Monday, February 27, 2012

They're Swedish...they don't believe in chairs

Ten bucks if you get the subject line. (Hopefully at least Maren and Reese remember).

Hei hei,

So, actually completely messing up jokes has kinda been the theme of this week. Elder L speaks great English, but sometimes I can still throw him without really thinking about it. Like this morning, I tried to say I agree by saying, "me dos" (me too, just using the wrong translation of too/two in Spanish), and yeah, it went about as well as that sentence did...At home people would understand, but some things just don't translate. Another prime example is now Elder L's favorite thing to talk about. I tried cracking a joke in my talk on Sunday, only to find out that my brand of American humor doesn't really translate as well as I thought into Finnish, and it gets even worse when they have to translate that awfulness into Swedish. Kinda killed the mood in sacrament meeting. Luckily it was at the end of my talk so I could just close and sit down without embarrassing myself, but my wonderful, supportive, loving companion was laughing his head off. Gosh dang language barriers....

I seriously doubt anyone even remembers it by now though, because the woman who spoke after me was a convert of about two years, who was moving with her husband and children to Tampere. They have such an incredible story. They moved here from Angola for work and she was trying to find a church to go to on Sundays. The first one they spotted was our little church building, but when she came to it, it ws locked. So, they decided to watch from their balcony every Sunday to see when all the cars showed up. As soon as she saw all the cars, she hurried and got dressed and ran over. Unfortunately, the first thing she noticed when she came in was that she wsa literally the only black person in sight. Our branch mission leader, who is a pretty huge man, walked over to her to greet her, but her first thought was that he was going to throw her out. At this point in her story, she started to cry. She talked about how everyone had loved her right from the start, finding someone who spoke Spanish who could translate for her (She speaks Portuguese), and inviting her to all their activities. She and her husband were baptized a few weeks later and their sons a couple months after that. Think of that! She just wanted to go to a church for Sunday and they just happen to be able to see our church from where they live. There just happens to be someone who speaks Spanish in this tiny branch so she can actually participate while speaking no Finnish or Swedish. That cannot be coincidence. Awesome story.

It becomes even more amazing when you consider the other recent converts in this branch. One, an Iraqi christian who runs up to my companion and asks for a copy of the Book of Mormon, then in the first teach asks what he has to do to be baptized, and the others brought to us and loved into the church by their neighbor. We hardly felt like we did anything for A and T, we just had to be there to teach them. Elder L and I are really starting to feel like we aren't needed here. The people seem to be finding the church just fine without us.

In other news, I'm pretty sure we are teaching all or most of the Bulgarian Mafia here in P-Town right now. No just kidding, but there are tons of them here and they're really big on family. Monday we stopped by K, the patriarch basically, but he wasn't home. We ended up talking to his daughter and her husband though, and we set up a teach with them for Tuesday. On Tuesday A (the husband) calls, and says his wife will be having a party at their place so is it ok if we have it at another place. We said fine so he came and picked us up. As we're driving, he says something like, "yeah, the others are waiting for us" Others? What others? He takes us to a gas station where five other Bulgarians are waiting at a table. They sit us down in a booth and circle us in so we can't leave. So...we teach them about the church!  We got a bunch of new investigators that night and they all committed to come to church on Sunday! None of them showed up, and they're kinda hard to get a hold of so far, but we haven't really had a good chance to sit down and explain ourselves and really set the whole teaching process up yet, so we'll see. Basically, I just told that story because the whole thing felt like a scene from a movie. Our whole branch loves it. They actually started making the mafia jokes before we did.

I love you family, can't wait to hear from you next week.

Elder Hansen

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bike Crash

Hei family!

How's everyone doing? Good to know everyone is still alive after mom and dad were gone for a few days.

We had a really crazy week this week - biking everywhere! Combine that with running every morning now and 400 sit ups before breakfast and I'm pretty sure I'm in the best shape of my life at the moment.

So, right now we're facing the one downside of baptizing no longer get to count them as investigators. We had a really hard time finding anyone to teach this week, even after deciding to get out of Pietarsaari completely and work an afternoon in a town called Nykarleby. Really nice small town, but not all that different from any other part of Finland, to be honest. Still, we did get to have some really powerful experiences with the Spirit this week.

