Monday, September 24, 2012

Apple Season

Tervesaurus Rex (that greeting brought to you all by Elder Hoggard),

With Fall comes apples. And when members have food that they don't know what to do with, they give it to the missionaries. Translation: We're drowning in fresh apples, apple pies, apple crisps, apple cakes, and now these little sliced, dried apples that our branch president gave to us last night. I love this time of year! Those dried apples have a pretty cool story actually, they're rings. They cut them with this cool device that has a big vice-grip that locks it onto a counter, a two-pronged spear on the end that cores the apple while a drill screws all the way through it, slicing it into horizontal rings. That probably didn't make sense but, essentially, it looked more like something that belonged on Dad's workbench than in the kitchen. That's Finland. I love it.

This week was so hectic. I don't think my companion will ever forgive me. We had a couple of great lessons set up for Monday, but we also needed to be in Seinäjoki for companion exchanges on Tuesday, so the only solution was to get up at 5.00 to catch a 6.00 bus to Pännäinen to get on a 6.30 train. Elder Kääriä hates mornings, so he wasn't too pleased by the idea, but it worked out just fine and he got to catch up on some sleep on the hour and a half train ride. I thought it was beautiful at that time of the morning. Everything was so quiet. Plus, we got so much done that day.

Tuesday night, everyone slept over in Seinäjoki, so we would all be ready for District Meeting the next morning. Actually, it was mostly so that we could all get up a 6.00 and go play soccer together in the rain. We had a blast. Plenty of collisions and stumbles, leading to a lot of muddy clothes and wet backsides as we marched back home. One of our new missionaries scored the winning goal on an assist from yours truly. But who's counting?

Wednesday was district meeting, which means we talked about a lot of stuff that probably doesn't mean a whole lot to all of you, except for one thing. Mosiah 22:14. We spent a long time in district meeting talking about how we help people attend church. There are a lot of details they need to know before they step into this entirely new environment, but the most important, at least in my mind, is that we do as King Mosiah did, and "receive them with joy." I've always liked it when someone came up to me and said, "hey, are you new here? Welcome. It's good to have you here." Or something to that effect when I was visiting somewhere new.

Wednesday afternoon, our Branch Mission Leader picked us up straight off the train and took us home for a dinner appointment. His one year old daughter has really started to love the missionaries. We even have a nickname there now. She calls us "Na" because she can't quite get "missionärerna." She also was very happy to show off how she could mix the vanilla cream all by herself, and feed her daddy his cake. We always laugh, because our BML (big, strong, moose-hunting man) turns into a huge softy around his daughter. He always just looks back and goes, "just wait till you have your own kids."

M and N are doing really well. They've developed this habit now, though, of asking tons of questions right at the end, and it makes it really hard to wrap up lessons and commit them to act on the message. So we'll see how it goes. When we invited them to be baptized, they said they would discuss it together during the week. While not a yes, it certainly wasn't a no, and in any case, that's not my point. It made me so happy to see them pursuing this idea together. They are a family, and we want them to be an eternal family, so the two of them sitting down, talking about it is about as perfect a way to decide it as there can be. Plus prayer and including Heavenly Father, of course. We had some really fun discussions with them about the Word of Wisdom this week. Everyone gets hung up on the fact that we use water instead of wine in the sacrament.

District Conference yesterday was amazing. I took a question there and thought about it during the whole meeting, and came out with a full page of notes as an answer to my question. Chalk one up for personal revelation. Also got to hear a testimony from a mother in our branch who sent her daughter off to the MTC last week. A bit of a strange experience to see that from the missionary point of view, but it made me so grateful for all the parents and families who support their children in making this decision. This is the greatest experience of my life. I asked that same member about her daughter's progress in the MTC and she said, "oh she sent an email telling us how she's not homesick at all. She's just being mean to her poor mother." I laughed pretty hard at that. I do miss you, fam. You're great. Love you all to pieces. But it will take a lot to pull me away from this beautiful country.

Have a great week! Thanks for all your emails, they make my day every preparation day.


