Monday, May 27, 2013

The Holy Temple

From a recent mission conference - McKay is in the back row, just left of center

Hey everybody,

The temple never felt more holy than it did for me this past Tuesday. Monday, as we were in the office waiting for turns to email, President walked up to me and whispered, "you know, if you were out working right now, I could give you permission to go to the temple with "A" and the others tomorrow."

The next day, I had to restrain myself from sprinting up the steps of the temple into the main double doors. I scanned my recommend and walked around the corner to find "A" sitting right there on a couch in the waiting area. She ran up and gave me a big hug, which I returned. I just about lost it right there. You can't imagine how incredible that moment was for me, to be standing in the temple with someone we watched accept the gospel. It had been such a long road. The last year or so has not been easy for her. None of the time while I was there was easy for either of us. But, in the end, there we were. I walked from there into the dressing room and also found the branch president from Jakobstad there. It had evidently been he who had called the mission president to let him know they would be coming down to the temple. I owe him a big one. After changing, I saw the branch mission leader come walking in. He also gave me a hug. The session was in Swedish, so poor Elder Clegg had to endure the headphones. I didn't realize two weeks ago, when I did a session in Swedish, that I would be sitting in that session that day. How could I have ever known that was practice for one of the greatest days of my life?

After the session, we had the chance to talk for a while in the celestial room. Things still aren't perfect for her, but they're much better than they were. Apparently her kids still talk about me all the time. Yes, my pride was about through the roof at this point. We went out and took some pictures before they went to go eat and Elder Clegg and I had to run off to an appointment. It was hard to say goodbye again, but they all made me swear to come to Pietarsaari when I come back to visit Finland. As we got back onto the train to leave Espoo, Elder Clegg said, "well, back to the real world." To which I responded, "Maybe for you, friend, but I'm still up in the clouds."

The rest of this week hasn't been easy. A lot of things have fallen through and it's seemed tough to get things going. Coordinating with so many new missionaries is tough. But no matter what happened, I could just pull out my camera and look at the picture of us outside the temple, and just smile. Is there anything that really matters compared to that?

We did have one great miracle this week, though. We said hi to a woman as she passed us and she wheeled around and said, "Are you guys from that church?!" We told her we were and she got very excited. She told us her sister was an active member in another country and that she wanted to come visit our church. Then on Sunday, she came! She had to leave right after sacrament meeting, but she said she would also come next week! Man, if only everyone we said hi to was that great.

Gotta go, sorry this one's a little short. Love you all.

Elder Hansen

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ice Hockey MM-Kisat

McKay just sent this picture from a few months ago

Hey everybody!

"This is our Super Bowl," said one Finn, speaking of the Ice Hockey World Championships that concluded yesterday with Sweden taking gold on their own turf. I'm inclined to agree, trying to do missionary work while the game is on is just laughable. I was shocked when one family invited us over to eat while Finland was playing, then turned the game off until we left! To his credit, he was still pulling a McKay-in-priesthood-session style move by checking the score on his phone the entire time we were there, but still, that meant a lot that they would still invite us over. The US beat Finland in the third place match, and we actually got some comments on the street from people about it. Pretty gracious, the Finns, they try not to be too bitter. I almost feel bad that we beat them. I mean, we just show up for these games because we can, but for them, it's, well, the Super Bowl.

This week started with President interrupting our P-Day game of Monopoly by suggesting that I get the language tests done and graded by the end of the week. That put a lot of stress on me, but thanks to Elder Murray getting sick and being stuck inside for two full days, I'm making really good progress. I'm also learning more about Microsoft Excel than I ever thought I would as a missionary. But, that's the boring part of my life right now.

Monday night we had a lesson with a woman we were really excited for. She had been found by Elder Ingersoll a few months ago, but after a few tries and no answer at the door, he decided just to hand her off to us. As we sat down, she started off with one of those things investigators say that always make me cringe. "Hey, I just want to say right now, that I'm not necessarily going to want to do anything about this, I'm just kind of interested." That usually means we don't get a return appointment, that they've already decided against it from the beginning. So we talked with her and found out more about her life, her background, her family. Our member along talked a bit about his conversion experience, which was hilarious. Not so much the story as the way he came to tell it. She figured out he had not always been a member and that he had changed religions as a middle-aged man. She tried to find a polite way to ask, but after stumbling over her words a couple times just eventually asked, "Well, why?" By the end of the lesson, she said, almost out of nowhere, "So, guys, I think I really do want to know more about this. Where do you want me to start?" She's such a nice, honest lady, and I'm really excited to work with her. Almost all the questions she asks in lessons are like softball, just open the Book of Mormon and there's the answer. Plus, when we went back to the second lesson, she apologized for only having read nine chapters of the book and said that next time, she'd try to do better. Unbelievable.

