Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter is great, but I've been told Spring looks really nice this time of year

Hey everybody,
So, big news first: T backed out. We got to talking about the baptismal interview questions and she just didn't feel right about them. She didn't really think she was ready to answer a few of them and after talking with her, we feel the same way. Originally she wanted to just stop all the visits and everything, but after stopping by and talking with her a few times, she agreed to let us come back. So we'll see where things go from here.
While waiting for one of those lessons with T, though, Heavenly Father decided to throw us a bone. I saw a woman walk out from the building next door to T's, and we decided to go talk to her. Turns out it's a woman we had been teaching there for a long time, but had dropped off the face of the earth around Christmas and stopped responding to calls or texts. She had been really set on being baptized in January, but when her life got so busy and stressful, she decided she just wasn't ready. But now, she's back! We had a lesson with her this week and talked with her about what's been going on. She came to church this week with her twin two-year olds and had a good time. Well, at least the girls did. The members here love them because they're just so adorable, but I don't think I've ever met such a pair as those two. Take the energizer bunny, duplicate it, then give it a Redbull, and you might get close. They just go crazy! Plus, they're used to hearing English, Finnish, and their african language all the time, so although they understand them all, they have trouble differentiating when they respond, so the words that come out are sometimes in three different languages!
As far as their mother is concerned, though, she just seems tired and depressed. I feel like she really needs to understand how the Atonement really works, because she always talks about getting her life in order before she gets baptized. But that's not really how it works. We may be able to control ourselves with work and discipline. We may be able to change our actions to be in harmony with God's will. But the Savior is the One who changes us. Something I've really come to understand recently is that the Atonement doesn't just help us to put all the pieces of life back together. It gives us new pieces to play with.
And it never guarantees that we won't make silly mistakes again. I had a great chance to go on exchanges with a brand new missionary this week. Only been in the field a week. His Finnish is doing pretty well, considering. However, we were in a bit of a pickle. Our plans required that Elder Manwaring took the car all the way out to Siuntio, leaving me and my new companion to ride the buses all day long. I haven't ridden public transport in the city since I was in Turku. Needless to say, planning  took a lot longer, and unfortuantely, didn't even pay off. See, knowing where all the buses and trains go and at what times doesn't exactly help when you forget that you need money to pay for them....yeah. We took a bus all the way out to the northern reaches of the city of Espoo, only to realize that I had spent all our bus money on the first trip, without enough time to teach the lesson, then get back to the bus before the ticket expired. Oops. So, we started walking. And walked. and walked. (I felt like I was back in primary singing that one song that NEVER ENDS). Along the way, we at least got to talk to a few people and ended up giving away a Book of Mormon. Plus all our lessons for the evening canceled, so we didn't have to worry about being late. But overall, still a really foolish mistake and a really long walk to pay for it.
As with most weeks in this area, Sunday always makes me feel like we had a great week. I think that's the point of church isn't it? When we sat down in sacrament meeting, I noticed a familiar face in the congregation. Turns out one of the members from Jakobstad, the brother of the branch mission leader, had made the trip all the way down to spend the weekend with some friends here in Espoo! We got to have a nice chat after sacrament meeting. My Swedish was rough, but not as bad as I thought it would be, and it started coming back the more I got to speak with him. He told me all about how everyone was doing and brought some great news. A man who is married to a member there and has been coming to church regularly for about ten years or so, has been taught by the missionaries a few times but never wanted to be baptized, has apparently announced that he's going to be baptized soon!!!
Life really is great over here. Elder Manwaring is the type of companion I've always wanted (and fortunately had the opportunity to have all the time here in Finland). I feel like we spend most of our time in the apartment laughing about one thing or another. Have a great week!
Elder Hansen

Monday, February 11, 2013

Can you have a baby blessing without a baby?

