Monday, September 29, 2014

Trunky Letter

I certainly didn't get a trunky letter this week, but my companion did! And she's only ONE TRANSFER ahead of me! That means that in another two short months, I will get my very own trunky letter, bugging me about solidifying my travel plans home! Ahhhh!! I don't know how it happened, but I have been on my mission for a long time! Just 5 more months, and time keeps going by faster each transfer! 

An amazing thing about time, is that it allows us to see things previously unseen, or see the results of previously-unfolded miracles. Sometime during my service with Sisar Nabatnikova in Lappeenranta, we met a nice-looking woman on the street, with her two kids. We chatted for a bit, got her phone number, but there didn't seem to be a lot of obvious interest on her part, beyond us being gal pals. Nevertheless, Sisar N would occasionally give a reminder that maybe we should call "that one lady". We finally got in contact with her one day, and she told us that she was getting ready to move to Helsinki in about a week or so. We offered to help, and set up a time to go pack and clean at "Jamie's" house. While we helped her out, we chatted, and learned more about her, and it was soon obvious that things have not been easy for Jamie. We were able to teach the Restoration with her, and she quickly asked how a person could join our church. We discussed baptism, but since she was leaving so soon, and so we didn't take it so far beyond a nice little discussion. We did get her new address in Helsinki, and permission to forward her information to the elders in her area. Flash forward a couple months or so, and as Sisar Schellenberg and I sat on a bus on the way home from an appointment, we get a phone call from the one-and-only Elder Downs. She answers, and quickly hands the phone over to me. "Sisar Hansen! Jamie's getting baptized tomorrow at the Haaga chapel! Do you think you two could come?" Rejoicing in one of the many perks of serving in Helsinki and in close proximity to other wards, I quickly confirmed that we could indeed finagle some time to come to the baptism! Elder Downs told me all about how she's been a golden investigator, how she's changed dramatically, and how she even takes insanely good notes in her scriptures. Apparently, on their first meeting, she jumped straight into the question of baptism, and how it works! 

I remember when Sisar Heggie and I met Joy on the bus. There was an instant feeling of, "This one is special." We never doubted that she would take right off, and be excited to get baptized. I never felt that way with Jamie. She was just another woman on the street, with whom we decided to strike up a conversation. Helping her pack to move was nice, but I wondered if things would go well once she had a change of pace in her life. Maybe she'd forget about the church. Maybe she'd meet with the elders once and lose interest. Who knew? Well, the Lord knew. And He put her in our path for a very important reason. Not every "golden" person feels like gold upon first meeting. That's a big lesson that I learned recently. Sometimes miracles seem absolutely normal at first, because that's how we best learn to work for them. I went to give her a hug before her baptism. She told me she was feeling emotional about it all, and she looked like a different person than the one I'd first met on the street. She looked happier, with more purpose in her life. She looked like somebody who was so grateful to learn about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and to have the opportunity to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. It was a wonderful service, and there was a lot of love in the air. I have been humbled by this experience, especially when I consider my original lack of faith. This is the third baptism I've been blessed to attend in Finland, and the second person who I've been able to teach, who has been baptized. It was such a joyful experience, to see her decide to come unto Christ, that she may "be perfected in Him." I pray that I will keep this in my memory as a reminder to just go for it, no matter how big and obvious the promptings of the Spirit may or may not be. Every person is a beloved child of God, who needs to know about Him so that they can return to His presence. I challenge you to think about that as you ponder your role in missionary work, and as you prepare to be edified by this weekend's GENERAL CONFERENCE!!! (Shameless plug!)

