Thursday, September 26, 2013

Let Us Sing With One Accord

So much has happened in the past week! Ahhhh! Where do I even start?

Well, I didn't say anything about this before because I didn't want to get my hopes up, but all five Finnish sisaret were selected to participate in the sister missionary choir for this Saturday's General Relief Society conference! Sisar Nyman and I are both singing as second altos, which is the most fun part, in my opinion. The music is beautiful, and I can't tell you how excited I am to have the opportunity to help set the tone for such a sacred meeting! We've been going to practices all week, in addition to Sunday choir and Tuesday pre-devotional choir. We've had to miss a lot of class time, but our teachers have been very mindful of us and made sure that if we teach in the morning, it's the last item on the agenda so we can get back on time. We have practice up on main campus, so it takes a bit of time coming and going. I really hope I can do the music some sort of justice- I'm pretty convinced that I wouldn't have been chosen if it were up to auditions, rather than a paper we filled out. As long as I sing how I feel about the music and about my Savior, that's all I can really do. Oh, and tall vowels. That's important, too.

Finnish is finally clicking. There's so much to think about any time I even want to say a simple sentence! Which of the 16 (commonly used) noun or adjective cases to I use, if any at all? Is this sentence past positive, or past negative? Am I talking about one person, or several people? Am I using the right word or suffix to indicate that I'm asking a question? It's not always easy to get the right words out, but I've been pretty successful at making myself understood. Understanding is a bit harder. At TRC last week, we met with Brother Jenkins again. He and his wife both served in Finland, and he loves volunteering on Thursday nights to meet with us and share in a discussion. We also talked with a pair of recently-returned missionaries, one of them named Hansen! He got back a little over a month ago, as in right when we got here! In fact, when Sisar Nyman went to a Finnish ward for her last Sunday before leaving, he was giving his last talk as a missionary in that very ward! They recognized each other! Crazy! He talks so quickly, it's hard to get a lot out of what he says the first time, but we know enough between the two of us that it always makes sense on some level.

Teaching "investigators" has become my favorite activity. We have Petri, who we've taught for two or three weeks now. He's been really hard to get to know, since he's so private, but we now look forward to talking with him every week. We write him "text messages" fairly often. We write a message on the white board, then Veli Christiansen reads it, and writes back on the board. It might sound silly, but it feels so real to us. We can feel the love that Heavenly Father has for him, and we jumped up and down a little bit when he said that his relationshop with his family has finally gotten a lot better! We also teach each other now. We had to create characters based off people we know, and have them take the missionary discussions. I feel bad for Vanhin Call and Sisar Nyman because Vanhin McMaster and I have people so different, it's a challenge for them pick the right topic that will interest both of us. Inkeri is our newest investigator. We had to knock on her door and and start from there, and our first lesson was pretty disastrous. Come to think of it, so was our second lesson. Getting to know people is not a great talent neither Sisar Nyman nor I possess! We had our third lesson with her yesterday, and somehow something changed. The Spirit was there the entire time, and we could tell that she was taking in everything we said, and that she had very strong emotional responses to a lot of our message. We're learning that it doesn't matter much how much doctrine we teach in a lesson, as long as the investigator is the focus, and that they are progressing in some way, shape, or form. Sometimes I want to just tell them all about the Restoration or Plan of Salvation, but we only have time to say a couple things about the Book of Mormon, or life after death. Rarely do we actually keep to our lesson plans, but that's good because the Spirit is guiding us to know what's really the best thing for us to talk about.

