Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31, 2015 - For Lack Of A Better Subject Line

Yeah, although this week was more interesting than the last, not really anything defining happened. Thus, the wimpy title. Oh, well.

Our recent convert told us about his parents trying to have an intervention to, as he put it, "de-convert" him. It was rather funny, he said, because they got a local Porvoo Lutheran priest to come, thinking that the combined efforts of parents and Finnish Religion alike could sway him. Why is that funny? Oh, just because the priest has been to Provo, UT, and thinks Mormons are a pretty good religion. He even thinks that Joseph Smith was a prophet and had revelations, just refuses to accept the Book of Mormon as true. The recent convert said that his family totally didn't know that the priest had this background, and it really undermined their efforts whenever they'd say something, he would clarify it, and the priest would bear witness that that is how it is. Really funny to hear about after the fact!

We got to go to Zone Conference this last week. That was pretty fun. It was an all-day deal, so it was a LONG set of meetings. But we survived. We even got to watch Meet The Mormons for the first time! It will apparently be being used as a missionary tool in Finland mid-May sometime. Looking forward to it, it was surprisingly good!

Yeah, that's about it... I'm looking forward to General Conference this next week, I can't wait to hear from all of the speakers!

Oh, hey. It has been snowing in Porvoo. Again. It is about 4-6 inches on the ground, and still coming down. (Remember when all he wanted was a little bit of snow?! We knew this day would come! Snow Woe! ~Mom) Our recent convert has offered to give us umbrellas, because it will be being like this all week, and my companion has no umbrella and my 'Murican 'Mbrella 'mbroke. I don't really know how, but the closing-hinge kinda broke. Sigh.

Well, at least it'll be a white March-April transition. I have a pretty good April Fool's Day prank lined up for District Meeting. I've got the powerful Pepper Salmiakki, and I have baking chocolate. And, I've set a food-bringing precedence already, to set everyone at ease... I think y'all can see where this is going. Hee-hee-hee... (If anyone wants to try some Salmiakki -Finnish Candy- come over! Our only requirement is you have to let us video you eating it to send to Vanhin Milligan! ~Mom)

That's about it! I don't have any questions to answer this week, so I will attempt to maybe find some pics to send. In another set of emails.

Love y'all, be safe! Enjoy General Conference!

Vanhin David Milligan

This is the fabled Ph.D. Sword. When you graduate with a Ph.D. in Finland, you receive a sword and top hat. No joke.  
(Dad is so jealous! He wants a sword for his office! ~Mom)

BTW, the first girl picture is the relative of the Skinner family. Cool, huh? The Friestrom Parents live in Marjaniemi Ward, and I got to go to a Dinner Appointment with them and other Elders while my companion was in a meeting.  
(Ivy, your family is taking care of my boy! ~Amy)
This is my companion, Vanhin Saunders, in the midst of the March 30th snowfall.
 The day of Zone Conference. This is Neitsytpolku, Helsinki. It looks pretty nice!

 I have taken up drawing, lately... I got tired of drawing in pencil (witch and crowned knight), so I switched to drawing in pen (sword knight and rogue), and just recently tried drawing in color too (red mage). I'm considering drawing out some of the funny events in my mission cartoon-style using the egg-like people style on the right. I don't know why I'm being so creative all of a sudden...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24, 2015 - Recent Converts are SUPER Awesome!!!

Tomorrow is David's NINE MONTH MARK! Can't believe he has been out that long!! ~Mom

The stories behind the tagline are really the only exciting things that happened this last week. Being able to meet with our now recent convert is really the brightness that keeps us trekking on through the rain and snow (yes, we had a lot of snow this week).

I can't even recall all of the ways in which I've been impressed by this guy. He fellowships investigators the moment he sees them, tries his best to reactivate people that are in our area, wants really badly to do missionary work with us, and a whole lot of other stuff.

Just yesterday, we had a lesson with him. At the end of it, he asked when he could come out with us this week. So, since this whole week is filled with being in Helsinki due to Zone Conference and MLC for my companion, we asked him to come with us out on Saturday, in the evening. He asked how long he was allowed to stay with us. We stared at him. He said his entire day was free. We said we could visit an investigator and perhaps a less active. He asked how long that would take. We said perhaps an hour, at most, for 2 20-30 minute lessons. He asked what more we could do. We suggested another less active and a few potentials we could drop by, taking another hour. He said sure, and as I blocked in 2 hours time with him into our schedule, he said, "Oh, by the way, we should meet an hour earlier-" (I thought he was then going to say "for a lesson to me" or "for dinner". He then finished the sentence,) "-for contacting on the streets." We were floored. No, we did not rope him into 12+ hours of missionary work, but he kept asking for more. He's totally awesome. My companion was trying not to cry when the recent convert then bore testimony on how important it is to get used to it before his own mission, which he has made tons of sacrifices already to make possible. He's just unstoppable.