It has been a blessed week. We've felt like things have been going a bit slow around here. No progressing investigators, not a lot of potentials in a fairly new area, etc. But as we've decided to just go out and do good, sometimes doing service, sometimes doorbell-ditching some cookies at a member's house, we've met people on our way who have renewed our hope for this area. It's become pretty clear that Sisar Schellenberg and I have been placed here in order to build our area up, since it's historically been one of the less-explored areas of the ward. I'm humbled by, and grateful for the trust the Lord has put in me, to serve in this area with such a stellar companion, and to be in a position to take something small and simple, and start making it into something great. Throughout all of this, I've noticed that rejection doesn't scare me so much anymore, and I haven't lost faith that we have a purpose here, no matter how many days go by without a new investigator. Miracles happen as we strive for obedience, treasure up the word, and then go out and do the work diligently and selflessly. This so far has been my favorite transfer on my mission- Not that it's my favorite place, and I've had other companions with whom I've loved serving, but because I'm finally starting to get it! I'm finally starting to really love missionary work on the level that you hear recently returned missionaries talk about over the pulpit at Sacrament meeting. I'm upbeat and positive, while still maintaining my more quiet personality, and I'm finding how Karlan Hansen fits into missionary work in Finland. I'm seeing results as I look for small miracles, and exercise patience that time will reveal things to me that I would not myself imagine.

This church has blessed me with so much! Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are the source of every good thing in my life, and I want my life to be a reflection of my gratitude. I'm more and more positive every day on my mission that I'm becoming truly converted, so that the fear that missionaries often have of going back home and transitioning back into being the same person as before, is being washed away. I'm still me, but a much better version of me that I would have become in any other way, and for that, I will praise the Father forever. When the time comes and I do get my own trunky letters, I'll be sad, but I know that this full-time missionary service is just a short phase in the greater plan, one that time will help me to appreciate as I eventually go back to the States and resume a "normal civilian" life, developing talents and making plans that are impossible while wearing a nametag. It's a blessing and a treasure to be here in the meantime.

Kiitos hyvin paljon for the love and support. It's working.


Sisar Hansen

Sisar Schellenberg and me
ANOTHER broken umbrella! Curse the Finnish winds! Good photo op, though.

Monday, September 22, 2014


First of all, I am pleased to announce that Protein Week was a roaring success! We went all-out, and bought chicken, ground beef, nuts, dairy, and even a big bag of protein powder to mix into a smoothie. We made protein-packed granola bars to take along with us, and we always make sure to have a good snack packed in our bags. As I've continued to drink enough water and as we focus more on exercising well in the morning, my excess exhaustion has vanished away. I still feel more than ready to plunge into bed at night, but no more does the inclination strike me during language study!

Speaking of language, I cannot believe the amount of French I've spoken so far in Helsinki! My poor companion stands on the sidelines as I "parler" with people from different parts of the world. Actually, she bravely steps in, adding a testimony or a comment in English, as part of a conversation she can't even understand. It takes guts to do that. We've given away a "Livre de Mormon", and while none of these Francophones are actual investigators yet, we've got some solid potentials coming out of these conversations.

We had the opportunity to attend the temple last Friday, and it, of course, was wonderful. I love when I go to the temple and I can get something out of it that I never got before. Going to the temple just feels like coming home after a long day, and it's often a more efficient way to feel rested than P-Day! The day we went just happened to also be Mission Leadership Council day, so we were joined by President and Sisar Watson, as well as all of the zone leaders, sister training leaders, and president's assistants! There was a huge group of Russians there, and I used my very limited Russian skills to say hello to a lady who looked like she wanted to talk to me. She asked if I lived in Finland (I think) and I told her that, yes, I live in Finland, because I'm a missionary, and this is my companion. She lit up and excitedly started speaking in fast-paced Russian, which I did not understand in the least, and continued even when I told her that I don't speak the language. I gave her a "nice to meet you" in Russian on our way out, and she lit up again, spoke more excited Russian, and looked like she might tear up a little bit. I have no idea what she said, or why she felt the way she did, but it was a very touching moment for me to be able to give a form of service to somebody in a unique way.

