Monday, July 30, 2012

Bike adventures and Mummos

Hey everybody,

We did so much this week and I'm not even sure where to start.

Went out to eat for the first time in a while. Elder Oberhansley wanted McDonald's. Mom, you'll be happy to hear this, but after not having had anything like that for so long, I felt sick afterwards. I'm not sure I can ever go back to American fast food. Weird. 
We taught Kevin the Plan of Salvation. It's so strange to teach someone with absolutely no background in anything we're saying, but the childlike innocence and purity to accept it all as truth. It's incredible. He just loves it all. The gospel is already starting to change his life and he's only been learning about it for a week. 
Closed off the day with one of the dumbest things we've ever done. Riding back home, we decided that because Elder Oberhansley bought a new bike and was no longer riding Linden's contraption, we could try driving each others' bikes again. Yeah, didn't go so great. Elder Oberhansley fell behind, slipped off my handlebars, his front wheel shot to 90 degrees and he had to stomp his feet down hard to stop himself from going head over handlebars and faceplanting. I don't know why they made me a trainer. sheesh.

We had the wonderful opportunity to visit a less-active man this week, who has remained less-active most of his life. We've been meeting with him regularly, but during the lessons he seems to just stay aloof and let his wife answer all the questions. So we tried just reading something from the Book of Mormon with them to at least get him to listen to the Book of Mormon if he won't read it himself. All these visits have had moderate amounts of success. They have at least built up a loving relationship. I know so much better how to love someone after having prayed over what to teach this man so many times. This last visit, he mentioned that he had been at the doctor the previous day for a check up and that he wasn't feeling too well. Before we left, we gave him a blessing. It left a wonderful spirit in the home and was a great way to feel like we were really ministering to this man and his needs.

Kevin made our day again. We talked with him about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when we drew it out as stairs for him, he looked at it and said, "Hmmm...I guess I'm here at faith right now, and I need to learn so I can repent and then I'll be ready to be baptized." I can't believe this guy. I mean, seriously.

Missionary Work. While out contacting, we stopped and chatted with an old woman that I actually have gotten to know pretty well from being her neighbor for so long. As we were parting ways she said, "oh you boys look so handsome, I bet all the girls just fall down in front of you." I love Mummos. If I'm ever having a bad day, I just need to find the nearest Mummo and talk with her for a while. It's just like talking to grandma.

Everything got crazy on Friday. We started off with a teach bailing, actually ended up dropping that investigator because he just can't ever find time for us and doesn't let us know that he's canceling lessons. It's always such a sad experience. Then off to another appointment with an awesome 91 year old member. As we're getting to that appointment, our next appointment calls to tell us he needs to push things back an hour, so we finish our first appointment, book it back home for lunch, and then ride all the way back out to him. I'm just glad our member could still make it along despite the abrupt time change. That lesson went really well, we talked really intensely about baptism and he committed to read and pray to know if the Book of Mormon was true. Our member even had tears in his eyes as he bore his testimony. The only problem was it went long, so we had to rush to our next appointment and in the space of about three minutes our member who was going to come along bailed and Kevin called to tell us he was actually not home, he was at the library. So we raced over there and taught him. I love mission life. Nothing ever goes as planned.

Hottest day I've had so far in Finland. And, of course, it was the day we planned a 30 km round trip bike ride to contact a referral. It actually ended up being really fun, and a really beautiful ride. The referral wasn't interested, so we got to take lunch near (not on) the beach, and do some work in the area. On the way back home we stopped and visited a less-active family and they gave us some strawberries and ice cream while we visited. Great day.

Probably the biggest highlight of this week was the surprise visitor we had in church with us. He's not an investigator, but we've spoken to him a number of times on the street and had what we might call almost discussions with him, but he always declines our visit. We still at least remember to invite him to church. This week he came! We were walking to the chapel, and saw him walking about ten meters behind us. I walked back and talked to him, and we walked the rest of the way to church together, then I translated for him in church. As he was leaving, he mentioned that we might be able to come over and visit his family this week!

What am I going to do with myself when the day comes where I go to church and just sit there? No translating, no speaking, no blessing the sacrament (I got to do all three again this week) and no rotating constantly between three languages, sometimes in the same conversation. I never want to leave Jakobstad.

