then straight onto another bus out to Salo to teach R, then back on the bus home again. Crazy day. But the teach went well and we had a DA with a young couple in our ward when we got home. They have a really small baby who was just yelling the entire time we were there, except when everyone was looking at her. It would have been annoying if she wasn't so cute. Also met a super cool Brazilian guy on the street, who speaks Finnish better than Portuguese. Crazy huh?


Weekly Planning. Took forever. All I wanted to do was go outside the whole time..... sitten lähetystyö
[missionary work]

Jatkuva lähetystyö
[more missionary work]

They asked me to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting. I wanted to do it because I was leaving, but I purposefully didn't mention that I was leaving, because it shouldn't be a big deal, I'm just another missionary, but then at the end of the meeting, the member of the bishopric who was conducting announced it to the entire congregation. Oh well. I didn't really feel to upset or embarrassed about it, though, until after the meeting was over and E turns to me and asks, "So when were you planning on telling us you were leaving?" Oops. Had my last teach with them, and everyone cried. We're talking Finns, here. They all talked about the things that they remembered learning from me. I cannot describe the feelings I have towards this wonderful, wonderful family. It was so hard to leave. I am here to serve the Lord, and I will go wherever He wants me to go, but I'll be honest, I'm praying for a chance to come back here, even if it's just for a day on splits or something. I also found out that they stalked my Facebook and have already added me as a friend, so I can't wait to accept that request in a year and a half.

Love you all so much. Thank you for your prayers. I pray for you all every morning and every night, and sometimes in between.


Vanhin Hansen

Monday, January 16, 2012

Moikka taas!

Moikka taas! [Hello again]

Glad to hear you all got some snow this week. It's really not worth all the hype, believe me. We've been in snow for a long time now, and temperatures down around -8 C (I don't know what that is in F, but it's really cold.)

Want to send pictures today so I'm going to keep the email a little shorter.

We went tracting in a place Elder H had had a really good feeling about. It went great! We got let in on the second door! This guy was awesome. We walk in and Star Wars is on! Episode 4, on VHS. Made my day. He seemed sorta just stuck in 1960's American media actually. Old school TV, computer, record player, and giant boombox. He had a radio on that he turned down (he refused to turn it off for some reason) and the whole teach all I could hear was Hotel California and a bunch of other classics playing in the background. Really distracting, but super great at the same time.


Missionary work

Went all the way out to Salo to teach R. It was a great teach and we had some fun while waiting for the bus back to Turku. Played a few innings of snow baseball with an umbrella as a bat, and I fixed my golf swing (see pictures). Also got to go see E that night. She fixed my suit, and when she gave it back to me she told me she had thought about stitching "Mormon" in big letters across the back. She's so great.


Great district meeting and lunch afterwards. I love the missionaries in this district.

More missionary work

We had a couple appointments set up during the day, and one super late at night, but had no idea what to do in the afternoon, when all of a sudden we get a text from a member of the bishopric saying that his home teaching companion was sick and he needed us to come along. It was great! so fun to go visit some really solid members and help this ward get its home teaching done. That's the big push from the stake right now. Really love the First Presidency message this month.


More missionary work. Elder H and I have both been sick this week, so it was pretty hard, but we pushed through and I'm pretty sure I'm all better now.

Love you all,

Elder Hansen

Monday, January 9, 2012

"Wow. There's a dead guy! Right there!"

Hyvää Huomenta! [Good morning]

First of all, thanks for all your emails this week. I love hearing from all of you, even if it's short. Happy birthday to the greatest sister to ever walk the planet. :)

I should probably also explain the subject line. We went and visited the Tuomio Kirkko today, the huge Lutheran church in the center of the city, that was built in around the 1500s. It's beautiful inside. There are a few tombs inside and at one point, while looking at one of them, Elder H goes, "wow. there's a dead guy! Right there!" I thought it was pretty funny.

To be perfectly honest, this week didn't seem like it was going to be a very good week when it began. Monday our baptismal date called and told us that, due to family pressure, she would be forced to cancel her baptism and all of our remaining appointments for the time being. She had made such remarkable progress, but could not hold up when her sister and her daughter were so violently opposed. Very sad. But, in spite of that, we still saw some miracles this week.

