Monday, March 2, 2015

In His Hands

Well well, dear readers, this is it. The final blog post from Sisar Hansen serving in Suomi. In my final interview with President Watson this past week, he asked me how the past 18 months have been. " see.....Hmmm....." How can a person begin to answer that question?? Anyway, it's been a pleasure and a privilege to be able to write this blog on an almost weekly basis. I'm blessed to know that people are reading, and that they even occasionally learn something from my missionary musings. I may never know to what extent I am prayed for and thought of, but I am not unaware that I have been incredibly well loved and that the Lord has taken notice.

My last full week in Finland went by all too fast. We had a lot of cancellations, which meant awkward holes in our schedule. It was a bit of a challenge to plan things out effectively, and it led to a bit of stress for the two of us Haaga sisars. It's amazing, though, how much the Lord takes care of us when we do His work in His way. We strove for obedience, and always tried to use our time wisely, even when nothing particularly good seemed to present itself as a possible plan. We just kept going forward until we found something, as tedious or stressful as that may be. We weren't sure how we would find new people, or fill in our time, but somehow it always worked out.

Change calls were a bit odd. I felt a bit detached as President informed Sisar Mendenhall of her new companion joining her in Haaga next transfer. Odd to know that I won't be moving to a new area or getting a new companion. My replacement has been in the field for a grand total of TWO transfers, which means that she is quite recently out of training, herself. This is a huge indicator of trust from our mission president, and from the Lord. I'm convinced, of course, that Tovereni will do a loistava job of helping a new sister get to know the area, but I can understand any nervousness on her part. A huge blessing for us has been that we've been able to arrange meetings for every day this week, which is incredibly nice during a time of transition. We've even booked some surprise appointments with a recently-returned-from-a-long-trip recent convert, and with an older less active woman who has been feeling too ill to visit for quite some time. It was very humbling to get her phone call this morning, after feeling blank to ideas in last night's planning session. We do the work the best we know how, and the Lord reminds us that we are in His hands. It takes more patience and faith than my natural man wants to put up with, but when I can remind myself of who really leads this work, all of the annoyances, irritations, and worries of missionary life melt away, and although I don't have a complete picture of what's to come, I know whose hand is holding the pen.

My last Sunday Suomessa was a good one. We had a knock-out correlation meeting with our ward mission leader (the best in Finland) and our new assistant ward mission leader (he's dynamite!) We talked about how we can best use the large pool of members in the ward to help with the work, and to get more lessons per week. During fast and testimony meeting, I was able to bear my testimony of the ways that I've been able to learn about the Savior on my mission. Sitting in the congregation was a woman from Oulu, down south to visit! She heard me testify in broken Finnish on my first Sunday in the field, and was there to give me a big smile and a hug on my last Sunday. The chapel was full, and it was a very energetic testimony meeting in Haaga. Our assistant ward mission leader bore a powerful testimony of how giving away a Book of Mormon was a poignantly spiritual experience for him. There were quite a few members who testified of missionary work. We felt so good to know that we were making a difference with the members, while we've sometimes struggled to find new investigators to teach.

I was given hugs, well wishes for safe travels (and a good husband from about 1/3 of all well-wishers- it's already started!) from lots of ward members, and I even added a couple pounds of chocolate weight to my luggage. I hope I've been able to adequately express my love to these people who help us in our work and who have become dear friends during my short time in Haaga. Photos were taken, goodbyes said, and we had a productive day of studying, planning, and door-ditching cookies at members' houses. Next Sunday I will of course attend the Port Angeles 1st ward, where I grew up. I look forward to seeing how it's changed and grown since my departure to the MTC. I'll miss the Haaga ward, and no doubt struggle at the thought of singing hymns in English.

