Monday, August 27, 2012

A different kind of SONshine

Hey everybody,

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I have some mixed feelings about this week. There were miracles and lessons learned, and the numbers we are able to report remain at the high level I have been hoping to acheive, but I feel as though it is time to stoke the embers a bit, so to speak. I am hopeful that our meetings tomorrow will help to do just that.

What meetings? Oh yeah, Zone Conference. What does that mean? ROAD TRIP WITH VAASA! Super stoked. Already called shotgun. (I don't care if that's not allowed). But really, Elder Richards from our new area presidency is coming to speak to us tomorrow, and we're all super excited for it. I'm planning on having a small district meeting right when we all get to Oulu tonight to set a big district vision of what we can accomplish through the end of the year and hopefully pump everyone up for the big meeting on Tuesday. Wish me luck.

This week started off on a very sad, sour note. Monday night, while we met with Kevin, we decided he really just wasn't ready for baptism and decided to cancel it. We're still meeting with him, but he's been very forgetful lately, and it seems difficult for him to overcome the negative pressure he gets from his friends in other churches. He could really use a lot of prayers. It's always a sad experience to cancel a baptism, especially for someone we've grown to love so much. But it's also helped me remember how important the baptismal covenant is and how essential it is to be able to live it. I wonder how much more I could do to fulfill my own covenant made at baptism.

But besides that, and a little clouds and rain, and the chill coming back to the air telling me that Fall is coming and Summer is over just as it was really starting, and that we're dropping back into the dark abyss of winter, when the darkness lasts forever and feels thick all around you.....(am I making anyone depressed yet).

I'm just kidding. I'm not that bitter about winter. And there was tons of sun this week! For example:

While on companion exchanges with the Oulu Elders, we visited a part-member family in which the non-member husband has been silent during every spiritual thought I have ever shared in their home for the past seven months. But this time, we decided to let them dictate the topic of discussion. We simply handed each of them a copy of the Book of Mormon and asked them to read over the questions of the soul and talk about which ones they found personally meaningful. This man had one! We talked in-depth for the next half-hour about what happens after death and how we can know more about it through the Book of Mormon. After a small discussion and a closing prayer, Elder P. asked an inspired question about this man's life. He lit up brighter than the sun shining through the window! It was a miracle. I'd never seen this man so happy to talk about anything. The next time we go over to eat with them, I'm going to just ask him to tell me all about his life. For example, he loves running and has a ton of medals from all the races he's won. It would be dang cool to see those.

The other great lesson was in a second lesson on the same day. When M. asked one of the "questions of the soul" - specifically, "Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur?" - we simply pulled out the Questions of the Soul page in the front of his Book of Mormon and pointed to it. Then, like the genius he is, Elder P. said, "We could just answer this for you right now, or we could let you read about it, pray about it, and find an answer from Heavenly Father. Then, we would like to come back next time and hear your thoughts. Will you read....?" It was perfect and he was excited to read about it by the time we left. This is something President has really asked us to do all the time in our teaching and it really does work.

We also got to meet a new recent convert who lives in our area! She was studying in Russia when she was baptized, and knows the woman who just got married to a man in the Vaasa branch. The newlyweds were visiting his parents who live in our branch, so this friend decided to come along. Apparently, she had some wonderful experiences with prayer while once in the hospital in Russia, and afterwards sought out the missionaries to get closer to Heavenly Father. I guess there are major restrictions on the ways missionaries are allowed to proselyte in Russia, so she had to be the one to contact them before they could teach her. Never thought I'd be grateful for the freedom to tract, but her story also just strengthened my testimony that there are people out there who have questions that the gospel can answer, and that the Lord will lead us to them or He will lead them to us if we cannot make it to them for some reason or another.

As always, though, the brightest ray of light in my week was visiting A and the kids. She has moved into Pietarsaari, so it's a much shorter trip, which means it's now very easy for us to go visit her, and her life just seems a bit easier right now, which is great. The kids were even more restless than normal this time, which was great. Her two year old boy would climb up on the arm of the couch, then just jump off onto me and hope I caught him. We're not allowed to hold children as missionaries, but what am I supposed to do when a kid just jumps into the air in front of me? I settled for catching him and making some cool airplane noises as I gently shifted him to the floor. The only problem was...he liked that, so I had to find something to distract him or he would have kept doing it for hours. Unfortunately, we chose cars to distract him and he decided my face would be a good race track. I made it out mostly unscratched, just one front bumper to the eyeball. The kids are just so adorable it makes it worth it. They loved our spritual thought, too. Elder K had a really good object lesson. You have to cut a hole in a normal 8.5 x 11" piece of paper large enough to fit your whole body through. There's a special way to do it, and unfortunately an email can't quite do it justice, but I'm sure it's on YouTube somewhere.
[Ed. note: he was right - click here for the YouTube video]. We compared it to when Heavenly Father asks us to do things that seem impossible, but when we do all the small things He asks (like each individual cut in the paper) we work a miracle. The kids loved tearing up the paper afterwards. Gosh it's always so hard to leave that house.

Well, gotta sign off for now. Love you all very much.

Rakkain terveisin,

Vanhin Hansen

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