Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29, 2015 - This Week Will Be Crazy...

So, looking at this week, I'm not sure how the sanity is going to fare... We have had all sorts of CRAZY already, and we have more on the way. We just spent a day down in Kouvola, and now we are back here for P-Day, but then we will head down to Helsinki for a few days of meeting, and then we will drive back to Mikkeli with the new car. After that, we have to get splits up in Joensuu set up, and then Elder Smith will pack and change calls will come for the new change. WOW.

So I'm a little scatter-brained. Christmas holiday was great - we spent it with a lot of good members and sung a lot of fun Christmas songs in Finnish! I have a lot of stuff to look up once I get home for next Christmas, the lyrics were pretty funny for a few of them.

Due to the aforementioned-scatter-brained-ness, I will switch over to the questions!

Did your package arrive?

Yup! Got it just barely. I haven't gotten much time to peruse the contents as of yet, but I like how it looks so far! Thanks for all of the thought poured into it! I'm happy that I got one last package to open after the Christmas holiday was over. Kept the spirit of Christmas alive a little longer waiting for it to come.

Did snow arrive?

No snow. None coming, at least this week. We are rather solidly in the negative temperatures, though. So if there is any precipitation, it will snow. Yay!

What did you learn this week?

This week, in order to help me out with a part of my responsibility as a Zone Leader, I did a lot of personal study over "correction" and "reproof/reprove" as found in the Bible and Book of Mormon throughout the prophets talking to the people. This Zone is awesome, and I don't think I'll need to put a lot of it into practice, but it was still a good study. I think the thing that I most got out of it was that it is important to make sure that the audience you are talking to, be it Israelites or missionaries, know why the correction is being made - normally to help them recieve more blessings by obedience to the things the Lord has asked for us to do at this time. It was a little more in depth than just that one thing, but I thought that would be good to share now.

What did you teach this week?

We talked with members a little bit about the different kinds of attitudes there are with studying the gospel and acting upon it, as I've gone over earlier. Kind of a recurring theme in what I like to talk about, I guess. Most of our investigators were out of town for Christmas, so it was a little hard to teach them, but we have stayed in pretty good contact! Hope that this new-year-time will bring the people back to Mikkeli.

What did you share this week?

I gave quite a few little origami Missionary-shirts out this year. We thought it would be a good little thought to the members to remember that we came around and that they really helped us out. They all seem to like it so far! It's been fun to see them get excited over what ties I've drawn on the shirts, and the little notes on the back are normally signed "Lähkäriltä". Which makes them laugh.

Megan wants to know what your favorite shape is. Be creative.

Hmm... I think I'll have to pick a square. Two shapes in one - rectangle and rhombus! How's that for dredging back up those 7th-grade definitions... Plus, I can make a lot of origami with a square. Maybe I should have said rectangle, though, so I could have a square AND a rectangle... grrr, missed out on that opportunity...

Millie wants to know what dog treats are in Finland.

Millie, I don't know yet, but I'll help you find that answer. I will personally execute a search for such treats. If any fit in the mail slot, you can help me out on the how-do-they-taste part. (To make me seem a lot less cruel to whoever is reading this - Millie is our pet dog. Just FYI. I'm not telling a friend and/or relative to eat dog food.)

What is "Tangled" (the Disney movie) in Finnish, again? We forgot already!

"Kaksi karkutiellä". If I remember correctly. "Two on the loose" is a good translation of what it is meaning in English.

What is your favorite Finnish idiom that you learned recently?

I learned a good idiomatic phrase to answer how everything is going! Normally, if someone asks how I'm doing, I say "Leipä on vielä ansaitava", "the bread is still earnable", but I just learned (when I tried to answer "vielä hengessä", "still breathing/alive", yeah, kinda the same word in that case...) the new phrase, "henki kulkee, ja veri kiertää", "the breath goes, and the blood flows", if I can take some liberties with how we in English might say it. Please make that an idiom said in America by the time I get back... "How're you doing?" "The breath goes, and the blood flows." I would die laughing. Breath stops, blood flops. Give me a break, I don't speak English anymore!

Love y'all, I hope that the holiday seasons treated everyone well! Thanks for the letters and thoughts, I got quite a few this year! Be safe, be strong!

Vanhin David Milligan

December 22, 2015 - Merry Christmas! ...But not a White Christmas?

Sooo. All the snow? Gone. All of it. And we're not getting any more before Christmas. I'm starting to wonder if I'm still living in Santa-Land or not... There's snow up north in Rovaniemi, but not down here in Mikkeli. Santa still has snow - I do not. Sad face.

Things still keep truckin' along out here. Slow week, as normal. This has been both of our longest changes, and it's not 'cuz we hate each other or something! We're having a fair amount of fun, it's just really, REALLY slow going. But we're still going. So that's good.

I'm lost as to what else to write, so I'm just going for the questions!

What did you learn this week?

I've started recording everything that I study in a bit more depth, partially so that I can remember what in the world I specifically studied and answer this question well! The thing that I really studied today was taking counsel from the Lord. It all kinda stemmed from Jacob 4:10, I think, where it's something like, 'Don't try to counsel the Lord - seek counsel from Him'. From there, it had a lot of footnotes, and those footnotes had a lot of different footnotes about the same concept, so I just made a huge list of scriptures that explain it well and invite us to take and seek counsel and correction. I thought a lot about that Hugh B. Brown devotional, "God is the Gardener", as well as that cool Mormon Message about it... cue the link here? I can actually go get it myself!


I really like this one!

What did you share this week?

Well, we got to have a TON of people in church last Sunday - one of the families here just had a missionary come home, and there's Christmas this week, AND the same family also has a daughter getting married next week. Lots of people in church. It was crazy. We got to share, as a branch the size of a ward, a ton of Glögi and gingerbread cookies, and we got to see the Christmas Devotional for this year. It was interesting, because they were only broadcasting it in Finnish, and they didn't have the English words going through any translation devices, so... I watched them speak in English, heard the Finnish translation, and translated it back to English for a couple non-Finnish-speaking people. Phew, hard work. But I'm better at translating, now!

What did you teach this week?

We had another meeting with our youngest, newest investigator. He's really cool, so many good questions. We were with a return missionary (not the one that just got back this last week, the one that's been back for about a month and ½ now), and that helped a lot. It's still a challenge to fully convey my thoughts in Finnish, although I (almost) completely understand and relate to the complexities of the Finnish language when I hear it. It's nice to have members for whom this is normal... We taught the simple thought that he has a loving Heavenly Father, and that He wants us to be happy here on Earth. The guy had quite a few good questions about how Heavenly Father interacts with His children to tell them what is true, and asked what if mankind is just psyching itself out that there is a God, but he really did want just our thoughts on how we know there is a loving Heavenly Father, he believes in God quite strongly himself. Seems we passed the test? He wasn't able to come to church, since he's with his family in Jyväskylä right now, but we'll see after Christmas!

What are your plans for Christmas?

We are spending Christmas Eve with the family that is having all of the visitors (due to return missionary and upcoming marriage), and then we will spend Christmas itself with the family of our Branch President. They each wanted us to stick around the whole day, like, pick us up after 11 AM and keep us 'til bedtime. Much appreciated - we would not be too effective with that day, though! I think they were impressed that we still wanted to try to do missionary work as best as we could those days with the guidelines that President has set, so I'm hoping that is the thing they remember, not that we turned down 10 hours of fun with them...

Do you get to proselyte during the holiday?

In a sense, yes. We can't go tracting - just like the beginning of my mission - but we can go outside and try to contact people on the streets. Not sure who will be outside during Christmas holidays, the normal holidays leave the streets empty enough, but we'll be out there! With no snow...

Do you get to see lanterns in the cemetery again?

I hope so. If we aren't going with a member family, we are still going to a nice little graveyard by the rest home that we visit to do service at.

Zandi wants to know if you are walking on lakes, yet? Do you have lakes in your area?

There are a lot of lakes here in Mikkeli - even one right outside the church window that I'm sitting in front of right now. There is also a distinct lack of ice on it... So, unless I see the waves pounding, tempest raging, and hear a voice telling me to come out onto the water, I think I'm land-bound for now.

That's all, I guess! I'm hoping to do a bit of Christmas baking to thank all of the members for helping us out and reaching out to us. Christmas Peanut-Butter-Brownies... the Finns won't know what hit 'em! Love y'all, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Vanhin David Milligan

December 15, 2015 - ....Wait, it's almost CHRISTMAS?!?

Ever have that little bit of shock from something that you've known, but not really recognized, hitting you with the reality of its existence all at once? That's what I just felt looking at the day and reading my emails. I was thinking, "What do they mean, 10 more days? It's only the... WUT." But I'm loving it!

Wow, lots of travel! We went up to Oulu, went down to Helsinki via train, and, oh, I forgot to mention, we nearly came back by CAR. Yup. Mikkeli has just been made a car area. The only reason that we don't have it currently is because we didn't yet have a parking place to put it in, and I guess that President doesn't want us just parking it at the church. It appears that its primary purposes for being granted to us are traveling to far-out areas in Mikkeli, emergency situations that might arise, and for going out on splits via car instead of train. But, do y'all know what this means? 100% Car Areas for Elder Milligan. I couldn't escape it. Not that I'm complaining, I feel that I know how to effectively use a car in combination with proselyting very well now.

There's limited time, as always, so I'll hop over to the Q's!

What did you teach this week?

We had a bit of a rough week. At the beginning, we found our new investigator, but after that, it was traveling around and very little time in area. All of the plans of lessons that we made for Sunday and Monday fell through. It was very saddening. But, we ran into a few peoplethat were really cool, and were fine with us coming over soon, so we still have hope!

What did you share this week?

This last Sunday was Mikkeli's Primary Program. There were 6 children singing, and they were pretty good! I made them each a little origami Missionary-styled-shirt-and-tie. They really liked it, and so did all of their parents, mostly because I put a little language joke on there. I think I've mentioned this, but the word for "missionary" in Finnish is "lähetyssaarnaaja", or "sent-preacher". That's too long for most people to want to say in one breath, so the members all call a missionary a "lähkäri". Essentially, they combine the Finnish word for "doctor" ("lääkäri") with the "sent" part of missionary. It's quite funny, but most missionaries don't use it, of course. I signed all of these cards from the "lähkärit", though. They loved it.

