Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016 - Not Yet Sinking In...

Still can't believe that I will be on a plane in three days to go back home. Crazy.

This e-mail will be rather short. Sorry. I'm trying to get all of these things that I'm not quite thinking about prepared. It's hard to prepare for something that you don't really think is going to happen.

We went and did a lot of shopping at IKEA this week, and built a lot of stuff for the new Office Sister's apartment. That was fun, actually - we have done a pretty good job with interior design, I feel!

We had to map out and plan for transfer travels this week. I believe that I am one of the people that has prepared for this the most in our mission, due to the fact that I've been around for 4 transfer times in the Office. (I got emergency-transferred in a week early, so despite only 3 transfers here, I've experienced 4 sets of utter chaos from the Office perspective.)

The craziest thing about trying to plan for transfers was that the Office building itself got electronically shut down - none of the locks would work, and we couldn't get into the main building, let alone the Mission Office itself. I don't know why they chose to do that, but it was poor timing on their part. Since it was Saturday, there were no supervisors around, and no one could get us in anywhere. Everyone that belongs to that building couldn't get in. We went to the Temple Visiting Center instead and used computers there. Only difficult bit was that we didn't have any sort of format for the documents of travel that we wanted to make, and they only had LibreOffice on those computers, not Microsoft Office. Thankfully, though, I am well acquainted with LibreOffice (due to not having Microsoft on my computer for the majority of my first transfer), and I've done a ton of transfer documents before (as explained), so I was able to recreate a working substitute in a matter of minutes. Whew! All is well with transfer travels!

As I am typing this, the Office staff has cornered Elder Hoggard in an attempt to get him and his new companion running all sorts of tasks for them these next few weeks. Glad that I'm not a part of any of that... Oh, hey, I should mention who Elder Hoggard's new companion will be in the Office! It will be... Elder Edwards, the Elder that Elder Frey trained in Vaasa before coming here! I wonder if that had any bearing on his being transferred to here... Anyways. Should be good - the other Elders in Haaga/Vantaa have been temporarily moved out of their area (due to 8 Elders leaving now, 1 Elder coming in to be trained, and 3 Elders leaving mid-transfer for schooling), so the proselyting area is about twice as big as it was before, including the fact that they just got granted an area about 20 minutes north of us that has many members living in it. I'm excited to hear about the missionary work that takes place!

The questions are short this week, so that I can prepare appropriately for departure. Hope that no one feels that I am slighting them an entry!

For the last time, TO THE Q'S!

What did you teach this week?

We got to teach 3 member-present lessons this week, despite the insanity of everything going on in the Office as I prepare to leave! Everyone in the Office has been getting in their farewells and last requests for information/shortcuts/recipes, and there is not a down-moment in the Office. It has been great!

The lesson that I most liked teaching was to a person that has been investigating the church for a while - I interacted with them when I first came to the Office area. This person has gone through a lot of crazy stuff lately, but they are just so cool at being able to be happy regardless! We got to meet them at a dinner appointment with cool members this last week, and they really are eager to learn about the gospel. We confirmed the planned baptismal date with them, and everything is looking great for them to get baptized this next month! Blessings for continual effort on their part! :)

What did you learn this week?

We had my last Zone Training this week. I had a fun part in it - they got me to stand up and deliver a 1-minute, very-complex lesson over the importance of and tactics for Teaching for Understanding. Most people said they got lost after I gave my equivalent for 'understanding' (cognitive, comprehensive cohesion). I had a TON of fun making the speech, and it was great to give the 8-second summary afterwards and see the difference in impact. Really taught (at least to me) that the things that we say need to actually be towards the audience that we are dealing with, not just something we understand or think sounds cool. I guess that's not really a lesson learned so much as a principle re-emphasized, but regardless, I learned!

What did you share this week?

Hmm. I've mostly just been shared with this last week. Specifically in meal appointments. People keep on inviting us over for food, which is AWESOME. I am super-grateful for how much they show appreciation for us doing missionary work. Makes me really want to pay it forward back at home!

However, I did get to share my voice again with the ward. We got a text this last week asking if I would prefer to give a testimony or sing for my last Sunday. Seeing as that alternative hasn't been offered at all before to my companions homeward-bound, I assumed that they wanted me to sing, so I volunteered myself to do so. It was great - I sung "Niin suuri oot" ("How Great Thou Art") with another missionary going home, and with a great member playing at the piano. It turned out really well!

Well, that's all I've really got to say this week. Glad that I had one last time to write something, I only wish that I could have said something more profound here. I just don't have the processing-power or ability to just say something cool... Thank you, all, though, for the support that you've shown me in one way or another throughout my mission! I am going to miss Finland, but I hope that I'm taking enough of it home to keep it a constant part of my life! I will learn to sing every Disney song in Finnish!!! ;)

For one last time, be safe and happy, all! It's been a great run, and I'm gonna miss doing this! Happy to be moving on, sad to be moving on - it's a very complex set of emotions. Sigh. I'll just have to figure out a way to visit here again. I hope that all of you have some place just as important to you all! Love it to your fullest! Bye, all!

We enjoyed Hot Pot from our recent convert and his roommate!
So spicy, so delicious!

P.S. After these last few transfers, I am now a master of chopsticks. Be forewarned. ;)

Vanhin David Milligan

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12, 2016 - It's Like a Crazy Pre-Funeral Event...

I tried to think of a really interesting subject line for this e-mail. I hope that you all liked it.

To explain.

It's been a crazy week. Right before I don't need to worry about crazy Office things anymore. I don't need to explain the implications of that non-worrying. I'll go through a quick run-down of these events, instead.

We did a LOT of stuff this week. Like, we drove to Joensuu to drop items off that we couldn't mail. Like a couch, a study chair, and kitchen chairs. 10 hour round-trip drive, plus 2 hours for the meals we had. The moment that we got back, we ran over to a lesson. Unfortunately, the person was not home, even though we had talked with them periodically throughout our drive to confirm the appointment. We even made it in time, too! But, alas.

