Monday, February 24, 2014


Greetings, from Lahti! It's definitely a different environment from the quiet, northern community that is Oulu. There's more traffic, and we walk or take public transport almost all of the time. We have a full ward here, and our bishop isn't more than a few years older than myself! There's a younger, busier energy here, and well, the people seem to be a bit quirkier. I think I shall quite like it.

I got to take the night train from Oulu to Helsinki, then I missed my original train to Lahti, so I had to hop on the next one, but I arrived in one piece, and we live close to the train station, so that made getting all of my things  hauled over to the apartment really easy. It's surreal being in yet another new place and with new people all over again, but I know this is where I need to be right now, and I'm glad to be able to see some different parts of Suomi throughout my mission, for as much as I love Oulu.

My new companion, Sisar Dayton, has only been in Finland a couple months longer than myself, and it's her first time as a senior companion, and only second transfer in Lahti, so we're learning together a lot. Her Finnish is great (plus, she knows the local dialect really well) so I learn a lot as we talk to people on the street. This area is in need of organization, so we're working on getting paperwork in its place, and being extra focused in our lessons with investigators. It feels really good.

So far some of my many adventures here have been: An investigator giving us a random gift basked with napkins, apples, and coasters. Deciding that forest path looks like a lovely detour, only to ralize that it's all up/down hill over ice. Getting lost a lot because neither of us has much of an internal compass. Going to check on a potential investigator, and talking to his brother-in-law instead about God's plan for him. Our investigator thinking my name is "Carol" and my attempts to correct her completely failing, so Carol it is. Meeting with a district of only 6 missionaries, instead of 16, and having some fantastic discussions about baptism invitations. Lahti hasn't had a bapstism in something like 2 years. I'm here to see that change.
Sisar Dayton loves to run, and so we've made a deal that we can do different types of exercise in the morning, and run every 2-3 days. So I've now been running with her twice, around a 15-minute loop, and to my amazement, I'm able to do it! I get pretty tired by the end, but it's really not as horrible as I thought, although I'm still far from actually enjoying it. I think about it a lot, because my favorite thing on my mission so far has probably been seeing how Heavenly Father makes impossible things possible. I CAN ride my bike in the snow. I CAN learn this crazy grammar principle. I CAN go running in the mornings a few times a week. This investigator CAN gain a testimony of the restored gospel and be baptized. This mission is hands-down the most difficult thing I've ever done, but with the Lord's help, I CAN make this time a success.

It's often through ordinary means that the Lord shows us His love and His power. My challenge to all of you is to think of the little things in your lives that are really big victories in their own way. How are you proving yourself beyond what you thought possible? How does the Lord give you the strength you need to be the kind of person you need/want to be? How does He make the impossible possible through you?

Library time is short, and so must this blog be.


Sisar Hansen

Monday, February 17, 2014

Times, They Are A'Changin'

