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

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