Monday, June 25, 2012


Ed. note: McKay mentions the Juhannus celebration - according to Wikipedia, it is the Finnish midsummer celebration. Bonfires (Finnish kokko) are very common and are burnt at lakesides and by the sea. Often two young birch trees (koivu) are placed on either side of the front door to welcome visitors. Most Finns spend the holiday at their cottages in the countryside.

Here's McKay's email from this week:

This week was another rough one, not much happened. We did set a baptismal date with one of our investigators, though! It's super loose, one of those "if i come to know..." types of commitments, but we're at least excited that he's taking this seriously now. that was actually a great story. That morning, I knew I was going to be teaching him all by myself, because he's a Swedish speaker and we hadn't been able to find a member who could come along. I was really nervous about it, because, honestly, after having been in Jakobstad for so long now, I really feel like my Swedish should be better than it is. I was feeling a little discouraged, so I said a short prayer to ask Heavenly Father to make me equal to the task that day. 

We had arranged to fix his broken porch first, and then teach him afterwards, so we got right to work when we arrived. Elder Oberhansley was a beast on the drill, so we got it done really quick. Our investigator was so grateful. He's handicapped and in a wheelchair, so for him to do this himself would take a couple of weeks. But we got it done in just a couple hours. As we were finishing the project, I started to transition into teaching. I asked him how his reading in the Book of Mormon had been going. Just at that moment it began to rain, just a little bit. He looked up, then back at the little of the porch remaining to be fixed and said, "well, if it's going to rain we'd better stop for today." So we began to teach. Then the real miracle came. I was able to take and understand all of his questions and concerns. I understood the stories he told about his life and was able to respond with my own, as well as testify of the Restoration and how he had been prepared to receive it. I helped him to understand why he would need to be baptized, and invited him to be baptized. Everything I said felt guided by the Spirit. The language was no longer a barrier because I loved this man and desired his salvation. The Spirit made up the difference. I'm very grateful to know that Heavenly Father answers prayers.

This weekend was Juhannus (Mid-Summer), the longest day of the year. It also means no tracting or contacting Friday or Saturday, so we decided to do the best missionary work we can do in that situation - service. We had a blast doing it, too. We helped this couple in our branch move three cedar trees to a different part of their yard. This brother had designed a little device for moving them too. We started by digging in around the base of the tree, then sliding boards underneath to act as levers. As we pried up the tree, one of us shoved a large piece of plywood underneath everything, kicked it into place, and then the whole tree could just slide around wherever we wanted to pull it. He was so happy when it worked, that he had his son come out and videotape the whole thing start to finish. It was so much fun.

On our p-day last week Elder Oberhansley and I played this ridiculously Mormon version of Monopoly. It was awesome. It's called Free Agency, which is ironic because in the game all you do is roll dice and do what it tells you. No agency involved.

Well, I think that's all from this week. We have two teaches set up for today, which could really end up being a miracle that gets our area going again. Love you all so much. have a wonderful week.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Gratis kaikille

Yeah, I know the subject line doesn't make sense. Don't go to google on that one.

Hey everybody,

What I said up there, in missionary slang that only those who are as weird as I am can understand is "congratulations to everyone." Happy Birthday to Reese, Happy Father's Day and early birthday to Dad, and happy engagement to Erik. Hoorah. And congratulations to Maren and Mom for just being the wonderful women that they are.

This week was a bit of a rough one to be perfectly honest. Elder Oberhansley and I feel a bit like we've been hit by a train after this week. Most of our frustrations have come from the fact that so many people are traveling or otherwise occupied during the Summer in Finland that they find less and less time to meet with us. But that's not something we can control, so it's really not worth worrying about. That's one thing I can put on my list of things my mission has taught me: how to stop worrying about things that are outside of my control. When a door closes, find a window. The only problem is when you're in a room with no windows. Then I guess you just have to pray. We're pretty good at that out here, too.

Despite a lot of disappointment, though, this week was still one full of joy. Elder Oberhansley has a lot to do with that. He knows all the TV shows and movies I do, so we do a lot of quoting movies back and forth. It's just like a little taste of dinner time at home. I can just picture Dad sitting on the side of the table with that puzzled look on his face, trying to figure out how in the world we just had a complete conversation using short, memorized bits of The Office, The Princess Bride, and Community. Yeah, we're keeping each other's spirits pretty high.