A couple days ago, Sisar Nyman and I got a paper that said we'd been selected to participate in the "How to Begin Teaching" exercise for new missionaries. Do you remember how I mentioned that on the first day we were in large groups, and we had a moderated discussion with an investigator for a while before going on to the next one? Well, for the first two investigators, there's a missionary pair who knock on the door and start the conversation. We got to be that pair! After about 5-7 minutes of getting to know the person and asking them some questions, the time was turned over to the new missionaries, and we left the room. We put our ears to the door to listen, though, and it was amazing to hear what the new elders and sisters had to say, knowing that we were once in their shoes. Not only was our introduction better than it ever could have been 5 weeks ago (although I'll have to admit, doing it in English for a change was pretty intimidating!) but we also were able to pick up on what the participants did well, and what they could improve on to be better teachers. (For example: saying "I know" is so much stronger than "We believe".) We've come so far in a short amount of time, and our teachers recognized this enough that they recommended us to act as examples for the new missionaries. It's such a wonderful reassurance that I'm doing alright, and that this enormous task that has been put before me really is possible! Of course, this is all knowing that I could never actually do any of this by myself- The Lord multiplies my strength and my abilities in everything I do. I feel so much like Ammon in Alma chapter 26, when he's talking about all the wonderful things he's been able to do, and then when his brothers get after him for boasting, he says that he's only boasting in his God because he can't keep silent about all the ways God has given him power to do the work. (Ammon is my new hero, by the way. It's amazing how much the scriptures take on new meaning as a missionary, and Ammon is one of the greatest missionary examples I can think of! I invite you all to re-read his story and apply it to your lives!)

Us Finns have reached the half-way point in our MTC training, and it's so hard to believe! Every day seems like it flies by, and yet at the end of the day when I look back on what happened, I can't believe how long it all was. I feel so confident that I'll be ready to enter the field when the time comes, although I know that the challenges will sometimes be very different. Not every door we knock on will have someone who's willing to listen on the other side. Meals won't be nearly as convenient, and I'll only have my companion with me, instead of an entire zone's worth of elders and sisters doing all of the same work alongside me, all in one place. I heard that Finland has the highest church activity rate in the world. In other words, once a Finn becomes converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are a member for life. Sometimes I think I couldn't be more excited about my call to serve in Suomi, and then I'm proven wrong. It's amazing to me that I can feel so much love for people I've never met, and that I can want so much for them, when I've never spoken with them. Finland is such a special place, and that's made apparent to me every single day. How am I possibly this blessed to get to serve there? I wake up most mornings, and I have to remind myself that this is all real. That feeling hasn't really gone away. It might be a bit over-said at this point, but this is the best decision I could've possibly made.

Minä rakastan teitä!!!

-Sisar Hansen

PS- Funny story time: Having a companion from a different country is fun, because although her English is fantastic, some words come out a little strange, or she isn't always familiar with common idioms. The other day when I was talking about how variety is the spice of life, Sisar Nyman looked at me and asked me what any of this has to do with Friday? So happy Spice of Life day tomorrow! Friday is, after all, the spice of life! We also had to explain that "saloon" and "sallon" are two very different words. She said that a hair saloon would be a great idea because, after all, "you get your hair cut, and you shoot others at the same time!" Ah, convenience! (I guess as a side note, I haven't mentioned in this week's letter how much I love my companion. She's such a wonderful person, and I couldn't do as well as I've done without her. She helps me grow and balances me out in important ways. Not to mention, she makes me laugh every single day! GAH! I'm so stinkin' lucky!!!)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hyvä Valmistautumispäivä!‏

Yep, that is right! Valmistautumispäivä is the Finnish word for P-Day! "Valmis" means "ready", and "Vasmistaa" is the verb for "to prepare", so it actually makes a lot of sense. Finnish is wonderful that way. If you learn the right words, you can guess the meaning of a lot of bigger words, because words are often related. Sisar Nyman and my favorite word this week has been "hankala", which means "awkward", as in "hankala katkarapu" (awkward shrimp). Veli Arnesen has a little poem he taught us, which goes, "Kokko kokosi kokko, koko kokon. Kokoko kokko? Koko Kokon." It means, "Kokko (boy's name) organised a bonfire, the whole bonfire. The whole bonfire? The whole bonfire." It's actually more complicated than it looks, because "kokko" and "kokon" are the same word, but the latter is that word with a case attached to it, which adds the N and gets rid of a K. It's amazing anyone can just speak this language without thinking it through every time! I will say that things are finally starting to click for me. There's a particularly difficult noun case called partitive that is also the most commonly used case. It's different for plural or singular nouns (or adjectives), and I just wasn't getting it for a long time. I ended up just making my own rules chart and color coding it to recognize patterns, and now it's a piece of cake! There's a lot about Finnish that doesn't make much sense to me, like why many of these noun cases even exist, but I love seeing the miracle of taking on such an enormous project and seeing growth every day! They say that only babies and missionaries learn Finnish, and I know that's because this would be absolutely impossible without the Lord's help.