It ended up being a good thing, though, as we were called on by President Watson to help with a number of things a short time later. It was great to be able to help out, although it made us dead-tired after that day of chaos. In addition to that, I got to spend 4 consecutive nights in the Mission Home as we helped out. Crazy how much time we spent there right before this-time-that-I-don't-want-to-mention happening. It'll have been good practice, I assume. :)

Yeah, helping out with the Mission President took the majority of the week. It was great, though. We also enjoyed much of Sister Watson's cooking. I have had a lot of that this last transfer, too.

Well, although the list doesn't look that long, I promise, the events themselves took a lot of energy and created a lot of crazy. Still, I've got nothing else to talk about. TO THE Q'S!

What did you teach this week?

We weren't actually able to teach a lesson this week, but we are teaching one today! We are meeting with an investigator that we've had for a while now, and it should be a good lesson. We are hoping to talk about baptism, what exactly it is, and how they can prepare for it. I guess that sometimes, missionaries going home don't really goal for meeting with people and helping them learn about the gospel, due to the fact that they won't see the fullness of results from it. I heartily disagree with that philosophy. So long as I am set apart as a missionary, it is still my purpose to do these things. By golly, if I can't do it next week, I'm gonna try all the harder this week! :)

What did you share this week?

We have had quite a few dinner appointments (including from the Mission President and his wife) during these my last few days. (Looking at a calendar, I am very aware that I only technically have single-digits left. Yikes.) So, we have shared a few lessons and thoughts with people, but I want to include a rather funny event that we had at the Mission Home.

We were singing hymns with a couple other Elders present there, and Sister Watson was accompanying us with the piano. President Watson came out, announcing that it was time for bed, but that we had 'one more song' to sing. He then conducted us in a 4-part round of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". And filmed it for us. It was great. I better get that video from him eventually. :)

What did you learn this week?

I went a lot through one specific chapter of the Book of Mormon. It was that section where Alma speaks to his son, Shiblon. I think that my mission has mostly been like that - no giant roles to play in the mission, no grand achievements to be lauded about for years to come - just quiet, simple service with all my heart. I'm glad that I have experienced everything that I have, and hope that I helped other people at least as much as I helped myself by being out here. I really do feel like a better person!

What are Rice Krispy treats called in Finland?

Umm... Too sugary? :)

I haven't ever had it out here, except in the Mission Home. The Finns in the Office say that 'Rice Krispies' is Riisimuro (Rice cereal). They don't know a Finnish equivalent used by Finns. The Internet search conducted by them yielded 'vaahtis-riisimuropalat' (marshmallow-rice-cereal pieces). We'll go with that. But, even then, most of the Finnish recipe options showed "Rice Krispie Treats" with no Finnish wording. *shrug*

What are your plans for your penultimate P-day?

I should probably explain how this works - I have today to shop, Monday to shop (that will be my last P-Day), and then Wednesday as well. So, I have plenty of time. What are my plans, though? I have just about none. Thankfully, I have gotten a few good suggestions of Finnish things to look for, but even then, I've got no real plans... I'll look for interesting things to buy, now that I can use all of my emergency funds without guilt. :)

I need to find out if computer games bought in Finnish can be played on an American computer. Mostly because I know that there is a fair amount of digital material that is region-locked. I can only imagine that it still is region-locked. I just want something to play in Finnish, though! The Office staff just Googled that, too, and said that it should be fine, but I don't know...

Well, that's all I've got! I love that I've been able to be out here, and I love that this land has changed me so much! I love Finland, and I hope that it will remain to be a big part of my life. Be safe, all - love your country a little bit more! I translated the Star-Spangled-Banner into Finnish. It may not be perfect, but I am proud regardless. I think I mentioned that last week. Oh, well. đŸŽ¶ And I'm proud to be an American...đŸŽ¶ 😊

Hope you all are happy! Do good!

The latest District - as I stare dramatically off towards another camera... ;)

Vanhin David Milligan

P.S. My itinerary arrived...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July 5, 2016 - Happy Birthday, America!

We in the office had fun celebrating in our own small way the 4th of July. We had some food with President and Sister Watson, and then continued about doing our normal day. At the end of the day, though, we were gifted with a great surprise -

ROOT BEER!!! Wow, it has been 2 years since I've had Root Beer. This tasted delicious.

I'm still not quite certain how they got it for us... I think that Verkkokauppa in JÀtkÀsaari might sell it. Not certain. But it is a very rare sight indeed. The can is on my shelf as a trophy.

Besides the 4th of July, not much in the way of topics are coming to my head... Oh, we spent a whole day in casual clothes last Friday. That was odd. We had to help move around a ton of apartment stuff from the Office storages to the new Office Sister's apartment. There was a lot needed, and a lot to be sorted through upon arrival. But. It's mostly done now. Phew.

Yup. That's all I can think of on my own. TO THE Q'S!!!

What did you teach this week?

Unfortunately, almost all of the investigators that we have dropped us this last week. It was all very close together, so it hit the rest of the week hard. However, we do have new people hopefully becoming investigators this week - I think that this time in the Office is actually competing for the time that I've seen the most investigators in my mission, now! We've been teaching and meeting with quite a few! So that's good.

What did you learn this week?

I was studying quite a bit from the New Testament about the ministry of Jesus Christ. It was cool to see that He really cared for the progression and understanding of all that He came across. Even the times in the Bible where He is calling out different groups for disobedience to the commandments of God, He does so with the instruction of how to become better and cast sin away. Quite cool.

What did you share this week?

I was given Root Beer. I am a content Elder. I will be making Christmas-In-July Cheesecake today for District Meeting tomorrow. Because it is July. So. No more perfect of a time than now.

Are there words to Finlandia?

Yes, there are! That's why it's really weird to hear 'Be Still My Soul', now, because there are very different words attached to it. The song is about Finland rising up, and how the day has conquered the night and just begun. Quite beautiful. Means a lot to the Finnish people.

Do pumpkins grow in Finland?

I'm not certain on that one - I don't think so, though. The only time that I have ever seen pumpkins in Finland has been around the different Halloweens I've been here for. Even then, I only saw pumpkins at LIDL's, the German store... Hmm. I have no idea!

