Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Finnish Names are Haaaaard!

I get to know Oulu and its inhabitants more and more each week. This is very good, since the better I know people, the more I know how I can work with them. HOWEVER, the more people I get to know, the more I realize that Finnish names are quite difficult for me. For example, let's say a new baby boy is born. What shall his name be? Jani? Janne? How about Joni, Jouni, or Johannes? (All pronounced differently, of course.) If she's a girl, how about Henna, Helena, or Elena? And the parents' last name is something like Kemppainen or Laitinen, they're sure to meet a fair few people with their same name. See how that can get a bit confusing for a Soumi newbie like myself? And then there are first names like Terttu, Kari, Kaisu, Tuomo, which, when I see them written out on paper, give me no clue whatsoever if they belong to a man or a woman.

Things have been pretty busy over on my end. I learned a lot from my exchange with Sisar Francis-One thing was that it is nearly impossible to say no when Sisar Francis continuously offers you sweets. Another more important thing, is that there are many ways to do the same missionary work. I've been working on finding my personality as a missionary. Sisar Nyman and Sisar Vath are both wonderful, but they both also have ways of expressing themselves that can be quite different than mine. So my challenge is to find a way to be 100% myself, while still balancing out companions with different strengths and weaknesses than I do. Sisar Francis helped me think about that a lot, and between working with her, and working with Sisar Vath, whose manner of speaking are both very different, I am getting more of a feel for how I like to phrase things, how I like to talk to people in the street, or at the door, and how Sisar Hansen connects with people.

Off with the old tires, on with the snow tires!
During our week-long exchange, Sisar Francis also had an exchange set up with the Vaasa sisters, so I did an exchange-within-an-exchange. Sisar Foster was my companion for a day last Tuesday. Her Finnish is incredible! She's bright and very energetic. She also rides a bike faster and more energetically than I thought humanly possible! We did some service for an older sister in the branch who lives by herself, and who is always so happy to see missionaries come by. She loves to talk, and does so very fast, so I don't catch a whole lot of what she says, but she seems to like having me around anyway. Then we went to find some former investigators and catch up with some potential investigators, but we ran into some difficulties along the way- I.E., my abysmal sense of direction, plus the fact that Sisar Foster has never actually spent more than about a day in Oulu. We stopped a man on a bike and asked for some directions to a particular adress, and he told us we could just follow him there! He took us right up to the exact building! He left before we could talk with him, which was a bit of a bummer, but we really appreciated his act of service. Our last appointment of the day was with a man named "Perry" for email purposes. He's investigated for a long time, but hasn't been able to make a real commitment to prepare for baptism. I'd visited him once with Sisar Vath on my second day here, so he recognized me. We were talking a bit with him and a sister from our ward about how life is going, when suddenly, a long, fuzzy blur races past along the floor. Turns out, it was Ettu, the ferret! He wasn't around when I was there before, so I was a bit surprised to see him. Perry picked him up and told us about how Ettu has been sick, and can only eat bananas. Then when we started with our lesson, and Perry asked me if I could give the prayer, he asked me to pray that his dear ferret could get better. I couldn't remember the word he'd used for ferret, so, for the first time in my life, I prayed outloud for a blessing on a sick ferret by its name. Poor Ettu- please get better!

Our branch president's son got back from his mission a couple weeks ago, and has been called as an assistant to our branch mission leader. He's been really helpful in getting us more organized, and in helping us by getting to know our investigators, and helping us find solutions to their needs. He also helped us organize a meal calendar, so that means more dinner appointments with members, and more opportunities to teach them how to do their own missionary work. Hopefully we can also see some potential investigators invited to these dinner appointments, so that we can talk about the gospel in a warm and friendly setting. It's also great that we have another young single adult around, because those have been in short supply lately, and it's good to have somebody who is in the same stage of life as some of our younger investigators. Overall, we do have a wonderful group of member missionaries in Oulu. I'm always impressed by how active they are and how they seek for opportunites to share the gospel with others. I've also never seen so many ward misisonaries in some of the larger wards I've been in, let alone a branch with less than 100 active members!

In weather news, the snow has finally come and stuck around. It was frostier than a late-90s boyband member's hair for a few days, and then the real stuff came down and shows no signs of going away soon. It was a bit scary riding through it for the first time. I've had a few moments where I've had to slam my feet on the ground to stop myself from falling, but that's about as bad as it's been. Even going up and down hills gets pretty easy with some practice. This mission has already shown me that there are things I never thought I could do, like ride a bike around corners and down hills in the snow! I hope I will see the same kind of things happen on a spiritual level, as well.

We got to go to a baptism on Saturday!! "Jimmy", a young man the elders had been teaching, got baptized, and it was a wonderful service. Lots of people came, and he gave a very touching testimony after he was baptized. He was all smiles, and glowing. The sister playing the piano as we waited for him to change back into normal clothes played the songs we sang at MY baptism 16.5 years ago. I was flooded with memories, even though a lot of the details of that day are very hazy to me. I still remember how I felt, though, and even though I was only 8 years old, I knew that it was a very special day in my life, and that it would stick with my forever. So far, so good.
Bowling on a P-Day last month.  The Sister in the blue
shirt and glasses is my comp, Sister Vath

Monday this week was just a normal day. We moved P-Day to Wednesday, so we could have a Thanksgiving party after our district meeting. Sisar Vath and I made pumpkin pie (4 euros for a small can of pie filling we had to go to a special store to find, but it turned out delivious!) and coconut macaroons (They're not very Thanksgiving-y, but she reasoned that she loves them, and she's not American anyway.) Our district meeting itself was fantastic, as they usually are. We talked a lot about the Book of Mormon, its purpose, and how we need to use it more as we teach others about the gospel. Then we sat down to eat- there was turkey, stuffing, vegetables, potatoes, gravy, yams, rolls, and probably other things I can't even remember. I left the building feeling borderline sick, which is how Thankgiving should be. One of the sisters in our branch found the pie recipe for us, and since she's never tasted pumpkin pie before, we have a slice saved just for her. It felt good to have a short time where it felt like home, even though I'm so far away. :)

Well, that's all the big news. I think. I barely have time to even write in my journal these days, so I hope I don't forget about any of the big things. We have a special series of meetings next week for all new missionaries and their trainers, down in Helsinki. I'll get to see everybody I knew from the MTC, and hopefully learn more about how to contact people better, because I'm pretty bad at it so far. (When your companion prays for you to be able to speak to people naturally and confidently while we contact, you KNOW you've got a weakness to work on!) A group of us are going to sing a Christmas song together, which hopefully we'll find some time to practice. Sisar Vath and I will be staying with Sisar Knapp and her companion in Espoo, to which I say, "YAYY!!!!" We have to get on a plane around 5:30am on Monday morning to get there, but Sisar Vath makes it sound like it'll be a pretty great week, so I look forward to it. Although she DOES get to go to the temple while I'm in language school, so that gives her extra reason to be excited. I really hope I can learn a lot from training next week so I can be more effective in my day-to-day missionary work. I have a long way to go, but I know I'm still fairly new to all of this. That being said, the time goes by so fast! Before I know it, I'll be talking about my mission in the past tense! Ahhh! Better enjoy it while it lasts!


Sisar Hansen

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