I do kinda need to leave the library now though, because my companion is done. Peace.


Elder Hansen

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jakobs Dagar

[Ed. note: Our good friend Peter Watkins sent us the photo below. A missionary that Peter knows is also serving in Finland, and sent the picture to his family. It was taken a couple of weeks ago, and we weren't initially sure what they were doing in the picture. But we figured it out when we remembered what they were celebrating that day. Do you see it?]

Hey everybody,

This week was largely dominated by the week long party in the center of Pietarsaari. We were forewarned by our branch mission leader that this week has historically been a low proselyting week, and despite our faith, prayers, and diligence, we found out why this week has typically been so bad. All of our investigators told us they were too busy to meet this week. We were disappointed, but I firmly believed it simply meant that Heavenly Father wanted to give us a chance to find someone new to teach and baptize. Unfortunately, we also met with some of the worst discouragement and opposition this week. Practically no one was even home - either joining in the festivities or on vacation to escape the festivities, and when they were home, they were apathetic, antagonistic, or just plain rude. I learned some really powerful and humbling lessons about the way we intereact with people as missionaries and the way we respond to objections. I wish I could say I learned by doing it the right way, but learning from mistakes is good, too, right? Ahem.

Amid all the turmoil this week, we did have a few wonderful, bright, shining moments. One of them was Monday, when we finally got the chance to teach a Romanian woman we've been working with as just a potential investigator for about a month now. We brought in a Romanian recent convert all the way from Kokkola (40 km) to translate. We're so grateful for him. Without him, we can barely communicate with this woman, so he came even though he was feeling sick. He did a great job teaching, except for one part. He stopped teaching for a moment, rubbed his throbbing head, and then turns to me and says, "man, I really gotta quit it with all the weed." Oh boy. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure it just went right over this woman's head, but I know for a fact that the joke he made later about me pounding the whiskey was spoken in simple enough English for her to comprehend. We're really going to have to talk to him about that, we know he's joking, but I'm not sure if she does! Overall, the teach went really well, though.

Tuesday, we had companion exchanges in Seinäjoki. I don't remember if I mentioned this, but Elder Hunt, my companion for six weeks in Turku, is now in Seinäjoki as our district leader. It's so much fun getting to spend time with and work with him again. We shared some awesome stories of our time in Turku together, especially about the lessons with E and her girls.

The best part of our week this week was Kevin. Our new African investigator from Somalia. That's not his actual name, but it's the name he goes by, because he wants to legally change his name from his African name to Kevin. Kinda makes me laugh, but he's great. We were walking on one side of the road, he was riding his bike on the other. I smiled and waved, and he waved back, then he rode over to talk to us. Turns out he remembered us as the guys who rode past him about a week before, but waved and said hi while they went past. He liked that a lot. So we talked with him about his faith for a little while. He was born Muslim, but converted to Chirstianity about a year ago and said he's been trying to follow Jesus Christ since then. So I said, "well, the way we follow Jesus Christ is by being baptized." He liked the way that sounded, so we walked him back to his apartment and taught him the first lesson. He committed to be baptized on August 18! He loves the Book of Mormon. When we came back to teach him the second time, we asked him how it had been going, and he told us, "Well, I just read one page. I think if I read one page every day, I'll be able to understand everything and learn better." I almost passed out on the floor. Maybe it's just a missionary thing, and you might not all appreciate it, because you have no idea how hard it is to try to teach people to read it every day, even if it's just a little bit! Most of them decide to go on Wikipedia or anywhere else on the internet to learn about it before they learn what's in it! Needless to say, we really like this guy. And he seems to really like us. We walked with him to church on Sunday, and as we were walking home, he said, "Wow, I feel all clean. Can we do this every Sunday?" Yes, my friend. Yes we can. Moral of the story? You never know what saying hi and smiling will do for someone.