What did you learn this week?

With Elder and Sister Dyches visiting, there was a lot to learn from the Mission Tour and the special MLC along with it. No, they didn't announce iPads, in case any of you were wondering. I doubt I'll see them out here, at this rate. Which is completely fine. Anyways. There was quite a bit over how to become better teachers, which I appreciated. The main point of it seemed to be, "Base everything you say off of the fundamentals of reading the Book of Mormon, praying, and attending church. You can't make them feel the Spirit, they have to search for it themselves. Just make sure that you are giving them the opportunity to find it." Pretty good thought!

Is your "new" area full of people that want to speak English? Or do they speak another language?

I have met a surprising amount of people that speak English, with that being the only language that we have in common. With the situations that Europe is having and with the fact that this is the first place I've been in with a professional college and student-housing section so close by, we are meeting a lot of foreigners on the streets. We are still mostly teaching Finns, but it's fun to talk with people about where they are from and what they're doing out here. Not too many people go out of their way to speak with them, so they are down to talk with us for a small chat.

Is Oulu far enough north that you got to try reindeer while you were visiting?

I didn't get to have reindeer in Oulu - right after the meeting, there was lunch provided, which was essentially a nice sloppy-joe, and then I got rushed off to a plane. HOWEVER. There is a place here in Mikkeli that a member gave us a giant coupon for. It's a PancakeHouse (Pannukakkutalo), and we could, for just under 2€, buy 2 large pancakes. Like, LARGE pancakes. 1 for each of us. These pancakes were wonderfully adorned with Bacon, Cheese, and, yes, REINDEER. It was delicious. I will probably be going back soon. Here's a picture for the idea of it all.

Well, that's about all! I feel that there haven't been, like, any pictures of me going out, so I'll attach one more to the end of this. In the meantime, I hope that you all know that I'm loving my time out here. I just know that I'm learning a lot, and learning things that'll help me know how to be a better person to everyone. I just want to learn how to love people. Thanks for everyone that make themselves easy to love! Be safe, all, and have a very Merry Christmas!

Vanhin David Milligan

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 8, 2015 - Coming Soon To An Email Account (or Blog!) Near You

Not too much happened, other than hearing that the new Star Wars movie is coming out in, like, a week. I miss working at the theater - I used to know all of this stuff... So, that information has fueled the subject line for this week.

Got to celebrate Finnish Independence Day! No fireworks. No one on the streets. Can't tract around. It was a little disappointing. But 'yay' for freedom.

There isn't anything else to really share, so... THE QUESTIONS AWAIT.

What did you learn this week?

I went through quite a bit of Preach My Gospel again this week. I was mostly going through the definitions at the end of each of the first three lessons, and it was kind of interesting to read. Mostly just because it made me focus on those things that I need to clearly and simply explain to someone to help them understand not only a concept, but why the concept is personally applicable to them.

What did you share this week?

This week, I got to share my umbrella with some older people. We go and walk with people in the local rest home on Mondays, and this Monday, it was really stormy (just wind and rain and sleet, no outright snow), but everyone still wanted to go outside. So I got to walk around trying to contain the force of the wind and block it with my umbrella. Thank goodness I got gifted a really nice one, any other one would've broken from the sheer wind-speed. Almost as hard as Oklahoma winds, it felt. The seniors are really starting to like us, especially since almost all of the idioms and little phrases that I have were very popular in their youth, and they haven't heard them in a while. It's a fun little 'blast from the past' for them, and I've gotten a few good phrases from them, too!

What did you teach this week?

Yay, we have a new investigator! He's a younger Finn, he is pretty religiously focused and wondering how God answers prayers and concerns. He really liked the Christmas video we showed him, and invited us back. We got to teach him, and now have another appointment, too! We're excited, he's awesome.

What did you eat this week? (anything new?)

We tried making a form of hash browns with sausage, potatoes, carrots, green beans, meatballs, corn, peas, and onions. Needless to say, very filling. Wow. I think even my companion got stuffed from that.

We also went to a Nepalese buffet that a member works at. It was pretty good! We went with another member that just got back from his mission, and found out that today, another missionary will get home to his family in Mikkeli! So many Return-Missionaries... My companion is getting a little on-edge, with his time approaching. I have plenty of time left, so I'm just enjoying these families getting their loved ones back to treat well and spoil.

How did your baking experiment go?

I have now dubbed it "Christmas Cheesecake". It turned out AMAZING. I thought it would be nice, just a good twist, but it went above and beyond. I accidentally used too much brown sugar and Glögi, but my attempts to correct it made it work well! There is a 3-step-flavor-hit. You taste caramel. Then you taste... I can't explain it. It's because of the Glögi and the brown sugar combining in a weird way, so it doesn't taste like either - it's been granted the title "the taste of Christmas" by my companion. Then you get the taste of the gingerbread crust at the end. Oh, my. It's really good.

Are you going to share your recipes? Some of us get hungry when we read your posts!

I can write them up, but I'm not certain if we can make some of these things in America! Example - no Glögi. We could use Apple Cider, but it's not the same. (Personally, I like Apple Cider MUCH more than Glögi, and Hot Chocolate more than those both, but still.) I will work on getting those recipes compiled and sent off, if y'all want... Cheesecake, at least. I'm not givin' up the family Peanut Butter Brownie recipe!!!

What are your plans for Christmas?

Members have already invited us to celebrate Christmas and Christmas Eve! It's great! We have a place to Skype and everything. Right now, it looks like we are going over to the home with the today-returned-missionary on Christmas Eve, and then we are at the Branch President's home on Christmas. Yay!

Do people ice-skate on the frozen lakes?

They do - they also ice-skate on the frozen soccer (sorry, football) fields. Very fun to see a place where people played soccer when I was first here a place where they now play ice hockey.

Are there any bikes frozen in your area like last year?

If there would be frozen lakes, there would be frozen-in bikes. Such things always work in tandem. (That was a pun on tandem bikes, in case anyone missed that...)

Describe someone interesting that you have met in Finland.

I guess that I'll talk about our Branch President's wife, since she was the one who kindly extended the invitation to us to go there on Christmas! She is a very voice-oriented person in her occupation. She has done quite a few CD's with her singing Finnish, and apparently (I haven't yet confirmed this with a ton of people, but it seems to be true) she voiced Belle in the Finnish Beauty and the Beast. I need to get that one, now. I've heard that she'll gift missionaries with her CD's, so it sounds like that's a good place to go for Christmas! Even if in Finland, they receive and open all their gifts of Christmas Eve...

Well, that's all! I will be getting to go to Oulu on Thursday, fly down to Helsinki on Friday, and get back up here Saturday night. Yoi. Busy week. Happy to be serving, though! Be safe, everyone. Christmas approaches - smile a little!

Vanhin David Milligan

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 1, 2015 - It's gone... It's all gone...

Aaaand the snow was short-lived. It's back to being wet and dark without any snow to bring cheer and happiness. But we keep a-walkin'.

This week has been the longest week ever. This whole change has been the longest one ever. All of the other e-mails where I've said that it's been long? This tops them all. Not in a bad way - just an exhausting one. Very busy week.

There's a lot I want to say, and a lot that will go in the questions, so let's get to it - personal thoughts!

Meeting old Friends - That's fun!
When I walked into the Mikkeli Branch on the first Sunday, there was one older couple that just really stuck out to me. I was certain that I'd met them before, but I couldn't pin down exactly where... They had the same thoughts, apparently, and invited us over to eat. When we got to talking, they asked where I've served. When I started the list with "Tampere", all of us remembered where we'd seen each other - last Boxing Day, they were at their children's place in Tampere, and I was there, too. Fun to meet them again, around Christmas time, too!

Also, I got to see a Lohja-lainen again (member of Lohja). That was great, too. They gave a talk last Sunday. It was nice, especially since he was a American return-missionary that had served in Mikkeli as a part of his Finnish Mission time. That was cool to hear him talk about all of the different people that he got to reconnect to.

Going on Splits
Haven't done this where I am the one conducting Splits, yet... We will be visiting Savonlinna today and tomorrow, takes so long to get there by bus that we have to stay for 2 nights and one day. Should be fun.

Snapshot of my Schedule...
Not a picture, just an inside look as to how busy we will be. This week, we have splits. Next week, we have the Mission Tour, where on the 11th we will be in Oulu, and on the 12th we will be in Helsinki. Crazy train-trips and even getting on a plane. Woo-hoo!

A Savior Is Born
There's a new Christmas video that we are sharing. I personally like "He is the Gift" a little more, but that's just 'cuz I liked the whole captions thing. This is good, too!

Okay, the questions await us. Here we go -

Do you have a picture of you with your new companion? Can you send one soon?

Sorry, this is the best one I've got right now! I'll make sure to get ones with us together later.

What did you learn this week?

This week, we had an MLC at the Mission Home in Helsinki. All of the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders were there, and it was a great time for us all to coordinate on things that we think can help the people in our mission areas. We had a great talk over Agency, and that was pretty good. I think that it got summed up rather well from this - in order for their to be agency, there must be a distinct choice to make, there have to be opposing and alternate options, and you have to be in a position of freedom of one sort or another in order to make that choice. The more freedom you give up in your actions, the less of a choice you will have. That sounds a little weird, but it's not like we have a set amount of "spiritual freedom" that peeters out down to "0". It's just like saying if you choose to be stupid on a motorcycle and you lose your permit, there's less freedom. If you get in an accident and break your legs, you now have less freedom of movement. Freedom to make choices is affected by the results of the choices you make. Pretty interesting discussion, I liked it a lot!

What did you share this week?

