Tuesday, August 26, 2014

As Time Goes By

Last week I received an email from my parents about the adventurous week they had when my sister and her family came to visit for a few days. As I looked at photos of my younger niece, I thought to myself, "Wow! This girl is so grown up! Hey- her birthday is this week, isn't it? Wow, one year already!" And then it hit me again- my niece was born on my second day at the MTC. As of the 21st of this month, which was last week, I have been a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for a full YEAR. 

It often feels like my experiences from the MTC were in some alternate universe that had little, if anything to do with my mission, although it was the indispensable first step in my preparations to serve Suomessa. Even looking back to my time in Oulu, it seems like what I'm doing now is on some sort of different wavelength from life back then. Time is a weird thing, and it will never cease being weird to me.

I've served in 3 areas in Finland so far, not counting the MTC (change calls this week might change that number), with 5 companions, counting the MTC. 3 of those companions have been non-Americans, and I've only served with ONE companion from Utah. I've learned my 3rd language, and started learning a 4th. I've had 6 district leaders in the field. I've attended 2 convert baptisms, one of them being somebody I taught. I've taken hundreds of pictures, baked hundreds of cookies, biked hundreds of miles, and spent hundreds of hours reading the scriptures.

I have just 3 transfers left before "normal civilian life" comes back at me with full force. Preach My Gospel chapter 8 is a reminder about how precious time is, and how we need to use it well. I know I haven't used all of my mission time to the fullest, but I'm thankful for this brief moment to live in such a way that I am always out doing the Lord's work, in His name. Some missionaries don't like to count the time that goes by, for whatever reasons. Some missionaries spend their service in denial of time's passage. I've known from the start that full-time missionary service is just a small phase-within-the-phase-of-mortality, and that doesn't bother me. I want to be a true and dedicated servant of the Lord as I wear His name on a badge, and when it's time to take that badge off my chest, I'll continue to serve Him in important and exciting ways. This full-time service is not the one-and-only thing worth doing in this life, but I know that it is the best thing I can possibly be doing right now, and it will influence the rest of my existence as I go about doing other worthy things throughout time, and throughout eternity,

This Church is true. It gives us the opportunity to see things as they really are, and discern those things that are fleeting and subject to erosion and decay, from those things that are eternal in nature and in consequence. I am thankful for those eternal things that keep away the sorrows of mortality. I am thankful to know that I am made of the things of eternity, and that I can find joy forever through the small moments of this mortal life. I invite you all to take a moment to reflect upon your lives, and to find a way to fill the time with those things that will matter most in the eternal long-run. 


Sisar Hansen

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Note from Karlan's Mom

Hi everyone--

No blog from Karlan this week.

She did tell her Dad and me that Joy had the opportunity to attend the temple in Helsinki with the YSA group from her ward, and loved it.  

Transfers are coming right up, which for many missionaries prompts feelings of excitement and anticipation. Kar loves Lappeenranta, but would love the opportunity to serve in another area.  This Thursday is her mission one-year mark.

Thank you everyone who has been supportive of our girl.

Vicki H.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Last week's post was all about opposition. This week's post, in many ways, is all about joy.

It was a long week, full of anticipation and even some uncertainty. We found out Sunday at church that our planned lake baptismal location wouldn't work out, after all. Ah, well, a baptism at the chapel is still a baptism. Joy was very accepting, although a lake baptism was her dream. We still had a lot of work to do, including putting a program together, arranging for refreshments, and the big pre-baptismal interview.

Monday night we decided to do a family home evening with Brigitte, Joy, and the new YSA who just moved into the ward about a month ago. It was a hit! Even though Joy doesn't speak Finnish, and Brigitte doesn't speak English, they hit it off, and were fast friends. Even better was our Finnish friend- Brigitte went right into telling her everything- her life story, her testimony, how much she likes the dessert she bought for us. She was so happy to have a party at her house, and thrilled to meet some new friends from church.

Tuesday night we had a dinner with our relief society president and her family. Her husband is practically what we might call a "dry Mormon", in that he has a strong testimony, but has yet to be baptized for his own reasons. Dinner was delicious, and when we taught our lesson, it was go-bold-or-go-home time. "So, how can we help you to prepare to be baptized?" No direct answer, but our RS president said during the ride home that perhaps we should come over more often. After our lesson, she took us out to the shore of the small lake right outside her apartment building. "You know, I've been out here at least 10 times recently, and I've only ever seen one other person." We all exchanged looks at each other. Could this be our spot for Saturday?? We decided to pray about it and report back.

Wednesday was zone meeting. Good to see friendly, familiar faces, and afterwards we had enough time before our train to take a mini-tour of downtown Helsinki. Sisar N, of course, knows all about it. We even taught a few lessons on the street in the process! Afterwards we had time to meet with Joy- we met with her every day last week because it's such a critical time. We shared scriptures, contacted potentials, even watched a short film about Joseph Smith with one of the YSA. This girl is prepared.