What kind of holiday most closely resembles Independence Day in Finland?

Honestly, the closest thing to how we celebrate the 4th of July in America is Finland's Vappu. That's the crazy holiday of Memorial Day/Graduation Celebration/Drink-'Til-You-Can't-Stand-Standing. Finland's Independence Day doesn't feel like ours at all. It seems very solemn, in comparison. People talk about freedom, not fireworks. The only time that I've really seen fireworks in Finland has been during the New Year celebration in Porvoo. So. Very different.

Will you have a chance to check your email on your last P-Day? (Not that we are talking about it, just need to know when you will see your messages if we need to give you any important information.)

I will be emailing next Tuesday, and then probably get to e-mail shortly on the following Monday, the week I go home. Weird that those will be the last times that I communicate with this email account...

Well, I'm all done. I've got nothing clever to really say right now - I love being out here in Finland, and I'm still struggling to find bits of the country to take back home with me!

Return Missionaries (and invested family and friends as well) - I NEED IDEAS. I need to figure out what I should take home as souvenirs/memories/miscellaneous from Finland. And I have limited time to search for things. Thanks for the ideas!

I hope that all of you will be safe and happy! Enjoy a Root Beer on my behalf. I'll toast to you with a good ol' glass of Finnish water. I'm gonna miss this stuff.

Here's a scenery picture to close us out! Bye, all!
Vanhin David Milligan

Sunday, July 3, 2016

June 28, 2016 - Hmmm...I Think I Saw The Sun This Week...

I'm trying to think what to write about. It is very odd that I once again have this Tuesday Preparation Day, mostly because I realize that I'm no longer writing about the same week that I am still in, but rather am writing about last week. I know that seems odd - I'm still covering the same quantity of days as before - but it is just harder to go and write about stuff that happened before last Sunday. Sigh.

Ah, that's right, I just remembered! Last week was Juhannus and the Summer Solstice! Otherwise none as 'that day that the sun is out for so long in Finland that it is the perfect time to party and make it so that the missionaries aren't allowed to go and proselyte'! Okay, I have a few things to write about, now. Here we go.

So. This last week started out with me reviewing a lot of train schedules. The VR Train System in Finland has changed all of the schedules. Again. So I was tasked to make sure that things are basically alright. I started thinking in my head about all of the places that could experience problems with this. Helsinki Zone got thrown out of my head almost immediately. East Zone came into mind, but it was only necessary to check on three trains for different companionships, as the Zone is quite small. The North Zone was crazy as ever, I'm still working on moving around a good schedule for that. Tampere had this innocent-feel to it, since most of the District companionships either use buses, or are in the same city as one another. As I thought a bit harder in the apartment, though, I realized that HĂ€meenlinna and Lahti might perhaps experience problems, although to my recollection, they had often-enough trains moving around, and probably wouldn't be stuck at any location for longer than an hour. I made a mental note to check later when I was in front of a computer, and went about the rest of the tasks I had. A bit later I actually got a call from Elder Hastings (MTC buddy!) in HĂ€meenlinna for supplies, and quickly asked them what the current situation is like. They confirmed what I thought, but brought up that right now, they got up surprisingly early to go to District Meeting in Lahti, due to the fact that train-time-changes had gotten their travel to occur earlier and earlier (which wasn't really the case, just because they could have gone later, but it was always either 'leave 40 minutes earlier or 50 minutes later', and they had taken matters into their own hands a couple of times. I told them that I would look at the times and try to secure better travel for them, and also reminded them that they are only to change the time that District Meeting is held if it is under the direction of the Mission President, at least in this mission. We ended the phone call on a good note, and I made a note (written, this time) to check on the times later.

When I went in to check the times, I got a bit of a surprise. At least for the next week, there were a few trains that left HÀmeenlinna in good time to arrive and walk to the church with study-time to spare. The surprising thing was this - I found out that the travel doesn't occur along the same lines that it used to. Getting to was virtually the same, with a layover in RiihimÀki in between HÀmeenlinna and Lahti. Getting back, though, required either travel to Kerava, then travel to RiihimÀki, then travel to HÀmeenlinna, or a train to Tikkurila, then over to HÀmeenlinna. To give that some perspective, they are going entirely out of their Zone on either option, the later option taking them to the other Elders in our ward. Hmm. Well, I called and informed them that they would need to watch out for that in the future. I told them I would text the schedule to them, and they said that would be fine - they were just in the middle of traveling away from District Meeting, so they could review the travel plans and call President with a proposal later. I started to create a text for them after we hung up.

A few minutes later, though, my phone rang. Upon answering it, I heard the familiar voice of Elder Hastings shout an "apua, apua!" into the phone. "Help, help!" I asked what was wrong.

"Our train home has vanished from the board!"

Jahaa. That is a problem.

Turns out that the changes that I had been viewing for the next week had actually already taken place. They were stuck in RiihimĂ€ki waiting for the next train that would leave to HĂ€meenlinna - about 2 hours or so after they arrived into it. Yeah. They had just moved the RiihimĂ€ki → HĂ€meenlinna train to depart some seven minutes earlier, right before the Lahti → RiihimĂ€ki train arrived. Sigh. All is well, though, it's figured out for the future. I just wish that I'd realized the full implications of it the moment that I first looked at the next week on the computer.

Well, I've just got questions left, here we go! TO THE Q'S!

What did you teach this week?

This last week, we had a really good lesson with a foreign person. He speaks very good Finnish, but we just found out that he doesn't really understand much. He's like a missionary that first enters into Finland - capable of speaking, no clue where to begin understanding. However, we got to meet him this last week with his son present, who speaks FANTASTIC Finnish and English, as well as the father's language, of course. We got to have a pretty good lesson where we had full understanding on his part and our part over why we were there, why he was there, what we were expecting from him, and what he should expect from us. We found him to have the purest, brightest reasons for investigating, and it was really cool to all get completely onto the same page over how we will interact while teaching him. It really was a cool experience!

What did you learn this week?

