Monday, March 26, 2012

Throwback to January

I woke up one day this week to see it snowing everywhere. All the beautiful thoughts of spring coming soon got trampled by Finland's giant boot heel. SPLAT! Actually, it wasn't all that bad because when we went out to run everything was perfectly still. The most peaceful silence I think I've ever heard. I actually had to stop for a second mid-stride just to listen to it. So cool.


So great to hear from you all this morning!

Went to a second-hand store just to look around and see if we could find anything random and fun. I didn't find anything except for a couple of cool old-school motorcycle helmets I tried on. They were way too small, so I'm pretty sure I about lost an ear trying to get my head out of one of them. Later we had dinner with a German member in the ward. He showed us all these pictures of motorcycles he's built while we were waiting for food. He's a super cool guy.

We taught our new investigator, J, a woman from Vietnam. She's pretty cool, but the language barrier is pretty large unless we have our Vietnamese member there as a translator. They're way stoked to get to know each other. The Vietnamese member loves making us food, so we basically just have to buy milk for this week and we can live off all the food she loaded us up with. We're planning on buying a ton of Kinder eggs with the leftover food money.

I had a monumental event in my mission. Member Splits. What? Yeah, there's a part in the missionary handbook that says it's okay to take a Melchizedek Priesthood holder with each of the companions and split up if you have more appointments than you can handle at a time. Every time I've read that, I've laughed a little bit. But Heavenly Father saw fit to open my eyes a little bit. We actually pulled it off. We taught one investigator, a less-active family, an active member, and had a meeting with our branch president all in about two hours. It was awesome. I went on the teach with M, our part-member family investigator, and it was one of the most spiritual lessons of my mission. He has just recently come to recognize what the Spirit feels like and it's a very exciting feeling for him. He's said he's been trying an experiment at work: he now prays before he starts each morning for guidance and direction from the Spirit. He's felt so much more alert and says he's been able to notice and discern so much more easily while he works. When trying to describe what the Spirit felt like, he kinda got lost for words. Our branch president, who was my companion for the night, helped him out by just patting his hand over his heart. That became our sign the rest of the night. When the Spirit became so strong that none of us really knew what to say, we would just all start touching our hand to our chest. Probably sounds really weird, but it was so cool to be there. We're sure he'll have a baptismal date soon.

Splits in Kokkola. Really fun. I got to speak some Swedish too, which I didn't expect. One woman we tried to talk to on the street just waved us off saying she didn't understand any Finnish because her native tongue was Swedish, so I just said, "Well, I speak Swedish." She got really excited and let me explain the Book of Mormon a bit and she took a pass along card. She was s super sweet old lady, I hope she actually comes to church one day.

Had a dinner appointment with a family who decided to celebrate Elder L's birthday early. They used to live in Bolivia, so all of them speak Spanish, English, Finnish and Swedish, and they sang him Happy Birthday in all four languages. Really cool. I definitely want to learn more languages during/after my mission. Played floor ball as a ward activity again, and made the mistake of stepping in front of one of Elder L's shots. Yeah, took it right in the face. Not fun.

Elder L's birthday. We did missionary work. Lots of walking on muddy streets. Got lost a few times.

The pianist showed up late, so we got to sing the opening and sacrament hymns a cappella. The joys of a small branch. Actually a pretty neat experience for me.

Testimony meeting. I got to translate! It was really hard. Our Vietnamese member and her Chinese boyfriend always come, so I got translate from Finnish to English for them. Elder L translated most of the Swedish, except for when he spoke, then it was my turn to translate his Swedish! I didn't do too bad though. I'm basically a pro now. A got up and bore her testimony. So sad. T doesn't come anymore, and usually it's just too much work in the morning to get her two small children ready, so she comes alone. She stood up and said that even though life has been hard, she's so glad she's found the truth she's been looking for all her life. I admire this woman's faith so much. I stand in awe of the true converting power of the gospel.

So, had a bit of a panic attack this week. I realized that last Tuesday marked six months since the day I entered the country. Six months ago, I was walking down a long, deserted street with Elder Christiansen. We stopped and talked to a woman and her daughter. We gave them a Book of Mormon and set up an appointment. Over the next two months, we watched her grow in the gospel, come to know of its truthfulness, quit smoking and coffee, and finally be baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That was E. Such a special day to remember.