It's been one of those big weeks that seems to go on forever. We did companionship exchanges on Tuesday, and I got to be with my dearest Sisar Nyman for a day. We talked to a lot of people, although there were quite a few times when all we could really do was nod and smile in response. I've gotten really good at those Finnish vocal fillers "Niin." "Totta." "Eikö Niin?" "Siis." "Muttaaaaaaa..." The language is feeling more and more natural to me, which is great. I love being able to make phone calls and contact by myself. Sisar Nyman and I taught a great lesson with the African man I taught with Sisar Vath on my first day in Oulu. He's opened up a lot, and the conversation really flowed. One of the greatest things about this mission is seeing people- investigators, members, missionaries, yourself, change. God really does work miracles with us to change our hearts for the better.
We had a lot to do last week to make sure that this week runs smoothly. Change calls came on Friday, (more on that later) and Sisar Vath and I were pretty sure that at least one of us would leave, so we had to make sure that everything we needed to record was done clearly, and that our weekly planning would be easy for a new-to-Oulu missionary to follow. I don't think people realize how much paperwork goes into missionary work! But I'm always thankful when people have recorded things well for me, and I've seen some pretty awful previous Teaching Record entries (The summary of one lesson some elders taught years ago simply says, "Cried". Okaaaaaay....) I'm determined to be a good paperwork missionary, and the past few days have really been a test of that.
Friday night we had interviews with our mission president, President Rawlings. He and Sisar Rawlings were in Oulu for the weekend, since there was a district conference (A stake conference when there aren't enough wards to make a stake, like up here in the north. A stake, for any who don't know, is a grouping of several congregations throughout an area.) I love Sisar Rawlings tons, so it's always great to see her. As for my interview with President Rawlings, well, it didn't go quite the way I'd expected it to go. We chatted for a bit and talked about my feelings on the mission, etc. and then he asked if he could use the time to give me my change call. We've all been expecting Sisar Vath to leave, since she's been in Oulu almost a year now, (She is, in fact, heading down to one of the Helsinki areas). What I didn't expect was to get a change call to Lahti! I had to ask him where that was, and he tried to describe it, but when you've spent some time in the north, everything in the south just kind of mushes together. I had to just look it up on a map when I got back home. It's about an hour north of Helsinki, and it's in the Tampere stake. President Rawlings said it's a college town, with a young and energetic ward. My new companion will be my first American companion, Sisar Dayton, and she's been in Finland one transfer longer than I have. Wow! My night train down south leaves tomorrow night, so I still have a couple days to say goodbye to Oulu. I love this place. I'm sad to leave. My hardest goodbye will no doubt be to Sisar Nyman (staying in Oulu), who has been either my companion or in the same city as me for my entire mission. I love her more than words can say. But I'm excited to see more places in Finland, and meet more people. I'm excited to go to this city I've never heard of before, because I know it's where the Lord needs me. President told me that some of my specific qualities made me seem like the perfect person to head down there and participate in the work. Plus, "Minä lähden Lahteen" is kind of fun to say! (Translation: I'm leaving for Lahti.) There are a lot of changes going on throughout the mission. I heard that at least one person from every city is leaving or transferring! I think only 4 of the 12 missionaries in the Oulu district are staying put. Hopefully this means big things for Finland as missionaries enter new areas with fresh perspective.
Now there's a lot of packing, cleaning, and note-making to do. Two new sisters will take over the work in the Oulu Sisaret Area B, and so we need to make sure they know where to buy food, send emails, attend church, and meet with our investigators. They're both transferring from Helsinki, so I hope they get used to the bike-riding lifestyle here, although Oulu is such an excellent city for biking, that shouldn't be too difficult. I pray that they will have the skills, wisdom, and spirit to take care of this area and work successfully with these people who I have come to love so much. I'm sure they'll be great!
We had an excellent District Conference. President Rawlings talked about what seems to be his favorite topics- praying always, and submitting to God's will for us. He talks about these thigns with us missionaries often, but they're important, and will change the way we do missionary work if we follow his counsel. Sisar Rawlings gave a great talk in Finnish about reaching out to help others. One of the new converts in Oulu was called on to extemporanneously share his testimony, and he of course, did a great job. He always sees the gospel from a very logical perspective, and it's brilliant. His thoughts and questions in Gospel Principles class make me wonder why, in my 24 years of going to church, I never thought of things that way before. The Spirit in the room was practically palpable the entire time. Sisaret Vath, Francis, and I sang a semi-impromptu arrangement of "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" in Cambodian, Finnish, and French. (You get used to the last- minute musical numbers pretty quickly as a missionary.) I even accomplished one of my personal goals, which was to make friends with a very shy 4-year old in the branch. She smiled and made funny faces at me during the meetings, and even Elder Horseley commented that I finally did it, so that was a big bonus. After the conference on Sunday, there were a lot of people to see and talk to, and say goodbye to. There were schedules to solidify, pictures to take, and temple recommend interviews to conduct. That's right, I gave a temple recommend interview after District Conference! Okay, not really.....But Sisar Rawlings asked me to come along so I could translate from Finnish into French for an African member of one of the district branches. With Finnish heavily engrained in my mind, I struggled to recall the right words, which were so familiar to me when Iived in France less than a year ago (lately when I try to speak French, Finnish words come out in a French accent!), but it was successful in that we all understood each other, and this man was able to renew his recommend. That was one for the journal! Dear Francophone blog readers: This is a hint for you to send me some mail en francais sometime, so I can practice! 
One of my goals this week is to think more positively. We missed a phone call in all of the business of conference, and as a result, one of our investigators couldn't make it to church. BUT we talked to him this morning, and he still wants to meet later this week, and all is well. What could be a downer of an experience, is really a learning opportunity for next time, and in the end, it all turned out okay, so everything is alright. This mission is going alright. My life is going alright. My experience was a good reminder that sometimes unfortunate occurrences are just little bumps on the path to better things. I hope to cultivate this attitude more in my day-to-day life throughout my mission.

