Monday, October 28, 2013

"Sisar! Sisar!"

Terve, from SUOMI!!

It's so weird to think that I'm actually here, although it feels like home to me already. Everybody knows that I love Europe to a ridiculous degree, so you can imagine how good it feels to be back. It was a long trip over here, but fairly uneventful, which is good. Sisar Nyman and I tried our hand at contacting in the London airport, but nobody seemed all too excited to see us. One of the sisters that was in my MTC group unfortunately has some health issues that kept her from coming into the field with the rest of us, and she would've sat next to me on our flights, so contacting on the plane was a bit difficult, as I had nobody on one side of me, and two missionaries on the other side! I was of course exhausted when we arrived in Helsinki, but I was strong and stayed up until 9 or 10pm.

We had brief interviews with President Rawlings that night, and Sisar Rawlings made us a fabulous amount of food! She's a pretty accomplished cook, it turns out. It felt surreal, knowing that our tight-knit MTC group would soon break up. The thought of not seeing Sisar Nyman every day was not a happy one. But Wednesday afternoon at the mission office, we met our new companions! We had a bit of a ceremony as President Rawlings lined everyone up and called out pairs of names. When he announced that I would be with Sisar Vath, he took a minute to explain that our situation is totally unfair because she's from Finland! Her family moved here 8 years ago, so she knows all the ins and outs of Finnish language and culture. He also said that since I speak so well, it's especially unfair. (Mission president likes my Finnish! Confidence boost!!) Now, when our luggage was being loaded into trailers, one of the APs made a point of making sure my luggage was in his trailer, whereas all the other sisters' things were in the other one. At that moment, I knew that it was because I was the only one not taking a train, and therefore staying in Helsinki. Which explains why I am writing this email from beautiful Oulu. Yep, my first area of my mission is Oulu, the farthest north sisaret are allowed to serve! I wish I'd seen my face when Sisar Vath joyously filled me in on our assigned area. She's been here for 9 months or so, so she know everyone, ever place, and everything. YAY!! Seriously though, I have the best trainer! Can't say enough glowing things about her. Speaking of people I can't ever compliment enough, Sisar Nyman is ALSO in Oulu! The other two sisaret are in Espoo and Helsinki. At first I was a bit overwhelmed at the idea of being here, but I really like it, the people are nicer than in the big city, and I'll probably agree with a lot of missionaries I've talked to, that Oulu is the best. (And yes, one of our MTC group's elders is in Rovaniemi right now!) (PS-I've already found Sisar Christoffersen's name on some old paperwork!)

Oulu is a biking city, which is a bit of a challenge for me. I am not athletic at all, nor am I especially coordinated. Sisar Nyman and her toveri had to stay in Espoo for a few days before joining us up north, so I used Sisar Francis' bike for a while. Our very first appointment Thursday night was an hour's ride away, and it was raining the whole time! I won't lie and say it wasn't a struggle. I had a primary song going through my head the entire time, and I tried to remember why I was even on a bike to begin with- to help bring somebody closer to Christ. That made it doable. At one point, I didn't have enough momentum to get up a hill, but when I tried to get off my bike, I started slipping backwards, and I thought I'd just fall over and crash. I started panicking a bit, and I called out, "SISAR! SISAR!" SIsar Vath just sort of looked back and watched me struggle for a bit before I finally got my footing and hopped off. I got an ab workout laughing that one off! We reached our investigator's door soaking wet, with a sisar from our branch with us, and when he answered, he looked confused. "You were supposed to come yesterday!" This was the point where I had to remind myself not to cry! Haha! Well, he did let us in, even though he's a very busy student, and we had an amazingly spiritual lesson. It was worth every second of sore, wet legs!

