Monday, January 28, 2013

Family is always the most important

Pictures of McKay's district

Here's his note from this morning:

Hey everybody,

First of all, good luck to Maren and Reese with finals this week, you'll do great.
Families are one of the most prized things in missionary work. To teach and baptize an entire family that then can prepare to go to the temple and be sealed together for eternity is understandably kind of a big deal to us. This week was all about families.

T and K are having tons of fun every time we come over. K probably has a bit too much fun. This time he was playing with the dog while we were trying to teach his mom, and the only way we could find to keep him quiet was for Elder LeMoine to give him his nametag. I don't know what it is, but kids go crazy over missionary nametags, as I learned in Jakobstad. It was one of the ones with magnets on the back, and to my knowledge it will remain on their fridge for as long as K lives in that apartment. He loves Elder LeMoine. T is doing really well. She set a baptismal date for the February 9!!! It all hinges on whether or not she knows Joseph Smith was a prophet (Yeah...really astute observation Elder...). But for her it really does. We asked her what that kind of knowledge would mean and she said, "Well, I guess I'd do just what everyone else does." Meaning going to church each week, paying tithing, giving up coffee, etc. For her, it all rests on that one question. We're pretty excited. We get to see her tonight again and ask her if she's gotten her answer yet.

This week was also full, though, of families disappearing, but the Lord always finds a way to bless us. After one lesson fell through, we prayed and decided to go visit a less-active family who had never really been home at that time. We showed up and, sure enough, they weren't home. So we decided to do some service and scrape all the snow and ice off their car, which was buried under about a foot of snow (finally made that shovel we bought and have had stuffed in the back of the car worth it). While we were doing that, the mom and son showed up. They called dad and he said he was on his way home. They invited us in and we got to finally teach their entire family together about the Book of Mormon.

Sadly, I'm out of time. Sorry this week sounds so lame. Next week will be better, I promise.


Elder Hansen

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities (well, technically a city and a suburb)

Dear Family and Friends,
Probably the biggest highlight of this week was the realization of how well this companionship is functioning together. I was out of the area entirely for two days and was able to seamlessly fall right back into the work thanks to my companions' diligence. The day after I got back was one of the most productive days we've had in a long time.

We found a new investigator this week, a very humble Estonian man, living and working in Lohja. He didn't understand a lot of what we said when we spoke to him on the street the first time, because his Finnish is rough and mostly work-related, but he must have been touched by the Spirit, because he invited us to come visit him. In the first lesson, we had to work hard. Working through a translator is not easy teaching. But, Estonian is so close to Finnish that at least some of the lesson could be completed without any need for translation. Our member is trying so hard to be both a good friend and a teacher for this man, and while his excitement actually sometimes steps on our toes, we love it so much. He is so excited to be teaching and working with a man from his country in his own tongue. So far, we've learned a lot about coordinating with members. We've had to be flexible to accommodate work schedules, but it's worth it when we have the type of fellowshipper that he is. This investigator has tons of questions, so we've worked a little bit with the member on how to respond. We would have set a date with him, he agreed to be baptized when he knows it's true, but we ran out of time in that lesson. 

Still, we did help him to pray out loud for the first time with us, perhaps ever. We simply told him that we pray from our heart, and that we can pray in our own language. After he prayed, he just kept beaming and touching his chest saying, "It feels so good."

While leaving from the home of a less-active member, one who had called us and requested that we begin to visit again regularly, Elder Manwaring remembered an address of a former potential investigator nearby. We knocked on his door and chatted with him for a while, mostly about his previous experience with the church. He visited the temple open house in 2006 and had received a copy of the Book of Mormon. Apparently, he just wasn't ready then. He brought up the idea that if everyone says they're true, how can you possibly know? After we testified of the Book of Mormon, he asked, "But how does the Book of Mormon fit with the Bible?" We told him that the answer to that question would require more time than he would bother to stand at his door in the freezing cold, so we asked for another time to come see him and he accepted.

The morning of the lesson, we arrived and taught him the entire Restoration. He told us all about how his relationship with God has fallen away, but that it used to be strong in his youth. He talked about how skeptical he had become, and although he didn't say it, it felt as though he wished he could be closer to God, but didn't see how. You should have seen his face after he said our closing prayer. He didn't want to say it, because he was nervous about it not being "right," but his prayer was so specific and sincere. His father recently died (which is why a return appointment was understandably rather difficult to set), and he prayed for him, for his family, and that he would be able to be a good father. He prayed to feel what is right. We're all very excited to meet with him again.

This week in priesthood, after an investigator for the third time in a row promised he would drive himself to church and then didn't make it, I stood up and told the brethren his situation, and they responded. We had two members of the Elder's Quorum volunteer to help. We are so grateful for all the work these members are doing for us. It makes me want to work so much harder to help them.

