Monday, December 29, 2014


I've been pondering a lot on the topic of preparedness lately. With so many "red" days in our schedule (non-proselyting days) we've had to be very much prepared with things to do, and people to see. Change calls came the day after Christmas, which brought to our attention the need for my dear toveri to prepare for her final days in the mission field before she heads back home on New Years day. Phone calls to be made, letters to be written, things to be sorted, and bags to be packed. In my Doctrine and Covenants reading, I've noticed that many, many times it is said that idleness and laziness are not acceptable before God. When I go back home from my full-time service in just over 2 months, I won't be going straight back to school, or to a job. Until I can get on my own two feet, I'll be living with my parents, in a small town where I have few friends left. How can dedicating myself to my current calling as a missionary help prepare me to be a profitable servant at that future period of my life? How will I go back to the world, and continue to live in a way that will prepare me to enter into God's presence, when my time will be divided amongst so many other things? 

President Watson had tovereni and I over for personal interviews a few weeks ago. In my interview with him, we talked a great deal about preparing for my final transfer in the mission. He gave me a lot to think upon and to study, and I have tried diligently to follow his counsel daily. He mentioned in a zone conference once, the story of a man who was NOT called to be the ward's next bishop. "But President," he humbly appealed to his stake leader, "I received a personal witness that I was to be called as bishop. How do I make sense of all of this?" As it turns out, he was eventually called as bishop, just later on than he had imagined. His initial impressions were not the whisperings of an immediate future, but a basis of preparation for the day when he would be called to preside over a ward. I remember feeling this way when, after such strong feelings about serving a mission, I received a very strong NO answer at the age of 20. I was in no way surprised when the thoughts and impressions (dreams, even) I've long had about one aspect of my missionary service came true, and my change call included the assignment to be a trainer for a new sisar entering the country this week. I've spent a lot of time studying, praying, fasting, and conversing with tovereni (who trained twice) about how I can be the best possible senior companion to whoever it is I'll be spending my last 2 months in Finland with. Although I know that there is no way to fully anticipate everything that will arise from most of life's transitions (moving to college, serving a mission, starting a family, all fall into this category), I do feel prepared (in addition to feeling very humbled). We've put together to the best of our ability a well-structured schedule for the next week. I've listed out the kind of trainer I'd like to be, and how I can become that missionary. When Wednesday comes around and I am paired up with the person the Lord wants for my companion, I will feel ready to keep the work going forward in the Haaga ward.

Sisar Schellenberg has done an admirable job of preparing to go home. Despite packing bags (in record speed, I might add), writing down addresses not to be forgotten, making goals for post-mission life, her mind has been in the present. She's been an indispensable aid as we've plotted out schedules, found members for lessons, prepared the apartment, and even made little flashcards to help New Sisar get to know the area and its inhabitants. She does not want to spend her last days in the field coasting, or wiling away the time in idleness. She is finishing strong, and I am inspired by her great example. If my last transfer is as dedicated and consecrated as hers has been, my departure from Finland will be bittersweet, but with an emphasis on the sweet.

As for the Christmas portion of Christmas week, we had fun getting to know members, eating traditional Finnish Christmas food (ham, vegetable purees, chocolate, etc) and of course, skyping. It always goes by so fast, those 40 minutes, although knowing that I will see my family in person in just 10 more weeks made it a bit easier than past sype sessions. We were blessed to be invited by a less-active member who had prepared skype on her previously skype-less computer, just for the occasion. She was prepared with an offering of fruit for us to take home, to counter the piles of sweets she knew we'd surely already scarfed down. How thoughtful! How well-prepared!

The weekend saw the end of our "red" days, and some opportunities for meaningful missionary service. Margaret came with us to a baptismal service in nearby Kerava, and had a good time at her first kastetilaisuus, and an ejoyable time in sacrament meeting the next day. Our newest Friend, Lance, came to church as well, and despite having a dump truck load's worth of new information put upon his head, he seemed to have a good time, and we are really excited to spend more time teaching him about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and their plan for us. The work her had slowed down a bit for a small period, and now it seems to be picking back up. We have a lot of potential here, in this most wonderful of areas. I'm blessed to spend my last transfer in Haaga. My poor new toveri will be spoiled from the get-go.