And so begin my final four days as a full-time missionary. I've got two days left in Haaga, after which I'll spend a night in the Neitsytpolku sisters' apartment in downtown Helsinki, and then on to the mission office, the temple, the mission home, etc on Wednesday before heading out bright and early (or dark and early, since the sun still takes its time this time of year) on Thursday. I've spent a lot of time planning, praying, studying, and setting goals for my post-mission life, so as not to lose what I've gained here, as too many returned missionaries are prone to do. I'm confident in them, and in my ability to keep going on the good path, although I can't say much about the specifics of what actually awaits me back in the States. I do feel certain that this is the Lord's plan and His timing, and that as I try to stay active, study the scriptures daily, and serve others post-mission, I will always feel peace, knowing that I am safely in His hands.

How have the past 18 months been for me? Incredible. Difficult. Trying. Assuring. Refreshing. Motivating. Uplifting. Heartbreaking. Fatiguing. Humbling. So-awesome-there's-no-accurate-description-available. Take your pick.

I want to express my love for all you who have read my blogs, prayed for me, sent me a letter or an email or a card, thought of me, anything, while I've been on my mission. May we all have the opportunity to reflect on what goals can be set, and plans made so that we can assure for ourselves the guidance and protection of the Lord's Almighty Hand in our lives. May the progress we make today carry on to tomorrow, and so on and so forth. That's what it's all about, really. Onward and upward.


Sisar Hansen

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Weeks' Notice

The countdown is now being measured in days. Days. Sixteen of them, to be precise. So much left to learn, to do, to become, and so little time! I'm excited to see how I continue to grow and learn every single day. Tovereni and I had a really insightful chat today about stress, growth, and learning to let things go. We've struggled to find people lately, and we're trying to find peace and enjoyment with full hearts, despite our empty progress records. It's a skill that takes some practice, but I've learned more and more how to relax and be optimistic while on my mission, despite having a way left to go.

We had splits with the sister training leaders this past week. It was wonderful for several reasons:

1) One of them is the one-and-only SISAR NYMAN!!! At interim, the new sisters were all abuzz, chatting with each other at every opportunity, talking about how things are going, crazy stories from teaching and contacting, and families back home. I watched from the sidelines, happy that they were all so excited to see each other and catch up. Thursday was Sisar Mendenhall's turn. My MTC tovereni and I went on and on during morning exercise and breakfast time about how it's been going, and what things we've learned recently. I'll be sad to not give her hugs anymore when we're once again living on opposite sides of the planet.

2) It was a major contacting pick-me-up! Sisar Mendenhall and I both got some really great tips for starting conversations on the street that have dramatically improved our contacting over the past few days. We are a lot more upbeat and positive about the whole thing. We feel like we can do just about anything, and the feeling so far is lingering. We are seeing some serious weaknesses become serious strengths, and it feels oh-so-good!

3) Something about splits is just inherently refreshing, and always makes me feel more excited to get out and do the work.

Although I'm almost at the end of my full-time missionary service in Finland (I packed a few things last night! Ahhhh!!!) I don't feel like it's an end. I feel excited to learn and grown and do my best every day, just as if I had another year to go. Will I be glad to go back to a more sustainable lifestyle? Yes. Will it be good to see and talk to family and friends more often? Kyllä. Will it be nice to be able to go to the bathroom at the church without having to think about whether or not my assigned companion is within proper distance? Of course! But for all of this, I really don't feel so "trunky". With the Lord's call to serve comes the Lord's timing. It's just as inspired as the country or the language. I love still feeling like a full-time representative of the Lord, and I look forward to doing more things that the Lord has in store for me in just o'er a fortnight's time. (Including member missionary work! Gotta practice what I've been preaching, right?)

Kiitos paljon for all the continual love and support over the past year-and-a-half. It sounds like a cliche thing to say, but perhaps it's cliche for a good reason. They say it's impossible to really do this kind of work alone. This is true. We have to rely on the Lord daily. It's absolutely essential. But I also know that the people back home and abroad who love me and keep me in their thoughts and prayers also make this possible.

Kirkko on totta. Rakastan teitä.