Thursday morning we had a lesson at the chapel with a man Elder Clegg had found while on exchanges. He was an older man, about sixty, who met missionaries about ten years ago at work. He worked at a shipping company that did a lot of business with the church and, in particular, with missionary packages. He told us a couple stories of helping missionaries avoid paying huge customs duties on winter clothes and homemade cookies. Yes, mothers, they are worth more than gold, but that doesn't mean you have to write that much as the worth on the customs declaration. Anyway, he always remembered what wonderful young men they were. Always polite, always kind, always ready to help. And now, finally, so many years later he's beaten alcohol, gotten his life in order and is ready for retirement, and is meeting with those same missionaries to find out more about this church.

He had such a powerful experience at the church. He said he felt peace there that he hadn't felt in a very long time. Peace he's been trying to find again. Although he's beaten alcoholism, he told us he's not truly happy, just not unhappy. And he came close to feeling that kind of happiness again in the church. He also came close to feeling it when Elder Clegg had the courage to simply ask him, a complete stranger standing at a tram stop, how he was doing that day. When we talked with him about baptism, he said, "Well, I'd better talk to my wife about it first." I'm really excited for him. He's such a good man.

And, to top it all off, our investigator who lives, breathes, and sleeps ice hockey has elected not to be bitter about the game and is still letting us come over this week despite the fact the the US beat Finland. All is right in the world.

Take luck this week everybody!


Elder Hansen

P.S. Elder Edwards and Elder Bishop are both here to visit and they're staying with us for the whole week. Gonna be a blast.
P.P.S Elder Ingersoll may or may not be teaching me to wrestle. And may or may not have nearly broken my nose last night doing so. I shouldn't have told you that....

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Mother's Day again Mom!

Ed. note - We had a video conference call with McKay for Mother's Day, crossing four time zones. Was great to talk to him. A steady dose of various TV show dialogue references among the four siblings, with Mom and Dad exchanging bewildered and bemused looks. Yep, pretty much a microcosm of the past 22 years.

He said that he will be most likely be finishing his mission in the same area in Helsinki, which he has really enjoyed, and that he will soon be training his replacement as language coordinator.Here's the email he sent today:

Not much to say after yesterday. Dad, way to go getting skype set up four ways, you rock. [Ahem, pretty proud of myself]

Here's a copy of the report I sent to president:

Our biggest success this week was found in inviting others to read from the Book of Mormon. One investigator has not read regularly ever even after a long stretch of missionaries teaching him. He always finds excuses (reading the Bible instead, busy with family, watching ice hockey, etc.). This week, as we knelt in prayer, we found a passage of scripture in 1 Nephi 13 that exemplified how the Book of Mormon and Bible supported each other. We read it with him and the Spirit truly entered his home. As we talked, he began to understand just how much he already understands about the Book of Mormon. he agreed, finally, that it was time for him to invest more time in truly finding out if the Book of Mormon was true. The next step for us is to give him specific assignments each day to help him progress towards baptism.

The other example came from a less-active family who has had the same problem as the investigator above. They just won't read! So, this time we prayed and a certain passage came to mind. As we thought about it more and realized just how much it affected families, we realized how perfect it was, because we've been praying for her son who is having a hard time in his life right now. We bore testimony in the lesson about how much reading the Book of Mormon and living according to their covenants would call down the powers of heaven in behalf of her son, and they both agreed eagerly to read every single day this week! 

I love serving with my companion and everyone in our district seems to be doing great.

Another story I forgot to tell you yesterday was a real miracle. Elder Clegg and I were out trying to find a less-active woman that we've never been able to meet. We walked up to her building, but there was a set of buttons that typically requires a code to open the door. I was disappointed, but Elder Clegg, just for fun, goes up and yanks on the door handle, and it flew open! So we went up and had a wonderful conversation with this woman! She was so friendly and she has a friend who's son just got called on a mission here! And he already speaks Finnish...we're all jealous. Then we leave, and after we walk out the door, another man comes up, punches in the code, opens the door, and walks in. Now I'm confused. So, I just have to try. I walked back up to the door, grabbed the handle, and...nothing. locked. Elder Clegg is officially a magician. 