We've yet to find a lot of people in our area so far, but we're making plans to find those whom the Lord has prepared to accept the gospel and be baptized. The rejection we receive no longer gets me down, and more and more, I'm able to serve cheerfully and boldly. I still suffer from shyness, and have times when I absolutely do not want to talk to that person, but I always feel so warm, safe, empowered when I follow the promptings of the Spirit, and act in a way that I know I'm supposed to. The Lord is so consistent, and blesses us for our diligence. I read Preach My Gospel chapter 11 this past week, and it talks all about how obedience is a form of repentance, which leads to a mighty change in ourselves for the better, which brings about the blessings of God. It's a miraculous thing. I'm blessed and happy to take part in this.


Sisar Hansen

Monday, September 15, 2014

Protein Week

Oh, the fatigue! It seems to come and go, and I'm struggling to figure out the pattern behind all of it, if there is one. Sisar Schellenberg has been keeping a list of possible causes (she loves lists- one of the reasons I like her), and we're still scratching our heads a little. I don't know how I made it through church yesterday, especially since it's back to the normal 3-hour block, which is a lot longer than Lappeenranta's 2 hours. I've taken a few naps to get by, but it never seems to completely go away. We had a few procedural questions for President Watson last night, and I took the opportunity to fill him in on my physical status. He asked about my diet, and then suggested that I eat more meat and get more protein to keep myself going. Having just recently served with a vegetarian, it almost seemed strange for somebody to actually advise me to consume animals, but I do love a good piece of beef, and so today at the store we bought beans, peanut butter, sausage, ground beef, and even some protein powder in a big bag. It is protein week in Herttoniemi, and we are going all-out. My nothing-if-not-organized toveri even re-arranged one of our cupboards last night, and designated it as Sisar Hansen's easy-to-reach protein shelf. There's a can of tuna, some nuts, sunflower seeds, and miscellaneous left overs from the last sisters that lived here. We finally got around last night to baking the chicken we'd bought last week, and I only snoozed through the last 10 minutes of language study today, so there could be something to this. I've got a protein powder-laced smoothie in my water bottle for on-the-go snacking as we go to our appointments today. We are not doing this by halves, no sir!

As I mentioned in my last post, last Friday was mission conference with Elder Bendar! He and Elder Ballard had been touring around Europe, and we were blessed to have some time with an apostle, just us missionaries. Another highlight of the conference was seeing mission friends. As we walked from the train station to the Haaga chapel, I was suddenly seized from behind in a death-grip disguised as a hug. It was such a startle, that I punched myself right in the face! My crankiness over the face-punching lasted just a couple of seconds, because how can I be upset at SISAR NYMAN?? I was giddy to see her, and even more excited that since she's now in Lappeenranta, we'll see each other again at zone meetings. One person who I, unfortunately, do not get to see at such meetings, is the incomparable Sisar Dayton. As we approached the doors of the chapel, my heart leaped in my chest a bit, and I thought, "It's HER!!" Serving with her has been one of the highlights of my entire mission, and I hugged her until I thought my arms would fall off. I got to chit-chat with sisters serving in my old areas, and one of the sisters now serving in Lahti told me that a certain maaaaan who Sisar Daytooooon and I would sometimes meeeeet on the buuuuuuuuuuuus asked her if she knew Sisar Hansen! Ahhhh!!! I don't know if you remember me mentioning him in one of my posts from way back in May(?) but it's good to hear that I've made an impression on somebody who's also made an impression on me. :) At the end, we arranged ourselves by height, of course taking more time than we anticipated, to take a mission photo. I'll look forward to seeing that one.

As for the conference itself, we've had a lot of members ask us what Elder Bednar said to us. One of the best parts was the first thing that came out of his mouth: "It's easy to tell that you have prepared." Too many would-be spiritual experiences are blocked off by lack of preparation. We'd read talks, prayed, and asked questions throughout the mission to prepare for this event, and it all paid off. We had what turned out to be a question-and-answer session with an apostle. He asked us what we'd learned from our preparations, and then we had time to ask him questions. The Spirit was undeniably strong, and I very early on found a good answer to the question I'd been prompted to write down as we quietly waited for our guest speakers to enter the chapel. From that answer, I got a lot of follow-up answers, some to questions I didn't even know I'd had! One thing that was stressed to us in the beginning was the importance of proper note-taking. Instead of writing down what he said, the rule was to write down what we heard- what the Spirit communicated to us. That rule was a game-changer that allowed us all to receive personally tailored revelation from the conference. I walked away feeling lighter than a feather. I hope the same goes as Sisar Schellenberg and I take our saved-up P-Day time to go to the temple this week. As tired as I am, the temple is sure to be a welcomed refuge and place of rest.