Friday morning we rode out, and decided to street contact along our way. I've heard that Finns are introverted and don't like talking to strangers much. Sisar Vath called out to one woman, "Terve! Mitä sinulle kuuluu?" (Hello, how are you?) The woman looked at her as if she'd just stepped on a puppy, and said, "Minä en tunne teitä!! Minä en tunne teitä!!" (I don't know you! I don't know you!) I tried not to chuckle and remain dignified as we tried to convince her that all we wanted to do was talk to her about the Gospel for a bit. Hers was a pretty extreme case, though. Most people will talk to us for a little bit after they figure out that we haven't mistaken them for somebody we know. Sisar Francis says that people are much nicer about that here, than further south. Contacting is hard for me, since I understand so little, so I say hello, try to read body language, and wait for little pauses when they speak, so I can throw in something like, "Tämä evankeliumi antaa minulle iloa!" regardless of context, and then nod my head a bunch of times and smile because I have no idea what they're saying in response. I'm becoming a lot braver than I thought I could be- I just have to hone my language/listening to the Spirit skills.

Saturday was a big day where nothing got done. We tried to go bike shopping, but ended up walking around in circles for hours because the department stores no longer had bikes out, and the specialty shop was closed. UGH. I did get some warm winter accessories, though, so not a total loss. We actually convinced the elders to let us use the car this morning so we could successfully complete our pyörä quest. I found a little used red bike that's just perfect, and I no longer have to use another person's bike, or their bike seat, either! (Most of you probably know that normal bike seats are really uncomfortable/painful for me.) I also found a second-hand rain coat for 15 euros! HA! We went with the other Oulu Sisaret, so as a bonus, I got to see Sisar Nyman for a bit!

Yesterday was such a wonderful day! Our first Sunday at church, so of course they asked me to bear my testimony. I will tell you something, the Lord has given me the gift of tongues! (Irony: When your branch president says something about "puhua" and "lahja" in the same sentence, and you figure he's talking about missionaries having the gift of tongues, but you can't understand anything else he's saying!) I spoke so well, and so naturally! I think this is because some people (Like Sisar Nyman) have a natural talent for just talking to people, and I don't. When the branch members heard me speak, they came up to me, and it was such a relief! I find that in general, I speak much better than I understand. As fantastic as Velie Christiansen's accent is, he speaks much slower and clearer than actual Finns! But my companion helps me so much, and the Lord knows I'm trying hard, so I know it will come. I just feel so blessed with what I've been given already. We had dinner at our new branch mission leader's home, then off to teach a less-active member. Such a good, full, spiritual day!

My apartment is wonderful, I have a great bike, I'm speaking well, I'm riding better every day, my trainer is fantastic, and I still can't really believe that I'm actually ON MY MISSION, but I'm so glad that I am!

I have no idea how to send pictures, and we're out of library time, so I'll have to do that next week. Thank you to everybody who reads my posts and sends their love and support! I do my best to remember everyone in my prayers, because I've seen the Lord work miracles in me already in my short time as a missionary, and I want similar miracles for all of you! I am always tired, and my "natural man" (see: Mosiah 3:19) screams at me sometimes to just take a break or stop caring for a bit, but I know that the Lord has given me this very special, very short time to serve him with everything I've got, so I hope I can prove to Him to be a good investment.


-Sisar Hansen

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Note from Karlan's Mom

Karlan and the other missionaries in her group left this morning for Finland! We got a brief phone call from Karlan this morning, telling us that she was still in SLC, waiting for a delayed flight to Chicago. Several people in the airport offered use of personal cell phones to the missionaries to allow them to call home while they waited. Karlan reports that one very thoughtful person even went so far as to buy breakfast for ALL 16 of the Finns! I talked to Kar's companion, Sisar Nyman, for a couple of minutes. What a terrific young woman. She and Karlan have grown to love each other, and I'm sure they will be eternal friends. Someone snapped a group photo of some of the Finns, and emailed them out so parents could have a copy. I love modern technology.