A big part of preparation, I have learned, is accountability. Accountability gives us a push forward, and keeps us on the right path towards our goals. I would invite you all to consider your personal or family missionary vision for 2015. Write it down. Put it in a place where it will be easily seen and remembered. Turn to the person on your left, and tell them your goals for inviting to church/giving away copies of the Book of Mormon/introducing people to the missionaries/whatever you choose to do. Now somebody else knows, and you are officially held accountable. Reading Preach My Gospel is a great place to start. Chapter 3, all about the missionary lessons, and chapter 6 on Christ-like attributes, are personal favorites of mine for member-missionaries. Tell me how it goes! I sincerely want to know! This life is a time to prepare to meet God. It is a time to help others prepare, who simply do not know how. The gospel of Christ gives us the tools. All we need to do is apply them. Make like a boy scout, and be prepared!


Sisar Hansen

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Joulu is once again here, as surreal as it sometimes seems. Helsinki streets are blanketed with snow, and it was a miracle that we were able to make it through the crowded mall in once piece, on our way to the library to write emails.

I´ve thought a lot about love as Christmas approaches. God´s love is, after all, the source of all our greatest gifts. He gave his Only Begotten Son why? Because He so loved us. We have been amazed again and again by the love shown to us by members, investigators, and others. When the world is at its darkest (a word that has many meanings, some of them particularly apparent in Finland), the light and warmth of the Spirit are vibrantly visible. While we had a solid appointment for each of our 3 red days (non-proselyting days), until about a week ago, we found ourselves with not much else to do during that time, and no place to skype! Yikes! We proclaimed the news of our predicament far and wide across the ward last Sunday, and the response has been huge. Many members of our ward are from other parts of Finland, and will be out of town for the next couple of weeks. They can´t give us a place to stay or to skype, but even those who will be half-way across the country for Joulu approached us at church yesterday, and asked us if we were set to go, concern in their voices. As it turns out, there is a less active member of the ward whose door we knocked a few evenings ago. She let us in, chatted with us for a while, and then invited us over to skype with her. She´ll even give us a ride, since she lives a bit far out. As it turns out, she didn´t even have Skype installed on her computer at all, but texts from her over the past few days have confirmed that all is set and ready to go for us to call home on Thursday evening. We´ve filled out the rest of our red days, and we even had to turn a couple offers down, due to too many appointments! Lynne invited us over for a bit on Christmas Day. She´s taught us how to knit, and we´re excited to show her our progress when we go over there. At our last meeting with her, she gave us each a present that, when carefully squeezed, feels suspiciously like yarn and needles. What love!

Joulu traditions in Finland are a bit different than in the States. For example, Joulupukki (Santa Claus) comes straight to the door to deliver his presents on Christmas Eve, which is the big day Suomessa. Finns often enjoy a trip to the sauna on Christmas. One of the biggest parts of a Finnish Christmas is the food. Let me tell you, Christmas food in Finland is fantastic. Rice pudding with plum soup, vegetable casserole, ham, pulla and other pastries, hot glögi to drink with a piece of gingerbread in hand, the list goes on. At this time around Christmas, we are almost never without an offering of food on any given day. Members have filled our dinner appointment calendar almost past its capacity. We have a hot meal provided by a member 9 days out of 10 at this time of year, which gives us an excellent opportunity to get to know ward members better, and encourage them to #ShareTheGift. Life is a literal feast right now. Those members whose houses we miss often give us bread, gingerbread, or Finnish chocolate as a gift in passing. We gave our former investigator Keith a Christmas card, and even he responded with some candied almonds. It´s almost more than my stomach, or the waistline of my favorite skirts, can handle. The point of this is not to boast about the perks of serving in Finland at Christmastime, although I would be lying if I said that it isn´t a wonderful time. More than anything, as members are so willing, even eager to provide us with something delicious, I feel their love and concern for the missionaries serving in their ward. They notice us. They look out for us. They know we´re far from home at a time that centers around the family, and they want us to feel like we are at home here in Helsinki. Their love and care for us missionaries reflects love for the Savior, because we are His representatives, and our purpose is to bring others to Him. Our cut-out paper Christmas tree we hung on the wall hangs over a pile of gifts, the sight of which warms my heart with love. How have I been so blessed in my life, to have 3 consecutive Christmases where, although my family and familiar traditions are halfway around the world, I feel so loved and cared for, so at home?

