Monday, July 28, 2014

Note from Karlan's mom

Karlan didn't have time to write a blog post this week, but she says to say hi to everybody, and that she sends her love.  She looks forward to sharing more about missionary life next week.

She did mention the heat in her letter to her dad and me:  "The weather has been as high as 40 some days, and usually at least 30, so it's hard to get the energy to get up and go out. (These are all in Celsius, of course.) This is not what I had in my mind when I thought about serving my mission in Finland! I'll be a bit relieved when winter comes back around. I'd rather bundle up than end up covered in sweat.  It's starting to gradually get darker earlier, although it's still about normal for a USA summer. We walked through a refrigerated section of the grocery store today, and it felt wonderful."

'Til next week!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Of Moldy Fruit and Emergency Rooms

It was an eventful week, to say the least.

We had a lesson with Joy on Tuesday. We've talked about baptism consistently, and we knew we had to bring it up once more this time, but Sisar N and I both had a fear that if Joy didn't accept a solid date in July or August, then she might end our meetings out of feelings of pressure. We were late coming from our previous appointment (Our beloved 18-year old YSA helper valiantly used Google Maps to find us at a bus stop and give us a ride over to our lesson. She was rewarded with chocolate.) We were hungry, and got a pizza from the nearby pizzeria, and took it with us as a sorry-we're-so-late offering/dinner for us. We'd given Joy Alma 32 to read and ponder, hoping that she would connect with the analogy of the seed of faith growing into a tree, and that she would realize that the fruit it produces isn't really of any use unless eaten (aka, baptism). She told us about how much she enjoyed her reading assignment, and how much it helped her in her intense summer school classes. We moved our way to baptism, and the initial response was in favor of a November baptismal date. In a move I would never pull unless strongly prompted by the Spirit to do so, I shared shared my testimony that the adversary is real, and that he wants to make her precious fruit of faith moldy if he possible can. We talked about how well he knows her and wants to bring her down for all the good she's doing, and told her that we want her to have the Gift of the Holy Ghost as soon as she can, for a protection. She agreed to an August 9th date, and we're so excited to work out the details with her later this week, and do everything we can to help her prepare for her big day! She has been, without a doubt, one of the biggest blessings of my missionary service. If I had served when I was 21, I would've missed out on Joy, partly from the fact that sisters hadn't served  in my area for years until just 3 months ago. She has incredible faith, and without exception, amazes us with her insights, wisdom, and dedication each time we meet.

Friday night we play sähly (floor hockey) in the church gym. Friends and members are all invited, and we generally have a pretty good time. It's a good workout, and gives typically quiet Finns a chance to show a very different side of themselves. It's an intense game, and if somebody doesn't walk away with so much as a bruise on their leg, then it probably wasn't played properly. Last week's game started out fairly uneventfully. We had only 5 of us, so I was on a team with one other player, our YSA friend with a mission call to Greece (we'll call him Gabe), pitted against Joy, Sisar N, and our Russian friend Karl. Just as I was about to attempt to get the ball past goalie Joy, I hear a cry from my teammate. I turned around to see him holding his nose, hands covered in blood. "I'm pretty sure it's broken!" he said through the pain. Sisar N and I hurried to get paper towels to clean up all the blood on his face and on the gym floor. When we came back, Karl had made sure that Gabe's nose wasn't actually broken, just bloodied up a bit. Turns out, Karl's elbow and Gabe's nose had some fierce competition for the same space, causing damage to both. Karl and Gabe headed off to the emergency room, and Sisar N, Joy, and I went off on a secret mission to get him a good snack and some of his favorite ice cream for when he returned to the church afterwards. We had a good opportunity to have some more one-on-one time with Joy, and Karl and Gabe had some good bonding time as they waited for a doctor to fix our poor friend right up. In the end, we all had a good snack together at the church, and Gabe told us that he'd received a minor concussion, although his nose was just fine.

We've been teaching a lot, and seeing some good results. Karl, Joy, and Veli McGee all came to church on Sunday, and we're always looking out for opportunities to serve others and bring them the joy of the gospel. We'd met a young man, a student, on the bus a little while back. He told us he was atheist, but gave us his number so we could tell him about our YSA activities. On the way home from a fun evening with Brigitte (who showed us old photos, and let us paint her nails for a "name day" present) we saw him once again on the bus! We gave him some of the extra pastries Brigitte had sent home with us, and talked a little bit more about church stuff. When we explained that we're neither Catholic nor Lutheran, he was intrigued, and even more so when we said that we have another book to compliment the Bible. He asked if we had a copy for him to read, and I pulled one out of my bag to give to him. He said thanks, and told us that it would make some interesting bus reading. Another day on our way to the train station for district meeting, our bus was full of students on a tour of Finland, all the way from RANSKA! (Which, being interpreted, means France!) On the way back from the same meeting, we met a woman from Congo on the bus- I got to speak more French in one day than I usually do in a month! We got in contact with a young woman we'd met on the train to Helsinki a few weeks back, and had a church tour and gave her a copy of Mormonin Kirja. She's often gone for work, but hopefully we can meet again when she's back in town.