As I'm writing this, there's a group of brand new missionaries coming in for class. They're headed off to Tacoma in another couple weeks! Ahhhhhh!! So cool! They are headed for the (second) best mission every! (Because seriously- Tacoma is fantastic, but can it really beat Finland?) Their teacher just told me that he's from the Seattle area, and he's friends with the Perkins family, from Chimmacum! I'm borderline giddy.

This week has gone by so fast, it's hard to say what's happened. We had a freak storm the other day that cut gym time short (too bad, right?) but it only lasted about half an hour or so. WEIRD.

The Sisaret are all trying to come up with a special musical number for sacrament meeting. Sisar Ross bought a childrens' song book in Finnish, so we're trying to decide which one we want to sing. We've been going to choir before devotionals, although this last week was the last week in the Marriott Center before it gets moved over to the main campus for the fall/winter. We sang an arrangement of "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" that was in itself an incredibly spiritual experience. I feel so blessed to have been a part of that. The choir director asked if anyone could recite his story in a difficult language, and a Finnish elder (going to Russia) came up and did it suomeksi! He spoke really softly (which I've heard is typical) and really quickly, but I was so excited to be able to identify words like "valo" (light), "Jumala" (God), "Poikasi" (my Son). Pretty cool!

Our lessons are pretty mixed. We have on "investigator" who's particularly difficult, since he's so quiet and private, but we finally got to him, and hopefully he can see improvements in his family life. We've also split up companionships and started teaching each other, playing characters. I'm with Vanhin McMaster, and we teach Vanhin Call and Sisar Nyman. It's so weird teaching with an elder, and having to teach two people at once! They have such different needs, so it'll take a lot of careful planning to get both of them the help they need. Our newest investigator is played by Sisar Christoffersen, and she's a different person for each companionship. For Sisar Nyman and I, she's Ilkari. We only had 12 minutes to knock on her door, convince her to invite us in, and give her a first lesson. We learned a lot about teaching simply and effectively, mostly because that's not how it went for the two of us. Next time we'll focus more on her needs, and less on trying to get a lesson out. We'll have much more success that way.

I'm learning a lot lately about how humility and confidence go together. I'm constantly humbled by all I'm asked to do, and who I'm asked to become. I know I am far from the person I hope to be by the end of my service, but as I pray and study and try my hardest to learn and improve, I feel the confidence of the Lord telling me that I will be that person, that I can do it with His help. I know that Finland is only a month away, and my language skills still won't be enough for me to say everything I want to say by the time I get there, but I'm not scared or worried. The Lord called me to Finland because somehow, that country needs me (and I might even need Finland!), and if it were too difficult, I'd go someplace else. I am growing in confidence every day, and I do have my prideful moments, but I'm always striving to do better and I feel the rewards of the Spirit for my efforts. I've said this before, but despite the hardships of the work so far, this is the best decision I could've made.

Mina rakastan teita!

-Sisar Hansen

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pictures from the MTC

Karlan in her favorite new t-shirt                        "Finland is riiiiiight here!"

The Finland Five

  Sisar Nyman, Kar's companion 

No Longer a Newbie!

Minun toveri and I love Wednesdays because it's new missionary day! We can hardly believe that it's already been three whole weeks! We've come so far, it's amazing! This week flew by. so it's almost hard to remember what even happened! We get really excited to say "welcome" to the new missionaries and show them around. We've also gotten a lot of transfers from Main Campus, like Greeks and Russians. West Campus is really expanding, which is great, but it makes it hard to find an empty classroom with computers (the Finnish room, for whatever reason, doesn't have computers, so we have to search elsewhere.)

Last Thursday we had our first TRC. It's when native or fluent speakers of a language come and volunteer to just talk with the missionaries. It's more like a visiting teaching lesson than a missionary discussion, since they're already members. Last week we talked with a really sweet lady who wrote some very kind things on her comment card. I was relieved at how well I understood and communicated. I still have so far to go, but I see improvement in my Finnish every day! I look forward to tonight's session. Our topic is finding answers to prayers.

