Monday, April 30, 2012

Terve taas!

Rakkaat vanhemmat, sisarukset, ja ystävät,

[Good to see youMy dear parents, siblings, and friends]

My brain feels completely fried this morning, and I'm not really sure why. It might be because the sun has been really rude this week and has started to come through my window at 4:30 am instead of politely waiting behind the clouds til the time we're supposed to wake up. We've really worked hard this week, though. We had a wonderful District Meeting here in Pietarsaari on Wednesday in which we discussed truly caring for people. In particular, we talked about the way we speak to each person we try to share the gospel with each day. How do we think about them? How do we take into account their circumstances, their emotions? We cannot see everything Heavenly Father has potentially done to prepare this person to receive the gospel. So, if we were to think about every single one as THE ONE, how would we talk to them differently? It proved to be a good kick in the pants for yours truly. I've always wanted to err on the side of not worrying so much about what I say, and trust that Heavenly Father will make up the difference when I don't say everything perfectly, but really, it's so much more important that we really give our very best to each person, because every single one could literally be the one we've been praying for. Caring so much, loving so much, truly pouring yourself into everything you do, takes a lot more energy and focus. Makes me wonder how Heavenly Father feels about us. "I put you right there for that reason, why can't you see it?" "Wait, you just asked me for this and now you won't take it? What's wrong with you?!" Ok, perhaps a slightly irreverent tone for our Heavenly Father to use, but you get the point. Thinking about others strengthens my faith because I know this is how my Heavenly Father feels about me every day.

Everyone bailed on us. Three appointments in a row. It's disappointing, but as you all know I need to learn to be more patient, so I think this is just one of His ways to teach it to me. Gotta have back-up plans.

I taught my first full lesson all in Swedish, all by myself. I had a headache afterwards. It was one of the Bulgarians who came to church five or six weeks ago. We never got his address, so we haven't been able to find him, but we ended up just tracting into him. He's really cool, but my Swedish might even be better than his. He really wants to know why we drink water instead of wine in the ordinance of the Sacrament, which was a perfect way to lead into a discussion of the Restoration.

Above mentioned District Meeting, lunch afterwards, and then splits with Vaasa. Elder B and I, after having had a remarkably bad day in terms of finding people, finally found a man tracting. We really focused the whole day on finding people with the idea that this one could be prepared, so before this man opened his door, we were ready for him. He told us he really doubts if God is even there, and that's why he left the Lutheran church this week. He assumed that that meant we wouldn't want to talk to him anymore. But we ignored his apparent disinterest and testified that we had come to know that God exists through prayer. He said he wondered why we didn't see more miracles in this world. I told him that in my mind, any one of us having the right and the power to speak to the Everlasting Creator of the Universe at any moment, on any day, in any situation, was the among the greatest miracles I have ever seen. the smallest, shortest, simplest prayer, when offered sincerely, truly is a miracle. It has blessed my life so much. We continued and showed him Moroni 10:3-5, in which any one can know that this book is true, and that God still speaks to men. He was blown away. He told us what a great promise that was to him. He gladly took the Book of Mormon and agreed to read. Unfortunately, he bailed on our appointment and we haven't been able to make contact with him since, but that simple conversation at the door made me realize how much our attitude and expectations about each person can change the outcome dramatically.

Missionary work.

We made it out to Munsala again. A's little three year old daughter was the cutest thing ever. When we came in, she got shy and ran to hide behind the couch. A said she'd been talking about me all day. Yes, my best friend in this branch is a three year old girl who I can barely communicate with. What's the big deal? After I came and "found" her behind the couch, everything went as normal. She disappeared into the back room for a second and came trotting back out with the family cat (which is about as big as she is!) in both arms, so she could show Elder D. Then, after that, she disappears again, and comes back out with a kitten! Apparently their cat just had kittens, or as this little girl calls them, "Kissy babies." Elder D and I still haven't stopped laughing about that. She's so funny.
Our message to A was that God is with her always. We read from 2 Kings where Elisha tells his servant, "Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" I love that story and the message it holds to anyone who feels lost in trying to simply do what's right. No matter what, if we do what's right, He will be on our side, and God plus anyone else is always a majority. It was a well needed message for her. T stayed upstairs, but he at least gave us a ride home, so we got to talk a little bit.