After Karlan called, I received another phone call from the airport--this one from the woman who had loaned Karlan her phone (she also called Kevin). She said she just wanted to let me know how impressed she was with the Finnish missionaries. She told me that Karlan was glowing, confident, happy, and doing well. "Thank you for sharing your daughter with me today. She made my day!" she said. No, you made MY day. How utterly thoughtful.

A longer phone call from Kar came in mid-afternoon after her plane landed in Chicago. Kevin and Michael and I enjoyed listening to her relate the story of the First Vision in Finnish(!) Wow. Kar is just on fire. She was so animated and excited on the phone. The missionaries will arrive in Helsinki after being up and about for almost 24 hours. They will get a tour of the Helsinki temple grounds, and will be tucked into bed at the mission home before receiving their assignments the next morning. Kar hopes to be able to spend some time in Oulu because they have a reindeer festival there every year.

Kar would love to hear from you. Her email address is

Thursday, October 17, 2013

One Last Time From the MTC

AHHHH!!! NELJÄ PÄIVÄÄ until I leave for Suomi!!! Can this be real??! I've gotten to used to things in the MTC, it's almost weird to think that I'll ever be anywhere else. And yet, I feel so ready to go! I'm excited to get out there are do the work I've been called to do! I'm excited to meet new people in my mission and learn from them. I'm excited to be tested in new ways, although I know there will be rough times ahead as I adjust to a new way of applying everything I've been learning to do in the MTC.

Consecration Week is officially over, and it went by so fast! It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be! My companion is so disciplined, and eager to be obedient, that I can't help but be a better, harder-working person because of her. We still try to speak Finnish to each other and the other Finns at the MTC, but we no longer feel the need to do the awkward, "Oh, I do speak English, but it's our Consecration Week, and I only speak Finnish. My companion can translate for me, though!" game (all translated from Finnish, of course.) I had to change the "No English" tag on my name badge from pink to bright yellow, since for some reason, people kept mistaking it for the orange dots brand new missionaries get on their badges their first day, and we were welcomed to the MTC by people who got here as late as our 6th week. A lot of people thought that I couldn't actually speak English at all, and one cute sister spoke to me in Chinese since she thought it meant no English, either coming or going. It's been a wonderful week to shape my confidence and help me realize how prepared I actually am to go to Finland at long last. The Lord works miracles through me every single day, and reminds me over and over again how much He trusts me to do His work. I can only do so much, but He fills in the gaps so beautifully. This was supposed to be the most dreaded week of my MTC experience, and in many ways, it was the best yet!

Devotional on Tuesday was very special. First off, we all went to main campus early to participate in the choir, where we sang a Mack Wilburg arrangement of "Praise to the Man" that I know I've heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing before. Sisar Nyman and I seemed surrounded by sisters going to Japan- a couple of them going to Sendai! I told them how much my dad loved his mission there. Some other sisters behind us were still in their first week, and wondering if this was all really possible. The great thing about serving Finnish-speaking is that when we tell people that it's doable, they believe it! The legacy of the Finnish language is known far and wide around these parts, even to people learning tough Asian languages! I hope that they find the strength in themselves and in the Lord to know that they can do a great job. Anyway, we started to sing our prelude music as we always do, and suddenly the people in the front rows started to stand up. After a few moments, I saw a man walk through the door with a very distinctive bald head, and it became very apparent that our speaker was Dallin H. Oaks from the quorum of the 12 apostles! He spoke to us about why it's so important that this church is different from other churches. If it weren't, why should anyone join it? We have so much to offer the people of the world because of our view of who Heavenly Father is, and His relationship to us. Never forget this. I've felt for a long time that everything in our church goes back to God being our loving Heavenly Father, and his talk really confirmed that in me. I loved listening to him speak, because he is so unapologetic about his beliefs, and about his devotion to God and Jesus Christ. At the same time, there's so much love in what he says. I can learn a lot from that. Sometimes it's necessary to be bold, but not harsh, and it's a delicate balance that he has down.