We had another laguage school this week, meaning I got to go to Helsinki (part of the reason I was gone for two days). We had a really fun group this time, seven missionaries (including a Swede, a French-Canadian, and a Hungarian sister), me, the office elders, and the assistants. I tried a new game called Wheel of Finnish, a modified version of Wheel of Fortune. The missionaries shot a dart at the target drawn on the whiteboard, forcing them to either guess a vocabulary word or perform some other task in Finnish, with different Euro values associated with each. With their Euros they could buy either vowels, or for more, any grammar principle they knew. (That one proved to be a bit too complicated, no one even tried because it was too expensive). It was a blast! As one of the sisters was getting up for her first shot, one of the other sisters reached up a grabbed her elbow, throwing her shot about ten feet off! That, and the option to steal if the other team couldn't guess the vocabulary words, made the game really interesting. We got about as much drama as we can muster in the mission field (I mean we can't exactly compare with March Madness, or even missionary sähly, but hey, we do what we can).
I feel like I grew a lot this week. Church is always my favorite part of the week, even if we are there for six hours. I feel like this week I finally felt the effect the sacrament is supposed to have on us every week. Repentance is not something that tears you down, that's sin's job. Repentance, especially the ordinance of the sacrament and renewing our covenants is what builds us back up even stronger. I'm so grateful for the Savior and his Atonement. We had a man call us this week to tell us he couldn't meet anymore because we don't believe Chirst is the Son of God. I bore my testimony that there is NOTHING in this church that points to anything but the fact that Christ, as the Living Son of the Living God, is our Advocate, our Redeemer, and our Lord. And I know that He lives.
Love you!!
Elder Hansen

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Mark of the Sun

So, mostly I was just having trouble coming up with a good subject line. The only story behind it is that I now have a mark I draw on every page of my planner if I saw the sun that day. This week's count: 1. It was glorious.
Hey everybody!
But seriously, I was on exchanges with our beloved district leader on Saturday, in Kerava, and their apartment actually has a window that faces the sun when it comes up. When (around the middle of our second hour of study in the morning) the sun finally came up, I just stared. More distracting than anything else I've experienced as a missionary.
The rest of that day was about as strange as that story probably was to those of you in warm climates that still have no idea what I'm talking about even though I mention it mostly every email. Kerava's been having some interesting problems with their car, namely that the driver's side door doesn't open, and the passenger side door doesn't close. Driving became quite the adventure to say the least. We both had to climb in my side, then I was forced to hold the door closed while we drove, until we built up enough speed for the air outside to force it to stay at least mostly closed. Once I slipped and forgot to hold on, and as we went around the corner, my door went flying open! Felt a bit like some rollercoasters I've been on. Despite all the excitement, though, we ended up having a really good day. It was -16 outside and we didn't have any appointments, so we were out tracting. I forgot my gloves and my hat. My toes were about to fall off, too. But we kept at it. About the point where my feet were about to fall off, we decided we weren't in the right spot and we needed to find somewhere else to go. So we said a prayer. The thought came to our minds to find a couple. So we thought about it for a while. Unfortuantely, I couldn't be much more help than that, becuase it wasn't my area. Then Elder Lloyd remembered a family that had been taught by missionaries many years ago, but had never really progressed towards baptism. We drove to their area, knocked on their door, and were immediately invited in. Their little 3 year old ran around the whole time pretending to be a ninja, making faces at me and jumping on and off a stack of mattresses in the corner of the room. Through his racket we managed to teach this family (Mom, Dad and 12 year old son) about the Book of Mormon and how to pray. We went out for kebab to celebrate. Such a fun day.
T, the woman who had been disturbed by some anti material last week, and her son K, are doing wonderfully. This week, while we were trying to figure out how we help them get to church on Sunday, Elder Lemoine pointed out that it probably depended on K and whether or not he wanted to come. So, for that lesson we played a game about prayer, comparing it to fishing and teaching the steps of prayer while they fish for candy in a big box labelled "Taivas" (heaven), something Elder Christiansen and I cooked up together in Turku (now over a year ago!). It worked like a charm. As soon as K saw that there was candy to be found, he loved praying! They both gave it a couple tries, and then we moved on with another part of  the lesson. We told K all about primary and the fun they have there (he only stayed for sacrament meeting last week), and he ended up being the one to commit both himself and his mom to come to church! He said our closing prayer, too! Well, sort of. His mom walked him through each step while he prayed, and he may or may not have been playing with the dog even as we was speaking the words of his prayer so....yeah, maybe there's room for improvement there, but he still prayed!
When they came to church on Sunday, K was all ready to have a great time. In fact, he was so restless during sacrament meeting, Elder Lemoine ended up playing the "dot game" with him to keep him entertained. The only problem with that was that he got so attached to LeMoine that he didn't want to go to primary without him! So, while I went with a member to gospel principles, my companions got to go back to primary for a day. And they had a blast, lucky dogs. I need to be cooler so the kids will like me too!
Things just keep rolling forward here. There's an African family we've started teaching that just keeps growing! Every time we go, there's a father or a brother or a cousin living in the home that wasn't there the first time that wants to join in on the conversation! Unfortuantely, we've gotten so busy that I've ended up being away, either in Helsinki or Kerava, for each time we've taught them. Still, being busy is one of the last things I can complain about! Somewhere, between everything else we have to do, I find some time to study Swedish, Elder LeMoine is learning to knit, and Elder Manwaring, well, he just keeps us all from going insane. I love this companionship.
The Assistants also had a baptism this weekend, the first of the year for the mission. President has been calling this year "The Year of the Harvest" and it looks like we're off to a pretty good start.
Love you all so much,
Elder Hansen