See Thursday

Awesome talks about families in sacrament meeting. I got to translate again, which was fun, but one of the microphones kept cutting out, so when I couldn't understand the Swedish and I couldn't hear the Finnish, I just either made something up or had to whisper into the translator, "Sorry, guys, just didn't get that part." I felt really bad. But, they were all very appreciative afterwards. We had a dinner appointment after church that's about a twenty minute bike ride away and takes us past the really awful smelling factory just outside the city. On the way back, we decided to go home by a different route, through the woods, so we wouldn't have to pass the factory again. Both the best and worst decision of my mission so far. The path through the woods was nothing but a swamp. There were parts we had to stop and just walk the bikes through because it was just too thick to bike in. We forded a few small streams, trying not to sink in because the banks we had to walk on were only about three inches thick and would crumble if we weren't fast enough, dragging our bikes through the water along with us. Then we got to a part where we literally had to ride our bikes through the water, and we had to ride fast, because if not we would get stuck with nowhere to stand, and fall right in the water. Not gonna lie, I felt a bit like Indiana Jones the whole time. I'm just glad Finland has no snakes. Eventually, we found the straight and narrow path that led to eternal joy and happiness in the form of a solid bike path and made our way home. I love being a missionary.

Well, that's all for now. Have a great week everybody.


Elder Hansen

Sunday, April 29, 2012


McKay mailed us the memory card from his camera, so here are a few recent pictures:

Monday, April 23, 2012


It's almost, kinda, barely, officially Spring here! Oh wait.....the rain outside just turned to snow....nevermind. Back to January.

Hey everybody,

Ok, so actually it's beautiful outside right now. I can't believe how much sun we've had the past couple of days. It's still a bit chilly, I'm still wearing a scarf most days, but that's mostly just to block the wind while we bike. Elder D LOVES biking, so we basically bike everywhere now, even when it might be more effective to walk. But that's just my opinion.

Monday, I had a really wonderful experience at a less-active's home. Elder L and I went to just share a short spiritual message with this family who he had spent a great deal of time working with. We thought it would be best just to share our testimonies of the Book of Mormon and how it's helped us. That's the message we share, with some variation based on circumstances and the Spirit, with every less-active - The Book of Mormon blesses us and our families. If they get back into the Book of Mormon and receive again the witness they once had, no other concern really matters. That is the power of this book and the plan through which it was brought forth. I took the chance to talk about 2 Nephi 31:20 - the scripture that has become my family's motto, and how that has united us so much. At the end of the lesson, this less-active mother talked about how wonderful it was that our families both seemed to be so strong and faithful, and that it rarely, if ever, felt that way in her home. We bore testimony of how the Book of Mormon had been the center of our families for so long, and that it was a key to being happier together. We then committed this couple to read the Book of Mormon together every day. We'll see this week, hopefully, how it's been going.

Elder D and I had a great first week together overall. It got off to an almost completely hassle-free start with only one crisis at the train station. Elder L got on the train fine, but Elder D had a bit of trouble getting his bike off, and the train people weren't very happy about the 30 second delay. Sorreeeeeee. Sheesh. I did get to give him a nice welcome to P-Town dinner that night though, with my own chicken alfredo from scratch (yeeeppp, don't even use a recipe anymore).

One of the best pieces of advice Elder L gave me before he left was: "Don't stress." I really learned a lot about how to do that this week. One night, I was trying to come up with a good plan for what to do the next day. I was racking my brain forever, but nothing came. I prayed, nothing came. So finally, a little frustrated, I just started writing down ideas in my planner. Tract here. Tract there. Visit this person. Visit this member. etc. Then it suddenly hit me. Like a slap right to the face it was so obvious what we were supposed to do! So I wrote it down. I prayed that night for specific driection about how to conduct that appointment with this member so we could review with her the needs of the people we had been jointly praying for. Everything became very clear, and the next day everything went smoother and better than we had planned.

The next day I had another experience similar to the one above. We were walking from one place to another, with a decent plan, but perhaps not the right one, because my heart just wasn't in it. I prayed in my mind the entire walk to find a better thing to do. Then, out of nowhere, the answer came again in the same way! It was wonderful. We went to visit another member who lived not too far from where we were, and with whom we had been praying for the same people as in the story above. She happened to pull into her driveway JUST as we walked up to her home (which is perfect timing because she lives alone and we can't go inside without another man but that's not a rule most missionaries have followed in the past so we always have to explain it over and over to members and it's a bit of a distraction at the door sometimes). We had a brief discussion with her about how we could help these people, and out of just a five minute discussion came the plan to invite them all over for FHE at this member's home so they could feel the Spirit again. We volunteered to share a spiritual thought as part of the FHE. As we were leaving, she mentioned another friend of her's that we could pray for, and she ended up bringing that friend to church this past Sunday!