After devotional as we were walking back, I was really sad to notice that there were some missionaries being really silly and irreverent, just moments after being in the presence of an apostle of the Lord. I don't say this to demean them, or to make myself seem so much more grown up and mature, but it's stuck with me every since. They of course, were asked to be more reverent, but it's so sad to me that some missionaries treat this time like EFY, and it's so much more than that. I thought about the people going to Finland, and they are all exceptional missionaries. The Lord knows us all so well, because He's sending people to Finland who are strong and serious about their work, which I think Finland really needs. It gives me strength to know that Heavenly Father has put me in this group of amazing young people, because He knows that I am capable of working alongside them. I'm so determined not to let anyone's opportunity to receive this message pass by because I'm not behaving like the adult that I am. I know I'm not perfect. My mom sent me the comment on my last blog about missionaries not always being perfect in things. It's true, we don't become that model servant of the Lord right away. But I need to work hard to make sure that from my first moments in Suomi, I am being the servant He needs me to be. Everything will come to me as I do my best to always improve.

Yesterday we hosted again, and we got to welcome the new Finnish missionaries! YAY!!! They were all the mature, wonderful, spiritual people I'd expect them to be. You could just tell that there was something special about them that just radiated "Finnish mission call". But I'm pretty biased. They're learning surprisingly fast already, and it was so great to speak Finnish around them to let them know that they can do hard things. I'm excited to see them later on in the field, and see how they've grown. I feel love for them already. That's one of the miracles of the MTC.

One minute left of email time! No time for any linguistic silliness, but I'll probably have quite a bit of that after my first few days overseas! I love all of you, and I hope you are able to feel my love for this work through my writings. This is the best decision I've ever made.

-Sisar Hansen

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Anteeksi, mutta minä en puhu englantea!‏

Today marks the beginning of the long-awaited, much anticipated "Consecration Week". This morning we went to the temple, and when we came out, no more English for a week! Of course, if we need to communicate with a non-Finn, one person can translate as the other speaks. But my companion and I are trying to translate literally, so we have to think extra hard about what we say. For example, if my companion says, "Minä pidän sinun paitaa" instead of, "Minä pidän sinun paitasta" I will have to say, "I will keep your shirt", instead of, "I like your shirt." We'll speak much more carefully this way! We put little tags on our badges that say "No English" as a warning to all those who dare converse with us. We took a walk over to Brigham's Landing for lunch, and it's amazing how hard it is to order a hot chocolate when you don't remember the word for hot! The girl at the counter was super patient, though, so we wrote her a thank-you note in English. Then we headed over to Jamba Juice, where a generous return sister missionary paid our tab for us! My companion's first every Jamba, and it was free! I love how nice people are to missionaries, not because I benefit, but because they're living out Mosiah 2:17, which states that when we're in the service of our fellow being, we're only in the service of our God. I can feel the love these people have for their Heavenly Father and His gospel through their kindness to us, and at the risk of sounding cheesy, it's even better than a free smoothie.

The big highlight of the week was, of course, Yleiskonferenssi! If you didn't watch it, go to and get to it! I loved Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk, because it spoke so clearly to me as a missionary. Why would anyone want to join a church that expects so much of its members? Because the benefits far outweigh the costs, of course! Because nothing else will bring greater happiness or fulfillment in this life or the next! I also loved it when Thomas S. Monson, our prophet, asked, "Shall I falter, or shall I Finnish?" Okay, not exactly like THAT, but I like to think that's what he meant. Every since I got my call to serve in Finland, the word "finish" has never been the same. It's never not a pun anymore. But as the language gets more demanding and the weather gets colder, sometimes it can be hard to find the energy to keep going and do my best. Sometimes I wonder if I'm really up to the task put in front of me. That extra "n" gives me the strength I need to remind myself to keep going on those tough days. It reminds me that I was called to Finland because Heavenly Father needs me there, and not only can I "finish" my mission, but I'm also determined to "Finnish" it, and do it well. It's amazing how, like it says in Alma 37:6, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass." By a silly little pun, does one missionary renew her sense of purpose.