Friday seemed like any normal day, and then about 10 minutes before dinner, it started getting windy and the rain started to come down. Before too long, we had a full-on storm! Without thinking too much about how dangerous it might be, the Finns ran out into the rain to the dining hall to eat. The staff there weren't too happy that we risked coming, and we were on lock-down until things got better. Sisar Nyman and I decided that our situation merited an extra treat, so Cocoa Roos and suklaa maito (chocolate milk) it was! Things picked up just in time for class, so everything went on as if nothing really happened. Unfortunately, I took my umbrella into the rain, and the wind completely destroyed it!

Sisar Nyman and I continue to be fantastic companions. She is ystavallinen (friendly), karsivallinen (patient), and tosi, tosi makea (sweet). We bought some Laujula (hymnals) the other day so that we can sing in Finnish during the pre-devotional preludes. It's so much fun! Last Sunday it was just the Finns at church, since the Albanians and Estonians left, but this week we'll have three new members! (Two Hungarians, and one poor lone Estonian.) It's weird having church with less than 20 people, but everything's a little bit different here.

My mom asked me a bit about how things work. There are 16 Finnish missionaries total, in 2 districts (classroom groups.) We meet in the same apartment (West Campus uses former student housing for classes), but in different rooms, and we teach different "investigators". We're probably one of the smaller groups, but like I said, one Estonian right now. When Finnish was a 12-week program, new Finns would arrive halfway through, but the next batch should be here right before we leave. (Vanhin King will be amongst that group, I believe.) All 5 Sisaret are in one apartment, which is cool because we get our own shower, and we don't have to share the communal ones on Main Campus.

Speaking of Main Campus, we went over there today for P-Day business, and while we were leaving the alterations room (I have 2 skirts that need to be SHORTENED! Go figure!) I ran into Marion Caner from Gex! (Gex is one of the places in the Geneva Stake, so I saw her at Institute when I lived in France.) I had no idea she even had plans to serve! We talked for a bit, and it was so wonderful to speak French! (Even though I sometimes slip French words into my investigator lessons, I feel like I'm losing my skills!) Sisar Nyman has found several Norwegians, and one of the bookstore employees served in Norway. It's fun to see her light up when she gets to speak her native language!

Today at main campus, a group of elders walked past and said, "Hola, Hermanas!" When we replied, "Terve, vanhimmat!" they all went, "Oh...." as if they wanted to impress us with their awesome language skills, and didn't anticipate having it dished right back at them! HA! Us Finns have a reputation for speaking our language outside the classroom, and the staff at the dining hall have even learned a few phrases, like "Terve", "ole hyva", and "kiittos". Hopefully we'll be well-prepared when Consecration Week comes! (Consecration Week=no English, EVER. Not for about 5 more weeks, thankfully!)

That's all the major news, I do believe. This week's favorite word is "puutarha", which means "garden", but I love the way it sounds, so I keep saying it over and over again.

Mina rakastan teita! Mina rakastan minun vapahtaja, ja mina rakastan hanen tyo! Mina rakastan olla lahetysaarnaaja!

-Sisar Hansen

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Starting week 3 in the MTC

5 September, 2013

What-the-week-three??! It's amazing that it's been this long, but it's also weird that I haven't been here for years! I've gotten pretty used to the routine now, although I do tend to get really sleepy right after lunch, so I'll have to find a way to stay alert in the afternoons.

Finnish is going really well. I know more that I possibly thought I could, but at the same time, there's always some nasty little grammar principle hiding behind the corner, waiting to pounce. We fin(n)ished (see what I did there?) our lessons with "Maria" and have two new "investigators"- Petri and Esko, played by two of our teachers. Petri is all Finnish, right off the bat, but we get our first week of lessons with Esko in English. You'd think that it would be easier in English, and it is in some ways, but Finnish has been a blessing in disguise because it makes us speak simply and rely on the Spirit just to know how to say the right words! Also, when we teach in English, it feels weird going back to Finnish. We had a somewhat disastrous first lesson with Petri, so we're hoping to make up for it tomorrow night. Things with Esko are going really well, and Sisar Nyman and I continue to feel guided towards the same ideas when we teach. We're learning a lot about meeting the investigator's needs, rather than just giving a lesson, and I need to learn to be more humble and give my companion more time to talk. She's nothing but patient and loving, so it's been really easy working with her.

