Monday, October 1, 2012

Transfer to Espoo

Good Morning everyone,
We helped a man in our branch move a few things from to his new home early this morning, and while we were doing it, he showed us what he called his "Holy of Holies" - the room where he keeps all his fishing nets. He's a fisherman, and he loves it, and after hearing they way he talked about it, I thought about being a fisherman when I grow up. Maybe it's just because I've been living with so many fishermen for the past eight months, but there just seems to be something pleasant about it. "Almost thou persuadest me to be a fisherman..."

So the big news this week is that change calls have come and gone once more. This time, I will be leaving. Eight and a half months ago, I arrived late on a dark winter night with a wonderful Swede as my companion. I had no idea then, nor can I fully comprehend even now, how significant my time in this beautiful city would be, and certainly will be for the remainder of my life. I cannot express how much I love this city and its people, this chapel and its branch. President Rawlings has many times called Pietarsaari his "Garden of Eden." I disagree. While Eden was something of paradise, this place has been for me more like a small piece of heaven on earth. It's been strange. Due to some recent circumstances, President actually had to spill on my change call a week ago, so I've known this entire week that I would be leaving. It's made me appreciate so much more everything that has happened here, and I tried so hard to soak everything in over the past week. But no amount of pictures or journal entries (which I realized last night have been seriously lacking - oops) or stories will really ever capture the experience I have had here in Pietarsaari (Jakobstad).

Monday of this past week was fairly normal. We've had a regular schedule with M and N on that night, which has been a real blessing. This past week, I began the lesson by simply asking, "So, what questions do you have about the church?" They've developed a habit of throwing tons of random questions on us at the end, and since N has to rush off to work, it's hard to answer them effectively, so I thought we'd just start with that and see where it went. It went quickly to them baring their souls to us. I couldn't believe how quickly the conversation transitioned from them talking about the differences between our church and the Lutheran church to them telling us story after story of why their life has been so difficult. Just a simple question and some loving responses, and their trust in us seemed to blossom like never before. I could not believe how powerful the Spirit was as we bore testimony to them of how their lives can and will be changed through the power of th Atonement. I'm so grateful that I know how wonderful the Atonement is, so that I can share that beauty with others.

We also had the chance to stop by a former investigator on Monday. She wasn't home, but her husband was. I chatted with him lightly for a little while, thinking to just build a nice friendship with him as we teach his wife, because he hasn't previously shown any interest. As I was wrapping up the conversation and starting to walk away, my companion pipes up and starts to ask this man why he became interested in the church in the first place. After the man answered that it was his wife and not he, who had actually met with the missionaries, my companion again boldly asked, "Oh, well, why not?" The man just looked back at him funny, as if he didn't know what to say. I asked if his wife had ever talked about the Book of Mormon with him. She hadn't. I pulled one out a showed it to him. We talked about the "questions of the soul" and how the Book of Mormon answers them. I showed him the introduction and he immediately began to read, almost as if he had forgotten we were there. I awkwardly tried to slip our card into the page so he wouldn't lose his place when he closed the book, but he just pulled the card out, set it in his pocket and kept reading! As we left, he seemed so excited to read this book. All because my companion was bold enough to open his mouth.

Tueday was my final visit to A and the kids. They were with their dad on Sunday, so it was the last time I will see them, perhaps for a very long time. A had explained to her daughter that I would be moving and her daughter just kept asking her, "but why?" It was almost painful to say goodbye. In their true spirit and fashion, the lesson was as hectic as ever. A's daughter even decided to give me a kiss at one point. uhhh....yeah. A scolded her a little, my companion just laughed, and I tried to flip to the next scripture in the lesson. Kids. Actually turned into a great lesson. We talked about the law of the fast and tied it to the law of consecration and church history. Finally we found something to teach A that she didn't already know and hadn't already researched on her own. She's so great. When she said goodbye to me on Sunday, there weren't really words left. We've been through a lot in these past eight months, and there wasn't a lot left that needed to be said I guess. Just a firm handshake and a "Vi ses." She bore her testimony in sacrament meeting, and I really felt good knowing that she's here to stay. Her faith really exceeds almost anything I've ever seen.

I found it almost as hard to say goodbye to K, my good friend in his wheelchair. We visited him a couple of times this week, and when I told him I would be transferred, he said he wanted the mission president's phone number so he could call him and demand that I stay. Even his wife, who hasn't really shown much interest in participating in our lessons, was surprised and a little disappointed to hear that I would be transferred. I'm not really sure what I did to deserve the kind of respect that they show me every time I'm there, but I've been so grateful for all my visits in that home. He's taught me how to listen, and how to be patient when I need to listen longer than I want to. He taught me how to love despite what's on the outside. He also taught me to speak Swedish, because with only American companions for the first three months of teaching him, I really had to learn fast. He taught me to trust in the Priesthood that I hold. Once when he asked for a blessing, I was worried that it somehow wouldn't work the way he wanted or something, and he would lose interest because of it. That, and the fact that we had no oil to perform a blessing. But, we put our faith in the Lord, went to the store, bought oil, consecrated it, then went and gave him a blessing. Two days later, he felt like a completely new person. He still talks about that blessing (now almost a month ago) every time we see him. I hope and pray that he will let Elder Kääriä continue to come, and that he will trust in him and this message more than he just trusts in me. I haven't done anything special. I've only been the instrument. And what a joy it's been.

This Sunday was a hard one. I actually managed to keep my emotions in check for all the meetings, but walking away from the chapel I took a look back and got choked up. A lot of people had nice things to say to me. I felt so loved and so blessed. One old lady came up and, with tears in her eyes said, "You have meant so much to me." I don't really remember what I would have done to deserve the kind of praise I received. My BML's wife said to me, "Some missionaries you forget, and some you remember. You're one of the ones I'll remember." I never thought I would be one of the missionaries to travel back to the places I'd served in after my mission, mostly for fear that it might not be the same when viewed from a non-missionary perspective. But now, I'm not so sure. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself back here before too long.

I'll be heading to Espoo on Wednesday. From the smallest city in the mission to the largest suburb of Helsinki, covering two wards. Luckily, we have a car! I'll be with my great friend Elder Linden again, and we'll be in a threesome for the next six weeks. The temple is in my new area, and I hope I can see it often. I love the temple. Elder Borcherding, a German, will be coming here to take my place, and I'm so excited to see what he'll do for this area.


love you all,

Elder Hansen

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