It was a good, full week. We taught a lot of lessons. I've started taking a multivitamin and iron supplements per a doctor's suggestion (although the results of my blood test will be mine in after another week of waiting) and I feel a lot more energized- I didn't fall asleep during language study all week! We've got some good potential for this week as well- YSA activities, dinner appointments, and a surprise last-minute trip with Karl and some ward members to see a musical production put on by Finnish YSA all about the Plan of Salvation in Helsinki. Preach My Gospel admonishes us to search out many different finding opportunities, and we've really tried to do that to the best of our ability here in Lappeenranta. Hopefully nobody else's nose is sacrificed as a result.

The church is true! Heavenly Father loves you!


Sisar Hansen

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mysterious Ways

It was a bit of a mix-up this week. We went once again to Helsinki, this time for our monthly zone meeting. I've almost forgotten what my district looks like. While we were there, we took the opportunity to double dip and do exchanges with the sister training leaders in Espoo, since we live so far out and train tickets can get pricey. It's a bit surreal to see Sisar Heggie with other companions, in another area, but I do love to see her. I went with Sisar Cribbs, who was also my sister training leader when I served in Lahti, so it was our third exchange together. She's bright and sunny, and draws people to her. We gave a church tour to a young man, and although the thought of baptism seemed big and impossible to him, he softened up when we told him that all we want to do is take things one step at a time- how about church on Sunday? Baptism is a big commitment, and living the commandments can seem like a huge task, but Heavenly Father only expects us to do the one step at a time. And then, pretty soon, people find that after taking steps for a period of time, that they've already made the gospel a part of who they are, and it no longer feels so daunting.

I haven't made much mention of this in past emails, but I am tired. And not just I'm-on-a-mission-tired, but I've-followed-counsel-from-experts-and-leaders-to-slow-things-down-and-I'm-still-constantly-exhausted-tired. Despite my desires to stay focused on the work, I've sometimes wished that I could have one day to just stay home and sleep and relax and try to regain some lost strength. Before we left from Helsinki, I visited a doctor and got clearance for some blood tests to try to figure out what's making my body feel so slow. The Espoo sisaret showed us a nice little restaurant nearby that serves American-style Mexican food, and offers missionaries a generous discount. We enjoyed a scrumptious meal together, and then went home, everything fairly uneventful. Until about 3:15 in the morning, when my burrito came back in a not-so-delicious way, waking up my poor toveri in the process. 

When I woke up later that morning, we made an emergency plan for the day- When the time came for our lessons with investigators, Sisar N would head out with one of the YSA from our ward, and another, newly-arrived-from-Helsinki YSA would come stay with me as my babysitter so I could stay home and get some rest. I had a major nap, read the entire July Liahona cover-to-cover, and drank more liquids than I thought possible in such a short time. My "babysitter" member is a return missionary, and we spent some time talking about Sisar N and my vision for Lappeenranta. She excitedly got our her phone to record a list of specific types of people we're looking for, to build up the church in this small city. She added her own ideas, and then asked if we could kneel to pray together for help to find these people! Ahhh!! Amazing!! The Lord knows how tired I am, and how difficult it's been some days just to get out of the door. He knows that I need rest, but that I'm hesitant to take time out of normal missionary activities if I'm not feeling sick-sick. So if a morning of throwing up is what it takes for me to get that day of total rest I've secretly hoped for, and to feel renewed and refreshed for future missionary work, then so be it. A lot of prayers were answered that day, albeit in unexpected ways.

For one reason or another, we are given trials and setbacks in life. It would be easy to think of the bad moments and wonder why, or to rue the day that they ever happened. But sometimes these trials are unexpected blessings in disguise, or even answers to our own prayers. The Lord provides for us in these times as we continue in our desires to follow Him and do what is right, despite our temporary obstacles. 

It's a true blessing to serve here in Finland. It's still surreal at times, and I'm not sure if the magnitude of what I'm doing here, and the opportunities that God has given me will every 100% sink in. I hope they don't, so that I'll always be in awe and wonder of what He does for me in my life. He lives. His church is restored on the earth, and somehow I'm blessed enough to be a part of it.