We also got to make a trip out to Munsala this week. Finally! It was so great to go see "A". "T" wasn't home, and we're pretty sure it was because we were coming. He could really use some prayers right now. "A" has received all the new member lessons, so she'll now start preparing for the temple. When I asked her how she felt about it, she just said, "I feel like I have a lot of work to do." She's a champ. Never have I seen so great faith, nay, not amongst all the (insert anyone else's name here)-ites. The kids were crazy, as usual. They've gotten more crazy since they've known me for so long and aren't shy around me anymore.

Vaasa came to visit for splits this week. They brought a volleyball with them, so for exercise in the morning, we ran down to the sand courts not too far from the apartment and played for about an hour. We spent more time swatting mosquitoes than the volleyball, but it was still really fun. That day was a really spiritual one for me in terms of the work, too. We have set a vision for the type of people we want to find in our area, and so now we spend all of our time in areas and activities that will help us find those people. It seems like common sense, but it was a bit of a revelation for me. It really gave our work more purpose and energy, and I really felt better the whole day.

President Rawlings came to do a presentation on the Prophet Joseph Smith for our branch Sunday evening. We had a great turnout. Unfortunately, Elder O and I got to see just how great of a turnout all at once. We got there early so we could be there to help set up and were just sitting and waiting for everyone else to come. It seemed strange that no one else was there so close to the time the meeting was to start, until we heard banging on the door and realized that, when we had come in, it probably would have been a smart idea to unlock the doors so that others might also come in. Oops. Felt pretty dumb as I was just sitting there while our Mission President, his wife, our Branch President and half the branch had been sitting outside waiting for us. The presentation was amazing. He went through all of the things Joseph Smith accomplished in just the 16 years he led the church before he was martyred. Truly, he has done more save Jesus only for the salvation of men in this world than any other man who ever lived. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have to share what I know with others. And I'm so grateful that I get to have so much dang fun doing it.

I love you all,


Monday, June 11, 2012

Mission Conference, Staining Fences, Speaking in Sacrament Meeting


This week started off great with yet another five hour train ride to Helsinki for mission conference. I'm getting to know all the stops and sights along the way very well. I felt like Elder Oberhansley's tour guide. "On the right, you'll see the lovely Hämeenlinna castle across the water. As we continue, you'll see the apartment where the Kerava elders used to live, and, oh wait don't look that way..." (yeah there are some pretty bad ad campaigns up in Helsinki right now).

The conference was wonderful. Elder Kopischke and his wife really love missionary work and all the missionaries. When he started, he held up his scriptures and his iPad, loaded with Preach My Gospel and said, "Elders and Sisters, as you can see, I have no agenda today. This is all I brought with me." Then he had each of us take a few minutes and write down a question we thought the Lord really wanted us to ask ourselves. That, he said, was our agenda. He promised us that if we listened by the Spirit, our question would be answered. He was right. I got my answer. He also then challenged each of us to follow the same procedure every time we went to sacrament meeting, or any other time we found ourselves attending any type of church meeting, and promised us that the result would be the same every time, so long as we are prepared. Took my understanding of personal preparation to another level. Really great meeting. After lunch, before the afternoon session of the conference, we took a mission picture. As you can imagine, even with very obedient missionaries, it was a bit of a logistical nightmare. But that was part of what made it so hilarious. Great to see all those old friends from around the mission.

Most of the week was pretty slow as far as teaching goes. We're really working hard to try to build up the teaching pool again (It was actually zero at one point this week). A lot of our success has come from simply following counsel. President Rawlings taught me in the trainer meeting, that the "governor" we can place on the impressions we receive from the Holy Ghost is the teachings of prophets and apostles and the scriptures. The Holy Ghost will never tell us to do something that is out of line with the teachings communicated to us from Heaven in other ways. That knowledge led us to our two new investigators this week, S & E. We were heading out to tract last evening, when the thought came to go try them instead. The last time we had visited, they had been less than excited to see us, and hadn't made much effort to set a return appointment. I honestly felt like going to them might just waste our time. But the prompting came again. I thought about it for a moment, and thought about what President Rawlings had taught me. As I pondered, I thought about the instruction that has come to us from the Brethren to try to teach a total of twenty lessons every week to either members or non-members. Tracting did not seem to yield a high likelihood of helping us teach someone. So, Elder Oberhansley and I decided to go to S & E. We had a wonderful discussion! We talked about the plan of salvation and they expressed themselves, their doubts, fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams in a way these two never had in any previous discussion. We talked seriously about our purpose as missionaries, and their need to be baptized. They will need to think about baptism, but they are very excited for us to come over and share more of our message with them.