I'll close with a though I found from 1 Nephi that strengthened my testimony of this work. In 1 Nephi 13, (I forgot the verse number, sorry!) Nephi sees in vision the Bible going forth from the Jews unto the Gentiles. The angel explains to him that this book contains the covenants which the Lord has made to the House of Israel, making them "of great worth unto the Gentiles." Why are they of great worth to the Gentiles if the promises were made to the House of Israel, unless the Gentiles are meant to be included in the house of Israel? We as missionaries are called to invite ALL to come unto Christ. All of us are children of God, and if children then heirs, and joint-heirs with Christ. That scripture helped me feel unified with all those who have taught and preached the gospel since the beginning of time.

I love you all. Thank you for your love, support, prayers, and letters. You're all wonderful.

Elder Hansen

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pietarsaari has exploded

But seriously, almost literally. They have a big event called "Jakobs Dagar" going on right now - huge party and stands all over the center, etc. and it's the most crowded I've ever seen this city. I'm pretty sure the population has doubled for this week-long party.

No hej,

Our work also exploded this week. We taught more, and more different people, than I have ever before taught in a single week here in Jakobstad. It was also the first week in a long time that we spent our full time HERE. So nice to be home for a while. I'm so grateful for Elder Oberhansley - for his friendship and willingness to serve and do what's right. His absolute mastery of The Office and other Steve Carrell related productions also continues to keep our mood light.

Elder Oberhansley taught me a lot of lessons this week about following the Spirit and having patience. One key example of this was picking up a former investigator this week, an African from Nigeria. I had taught him with my last companion, but he started to be a little too busy and wouldn't show up for appointments he had set even just a few hours prior. I was frustrated with him and didn't want to bother wasting our time going back. However, while we were in his area this week, my companion felt impressed to go visit him. I gave him a bit of an incredulous look and asked, "Really? Are you positive you want to do that?" He insisted, so we went. The man was home, we taught him, and taught him again later in the week. We have another appointment with him today and he has committed to try to come to church on Sunday. I've since repented for that look I gave my companion. I love the faith of young missionaries.

Another example. One finding activity that has begun to bear fruit here is former investigator hunting. We typically knock 20 doors in their area after the appointment as well. This week it worked perfectly. We went to a former who was taught around a year ago, and who has always been willing to let the missionaries come to visit, but never progressed. When we met with him, the discussion seemed to be leading back down the road of "chatting" rather than teaching and progressing. I was about to give up and just try to get out when I felt myself remembering what we had learned at leadership training about listening with love. As I began to listen more closely, my love for this man and his struggles grew. We were able to find ways the gospel could bless his life. He readily accepted the invitation to be taught again, has been taught twice more since then, and has committed to be baptized! He even committed himself to pay tithing already (apparently he was taught that before or researched it himself) because he says that the way he feels when we are around or when he reads the Book of Mormon is more than worth than 10%. I'm grateful for the patience I've learned through this process, and I'm hoping it makes me a better parent someday.

We also had one of those miracles that, at least in my opinion, is Heavenly Father's way of saying, "I am able to do mine own work" before we start getting proud. An American couple who has been visiting for the past couple of weeks came up to us before Sacrament Meeting on Sunday and handed us the name and information for a man they met here together. They have met with this man and taken him to lunch every time they have visited Pietarsaari over the past couple of years, and have sent him a copy of the Book of Mormon in Finnish. The husband said, "we just feel like the time is right, would you please contact this man?" I felt so humbled and grateful for the faithfulness of those two wonderful saints and their willingness to share the gospel.

In other news, our bikes have turned into servants of the devil. Every time we go down to get them, one has a flat tire, or the other one has a hole in the tire completely and needs to be replaced, or the gear shift isn't working right, etc. Last week I had to buy a new tire, this week is Elder Oberhansley's turn. Poor guy, he was stuck on Linden's old contraption for a few days this week. Saturday we had to spend an hour trying to repair three different bikes. Major frustration and really threw off our whole plan for the rest of the day. Fortunately, we still got to go visit B later that evening, so it's all good.

B is doing great. We met with him again on Sunday and taught him about the Priesthood. Most of it went clear over his head, except for when we talked about him being able to bless his family, and eventually baptize his own children. I wish you could have all seen the way his face beamed while we talked about that. Pure joy. That's what families built on the gospel will experience.

