Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Weeks' Notice

The countdown is now being measured in days. Days. Sixteen of them, to be precise. So much left to learn, to do, to become, and so little time! I'm excited to see how I continue to grow and learn every single day. Tovereni and I had a really insightful chat today about stress, growth, and learning to let things go. We've struggled to find people lately, and we're trying to find peace and enjoyment with full hearts, despite our empty progress records. It's a skill that takes some practice, but I've learned more and more how to relax and be optimistic while on my mission, despite having a way left to go.

We had splits with the sister training leaders this past week. It was wonderful for several reasons:

1) One of them is the one-and-only SISAR NYMAN!!! At interim, the new sisters were all abuzz, chatting with each other at every opportunity, talking about how things are going, crazy stories from teaching and contacting, and families back home. I watched from the sidelines, happy that they were all so excited to see each other and catch up. Thursday was Sisar Mendenhall's turn. My MTC tovereni and I went on and on during morning exercise and breakfast time about how it's been going, and what things we've learned recently. I'll be sad to not give her hugs anymore when we're once again living on opposite sides of the planet.

2) It was a major contacting pick-me-up! Sisar Mendenhall and I both got some really great tips for starting conversations on the street that have dramatically improved our contacting over the past few days. We are a lot more upbeat and positive about the whole thing. We feel like we can do just about anything, and the feeling so far is lingering. We are seeing some serious weaknesses become serious strengths, and it feels oh-so-good!

3) Something about splits is just inherently refreshing, and always makes me feel more excited to get out and do the work.

Although I'm almost at the end of my full-time missionary service in Finland (I packed a few things last night! Ahhhh!!!) I don't feel like it's an end. I feel excited to learn and grown and do my best every day, just as if I had another year to go. Will I be glad to go back to a more sustainable lifestyle? Yes. Will it be good to see and talk to family and friends more often? Kyllä. Will it be nice to be able to go to the bathroom at the church without having to think about whether or not my assigned companion is within proper distance? Of course! But for all of this, I really don't feel so "trunky". With the Lord's call to serve comes the Lord's timing. It's just as inspired as the country or the language. I love still feeling like a full-time representative of the Lord, and I look forward to doing more things that the Lord has in store for me in just o'er a fortnight's time. (Including member missionary work! Gotta practice what I've been preaching, right?)

Kiitos paljon for all the continual love and support over the past year-and-a-half. It sounds like a cliche thing to say, but perhaps it's cliche for a good reason. They say it's impossible to really do this kind of work alone. This is true. We have to rely on the Lord daily. It's absolutely essential. But I also know that the people back home and abroad who love me and keep me in their thoughts and prayers also make this possible.

Kirkko on totta. Rakastan teitä.


Sisar Hansen

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hustle, Bustle

Last week was a bit atypical. We had P-Day once again on Monday, so as to be prepared for interim training Tuesday-Thursday at the mission home. We had the Vaasa sisaret come stay the night on Monday, and then we took the relatively short trek to Espoo the next morning. We slept on bunk beds at the mission home, ate delicious food prepared by office missionaries and Sisar Watson, and talked long and hard about missionary work. There was a lot said about teaching with love, and about being obedient to mission rules. I took a lot of notes, which I'll have to review so I can use them in my everyday missionary work. Wednesday evening, we were treated to a special showing of "Meet the Mormons" at the mission home, complete with popcorn. Tovereni has told me a lot about it- she loves it- and I can see why. It's humorous, touching, insightful, and even just plain interesting. Plans are forming to use it as a missionary tool in Finland as early as May. I'd encourage anyone to watch it- It's one of the few "Mormon-y" films this critic gives a thumbs-up rating.

We hit the ground running after interim. We awoke on Friday and made plans to prepare for LANCE'S BAPTISM!!! He aced his interview Friday night, and our member helped us find him some clothes while he was being interviewed. We scrubbed out the font (weird that it was my first time doing this in an actual church building, as opposed to the lake) and laid out plans for the next day. As it turns out, Lance's baptismal date was also the date of a big day of meetings for ward leaders throughout the stake. This meant a few things: I got to see the Relief Society presidents from both Marjaniemi and Lappeenranta, and the Lappeenranta bishop! YAY!!! Also, setting up for the service was a bit tricky. We got the font filling, and we put the elders on baking duty (result- korvapustit the size of kittens, albeit quite yummy). After a couple of hours of running around like headless chickens, we had everything in place just in time, and the baptism went through with no problems. many of our members helped us with food, setup, and cleaning, and showed Lance a lot of love. The best part, though, was his confirmation and ordination to the Aaronic priesthood on Sunday. Already a bright and sunshine-y person, he was glowing. He just looked like he belonged there, among all the members of the ward. Us sisaret were all smiles. Although it didn't feel like a big, gigantic hurrah, it was really heart-melting, and worth all the hustle and bustle of a baptism at the end of an unconventional week.