On Wednesday we went to visit a little girl in our branch who was sick in the hospital. We planned on going to give her a blessing because she apparently had just been feverish and completely without strength or energy for the past couple of days. Right when we walked in, though, she brightened up. She spent the next 20 minutes flirting with Elder L (she has a major crush on him) while we shared a short message with her mom, who looked super exhausted. It just felt good to make someone's day a little better. Later in the week I had the opportunity to give a blessing to the mom. I love the feeling I get when I use the priesthood. Or rather, the feeling I get when the power of the priesthood works through me, especially when giving blessings to those in need. I feel so much like a true instrument in the hands of the Lord in those moments.

I got a similar feeling when I got to bless the sacrament on Sunday. I was so rusty! It was weird to think how long it had been since I had blessed the sacrament, after doing it almost every week for like a year. Another wonderful opportunity to exercise the priesthood. I hope the youth in our ward understand what they do when they administer in the ordinance of the sacrament. Not in some cheesy, super sensitive way, but honestly, sincerely understand the power they hold and take joy in doing that work.

Well, it finally happened. I don't know that I really expected to go a whole winter without slipping on a bike, but I hoped I would make it a little longer. Elder L loves to tease me about being this "American who doesn't know how to ride a bike because we all get cars when we're 16." I always just reference Lance Armstrong and he gets quiet. What happened was we were riding and the road started to curve just as we hit a patch of ice with the wind at our backs so the wind took my back wheel out from under me on the ice and I fell. Sort of a perfect storm senario. Elder L almost fell but his bike is smaller so he just shot his foot down in time to catch himself. I, on the other hand, fell flat on my side with the bike on top of me. Really, it was more embarrassing than painful. Small wound to my pride.

Last night we had dinner with a couple in our ward that are two of the funniest people I've ever met. he's Chinese and she's Vietnamese, and since they don't speak each other's languages they speak English to each other. They both speak great English, but their accents are so fun to listen to. I'll have to tell you more the next time you can all actually hear me, because I can't really do it justice in an email. Anyway, they always make us tons of food and last night it was octopus stir-fry on fried noodles. They always joke about him getting fat because he eats too much. I would think it's a little rude, because he's actually getting a little bit bigger, but on the other hand his nickname for her is "Hippo" so I guess that's just how they work. So funny. Definitely the type of relationship I want to have someday. not that I think about that stuff right now.

Well family, I love you all. Say hi to everyone from me.


Vanhin Hansen

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Yeah, that was another lame attempt at a creative subject line. I was trying to think of something cool or special about the upcoming week, but then I realized that Valentine's Day doesn't really count unless you're married (or you work for Hallmark), and for missionaries it's just Tuesday. jeps... [yeah]

Anyway, hyvää päivää teille, [good day to you]

We had a wonderful week this week. The weather let up a bit and just pounded us with snow, so the last few days have been really fun. I'm currently planning a proposal to include snow shoveling events in the Winter Olympics. Ideas include (but are not limited to): speed shoveling - clearing ground in the fastest time; creative shoveling - clearing ground in the most artistic designs (about as much of a sport as men in waaay too tight pants jumping around on ice skates); The snow throw - throwing a pile of snow over the greatest distance, and snow MMA. Stay tuned. All of these were invented by me and my companion while we were shoveling snow for a member the other day. We're both pretty competitive, so it was really fun. And yes, it ended after I threw a giant snowball at him, which he countered by tackling me into a snowdrift. By then, dinner was ready and I had tons of snow down my pants, so I was ready to go in. Great day. I love being a missionary.

The baptism went great on Saturday. It wasn't perfect, but imperfect baptismal services don't invalidate the ordinance, so it's all good. We had about twice as many family and friends there as branch members, which was wonderful. I'm pretty sure they were all touched. Tons of food afterwards and we got to mingle with everyone there. Just a great, uplifting atmosphere all around. Their neighbor is a professional photographer and she took a ton of nice pictures that she said she'd get to us soon. Not sure when I'll be able to get them to you, but Dad I promise not to take too long. 

Mom, funny you should ask about us not having a car, we've been trying to see if we can get one for a little while. We need to find some more people to teach first! Cross your fingers and stay tuned!

We did our DA with branch mission leader/teach with A and T combo again a couple times this week. Our BML
[branch mission leader] is awesome. That combo takes up basically our whole afternoon/evening, but it's way more efficient for all of us and we get great food so I'm ok with it. This week we had moose again, really good, and rooster (tastes like chicken ;) ). It tastes a little bit different, but I liked it better than any chicken I'd ever had.

