Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
(The year that wasn't supposed to exist)

The week after Christmas is usually a pretty relaxed one for the Finns. But it wasn't for us. After the Christmas holidays, we looked at each other, shrugged, and said to ourselves, "well, back to work." Thursday morning, a man called me. He was drunk. He told me he hated his life and wanted desperately to change. At first, I was very wary of the idea of meeting with him. I've met with other people much like him, in very similar circumstances, and the end result was not pleasant. But, after a long discussion with him on the phone, and prayer and counsel with my companions, we decided we could at least give him fifteen minutes. We arrived at his apartment, where we couldn't even see the floor due to the mess of loose, dirty laundry, paper, odd electronic equipment, and other junk. He yelled and hollered and spewed on and on about all of his addictions for what seemed like eternity, and eventually, we agreed to come back to help him clean his place the next day. As we arrived the next day, I was not exactly pleased to be there. My motive the entire visit was to get it over with. As we were cleaning, my attitude worsened. That is, until I saw a picture of him. Staring back at me was a clean shaven, neatly dressed, slightly younger looking version of this man. He looked happy. There was life in his eyes, the light of intelligence. Rays of hope. I realized in that moment how horrible I had been. Underneath this man's current exterior was that man. He was still there, we just had to find him again. My love for that man increased a hundred fold in that instant as I thought about the way the Savior must sometimes have cause to think about me. Who am I to judge another, anyway?

Just last night, I learned another powerful lesson. A young mother, with whom we have just begun to meet, and who seemed to be progressing well, sent us a text informing us that she had been reading about the church and decided that she no longer wished to meet with us. I was so depressed. We made plans to call her and try to talk it over with her before just letting her go. I knew it would require the guidance of the Spirit. So, before making the call, I knelt down by my bed and prayed. I asked for the Lord's help in knowing what to say to this woman. I felt the peace of the Spirit come over me. During the call, she agreed to let us come over again, to explain all these things she had read in person. We are going back Tuesday night, and with the Lord's help, we will be able to help her overcome these fears. I am so grateful for the Lord's help in that moment.

Sorry this is short, but don't have much time today. Have a happy new year!


Elder Hansen

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Skype for Christmas

We got to Skype with McKay today - he looks and sounds great. He is really enjoying his current assignment in Espoo, and says that the members have taken very good care of them for the holidays.

McKay as Santa Claus at the ward Christmas Party:

Street contacting in Espoo:

The Helsinki Temple:

"Hyvää Joulua"from Elder Hansen:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Is it illegal to wish a happy birthday to yourself?
Hey everybody,
Elder Clegg decided to go out with a bang. Mostly in his checkbook. We had some fun buying presents for his family (and a couple for him as well). Also felt a little strange ("sketch" as he would say), because he didn't want to have to take euros home with him, so he bought everything this week in cash. Is it weird to anyone else that carrying around cash is considered a strange and rare occurence now? Just saying...
Wonderful Christmas miracles were abundant as well this week. Our new investigator, for example. He is actually a former, but in looking through the area book and thinking about upcoming plans, I penciled in the idea to stop by him. As the day arrived, we ended up having some time to work with in his area, so we knocked on his door. He was surprised, but pleased, to see us. He said: "I had a feeling you guys would be here soon. I've been thinking a lot about you." So we went in and taught him. We got caught up on what we had talked about the last time. He's a fairly passionate person, which makes all our discussions interesting, but he told us again about his struggles between his studies and his faith (he's a devout Catholic studying bio-chemistry). We testified of truth, and how truth is always truth, no matter where it be found. [John A. Widtsoe reference - courtesy of the Parkins!] We testified of Christ's love for him. At the end of the lesson, we asked if we could come back and begin teaching him again. He said of course, and genuinely thanked us for coming. We came as angels to a man who needed our help. That feeling never gets old.

The story gets better. In the next lesson, just a few days later, he told us that if he knew this was true, he'd be willing to walk right out the door and stand by us all day long "preaching the good word," as he said. We have a return appointment tomorrow to find out what type of answer he has received to his prayer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
We also made great progress with a woman we've been teaching for a very long time. She says she wants to be baptized. She says she knows this will be a "fresh start" and a "new beginning" for her, and so, with that in mind we've consistently invited her to be baptized, but every time she tells us she's not ready. As we entered her home to teach her this week, we felt impressed to ask her about her feelings about Joseph Smith and the Restoration. So, after the prayer, we did. This woman has been taught everything twice, but apparently something about the Restoration didn't quite stick. Although from her attendance in church and her love for the people there, it would have appeared that all was well, something was still missing, and the Lord was gracious enough to quietly whisper what it was. There was a powerful spirit in the room as we testified and answered her sincere questions. We may have found exactly what has been holding her back from setting a date to be baptized. We may have a white Christmas here yet!
Having had training in answering difficult questions by teaching and not just reacting really came in handy during our school presentation in Haaga this week. We were asked by the young man presenting to answer most of the questions, because he didn't feel quite comfortable, and it was nice, because his teacher had prepared some very interesting ones to deal with. Our guess was that he had familiarized himself with Anti-Mormon literature at some point preceding the presentation. He began the lesson by saying "We'll now turn the time over to "Juha" and these two representatives from a...well...I won't say Christian church, but they come from the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." I'll admit, I was more than a little bit confused by that statement, but we let it go. After that, we had a great time getting all the kids to laugh and enjoy learning about the joy that comes from living the gospel and the wonderful time we've had getting to live among the Finns. We handed them each a copy of the Book of Mormon to look at as we talked about it, and a few of them kept them. I had been nervous and upset about doing the School Presentation beforehand, because the only other one I've ever done left a lot to be desired, but this one was a blast!