This week we're going to focus on finding. We're in a bit of a teaching valley, so our idea is to try a different finding technique every day for a week, and see what works, and what might not be our favorite. We're trying to use Preach My Gospel creatively and with prayer, so that we can do the Lords work with the most success.

I wish I could say more about the ways I've been touched by the Spirit this past week, but email time is short, and there's food to be purchased. Kiitos paljon for all of your love, support, and prayers that have enabled me to make it this far, and see some great miracles this week.


Sisar Hansen

Our matching, 1st-day-at-interim-training
Cleaning the font the night before the
Lance's baptism
Waiting for the train

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stepping Stones

This week will be a big week for us Haaga sisaret. We have a Monday P-Day today to accommodate our attendance at interim training for all 6-weeks-in-the-field missionaries and their trainers. We'll be at the mission home Tuesday-Thursday, and end our conference with a group trip to the temple. Sisar Mendenhall is really excited to attend the temple here. I can't wait to share this experience with her. We are going to get a lot of information, which will be translated into revelation for our specific area. I attended my own interim training over a year ago, with a different mission president, and slightly different format, so this will be fun for me. Interim feels like a big step for new missionaries. It marks the halfway point in a missionary's training, a certain feeling of maturity in the mission that wasn't there a  month-and-a-half ago. It also means that I have only weeks to go until my release from full-time missionary service, another stepping stone that I'd rather not think about more than I really need to, although I'm constantly aware of my dwindling time left in the field.

While we're gone, the elders in our area will be hard at work, teaching....OUR investigator! It just so happens that this Saturday is Lance's baptism, and we'll be out half the week! He's learned well, and did a great job during his practice-run baptismal interview. In Sunday school yesterday he gave a really touching testimony of how the gospel has blessed his life. He was pretty great already when we met him, but even so, there's a very real and very positive difference about him that's occurred over the past few weeks. He knows this is what he wants. He's ready for this. We are over-the-moon excited that we have been blessed with the opportunity to teach him. We've made preparations for participants in the service, programs, refreshments, baptismal font maintenance, everything. Tovereni has been indispensable, writing out a long list of people we need to invite and checking it twice. Lance knows that baptism is just a stepping stone (albeit a vital one) to a lifetime of living true to the gospel. "Don't worry" he's assured us several times, "I'm going to be at church every single week. Don't worry about me." Even on a Sunday when he admitted that it was really hard to get out of bed, there he was, dressed up nicely, and ready to participate in church. We agree with our ward mission leader that he will be a really great member.

Training a new missionary has helped me to rejoice in all the little successes around me, and in the lives of members and investigators. The 12-week training program highlights a particular topic and skill set each week, and we set daily, weekly, and monthly goals to make sure that we both are as on top of our game as we can possibly be. Contacting BINGO has turned out to be a great success for both of us (although Sisar Mendenhall's contacting skills are starting to put mine to shame), and we've talked about how we can possibly apply the principles of goal setting and accountability from that little game to other activities that we may find ourselves to be weak in. One step at a time, getting us further and further on the path towards our goals, and success on our missions. She's so brave the way she takes on more challenges every week. She's a pro at Finnish texting, and she's taking phone calls without my needing to say a word. She launched into a straight-from-Preach-My-Gospel door teach the other night, when a nasty cold kept me from being of much use. Missionary work is so rewarding when companions can set goals as a team, and help each other reach their individual goals. This is something that, if I keep in mind past my mission, can bless me for the rest of my life.

We've also been faced with many instances of people who are so prepared in their own way, but who are afraid to take the next step forward. Busy schedules, family concerns, waiting for a sign, reluctance to change a behavior, fear of commitment, etc. keep these people stranded halfway out into the water, a bit past the shore, but not progressing forward onto the next stepping stone. If only they could see the great treasure that awaits them safely on the other side, if only they would face their fears and take that leap of faith forward! In many cases, all we can do is love them, give them their space, and pray that they'll be more prepared for the full journey another time. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for people like Lance, Joy, Jamie, and others who have been prepared to take those steps essential to reaching their fullest potential in this life, and to preparing for a future life with their Father in Heaven.

 As you think of where you are at this point in your life, what is the next step? I've learned, as a soon-to-be-return-missionary, that it's okay to think about the next step, if it helps you set worthy goals and make the most of your current position in life. What small steps can you take to come closer to your life goals, and to fulfilling your specific role in Heavenly Father's plan? I'm thankful for the opportunity to partake of the sacrament each week, and to ponder, evaluate, and make plans to keep moving forward on the good path. I'm thankful for the example of a Savior who has given me a model of how I can do so in all phases of my life.


Sisar Hansen