I continue to enjoy the work here in the Marjaniemi ward. The people are wonderful, even when we get lost/lose our phone and can't show up, or explain why we can't show up! But we've been given opportunities to serve, and I've had opportunities to use my French powers for good! Not only do we have a French investigator, but on TWO separate contacting occasions, I was straight-up asked if I speak French, to which I gladly replied, "Oui!" Maybe that's one reason why I've been called to serve here.....

Last week was a dream week. I pray that the spirit of that week will continue with me for the rest of my mission, and even beyond. I'd invite you, as General Conference draws near, to ponder how you can prepare to receive and record revelation during that special time.

Jumalan Siunasta teille!


Sisar Hansen

Monday, September 8, 2014

Greetings, from Berry Point

"Berry Point" is the rough translation of Marjaniemi. We're located in the eastern portion of Helsinki, which is beautiful and fairly peaceful. It's a big departure from Lappeenranta- There it might take well over an hour to cross from one end of our area to the other by car, and our entire area here spans 3 metro stops! Sisar S and I are getting used to things, and despite some stress on the first couple days, a completely new perspective on things is refreshing and invigorating. We're almost constantly lost, and we have to make a lot of, "So, we thought we knew where we were going, but now we're lost and we'll be a bit late" phone calls. Our goals for this week include learning how to get around more efficiently, and arrive places on time. Good goals, I would say.

We had a supplementary stake conference yesterday in lieu of normal church. It was a bit surreal to get up and just get on the public transport to the Helsinki center, rather than arrange a ride with a member from 3 hours away. Although it's only been a week, I was thrilled to see familiar faces from Lappeenranta. The Relief Society president and her family were there, and they had my favorite chocolate in-hand, ready to give me. I got to see missionary friends from around the zone. I lost track of the amount of hugs Joy and I exchanged before and after the conference. I love her more than I can possibly say, and I'm thankful every day that she's been part of my experiences here in Finland. She said that she misses me already, and my favorite part, when she thinks of me, it makes her want to be a missionary. I got a bit emotional at that one, must admit. One lovely surprise is that my favorite member from Lahti just so happened to be there, although Lahti is in the Tampere stake. When I saw her post-conference and she saw me, I started jumping up and down, and gave her an enormous hug. She is so wonderful! Sisar S was trained in Lahti, so we both enjoyed chatting and catching up with our former area. I didn't want to make a big deal of leaving Lappeenranta, and I didn't want to take the focus of church last week away from Christ in order to proclaim my imminent departure, so when I informed one of the Lappeenranta ward members that we actually don't need a ride home because I live in Helsinki now, he was a bit surprised, and then I pointed him in the direction of Sisar N and her new toveri. President and Sisar Watson were in attendance, and I got to spend a brief moment chatting with each of them. He's glad that I'm excited about my new assignment, and as we were standing close to Joy, he pointed at her and whispered to me, "That is what this is all about. For all of eternity. Treasure it." He's right, and I do. And not just Joy, but the other wonderful people I've been blessed to serve with in Finland.

I've had renewed energy this past week. I still struggle to feel rested, even though I sleep through the night. But I've been dealing with fatigue much better lately. I can be 100% completely open with Sisar S, and so when I say that I'm getting really sleepy and a bit cranky, and we probably need to wrap up planning in a timely manner, she understands, and we get the night's tasks done in a quick and orderly manner so I can collapse into bed. I feel like things like praying always, being exactly obedient, following counsel from leaders, etc, has been so easy the past few days. My new toveri has been a huge influence for good in my life, and it doesn't even feel like work much of the time. She's a talented teacher, and has a good head on her shoulders. She's good at identifying peoples' needs and thinking of how we can serve them. When I got my change call to come here, Sisar N, who served in the other Marjaniemi area for a full YEAR, got really excited and told me that in my new area is an investigator from....wait for it.....LA FRANCE!!! We've met with "Camille" a couple times now, and she is absolutely lovely. We've exchanged some texts in French, and she parler-ed with me when we got lost trying to find her place and we called for directions. Her children speak a mixture of French and Finnish, which J'ADORE. 