And thus I end my last blog email from Oulu. Rakastan teitä!
Sisar Hansen

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why Can't We Be Friends, Why Can't We Be Friends?‏

It's warming up here in Oulu, although I've heard often that February is supposed to be the worst. I've been down to only two pairs of tights and a single pair of socks for days now, and I feel like a part of me is missing. There still aren't a whole lot of people out on the streets, so sometimes contacting is really slow. We have a couple of fairly dead parts of our area to work on, so we're praying for inspired ideas to help us find people there. So far, out of the doors we knocked in area 6 where somebody answered, we got the obviously-trying-to-hold-back-laughter response. It really irritates me, but I need to think of an un-akward, Sisar Hansen-style way to somehow work with that in the conversation. In case you haven't caught on already, contacting is not my biggest strength, as necessary as it is for finding.

This week was long, and a little bit odd. We had a zone meeting in Oulu, so missionaries from all over the north of Finland came, which means we got the sisaret from Kuopio at our apartment for the night on Tuesday. Turns out, one of them is a bit of a sleep talker, and her cries of, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm so confused!" woke me up in the middle of the night, although it was so funny, I couldn't be upset. I hope she got the answers she was looking for, and is no longer confused. Since all of the zone's sisaret were already in Oulu, Sisar Francis took the opportunity to do an exchange with the Vaasa sisaret. The complicated story begins now: Sisar Vath was feeling quite sick, so she couldn't go out to teach our scheduled lesson with Nancy. So we had to do an exchange-exchange, where Sisar Francis and her Vaasa companion came over, Sisar Francis stayed and took care of Sisar Vath, and Sisar Foster from Vaasa and I went out to go to some appointments together. This is actually the third time this has happened since I've been here, twice with the Vaasa sisaret, and once with Kuopio (that time it was my turn to be sick). Poor Sisar Francis- she just wants to do her job and do exchanges with the other sisaret, and our feeble bodies are getting in her way! Ah, well, it's always good to take some time to teach with, and learn from other missionaries. (And Sisar Vath is now doing much better!)

Last week was the UN's Religious Harmony Week! There was a gathering at a local coffee shop on Friday night, and representatives from the local churches were all invited to come and share a bit about ourselves and how we view religious harmony. All of the Oulu missionaries were there, and when we arrived, almost half of the room was full of Mormons! Way to represent, Oulun seurakunta! The missionaries all sang, "I Am a Child of God" in all the various languages we speak. I was excited to use French again. I always am. Anyway, there was a time set aside at the end for us all to go find somebody we didn't already know, and talk to them for a bit about themselves and their beliefs. As luck would have it, I sat down next to a person whose first question to me was, "Why do you not believe that *his religion* is true?", followed by some other difficult questions, obviously aimed to make me feel ashamed of my misinterpretation of scriptures. (His religious leader was obviously embarrassed, but couldn't do much.) The elders got up and left after a couple minutes, and so I was stuck there with the one argumentative person at a religious harmony gathering, trying to figure out any polite way to either respond or move to another part of the room. Too bad we missionaries didn't have some sort of safety word! To quote Elder Horseley, "That WOULD happen to you!" HA! Sisar Vath, of course, managed to find the one non-affiliated person in the room, and put him down as a solid potential investigator. Hooray for the work moving forward!