To sum up, the past two stories have really helped me to realize that we cannot ever force the Spirit. It will come when we are ready and open. Stress always inhibits the Spirit, so don't stress! Also, at least for me, the Spirit typically speaks when I'm in motion, not just waiting around for the answer to be given and for every detail to be set in place.

Okay, to be honest, if any of that sounds like it has a slightly more serious tone, it's because I try to write as many of the success stories in my email as possible in such a way that I can just copy and paste it into my letter to President and I don't have to spend time re-typing stuff. Lazy, right?

Here's the fun part of this week. We got locked out of our apartment. Bummer! Wait? how is that fun? All that means is a bunch of embarrassing phone calls to get someone to come open the door, and a couple hours wait to be able to get in. Unless you do it my way. We went outside and found a decent looking stick. I came back in and shoved it through the mail slot in our door, then managed to lever the stick into position to pop the handle and pry open the door. I felt pretty proud of myself, especially because I stayed calm the whole time. It did hurt a little bit, though. The mail slots have these teeth on the inside designed to essentially prevent people from doing, um, exactly what I did....yeah. So to get the stick into the right position and rotate it, I kinda just had to bite the bullet and man up to the pain, but really besides some scratches and a small amount of swelling it wasn't really that bad.

We also had a great chance to serve some people this week. They were just out raking leaves in front of their home, so we offered to help. We had a great time chatting with them, and, even though they weren't interested in our message, they thanked us for the help and said it "warmed their hearts to see two young men who are just so good." Those are the moments that make me feel like a true representative of our Savior.

Love you all so much. Have an awesome week. Pitäkää hauskaa!
[Have fun!]

Vanhin Hansen

Monday, April 16, 2012

BIG changes

[Ed. note: McKay's Grandpa Chuck passed away late Saturday. We sent a note to the mission president, who called McKay with the sad news. In his response to our email, he gave us an update on McKay, including the transfer news. Below is McKay's email for this week]

Hey everybody!

This week practically the entire mission will be on trains moving to new areas. We had a lot of leadership go home this change, so we needed a lot of people to replace them. Really exciting! I guess President already spilled that I will be going senior. The missionary coming to replace Elder L is Elder D, one of the missionaries who was one transfer behind me in the MTC. So, we're both still pretty new, but so far President has been doing that a lot - putting missionaries who have been in the country for about the same amount of time together instead of splitting them up so much. I'm excited. And slightly terrified. Good to know I have so much support from all sides.

Elder L and I had a really fun week together this week. We were both very sure he would be leaving after this week, so we tried everything we could to make it the best week we'd ever had. I'm not sure if it really was, but it was fun and we saw some miracles.

We finally got to get back out to Munsala and visit A and T. It was way nice to see them again before Elder L left. We actually got to spend a lot of time with their neighbor and friend, and her husband who is not a member. He (the husband) has usually just stayed out of the conversation when we talked about the gospel, but this time Elder L and I got to have a really, really good discussion about prayer and what his views on religion are. He's never really seen it as a happy thing, he said. It was mostly a punishment and "fear God" mentality when he was growing up, so he saw no value in it for him. Elder L testified perfectly, and quoted 2 Nephi 2:25 - "Men are that they might have joy." That is the voice we raise as members of this church. This life is one of joy. We invited them to come and play floorball with us Friday night and they got really excited. The whole family came! The parents and their two small kids. Their son (around 10) was the most excited out of all of them. When they got there, they told us he had been waiting all day for this. Unfortunately, most of the crowd that usually comes was sick or out of town, so it was just the six of us, but in a way that helped it be a little less-intimidating for the husband, I think. We had a blast and their son scored the winning goal as time expired! He was so pumped. There is no greater joy in this life than seeing pure happiness in the face of another and knowing that you somehow helped put it there.

Friday night we got the call that Elder L would be leaving. Not a surprise. Then he handed the phone to me and I got the news about going senior companion. I knew it was an option, but I was still a bit surprised. I'm very excited for that. It's going to be great.