I don't have as cool of a thing to share this week as I did last week. Still, though, I have been just going through Preach My Gospel over and over, trying to get all of the scriptures in it marked up in my little set while still giving the material that it covers ample study time as well. I don't want to blindly mark things - I want to give each scripture the justice it deserves in being read in context of the lesson and surrounding questions. Kind of harder to study and mark versus just mark, but I think that it is going better that way.

What did you share this week?

This last week, as I mentioned, was Juhannus. We finally got to eat at the Roger's home! We had good-old, Oklahoma-style grilled hamburgers and sausages. Wow, it was good. We also got to meet the majority of the family, including the kids that have lived in Oklahoma for some time of their lives! That was cool. It was fun to hear Brother Rogers talk about all of the things he did in Oklahoma, and all of the tricks that he pulled while attending my High School. Maybe that's not the perfect thing to write under 'what did I share', but the other option is that I mention how I've gone and shared more paper-folding activities with the members!

Is most of Finland at sea-level? Or are you at high-altitudes?

I think that most of it is at sea-level, but I honestly don't know. I just know that Finland doesn't really have mountains. It does, but doesn't. Skiing here is mostly just cross-country, not down-hill. You all could probably find the answer to this a little more easily!

Zandi wants to know how it feels to be the same age as her, because you are 19 again, remember? (Zandi is having a quarter-life crisis over your age and her own.)

Ah - for those that haven't heard this yet, my sister stole a year of my life, thus rendering me to 19 years of age, rather than a surprisingly double-decade number. She, too, is 19 now. I feel refreshingly young, at least as long as you take into consideration that I just went through a Princess-Bride-esque time-sucking machine.

Honestly, though, it is weird that I am the age that I am (year-stolen or not), because I keep on hearing of all of these people that I knew as missionaries seriously dating, being engaged, or getting married. That's just weird to me. Good thing that I'm still a missionary, and don't have to deal with that at all.

Did you witness any musical events this week?

Hmmm... I did have a whistling-concert with the district this last week! It wasn't planned or anything, someone was just whistling a hymn and I joined in on a harmony line, followed by the rest of district coming in for the last few lines. It was a fun little ditty, I'm pretty sure it's not in the English hymnal. "Kiitos sulle, Jumalani". That was really it, though.

Well, that's really all that I've got! Hope that everyone is doing well, and that you are all finding ways to be happier each day! I recommend helping people - but then again, I'm always recommending helping people, so don't feel that you have to take my advice. In any case, be safe, all! Here's a picture to close us out.

Here is us with the Rogers in the woods - we went on a hike with them, and we got to go in casual clothes. Such a weird feeling, being in jeans again!

Vanhin David Milligan

Friday, June 24, 2016

June 21, 2016 - So Quickly Back Again...

This e-mail will likely be short. Due to the fact that I feel like I just e-mailed 3 days ago. Oh, wait. That happened. Yeah.

I'm really happy that we will be having more proselyting days - we had a great day yesterday, and it was really only possible because of this schedule. Yay!

Yup, Elder Milligan is now grasping for straws in his conversation. He is also referring to himself in the third person. Sigh. Insanity lingers on the horizon.


What did you teach in the last three days?

Yesterday, we got to teach to a really cool person. First off, a bit of a story. The first time that I was here, Elder Frey and I were really excited to be going through the Area Book full of names and numbers of people that have said that we can meet with them. These people had met missionaries up to 3 or so years before, so there wasn't a guarantee that they still lived in the area or not. Regardless, we wanted to contact these people and ask them if they were still interested in learning more, or having missionaries come back and teach. One of the people we talked to over the phone was a Brazilian woman getting married soon. She said that she didn't have time to meet then (which, yeah, makes sense), and asked for us to try calling at some later date. The next time around with Elder Frey was the "some later date", since that was when she next answered. She answered the phone at that time quite frantically, since her husband had just been hospitalized. She asked again for us to call back later. This last week, I thought to call her again, even though we had tried since unsuccessfully to get into contact with her. I called. No answer. I thought to send a quick text to her, telling her that we called because the last thing that we had heard from her was that her husband was hospitalized and that she had asked for us to call back later. I said that I hoped all was well now (it had been about a month earlier that we had heard from her), and sent the text. The next morning, I got a phone call from this person, expressing great interest in meeting with us. She said that she hadn't had any sort of free time until now, and she really wanted to get closer to God. We said that we'd be happy to meet, and arranged a meeting at the church with our Ward Mission Leader. That lesson went very well - she speaks fantastic English, and has so many good, honest questions. We covered a good amount, and at the end, she explained why exactly she had reached out again (because before, she had just said that it was to get a closer relationship with God, not anything about why she wanted to meet with us, specifically). She said that she didn't know much about our church (besides what a South Park episode had shown), and she wanted to ask from 'the source'. It was a fun moment to tell her that we weren't the source - her Loving Heavenly Father was that source. We could teach a bit, and bear testimony about what we've learned, and even recommend ways for her to learn these things, but in the end, the way she would gain experience and learn for herself whether these things are true would be through praying to and receiving answers from her Father in Heaven. That was fun. In addition, she also said that the text that I had sent meant a lot to her. During that time when her husband was in the hospital, she felt panicked, sad, and alone. None of her friends really came to help her. Then, that much later, here comes an honest and sincere text from a near-stranger that she talked with once, hoping that all was well, and remembering that she had experienced such a thing. She was blown away by that, which was why she called back the next day. She referred to that as a 'Jesus moment', that she could interact with the missionaries in such a way that she knew God had put them in her path. Wow! It will be fun to talk to her and teach about the gospel!

What did you share in the last three days?

Hmm. We've gotten to meet with quite a few people - last Sunday, for instance, we had to literally run out of church to start attending lessons and visiting potentials at the times that we promised to come by. We were busy the whole day, and the whole day yesterday, too. We had District Meeting yesterday, though, due to Interim being this week and our District having a trainee. I brought gluten-full peanut-butter-brownies that I made the night before and the morning breakfast-time of. (I made the dough quickly the night before, and put it all into the oven the next morning. Thankfully, we don't normally use the oven in the morning, so there was no need to reserve it ahead of time. :)) I got to share those with the District and the Office staff - I will say, they were quite good!