To top it all off, we had our Ward Christmas Parties this week! Espoo 2's was on Friday, and Thursday morning we got a phone call from the chair of the activities committee. They had had a lot of cancelations and they desperately needed an American Santa Claus to fill out their Finnish "Joulupukki", American "Santa Claus," and Russian...something who shows up on New Year's Eve? not sure what he's called still, but anyway. So, on cue, yours truly, in a bright red jacket, black sweats, red suspenders, red and white striped socks, and a beard going down to by waist stepped into the cultural hall with the loudest "Ho, Ho, HO!" I could muster (got some voice training beforehand from some of the more musically inclined in the ward) and took my place in the trifecta to judge the contests and hand out the presents. The dang beard made it a little difficult to eat, but it made for a great joke when I quickly pulled it down, shoved the cookie in my mouth, and snapped it back up, then made eye contact with one of the younger kids in the room. His eyes were about as big as dinner plates. I'll be sure to have pictures ready to send to you all on Christmas. I hope.
Church was fun, as always. A fairly quiet birthday and a great farewell DA for Elder Clegg's final teaching appointment as a missionary. All in all, not a bad week.
love you all, time to go.
Elder Hansen

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy (Early) Birthday to Me


My birthday's coming up (just to be that one guy that always talks about when his birthday is).

Funny thing about missionary work, when I finally have time to sit back and think, I have trouble remembering what happened five minutes ago. Thank goodness I'm keeping a journal. Although I do admit, I've been a little lazy lately. But, I'm coming at you from Helsinki, in the mission office again on Monday. Last night we had to deliver a few things that we had borrowed, so we decided to just come over to the AP's place after it wasn't efficient to teach anymore, which meant we couldn't make it home on time if we were to long story short, we played sähly again this morning!

This past week has been so close to miraculous. I know we pulled off a few miracles, and I'm so grateful for those, but so many other things fell just short. Like Monday, we had a lesson set up with a young couple. We were so stoked! This was exactly just the type of couple we love to find. Exactly the kind we need in the church. As we talked, we hit it off well right away. We had a wonderful time talking with them about their families and their young son (only three months old with REALLY big eyes that kept going all over the room). Everything was perfect. He talked about how he hadn't ever found a church he really liked, and she was talking about how her faith in her church had waned a little bit recently (homosexual priests, priests that reject the Bible as "holy writ," etc.) They seemed so interested to read and come to church. the end of the lesson, they decided that they didn't necessarily need to meet with us again. I was so crushed. But, Elder Clegg made a really good point. Maybe now isn't quite the time. But they know where the church is and what we believe. They have a Book of Mormon. And when they want to know more, they'll come find it. People have been doing that all over Finland lately.

Most of our other lessons canceled this week, and it's just going to get harder and harder each week as we get through the holiday season. But, on the upside, we already have places to go on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I'm going to try to set up a place to Skype on Christmas this week and let you know by next Monday what the plan is.

Another on the list of miracles that weren't, we got to give a church tour to one of our the comfort of her own home! She's a wonderful, loud, fun-loving African lady, but she just didn't want to leave her house to come to the church for a tour. So, we went to the church, snapped a few quick photos, and took it over to their place. We got to talk to her about what goes on at church (something we've done a lot with her, but never felt like it was actually effective) while she could actually see what it would look like right on her own TV! We had a blast with it, but unfortunately, she still didn't come to church. Even when we offered for her to come at 2:00 instead of 10:00 in the morning if that would be easier. Come on!

On the other hand, one of my favorite moments of this week took about five seconds. We were out in Lohja, a small city pretty far away from Espoo, and we drove past the street of a less-active woman we've been meeting with for a few weeks. This past week, after getting back from a weekend trip with her husband, she sent us a text saying that she really just couldn't do anything anymore. She asked us just to pray for her, but she didn't think she was up to meeting with us. But, as we drove past, the thought came to go visit her. We had already planned to go visit later in the day, so I just tucked it away. But the thought came again. Go visit her. The teenage moron inside me answered, Yeah, I already said I would. Then Elder Clegg says, "Hey, let's go say hi!" So we did. We dropped off some pulla and said hello. I've never seen her face brighten up so much. I honestly don't have words to describe the joy on her face from the smallest gesture. Great day.