Let me tell you what we did this last week for our Thanksgiving Party in Mikkeli. At MLC, on Thursday, we had a fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner, and I took the chance to take some pointers and recipes from Sister Watson and the Office Staff (it was great to see them all again!). With that knowledge, I strode confidently to the first time that my companion and I have ever tried to make a Thanksgiving Feast for Finns. For anyone, actually. But still. We were roasting a turkey the branch provided us, making stuffing, and helping a member make American Sweet Potatoes. Despite all of the forces in the world of common sense working against us (specifically, the fact that we had never done any of this before), we pulled it off. 16 YSA people came, as well as a handful of non-members and potentials that we had invited. The American food went great! Afterwards, we started singing a bunch of Disney songs in Finnish. They told me they'd get lyrics for me. Very excited. If you all want to send e-mails with your favorite Disney song translated into Finnish, I would like that, too.

What did you teach this week?

We got to teach about the importance of planning a baptismal date to the Zone. There's been a low amount of baptismal dates being set, and when we asked missionaries, it was mostly because the missionaries felt that the investigator had to achieve certain milestones (i.e. reading scriptures, saying prayers, attending church, etc.) before being given a goal like that. Very odd. We got to talk with a lot of missionaries about the importance of getting that out there as soon as possible. Really encouraged me to make sure that I'm following my own advice!

What is your favorite thing to see covered in snow?

To be fair to the "All gone" bit of us not having snow, it just started to snow again. But I don't think any of it will stick - the ground got too warm. My favorite thing is either giant church buildings, trees, or lakes. If I have my camera, it is giant church buildings, if I don't, then trees, and if my companion is down for walking across frozen bodies of water, it's lakes.

How cold does it have to be before you think it is cold?

I'm in agreeance with my companion on this one - it isn't truly cold until around -30 Celcius. That's what I felt last year, the day that I had to move tons of luggage for around 6 companionships in the cold and snow and ice in Tampere. The cold that I'd felt before then was nothing. That's what I feel now, too. Praying that it wont get that cold soon, until I scout out a few good lakes, first.

What is your favorite meal in Finland, now? 

I think as a whole meal, the favorite would be what we get in the Christmas season - ham, fish, berries, and all sorts of little casseroles. Especially the ham, though. Wild boar is surprisingly tasty.

What baking challenges have you set for yourself this week?

I want to experiment with a Finnish-Christmas Cheesecake! Gingerbread base, Glögi filling, caramel topping. Man, I hope I didn't talk about this last week, I was very bummed that I didn't have time to do it this week with all of the Thanksgiving baking.

Are you singing in any Christmas programs this year?

Not that I know of now - there is bound to be a Christmas Branch Party, but who knows if they'll need me there. My companion has started to really want to become a better singer for when he goes home, so we've been working together on making his vocal prowess progress.

What is something that made you smile this week?

In a talk about Heavenly Father answering prayers, I heard a funny little joke. The point was made that the answer might be "No", or that you might not get one, since you're not ready to hear the answer yet, but keep doing what you're doing right, and you'll become what you need to be in order to hear His answer for you. That's all good and nice. The funny thing was when the person compared it to his prayers of searching for a wife. After much time of prayer and repeatedly feeling frustrated, he kinda mentally pleaded, "Where am I supposed to find my wife - did she die in the war in heaven, or what?" There was a fair amount of trying to hold in laughter from me.

Well, that's all, really. Thanks for the work y'all do in the parts of your life. Be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November 24, 2015 - GUESS WHAT?!?

I couldn't use the same tag-line as last time, but there is TONS OF SNOW!!! Yay!!!

Click on this to see it bigger! It's GORGEOUS!!!!

This needed pictures, even if it makes the computer lag for, like, 10 minutes.

Let's go to the questions - because there is only one computer that is operational right now at the church, which means we need ample time to switch back-and-forth, and I don't want all of our P-Day to be wasted by my chit-chatting endlessly...

How are you?

I'm doing great in Mikkeli! So much snow! (Yeehaw, look at that, we're breezing through the questions today!)

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? (We know it is not a Finnish holiday!)

This Thanksgiving, I will be in Helsinki because of MLC, or Mission Leadership Council. I will be seeing 4 people from my group there! It is a meeting for the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders. We will have a Thanksgiving feast provided by Sister Watson, and then, when we are back in Mikkeli on Friday, we are holding our own little Thanksgiving feast with the branch YSA and a few potentials and investigators. Should be fun!

What is your best advice for walking on ice?

Don't do it yet. Too thin. But soon. That's my advice. And I will try to get a picture of us doing it. My companion wants to get pictures of us doing it, too.

What have you taught this week?

We finally found a new investigator of our own! Yay for the companionship! We did a little bit of get-to-know-each-other teach, he's really cool and smart, so we'll hope for continual meetings with him this week.

What have you shared this week?

I will say what I'm about to share this week - Cheesecake. My district found out about my cheesecake skills and petitioned for me to make one tomorrow for them. Strawberry cheesecake with a mango topping is what I'm going with right now. Should be good.

What have you learned this week?

I have been going through all of the different Christmas cards of quotes that my parents arranged for me last year, and have been using that as a bit of a study-guide. I've gone quite a bit through how to avoid discouragement, and how we can avoid being overly critical or insulting, as well as insulted. It's been good!

What is your new companion like?

I think I might have mentioned this last time - we have almost nothing in common. It's very weird to try to have a conversation about interests. There are 2 things that are linking us together - a love of Disney movies, and a love of being out here doing missionary work. With those two, we are having a blast together. It is so fun to share mission stories with him - I have had the opportunity to hear his experiences before he goes home, and can grow from them, so I want to make sure that I'm open to that. Really, we're doing great together. It's surprising when you look at our interests and personalities, but it's great!

Do you still go out when there is a blizzard?

Yup. It was blizzarding all Saturday, and we got entirely covered. We did a 1½ hour walk to an area, thinking that there was a potential there (we got the street name wrong), and after tracting a bit, just came walking right on back. But it was good - we got to talk to a surprising amount of people that were mostly shocked by the amount of snow on everything that we were wearing. Testimony of hard work!

What sounds do animals make in Finland? (or what do kids say when you ask them what a dog says, for example)

The only one that I've been able to wrangle out of a Finn (I don't know why I only ever was answered with this one animal) was that cats make a "Miu!" sound. Me-you, basically. I remember it because of Pokémon... I know - nerdy. What can you do.

Well, my companion still needs to email, so I'll be going then! Thanks for the reaching-out that you all do. I appreciate the thoughts that come from each of you! Be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 17, 2015 - Snow Snow Snow Snow SNOW

Woo-hoo!!! SNOW!!! Sorry, I'm a little over-excited about this, but I feel that there is a legitimate cause behind my cheers. None of the snow has stuck, yet, but there have been now 3 days of intermittent snow. I'm very happy.

Wow. Being in a new area is different. This is the furthest away I've gone from Helsinki. That's crazy. I'm not even that far - I always think that I am further up than I really am. Phew.

Seriously, though, all of the questions address all of the crazy things going through my head, so I'll just give my creativity a little bit of question-related guidance. To the questions!

Are you enjoying your return to Tuesday P-days?

It is most definitely odd to return to. The weekends used to feel like weekends. Now, they do not. I felt good this morning, though, about it all, mostly because not only can I actually go to stores on P-Day now, but they are actually open late enough! On Saturdays, everything seems to close far too early... We went to try to go get some milk on Saturday, just as an emergency run, and the store was closed. At 4 PM. So we went to a convenience store. Far too expensive, but there you go. Today, I'm planning on visiting a lot of second-hand shops. The dekkari (second-hand bookstore) that is 3 doors away from our apartment (named Antikvari, made a lot more sense once I said the name out loud) is selling tons of books for a fantastic sale - 3 books, 1€. I might just go a little overboard in there. I'll have to figure out how to cheaply get them home... might just have to ditch some things to make room in my suitcases!

How goes life as the Zone leader?

Yoinks. I don't feel comfortable being a Zone Leader. Thankfully, there hasn't been too much different so far, other than having people do call-ins to us, which is what I got used to when my companion was the District Leader. We do have a Zone Training to conduct tomorrow, but I'm not freaking out at all. It is actually the only meeting I'll have to conduct this change, because next month, we will be having a Mission Tour. Don't know when, don't know who's coming, don't know if it will be the whole mission gathered at one time or not, but there you go. So I'm off the hook after tomorrow, and I won't see too much insanity. This is a good change to be a Zone Leader. Hopefully I'll grow enough that I don't need to stay another change.

What is your new area like?

It's very reminiscent of Porvoo and Lohja in size. I am in a branch, technically, but it really does feel like a ward. The members all came up and introduced themselves, arranging a food calendar to officially get to meet me, so that's cool! This area just had a baptism with a pretty awesome man last Saturday, he is really nice and loves to be in church! I have a feeling that this area is going to be among my fond memories of Finland. I'm hoping that the snow will stick, so that the pictures of this place look less wet and more winter-y!

What did you learn this week?

This week, I've been studying for the Zone Training that I will be conducting with my companion. The subject that we have been tasked to speak on is a combination of how to improve teaching skills and how to extend commitments more effectively. I've been reviewing all of these points of Teaching Skills in PmG, and been coming up with times on my mission that one of the teaching skills has really been a turn-around point in meeting with investigators - times when it's been best to listen, to share a scripture, to rely on a member's help and testimony, etc. It's been really interesting to think about where I've gone and who I've met with and how far along I am now in my understanding of why this work is so important. I hope that I can convey that to these missionaries in the East Zone!

What did you teach this week?