Monday, January 7, 2013

The First Full Week of the New Year!

Sort of. I guess Sunday and Monday just...uh....don't count.
Happy Monday everyone!!
This week was....different. Lots of meetings and lots of sitting, but also a lot of time with other missionaries, which is always fun. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we were in the mission home from 10-5 for leadership training meeting for all the new missionaries, their trainers, the assistants, and all the "special invitees" (oh yeah, that's us.) The Assistants called us on Saturday and told us we would have to sleep in our apartment so that the Pori elders (also special invites) could stay with us and we could just drive them down in the morning and go on exchanges in the evening. Well, I wasn't too pleased about that, because that meant we would be left out of the sähly party that takes place every morning when tons of missionaries stay with the assistants. So, I talked with President and Sister Rawlings and got us a spot at the best hotel in the country - the mission home. So, we still got to play. We had a lot of fun, I got a tad bit competitive (but kept it largely under control). LTM itself was a lot of fun, and lunch from Sister Rawlings every day is always appreciated. In the evenings on those days, we managed to get back to our areas to teach our investigators, and one of those lessons ended up being a really remarkable one, at least for me. It was with the woman I mentioned last week, the one who ran into some "anti" material, and wanted to stop investigating.
First, we opened the Book of Mormon. We asked her what she had read and what she had felt about it as she read. She expressed wonderful feelings and thoughts. She even explained how she was starting to truly love reading the Book of Mormon because it didn't just answer her questions, it also gave her more things to think about! After that discussion, we opened up to Galatians and talked about the fruits of the Spirit. We helped her connect these fruits with the same feelings she had just described a few moments before as having come from the Book of Mormon. We then talked with her seriously about baptism and invited her to be baptized, all before even mentioning the "anti." Only when she found it difficult to commit to being baptized did we finally bring up the material she had found and the effect it had had on her. We quickly resolved her concerns on the idea of plural marriage and the doctrine and covenants. Her desire was sincere. Once she realized that her fears were unfounded because plural marriage no longer existed and the doctrine and covenants is simply the same as all other scripture that has been revealed through prophets, she forgot all about it. It was no longer an issue. It also gave us great insight into her need to find out whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet. She committed to pray about it. After that, we pulled out a teaching record and showed it to her, asking her what interested her. She selected one topic: Tithing. So we opened the Book of Mormon and taught what the Savior taught about tithing and the blessings it brings. It also reinforced her need to find out for herself if the Book of Mormon was true. By the end, there was no question that she was still willing to learn and that she was coming to church.

I realize that not all of that will mean quite as much to all of you as it did to me in the moment, but just try to imagine how strong the Spirit was as she bore her own testimony without even realizing it! I'm so excited to continue working with her!
Thursday was my first Language School run all by myself. I loved it! Started with a thought about the gift of tongues and our need to involve the Savior, even in something like learning a language. Then we talked about language study plans and how they can improve those. Next, we played a game, where we recited D&C 4 in Finnish, each of us only saying one word at a time. It was really hard! We timed ourselves and got 3:04. Then we tried it again, with quite a bit of tension in the room. The drama built, and most of us started forgetting the words. We ended up at 4:09 the second time. Bummer. But, I decided we had time for one more round before lunch, so we busted it out. The intensity was even higher until the final "Aamen" 3:03! High fives were in order. Yes, missionary dorks, but very fun. After lunch we had some interviews and the assistants played a version of Deal or No Deal, with the missionaries required to answer a question before they could open a case. They were all good sports, even when one of them got all the way to the end, decided to stick with his case and ended up with only one dollar....bummer.
Well, my companions are waiting for me, but I love you all. You're the best. Take care of yourselves this week!