We had dinner with our Branch Mission Leader, his family, and his mom the other day. His little one-year old daughter was so adorable. When we sat down, we all sat in the wrong spot! She started grunting and calling out everyone's names and pointing them to their "correct" spot, where grandma always sits, where Mom always sits, etc. Our BML just looked at us and said, "You'll learn when you get kids, they're in charge." I love kids. Things are just so much more simple. I wish I could go back to being five my whole life. That would be great.

But for now, I guess I'll stick around here. Have a great week everybody.


Elder Hansen

Monday, July 9, 2012

One Year.

Well, there you have it. A whole year of my mission has passed me by. I think I missed most of it. One elder told me that the biggest difference between the first year and the second year is that in the second year you actually understand what's going on. I'm way stoked for that.


I'm trying to find a better way to start my emails than "We had another awesome week this week." Any and all suggestions/comments are welcome. But we did have a really wonderful week this week.

Monday, we got on the train again for a five hour trip to Helsinki. I'm really starting to get familiar with that trip - we've been making it a ton recently. The funny thing is, I still haven't memorized all the stops along the way, but I remember the most random things: a barn in a field right before Lapua, the apartement building just past Tampere, the water park, Hämeenlinna castle (which I found out was converted into a prison, random). It's weird, I know, but it's fun. We stayed with the Assistants all three nights, which means sähly
[floorball] every morning for exercise! So great. Plus I came out of that week with only a couple blisters, a floorburned knee, and a partially swollen ankle from taking a nice whack from a sähly stick. Could've been a lot worse.

Tuesday and Wednesday were Leadership Training Meeting with President and Sister Rawlings. The purpose of the meetings is to train the new missionaries, trainers, and the other missionaries they invite using Preach My Gospel and practicing teaching, but we found ways to make it more interesting than that. Tuesday morning President was late, so while we waited Elder Hunt asked me questions about Star Wars and I blew his mind with the mysteries I unfolded. I was far and away the biggest geek in the room and I loved it! Later, during a little down time, President Rawlings showed off some of the sweet moves they used to pull at stake dances in his generation. I was surprised he didn't get a hernia! But, Dad, they really weren't too far off from your moves, so I guess I have to start giving you a little credit. Wednesday was July 4, so of course we all had our red ties on, the sisters all wore blue and white, and we busted out patriotic songs all day long. I felt a little sorry for the Swede and the Dutchman who had to sit through that. Plus, President had given a speech the day before about "living like the Finns" and loving their culture. But hey it's Independence Day! It's only once a year! We all went out for dinner Wednesday night to this "American" style restaraunt in Helsinki. I was actually pretty impressed. The actually managed spicy food, which is something Finns hate. They made it so spicy that two of the Elders with us started sweating, one started crying, and only one of them actually finished his burger. Dinner and a show.

LTM did actually have a spiritual aspect to it, though, if you can believe that. One of the things President really emphasized was the importance of being filled with love for people while we talk to them. I've often wondered what other people think and feel when I'm looking them in the eye and speaking with them. I've always hoped, even before I was a missionary, that these people would understand that I loved them, but I had never really thought about praying right there, in the moment, for them to feel that way. It was great. It makes me feel so much better. It changes the things I say or the way I say it, according to the Spirit, and I feel as though I'm actually, "standing in the place and stead of the Lord Jesus Christ" as Elder McConkie put it, because that's how someone would feel talking to Him - loved.

Thursday was Kielikoulu
[language school], so I had yet another opportunity to visit the temple. I love the Helsinki temple. Probably my favorite in the world at this point, but that might just be because it's the one I've been in the most. That's probably weird to be able to say as a missionary. I feel pretty spoiled by how many times I've been able to be in the temple while in the mission field.

We rounded off the week with setting a baptismal date with our wonderful Chinese investigator, B. He's ready, he just wants to wait for the marriage papers to come so it will be official. Please pray that those come quickly. It could take up to three months! Had a great time translating for him in church on Sunday, too.

In the next installment of my adventures in Munsala with A's kids, her little 1.5 year old now knows my name. Made me so happy when he ran around shouting it when we walked in the door. Apparently, that's what he now calls everyone in a shirt and tie, too. So great.

That's all for now. I love you all. Have a great week.