Pretty quiet P-Day. Tried to take advantage of some after Christmas sales, but couldn't find anything I liked so we just went home. S. called later and cancelled everything. It really, really hurt. But, we had to keep going, so we did.

We had one bright moment in the middle of the day though. One young woman this week recognized the Savior's name on our nametags and decided to introduce herself to us. As we talked with her, she told us her story of how she had discovered her faith in Jesus Christ by reading and praying about the Bible. She referred to it as "uskon lahja."
[a gift] After talking briefly, she agreed to an appointment with us. Since then, we have met with her twice and she is reading the Book of Mormon regularly. We did the Invitation to Prayer with her and received the name of her brother who also lives here in Turku. She wants him to receive the same knowledge she now has of Christ, but unfortunately won't allow us to go visit him yet. She plans on moving to Helsinki next week, but we discussed giving her information to the missionaries in her new area and she readily agreed. I'm convinced she will be baptized very soon after her move.


Lähetystyö. Had a couple of really good DA's. Got super lost at one point though. I don't know this city as well as I thought. It's just too big!


I had my first experience teaching a Lutheran priest. Not a experience I intend to repeat many times on my mission. This man has read the Book of Mormon all the way through twice. He has apparently been attending our ward here regularly as long as we have the afternoon time, which doesn't interfere with his work. And every time we tried to ask him a straight question or focus our lesson on the truths we teach, he would redirect it. We watched his whole countenance change when we asked him those super direct questions about the Book of Mormon and his feelings about it and the church. He's afraid to admit it, unfortunately, and it shows. It was just another testament to me that the presence of the Book of Mormon in someone's life will always bring convincing evidence of the truthfulness of this church. Whether they decide to act on it after that is up to them.

Running out of time, so I'm going to have to skip the rest of the days events. We're having fun and doing a ton of great work. Still way behind the sisters though.

For Thursday - Saturday, see Tuesday.

Saturday night a former investigator called us out of the blue. Here is the story as I told it to President in my email earlier.

We had a former investigator call us out of nowhere and ask to meet. He said he had been reading the Book of Mormon and now has a very solid testimony of it. He said he has been getting the Liahona delivered to his house regularly and has a testimony of the Church's inspired leaders as well. Unfortunately, he lives about an hour away, which, in addition to some Word of Wisdom issues is the reason it has been so difficult for him to progress. In that phone call I committed him to come to church and he accepted. He arrived an hour before church and we had a wonderful meeting in the quiet, empty chapel. We set up a teaching schedule and daily contact, and committed him to prepare again to be baptized! He has a long way to go, and some of our members who have known him in the past need to rend their Veils of Unbelief concerning him, but I firmly believe he is ready and sincerely committed this time to do what he needs to do.

Also, (mom I thought you might appreciate this) after sacrament meeting on Sunday, E tapped me on the shoulder and asked "do you know how to fix this?" pointing to a small tear in the back of my suit. I admitted that I didn't. She goes "all right, give it here, You'll get it back when you come on Wednesday." She's so great. Probably one of my best friends in the world, and I'm getting my suit fixed for free!

I love you all very much. Thank you for all of your great examples and your letters and emails.


Elder Hansen

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year


It's already been a great start to this week. We had a lesson this morning with G., a student here from India, and it went great. We also had a woman come up to us while we were walking here. She recognized the name of the Savior on our nametags and decided to come introduce herself. She talked about receiving the "gift of faith," the meaning of which we're still not entirely sure about, but we began talking to her about who we are and, most importantly, that we teach about the Book of Mormon. She says that she has friends who are LDS, and that she's pretty certain the Bible is all she needs, but she's willing to meet and hopefully the Spirit will change her mind. Stay tuned!

We had a fantastic week this past week. President has been telling all the missionaries for a few months now to teach 15 discussions per week, first to investigators, then to less-actives, and then to active members if we need to. It takes a ton of work when we only have one solid, progressing investigator. We've been stuck at 10 for a few weeks, but we worked super hard this week and got 13! It took a couple of miracles to get those 13, too.