Elder Hansen

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bikes and UFOs

Hey everybody,

This was one of the most fulfilling weeks of my mission. We had some wonderful, happy experiences, learned a ton, and are really happy about where the work is going in Pietarsaari right now. The week started off with a really full P-Day - had to get Elder Oberhansley his bike that got left behind when he was transferred. Remarkably efficient. Just dropped it off at the bus station, filled out a form and we were gone. Ran straight from that to a meeting with our Branch Mission Leader. We had such a great talk. We went through thw whole ward list and talked about all the people we could be doing more for. Also talked about more ways to get people excited about doing member missionary work. Looks like we're going to be teaching priesthood in a few weeks. Hope I'm still here!

Monday night with M and N was one of the happiest lessons we've had with them. Usually they are pretty quiet, but this time we found the right lane to run down (talking about their children and blessings for families) and the change was indescribable. They brought up a lot of their questions and concerns that had remained dormant for this whole time, and we really helped them see how Mormons are normal people too. Yes, we still have Christmas and Easter and birthdays. They may or may not have asked about UFOs and the member who taught with us may or may not have given them a less-than-Preach-My-Gospel-type answer, but that's ok because the Spirit was there, and it covered for my mistakes in teaching.

We've also started meeting with an older man, E, whom Elder Dastrup and I found together all the way back in April. He's a really nice man who has been through a lot of hard tragedies in his life, but has remained humble because of it. He just sincerely wants to learn more about Heavenly Father and the plan for his life. He tends to tell a LOT of stories from his life in our lessons, making it tough to actually teach, but he's a nice man and he's teaching me patience. In one of our lessons, we just read from the Book of Mormon with him, and something changed. He was quiet. He listened when we taught, and had perfect answers to our questions. The Book of Mormon really is a pure channel for the Spirit to use. He was great at our ward harvest festival on Saturday, too. We showed up to bike with him there (did I mention he rides a sweet tandem?), and he had on a sweet blue suit, bright yellow shirt, and purple tie. This guy is just golden. He also mentioned how, since he started meeting with us, he hasn't felt as tired and doesn't feel as much of a need for his allergy medication anymore! Love seeing miracles that come from the Spirit.

Speaking of miracles, the Lord really worked one through us with K, the wheel-chair man. He was sick, and decided to try "our way" as he called it. We gave him a blessing through the priesthood and a few days later he told us, "I feel like a whole new person." He's such a great man, but unfortunately we're worried that he's starting to feel this is true, and doesn't want it to be, because he's been hard to get ahold of for a few days. He also doesn't know my name, have I mentioned that? He just calls me Äldste Broder (the big brother) and Elder Kääriä is the little brother.

He's not the only one to forget my name this week, though. Our Elders Quorum President forgot it in priesthood meeting. Good humbling experience. Look, they only like you because you have a nametag that says, "Elder". As Elder Uchtdorf said, "They will love you...but don't you ever inhale it."

Gotta go. Have a good week.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Follow the Spirit

Hey everybody,
P-Day somehow ended up being more packed than ever this week, so this might be a little short, like last week's. Okay, actually it's because we've been putting off a lot of things that really need to get done around the apartment (like shipping Elder Oberhansley his bike) so, it was bound to be this way. Plus we have to get ready for a trip to Vaasa for companion exchanges this week. Losing a day in our proselyting area means extra work on the other days to make up for it.
This past week was definitely better than the week before. We regrouped, reevealuated, and redoubled our efforts to make last week's faliures and disappointments look like flukes.
This week has been a great one for us in finding. We found in a way I had never thought possible before: former potentials. One day, when we were on our way in, I felt prompted to try a former potential that had been dropped for many months. She had never shown interest after the initial contact. At first, I thought it might just be someone on the way that we ought to speak with, so on the way to this former potential, we talked with a wonderful mother. We both got very excited. Unfortunately, she wasn't interested. So we continued. We eventually made it to the home, and to our surprise the former potential was not there, but her daughter was. We spoke with the daughter and introduced the questions of the soul. She took the Book of Mormon and promised to read. When we arrived for our follow-up appointment, the daughter was not home, but the mother, the former potential, was. She let us in. Her daughter had left the Book of Mormon behind and this woman had begun to read it on her own! We sat down and taught her the Restoration. She has many questions about which church is truly God's church. Miracle.