I've heard say that it's difficult to talk to people in Helsinki. I thought that I didn't really want to ever serve here, because I've never lived in a big city before, and I don't know how I'd like it. Well, Helsinki isn't actually so very big itself, metro contacting is less intimidating to me than street contacting, and we've been stopped by FINNS more than a couple times now, offering to give us directions places as we look through our map books on the sidewalk. This is a fun place. It's also fun to serve with other fantastic missionaries. Sisar Knapp from my MTC group is Fresh from Oulu this week, and her toveri is bright and hilarious. It was wonderful to chat with them for a bit as we got everyone situated in their new apartments. Sisar Knapp and I could gush for hours about how much we love Oulu, if we had the time. She's so honest and sincere, and a wonderful missionary, and it's a pleasure to serve near her. It's also good to have people to ask questions to about the area when we need some extra help. On a funny note, Siasr S and I decided that we want to make a big batch of borscht this week so that we can have a quick and easy lunch option. We gathered all of the ingredients at the grocery store this morning. As we arrived at the chapel to send our emails, we get a call from the other sisaret, walking through the grocery store, asking us what ingredients they need for borscht!

Things are looking up here in Berry Point. I love my new ward, my new companion, my new apartment, and my new area. My toveri speaks fantastic Finnish, and is a wonderful example of someone who simply wants to be the best follower of Christ that she can be. I'll have the opportunity to visit the temple once this transfer, since it's so close. I'm unable to fully absorb the love that Heavenly Father lets me feel for the people of Finland. As a missionary, that's probably the best part- a keen awareness of just how much Heavenly Father loves His children. The other best part is seeing them make a connection with Him and act in ways that will bring them closer to His presence. I look forward to another week here, hopefully a week where we arrive places on time, especially to our long-anticipated mission conference with David A. Bednar this Friday.

I had an impression a week or two ago to photocopy my mission call and place a mini version on one of the front pages of my copy of Preach My Gospel. Opening my mission call letter was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and there have been times of darkness on my mission where I felt like I couldn't go on, only to re-read my letter, and re-visit that sacred moment of opening my call to serve in the Finland Helsinki mission. It's a reminder to me of my purpose, which is to "invite others to come unto Christ". I still have moments where I look at that piece of paper and think, "Is this real? Is this MY life?" and I'm overjoyed to realize that yes, this is. Somehow, this is where the Lord has decided that this is where I need to be, at this time, with these people, and I thank Him every day for His wise purposes that I try to fulfill. 

The church is true! Riemuitsekaa! Happy to be calling out the invitation here in Berry Point.


Sisar Hansen

Joy and me at conference

Sister Schellenberg and I being girly and deep-cleaning our pores
(the only photo we have together so far) 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Shotgun Sisar

Some missionaries seem to have a pattern established in their mission. Some missionaries are involved in leadership from early on until the end of their service. Some missionaries train early and often. Some missionaries stay in one area for long stretches of time. I am shotgun sisar.