We've met with this veteran from the Winter War this last week. If you don't know what the Winter War is, I suggest looking it up - it's a very interesting time to be a part of. A very sane man, despite his age, and very interested in why we have come this far to try to learn Finnish and talk with people. He's met with the missionaries for about 2 months, now, and this last week, we reviewed with him the reasons that we have the scriptures and why prophets are so important. He listens, contributes, and is always very involved in the lesson. He also shares with us really interesting bits of the Finnish language, mostly because I'll throw in an idiom and he will start to laugh really hard, normally saying that he hasn't heard that since he was very little. At the end of this last one with him, he looked at us and said very simply (in Finnish, of course), "When some people try to speak with me, I always wonder what it is they are really trying to say, what it is that they are getting at. When you all speak with me, I know exactly why you're here, and that you care about me. Thank you." That was pretty cool! (P.S. It's really interesting to see how far along I am with the language - after sharing one of these archaic idioms, kadota kuin tuhka tuuleen - to vanish like ash into the wind - he started to talk a little about the difference in the fertilization of fields between using coal and using ash. And my companion and I understood 100%, especially since I had talked about the word for "coal" earlier that day. Woah, such a weird thing to get...)

What did you share this week?

I have been able to share a lot of stories about missionary experience with my new companion, Elder Smith. He and I don't have much at all in common, besides the fact that we are both Americans, but it's really interesting that the thing uniting us right now is simply and purely the love of missionary work that we have. There aren't many other things that connect our interests besides that, but right now, with him going home after this change (yeah - I am serving with another dying missionary!), that's really all he wants to talk about - which works fantastic for me! It's been cool to go on reflect on all of these things. I'm talking as though I don't have much time left - but 8 months is PLENTY of time! (Trying to pretend like I haven't finished 2/3 of my mission already...)

Is it nice to be back to normal missionary work? Or are you missing the office?

In a sense, it is, but I do miss the office... I like normal missionary work - I really do! I'm happy to be back out in the field, focused on finding and teaching. However, I've just gotten so used to being around all of the Office people that it really is kinda hard to not see them, and it's really hard to not just be able to go and help them. I've gotten quite a few calls from various people in the office, asking how something is supposed to be done or where things are or whatnot. I hope that, somehow, I will go back there before the end! But, I do love serving out here, too.

What is the strangest thing you have seen in Finland?

Hmm. Strangest thing... Wow, I'm drawing a blank. I'm so used to Finland, that I don't really see anything right now as overly-strange... Maybe it would be a good question for next week, after I've had some new experiences here in Mikkeli! But, in the meantime, here is one thing that was strange when I saw it. Although I've already talked about it extensively, it is just so ODD to see all of these very-much-senior people walking around and biking everyday, nonstop, and in very good shape! Seriously, people don't look out of place at ALL if they are on a bike, and it is so common that there are bike racks and paths everywhere. They even have signs for nature paths to say if it is bike-recommended or not, since Finns like to just travel around in the woods for contemplation. So cool, I hope that I can stay a little more active as I start gaining years!

Well, there we are - the end of another email. Here's hoping that the snow will stick around soon - I'm praying for it, myself! Love snow... Anyways. Be safe, and have a good week!

Vanhin David Milligan

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November 7, 2015 - Hold on - I'm going WHERE?!?

Aaaand I'll leave it there. The whole situation is in the questions. So now you have to read. *Neener-neener*

In other news - I am now a billionaire. Also makes sense at the end of the email.

Also, the way and method to make someone live in a false sense of suspense - it's at the end of the email.

One last note before questions - Due to the change that will happen this week, I will be back to emailing on Tuesdays. But I won't be able to email this next Tuesday. Which means, much like when I first came to the office, I will go 1½ weeks before emailing. Which also means I get gypped a P-Day. But I don't mind...

To the questions! Let the suspense commence...

What did you teach this week?

Today, we will get to meet with someone that some members in our area have referred to us. They seem pretty interested, and they are open to meeting and talking. So! It's going to likely be a 'get-to-know-each-other' sort of teaching appointment. Which I like doing! Sadly, I won't be here for the actual teaching process. (Observe how I have now heightened the suspense of the change call I got by bringing it up again. You're welcome to take notes.)

What did you share this week?

I had one final "hoo-rah" of gluten-free cooking and made the family-favorite, super-famous Peanut Butter Brownie recipe, with a few changes to account for the whole gluten-free dealeo. And boy, did it become a hit. I got a lot of praise from around the office for these ones, and even the people that have always taken only one treat (because they don't like sugar too much, but still want to be polite and all that) came back for multiple servings. I shocked a lot of the Finns - they hadn't tried stuff like that before! They all wanted the recipe, but I demurred. I'd rather leave it a Milligan-specialty! Although I might go back on that, now that I know I'm not staying... (Again, tension is risen, but the pace of the email is going well. That's key for writing. You can't have people feeling like there is no progress towards the goal.)

What did you learn this week?

My change call. But more on that later. (This is a risky one - it outright holds the lack of information of the reader over their heads, and might get some 'rage-quitters' from your book / blog post. However, if twisted right, it can be a touchstone of humor. For example, this question has been asked every email, and I just broke the regular structure of my answer. This is funny. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh.)

I have gone a lot over how reading the scriptures can help me to change, specifically how I can apply what is in the scriptures. It's funny how you can learn this lesson from both a) groups of people that change after they get the gospel and b) groups of people who don't change. Generally, people that don't let the gospel and the scriptures change their life don't have a firm testimony in a lot. It's like having a seed that managed to grow in rocky soil, and then not bothering to clear out the rocks to help the plant grow. Assuming the plant will just continue in its growth is rather foolish, isn't it? The rocks obviously hinder whatever amount of nutrient the seed and plant get. Just because it managed to work up the energy to commit to being a plant doesn't mean the plant will do well how it is currently living. Just food for thought.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? 

I was hoping to go to the one family from Oklahoma living here. It would've been awesome. As it is, I will hopefully get to say good-bye to them tomorrow! If I have my way, there will be a Thanksgiving feast, even if I need the recipes for Sweet Potatoes sent over express-email and some cans for making Pumpkin Pie sent in a package, 'cuz I haven't seen any out here. But that last bit can be solved by just making Apple Pie, which is a classic too.

When is the next transfer date? When will you know if you are staying in the office?

The next transfer date is this Tuesday. I am NOT staying in the office. Elder Karttunen, the Swede with leg problems of a similar strain to my companion (no pun intended on the amount of STRAIN it puts on him... laugh...laugh...) will be staying here. It's been fun being in a Tripe (missionary slang for a triple-person-companionship), but I am moving away now. I'm going to... Mikkeli! It is in the East Zone, the one that was created a little under a year ago. Oh, and one thing - Mikkeli is where the Zone Leaders serve. I'm a Zone Leader for the East this change. SOOOO not ready for that. I'm a little stressed, and a lot-not-excited about that prospect, but if I've been called to serve there, looks like I'm going... Pray for me! My companion will be Elder Smith (there are 4 Elder Smiths in the mission right now, 3 missionaries and 1 Office Senior), and he will be going home this next change. I will be spending Christmas EXACTLY like last year, with a "dying" missionary as my companion. Should be interesting - I hope that we can do some great work! I've only met him once, during the Extended MLC we had last week. But he seemed cool enough. Fingers are crossed for fun times.

Have you seen any Finnish traditions that you love?

There's a kind of cool one, not so much a tradition as a habit whenever this happens. If you go walking around Finnish nature pathways, or even next to busy streets, you might perchance see a glove, mitten, scarf, or hat hung on a tree, bush, or shrubbery branch. Any time that a Finn sees an article of clothing on the ground, especially if it is raining or snowing, they put it in the tree so that when the owner comes along looking for it, it is easily spotted and accessible, and in significantly better condition than it might be otherwise. This leads to some paths and streets being strewn with little-kid gloves and hats. It's kinda fun to see, and almost literally EVERY Finn will stop whatever they are doing to help out and put it on the branch for the owner.

How is the weather?

It got strangely warm again... It went up to, like, 10 degrees C for a while this week. It's going down again, though. In Helsinki area, it is forecasted to be raining with just-above-freezing temperatures. It's the same in Mikkeli, too, but just a little colder. Probably no snow, though.

Are you back to wearing all your layers to keep warm?

Not yet - but I'm hoping that the need will arise soon!

How much snow do you have?

None... I'll make a snowman and send lots of pictures as soon as it happens!

Before I close out - yes, I'm a billionaire.

This is mine! Elder Smith (in the Office) gave it to me. I think it's my MSF fund increase for the office work that I did...  I'm set for life, now! (BTW - the chocolate inside is very expired - so this is strictly a souvenir. But I like it like that!)

The man and his money.

Well, that's all, then. Thanks, everyone, for the inspiring thoughts that you send me, and the small acts of kindness that you do for others! You never know just how far your little acts can travel. I mean, they've already come all the way to Finland and back! Stay safe, enjoy the upcoming holidays!

Vanhin David Milligan

P.S. I've been listening to Christmas music starting, oh, 1 month ago, because there haven't been any American-shared holidays between then and Christmas. No Thanksgiving... more food for me!

October 31, 2015 - Happy Halloween!

I love it when holidays give me a subject line, it really is hard to come up with them every week...

Lots of CRAZY this week! We got invited to go to the extended MLC, or Mission Leadership Training, where all of the District Leaders, Zone Leaders, and Sister Training Leaders show up for a day and 2 nights at the Mission Home in order to meet and talk about things that President wants their help on getting throughout the mission. Rules, expectations, lesson plans for District Meetings, it's all talked about in this quarterly-event. I haven't ever been to one - haven't had leadership, trying my best to avoid getting it. My companion has been to one, since he was a District Leader when they started up. So. Imagine a room, filled with leaders of various callings and areas in the mission, throw them into the same room, and then put the one Elder who is the LEAST qualified to be sitting in that room, and place him in the middle of all of them. That is literally what happened, my companion and I had to sit in the middle of the circle of these people, due to there not being enough chairs. I felt very out of my element, but the meeting was nice. Felt like there wasn't much that I could just go out and apply, though... Since it was all leadership-based... Kinda like learning how to clean desktops, and then being told to go back to sweep floors. Nice information, maybe can find one or two applied uses, but beyond that, the only thing they both have in common is that you're still cleaning stuff, or, still doing missionary work. Not too much to change in my conduct as a missionary after that. Oh, well, I got to see everyone from my group, bar one Elder! That was pretty cool!