Sisar Hansen

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hustle, Bustle

Last week was a bit atypical. We had P-Day once again on Monday, so as to be prepared for interim training Tuesday-Thursday at the mission home. We had the Vaasa sisaret come stay the night on Monday, and then we took the relatively short trek to Espoo the next morning. We slept on bunk beds at the mission home, ate delicious food prepared by office missionaries and Sisar Watson, and talked long and hard about missionary work. There was a lot said about teaching with love, and about being obedient to mission rules. I took a lot of notes, which I'll have to review so I can use them in my everyday missionary work. Wednesday evening, we were treated to a special showing of "Meet the Mormons" at the mission home, complete with popcorn. Tovereni has told me a lot about it- she loves it- and I can see why. It's humorous, touching, insightful, and even just plain interesting. Plans are forming to use it as a missionary tool in Finland as early as May. I'd encourage anyone to watch it- It's one of the few "Mormon-y" films this critic gives a thumbs-up rating.

We hit the ground running after interim. We awoke on Friday and made plans to prepare for LANCE'S BAPTISM!!! He aced his interview Friday night, and our member helped us find him some clothes while he was being interviewed. We scrubbed out the font (weird that it was my first time doing this in an actual church building, as opposed to the lake) and laid out plans for the next day. As it turns out, Lance's baptismal date was also the date of a big day of meetings for ward leaders throughout the stake. This meant a few things: I got to see the Relief Society presidents from both Marjaniemi and Lappeenranta, and the Lappeenranta bishop! YAY!!! Also, setting up for the service was a bit tricky. We got the font filling, and we put the elders on baking duty (result- korvapustit the size of kittens, albeit quite yummy). After a couple of hours of running around like headless chickens, we had everything in place just in time, and the baptism went through with no problems. many of our members helped us with food, setup, and cleaning, and showed Lance a lot of love. The best part, though, was his confirmation and ordination to the Aaronic priesthood on Sunday. Already a bright and sunshine-y person, he was glowing. He just looked like he belonged there, among all the members of the ward. Us sisaret were all smiles. Although it didn't feel like a big, gigantic hurrah, it was really heart-melting, and worth all the hustle and bustle of a baptism at the end of an unconventional week.

This week we're going to focus on finding. We're in a bit of a teaching valley, so our idea is to try a different finding technique every day for a week, and see what works, and what might not be our favorite. We're trying to use Preach My Gospel creatively and with prayer, so that we can do the Lords work with the most success.

I wish I could say more about the ways I've been touched by the Spirit this past week, but email time is short, and there's food to be purchased. Kiitos paljon for all of your love, support, and prayers that have enabled me to make it this far, and see some great miracles this week.


Sisar Hansen

Our matching, 1st-day-at-interim-training
Cleaning the font the night before the
Lance's baptism
Waiting for the train

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stepping Stones

This week will be a big week for us Haaga sisaret. We have a Monday P-Day today to accommodate our attendance at interim training for all 6-weeks-in-the-field missionaries and their trainers. We'll be at the mission home Tuesday-Thursday, and end our conference with a group trip to the temple. Sisar Mendenhall is really excited to attend the temple here. I can't wait to share this experience with her. We are going to get a lot of information, which will be translated into revelation for our specific area. I attended my own interim training over a year ago, with a different mission president, and slightly different format, so this will be fun for me. Interim feels like a big step for new missionaries. It marks the halfway point in a missionary's training, a certain feeling of maturity in the mission that wasn't there a  month-and-a-half ago. It also means that I have only weeks to go until my release from full-time missionary service, another stepping stone that I'd rather not think about more than I really need to, although I'm constantly aware of my dwindling time left in the field.