Our visits to A have become a bit of a routine. The only problem is that, that routine is one of absolute bedlam for nearly an hour, consisting of her two little ones pulling our arms, legs, fingers, hair, and occasionally noses to get us to come play with them, yelling and jumping off the couch on top of us, and us valiantly trying to both quiet them and share a short (usually very short) spiritual thought. Now, whenever we walk in the front door, her one year old boy comes running down the hall yelling, "Hasen, Hasen, HASEN!" (As close as he can get to Hansen) and grabbing for my nametag. I usually give it to him, at which point he procedes to try to clip it onto his own shirt. Then his sister wants one, so I take off my other one and give that one to her. We have a small piece of cake or something that A has made (the one year old just eats the whipped cream), and then we try to sit in the living room to have a lesson. Commence bedlam. This week we thought it would be a good idea to let them watch the Restoration DVD, thinking that might keep them interested and entertained quietly for a while. It, uh, didn't. A's daughter spent most of the time trying to keep Elder K covered with blankets and pillows, and when I would try to say something, she would put her small hand over my mouth and say, "Shh, there's a movie on." Kids. A is doing really well, though, all things considered.
We had something of a small miracle with one of our less-active members this week. We sang! As we were talking in our lesson, his wife brought up the words to a hymn she really likes. We sang it as our closing hymn in that visit, and this old less-active, who hasn't shown a lot of interest or participation in previous lessons, sang with us. There was a light in his eyes. There was such a wonderful spirit in the home. And, while he stll didn't come to church on Sunday, he at least woke up on time! Baby steps, baby steps.
I wish I had more time to tell you all about the craziness that's happening here right now. Life is wonderful. Even if it's getting darker and a lot colder really fast... The district is doing great. We have two baptismal dates for the end of the month! Pray they go through!
I love you all, and miss you all very much.
Elder Hansen

Monday, September 3, 2012

Time Flies

Easily one of the fastest weeks of my mission. With all the travel we'll need to do this change, it's probably going to go by even more quickly. Somebody help me!!!

Zone conference came and went like a blur. President Richards and his wife were wonderful. They have a powerful testimony and a profound understanding of the scriptures. Also, given the counsel we received there, combined with the large amount of paper President has sent out (pretty sure it rivals the five books of Moses now), they are 100% committed to making this mission, and Europe in general, the best it can be. Despite what people think, there are people prepared here. People all over Finland have been walking up to missionaries on the street and saying, "Hey, can I talk to you guys about joining your church?" Or, "So I've been reading a lot and I think you guys are probably right. Will you come tell me more?" I'm not kidding. It's happening. In FINLAND.

That being said, life hasn't been all fun and games here. Elder K and I tried to be diligent and work hard, but we just couldn't quite make each day what we wanted to. We had nearly every one of our appointments fall through. Kevin and another of our investigators have simply fallen into limbo and we haven't been able to have any contact with them at all for over a week. Still, we know this is the Lord's work, and that must simply mean he's giving us the time to find others who are more prepared and more ready to receive what we have. It would just be nice if they could walk around with bright neon signs over their heads saying, "I'm ready please coming talk to me about (Insert gospel topic)." But until they figure out how to do that, we'll stick to trying to rely on the Spirit.

My time is short, and to be honest and blunt, I don't have that many inspiring stories to share from this week. Sometimes they're like that. But, I'll close with some thoughts that have really touched me this week. In our district meeting prior to zone conference, I quoted from 1 Corinthians 13: "Charity never faileth." I talked about how that word "fail" actually has two meanings. The first is the one we always think of. To not succeed. To come short of a goal. To miss. When we have charity, we are promised that our lives will be considered a success because the true measure of success in life is the joy and progress we bring to the lives of others. It is not tied to a number. However, consider another connotation of the word fail, particularly used in the scriptural language. Very specifically, I think of the use of the word by the prophet Elijah to the widow when he promises that her oil will not fail. "Charity never faileth" may also mean something to the effect of, "charity always exceeds," "charity always goes the extra mile," "charity never runs out, loses hope, lacks courage, or slackens its pace." In light of those ideas, I think it very fitting that it is the Relief Society's motto. I mean, come on, we all know the men in this church are always trying to be as good as the sisters. When we have charity, and are filled with it, these other attributes will become part of us. There will be no stress, there will be no tiredness neither wearyingness in doing what is right. There will be no longing for a better world because we will become a piece of heaven, creating heaven on earth wherever we are.

At least it had a great effect on me this week.

I love you all so much. Have a great week.

Elder Hansen