Another crazy thing - I have a Swedish companion now. No, changes haven't taken place - I'm serving in a companionship of 3 Elders in the Office. Woah. Elder Karttunen has joined us here, since he has leg and knee problems. Not exactly the same as Elder Frey, because the initial diagnosis is that he might just need R&R, Rest and Relaxation, which would hurt Elder Frey's recovery. But still. The cripple-home grows... He is technically here for an indeterminate amount of time, but since changes are in 2 weeks, my theory (since we will have an even number of Elders next change, accounting for arriving-and-departing numbers) is that I will be moved out of the Office to normal missionary work somewhere else. Maybe in Turku, if they have a car area. I don't know! They probably won't have 3 Elder companionships next change, 'cuz then they'd have to have 2 of them, which needlessly closes an area of missionary labor. So. I'm likely gone. Which is too bad, because I can really help out here, but I'm excited to get back to normal missionary work, if that is where I'm going next!

So. Now I've served with a Spaniard and a Swede. Let's hope that I can get a Finn, in the end!

To the questions!

Are the little Finnish girls as obsessed with Frozen as the little American girls are? (Apparently Elsa and Anna are the "must have" costumes for Halloween)

Oh, let me tell you a fun little set of stories - One day, 2 Office Elders decided to try to go to the church for their P-Day. They wanted to practice playing the piano and mandolin together. When they showed up, they found a GIANT party set up in the gym, which was FILLED with Frozen-themed things. Including several life-size cutouts of the main characters. And a Frozen backdrop for picture taking. The Office Elders quickly made their escape before they would start to hear the song "Let It Go" begin.

A few weeks later, 2 Office Elders were in the mall, having just finished emailing and now shopping for gluten-free bread, not available at your local convenience stores. They instantly recognized the song that they heard - guess what? There was a giant stage in the middle - decorated with, again, large Frozen cutouts of people, and a Karaoke system set up. Many languages of Frozen being sung were heard in the following 15 minutes of shopping.

So. Are they obsessed still? Yes. Very much so.

Can you get Peanut Butter in Finland?

Yeah, I actually made Peanut Butter Brownies! I need to clarify, though - Finns have not often tasted or tried Peanut Butter. I have surprised many a Finn with my recipe. I think I'll try making it again this week. Elder Karttunen LOVES to bake, and me right alongside him, so we might go a little crazy with recipes.

What did you learn this week?

I did a lot of studying about how to apply the scriptures this week. I'm trying to pick one or two different things to study and seek to apply, now that I have gone and studied so much about how to apply these things with a lasting impression! President asked us at the MLC to try to emphasize with missionaries the importance of sharing scriptures with people, members and investigators alike, so I thought this would be a good first try.

What did you share this week?

Well, I got to share my presence at a meeting that I didn't feel that I belonged in... So I think I'll leave it there! I also shared some of my privileges with the trash can - President asked for everyone there to try going with less emailing time, to see how concentrated of an effort we can put into using only 1 hour for emailing into the Zone Conference discussions. So we are on a speed run for a while. Which is why the answers are so scattered right now.

What did you teach this week? 

We taught a member-family here with Elder Karttunen last night. We mostly focused on the love that God has for all of His children, and that went pretty well. We are trying to start teaching the members in the same format as investigators, and work with them on different, more member-emphasized commitments. Work with them, as in, do the commitment all together, and then come back next week to share what all of us have learned. I think that's pretty nice!

What American food do you miss? Or at least something you ate at home, but not in Finland.

Hmm... I do miss Root Beer. I don't often miss soda - byproduct of working in a movie theater, getting free soda every day, and seeing the blood-bag pulleys being used for the bags of soda - but Root Beer has a special place in my heart. Or belly. Finns (and most Europeans, for that matter) think that it tastes like medicine. So it's not here. Sigh.

What is something you want to see or do in Finland?

I want to find a proper lighthouse. And look off of the top. And get some fun pictures. But there isn't one that I've found yet. Sigh. I have heard of only 2 lighthouses here - one that Elder Hastings got a picture of (just a little one on a rock-cropping in the middle of a coastal area), and one that apparently is on an island accessible only by ferry from Turku. Which I think would disqualify me from getting to it. So sad.

Well, that's all! Thanks, everyone, for all that you do in your part of the world. It really can make a difference, so I hope that whatever you're doing makes a positive impact on things around you! Be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

#Selfie, since it's been a while since people have seen what I look like... It's the same, I promise! I haven't changed, like, at all!

I got a GREAT shirt for, like, 2 € at Dressmanns, because it's a size XS. I have found out that anything XS fits me well, even if it's just a little too big. Surprising, I know - but that's the way it works! I'm just glad that they actually make something close to my size. I'm keeping an eye out for cheap XS vests... Hope that I find some! I just can't wear this outside, though... sigh.

October 24, 2015 - This Week - Zone Conferences!

The madness is over! I have survived the preparation of Zone Conference packets! With the sacrifice of a P-Day, all is back in order. The mission is very informed about things in the office, now. For example, I made one Excel file simply labelled "EVERYTHING", that contains all of the languages that Church material is in, and what material is currently available in what language. Looks like a giant set of colored boxes, but it all makes sense! People are already calling into the office with a clearer idea of what to specifically order, rather than the simple, "Whatever you've got in Kekchi" or things like that.

This week was pretty empty of really jarring events, since we've just been working on mission history and finishing it all up for submission. Another cool thing in the packet that I made was a set of instructions for preparing to write and format submissions for the mission history. President wants missionaries to send in stories about recent converts and different experiences with Zone Conferences and mission-events, so I came up with a set of instructions to make sure that precise and specific information is conveyed, but still be in each missionary's distinct voice, instead of a re-telling on my part.

One crazy thing? Driving through Helsinki. Like, Central Helsinki. I hate it. SOOO scary. The roads are cobblestone, which is fun to walk on, fine to drive on, but really scary when you realize that there is literally only JUST enough room for you and the car in the opposite lane. Why didn't the original builders plan for cars to be driven down their streets?!? Yes, yes, I realize that there is quite an absurd assumption going on there, but let my indulge in indignation for a little while...

To the questions!

What did you learn this week?

I learned about different things that are to change our conduct and nature. Yes, I know - almost every e-mail has been about this! But there was a member that we meet with after church and sing hymns with that challenged us to read Mosiah 3-5. I really liked what it said, because it lined up with things that I've been thinking about. Basically, it subdivided in my head to be "here's the natural man, here's what we like to do, and here's what God wants us to do and become instead", followed by "once you've made the decision that you want to change, you need to follow through and do so, and Christ is gonna make that possible!", topped off with some good "aid your fellow man - it will help you keep those things that you've changed. You'll retain those changes, and it will really help you for the rest of your life." Pretty good set of chapters for me right now.

What did you share this week?

We have had quite a few chances to talk with other missionaries about things that they need for their areas, since we are now being involved more in the ordering-process of things. As I talk with other missionaries, I just keep thinking about all of the ways that I have grown from seeing and meeting with different people. I guess what I want to say then about this is, really, I've been shared with a lot this week different things that are happening around the mission. It's really cool to see people doing their all to be able to help people around them and provide them with things that are personally important to the missionaries.

What did you teach this week?

My companion was able to teach someone on splits this last week! We have been allowed 2 sets of splits per change (due to the fact that the change only lasts from 6 pm to 9 pm), and so I dropped off Elder Frey and Elder Grooms at a lesson with a great family in the ward that lives in our area. During that time and a little before, too, I was out contacting and finding with Elder Hansen, the District Leader. He's really tall, that's all I need to say, and that he's really cool, too! When we were walking, the Finns would get a little startled by him trying to talk to them, but it was all good. We actually got to meet a Finnish family walking around that was really interested! They were so interested and thinking that what we were doing was fantastic, I had to wonder if they were they were members just messing with us... I haven't checked, yet, so I really hope that it was genuine! I'm pretty sure that it is, because I asked what their 4-week-old kid's name was, and they said he didn't have one, yet - they receive it when they go and get them baptized and appoint a set of godparents. I actually had just reviewed the words for god-father/mother/son/child earlier that day, which made it perfectly understandable ! Yay for small miracles!

Does Finland "celebrate" Day Light Savings? Here it starts next week, Nov. 1st.

Yup, they do, but it's a little off here. For example, we switch tomorrow, on Sunday. Still falling back and everything, but. Little crazy.

I just learned the Northern Lights are on an 11 year cycle and they are nearing the end, so they won't be back for another 11 years. Or something like that. Have you seen them? Or do you know if that random fact I learned is true?

I have no idea, I haven't seen them, and if they are gone for 11 years, I'm not coming back to Finland for 11 years!!!

My companion just updated me - they come in STRENGTH every 11 years, not HAPPEN 11 years. This last year was the peak of it all, so it will recede in strength for a while, then come back later as really-cool-colors. There was one set of pictures that the visiting missionaries last week had (the ones that were here 'cuz of a broken hand), and they had seen and taken MANY pictures of Northern Lights in their area. They were REALLY strong, 'cuz there was, like, Red, Yellow, and Purple! And then Green and Blue on a different night.

Are you and your companion trading name-tags and ties for Halloween? That was the only costume I could think of for you besides the backwards shirts/ties/jackets. Of course, Halloween is on your P-day, so maybe you can wear a costume for a bit? I wonder if you'll run into Jesus again...

Well, since I pulled the 'backwards-outfit' last Halloween... If we aren't proselyting around, yeah, we might switch ties and nametags! That'd be a pretty fun litle trick...

And if I run into another guy dressed like Jesus, then I'm taking another selfie with him, no exceptions...

Do you know of any Halloween traditions in Finland? Do kids Trick-or-Treat? Is there another goat involved?

Halloween isn't big here. It's starting to get big, now, with this new generation of Americanized-Finnish kids, but there aren't Halloween decorations anywhere. There is a YSA party happening that will be Halloween oriented, but other than that, there's no plans that I know of with Halloween for any kids in this area. No trick-or-treating, I guess... WAIT! I just remembered that a member told me what they said for 'Trick-or-Treat', so it must exist in some places! Someone look this up, or something... If there is another goat, just send a video file of the goat scream... Or a picture of Goat Simulator... See? It isn't just Finland obsessed with goats!