Elder Hansen

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kesäkuu on loppunut [June has run out]

No heeeeeiiiiiii,

Cannot express how excited and grateful I am right now. We had such a wonderful week. Nothing like little joys as a missionary to make me feel like I'm in the clouds. Which is actually not quite so hard here in Finland. There are no mountains, so the clouds stay really close to the ground. Sometimes I feel like I could just reach up and touch them, have I ever mentioned that? Well, there you go. Learn something new every day.

Great P-Day. Unfortunately, we had a couple appointments fall through, but playing "Free Agency", our new favorite board game, really helped make up for it. At the end of the day, while we were riding home, I saw a man walking through the trees. He was on another road, so we would have to take the long way home to talk to him, but the Spirit told me to, so I did it. Turns out he was a Russian sailor whose ship was in port in Jakobstad for a few days. We talked with him about the Book of Mormon and he gave us his number so we could send it as a referral to Russia! Mini-miracle #1.

This was a really disappointing day. Not only did everything fall through, but it rained all day long and we were soaked. Plus, a couple of potentials we really thought were going to be miracle stories turned out to not really be ready. In the words of one, "Uskon, että mun tarvitse kypsyä vähän." (literally, I think I need to ripen a bit - HA!) However, that's why having a great companion is a tremendous blessing. We were happy the entire day. Miracle #2.

Weekly visit to "A" in Munsala. We had a great teach about the covenants she made at baptism and how it has blessed her life. We compared it to a yoke and how we pull the whole load on our own sometimes, but when we make this covenant, it makes a second slot in the yoke, so the Savior can stand by us and help us bear our burdens. It also anchors us to Him, because if we want His help, we have to stay inside the bounds of the yoke He fashioned for us. The Spirit really guided us in this lesson. Our branch president also pointed out that most of us consider a yoke a symbol of toil and bondage, when in fact, a yoke is a device that makes these burdens EASIER to bear. I really like that thought. Miracle #3. A's kids were also there. Miracle #4. They talk about me when I'm not there. Her three year old daughter's most recent comment was, apparently, "Hansen's a good eater. He's always hungry." Miracle #5.

We finally made contact with a potential who's been tough to track down for a while. Actually, we just talked with his girlfriend at the door, and she told us when he'd be there. Originally, she wasn't interested in us at all. She told us just to leave the first time we knocked on their door. But during this conversation, she was bright and happy, and seemed pleasantly surprised to see us. We chatted for a little while about her family and then set up an appointment to drop by on Saturday. Miracle #6. Later we stopped by a potential, that turned out to be a really good friend of the member we brought along! The member told us it completely made her day. We have an appointment with that same potential on this coming Friday. Definitely know what member we want to bring. This member has been back twice to visit her friend and talk with her about her initial questions. Miracles #7-9.

Taught our investigator with a baptismal date. We only had 30 mintues with him, because his brother was coming to help him with some work on his car. Our member had to ride her bike all the way from work, and we thought we might just have to start without her for the sake of time, but she arrived just in time for the opening prayer. Miracle #7. Although we only had a short time, we were able to reassess his commitment to investigating and baptism. It was a pretty rocky teach though. We ended abruptly, and got out with a return appointment. Consolation prize?/mini-miracle #10.

Taught the Miracle #6 couple from Thursday. Had a great appointment. The girlfriend, the one who was originally completely uninterested, sat enthralled through the entire lesson. When we talked about finding answers to prayers, she opened up and told us about when her mother had died, and how she turned to the Lord for help. She wanted to know if her mother was OK on the other side. She described the feelings that came over her in that moment, and we were able to testify that the was in fact an answer from a loving Heavenly Father. It was a sacred experience to witness and take part in. Unfortunately, these two are moving to Vaasa soon, but she gave us her number to pass along to the Vaasa Elders, so they will be taught again. I have great hope for them. Miracle #11.

This whole day was a miracle. Testimony meeting was great. We had dinner with a wonderful family and their less-active son who has now been to church two Sundays in a row. And we got to do some solid, nose-to-the-grindstone missionary work.
I love you all so much. Thank you for your prayers, emails, and letters. I love being able to feel of your strength. It lifts me every day. Miracle #12.


Elder Hansen