While we're gone, the elders in our area will be hard at work, teaching....OUR investigator! It just so happens that this Saturday is Lance's baptism, and we'll be out half the week! He's learned well, and did a great job during his practice-run baptismal interview. In Sunday school yesterday he gave a really touching testimony of how the gospel has blessed his life. He was pretty great already when we met him, but even so, there's a very real and very positive difference about him that's occurred over the past few weeks. He knows this is what he wants. He's ready for this. We are over-the-moon excited that we have been blessed with the opportunity to teach him. We've made preparations for participants in the service, programs, refreshments, baptismal font maintenance, everything. Tovereni has been indispensable, writing out a long list of people we need to invite and checking it twice. Lance knows that baptism is just a stepping stone (albeit a vital one) to a lifetime of living true to the gospel. "Don't worry" he's assured us several times, "I'm going to be at church every single week. Don't worry about me." Even on a Sunday when he admitted that it was really hard to get out of bed, there he was, dressed up nicely, and ready to participate in church. We agree with our ward mission leader that he will be a really great member.

Training a new missionary has helped me to rejoice in all the little successes around me, and in the lives of members and investigators. The 12-week training program highlights a particular topic and skill set each week, and we set daily, weekly, and monthly goals to make sure that we both are as on top of our game as we can possibly be. Contacting BINGO has turned out to be a great success for both of us (although Sisar Mendenhall's contacting skills are starting to put mine to shame), and we've talked about how we can possibly apply the principles of goal setting and accountability from that little game to other activities that we may find ourselves to be weak in. One step at a time, getting us further and further on the path towards our goals, and success on our missions. She's so brave the way she takes on more challenges every week. She's a pro at Finnish texting, and she's taking phone calls without my needing to say a word. She launched into a straight-from-Preach-My-Gospel door teach the other night, when a nasty cold kept me from being of much use. Missionary work is so rewarding when companions can set goals as a team, and help each other reach their individual goals. This is something that, if I keep in mind past my mission, can bless me for the rest of my life.

We've also been faced with many instances of people who are so prepared in their own way, but who are afraid to take the next step forward. Busy schedules, family concerns, waiting for a sign, reluctance to change a behavior, fear of commitment, etc. keep these people stranded halfway out into the water, a bit past the shore, but not progressing forward onto the next stepping stone. If only they could see the great treasure that awaits them safely on the other side, if only they would face their fears and take that leap of faith forward! In many cases, all we can do is love them, give them their space, and pray that they'll be more prepared for the full journey another time. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for people like Lance, Joy, Jamie, and others who have been prepared to take those steps essential to reaching their fullest potential in this life, and to preparing for a future life with their Father in Heaven.

 As you think of where you are at this point in your life, what is the next step? I've learned, as a soon-to-be-return-missionary, that it's okay to think about the next step, if it helps you set worthy goals and make the most of your current position in life. What small steps can you take to come closer to your life goals, and to fulfilling your specific role in Heavenly Father's plan? I'm thankful for the opportunity to partake of the sacrament each week, and to ponder, evaluate, and make plans to keep moving forward on the good path. I'm thankful for the example of a Savior who has given me a model of how I can do so in all phases of my life.


Sisar Hansen

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Note from Karlan's mom

No blog post this week, but here are a couple of excerpts from the email Karlan sent me:

Finland has warmed up a bit lately- snow on the sides of the roads, but not much on the actual roads or sidewalks. Hopefully this means I don't fall on my face this week (because it TOTALLY happened again last week!) I'm not as much of a winter enthusiast as the average Finn, so I'm just fine to see some color on the streets. 

In Preach My Gospel this week I've studied a lot about keeping commitments. We've noticed that when an investigator comes to church, it's like a catalyst for keeping other commitments. We had a kid from our school presentation come to church on his own this week. He didn't want a Mormonin Kirja, [Book of Mormon] but he took our card, and had some good questions. Miracle. I've never had that happen before.