Unfortunately, conference weekend also marked the starting point of Sisar Hansen feeling sick. I'm pretty amazed that, with all the people around me, I held out as long as I did! I was fine to watch all of the sessions of conference, but partway through Monday morning class, it became apparent to both my companion and I that I needed sleep badly. Judging by the fact that I slept like a rock for about 5 hours that afternoon, I really did need it! I tried to practice language and read the scriptures when I was awake, and I feel like I figured out how to use my time wisely, even in a not-so-ideal situation. My amazing toveri spent all afternoon pouring over books while I was konked out. One of the hardest things about the mission has been not being able to take naps, so I learned to be careful what I wish for- I just might get that nap, but not for the reason I'd hoped for. I'm doing much better already, and should be fully recovered by Monday or so.

Yesterday was the day for new missionaries to arrive, and we Finns had the opportunity to host them! We unloaded their luggage from a big truck, then helped them get settled in their apartments and find their classrooms. West Campus is transitioning to all-Spanish soon, so we only had Spanish-speaking, and stateside missionaries (statesides only stay for about 10 or 11 days, so they'll filter out soon and make room for more Spanish speakers.) I met a couple sisters going to South Carolina- I wonder if they'll meet Sister Makin? I love seeing the new missionaries because they are so nervous and excited. Their excitement helps renew my excitement, and their nervousness reminds me of how far I've come, and how many miracles they'll soon see as they begin their service. It's hard to even remember my first day here, even though it was just a few weeks ago! And just ELEVEN DAYS until I finally touch down on Finnish soil! I might see some of the sisters I hosted on the way to the airport!

I've been trying to get more out of my scripture study. Some days personal study seems to drag on a bit, and I need to make sure that it always flies by because that means I'm working hard and being immersed in the scriptures. Fortunately, it's more often the latter lately. I've re-discovered how amazing the New Testament is. I read Paul's letters to the Philippians and to the Thessalonians, which I haven't read very in-depth in some time. Usually when I read from the NT, it's from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. And I've been depriving myself, because Paul's letters are so amazing! Thessalonians is basically all about how fantastic it is to be a missionary! Talk about inspiration from the scriptures! The love he has for the converts he taught is so profound- I hope that I can receive that much joy from my service.

Those are the main points for this week (oh- I saw Elder Basden at devotional Tuesday night! So weird to see somebody I used to babysit at the MTC! I haven't seen Sister Bayart, and I think she might be leaving soon, but my thoughts and prayers are with her.) I hope you all have a wonderful week! Don't let General Conference disappear from your hearts and minds! Actively apply those things you learned so you can be a better person and find more joy. I had an institute teacher who liked to say that we have a weekend to get into conference, and then 6 months to get conference into us. Wise words.

Minä rakastan teitä!!!