Saturday we met with a member family with whom we have been praying in behalf of their friends. The mom of this family has given a Book of Mormon to her friend, but didn't really know where to go after that in terms of inviting her friend to learn. She told us she had prayed for a long time about how she could help get the missionaries into this woman's home, but she just didn't see how it could work. Well, Elder L had a different idea, and I believe it was absolutely inspired. He asked if they would be up for inviting this friend over for FHE at their home, and inviting us to share a message as part of it. I love the idea. We're not sure how long it will take to get it organized, but this whole member family is really excited about the idea too!

Sunday night we met with B, and we've planned to teach him all the lessons before he goes to China in June, and then teach them all to him again after he gets back, so he can be ready to be baptized. He's absolutely hilarious, I love meeting with him.

I got a call from President late Sunday night, informing me that Grandpa Chuck had passed away. That news was hard to hear. To have lost now both Grandpas in less than a year, and both while as a missionary, makes my heart feel pretty heavy. The blow is softened, however, by the beautiful plan of our great Creator. Through the power of Jesus Christ's Atonement, all will live again. Grandpa Chuck is now in the loving care of our Father in Heaven, where we know he will receive a great reward for his faithfulness here. But perhaps what he left behind will be even greater still. He left a behind a life of caring. An example of concern and love. He blessed the lives of children and grandchildren, who will in their turn, go on to bless others' lives for eternity. He gave freely to us all, and desired only our love in return. That love I gladly give forever.

I love you all, it's only a little over a month till Mother's Day! Say hi to the ward from me.


Elder Hansen

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Påsk, Glad Pääsiäistä, and Hyvää Easter!

Unscramble that one. HA!
Happy Easter family!
We're having a wonderful Easter weekend out here. In Finland, Easter extends to Monday which is probably awesome for everyone here, but for the missionaries it's the worst because it's a "Red Day," which means no tracting, no contacting. The only work we can do is teach if we're invited and work in our apartment.
Thank you all for the wonderful package. I love the jacket, and the candy is something I didn't really know I missed until I finally had some. Unfortunately, Elder Linden never eats candy, so all of it goes straight to me. Yeah...I'm at like 86 kilos right now...oops. TIme to start running again in the morning. With all the travel, we haven't been good about our morning exercise, and I definitely felt it this morning when we went out to run. Plus, it was super cold again! We just can't break out of this limbo Finland is apparently trapped in between Winter and Spring. It will feel so nice for a few days, then dump a few inches of snow in a couple nights and send us clear back to the middle of January.
Oh random note. The whole idea of an Easter egg hunt is completely foreign here. I tried explaining it at dinner last night and the members didn't really get it (probably because I did it in Swedish). However, they go trick-or-treating on Easter here (they don't do it on Halloween)! They all dress up as witches or bunnies or chickens and go out on Saturday. Super funny.
I had the wonderful opportunity to go down to Helsinki this week for my six-month language school. Can you believe I've been in Finland for over six months?! Great chance to catch up with my MTC district. They are all such wonderful missionaries and we have so much fun together. I actually think we may have frustrated our language coordinator a little bit, because we spent about twenty minutes laughing about funny memories from the MTC before we could get an opening prayer said. Everyone from my district is doing wonderful. Elder Hoggard is still in Turku, so I got to hear some wonderful news and stories about E and her girls. I miss them so much. It made me feel so good to know they're all still doing so well.
The other great part of Helsinki is that we got to stay with the Assisstants and go play sählyä (floor ball) in the morning. It's really fun, but the way the missionaries play, it might as well be lacrosse. Once, when Elder Linden had a wide open net in front of him, I tried to slide head first and knock the ball away with my stick. It was almost cool. Not only did I NOT make the save, but Elder Linden also ended up falling on top of me and my elbow still hurts a little bit. So much fun.
On the train back from Helsinki a man from Seinäjoki came up and took the seat across the aisle from me. When he saw we were missionaries he got really excited. He has met missionaries before, and actually investigated for a while, and now was curious to hear what our church believes about Easter. I felt a wonderful spirit as I took the chance to share my testimony of the Savior. That He lived, that He died, and that He rose again the third day are truths I cherish. I know that because He lives, we will all live again. He really liked that. He's visited a lot of churches, but none of them really had what he was looking for. He wants a church that deals with the issues we see around us today, not just what happens after this life. Gosh, could I have begged for a greater miracle?! But, before I had the chance to teach him about living prophets, modern scripture, personal revelation, The Gospel of Jesus Christ or any one of the other thousands of things the church teaches about how to deal with the issues of today, a drunk man came and sat down near us. As soon as he heard us talking about Easter and the Savior, he turns his head to the ceiling and just starts shouting the Master's name and saying that he knows he's going to heaven, and then tries to take this poor man I had been talking to by the hand a few times. That effectively ended our conversation. Our stop was coming up and this nice man decided he really didn't want to deal with a man who was so drunk and escaped to the restaraunt car. Oh well, he got spiritually fed and Elder Linden and I have a funny story to tell about a drunk man. Unfortunately there's still a part of me with some slightly unfriendly feelings for the drunk man and his timing.
Saturday was also a Red Day, so we went to help our Branch Mission Leader with some service in his yard. First he had us feed the hens. I picked one up! Way fun. Then, he had decided to take out a few big trees, so while he manned the chainsaw, we hauled everything away. It was a blast. The very last tree was so close to being a disaster. It was so big that we were worried the wind would blow it over onto the chicken coop as soon as we made the cut, but we decided that if we pushed hard enough, we could get it to fall the direction we wanted to. Try as we might, however, the wind was just too strong. Luckily the tree missed the actual hen house and ended up just smashing some of the fencing around their pen. Still bad, but not nearly as bad as it could have been. Definitely one of those slow-motion moments while I watched the tree fall.
One last thing before I go. The Finns have this traditional dessert for Easter they call Mämmi. Go google it and find a picture. I can't say I hate it, but unless you pour tons of cream over it, it's horrible. But, on the other hand, I tried moose tongue for the first time this weekend and loved it! So go figure.