Had a great chance to serve again this week, doing some work for older members in our branch. We stained a big awning in their backyard. Elder Oberhansley worked as a painter for a few summers prior to his mission, so he was stoked. He thought it was the best day of his mission so far.

Church yesterday was great. We both spoke. Elder Oberhansley spoke great Finnish and had some really great thoughts about following counsel and obeying immediately. Talked about how Nephi's first words after receiving the instruction to build a boat were, "Where can I find ore to make tools?" No doubts, just action. It's something I really struggle with. I just wish he could've spoken a bit more about it, because after about three minutes he sat down, leaving me the remaining 40! I felt like a high council speaker! It ended up going really well, though. I had planned for about a 20 minute talk, knowing that I could shorten it to 10 or hold it out for 30 if I needed to (thanks, Dad). I even cracked three jokes and all of them were successful. Yep, I finally got a good joke in Finnish, very proud of myself. I talked about how the Book of Mormon answers the "questions of the soul." If any of you have not read and studied that page in Preach My Gospel, I would highly recommend it. Gives really concrete examples of how the gospel blesses all aspects of our lives, not just the parts we see on Sunday.

Gotta write to President. Love you all very much. Keep being wonderful. Glad school is almost over. Livin' the dream.

Elder Hansen

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week One of Training

Terveisiä kaikille, [Greetings to all]

So, week one of training has been a lot more than I could have expected. My new companion is Elder Jordan Oberhansley, the oldest of three boys, from Ashton, Idaho. He finished high school and worked for a while before leaving on his mission. This is his first experience living on his own, away from home, but despite a few moments of pure shell-shock and jet-lag, he's getting along about as well as could be expected for a new missionary. He only kinda blew up the living room. Kinda. No, really it was just a matter of picking the wrong adapter. There was only a small flash and the puff of smoke dissipated after a couple seconds, but we're still without any power in our living room. I'll keep you posted.

Training is awesome. All of a sudden, all my ideas are good and all my jokes are funny. But, in all seriousness, I love training so far. I love the feeling -- that I now finally fully understand -- of desiring someone else's success so much more than my own. As Lehi put it, "I have none other desire, save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls." As a trainer, my hope is that Elder Oberhansley becomes much better than I ever do, so that when I leave the mission, I know I'm leaving it going in the right direction, and that it will be in more confident, capable hands. Elder Oberhansley is well on his way. His Finnish is great coming right out of the MTC. Definitely above the average level of a missionary his age. Plus, he's just really easy to get along with. Doesn't require a lot and I don't always have to tell him what to do. He can think for himself and improvise when he needs to. I'm really looking forward to the next few changes.

The members always love having a new missionary come. Our Branch Mission Leader invited us over for dinner at their house Friday night and they had a great time introducing Elder Oberhansley to all their Finnish food. My favorite one to see new missionaries try is Piimä. It's like buttermilk. Really thick and very sour. The Finns like it, and drink it because it's really good for you, but I had one drink and refused to ever drink it again. I think Elder Oberhansley is with me on that one after his first taste. But, hey, at least the members got their laugh so it's all good.

Sunday was great, too. The members can't say Elder Oberhansley's name at all. They had him bear his testimony in sacrament meeting, and when the first counselor was announcing the program he said, in Finnish, "After the sacrament, we have asked our new missionary, whose name I absolutely cannot pronounce, to come up and introduce himself and bear his testimony, after which the time will be yours." These poor Finns.

On the investigator front, we actually had a bit of a disappointing week. We were dropped by two families and had to drop another investigator who would just continually miss appointments. I think Heavenly Father is just using it as a way to tell us, through these people, that there are more prepared people out there and we need to go find them. I trust that He will continue to work with these people, to prepare them to be baptized, but in His own way. We have other work to do, we just have to let Him help us find it.

A great ray of sunshine was cast on our week by A. yesterday. Despite all her troubles, she comes to church every week. Most amazing faith I've ever seen. She also brought her two small children, which doesn't always happen. I love those two. Her young son, just under 1.5, came up and gave my leg the biggest hug ever when he saw me. Made my heart melt until one of the members pointed out that he had left a giant drool-bomb on my pants. Great. But, oh well. It still made my day.

We leave today to head back down to Helsinki for mission conference. First mission conference in like four years in this mission, so it'll be awesome. President Kopischke, the Area President, is coming to speak to us on what might be his last mission tour before he is released and the new area presidency arrives. We're all very excited. I'll let you know how it goes.

Love you all,

Elder Hansen