I love you all so much. Have an awesome week.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Bounce back week

We bounced back this week and things have been a lot better. All of our crises are still brewing, but so many great things are happening, or about to happen. I can't actually say what they are, because I can't even really see them yet, but they are there. I can feel it.

The Bulgarians have kind of dropped off. So, we'll see about that.

The cool story from this week, though, is that we had our semi-annual district meeting with the mission president. They're always super intense and really long (11-6 plus interview time) but it's all the new, important training and information about the mission that we really need in order to move the work forward, so we love it. We talked a lot about really earning the trust of the members so we can have their help in this work. There are a lot of eternal principles there. If someone really works hard and demonstrates commitment to something, others will believe that he or she is capable of performing that task (in our case, miracles). President really opened my eyes to little things we can do better. It's funny. They were all obvious things that no one seemed to have thought of. Definitely a humbling experience and very important to remember that sometimes you just need a second pair of eyes to see things from a different perspective.

Yesterday was a pretty slow day. Elder L developed some kind of stomach sickness over the weekend, so the missionary medical doctor in Germany put him on a straight banana, rice and potato diet (literally nothing else) for 24 hours and ordered him to stay in bed. I felt really bad for him. But he's up and running again now, and I used the time to study Swedish for about four hours, which was awesome.

Sorry for another fluff email. The blog is probably hurting for some good stories by now...I promise to start remembering the funnier stuff that happens during the week.

Jag älskar er så mycket.

Äldste Hansen

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thanks for all your inspiring emails

March has been declared the month of gratitude in this mission, and I want to continue that by thanking you all for your wonderful emails (and to any of you who read the blog for your wonderful letters). They have a wonderful way of lifting me up. I love you all.

Hei taas!

This week was a pretty long one. I'm going to be very honest and say that it was one of those weeks where I had to simply put my nose to the grindstone and keep pressing forward. But I think it's in those situations we learn the most about ourselves. I learned so much about faith and patience this week. I've always wondered what role faith truly plays in times of trial. I've been thinking a lot recently about how I can change, how I can be better. And the things we've had to go through this week really have transformed me. Seriously, we've been biking so much I think my thighs have turned into the Hulk's. They're going to bust through my AMERICAN pants soon. haha

Here's the rundown:

Met and taught a man whose wife is a member. He's been taught by missionaries many times before, but this time, it sounds like it might be different. He compared himself to a ship and talked about how hard the man at the helm has to turn the wheel to get the ship to turn. He said "I think I'm just a really, really big ship." So, we'll see what happens. We told him that baptism is NOT our goal for him. What? weird right? Well, yeah. The TEMPLE is our goal for him, not baptism. Baptism is just a step. That really seemed to make him think.

We had a bit of a crisis. Our teach with A and T didn't really go as planned, we ended up just showing A "The Testaments." I love that movie. Dad, do you remember when we watched it on Temple Square and then ran bawling all the way to the Conference Center so we weren't late for general conference? gosh we're so weird.

Had a bit of a scattered day, really hard to find people to teach. Called everyone we could think of, but it just ended up being one of those days.

Zone leaders came down from Oulu for splits. Had a great time and did some great work. I love working with older missionaries because I learn so much every time. This time the missionary I was working with told me, "Do what works for you. Just because other missionaries do something and it works, you shouldn't feel obligated to switch to their method." I thought that was pretty good advice, and there's probably an eternal principle in there, but I want you all to find it for yourselves, because it's supposed to be your way!

Packed day. Got to visit a less-active, which Elder L tells me never happens here because they just don't want to be contacted, and our message went really well. Then it was a long bike ride to Larsmo for a dinner appointment. Great time there. Some members from Turku were visiting, a young family I was actually pretty close with, so it was great to see them. They were shocked when they heard me speak Swedish. yes, I felt slightly vain in that moment.

Then biked back to Pietarsaari for sählyä (floor ball) with some members, less actives, and their friends. It was a great activity, and we had a ton of fun, but we're not sure how effective it will actually be as a missionary opportunity, so we might only go one more time.

See Wednesday.

In other news, one of the Bulgarian couples had a new baby this week, a boy. It meant we couldn't really meet them at all, but hey, we support families here. Hopefully we can meet the new one this week.

That's all I can think of for now. Love you all.

Elder Hansen

Monday, March 5, 2012

I can see grass!

That's right, I saw grass this week for the first time in months. Elder L and I stood there and just stared at it for a few minutes. It was that beautiful. I also just learned that the driveway to our apartment building is dirt not asphalt. Who knew?!