[Click here to learn more about Mämmi]

I love you all so much. Take care of each other for me. Always take time to remember just how good life is.
Elder McKay

Monday, April 2, 2012


Coming to you all from beautiful Vaasa, Finland. Yeah, we had a surprise emergency transfer because a missionary got sent home, so now I'm district leader in Vaasa. A little freaked out, but I think I can handle it.

No....just kidding. There's my April Fool's day joke though.

Hello again everyone,

Heavenly Father: haha you missionaries in Finland thought Winter was over...April Fool's!!! (Pushes Snow button)

Heavenly Father has a wonderful sense of humor. He got into April Fool's almost as much as Elder Linden did by dumping Finland with a pile of snow again this weekend. Not fun. I have no idea how it hit in Pietarsaari though, so I'm a little worried to get back. The one true part of my joke was that we're in Vaasa right now. We left P-Town on Wednesday so Elder Linden could go down to Helsinki for a meeting and then we stayed through the weekend for conference because there's no way to watch it in Pietarsaari except on a personal computer...which we can't have. SO, basically we've been in Vaasa the majority of this week with more travel planned for the next two weeks and little Pietarsaari is feeling a bit neglected right now. Gonna have to work really hard in the days we're actually there.

Not really much time to talk about the week. I have to write my report to President and we have to share time with Vaasa right now so here's some of the major highlights:
  • Got stranded in a tiny town called Oravainen on Wednesday while trying to get through a crisis. (note: when someone else gives you information about bus schedules, always, always double check their work before you get on the bus)
  • Taught a whole room full of Chinese girls who spent most of the time arguing with us. In this corner, weighing in at three american missionaries: Faith!!! And in this corner, weighing in at seven Chinese girls, The Communist Party!!!! My splits companion is a hard core republican conservative too (like seriously, he might be more into it than Mom) so it was pretty funny to watch his reaction when they talked about communism.
  • General Conference. So much about less-actives. Definitely going to direct our missionary work in the weeks and months ahead. Elder Holland was my favorite again, Elder Bednar was a close second. Elder Scott picked a very interesting topic: Dreams? anyway, loved it all, but we didn't get to see the Sunday Afternoon session, so we'll have to wait to read it in the Liahona.
  • This morning I got to spend all of Personal and Companionship study fixing Vaasa's shower that broke right when I tried to start it. Felt pretty proud of my handyman skills though, after I finally figured out what the problem was.
Sorry for the short email. thanks for all your love and support.


Elder Hansen