What is something funny that happened this week? Or recently.

Hmm. Well, I've been learning Finnish jokes, lately. So that's been interesting, trying to see which ones Finns find funny or not. There was one great joke that I told and got the whole office laughing, mostly due to the fact that there was all this build-up from me having kept on milking them for different Finnish Idioms, and then finding a joke that used them. Here goes, and I know that it isn't as funny in English, especially since I'll have to explain the last idiom...

"Who can tell me a Finnish idiom?" the teacher asked.
       "One crazy (stupid) asks more questions than ten wise men have time to answer."
"Umm, ahem, maybe we should use another instead."
       "The dog barks, which the thrown stick hits." (Meaning, roughly, if you react to something general yet negative, it likely applies to you. Like, "If you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that hollers is the one you hit"))

Another for good measure...
"What would you want most, above all else?" the teacher asked.
       "A million Euros." the student answered.
"Well, sure, money is important, but why would you not wish for wisdom, or more reason and sense? That's what I would do." the teacher said.
       "Hmm, well, each of us wish for that which we have least."

And on that note! I hope that everyone has a good week! Be seeing you next week, or at least writing to you... Be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

October 17, 2015 - LOOOOONG WEEK!!

Wow. This week. Just long. Nothing else. Lots of crazy.

We have had an Elder companionship here in Helsinki this week, due to the fact that one broke their hand riding their bike with no handlebars, no handlebars, no handlebars. So. Lots of ferrying people around for things.

Speaking of crippled people, my companion's knee problems have had a great update! We hadn't been able to meet the physical therapist, due to him being in Barcelona for the last two weeks, but when he just got back, he set up an appointment for us. He told us that at the conference, just about the only subject that they were talking about was concerning Patella tendons. Guess what my companion's problem with his knees is focused around? Yay! So, we got a lot of new information, some clarification as to how some stuff we have been doing is not helpful / very harmful, and everything is peachy-keen right now.

By the way, threw that phrase out (peachy-keen) in front of the Elders here, and everyone was very confused. Turns out not only had they not heard of it, but the Finnish particle of adding "-kin" (pronounced keen) to mean "also" had confused even the really good English users. Whoops. Finnish has become a little too ingrained into our systems.

This week in the office, we have been trying to get a LOT of materials all printed out for Zone Conferences. Lots of crazy, getting things approved, getting things edited, getting already-printed things thrown out, etc.

I got trained how to use the giant van here. Wow. That was an experience. Apparently, it was a big deal, though. Elder Smith trained me, it was pretty straight-forward, but then he, President, and the vehicle-coordinator had to follow up with me on different things about how I am now "qualified". Kinda weird... I understand gettting me on the insurance for the giant van, but it kinda escalated, because now I am good to drive it "whenever and wherever", according to all three of those parties. Which then resulted in me driving everyone around to deliver boxes of the Book of Mormon all throughout Helsinki. In a giant van. Woo-hoo, road trip!

I got given a buisness IKEA card, too. Yes, Ikea is Swedish. We had to shop for 56 mattress pads, so that is part of the reason that I was granted permission for the van. Woot-woot.

This week has also been filled with us getting fed at the Mission Home by Sister Watson. Soooo good to have food cooked by her.

I really don't have anything else to say, and I didn't get any questions, so... I'll share a little spiritual thought, and then I'm out!

This morning, we picked up the Elders from the Mission Home, and walked in on President asking them about how their personal studies went, basically conducting companionship studies. They talked about what they read, and thought that they were done at that point. President continued to ask what they learned during it, so they went a little deeper into the information of what they studied. President then kind of changed the emphasis of his question, saying, "No, Elders, what did you learn? How is what you studied today going to affect you for today, tomorrow, and the rest of your life?" Needless to say, the Elders were a little flabber-gasted at the exchange, and in the end, resolved that the thing that they learned was the need to conduct better personal studies. After a small laugh, President then turned to us, and asked for the same things. It was actually perfect for me, because I had been going over a bit of a theme that I've had my whole mission about how to study.
I started off with what I'd learned from Helaman 1 and 2, which I'd read, and said how the Lamanites recklessly charging into the midst of the Nephite lands was probably not a good strategy, because they were then cut off and surrounded. I drew a comparison to those Zone Conference packets, how different things had progressed rather similarly with us just going ahead and getting ourselves tons of papers, only to find some of our efforts overlooking large, encompassing details on what we need to send out. I said that I'm planning on learning from that as I'm going through the rest of the packets today (yes, our P-Day will not be a P-Day. I get to email for a while, and then I go back to work. SIGH), since I don't want to find us surrounded by those mistakes.
The last bit of my studies was focused on the concept of pondering, mostly because I finally got the chance to read the talk about "ponderizing". I thought it was a nice talk, and started to really get down into how pondering and "treasuring up the word of God" really is something that can orient me during studies. Basically, during studies, I had been thinking about how personal studies need to change me and influence the rest of my day, and then had gone straight from that to talking with President about the same thing! It was pretty cool, and I feel that I learned a lot.

There I am! I'm sorry, but not too much in the way of 'cool' happened this week. We also had splits with the District Leader, Elder Hansen, and his trainee, Elder Grooms. Elder Grooms is a TON of fun to be with, we are pretty similar in likes and attitude, so there was a fair amount of nerding-out. He invited me to come over once we're off our missions, 'cuz he lives about 5 minutes from BYU campus, and he wants to introduce me to quite a few video games. Trying not to think about that too hard, want to be able to focus on the work I can do out here! It is hard, though, to not think about that when the Sisters (whoops, just the one) from your group are going home soon... 'Cuz that means that I'm pretty close behind... I only have, like, 4 changes left! Don't think about it, don't think about it, don't think about it...

Thanks, everyone, for the efforts that you take to make someone's day a little bit brighter. It takes only a smile from a near-stranger, sometimes, to just make me feel good inside. Here's hoping that everyone is doing well!

Vanhin David Milligan

P.S. Mom forgot to email the questions to him on time, but  luckily he was working in the office for P-day, so he was able to get back on and answer them later!

What did you learn this week?

I learned a lot about the importance of pondering and applying, just like I sent in the mass email... So, I think I'll leave that as my answer! Woo-hoo!

What did you teach this week?

We got to teach a lesson this week! We taught an American from New Jersey(?), too! He's a bus driver that has constantly seen and been in contact with the missionaries, at least in a sort of "hey, you all are American, nice to see you in Finland" sort-of-way. We got to sit down with him and have a get-to-know-you teach, and he's really interested in finding out if this is the truth or not. He always is pulling out his analogy to a bell ringing inside him if it is right. He agrees that if he's gonna see if the bell rings, he's gotta keep checking on it and try his best to make sure the bell is in a place he can hear it. Very interesting, so we'll see!

What did you share this week?

I got to share Taco-roni Laatikko with visiting Elders, does that count? :)  They really want my recipe now, so I'll take that as a success, especially since it was gluten-free and not nearly as good as it could have been...

What are you looking forward to in the next months as we approach the holiday season?

SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm waiting for it to be dark ALL the time, and for blizzards to come, and for lakes to freeze over, and for snowmans to pop up, and ALL things winter-y!
I'm also waiting for the sales, because I might want to actually treat myself to a European suit, if it's cheap enough at Dressmanns or Stockmanns. We'll see, but I'm not gonna get my hopes up. No need to spend, like, 100€ for something that will be a bit of a hassle to carefully pack. Only if it gets really cheap, which I saw it do when I was in Tampere, especially for my size. Oooh, might get some vests, too. Those are always on sale for my size. I haven't gone clothes-shopping often, but I'm starting to look forward to being able to wear things once I'm home. Still all things that I can wear as a missionary, so I'm not trunky or anything! I promise!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

October 10, 2015 - Gone Crazy!

In a good way! I promise! It's just that I have finally gotten so used to everything that happens in mere seconds in the office that I have determined that if I am still standing, I must be as crazy as everything happening. Which means I'm pretty crazy.

I found out that I have been secretly nominated the "Technology Master" behind my back. Anyone in the office that has any question at all concerning computers, phones, anything, come to me. Regardless of where we are, people in the Office find a way to contact me. I was washing the dishes last night, for example, and the phone rang. My companion picked up, and it was Elder Smith from the Office. He asked if Elder Frey could put me on, it was important. After turning it over to speaker-phone and hearing him out, I realized that he was calling because his screen-orientation-lock was on. He couldn't turn his phone to expand things. So I gave him directions. And then he followed them, said thanks, and hung up. Just soooo many times that I have been tasked with tech support questions. Not that I'm complaining. Just puts me in a good position of support once iPads come.  (Speaking of which - no news. I'll be lucky if they come while I'm still on a mission.)

Due to the week that we have faced, I shall turn to the questions!

What did you learn this week?

So. General Conference was this week! I really liked the talks that I was able to hear. Still haven't been able to sit down and listen to Sunday Afternoon, and I was told by the head of Finnish Translating that it was the best session. So I'm looking forward to that. I think that I learned quite a bit from this one, there were so many good things said! Since there is a question about my favorite talk, though, I'll leave this partly for that.

What did you share this week?

This week, I was able to share my presence. I hope that doesn't sound weird. Let me explain. This week was Interim for the new missionaries, that thing that happened at my 6-week mark and I got to go to the Mission Home for 3 days or so? That one. So, due to the fact that we were getting a lot of missionaries within range, I suggested to President that we gather up orders of materials to send off with these missionaries. Lots of copies of the Book of Mormon, pamphlets, and what-not. It was in the midst of calling all of these people that I realized that with all but one person (Elder Frey's trainer, training someone even now), I had met and talked with extensively, even served with for some! It was really cool to reconnect with all of these people. It is very fun to reminisce over those things which you have done and those places where you have been.