Five more weeks!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ANTI-Trunky Letter

A letter for Sisar Hansen falls into the mail slot with a slight "thunk". The return address is the mission office address. Another trunky letter? Upon opening the letter and scanning its contents, I discover that it is, in fact, an ANTI-trunky letter from President Watson. Dear readers, I have 6 weeks left in Finland. That's right. SIX WEEKS. The time is flying by, and will only get shorter. I was really thankful for this letter, reminding me to "sprint to the end" and be the best missionary I can be while I can. Being a trainer helps with this quite a lot. I have to be on top of things for the sake of my companion. She needs to start out her mission as strong as possible, and I can have a big effect on that. She actually pushes me to be better, with tovereni, I have a bit of a built-in anti-trunkiness system.

As I reviewed the letter, I noticed an invitation to re-read the ENTIRE Book of Mormon during my last transfer, or rather, my last transfer, minus the almost 3 weeks before I received the letter. Hoo, boy! Challenge accepted! I've been blazing through, reading almost 20 pages/day in addition to any other needed studies, and it's been amazing how much I can get from it at such a pace. I'm highlighting, writing in the margins, and discovering insights for investigators. I'm about halfway through 2nd Nephi after about 4 or 5 days of reading, and getting more out of Isaiah than I ever have before! There are so many things I'd like to do before I go home. I know that I can't do everything. I pray that, instead of this adding to my stress, that the Lord will help me to prioritize and to not mourn over the things I may have to give up, but to find enjoyment and peace in the things He asks of me to do, those things that are best. It's refreshing to get rid of baggage, don't you think? The ridding of baggage of too many projects and time-drainers sure does feel invigorating. (As does reading the Book of Mormon!)

Friday night we arrived at our weekly coordination meeting after a few hours of some odd contacting adventures (former investigator giving us a book about the Shroud of Turin, anyone?) to hear that, "Oh, yeah, there's a school presentation on Monday morning. Who wants to do it?" Ooh! I LOVE school presentations! The sisaret will do it! Sisaret! Not even thinking of how poor tovereni might feel about it, I quickly volunteered. It's settled. School presentation Monday morning. No members involved at this point, and not even sure if we had a copy of the materials in our apartment, we tried not to think too much about how big this task might actually be. There's a lot of material to cover, and even I don't know all the vocabulary involved. Instead of losing her cool, Sisar M made a study plan to help us prepare for our latest assignment, and we went from, "How is this even possible?" to "At least we'll have a member there with us!" Well, when our member cancelled early Monday morning, all we could do was laugh. We really didn't mean to wake anyone up, but at least the YSA we called out of desperation had a good sense of humor about it (and hopefully they liked our apologetic cookies later that day). With everyone at work or in class, we had nothing to do, but just go out and do it ourselves. We arrived in the class of about 10 high school students, set up the PowerPoint, and the words just came. Tovereni blew the class away with her 12 weeks' worth of Finnish. She commented, shared personal stories, and answered a few questions, all in Finnish! The teacher and the class insisted that English would be fine, but Sisar Mendenhall was not called to speak English. She was called to boldly declare the gospel in Finnish, and that is what she did. We got some tough questions, of course, not all of them well-intentioned, but we were always able to conjure up just the right words to give an appropriate response to any concern. A MAJOR success, one that I hope will be a confidence-boost for tovereni. Quite an accomplishment for any missionary on just her 3rd week in the field. I was in my 3rd TRANSFER when I did my first school presentation, and it was daunting enough. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, my companion in miraculous.

Other adventures from the week include:
-Wiping out on the snow as I ran for the bus to church. Good thing everybody was watching...
-Getting caught in the snow in inadequate footwear (It had been MUCH warmer that morning!)
-Cutting out snowflakes as baby shower decorations as a mini service project
-More fun times teaching and learning with Lance
-Contacting BINGO, our latest attempt to help us be better at contacting on the street/bus (We look for people to contact who match the attributes on our squares. Bonus points if we can actually get in a lesson. It's been miraculous so far!) 
-Waiting outside an investigator's building for 15 minutes in the cold (and wearing afore-mentioned inadequate footwear) until somebody came out of the building, and we were able to drop a cookie/letter combo in her mail slot
-And many more anti-trunky antics!