Sisar Hansen

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pink Week

"Sisar Hansen- Guess what?" Is a phrase that I've come to hear quite a bit over the past two weeks with my new toveri. This time she was excited to announce that she'd filled out our weeks goals in her planner with a pink pen. "The last time I used pink in my planner, we found TEN new investigators that week!" We were really excited to see what kind of "pink week" we were in for this time.

Things didn't seem so pink at first when, despite a profoundly spiritual previous lesson with Dave, he told us that he doesn't want to waste our time, and needs to look for his own answers in his own way. I love Dave. He is one of my favorite people that I have worked with during my mission. He also has a lot to work out, and a lot to think through. He's investigated several times since 2010 and gets a little bit further each time. So hopefully this means that he can find the peace of truth that he's looking for within the next 2-3 times he investigates. :p

We've been trying to be more consistently active with the YSA here in Lappeenranta. We have activities every Tuesday, and we're trying to get a good group to play sähly, aka floor ball with us on Fridays. We had several investigators come to make nachos, play games, and share a spiritual message with us on Tuesday. We were able to normally and naturally teach everyone in the room, and invite the Spirit in an everyday scenario. After we washed all the dishes and were standing around the kitchen, we started an impromptu testimony meeting. We shared what had been on our minds lately, and how we've felt the Spirit in our lives recently. Joy, who never ceases to amaze us with her understanding and willingness to act, shared some impressive insights on the Plan of Salvation, and she actually taught our other investigator a few points on the topic! Joy accepts all of our commitments, and even does her own following up ("By the way, guys- about the Law of Chastity- I know we're supposed to stay away from explicit movies and TV shows, and now it saves me a lot of time!") She's been a wonderful addition to our little group, and we look forward to seeing her every time. We also had a good floor ball turnout, and we have some fierce investigators! It was an intense game, and we all got a good workout, followed, of course, by some more spiritual edification by the sisaret. Friday's impromptu element was s'mores and rootbeer floats (or, as close as we could get in Finland!) Funny that the lone American sisar would forget American Independence Day among all the other hustle-and-bustle of being a missionary- Sisar N reminded me several times throughout the day. We're really praying to find young people who can replace those about to leave on missions, and serve their own missions when those two get back. We want to breathe new life into a country where too many young church members get married to Americans and move to the States. We need strong, young families here in Suomi, and if we can find, teach, and baptize young adults, there will be less need to seek an eternal companion elsewhere, and more children will be born into eternal families in a place where their faith would put them well into the minority. As a result of our efforts with the YSA last week, we got a very high, one might say very pink, number of lessons taught with a member present.

Another pink experience last week happened after our meet-your-new-mission-president meeting in Helsinki on Wednesday. Missionaries serving in the Helsinki zone have the privilege of attending the temple once per transfer period. We poor folk in the Kouvola district are too far away to make the trip in the alotted time, and so it never seemed like a possibility anyway. I was excited to hear, upon emerging from the shower, that a certain former companion of mine who is now a sister training leader in Espoo, had called with a proposal- Since we were going to be in Helsinki for our meeting anyway, why didn't we take the afternoon to hop over to the temple afterwards? AAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! I hadn't been to the temple in 8 months, since the MTC!! I'd longed to go to the temple for months, not knowing when or how it would be possible. After we got to know our new mission president and his wife for a couple hours, we headed over to Espoo and did a session at the Helsinki temple. The building itself is gorgeous, and very Finnish. A lot of straight lines and simple, but elegant designs. It felt so good to be there- I wish we could have stayed for a week straight. While we were there we saw a woman from Oulu, another woman from Lahti, the elders from Mikkeli who were also taking advantage of their brief proximity to the temple, and a missionary couple who were on their last week of dedicated service in the mission office before heading home to the States. Even as an introvert, I'll say it- the temple is best when you are there with people who you love. 

We're on another week now, where we hope to find, as Preach My Gospel describes, those who are not only willing to hear us, but to act on those things that they hear. These are the ones who, like Joy has done so far, feel the peace and happiness that the world may try to imitate, but that only those who are followers of Christ will find in this lifetime. Those people are in Lappeenranta, and in places all over the world, waiting for the opportunity to learn how to make full use of Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness. May we all look out for opportunities to help those around us see "la vie en rose" as we share the message of the restored gospel.


Sisar Hansen

Sister Nabatnikova and I in Imatra.  We live in such a beautiful area!!
We went to the Russian border!   I thought I was so cool, with my sign
that says "Hi" in Russian, until my companion from Moscow pointed
out that I used a regular "N" instead of the backward one they use in Russia
TEMPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   I got to go for the first time since arriving in Finland.
It's a gorgeous place, and a wonderful treat to be able to attend.
Proof that I'm privileged to serve in one of the
greatest places in Finland!