In "Preach My Gospel" there's a chapter all about Christlike attributes. I've taken the approach of picking one attribute and studying it out a little bit in each daily personal study hour. I chose humility, because it applies to everything else that we do. I'm learning to see that humility is very, very powerful. When we learn to rely on the Lord and accept that we need His help, we are given power to do anything that He asks of us to do. When we're humble, we don't argue, compare ourselves to others, or see ourselves as ineffective, rather, we align our will with the will of the Father, and receive the means to use our strengths to do His work, and even to cover up our weaknesses when we need extra help. Pretty powerful stuff. 

My challenge this week is to think about which attribute you want to develop more, and to think and ponder and study for a bit about how you can make it a bigger part of your life. I testify that we do have the power to change and become better people as we put forth the effort to do so. 


Sisar Hansen

Monday, February 3, 2014

Not What I Was Looking For

First of all, I would like to start this one off by saying that I looked out the window the other day, to see a man skiing past our apartment on the sidewalk. You know you're in northern Finland, when people use for transportation, what Americans use primarily as recreation. (This includes parents dragging their kids along in a sled, because sometimes it's easier than a stroller.)

The Finland Helsinki Mission has been doing a "12-week fast" for about a month now. Mission-wide, we all think of ways we can consecrate ourselves more to the work, "fasting" from those habits and attitudes that may hold us back from being better missionaries. Every day at 7:50am and 9:50pm, we all pray at the same time for strength to do this, for the gospel to grow in Finland, for our new mission president who will begin his service in July, and for the specific goals of one district each week. (A district is usually 3-4 companionships, although in the north we're so spread out, we have SIX companionships, and two senior couples!) We have 11 districts, so one each week for 11 weeks, and then the 12th week, we all pray for everybody. This past week was Oulu's turn to take center stage! Like many other districts, we've had trouble lately with finding. Our goals were to find people to become future church leaders, and for people who can help us accomplish our goal of establishing a stake in the north.

I will say right now, we did not have the week we were expecting. Sisar Vath and I had an abnormally hard time finding. We actually had to let most of our investigators go due to lack of interest or progression. There weren't a lot of people out on the streets because the weather was a bit crazy. We talked about this, and then we noted that for the first time since I've been here, we have a very solid, progressing investigator. We found her when we visited her sister, who's a member of our branch. She said we could come visit and talk about some concerns she has in her life about some of her loved ones. We ended up teaching a very powerful lesson on faith (powerful mainly because she was so ready to listen!) and we had two more appointments with her last week. She came to church, which is something we have a hard time getting our investigators to do (and it was her birthday!). She's even bought some cocoa for next time, because her sister told her she needs to give us something Word-of-Wisdom-approved to drink! She says she feels the Spirit really strongly when we come, and when we asked her to look up one of the scriptures related to the "Questions of the Soul" we put in the cover on each copy of Mormonin Kirja, she looked up FOUR! Ahhhh!!! So we didn't get the flood of new investigators an potentials we were hoping for, but we got Nancy (name changed), and she's more than a miracle for us!

I'm refining my scripture and language study skills a lot lately. I'm trying to keep a better scripture study journal, although I don't always feel like I have something so amazing to write down, and I'm finding ways to help me learn new vocab and have it stick. I feel like I'm using my time more wisely, and that I'm getting more out of it. Before my mission, scripture study was always something that was a weakness for me. I couldn't imagine spending an ENTIRE HOUR reading just the scriptures! But now, I wish we had two hours each morning for personal study! Instead of being something I kind of put off until the end of the day, I am excited to get into the scriptures/Preach My Gospel/Liahona/etc. every morning. It's really exciting to see how my mission is shaping me in ways that will bless me for the rest of my life, although I must say, this amount of improvement also means a lot of time spent recognizing my weaknesses and humbling myself. I wish I could've been diligent enough to learn some of these skills earlier on in my life, but better now that never, right?

And with that, my computer time is up, and it's time to head out for another busy P-Day (seriously, people think it's the easiest day of the week, but it's probably the most hectic!) I hope you all have a great week, and that you can see the ways that you are being blessed, even when it's not in the way you would've expected.


Sisar Hansen