The other Finnish missionaries are such a fun group! I say that we're going to the best mission, at the best possible time, with the best people. There have been prophecies made about Finland becoming a country where people will be open to the Gospel message and the work will prosper there, and those things are just starting to come true. I can't express enough how blessed I am go to to Finland, even if it means conjugating nouns and braving the arctic. Veli Boyer (veli=brother) is one of our teachers, who served in Finland until about a year ago. He shared a thought that really touched me. He said that many people talk about how hard a Finnish mission must be, and how we shouldn't expect to see baptisms while we're there. I'll admit, that's been my thinking. But then he reminded us that the Nephites thought that Ammon and his brothers were a bit insane for choosing to serve among the Lamanites. But then look what happened- They had great success and brought thousands and thousands of people to a knowledge of the gospel, and it was a HUGE success! It's true, I probably won't see every person I teach accept the Gospel while I'm out serving, but this will be the best work I can possibly do. It's already the best thing I've ever done.

As far as language goes, I'm having fun finding weird ways to make word association work in my favor. "Ateria" is meal, because you eat meals in a caf"ateria". That one's a pretty normal example, but they're usually more of a stretch, like "kokemuus" is "experience" because drinking a Coke with a moose would probably be a memorable experience. "Luopumuus" is "apostasty" because it's like a wolf (the French word for wolf is "loup") hunting down a moose. The moose is taken from off the face of the earth, and thus begins the Great Moose Apostasy! It works pretty well! Sisar Nymand and I try to make learning Finnish fun.

The two of us have been called as our branch music directors, and since Sisar Nyman grew up in Norway, she's not familiar with a lot of the English hymns. She has a lot of fun discovering new songs. Can I just take a moment to talk about how wonderful minun toverini (my companion) is? My big fear going into the mission was to have a silly 19-year old companion that I couldn't relate to. I have the best companion I could possibly hope for! She's incredibly patient, humble, kind, loving, spiritual, just about every good thing. We work well together and understand each other easily. She's always concerned about me and how I'm doing, and I try to be as good to her as she is to me, although I'm sure she teaches me more than I could teach her. We're even moving around a lot more at gym time, because we just naturally want to help each other improve and be more obedient! So I get to serve my mission in Finland AND I get a wonderful MTC companion?? Heavenly Father loves to spoil me, doesn't He?

I still love my life here, and I'm excited to develop more as a missionary and prepare to get out into the field! I have a lot of time left, but the days are getting shorter, so it'll be over before I know it! I wish I had the time (and patience) to write down every little wonderful thing that happens, but hopefully I get the most important stuff.

Mina rakastan minun Vapahtajani ja Hanen tyo! Mina rakastan minum elamani MTC-lle! Mina rakstan teita!

-Sisar Hansen

First mission letter from Sister Hansen!

29 August, 2013


One week has already passed here at the MTC- I can hardly believe it! It almost feels like I've been here for months!

The first day was definitely surreal. When the lady put my name tag on my shirt, I still didn't feel 100% like a missionary. I had an escort help me with my things and take me around everywhere, which was really appreciated, since I was tired and had no idea where to go.

Finnish missionaries are assigned to the West Campus, which will one day be bigger than Main Campus, but as for now, it's very small. It feels a bit isolated, and our bookstore isn't nearly as extensive, but there are regular shuttles to Main, and I overheard someone say that the food here is better! Another plus: Instead of living in the dorms and using the big, communal showers, we live in what used to be family student housing, so it feels really personal and cozy.

There are two districts of Finnish missionaries. At the MTC, a district includes the people that you attend class with. In my district there are 6 Vanhimmat (elders) and only 2 Sisaret (sisters). The other district is split 5/3. We go to church with the Estonians, Albanians, and Hungarians, aka the linguistic weirdos. More on language later.