Thursday was the day of the big interview. President Watson decided that he wanted to do this one, and he and Sisar Watson arrived all the way from Helsinki! We arrived at the church fresh from contacting potentials and grabbing come celebratory ice cream. The interview went by with flying colors! President Watson held personal interviews with both Sisar N and I afterwards, and spent most of the time talking about how amazing Joy is. He was blow away. Of course, he was. How could he not be? Also, we had a talk about the literally-bigger-than-my-face bug bite on my leg! If it got any worse, i'd have to head over the emergency room! GULP!

Friday was exchanges day with the sister training leaders in Espoo. I was with SIsar Nielsen for the day, but they came the night before, so I got some good giggly-girl time with my dear Sisar Heggie. (She snuck my favorite Tutti Frutti under my pillow, and I slept on it before I realized it was there, and then ate it all in one go, of course!) For the first time in months, I was on a bike all day. We use bikes here in Lappeenranta, but never for so long at once. It was a fun change. I enjoyed getting to know my temporary toveri better. We found some solid potentials in a less-frequented area. We taught tons of lessons on the street. The catch- the theme of our exchange seemed to be half-naked-less-actives-answering-the-door-be-they-men-or-women! WHY do Finns ALWAYS answer the door??!! After we saw our Espoo friends off to the train, it was time for floor hockey. I get better every week. It's now something I look forward to every week. A good way to get some of that pre-baptism energy out.

Saturday was the big day! We awoke and got ready early. Our ride came at EIGHT in the morning, and we headed out to the lake. We kept our location a secret from Joy, as a present to her. We picked her and Gabe, who was to baptize her, and were on our way. We distracted Joy with a present in the form of a picture of Christ and a Finnish CTR ring (aka, a VO ring), and it wasn't until we were nearly done with our 20-minute car ride that she turned to us and asked, "Um, aren't we going to the church?" We explained that we had to stop at our RS president's house for a bit. She was still a bit confused when we told her to put on her white dress and head outside with us. As we passed the swimming pool on the bottom floor of the apartment complex, I asked, "So, want to get baptized in this pool?" "Okay!" Sisar N continued, "Or how about in that lake?" "What? REALLY?? Is this the spot?" None of us could keep from smiling. We took photos and folded programs as people started to arrive. It was a good turn-out, considering the semi-remote location. We gathered at the shore, sang, prayed, and I gave a short talk about how small and simple things have led us to this great moment. Hard not to cry. Gabe took her hand and lead her into the water. He recited the baptismal prayer in perfect English (He'd been practicing nervously all morning) and then Joy was baptized! She said that she felt like a princess, a new person, completely clean! We went to the church to finish things up, and have a makeshift barbecue (plus s'mores!) with the one-use grills we found for a couple euros each at the grocery store. A recently reactivated member who just moved back to the area introduced her 10-year old daughter as our newest investigator. Everything was perfect. 

And then yesterday, Joy was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. "I was smiling up there. Did you see?" she asked me as she sat back down after the ordinance was completed. Once again, everyone was all smiles. How could we not be? Her blessing as she sat in that chair in the front of the chapel was beautiful, and fit just for her. She is truly an elect daughter of God, who was lead to us for this very reason.

Words cannot express the joy I have felt these past few days. There are people out there that DO want this in their lives. There are people out there who hunger and thirst for truth and righteousness. Joy has been one of the greatest miracles of my mission- and I'm not just talking about Lappeenranta's newest member. I have been blessed with "joy as exceeding as (has been) my pain" while in Finland. I have been blessed with reasons to rejoice, to praise the Lord for His goodness. I never thought that these things could happen to me, and it's still a bit surreal at times. I pray that I will continue to see miracles over the next 6 months that will reconfirm the joy that I've felt over the past few days.

Bonus- I got a letter this morning from an unknown sender. I opened the envelope to see a beautiful card, and inside was a note from my favorite member in Lahti! She helped us whenever she possibly could, and Sisar Dayton and I sang her praises daily. Although I was only there for a very brief time, this sisar was thinking of me, and wanted to send me love. This is another one of the joys of missionary work. :) 

We will face new challenges and opportunities this week. A baptism is not the end, or an opportunity to rest and congratulate ourselves. It is part of our work here, a work that must continue. We need to find new people to follow in Joy's footsteps and find their own joy of the gospel. Please, please find a way this week, even in a small and simple form, to share the joy that you feel from your relationship with Heavenly Father and with the Savior. Help make this world a place with a little less despair, and a little more joy.


Maailman iloisin  [the world's happiest]   Sisar Hansen

In front of a big Catholic church in downtown Helsinki, waiting for our train

My nasty huge bug bite. A bit hard to see in this photo. Suffice it to say, it was huge.

Waiting for the big moment with Joy! She's glowing!

Monday, August 4, 2014


Before I write a blog post email, I almost always have a very clear idea of what themes might arise, and what the title of the entry should be. After some big experiences lately, I've decided that this week will be about opposition.