As a side note, too: while I was there, I was given dinner! There was a very Thanksgiving-oriented meal. It was, like, a Thanksgiving casserole of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and turkey, all in the same square of food. It was AMAZING, and there was also SWEET POTATOES!!! I really wish I knew how to prepare them like my father, it tastes fantastic and is some of my favorite food. We are trying to figure out how we can arrange for us to be at the meeting that will happen during Thanksgiving, apparently Sister Watson has already been preparing for the giant meal!

What did you teach this week?

There was an interesting development in Elder Frey's knees this week. And by that I mean that he was in more pain than he's yet encountered on his mission, at least for the last few months. We think it was due to the prolonged amount of sitting during General Conference, so his knees locked up. Or something. We are just dealing with the aftermath of what's gone on. So. Pray for him, please! He is a fantastic Elder, and I've learned so much from him!

So, to answer the question, the only thing I've really gotten to teach this week is how to operate a new laptop. And that was to the Office people. That was a lot of fun, trying to explain that it doesn't have 100% of our system already on it, even though it is "our" laptop. Sigh.

Did you get the bread recipe? Did you get a bread machine?

I did! I haven't gotten to utilize it yet, due to the fact that all bread machines were being utilized for cooking Interim food this week, but I think we have things in order to get it all together this week. We are excited!

What was your favorite talk from General Conference?

Although I'm certain that I will re-evaluate my favorites once we get to listen to the Sunday Afternoon session, my current favorite is Elder Holland's talk on mothers. I just felt so good listening to it and thinking about my mother back at home, and how she has striven in doing her best to raise us all to know the truth and think for ourselves, not just take her word for it. (Insert "Reading Rainbow" reference here...) (Mom melts in puddle of mushy happiness!)

What is something new you tried this week?

I got to make, for the first time by myself, a meal that certain missionaries call "Taco-roni laatikko". Normally, I make a Finnish dish called "Macaroni-Laatikko", which is basically a macaroni, egg, cheese, and beef dish that tastes surprisingly good. With "Taco-roni laatikko", you add in baked beans, corn, and lots of different seasonings and spices to make it taste VERY much like a sort of taco-macaroni salad. It turned out GREAT, even having to make it all gluten-free. I feel that I am slowly learning how to adjust my cooking to make even Gluten-free taste good! Elder Frey really liked it, so we are going to make it again soon.

What time of year does it have to be before you can walk on water?

Hee-hee, I forgot that I'd made this joke via e-mail before... So! The car has had the windows frozen over a handful of times, now, but it keeps getting warmer as the day goes. This last bit of the week, we will be having low 40's, high 50's (F, not C!). But, today, it hits a low of 28 F. So, theoretically, I will start my water-trekking probably next change. Which, wow, that's coming up surprisingly fast! The time in the Office just speeds by, with the crazy cracking the whip forward.

That's all for this week! Thanks, everyone, for keeping up with the things I'm doing and the antics (or lack thereof) that I'm attempting! I hope everyone is safe in the coming seasons!

A Finnish joke to close us out this week.

A young man asked God what the difference was between time on heaven and on earth.
God answered, "What is to you a million years, is to me as a single second."
The young man asked God what a million Euros was to Him?
God answered, "What is to you a million Euros, is to me as a single cent."
The young man then asked of God if He could grant unto him a million Euros.
God smiled, and answered,
"Of course. Just wait a second."

There y'all go! Have a good week!

Vanhin David Milligan

Saturday, October 3, 2015

October 3, 2015 - General Conference Approaches!

I love General Conference time. It tends to really direct the Personal Studies I get to have as a missionary, because I am thinking about things I want to become better at and things that I can study to be more ready to actually understand what is being said. It's really fun to listen while being in the role of a missionary, because there seems to be so many more things directed towards yourself and your investigators than there ever has been in previous sessions. And it's because you are serving in that role!

To the Questions!

What did you learn this week?

Like I said, I've been studying a lot for the General Conference. What that boils down to is that I am studying on how to get more out of what a prophet is saying in the scriptures. So, if John starts talking about how loving Jesus is, I start thinking more about how I can try to be like Jesus in that regard. In other words, I am trying to be spiritually open and sensitive enough to realize at what points of my character and attitude I need to improve, and what things I can learn in order to better teach others about the importance of long-lasting change, as well!

What did you share this week?

This week, I am trying desperately hard to think about what I shared. I guess I'll talk about how we, as a companionship, talk to each other to overcome personal difficulties and strengthen unity between us.

We go through something called "Companionship Inventory" at the end of our 3-hour Weekly Planning. In this "Comp Inventory" (as we so call it), we bring up the goals that we personally have, and ask if there are appropriate ways for the companion to help us. For example, I had 2 specific goals for this week, one related to Language Study, and one related to my personal conduct. I have kind of leveled off in my studying of Finnish, mostly due to almost never needing to speak in it while in the Office, and I wanted to inspire my studies again. I talked about methods I was going to go through, and then asked my companion to hold me accountable at the end of the week - see if I'm actually doing the written exercises I planned or not. That's an appropriate way. I also asked for him to understand that I'm trying to cut back on sarcastic humor. It has been increasing, as of late, and I keep on noticing (although he doesn't mind, because we know that it is in terms of a joke) that they border on, if not stray straight over into, just really harsh insults. I don't want to ever find myself thinking that I'm joking and yet be actually really rude to someone to the point that I am actively putting them down. So, the way that he could help me (because he doesn't feel he can call it out, because he sees it like a joke, just like I do) is to realize that when he shares something, I might not respond for a bit, because I am trying to not say something spiteful and mean, which generally is the first thing into my head. Even if it's always in a 'humor format', it's just disrespectful, in the end. So. Trying to fix myself.

We then go on to talk about how we feel we are doing on a personal relationship level. Does he hate me, do I hate him, so on and so forth. We always come out with just a *thumbs up* on this part.

We start to go through things that could be stopping us from working in unity, or from being obedient. If I bulldoze over my companion's comments in lessons, we aren't in unity. If I don't treasure and evaluate his thoughts, we aren't in unity. If I'm emailing from a personal laptop, I'm not obedient. This section also tends to go rather fast, as I tend to be with companions who, like myself, are willing to fix selves before others.

We name a few strengths that we have noticed in our companion that week. I like this part - it shows the progress on both the things I've been working on and the things that I have been doing without realizing, which shows a change in attitude or character that has inspired that recent change into a strength.

At this point, we go and share (so long as we are both comfortable with it) things that we could work on to improve our companionship and personal selves. This does NOT equal a list of weaknesses, like some people think. This really is just like, "hey, I have noticed that you have been saying a few more sarcastic things lately. Once or twice, they've kinda stepped over the line. Is there a problem here? How are you feeling? Am I doing something that you don't appreciate? Now that we know the situation, how can I help in this being resolved besides your own efforts?" If done right, this whole thing is very constructive! I appreciate it when I get to receive working-on points, only because that'll help me in the long run.

So, yeah. The things I shared this week are what I've been sharing every week, but it helps us both so much to keep doing!

What did you teach this week?

Once again, we haven't been able to go and teach this week. All of our potentials are saying, "sure, we can meet, just call us when you're planning on coming", but sadly Elder Frey's legs have been acting up this week. The good thing is, they have been strengthening, but that means that he is down for the count due to the fact that he absolutely exhausts them in order for them to recover the most optimally fast without injury. Which throws out lesson times, sometimes. But we agree that it is a necessary thing - he is here in the office for him to have time to recover, not to prolong it by doing too much.

What is something that impressed you this week?

I always bring this up with Elder Frey, but he does have a HUGE desire to be out and working. It always impresses me that despite how things look, he finds ways to do little acts of missionary work. His "little acts", though, tend to be quite huge. He went through and called every single potential-investigator (someone who met with missionaries and gave a phone number for later contact) in our area and the neighboring Elders', just to be able to refresh information and set up teaching appointments where possible. It has made a positive difference, and it's just really cool to see how hard he is always working.

Do we need to start asking the "how much daylight" and "did it snow" questions, yet? 

Daylight is virtually gone, by this point. It is dark 'til around 9-10, and goes dark from 5-6. I don't know the exact times, it is just that I tend to look out the windows during the hour marks. So. No snow yet, looks like none for a while. Sad face.

Have you had any other chances to sing?

I sung at a baptism a while back, but that was it. We've talked with the bishop about the possibility of singing in Sacrament Meeting, since Elder Frey is a piano prodigy, but that's kinda been only ½ possible, due to little time to practice at an actual piano.

Are there any holiday choirs forming?

None that I know of, although I will start to put bugs in ears to figure this out... I'd like to participate! I love singing in Finnish, it's just such a beautiful language to hear.

You didn't explain the "Dear John" letters. Can you explain that today?

I realized this as soon as I pressed "send" last time. Whoops!

The Finnish for "to be Dear John-ed" by someone is "saada rukkaset", or, "to receive the gloves". I only brought it up to illustrate the fact that I am actively searching out more idioms, now that I have 3 Finnish people in the office around me. Even if they normally converse in English, I can still get a couple of good Finnish phrases out of 'em!

Sometimes, though, I get conflicting definitions... I have had told to me that "pata kattila soimaa" means either roughly "they are a good match for each other" OR "the pot calling the kettle black". Those are very different...

What is something new you did/learned in the office this week?

Elder Frey and I did a GIANT Office Inventory re-count. We are still in the middle of it. We are moving everything around to more appropriate places, which is really funny to bring up when you realize that it is the combination of one person forbidden from lifting heavy objects (Elder Frey) and one person who doesn't get along well with heavy objects (yours truly) trying to shift over literally tens of thousands of materials. Phew!

I have also been restructuring different people's Excel files to be a little more fool-proof. The original setup was quite touchy, which worked fine for if you were familiar with how to fix things on Excel, but worked quite poorly if someone who was experimenting with it clicked the wrong button. So, I dumbed-down some systems, much to everyone's happiness. I even attacked the Inventory System program, and made it so that we could leave tomorrow and the Office people could probably get the gist of everything. That's an accomplishment, believe me!