What did you learn in the last three days?
Well, I wanted to share the metaphor-thing that I mentioned last letter. It wasn't in the last three days, though. Oh, well. I'm giving it anyway. :) So, here we go!

The last appointments that we've had, the question "do you believe in Hell" has kept popping up. I don't really know why - it's just kept on coming up at random points of lessons where we are trying to get to know the needs of our new investigators. Super odd. Anyways. Generally, the thing that I've done with my companions is use that to further the lesson appropriately - for example, show them a teaching record, explain that we talk about all of these things, and that we'd like to keep one for our meetings with them (which asking is required by Finnish law), and then say that when we get to the Plan of Salvation lesson, we can talk a bit more about it, since they will understand the foundations of our message - but in the meantime, here is a short answer - and then we take a sentence or two to address that.

I've started to think about how it is that we are going to explain it more in depth with these people. I mean, it is a question and concern of theirs, and it is part of what we teach, so I need to figure out a way to present it to specifically answer their questions. Most of these people are well-acquainted with the Bible, so a concept of it already exists in their head.

The thing that I started to think about was this - yes, we do believe in Hell. Might I say, though, that it isn't in quite the same way that other religions address it. The "hell" that everyone refers to, generally, is 'the place where bad people go', to give the simplest definition. We generally refer to that as 'Spirit Prison' in this church. Before, when I've started to explain about the main purpose of Spirit Prison to be a place for people that never got the chance to hear the gospel before to learn about it in its entirety, and that even the people that rejected the gospel in their lives would be learning about it (although maybe not accepting it still), that understandably raised red flags for some people. They would start to pull out various scriptures in the Bible, talking about how this place is "everlasting torment", with "bitter depths" and "firey pits". They would claim that this means that the only concept of Hell that can be drawn from this is a place of just that - torment, pain, and suffering. I've tried to explain how our concepts really are in harmony, and I finally got a half-usable metaphor figured out. Keep in mind, there are, of course, imperfections in the way that I'm delivering this metaphor, but I'm trying, alright? ;)

Okay. You've gone through life, sinning. Every time that you've sinned, you've put a dollop of toothpaste into your mouth. Yes, toothpaste is a cleansing agent, I get it - but let's look at it for what it does besides clean your teeth, alright? The toothpaste in your mouth numbs and dulls your tongue's ability to taste sugary, sweet things. It leaves really only the sour and bitter taste-buds intact. Now. You are given a tall, cool glass of orange juice, and told to drink it. You wouldn't want to - you just had toothpaste in your mouth. But, it's nutritious, good for you, while still being sugary and sweet, I say. No, not after I've had all of this toothpaste in my mouth, you say. To me, that nice orange juice is nothing more than a bitter, unpleasant memory that I've had toothpaste in my mouth. I would suffer through partaking of that, regardless of how good it is supposed to be.

Sounds kinda familiar, eh?

The gospel is the orange juice. We are meant to drink it and partake of it for a very long time. It's going to be a great experience for eternity. Unless we have a lot of toothpaste in our mouth that we don't want to get rid of. If we want the toothpaste of sin out, it's easy - get it out of the mouth, wash the mouth clean with the cleansing effect of the Atonement, which I might compare to clean, pure water here, and keep the process of cleansing up until the mouth is no longer numbed by the stings of the toothpaste of sin. All it takes is an honest desire to partake of something better than toothpaste. If we insist that the toothpaste was the main thing we wanted in life, and that even though we know about the orange juice now, we'd much rather stick with the imitation pleasure of toothpaste, we will remain in that state forever - not able to handle orange juice without torment, pain, and suffering on our parts.

I know that this metaphor isn't perfect, but it makes a good point. If something is spiritually numbing you, you generally won't want to experience spiritual things. If you do want to experience spiritual things, the answer isn't "power through the spiritual numbing to partake of the spiritual things anyway" - the answer is, get the sins out of your life, and become clean through the cleansing power of the Atonement. Yes, it's a process - but the gospel and the orange juice will taste so much sweeter in the end.

Have you gotten any taller in the last three days? Or since leaving on your mission?

Nope. And I don't think that I've gotten taller. That's just my opinion, though. Sticking me next to a wall is the only real way to tell.

Is geocaching a big thing in Finland?

I've heard that it is! The young men's group in a previous city went out geocaching, if I remember correctly. Sounds like it's big out here, at least. No promises, I don't really have the availability or equipment to try it out myself...

I hope that my little metaphor embedded in the e-mail was something that helped you all understand what I'm trying to teach people out here. I love this gospel, and I love the role that I have in it right now, to try to spread it to the people here in Finland. It's great to bring a message of such happiness!

I'm glad, also, that so many people have sent me little thoughts, lately. I try to answer them with at least a smiley-face - sorry if there isn't much more than that, but I really do care about the things that you all say!

Thanks, everyone, everywhere, for the good that you are doing. I know that it will help and bless you, either further down the road or right now, with increased happiness. Be safe, all!

Here are some pictures from the crazy up-to-SeinÀjoki drive that I took with Elder Hoggard. He just got his camera back, which means that these pictures are long over-due!

Vanhin David Milligan

Saturday, June 18, 2016

June 18, 2016 - I LOVE MISSIONARY WORK!!!

I think that is a fitting sentence for the subject line. I really enjoy being a missionary, and being able to proselyte like a missionary. These last few weeks, we have gotten a couple of investigators, have had some miracles happen, and are well on our way to helping people progress in their knowledge of the gospel. SO MUCH FUN!!! :)

In an effort to get us proselyting more, I have motioned to President that we make a cut-day from the Office starting this next week. It had started to look like I might just have evening proselyting for the rest of my mission, and Preparation Day on Saturdays, but thankfully, with the amount of work that was made up this week on the Mission Histories, I think that we can change it so that we have Preparation Day on Tuesdays with the rest of the mission now, and Saturdays will be a full day of proselyting - one of the best days to get available on our schedule! Woo-hoo!