My toveri (companion) is Sisar Nyman. She's from Norway, and her dad's Finnish! She's 19, but you'd never know it because she's really mature and is so incredibly easy to work with! She also has a really silly sense of humor, so we get along great! Her English is almost at a native level, but it's fun when we talk about cultural differences and weird language expressions. She's also one of the sweetest people I've ever met, just to make it all even better.

Finnish classes have been a roller coaster ride! Our first day we basically learned how to introduce ourselves and conjugate the verb "olla", which means "to be". On day 3, we had our first investigator! Ahhhh!! She's really one of the teachers from the other district who made up a character for us to teach, but it doesn't make it feel any less real! Our first lesson, we basically just read stuff from Preach My Gospel and the scriptures, which was pretty awkward, but what else could we do? Our second lesson we weren't allowed more than some vocabulary notes, which was really difficult. I didn't feel like we did very well, and even though I should have been grateful for how much progress I'd made in just a couple days, I was way too hard on myself. For lessons 3 and 4, we were only allowed an outline in English. ENGLISH. I know that God is helping us, because there is no way we'd have been able to do a full lesson (about 20 minutes) in only Finnish if we didn't have some kind of divine help! Our last lesson with "Maria" was about the Plan of Salvation (or Pelastussuunnitelma, seriously.) which has really, really, REALLY difficult vocabulary. But we were somehow able to breeze through it, and even answer some questions that we didn't anticipate from our planning! At one point I went to look up a scripture for Maria to read, and Sisar Nyman whispered to me, "2 Nephi 2:25?" and I got really excited and said, "Jo! Jo!" (Jo=yeah) We were so in sync through the Spirit- it was amazing! We'll get TWO different "investigators" next week- one in Finnish, and one in English. I hope we can connect with them as well as we did with Maria.

I have never been so humbled, yet so pleased with how things are in life. The fact that we can give a new lesson every day in Finnish is so astonishing to me! I am constantly reminded of how big this work is, but I'm never truly worried about the language or any trials that may come up ahead because I feel the hand of the Lord in everything I do! I know it's only through the Lord that I can see such changes in myself in such a short period of time- I am more patient and loving, and I work hard, and I'm becoming the best Karlan I could possibly be, and it's only been a week! I'm excited for week two, because I'll already have the daily routine down, and I'll have some sort of Finnish base to work with. My language goal is to solidify conjugating verbs in present and past, and get more comfortable conjugating nouns. (Yeah, that's right- NOUNS. In Finnish you conjugate EVERYTHING. We haven't even touched on adjectives! Sometimes I think I know how to do something pretty well, but then it turns out that there are eve MORE rules! Like, if the wind is blowing in a NNE direction on a Tuesday, double the last consonant. AHHHHH!!!)

Our Vanhimmat are really fun to be around. We love to sit together at meals and they make class time more enjoyable. The other day, Vanhin Stranberg prayed at the beginning of class, and he used one of our language books that has suggested words and phrases for different occasions. There's a misprint in the page about praying, so he prayed for us to learn Spanish. Even our teacher had a hard time not laughing a bit! Ever since, I've noticed that when I'm talking with my toveri about vocabulary while walking to/from different activities, we'll get a Spanish-speaking missionary try to give us some help, not knowing that we're Finnish! Sisar Nyman said she hopes it goes both ways, and that some of the Spanish missionaries suddenly start saying Finnish words.

P-Day has been great! Sisar Nyman has never used a clothes dryer before, so it was a fun learning experience for her. Service was cleaning, but since every day is P-Day for someone, they get cleaned daily, so doing the bathrooms was helppo nakki. (Helppo nakki is the Finnish way to say, "Piece of cake". It literally means "easy hotdog". It's my new favorite thing to say!)

I love it here, and I'm glad I get to stick around for a while as I learn a language and how to better teach others about the Gospel message that brings me so much peace and joy. It's hard work, but I somehow always find the time/energy/resources that I need to do all that's required of me. Sisar Nyman and I strive for exact obedience in all we do, and we are enormously blessed for it. Mina rakastan minun Vapahtajani, ja mina tiedan etta Jesusksen Kristuksen sovituksen kautta, me voimme voitte synnit ja kuolema, ja tunnee ilo. (I can't figure out accents on this computer, so that's the best I can do!)

Mina Teidan Seita!

-Sisar Hansen