Sisar Hansen

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Errand of Angels

Sisaret Nyman and Hansen with choir music for the RS mtg.
I say this all the time, but SOOO MUCH has happened this week! No, seriously. I got to sing in the Relief Society general broadcast with the sister missionary choir! It was a long day, from getting ready (One of the other Finnish sisters was kind to let me  borrow her shirt, since I didn't have the right style, and I didn't want to have to buy one), to the bus ride to SLC, to rehearsal, to having lunch in the underbelly of the conference center, to seeing the prophet, to actually singing, to meeting the Relief Society
general presidency, to a bus testimony meeting! It was amazing the spirit that was there. When the First Presidency walked into the room, I was overwhelmed by the powerful feeling they brought with them. I don't remember much of what was even said, because I was so in awe the entire time. But we will get a chance to watch it again on campus this weekend, so I'll be sure to take notes this time. Every day I have at least one moment where it suddenly hits me that I'm on a mission, and I can't hardly fathom it. I had about a dozen of those moments at the broadcast, and it rejuvenates my excitement for the work! (Even weirder is when I look down and realize that I understand the cryptic words on my nametag, but that's another story.) I got really emotional as we sang, especially as we sang "Go forth with po'wr to tell the world the Gospel is restored" because I could feel the truth of those words sink deeply into my heart. I got separated from my toveri for the broadcast, and she got a great close-up in the beginning, which is a lesson to say with your companion. :P But I did get to see myself when we saw the footage from the musical numbers on Sunday! It's brief, but I'm there! When we sing, "Go forth to serve and do your best with no thought of reward", I'm at the bottom of the screen, on the left side of the far-right section of singers, wearing a red shirt with my hair down. See and believe! I'm glad that my work on my facial expressions seems to have paid off! :) At the end of the meeting, the Relief Society general presidency lined up and gave all the sisters a hug as they walked out of the room. I was in the last 20 sisters or so, so I was convinced that they'd have moved on by then, but they stayed to hug every last sister, ask about where we're going, and express their love and excitement for us, and thanks for our singing. 364 sisters. Wow. Pretty amazing.

Finnish is clicking. I'm much more comfortable with lots of different kinds of sentences, and I'm trying to learn more day-to-day words because the infamous "Consecration Week" fast approaches! Our eighth week in the MTC will be Finnish-only. We'll even get little pieces of tape on our badges that announce to the world that we no longer speak English! If we do encounter a situation where English is necessary, one person will speak in Finnish, and the other will translate. It's a scary thought, but I'll grow a lot. I just need to keep my flashcards handy at all times, and I should be fine! Especially with my companion with me- she's such a blessing when I forget a word. She always seems to remember what to say when I can't. My new favorite word is Pikkukaupunki, which literally means "little city", but it's really the word for "town". Fun to say! I've also mastered the words ulospäinsuuntautunut (outgoing) and alempi korkeaokoulututkinto (Bachelors Degree). Funny how long words don't scare me anymore. Also funny is how, as many long and complicated compound words that exist, there's always something like lanko (brother-in-law) to make my scratch my head a little bit.

For service today we made beds. As in, we literally made beds. We took the parts of old bunk beds and re-assembled them right down to the mattress. No gym on P-Day? Not a problem! Just go do service!

The longest word in Finnish.  Kar says "I'm not sure
what it means, but wow!"
Class has been intense lately. We've gotten really deep into doctrine on a couple occasions, because the more we learn about the gospel and its complexities. the more we understand how to simplify it for those who don't have the same background that we do. It's been really helpful especially for teaching about Heavenly Father's plan for us. Our lessons with investigators continue to go well, for the most part. Sisar Nyman and I are finally learning to make peace with the fact that we won't get to explain everything we'd like the in the time constraints we're given, so we promise to send a "text" (in our case, we write it on the white board in the classroom and get a response in the same way) that contains good scripture references, and some questions for them to ponder. We're getting better at focusing on the people, not the lessons. We only really stick to our lesson plan about 20% of the time, but we're still blessed for our preparation. We do all we can, and the Lord does the rest. This work is impossible. That's very clear to me every day. But with God's help and support and His strength, the impossible actually comes true! It's like that song in Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, about how "impossible things are happening every day". I never thought that regular ol' me would be able to do something like this, but somehow, everything that needs to get done, gets done, and the language comes, and I learn and grow and reach out to people despite my weaknesses.

I love this work. I love the people of Finland so much, even though I still have 18(!) days before I ever get to meet them. But I can feel how right my calling to go there is, and I can feel the great love that the Lord has for them, and I can feel that He wants to bless them so much, and I only hope that I can work hard enough and have enough faith to be the means of helping the people of Finland recognize all of this and claim the blessings of the gospel.

Until next viiko, nähdän!

-Sisar Hansen


Kar enjoying a cream soda next to the cream soda tree outside the MTC