It also helped that the timing of this change was actually necessary to account for the fact that Juhannus is this next Saturday (the Finnish celebration of the Summer Solstice, which takes place the Saturday after the actual day itself, Tuesday this year). With Juhannus happening, the stores will be closed. So if I want to eat the following week, I will need to stock up on food some other time. We will also have limited missionary-work options ahead of us, due to the amount of drinking that occurs on this holiday of eternal sun. Thankfully, we are planning on being able to stock up the whole day with lessons to investigators, since a lot of the people we are teaching are not actually Finnish... first area where I've ever had that occur. Most of them speak Finnish, but they aren't Finnish. Definitely not a normal occurrence for me.

Oh, because of the change of Preparation Day to Tuesday, I will, of course, start e-mailing on Tuesday starting this next coming week! I accidentally milked another Preparation Day out of the system, it appears... ;)

I slightly mentioned this earlier, but this week, I managed to work back all of the changes on Mission Histories that were lost, plus some. They are now printed out and ready for President's final review on them. I pray that he doesn't need to make too many more changes - if I have to insert a page, that is a lot of paper for a re-print... Also, we need to print out 2013 and 2014 Mission Histories (which are 141 and 204 pages respectively) to have 5 copies of each for the Mission Office, German Office, President Rowlings (the former Mission President which served during the course of parts of those two years), the Mission Home, and President Watson himself. Mission History 2015 with its 419 pages will only need 4 copies, as President Rowlings will not need a copy. I asked the German Office, though, what their expectations were regarding the amount of pages, and the only thing that they said to me was that they would prefer for it to be single-sided, not double-sided, since we have a number of pictures included in there. Phew, that's a lot of paper... I'm destroying a Finnish forest and creating a set of tomes. That's fun.

I've got nothing else clever or creative to say. TO THE Q'S!

What did you teach this week?

We were able to teach a bit during the course of a "How To Begin Teaching" lesson with a new investigator (well, he became a new investigator after the lesson, at least). Elder Frey had shown me this neat little thing that I've often done to some extent, but never quite put together as a solid concept in my head. He role-played with me once how to go through several points of the "How to Begin Teaching" section in Preach My Gospel while teaching various points from the lesson of the Restoration. It's not technically teaching those points, because of how briefly it is covered, but it gave appropriately-sized tidbits of the gospel and also was used to ask for the person's religious background, so that the lessons could make sense, or at least be taught in a way that is conducive to their understanding. I tried it again with Elder Hoggard, and it worked well - we know a lot about our new investigator, we have a set of things that we have already have said that we will talk more about next time, and the material that we gave them to read is pertinent for their understanding of what comes next. I'm happy!

What did you share this week?

This is such a repetitive category for me, I'm sorry...

I shared another little paper activity with two sets of members in our area. This one I also believe that I've talked about before, but we took it a little bit different of a route. I guided the families step-by-step through making a little origami missionary-shirt. When we first started, I told them that the little rectangle of paper in front of them was their life. They all look a little different - I dropped one into a bit of water, the edges on one weren't cut, but slightly frayed from being torn along the line, things like that - but essentially, the gift of "life" that I gave them was the same, and could still fulfill the same final purpose, regardless of the supposed differences in paper. We made a single fold down the middle of it all, and I asked them what had happened, followed by my own answering of the question (too vague to expect an immediate answer) - change. The paper still represented each of us, but all of us had gone through a marked change. We were a little skinnier, a little thicker, and if you undid the fold, you could noticeably see the change that we had made. From there we had two options - say we didn't like the change, and any other changes we made would ruin our "life", so stop there entirely trying to take out a fold - or keep going, trusting that whoever told us to make the change has some greater design in mind. In fact, if they were willing to trust me, I was going to use their changes to define other changes to be made. So, we all kept going forward. As the paper started to go through changes, I brought up that we can occasionally be frustrated if we don't really know the purpose of the changes. I held up the step that we had just reached to - a rectangle, with all of the inside folds hidden. I told them that with a few more changes, we were going to look kinda like this, still, and that it would be our final look. They stared at it, trying to figure out why I would have them keep going to make something that would seem so plain. I told them that they can't really understand the fullness of my intentions right now, but that this is the closest thing that they will understand for their final goal right now. They kept going forward in faith. All of the changes seemed abstract, not really leading towards a final design, since they still didn't have a good idea of what exactly they were meant to become, but they trusted regardless that I wanted the best for their "life". After ending up with this odd shape, I told them one final change to make - and the missionary-shirt became clear. It seemed obvious, after that, how all of the steps had helped to make this - but they didn't get it at the time why each of those small changes was needed. To be fair, it really did still look like a rectangle - it just had a couple of papers sticking out around the edges. That was a fun lesson to relate to the gospel, mostly along the lines of "God has a purpose for us" and "The commandments of God are not abstract things meant strictly for obedience or personal torment - they are meant to shape and define us". I generally open up the metaphor to the family and ask them what they learned about the gospel through this metaphor, so I also learn something new every time!

A lot of members are saying that they like what I do for lessons. To quote one member, "Uchtdorf has airplanes - you have this. I like it." :)

What did you learn this week?

Wow, I had this analogy I made that I wanted to share, but I'm over the time-budget that I give myself to answer these questions... I'll share it next week. I'll have to remember that.

For the time being, I'll say that I've been going through a lot of the questions of the soul that I hear from Finns and others. I've been trying to think how I would meaningfully answer concerns and questions of the people that I meet, so that they can know that the gospel provides answers to the important questions in life. It's been a fun activity!

What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Are there weird flavors in Finland?

I still am torn between anything with Orange in the flavor and anything with Caramel in the flavor. I love caramel more often, but sometimes I just want ice cream that is orange-y and creamy...

They do have Salmiakki ice cream in Finland. It's not bad at all - it is actually one of the best ways to learn to like Salmiakki! I made a salmiakki cheesecake once as a prank - ended up being quite good!

"Why should I serve a mission?" How would you have answered that question when you first left on your mission?

I think when I first left, my thoughts on serving a mission revolved mostly around "help people find Christ in their lives". I didn't have a thought or care, honestly, for whether or not they got baptized, since I knew that a) I probably wouldn't see any, if at all, baptisms, so I didn't want to get disappointed if nothing happened, and b) Christ would work out everything in the end. If people got baptized during this time as a result of meeting with me and feeling the Spirit, great - if not, their intentions are the things that matter. That was the way I thought about serving a mission.

