Monday, June 9, 2014


When I received my mission call, I also received a packet of information and a letter from my mission president and his wife that were specific to my mission field. They wrote a little bit about the language of the country, and made mention that in Finland there are three languages- Finnish (of course), the language of love, and the language of the Spirit. I've pondered a lot about all three of those languages this week, for various reasons.

First of all, we got the results of our dreaded semi-annual language test this week! We called our zone's langugae coordinator, who administered the written portion at last month's zone conference, and called us each up to give us our oral portion over the phone a couple weeks ago. He explained a bit about the scoring, and how it works. There are two different scores- one is a 1-10 score for the test. Pretty simple. The second score is an average that takes into account the length of time I've been in the country. Anything from a -9 to +9 means that I'm within the expected range, with either some room for improvement, or the knowledge that it's all right on track. The score can go further negative or positive, indicating a major struggle, or particular proficiency. I've heard of people getting a +15 before, and my wish was that I could see something approaching that, and maybe a solid 6 on the 1-10 scale. I was amazed to find out that my score from 1-10 was 8.28, and that my average score was an almost unheard-of +34! Our langugae coordinator said he even learned some new vocabularly from going over my test! He did give me some grammar concepts to smooth out (When I said the Book of Mormon was written by prophets, I said it in the sense that those prophets were the writing utensils used to do the actual writing!) but I hereby have no excuse to ever feel badly about my Finnish ever, ever again, which is a huge weight off of my shoulders. My newfound test-score confidence has shown in the way I've been speaking this week, and I feel more motivated to push myself linguistically.
We've met a lot of non-Finnish speakers lately. One lady only speaks Chinese, so we went back and brought our Chinese member friend with us to translate so we could talk to her about the gospel. Turns out, she's not interested.(According to our interpreter, she'd thought we were government agents come to check on her, and when our friend told her we're missionaries, she asked him if he was a missionary, too. He paused for a second, and said, "Uh, yeah! Yeah, I am!" We love this guy to bits!) As Sisar Heggie and I walked to our next appointment, language was on our minds. I wondered out loud, "If Chinese is a tonal language, does that affect the way Chinese people sing?" Moments after the question left my mouth, a Chinese student walked by, and we took advantage of the opportunity to ask! We chatted for a while more, and he became our new investigator! I couldn't help but wonder if the first unprofitable event was meant to spark the second.

We've been focusing on praying always in our companionship this week. We're not perfect at it, but we're definitely praying more often out loud, and in our hearts. We've met more people who want to hear our message than we ever have before! When one lady was a no-show to our appointment, we listened to the Spirit, which was easy, since we'd invited Him through prayer consistently during the day, and we were led to a woman with a lot of questions, who, after we taught a powerful Restoration lesson, sent us on our way with a big smile on her face. While on the bus to visit our dear friend Brigitte, a girl got on and sat down right in front of my companion. I got a feeling that she was something special, but I was sitting at a weird angle, and unfortunately let that get in the way of talking to her. Sisar Heggie got the same message that I did, and started talking to her. We got off the bus, continued our chat, and set up another time to meet! Her name is Joy, and she's from Vietnam. She'd learned a bit about God and Christ from a friend, and was excited to hear that we wanted to teach her more. She later told us that when she got on the bus, she'd felt a bit down, and her friend had told her to try to seek out more moments of closeness with other people. We listened to the Spirit's whisperings, and answered her prayers, as she became an answer to ours.

Joy came to church yesterday (along with our favorite cranky old man, for the second time! Score for increased fluency in the language of loving everyone!) and as she doesn't speak Finnish, we had our friend act as interpreter during sacrament meeting. He had to go teach Primary during the second hour, as did we (we'd been asked to sub as a favor last week), so Sisar Heggie took a young woman with her as her companion for Primary, and I stayed in Sunday School as Joy's interpreter. I was a bit nervous, of course, but I trusted that the Spirit would speak through me, and though I didn't catch everything, my understanding was above-average that hour, and I was able to communicate the ideas and themes of the lesson. Joy is surprisingly fluent herself in the language of the Spirit, and she shared with me some really impressive insights. We look forward to meeting with her more this week and helping her continue in her newly-started journey of progression.

A recently drivers-licensed young adult from our ward has been coming with us on quite a few teaches lately. She served a week-long "mini mission" a year or so ago, and can't wait until she's old enough to send in her own papers. She's very shy about her english, which has been our primary teaching language this week, as we've taught a lot of students from Asia and Africa. She often sits quietly, unsure of what to say, but when she does speak, she testifies boldly and brilliantly, unaware of how unimportant it is that her vocabulary isn't massive, and her grammar is sometimes imperfect. The Spirit communicates effectively those things that her tongue struggles to articulate. We're so thankful for her, and the blessing she is to us.

We sisaret sang an arrangement of "Aamu Varhain Huoneessasi" (Did You Think to Pray) in sacrament meeting yesterday. We got a lot of visitors, less actives, and a couple of investigators to come support us. We even enlisted the help of a former invesitgator as our pianist, and were able to get to know her better as we practiced together during the week. It went pretty well, and our music was able to touch people in a way that normal words wouldn't have done. We can only pray that it helped those who are gaining, or re-discovering their own testimonies to feel the Spirit and have an increased desire to seek the blessings of praying always that we're discovering as missionaries. As prayer as been a theme for us this week, we've seen countless miracles of finding those who are prepared, finding more ways to serve others, and just finding more peace and rest while living a demanding missionary lifestyle. It's a skill that I'm still developing, but when I've made it a natural part of who I am as a missionary, it will be a huge blessing to the work. I've felt the Spirit more strongly, and been more patient and loving with everyone around me. Why didn't I try this earlier?

My language test scores and interpreting gig on Sunday have also reinforced my thoughts of pursuing language interpreting as a post-mission career path. Sometimes it's hard not to think of returning home one day, 25 and jobless, unsure of what the next step will be in my life. I've never had a really solid idea of what I want to do "when I grow up", and one of the blessings of my mission has been that, as I absorb myself in the work and try to absorb myself into the language and culture of Finland, I'm given more direction for my post-mission life. I even had a dream last night where I told a stranger that I want to be an interpreter some day. One of the exciting bonuses of being a missionary is getting to know myself on a deeper level than I did before.

As we've studied Preach My Gospel this week, planning for lessons with people not much familiar with any type of religion, we've been reminded of the importance of teaching with clear and simple language, using words that are appropriate for a specific person's background and experiences. As we plan with prayer and love for each person, we're able to know how to introduce and teach topics in ways that will uplift and edify them as individuals. We see changes in these people as a result. This is what it's all about.

Rakkaudella, I love you, Je vous aime, я любю вас 

Sisar Hansen

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