The bad news part first: We are within a week of Joy's baptism, which means that this is the time when Satan is hardest at work on our dear friend. It's almost a cliche that the week before a baptism is a dangerous one, and something ALWAYS goes wrong at some point. Yesterday we got a phone call from Joy, which was alarming in itself, since she always texts us. We caught the first available bus and met her by the university, and walked around the lake shore to talk through some things. That morning she'd been at church, eager as ever, wearing one of the new skirts we helped her pick out at our thrift store outing last P-day. She looked good- not just her outfit, but her entire countenance. Later that afternoon, she had a very upsetting personal experience that made her question her decision to be baptized this Saturday. She said that she'd first thought to just leave all of this behind, but then she couldn't lie to herself and say that she hasn't seen miracles and become a better person since learning about the church. She then told us about her idea to postpone her baptism until things got a little bit better. As missionaries, we know that this just gives Satan more opportunities to do his thing, and we were holding our breath waiting for a definitive answer on this weekend's goings on. We listened, talked, cried, shared scriptures, and finally knelt together on the ground to offer a prayer of thanks and of pleading for strength. As always, Joy found her answer almost immediately after the prayer, and when we sat back down at our bench, the first thing she said was, "The baptism is still ON!" YAY, good news part!!! She shared with us some other very personal thoughts, feelings, and oddly miraculous experiences that have strengthened her determination to be baptized and confirmed this coming weekend. She is one of the strongest people I know. Many people would run away, abandon all of this, make excuses, justify keeping the Book of Mormon around in their lives and just not being baptized, any number of things. But not Joy. She amazes us every single time we meet with her, no exceptions. My mom sometimes tells me that she'd tell me how much she loves me, but she doesn't yet speak the perfect Adamic language of heaven. I feel the same way about Joy.

We got another phone call earlier in the week from our dear friend, Brigitte. She's had bad health for a while now, but has lately felt lonely and discouraged on top of it all. She told us that we needed to call before our scheduled visit the next day, because she might be in the hospital. When the time came we called, and found out that she was indeed at the hospital, receiving care for her sick legs. We re-programmed our schedule and got off the bus at the hospital, and spent almost half and hour looking for her! Finnish hospitals are not like ones in America- You can pretty much just walk in, and walk all around, getting lost, and nobody will say anything. Turns out, we entered the building at exactly the opposite spot from where we should have been, but all was well, and we finally found our friend. She was so excited to see us! "I told you to call, and you did! I told you that you could come, and now you're here!" Anything for Brigitte.

Opposition on the mission isn't just about rejection or language barriers. People often give a general, "It's hard, but worth it" when asked about missionary difficulties. Opposition can also include not receiving revelation at the rate you'd like, feeling like the list of demands placed in front of you is too lengthy to be possible, exhaustion and burn-out from the intense missionary schedule, Satan constantly at work trying to get you to mess up this sacred time, temptations to look a little too long at the worldliness around you, agency of others, losing focus, fears of an unknown post-mission future, not always seeing the results of hard work, weather, getting tired of the routine, waiting for miracles, wanting to be alone for just a day, disagreements with other missionaries and church members, and the list goes on. It's been said that many missionaries go through their own Gethsemane while on their mission. The experiences I've had here have often been difficult, and I've lost track of the times when I've just wished I could go home and be "normal" again. But just like Joy, I know that I can't deny the things I've felt throughout this process. I can't deny the feelings of the Holy Ghost piercing my soul as my bishop in Geneva asked me to reconsider missionary work. I can't forget that opening my mission call to see the words, "Finland Helsinki Mission" was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. This mission has made me a better person than I thought I could be. I'm still me, but a more dedicated, hard-working, mature, and humble version of me. I've felt moments of intense joy with people who I didn't know a year ago, although who I now love dearly. I've seen miracles that I never would have thought possible. Sometimes I have to stop for a minute and think, "What did I do in my life to deserve being here in such a wonderful place with these amazing people? Why, of all people, did Heavenly Father choose ME to be here at this time, to be part of Hank's/Joy's/Brigitte's/Sisar Nyman's life journey?" At times it's still surreal to me that I'm even here in the first place, although my one-year mark looms ahead in the not-so-distant future. There are times when I have felt like my mission is a refiner's fire, my own personal Gethsemane that I must endure with faith and patience. And I think that there are periods on my mission that have been set aside for me for these very purposes. But as we learn in the Book of Mormon, there must be "opposition in all things", and as a balance to these times of opposition, I have been blessed beyond what I can say with an imperfect vocabulary. Joy, Hank, Sisar Nyman, Brigitte, Dave, President and Sisar Rawlings, and the long list of people I've met here during my time as a full-time missionary have all been worth it. I would do all of this just for each one of them. The thing about Gethsemane is, that it can be the best way to come closer to the Savior, and to feel just a glimmer of what He has felt for me, and for the world. I'm thankful for this time that I've had to dedicate to Him, and to come closer to being like Him in understanding, and in experience as I work to help others around me come to know Him as well.

This mission is hard, but worth it.


Sisar Hansen