How would you answer that question now?

Having now served the majority of my mission, I know that my reasoning behind being here has developed a LOT. The root of why I go out every day is still "I want to help people find Christ in their lives", but there is so much more weight and meaning behind that statement. Now, I want everyone to be able to partake of the fullness of happiness available through not just believing that Christ exists, but doing something about it; taking peace in the knowledge of guilt and sins washed away through honest repentance; making sacred covenants and promises with God, like baptism, in order to more fully feel His influence in their lives; receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that they can always receive comfort and answers in every situation; and enduring, enjoying, and rejoicing to the end. Why did I serve a mission? To help people understand their relationship with God and act on that knowledge - He is a Loving Heavenly Father, who wants you to come back to His presence to be eternally happy with the gifts that you have received in life, like a body, and family, a faith and hope made sure through Christ. Wow, how much more meaningful life would be if I could impart that simple understanding to everyone around me!

Anything new in the Office?

Well, we will have to move stuff up to Joensuu sometime in the beginning of next month, and we will also be moving a new Office Sister into her apartment at the beginning of this month. Yay, more Office Staff! That means that, hopefully, after she has been trained in a few of the tasks that we are doing, we can take even more time out of the Office! I also now have been tasked with starting Mission History 2016. Just when I thought that I was done with it all... President wants it to have virtually the same format, which is easiest to have done if the same person does it. Sigh. It makes too much sense...

Anything interesting about your latest companion?

Hmm, what could I share... He has a girlfriend back home. A really serious one. He got quite a few letters this last week from her, due to the fact that she was traveling and had to save all of her letters to be posted and mailed at the same time. So that's fun to hear stories from him. Other than that, there's not much else that I can think of to say... We are getting along well, and he is quite good at Finnish, so I am having fun teaching idioms to someone else! My vocabulary legacy will be passed down... ;)

As a semi-funny side-note - Elder Hoggard was trained by the same person that trained Elder Frey. This Elder trained (or at least started to train) 4 different Elders. 3 of them (including Elder Frey) have had to leave their missions early, generally for fairly good reasons. We are having fun thinking up a fate for Elder Hoggard, where he is in some tragic way removed from the mission. It's kinda dark, yeah, but we do it in a light-hearted way. That makes it alright, right? :S

Anything you are just dying to share with us?

Aaaand the only thing that I saw in that sentence was the word "dying". That doesn't help with the paragraph that I just wrote about ways we could "remove" Elder Hoggard from the mission before his time. Now I just seem to have a really dark humor. Whoops.

I'm just so excited that we get to go out and talk to people so much! We will have another set of exchanges with our District Leader, actually, so that he can go on exchanges with the other member of the companionship (Elder Hoggard). Not normally done here in Finland, but when you only had 3 hours of exchanges, I guess you get special exceptions. As makes sense.

Well, I've really liked writing this e-mail - Thanks to anyone that has managed to get through my ramblings this far! I love and appreciate everyone for the influences that they have had on my life. I am glad that the trials and struggles that I've gone through have been times allowed by my Loving Heavenly Father for me to find greater growth and gratitude in. I hope that everyone can be happy and safe this week! Enjoy life a little! Here's a small picture for the Finnish-comprehend-ers.

This is a fire extinguisher outside of our Office. I like the brand. "Euro-Sisu". Google Translate probably can't do the definition justice. It would only be better if it said "Suomi-Sisu".

Vanhin David Milligan

Saturday, June 11, 2016

June 11, 2016 - Aaaaand this week went all down the drain...

Well. What do I mean by that unfortunate subject line? I mean that all of the work that I did on the Mission Histories this week is gone. Completely. Without recovery. Sigh.

I had a problem earlier in the week with the document being too large, too corrupted, or something. Every time that I tried to make multiple changes, then save, the server that it was on wouldn't accept it. If you tried to "save as" to any other place, it would save it all corrupted, if at all. Sometimes it just blocked the "save as" feature. So, in order to prevent me from loosing lots of hours of work like earlier this week, I made a copy saved to the desktop.

Yeah, that didn't fix anything.

I'd gotten really paranoid about keeping my progress saved, and was saving after nearly every edit that I made, at least saving after formatting each individual conversion story to be in line with all of the others.

It didn't help.

After finally finishing the whole editing and formatting of the last of the conversion stories in 2015, I triumphantly pressed "save" one final time. At which point the document froze, and then renamed itself to something like ~WF77019. I stared at it in shock. I tried to save again, press "save as" - nothing. No response from this imposter document. I scrolled throughout it, and it was entirely glitching up. Pictures were jumping all over the place. Formats that I fixed were blending together again. It was a nightmare. I closed it - the only thing that it actually responded to. The files were on my desktop. I could only watch as this weird document and its temp-file next to it blinked out of existence. Thinking that perhaps, it was just a weird, isolated little problem, I attempted to open up the actual Mission History 2015 document, cleverly labeled "DON'T CRASH" after the initial title. To my horror, the same problem happened as I had seen before - it said something about a corrupted file, and gave no way to recover my work. I couldn't restore a previous version or anything. It committed suicide on me. I had no choice but to haul it all to the trash bin, and look back at the original document, still mocking me from the initial deletion that it had done earlier. I'm back to the same exact document, with no changes, that I had at the beginning of this week. And I did a LOT this week. Sigh.

Well, it's not so bad. I'm sure that I will never forget any of these conversion stories that happened in 2015. I'm afraid to break up the file to more manageable sizes, 'cuz we had problems before trying to do that, since it reformatted everything on us when I tried to do it before. Also, if there are any page additions (since the thing needs to have page numbers), I would have to change every little piece of every document, and might not catch it in time. Too many moving parts and all that. I can't pull out the conversion stories, edit it, format it, and drop it back in - I've already tried that too, and the very specific formatting changes (specifically space differences in between paragraphs within and between different topics) all go kaput when you try to merge it back into the original document from another source. Sigh. I'll just have to get really good at pressing "save as" instead of "save", so that I can have a step-by-step better-and-better document on hand at all times. No more resets!