Hey, love you all!

Elder Hansen

Monday, May 6, 2013


Hey everybody!

So this week was Vappu, the Finnish Labor Day. Here in Helsinki it means a lot of things, but for missionaries it means the day we aren't allowed to even go outside unless we have a legitimate appointment because there are too many people running around with...more than a necessary amount of alcohol in them. Last year I was in Pietarsaari, and it was pretty quiet. We could have easily been outside and nothing bad would have happened to us. This year, down in the center of the biggest city in the country, there was definitely a lot more to be concerned with. So, where were we? Right in the middle of the biggest party in the country, of course.

The whole city lights up for Vappu. It all starts the night before, with everyone essentially congregating around the central train station and the tori (center market square). You can pick out all the college students easily, because they're all wearing huge, baggy, boiler suits in bright colors that indicate which school they're in. They're also decorated with more iron-on patches than a NASCAR has decals. 

Those who have graduated from high school are running around in their graduation caps (which are cooler than ours). 

Some of the kids are in big Halloween-style costumes with big balloons of anything from Angry Birds to Winnie the Pooh. The young single adults had a picnic in the park on Wednesday, so we decided to go and support them. IT WAS HUGE! This entire park in Helsinki was covered with people all dressed up in color and having a picnic and a party. Plus, one of the YSAs, a Chinese girl, invited about seven of her Chinese friends, and we got a great chance to socialize with them. Three of them are investigating, and we have a lesson/lunch appointment with them tomorrow! Now, technically, they're Elder Ingersoll and Elder Murray's investigators, but that's not really the important thing. It's a really strange dynamic living in a four missionary apartment and sharing the same ward. We mix things up a lot, but I like it. It really keeps us busy, and the fact that we live together means we're never too far away and we can be flexible if we need to. But yeah, bucket list number thirty three: visit the biggest party in Helsinki. Check.

Thursday was a big day for all of us, and unfortunately our coordination overall was lacking. We had a few appointments set up, as did the others, as did the APs, and I had another language school in the office (the first of THREE this month). The APs ending up stealing Murray, which took us down one companionship in Neitsytpolku and made us rearrange our schedule, but since it all worked out in the end, we're not too upset about it. This time, I tried all different things as part of the language school, and all of them worked out pretty well, everything from "missionary twister" in which they had to move each other around the room using commands in Finnish, to the end of day walk down to the beach. (They usually get really tired just sitting in the same room all day, so I've decided to start taking a walk to give their minds a rest. I can't really take credit for the idea though, I'm pretty sure the same tactic is used in nursery classes all across the church.) This group was very talented as far as the language goes, so I'm excited for them.

After language school, everything got crazy. Elder London requested me to go with him to pick up President's car and take it to Haaga, which I was happy to do, except for the fact that I almost didn't have a companion...that would have been interesting. Driving a car halfway across Helsinki alone. But I grabbed one of the young missionaries and we coordinated to get everyone at the train station. It all worked fine, except for the miscommunication about everyone, um, going to the train station...Some of the sisters got left behind at the office, so we had to floor it back there to drop off the van so the other sisters, who needed the van that night, could take them there. I'm still not sure how they did it (or if it was strictly speaking legal), but they all made it there safely and on time. I goofed up and forgot a lot of the supplies I was supposed to send back with them, which made me pretty upset with myself. But, overall, everything seemed to work out pretty well that day, and no one missed their trains.

Unfortunately, I also got some bad news about R this week. Bishop met with him to talk about what happens if he does move to a different country, and R made it sound like he's for sure out of here this week. His top choice right now is, I think, Iceland, or Greenland, to find work. I went over again what Bishop had told him, so he should be able to find the church wherever he winds up, but we're sad to see him go. He's been a pretty good friend.

We've had some great conversations with people this week, and one of them has turned into a lesson set up for this Thursday, which is yet another Finnish holiday (Ascension Day), and we're really excited. She was about to agree for this evening, but then she said, "well, actually, if you wait and come on Thursday, I'll have some time to read the book before you come." Can't ask for much more than that right? 

Love you! Can't wait to talk to you next Sunday!!

Elder Hansen