Well, that's all for this week. Glad that I've been able to be out here! I'm looking forward to the rest of my time here in the office, and wish for missionary efforts in the future to go well! Be safe, everyone!

Vanhin David Milligan

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September 26, 2015 - Whew, Long Week!

Thank goodness I got so many questions today, otherwise this email would be very, very empty. Sounds weird right after saying that it was a long week, but that's how it went - a whole lot of chaos that really resulted in nothing significant. But that's okay.

We've been trying to organize bits of the office at the request of other people. It goes rather well now, especially since we got an AWESOME set of desks in at the office. They are those standing-desks that are recommended for writers. They can be electronically elevated and lowered to custom heights, and really are amazing! We don't have some, of course, 'cuz we are likely a temporary fixture here, but it's still cool to be helping someone and just raise up the desk so you aren't both leaning over the computer nearly breaking your back.

It's really fun to be in the office, despite whatever chaos I bring up. There are a lot of great personalities bouncing around all the time, and all of them think that I am a master of Finnish, which leads to some interesting idioms being thrown at me. At my request, of course. But it is rather confusing when you get conflicting definitions for an idiom...

Megan has a serious question for you. If you fold your middle and ring fingers downward into your palm and hold them there with your thumb, can you touch your pinky with your pointer finger?

I invite everyone to try this feat right now. I managed to do it. Only by using my other hand, though, and forcing them to touch. Try to do it without doing that!

What fight did you have with a pair of clippers? The little teaser from last week has a lot of us curious!

Ja-haa, okay. I didn't realize that I haven't told this story yet! It only happened, like, last week, but still. I've told it far too often.

So. I decided that it was time for a haircut. I normally decide that it's time to do so just after I start to have to make sure that it is arranged just right to still look mission-appropriate. I'm rather bad at working up the energy to cut my hair. But it gets done.

It was Monday, I got out the clippers that our apartment has. I figured, hey, why not, we're stuck indoors for about an hour, that'll be long enough. Tried to turn on the clippers. They were basically dead. Plugged in the clippers, tried to turn it on so I could charge it while trimming. Didn't work. Read the instructions. They said that you can't do both, and that it takes 16 HOURS to fully charge. So Monday was gone with that one.

Tuesday. Unplug the clippers. Start to cut. Do all of the sides, start on the top, and the clippers start to slow down. This is about 20 minutes in, tops. Quickly finish the top, start to blend the sides, finish that. Go to work on the back. Get about ½ of the way done. CLICK. Clippers die. I read the instructions. 16 Hours of Charging = 30 Minutes of Clipping. WHAT.

Wednesday. District Meeting. Get complimented on my haircut by people, then I laugh, and turn around. People laugh with me. Got it finished that night, after having spent Tuesday and Wednesday in the office, in full sight of everyone there. But it's okay. I finished, and people think that it looks good. So I'm content. But I'm trying to get our clippers replaced. (Mom: I had no idea they have been CUTTING THEIR OWN HAIR!)

What is a goal you have set for yourself?

Get new clippers. Just kidding! Partly.

I have realized that this change will not be as full of missionary work as I would like. That is to be expected. So, my goal this change is to really find the most effective ways to share the gospel with the little time that we do have. I've always kind of been content to label the actions I was going through "missionary work", because at the root of it, it always was. But, I can't promise that I've always been doing the best thing to do in each situation. So, we're working together to coordinate the most effective teaching vs finding plans, and trying to work better together in that regard. I think it's good, to try to make sure that I'm not just coasting, but seeking betterment.

What did you learn this week?

Might be getting a bread machine, and how Finns say that they've gotten Dear John letters. Let me explain.

We were sitting in the office, having lunch with everyone there. They have started up a calendar where different people are in charge of bringing lunch for different days. It's really fun to be able to eat so much good food! I've gotten so many filling lunches, like pot-roast, and things that it takes far more than an hour to make. So, we started talking about the foods that Finns have that are better than the American counterparts. The only thing that we could all agree on was the quality of Finnish bread. I only consented on that one because they were talking about store-bought breads. I told them that my family could make some of the best rolls ever, but that might have been because we had a nice bread machine for getting the dough all prepared. Which prompted one of the office workers to look at me and say, "I have a bread machine that I never use. Would you like to use it and make us bread?" That got all of the office thinking about how cool it would be to have the smell of bread going through the rooms, especially since our "office room" for us 2 Elders is the kitchen. They are trying to get it all brought here, so we'll see how that goes.

In closing - Mother! Can you send me a bread recipe? Like the one that we use? I can get all of the ingredients here, I believe, and I know quite good Finnish-Baking-Ingredients-Vocabulary. I even know the difference between types of yeast. I can find everything, as long as I know what I need to get and what to do with it all! Thanks! (Mom: He forgot to include the Dear John part...I'll try to get it next time!)

What did you share this week?

I guess the thing that I've been able to contribute most this week was answering a set of concerns that Elders put forward during District Meeting. President made a surprise appearance, so most everyone there clammed up, bar me and my companion - we are far too used to seeing and talking with him. When the Elders brought forth a question about an investigator's lack of desire for a member to be present, it first came up to me as a thing that I couldn't answer, because I've never had that problem. I've almost always taught in Finnish, and the investigators like having someone there who understands 100% of what they say. At least, I thought that was the only reason that I ever managed to ask investigators to let us bring a member over. I was a little shocked to hear myself asking them if they had brought up the reason as to why they were all meeting. They said that, simply, the man wanted to see if he could find and develop a testimony of Christ after meeting with them. I responded that if that was the case, they should bring up that if he is looking for ways to receive a testimony, he should really be open to the different perspectives that members have with their testimonies here in Finland. Yes, the gospel is the same, the truth is the same - but it touches different people in different ways. There is no way that every members' testimony can be exactly the same, and if we are all meeting so that we all grow, there's no competition for testimony, and there isn't a finite amount of "belief" to go around. So, why not have a member? Apparently, the advice worked perfectly for their situation, so I'm happy that I was able to contribute a little to someone's day.

What did you teach this week?

This week, we haven't had a single lesson. It's a little discouraging, especially since the 8 that we planned for last week all fell through, bar one. And then we taught Sunday School again, about the roles of family members. So, chalk up another point for me talking about things that I'm not able to speak personally about, like the roles of parents... We are a little sad about it all, of course, but the thing that gives us comfort is that we are trying our hardest. We do have investigators, still, and we are in good contact with them all, but our schedules don't line up. I'm glad, though, that we do the little bit of testimony-sharing that we can. We actively seek out ways to teach, they just don't happen in the ways we expect.

What are some of the blessings and lessons that you are learning right now while serving in the mission office? In particular, ones that will help you later in life as a student, as an employee, as a father, or as a priesthood holder in the church? 

I think that the most obvious blessing/lesson that I am noticing is that I have had to grow a lot of patience in different ways than before. With companions, I've gotten really good at the one-on-one patience: they do something I don't like so much, I think about it again, and I think if I would act any different, given the circumstances. Generally, the answer is no, I would do the same, which helps me to avoid a fair amount of hypocrisy. However, in the office, there are so many people and so many things happening simultaneously that it sometimes get pressing all around with patience towards 3 people being pushed to the max at the same time. The way that I think I've normally gotten around it in the past is by slightly manipulative means - getting one person to focus on someone else instead of me, getting two of them against each other, and then playing the "I'm a victim right along with you"/"blame-game" with the other parties. That might work in a short-term sense, but in the long term, it is destructive and dangerous. I have had to do what my parents have always told us will be the hardest, yet easiest thing to do - take blame for your personal mistakes. No pointing fingers, no conditional clauses of apology, no walls of resistance. Just plain, outright asking for how I can do better in the role I'm in right now. Man, it was hard to do the first few times. But, once I gained the trust of people there, mostly due to my owning up to the things I did a little differently, they started asking how they could learn from the same thing. So, yeah, what I'm doing for my job is good, but by getting us all on the same page, whatever I do is something that we can be unified on. We're not acting with different instructions - we are together on the projects for each part that we can be of assistance with. I think that helps for any multi-person setting that I'll face in the future!

What is the oddest thing you have been asked to do in the office?

First thing to say - I am SOOO glad that I have a working knowledge of Excel. Because that is guiding almost every way that I can organize stuff here in the office.

The oddest thing, though... hmm. I think I've got a good one. One of the couples asked for us to help them set up a DVD player in their apartment. I didn't know if we could go, but after a call to President, we got the okay. We went over, turned to the TV, and just stared. It must have been one of the oldest mechanical things still in operating order. After about 15 minutes of trying to figure out if we should be routing the output/input cords through the back (no place for them) or through their DigiBox (no way to find the input channels), I was just about to give up. I was honestly about to slap the front of the TV, and then looked a little closer. There was a small indentation, unmarked by anything. With no manual to go off of, I just decided, "why not", and tried to pry it open. Didn't work. I then pushed the front panel. Out popped the now-identified-COVER-panel, and the necessary input was right behind it. Yay!

However, during our search of getting the TV to work, we were required to have the TV running. That was a weird incident in and of itself. The Elder of the couple was watching us try to find the input on the DigiBox, and in my random button-pressing, I managed to get the quality of the picture to improve ten-fold with the press of a single button. He was quite impressed. That night, we got a call - the TV hadn't kept the improved setting on after we turned the DigiBox off. Which button should he press? I identified the right button over the phone, but he said it didn't work. Which led to us being told to drive over at 9 o'clock to get their TV to work for some Finnish broadcast, get there, press literally a SINGLE button (the one which I had identified by both placement and text correctly), and then leave. We got drinkable yogurt out of it, though. So, yeah. We get weird responsibilities occasionally.

Well, I think that's all! Thanks for all of the ways that people are reaching out to me! I wouldn't mind a letter or two, by the way, when the coming CHRISTMAS season approaches. I'm only thinking about it because it's the next Finnish Holiday - there's no Halloween or Thanksgiving here, remember? So we're playing Christmas music in the car. Just getting ready...  😜❄ Oh, and no snow, yet. But I'm praying.

Be safe, y'all!

Vanhin David Milligan