The simple hazards of missionary life still persist. Saturday, as we were eating lunch with a recent convert, a small chunk of potato from my stew tipped off the end of my fork and dropped straight into the bright red berries on my plate. Splat. Red juice now all over my tie and shirt. Looked a little like I just got shot, to be honest. Thankfully, our elder's quorum president was with us at the appointment, so he taught me a new trick for stains: baking soda and water. Worked great. Plus, since I got to exchange my shirt and tie for Elder Clegg's sweater for the rest of the appointment. Now, I love being a missionary, but not having the tie on for an hour or two felt pretty nice....(that's one of the few trunky thoughts that's gone through my head lately. One of the casualties of killing a third companion in a row).

I love Sunday. One of my favorite days of the week, every week. This week one of the young men was messing with his younger sister, trying to shove her into closets and classrooms to "get rid of her" (it was all in good fun, I swear). After one of his failed attempts she walked past me and I gave him a high five, pretending to think that she wouldn't see. She pretended to get in a huff and stormed off. Reminded me a lot of a good friend of mine actually. I love these wards. One of the major upsides of always sending my companions home is that I'm always sure of staying :). Hoping to have a few more investigators who work up the courage to come to church and experience it for themselves.

Have a great week!


Elder Hansen

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Winter Has Landed

Hey family,

We had a great week this week. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about Espoo, because I wasn't there for most of this week! Monday was great, we had a really interesting lesson with a woman we've just started teaching recently. She has been taught a lot previously, and she had a lot of deep questions about ordinances and covenants. She brought up an interesting thought - if someone has been sealed to another person in the temple, how can anyone on earth break that sealing? I brought up the scripture in Matthew when Christ gave Peter the power to loose on earth and in heaven, but that didn't seem to answer her question. So, we decided to go back later in the week after we had studied more about it. She at least still agreed to come to church the following week. But, we had to drive to Marjaniemi (east Helsinki) to sleep in the assistants' apartment overnight for companion exchanges on Tuesday. So, we stopped by President Rawlings' house on the way over there to drop something off, and while we were there, we posed the same question as him. He immediately brought up the same scripture we had used, but when we mentioned that she hadn't understood that, he took us to scripture after scripture that explained how ordinances and covenants work and when they become valid. Now, part of it is just the dorky missionary side of me right now, but I loved that. And, of course, the answer is always more simple than we want to think it is.

Played sähly with the assistants and the Marjaniemi sister missionaries for exercise in the morning. The APs play two or three times a week, so they're pretty good, and I had to work pretty hard not to get frustrated some of the time. I finally lost it when, after I denied his first shot, one of the APs grabbed the rebound and five-holed me! But it's ok, I got over it.

I stayed in Helsinki for exchanges that day, but Elder Clegg took good care of Espoo for me. We've started teaching a young less-active girl who just moved here from downtown Helsinki, and by the end of the lesson with her that day, she was asking how we could help her get a patriarchal blessing! She was supposed to go to institute, and come to church this week, but didn't show for either. Bummer.

Drove to Kerava for district meeting, which went ok. And then the new sister in our district made us traditional Cambodian food. Best noodles I've ever had. I love that she's in our district. She's from Cambodia, but has lived in Turku for a number of years now. She was talking about sending in her mission papers when I was serving there last year, and I was excited for her then, but now she's not only in Finland, she's in my district! She's a great missionary, too. Very humble. We'll be happy to be getting many more like her with the age change. (We'll have something like 40 sister missionaries in our mission by this time next year, up from 13 right now!)
Slept over with the assistants again.

Sähly again in the morning, this time with Elders Oberhansley and Kääriä along. They've been in the country for six months now! I can't believe how fast that's gone. Really fun to catch up with both of them, Pietarsaari is doing well. I found out that Kevin, the Somalian man I had been teaching with Oberhansley, but who never made any progress got baptized!! Way cool! Also, kielikoulu [language school] went great! We made a homemade pinata, and took them out in the snow to hit it, quizzing them on vocab before they could take a swing. One of them hit it so hard, and so awkwardly, that it ended up swinging back to hit him in the head! We eventually just had to let them take their blindfolds off so they could actually hit the thing, and then we wound up just going inside to cut it open because the plastic broom handle we were using as a bat broke on the thick cardboard pinata. yepp...go Finnish cardboard I guess. But we still had a good time.

Zone Leader Council. All day meeting. 

We did missionary work.

I love church here. We always just have so much fun! This week, a really old member in the second ward prepared a musical number before testimonies were borne. It was so special. He's a really interesting fellow. He speaks with a bit of a slur, and after hearing him sing, we're pretty sure he doesn't do it very often. But he sang louder and harder than anyone has for a long time up there. He sang his heart out. In all reality, his song was a prayer to his God and as powerful a testimony as he could bear. And I could feel it, even if I couldn't understand a single word. The piano player got up and gave him a big hug after he was done.

Hey I gotta run, we're going to go spend some time in downtown before we go back to pick up our car. Love you all!

Elder Hansen