Hey, at least the whole document didn't delete itself.

Nothing else really interesting happened this week, besides what will be in the answers below.


What did you learn this week?

This week, I was going through how in the Book of Mormon, Aaron taught King Lamoni's father. Essentially, King Lamoni's father was contacted, became a potential investigator (Ammon was quite disarming ;) ), sent as a referral to Aaron, and then became an investigator in Aaron's stewardship, if you will. Just as a missionary equivalent of how he started meeting with the missionaries. So.

I have always found it interesting how applicable the questions were to King Lamoni's father's understanding. They were good questions that took what he knew and expounded upon how what he knew was a bit bigger and more important than he thought. He had an idea of religion, yes, but it held so much more in store for him than he initially thought. The Plan of Salvation and the gospel of Christ was put simply before him, and he reacted very well to it, desiring to learn more and act upon it to become fully converted. It was a really cool experience for everyone involved, I'm sure.

I started to think about how I can specifically answer questions in a way that the people I meet have the same opportunity as King Lamoni's father. Maybe they won't react the same way, maybe they and their family won't all convert in a single day to the church, but I want to give the gospel to others in such a way that they have the ability to understand it and act upon it, so long as it really is their decision to do so. It's been fun - we've done a couple role-plays of it as a companionship, since when I was explaining it, Elder Hoggard brought up that sometimes, the questions they ask or want answered don't really fall in line with anything we teach as missionaries, or at least want to teach at that time. With some questions asked, it's like the people are asking questions over why can't we add infinities together when they don't yet understand what addition even is. Regardless of how much good it could be to talk about how you can't really add infinity to itself, if they don't understand addition, it's no good to talk about that in any more than very vague definitions and concepts. Likewise, if people don't understand how to do things like pray and read the scriptures to find answers for themselves, it does us almost no good to answer things like, "did Moses hear a physical voice or a spiritual one?" If they don't understand that God can answer questions and concerns, it doesn't help much to try to figure out how one specific person in a specific instance received an answer. Can it help? Maybe. Not much. Just gives precedence for it happening before. Just like explaining that infinities not being able to be added together opens the door to actually talking about addition. So that's the way to teach, really - show people that in order for them to understand what the answer to their question is, they have to understand why another thing works. Generally, then, they end up answering their question themselves, and that often is best for someone trying to find out if the Gospel is true.

Anyways. I ranted a bit, but I really enjoyed studying how to ask good questions.

What did you teach this week?

This week, we have taught three lessons so far - we are actually really happy! It resulted in two new investigators, and we also have a few potential people to follow up with. We had exchanges with our District Leader this week, which really helped.

What did you share this week?

Today, we will get to share the Todistus Pallo lesson with a really cool guy! He is a student from Vietnam that just moved into the ward, and lives in the apartment across the street from us. Very close. His story is so cool - he was traveling on a train in this area 10 or so months ago, ran into missionaries (I know which missionaries were there, too), and sat behind them in a train. The missionaries talked with a woman who was not very interested. He was, though. The missionaries left the train after giving a card to the woman, and she soon left the train with the card still on the seat. He took the card and put it on his desk, not sure if he should call or not, because he wouldn't know what to say. He ended up not calling, and went over to Britain for an exchange-student program. There, he ran into the missionaries at a crossroads - but they walked right by him. So he followed them. Eventually, the missionaries realized that they were being followed and talked with him. 6 months ago, he was baptized. Now he's back in Finland! He is such a great guy - he joined us on a lesson in English yesterday. First time I've had a lesson in English in a LONG time. Like, over a year ago. Wow. It was great, though - he bore fantastic testimony! I gave him pieces of a Todistus Pallo last Sunday, after he saw one of them and thought it was the coolest thing ever. He will meet with us again today, and we will talk about all of the different parts of his testimony! It's bound to be good as he shares with us, and we share with him, things that have given us hope and happiness.

Did you see the picture of us and Vanhin Jensen's parents the Jensen family sent to him? (they came to our ward and Sister Skinner took a picture!)

Yeah, I saw that - Wow, that was weird to see a picture of my parents again! I haven't seen a full-body picture in a while. Then again, I haven't sent a picture of me also in a while. Hmm... you get what you give, I guess... I should try to attach more photos, but I rarely take photos anymore! Sigh.

Do you have to write a history of your missionary service for the Mission History? (Dad had to write a letter to his Mission President about his mission service at the end of his mission, so he is wondering if your Mission President does that, too.)

No, I don't - but that could be a good thing to do, regardless. It'd be fun for the contemplation, as well. I'll think about setting apart Preparation Day time to do that!

If you could pick a scripture for your missionary plaque today, would it still be the one you chose at the beginning?

I still think so, yeah. I chose 1st Timothy 4:12, which is still probably one of the best scriptures that I could pick for encouraging myself to keep putting myself out as an example in the capacity as a missionary serving others. If not that one, though, I think I'd pick 1st Nephi 11:17. It's cool to think that as long as I remember that I have a loving Heavenly Father, it's okay if I don't know the meaning of all things. That knowledge, if I really let it change me, can aid me to being able to endure all things until I can understand them, even if that understanding doesn't occur until after I've gone a long ways past the problem. I like that!

As an interesting side note - in order to confirm that I was indeed thinking about 1st Nephi 11:17, I quickly picked up the nearest Book of Mormon and flipped open to the verse. After opening it to the right area, I discovered that I had an Estonian Book of Mormon in my hands. No worries - the words were recognizable enough to confirm that it was the verse that I was thinking about. Just had an 'o' that I've never seen before and quite a few more 'b's than I think I'll ever see in a Finnish sentence. :)

Well, that's all, family. I love you all - I hope that everything is going well for everyone! This next week, I will work on that dreaded Mission History 2015 editing and formatting again, and we may need to take a trip up to Joensuu for apartment needs... That'd be long, again. We'll find out soon, though! Be safe, all, and have a good week!

Vanhin David Milligan
The two of us in our now-natural habitat... ;)   I'll try to take better pictures!