Friday we had a district meeting again, and Elder L and I were asked to give a thought on a Christlike Attribute. We chose to talk about humility. We split it up into two parts:
1. Being submissive. We have to be willing to put His will before ours and do things his way in order to receive promised blessings. As we do, we find that the hard things become easier, because they become joys instead of chores, and they actually make us better in spite of what we may believe at the beginning. 

We used one of my favorite quotes ever:
"We will not always understand the role of God's hand, but we know enough of his mind and his heart to be submissive. Thus when we are perplexed and stressed, explanatory help may not be immediately forthcoming, but compensatory help will be. The more our will is thus swallowed up in the will of the Father, the more our afflictions will be swallowed up in the joy of Christ." [Neal A. Maxwell] Our district has been great at following counsel, and so we've received a great many miracles (4 baptisms this year, with another two by the first week of March). Which brings me to the next point:

2. Being grateful. When we are grateful, and give credit to God for the blessings we receive, we maintain our closeness to the Spirit, remain free of pride, and thus retain the spiritual power we have been given so long as it is in accordance with God's will.

Hope that thought was uplifting. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Family, you mean everything to me. There has been nothing like teaching families (first E's and now A and T's) that has helped me understand so much how grateful I am for my family, and how much I want love to abound in my own family.

Press forward,

Elder McKay Hansen 

Monday, February 6, 2012

I ate moose!!!


We had a great week this week. Today is one of those days where i just have to sit here and wonder how I got so lucky to be here. The work is really moving forward in Pietarsaari, and in our whole district, actually. Kokkola had a baptism a few weeks ago, and now that man's wife is being baptized next week. Vaasa had a baptism last month and they have another one coming up soon, and we have two this Saturday. That couple I told you about -- "A" and "T" -- they are awesome. They announced their baptism in Sacrament meeting on Sunday and this whole branch is just thrilled. Almost everyone who bore testimony talked about how excited they were for them. Their best friend and neighbor, the one who introduced them to the missionaries, bore a really emotional and heartfelt testimony. so great. They got hugs all around after the meeting. We had to work with them to organize some things for the baptism, and they were so excited. "A" picked out the songs she wanted and they both want Elder L to baptize them. Please keep praying that everything works out. Gonna be a great day when they get baptized!

You all have been asking a lot about the area, so I should probably fill you in. Pietarsaari itself is a fairly small city, so our area is HUGE and very spread out. The only way to really cover our area is to get rides from members or to bike, so I'm going to be in great shape after a few changes here. The snow is everywhere, and the temperatures are a nice, chilly 27 degrees below zero
[Celsius]. Yepp. I'm freezing. But, we're going to go finally buy me some winter boots, so hopefully I'll still have all my toes when I come home. The branch here is about fifty active members, which is smaller than Turku, but still big compared to other cities in Finland.

Also, my companion is a major stud. He says his mission has totally changed him and his entire outlook on life. He loves everything about missionary work and his attitude and energy are contagious. We have a lot of fun together while we work. He's also a serious athlete. Did I mention he used to play for Chelsea? Yes, the football club. Yeah that one in England. Crazy right? We went and played soccer last P-day and there were a couple of shots he took that I actually just let go. Didn't even try. He also makes me run in the morning, which I don't really like, but it's the only thing keeping him from going  home to have knee surgery so I make the sacrifice for him. Those runs are killer when it's this cold out.

I think the greatest part of this area is the languages. This place is half Finnish and half Swedish, but a lot of people speak English too. We have an investigator who speaks French and Portuguese but nothing else, so we bring along a member who speaks Spanish so he can translate. We have a member here from Germany, who really helps out when we meet with our recent convert from Iraq who speaks German, in addition to Arabic, Curdish, and a little Finnish now. Top it off with a member from Vietnam and her boyfriend from China (they're just waiting for the right paperwork so they can get married and he can get baptized) and we have a pretty great selection. SO AWESOME. I've decided I want to learn more languages when I come home. German is really close to Swedish, I think I'll start there.

We were over at the Chinese/Vietnamese couple's place for dinner a few days ago, and he was taking a long time cooking in the kitchen. his girlfriend shouts to him, "hey, are you finished?" to which he responds, "no, I'm Chinese!" oops. haha

We had a wonderful zone conference up in Oulu this week. Really learned a lot and it's going to help our work go forward much faster.

Also, the highlight of this week: I ate moose!!! tasted way better than beef too.

Love you all very much. Thank you for all your prayers and support.


Elder Hansen