This mission has been like a giant spiritual feast for me. Like Nephi of the Book of Mormon, I have been blessed to, on many occasions, feel the arms of our Savior´s love encircling me as I do such an imperfect job of serving Him. I feel great love for our investigators, former and present. We had an excellent lesson with a young adult named Margaret yesterday (she who came to our Thanksgiving dinner) that left me pondering how great the gospel is, and how miraculous it is that Heavenly Father loves His children so much, that He has given us the commandments and ordinances we need to be worthy to return to Him. 

I am thankful for the ability to spend two Christmases in Finland as a full-time missionary. I am thankful that the missionary lifestyle requires me to look past material things that weigh down my suitcase, and to focus on learning to love others more as Christ loves them. I am thankful for the love and service we have received at this time, and throughout all the year. May you enjoy a Joulu that is centered around the Savior and His incomparable gift to the world.


Sisar Hansen

Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't Leave This Behind

After a bit of an absence, the sometimes-weekly blog post returns with a vengeance! 

Time flies. It really does. In 3 more weeks I will be entering into my LAST transfer, and my dear Sisaret Schellenberg, Heggie, and Dayton will be back home, nametag-less. The work in Haaga is seeing ups and downs. While investigators are thinning out, we are finding more time for work with less-active members, and building relationships with people within the ward. Christmas is a wonderful time to naturally bring up the Savior, but it is also a time of busy schedules and out-of-town visits. Organizing our schedule has been a bit of a challenge, but we're hanging in there, and we have yet to experience a "my goodness, what is there even to do around here today?" kind of day.

Before I go into things spiritual, here are some funny moments from the past couple weeks that can serve as some Christmas cheer, for those of you not in Finland during the season of delicious Christmas porridge and hot glögi:

- We've brought a member along to a couple of teaches with an investigator who has two cats. These cats are normally quite friendly, but they are infatuated with our member! As soon as he sits down, there's one on his lap, scratching at his jeans, tail in his face, and another one on the back of his chair, nuzzling him from behind. With nobody else are these cats so eager to love and be loved. Our member handles it like a champion.

- A few weeks ago at our visit to the temple where Sisar Schellenberg's friends from Turku were performing proxy baptisms, one of them pulled me aside and told me that a secret plot was unfolding, and that my cooperation was key. I gave her my email, and Operation Surprise-Sisar-Schellenberg-With-Unexpected-Guests-at-the-Ward-Christmas-Party was underway. She did a literal double-take as 3 familiar faces from afar showed up to help us with decorations. I was glad that I'd somehow convinced her to put off sending them her Christmas package in the mail, and to have it ready with us at the church, just in case somebody from Turku might show up, who could deliver it for free.

- One personal study, I was really impressed by tovereni. On her white handbook was a sticky note with the words, "Don't Leave This Behind" written in large letters. What a consecrated missionary! Only 3 or so weeks remaining of her full-time service, and she is set on keeping alive those principles learned on her mission, during her post-mission life. The next day, as we started our companionship study, tovereni turns to me and says, "So, I have this sticky note on my white handbook. I've received some money from home on my mission in American dollars, and I folded it up and put it in the cover of my white handbook. I put a reminder on the front not to leave it behind when I go home." HA!!!! I told her my thoughts about what her note might have meant, and we laughed for a good long while. This in no way effects my confidence that she will be a consecrated member missionary post-mission. :p

Over the past couple weeks or so there have been a lot of Joulu festivities. Although the ground is wet with slushy melt rather than drifted snow, Christmas is in the air, and people are coming from near and sometimes far (see fun anectdote #2) to join in parties and concerts. We had one of our investigators, a lovely woman named "Britney", come to the stake Christmas concert, and then gladly stay for the worldwide Christmas devotional. She was touched by the music and every time she turned to me to tell me how much she loves a particular song, she glowed with the Spirit. She's a former member who was not in the church for long, and who told us as she sat down in the chapel before the start of the concert, "It feels so good to be here again!" She will be busy this Christmas season, but if she can find ways to re-ignite those feelings in her everyday life that she felt last night, she will do very well in her progression in the gospel.