Hey everybody,

Yep, the weather was probably the highlight of this week. Reached above nolla
[zero] for the first time since I came to Jakobstad. Elder L didn't believe me when I looked at the thermometer and told him what the temperature was outside. Unfortunately, it was back to -14 when we went out to run this morning.

The weather is really starting to make it difficult to bike. The snow has started to melt away, but it leaves behind solid, thick sheets of ice all over the road. To make matters worse, I temporarily lost my bike key and had to ride Elder L's old bike for a few days. It's...hard to explain. This is a bike he put together himself out of spare parts from old missionaries' bikes. It's frame is purple and blue, rusty, and too small. It has no hand brake. The back wheel is actually bent out of shape so the whole bike shoots out to the right everytime you pedal. That bent wheel also generates friction, so you have to continue to work even going downhill just to keep it moving. So imagine me riding that beast, going down a hill about 100 yards long on a steep grade over solid ice just clinging for dear life and you know essentially what I did all week. It was great!

So Monday we met a man from Libya, who fled during the massive civil war that started last year and is here as a refugee. Way cool guy. He has a baptismal date now! He says he's Christian, but we still had to get approval before we could teach him. Apparently that kind of thing has to go all the way to the Quorum of the Twelve. I didn't know that, but it makes sense because if we teach people and they get put in the wrong situation because of it, they could be killed. Yeah, apparently the world isn't as good of a place as we thought. The best part of his story, ironically, actually comes from when he bailed on a teach. He wasn't home when we knocked on his door, so we left. On our way out our Iraqi recent convert calls us and says, "Hey, I saw you out my window, you want to come up?" So we went to go share a short message with him. I've actually picked up a little German from all the time we've spent with him. (He speaks Arabic, Curdish, and German, and Elder L speaks some German, so our lessons with him involve a lot of pictures and charades - really fun). So that was great, but it gets even better! As we're leaving his place, we see K, the Bulgarian godfather, sitting in his car on the street. So we go talk to him and tell him we have an appointment with his daughter and son-in-law soon and invite him to come too. We had, luckily, just gotten ten Bulgarian copies of the Book of Mormon from the office, so we gave one to him and ran home to get the rest to bring to the teach. We show up, and there's three Bulgarian families there waiting for us! Then Sunday, three other families came to church! This one family, the daughter and son-in-law are kind of leading everyone into this. They love it. Unfortunately we want to teach them all at the same pace, so those two have heard the message of the restoration three different times now. I feel bad for them. We're gonna move on to the Plan of Salvation soon. But this family keeps getting bigger and bigger and they just can't wait to keep inviting more people! Our ward was shocked that we had six investigators in church on Sunday.

Probably the greatest highlight of my week though, was Saturday night. We had a teach with the man from Libya, at our Iraqi recent convert's place, so they could speak Arabic (the Libyan's English isn't as good as we would like). the Libyan bailed, so we had another opportunity to sit and visit with H (Iraqi recent convert). H left Iraq after his parents and brother were killed for being Christian. He's now here as a refugee, and this week we find out whether he gets to stay or whether they will send him back to Iraq. You would expect him to be incredibly stressed. But instead, he had made us a full Iraqi meal, with this special kind of bread and yogurt and cheese. Very, very simple and humble, but it fills you up fast. He's recently discovered Susan Boyle on YouTube, and he loves the video of her singing "I dreamed a dream" on Britain's Got Talent. Played it over and over until I basically had it memorized and he laughed his head off every time. There was just such a wonderful, indescribable spirit in that room as we sat and talked about everything except what will potentially happpen this week and raised this good man's faith and spirit. We know how much he loves this gospel. He badgered two sets of missionaries in two cities until he got a Book of Mormon in Arabic and got baptized about three weeks later. One of the most happy, humble men I've ever met.

Well there was probably more I had planned to write but I can't remember now. To all those within the sound of my voice, I love you from the bottom of my heart. I want to close with a story a very good friend wrote to me in a letter this week. Sitting in church one Sunday, a thought from a speaker stuck her. She turned to her little six year old cousin and said, "Hey, Heavenly Father loves you!" To which her little cousin replied, "I know that, I've known that since I was five!" Kids.

I know Heavenly Father loves me. And He loves all of you. I've known that since I was five.

Elder Hansen

[PS - just got a quick separate note about transfers from McKay -- he and his companion are both staying in Pietarsaari/Jakobstad, and they are both very happy about that]