We took a lot of time to do everything we normally have to do on P-Day on Tuesday, since everything was closed on P-Day, so Tuesday was a bit of a slow day. We did have a super good teach with S., though.

Awesome district meeting in the morning, then splits in the afternoon. We had two teaches set up, both at 7, so that each companionship would have someone to teach, but most of the day was pretty bare. I picked a couple of areas where we had a few potentials so we could go stop by and try to find those 15 appointments for the week. As I was getting ready to go, I had a thought to call a member couple that lived in one of the areas. I asked him if we could come by for just a few minutes and share a spiritual thought. He agreed. We stopped by a few people, but no one was home, then we went to go share our quick message. We talked about the Atonement. I shared my favorite scripture from the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 9:13-14, and we talked about what it means to us that Christ will heal every one that will come to him. After that message, we followed up on a few people they had asked us to pray for. The member admitted that he had actually meant to speak with one of them, a woman who lived downstairs, and give her a Book of Mormon with his testimony in it, but he just hadn't found the time or the courage. Right there, in his home, we prayed and asked for Heavenly Father's help. We felt very strongly that we should go right then, together, to try to give this woman the Book of Mormon. She wasn't interested, and politely declined, but we know because of the spirit that was in that prayer we said together that it was the right thing to do. I felt like it really blessed our member to make that effort with us.

There's a second part to this story, though. While we were sharing our message, and when the Spirit was very strong, another member came by (he and the first member were apparently going to visit someone who was sick). He sat in on the end of our thought. After we prayed, he found out that my spits companion is serving in Rauma and immediately asked, "Well, you want some work to do?" He gave them the name of his non-member mother who lives in Rauma. I know it was because of the Spirit that was in the room that he felt comfortable giving that referral. It all started with that idea to call a member. Major boost for me.

Wednesday was also my first day on a bike. It was great!! Other than being sore in more than a few places the next day, it was a blast. My splits companion's chain fell off a few times, but we still made it everywhere on time. I love bikes.

Had a great discussion with Maria (Erja) and the girls about the Plan of Salvation. I never quite know how much of what we say sticks, because of how crazy and unfocused some of our lessons are, but apparently it's working.


Our first teach with G., our new investigator, went super well. We actually had planned to meet him Monday, but that fell through, so while we were in his area on Thursday we decided to drop by. He had just returned from a spur of the moment weekend trip to Copenhagen, so we kept it pretty short, but he's super excited to learn about the Book of Mormon.


We had a DA with an awesome family in our ward. She's divorced with three boys, 20, 18, and 16. So it's always fun to visit with them. She actually shared a really nice thought with us. We've taught her neighbor twice now, and every time after we leave this neighbor comes over to her house to try to figure out exactly what we meant. (Fellowshipping first - the investigator makes friends with the members. Love it). Anyway, last time we taught we extended a baptismal commitment, and she was very hesitiant. She didn't want to commit, but she did tell this neighbor that she felt something special in our lessons. She said she could feel the power of our words when we spoke. I don't go out seeking for validation, but it still felt really good to hear that, even though I know I don't speak this language very well, and I'm only twenty, and frankly I don't have a clue how to be a missionary, I can still speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. Really inspired me to work harder.


Red day, so we planned during the day and taught S. in the evening. She's now been taught everything, all that's left is to help her prepare to be baptized. Would you all please pray for her? She's been so overwhelmed lately with trying to get everything organized.


Another red day, and no appointments. Had a great meeting with our interim Ward Mission Leader (our old one just moved), and let him know what we needed from him for the baptism. He got everything done that day. We talked to all the people we needed to, and he went above and beyond, so now, all we need to do is the paperwork and the interview. We even had others from the ward step in and sit with her in Sacrament Meeting and take her down to the font to try to find some baptismal clothes, all without us asking them to. Our ward here is so wonderful and they all work so well together. Callings: magnify them.

Shout out to the Newsom, Fisher, and Hirst families, thanks for the Christmas cards!! Whitney's little sister Kaitlyn sent me a letter with a bunch of movie quotes in it and I had to guess which movies they were from. We had a great time with that after splits. Reminded me of every single dinner conversation at home.

Say hi to everyone for me. Love and miss you all.

Elder McKay