I have of course, been thinking a lot about gifts. The advent calendar my former Geneva ward sent me offers a small gift every day. Whoever put it together knows missionaries very well- there are pens, paper, stickers, nylons, you name it! Sisar Schellenberg and I are excited every morning to see what new useful thing awaits in a little bag (hidden away in the closet so I don't give in to the naught impulse to peek). Such a thoughtful gift. I had a dream recently that for Christmas, my family decided to do something silly, like draw each other pictures for a gift. In my dream I was really upset. I woke up, wondering what was so upsetting about the situation. I'm learning more and more to not rely on "stuff" to make me happy. Shouldn't the best gift be about love, not about material possessions? I guess the thing that got to me in my dream was not the lack of expensive objects, but rather the sloppy, last-minute nature of many of our drawings. They were completely without thought or effort. What makes gifts truly special, like the ones in my calendar, is the thoughtfulness behind them. Do we give a gift our of obligation with little thought, or do we give a gift with purpose and intent, based on the needs or wants of the recipient? Therein lies the real difference. That's why Christ was and is the perfect "joulu lahja". His life was always filled with purpose. It was given for us with intent and sincerity. His life was never given for reasons of vanity or trendy appeal. It wasn't superfluous or lacking in thought. He gave us everything, EVERYTHING, and for purposes so grand, that we can only imagine them in part. How much we can learn as gift givers and receivers from the example of our Savior! 

As we faced an afternoon with a cancelled appointment and a lack of surety as to our next move, we got a phone call from a less-active sisar in our ward. "I made some herbal tea and some joulu torttuja (a kind of Christmas pastry). Would you like to come have a taste if you're not busy?" We eagerly agreed, and when we arrived at her apartment, the table was already set, the herbal tea was hot, the pastries warm, and it didn't escape our notice that the other assorted snacks she'd prepared were perfectly counted out in multiples of 3. What care she took for our little gathering! What love she showed to us! We spent a short moment eating, enjoying the warmth of a hot beverage on a cold evening, and chatting about the Savior and His role in our lives. We had the chance to invite her to church and to learn more about her concerns and life situation. We were excited to see her sitting not too far behind us at the Christmas concert, enjoying the music. She was a wonderful example to me and to my companion of Christ-like gift-giving. 

May we consider the true meaning of gifts this Christmas season. I mean it. I don't mean to perpetuate sentimental cliches here. Can we all take a good moment to honestly and sincerely ponder the meaning of gifts in our lives? May we invite others to come unto Christ and receive the greatest gift of all, the gift of eternal life, which He has promised to those who follow Him. I'd love to hear comments and feedback about gifts during email time next week. And when Christmas, missions, and other life phases are over, may we not leave these experiences, these people, these feelings behind.


Sisar Hansen 

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Gift

note from Karlan's mom:

No blog from Karlan this week.  She did want me to encourage everyone to visit There you will find a beautiful message about the Savior and Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Message

No blog from Karlan today.  She was very limited on time, and had to catch a train for a meeting with her mission president..  

Here are some notes from her letters to us:

She and her companion are going to have a mini-Thanksgiving meal with some investigators this week.  Karlan also scored a leather jacket at her local thrift store.  

Karlan and sister Schellenberg have been busy with Christmas preparation for a stake party, and there have been concerts and ward parties, so the holiday season is in full swing for her.  No word about how much snow there is in Helsinki.

Kar asked us to post a link for you to, where there is a wonderful message about the Savior and Christmas, called "He is the Gift"

Have a great week, everyone!