In Finland Helsinki missionary terms, "to shotgun" is a verb meaning to transfer to a new area with a companion who is also new to the area, aka, you are both clueless and have to just jump in and go from there. When I left my first area, Oulu, my companion also left at the same time. Coming to Lappeenranta, Sisar Heggie and I replaced the elders previously serving here. Tomorrow, Sisar Schellenberg and I will "shotgun" the Huttiniemi area of Marjaniemi, part of Helsinki. It's a position I'm excited to be in, as shotgunning is an excellent way to get to know a new area quickly and efficiently, and there will be no pre-existing area prejudices or opinions to get in our way, as often happens when one missionary stays, intentional or not. Sisar N served in the other Marjaniemi area for a full YEAR before transferring out to Lappeenranta, and she's been telling me all transfer, that she thinks I might serve there some day. It'll be an interesting switch from a small, isolated, one-companionship town to a suburb of the largest city in the country, in the same ward as who-knows-how many other missionaries, including the assistants to the president. I also know next-to-nothing about my new companion, except that she came in the group before me, so there will be a lot of new things in a short period of time. Good. I like to change things up and refresh the energy. I also like to learn from different people in different places. When we tell investigators and other friends about transfers, and answer the questions, "But why are you leaving? Why did so-and-so-missionary leave? Why sisters when there used to be those two boys?" etc, it often seems strange and a bit confusing, but I love transfers. It shows me that God is in control, and that He knows where we need to be, with whom, and when. It helps old areas receive new perspective, and it even brings new life to some areas that are struggling for breath. I've gotten so efficient at packing, that I did 90% of my packing within an hour or so, and except for a few small items, I'm ready to get going tomorrow afternoon.

We've seen some good things in my soon-to-be-former area this week. We've gotten in touch with some potential investigators who have been elusive as of late. We've run into some old familiar faces, and had some good chats with recently-returning students. We have one investigator who absolutely LOVES our banana chocolate chunk cookies. Last night we invited him to our church building, and had flour, eggs, bananas, chocolate, and all of the ingredients for cookies ready to go, and we made cookies together, giving a church tour as they baked in the oven. It was his first time in a church. Ever. In his life. His religious background is quite a bit different than ours, so he has a lot of good questions, and brings a new perspective to our meetings. I've enjoyed all of our meetings together, and it was good to have a fun time with him and show him how we worship the Lord and learn together through church. The cookies were delicious, and the atmosphere was easy-going and open. Not exactly knocking on doors. I like this kind of missionary work.

We also had a wonderful lesson with a part-member family in our ward. The husband of this family has been learning about the church for a long time, and his wife has told us on many occasions that he knows this is true and wants to be baptized. We're not sure what holds him back, but we enjoy visiting and sharing our thoughts with him. We can be especially bold with him. Last time, I straight-up asked, "What can we do to help you prepare to be baptized?" This time we felt impressed to talk about the Plan of Salvation, and it segued into a very emotional and powerful discussion about temples. We got the okay for missionaries to come visit once per week (they live a bit far away), and he is finally our official investigator!

In other transfer news, my thrift store watch gave up the ghost a little while back, and I've felt unnaturally unprotected as I walk the streets of Lappeenranta without knowing what time it is from a glance at my wrist. I've been wondering to myself how I want to solve this problem- Do I risk another thrift store purchase, or buy a durable-but-expensive replacement? As a joke during one district meeting, I asked if anybody knew who might have a spare watch lying around, and my district leader said, "Oh! I have one you can use! But it's in Oulu. I gave it to another sisar to use when we were serving in Kuopio, and she left it in Oulu during exchanges there. If you can get it, you can use it." Promising, although a bit complicated. Well, with the upcoming changes this week, I found out that Sisar Knapp from my MTC group, currently in Oulu, is coming down to the other Marjaniemi sisaret area, and can bring the watch (thankfully still sitting around) for me to use! Blessings! Although I look forward to the day when I'll be a "for realsies" adult and have my own things and not feel like I'm living from short-term to short-term, mission life and all of its switching around places, clothes, companions, etc is kind of fun. My wardrobe now consists of a mixture of home-brought, former-companion-discarded, and kirpis-purchased items, and every transfer we get an email announcing that a departing missionary has left behind a bike if anyone wants it. I'm wearing Sisar Heggie's old shirt at the very moment, as I type this email!

Well, that's the news for this week. There will obviously be a bit more next week, after I've spent a few days in my new area. Best wishes from Finland for health and happiness!


Sisar Hansen