Dear Family,

As you might guess from the subject line, we had a baby blessing this week in church. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the baby. The two grandfathers stood up and walked to the front after the ward business, and...they waited. And waited. Finally one of them ran out into the hall, then came back in and whispered something in the first counselor's ear, after which he stood up and said, "Apparently, someone was hungry, so we'll now hear from our youth speaker, and the baby blessing will happen after the baby is done being fed." All in all, not a bad way to start sacrament meeting.

Begin Week -
We had a meeting with President Rawlings in the morning, talking about how the zone will grow over the next few months. The mission will be adding seven new companionships, in April, and apparently most of them will come at first to this zone. So, we're pretty excited. We spent most of P-day in the office, where we dropped off Elder LeMoine and said goodbye for the last time. He's been such a good missionary and was a great companion. We hope all goes well with him. Later in the evening, we made it out in time to do some tracting in their area before heading to our next appointment. While we were out, knocking doors and mostly getting rejected by everyone, I turned to Elder Manwaring and just said, "It feels good to just be doing work." Sometimes, I think I get distracted thinking about other things outside of our area and it feels good to just put all of that off and just focus on each door and each person, one at a time.

Headed out to Lohja for the day. The members out there really love the missionaries. We had one of them on Sunday ask us when we're going to come visit him next. We had lunch with some members and as we were leaving they asked us to visit someone they knew and had once talked about the gospel with who didn't live too far away. We wanted to just walk there, to save our limited kilometers on the car, but after going down the wrong street two or three times (looking pretty dumb because we were carry a shovel with which we were planning to shovel his snow), we just drove there. He walked up right as we pulled into the driveway. Pretty convenient how Heavenly Father works that out. We had a nice chat with him, but sadly, he wasn't interested. We tracted a few doors on the street, but no one there was interested. 

The rest of the day was just pure fun. We had a lesson fall through, so we decided to visit a member. I'd never visited this member, so we just drove, and were less than pleasantly surprised by the long drive, down a huge hill, in tons of snow, in our tiny car. Yeah. But, we made the best of it. I was totally humming the Indiana Jones theme song the entire time. And we made it up the hill pretty easily on the way back. Almost too easily, in fact. I may or may not have caught a little air as we crested it....
The best part of the day, though was visiting a less-active woman in Lohja. We've been meeting with her for months and this time we decided to talk with her about the temple. We had such a great spirit there and she actually mentioned that she'd been thinking for a while about trying to make it there and go through the temple with her siblings. Most of her family is active. In fact, this family was the first family sealed in the Helsinki Finland temple. What a miracle it would be if one day they're all back there together again!

Got to flex some muscles and do some service moving and stacking wood for an eternal investigator. We got to work with the elder's quorum president from one of our wards here and he told us his whole life story while we did it. He wasn't always active in the church, but one day, when everything in his life had finally just come crashing down, he prayed and asked Heavenly Father for a way out. Right after the prayer, his father called and asked if he could come pick him up. His father ended up giving him a powerful priesthood blessing and after that his life has turned completely around. He and his wife will be moving to Lahti in a week, so we'll be sad to see him go, but it was nice to hear his story. Great reminder of the power of the priesthood and the bond between a father and son. Love you Dad.

We had a lunch appointment with another less-active. He's a vegetarian. Absolutely no food was cooked in the preparation of this meal. I really appreciated the health value, but let's just say I won't be going vegan any time soon.

Ward Council Thursday night was also really fun. We got T's baptismal service all set up for the 16th! We also got them to help set her up to go to an active family for FHE tonight, which should be great for her to get to know more people in the ward. Poor Elder Manwaring, though. When he was letting the Ward Council know who had been along with us often on lessons with her, he tried to say "Veli Porkka" (Brother Porkka- a very normal Finnish last name), but instead said "Veli Porkkana." Porkkana is the Finnish word for "carrot." As you can imagine, there was more than a brief interruption in the flow of the meeting to account for the laughter than ensued.

District Meeting with President took most of the day, and not a whole lot happened the rest of the week until the baby blessing on Sunday. I feel so blessed to have had the success we've found with T, but we're going to have to work hard if we want that success to continue. I love being where I am, though. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

Love you all, have a great week!

Elder Hansen