Dear reader, life is grand. Let us, like Nephi, "live after the manner of happiness" and avoid the angst of trunkiness. Life is literally a gift from our Heavenly Father. May we treat it as such.


Sisar Hansen

New Beginnings

January 7, 2015

This is the first blog post of my final transfer in the Finland Helsinki Mission. Surreal, huh? Half of my previous companions all left the country last week, and the mission has undergone yet another transfers change-up. There were a lot of comings and goings last Tuesday/Wednesday. Tuesday night we had to get all of Sisar Schellenberg's luggage to the Central Railway Station in Helsinki center to load onto a big truck headed to the mission home. There we met with other departing missionaries, including Sisar Heggie (who joked once again that since we keep running into each other, we'll never actually say goodbye) and Sisar Dayton (a more-than-welcome surprise). We took a couple of them home with us, as well as another future-trainer sisar and her luggage (she's training AND transferring, brave soul!) to spend the night before the next day's departure/training meetings.

It was fun to see the new missionaries. They are so full of light and hope. They want to serve with all of their gusto. After our trainers-only meeting we all had lunch together at the mission home, and got to know each other a bit around the table. I can only guess that most people were listening closely so as to make predictions as to who our new toveri would be. I sat by a bubbly girl from Utah, and an army kid who identifies as growing up in Belgium. There was another sisar who's 23. Maybe she would be a good fit for me. 6 new sisters in total who could possibly be my final toveri in the field. We weren't to find out until after another combined meeting where we went over some policies, including how to cope with the extra hour of companionship study that missionaries and their trainers have during their first 12 weeks in the field. When we were finally paired up, I was put with the army kid, Sisar Mendenhall. All of the other sisters' eyes seemed to pop out of their heads when I told her that we had a less-active lesson in just a couple hours' time. Everyone seemed pretty well-matched up. These things are definitely inspired, a fact that President repeats often.

My new toveri is simply miraculous. She's expressed to me her weaknesses and her fears, and yet she gets up and works through them anyway. She's a bold and fearless contacter. Contacting is a bit daunting for many new missionaries (as well as some more seasoned sisaret, like the one writing this blog post). We did a contacting roleplay during studies the other day, and she still wasn't sure about how it might go. She did set a goal to stop at least one person in the street that day, and the second person we came across, she taught them about God's love, and a living prophet! We taught 4 street lessons that day, mostly thanks to her. I frequently hear her whisper to me as we walk down the street, "Hey, shall we stop that man over there?" She's bold and eager in lessons, too. I know it's so hard not knowing everything that's going on, but she responds to invitations to answer questions or to testify like a champion. In our lesson with Lynn on her second day in the area, she gave an IMPROMPTU object lesson about church attendance in FINNISH, even though Lynn assured her that English is okay. She fought off jet-lag to contribute prayerful goals to our weekly planning session (let's be honest- she practically did that one all by herself) and is bubbling over with ideas on how to best help the people in our area. I am humbled and excited to be her trainer. She keeps me on my toes, and even reminds ME of good missionary habits. "Uh, Sisar? Shouldn't we pray first?" "I'm going to make this chart so we can keep track of our daily contact with investigators throughout the week." SERIOUSLY. What did I do to deserve her? The Lord has been long preparing me for this. I can see it as I re-read past journal entries. I can see how my dear Sisar Schellenberg, who was twice a trainer, has prepared me for this with her constant love, patience, and diligence. I think she was my trainer-trainer. There are, of course, the normal and natural stresses of being new to the mission field, but tovereni handles them well, and always finds a way to move on.

I am blessed to get to begin again during the last transfer of my mission. I am blessed to serve in this area with these people. I am blessed to start off 2015 on such a high note. In a way, being with a relative mission beginner will help prepare me for the inevitable re-entry into the "normal" world in just two months' time. There will be a lot more new beginnings awaiting me there.

Kiitos more than I can express for all of the love and support you've all shown me throughout 2014. I hope to be able to repay you in 2015.


Sisar Hansen