Well, yup. That's what makes Porvoo worth it. Not too many people want to meet with us anymore, but with that mighty testimony of a Recent Convert, how can we help but feel more encouraged to do our responsibility and fulfill our purpose as missionaries?

Onto the questions.

Have you walked on water lately?

Ahh, no. All of the ice is still around on the lakes, but the river is all broken up and flowing, so I don't dare venture out onto the ice on the lakes, snow or no. But thanks for checking up on keeping me sane! If I was wandering out now, you'd probably end up with a Vanhin-sicle. (I love when he makes up words! ~Mom)

Have you met anyone new in Porvoo?

We do have a few new people we've met. None of them are investigators yet, due to them being female and us not being able to yet set up solid lessons with them and a male member, but they have copies of the Book of Mormon and are reading from it, so we'll see! They are remarkably all in the same building complex. Out of the 4 or so that we tried in that area to tract out, all of the potentials lived in the same one. Weird... But convenient!

Did you get to teach anyone this week?

Just really our recent convert. With the lack of progression that we have had with our existing investigators (mostly due to them dodging lessons) we have decided to wipe the slate almost entirely clean and focus, as has been our focus for weeks, on Finding. We are hoping that our Recent Convert can aid us in this, too.

Did you learn something new this week?

I think most of my learning was focused around our recent convert and his experiences that are helping his testimony grow even bigger. He has been seeing a ton of blessings. I don't want to get too into his personal life, so I'm not going to share those, but I think the overall thing that I have had impressed into me this week is that the Lord doesn't expect us to just go out and "convince" people that He is there without any of His aid. He has placed people in situations in their lives so that they are actively searching for Him, and it is our job to Find them, to the best of our ability, so that they can start to define what it is that they are searching for by coming closer to our Heavenly Father. The testimonies of those that have searched for answers and found them within the Gospel are fantastically strong, and I am so blessed to be able to see just how much it can mean to someone who has been growing that desire for so long.

What opportunities do you have to do service in Porvoo?

It seems that all of the service opportunities that we have had in Porvoo have come, one way or another, through a member. We semi-often are helping people with English corrections in papers they have, or sites they are making. It's kind of interesting to be in charge of editing stuff for Finns. I know far too much about different opinions of people when it comes to Global Warming and IPCC's claims now... We also are tasked with bringing the Sacrament to a less-active woman that can't leave her house, but that's a really fun thing to do, so I don't see it as a burden at all. I don't think there's been too much else in the way of service that we can do in Porvoo, we actually asked our recent convert once if there was any sort of volunteering facility and the only thing he could think of was construction-related, and that's kind of a no-go when the construction is with GIANT telephone poles and buzzing electricity.

Well, that's it for this week. It's getting pretty slow, so here's to hope that it'll pick up soon! Be safe, everyone!

Vanhin David Milligan

 Flag Day in Porvoo! Some Finnish poet's birthday.

No filters, I promise! Sunsets are beautiful.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17, 2015 - Back to Finding in Porvoo

Well, we've had a baptism. That's awesome. It went potentially the absolutely most perfect that it could. And now we have no really progressing investigators. Sigh. Back to Finding!

I can't complain too much, though. I'm really happy that I was able to be present to all of the progression of our investigator-turned-recent-convert. He's so cool, he's been asking if he can attend  sort of "Mini Mission", where he could just be with us 24/7 for a week or so. He's awesome, we're trying to coordinate it with President Watson right now!

Here's a picture of him before the baptism, since I asked if it works to send to family and friends!

(Pictures have been removed, as they started to show up as the top results in the Google Search under the member's first name... awkward.)

 And now for the questions.

1. How did the baptism go?

It went absolutely perfect! I was not the one to baptize him, that was a member in Porvoo who did that (not the one in the picture, I'll try to send one with them together later), but it was great of course! I'm so excited to have been a part of it. I hope that I get to stay in good contact with him.

2. How did you celebrate Pi day? (Besides with a baptism!)

Oops. This might shock you. The "perfect Pi Day" of 3-14-15 went totally out of my mind. But, I did have pie! We got a ton of members to bring food to his baptism! Woohoo! Pie was among the deserts. Glad that I accidentally still celebrated it!

3. What is something beautiful you saw or experienced this week?

I got to see some pretty fantastic sunsets! I got some good pics of those, too... I'll try to send them out as well.

4. What did you learn this week?

True to Father's request, I studied a lot about the various aspects of light in the scriptures. I basically have been studying about being a good example and becoming involved in helping others find the same light that you have, which in most cases is the love of Christ. Pretty insightful studying that I've been led to. Thanks, Father! I have a whole list of things now that are scriptures related to light.

5. What did you share this week?

At a random door that we felt impressed to knock upon (despite the fact that it is so often treated as an invasion of privacy by Finns) we actually started to talk with someone! That was a surprise in and of itself, but the person actually had known about the Church from living in a different part of Finland. She said multiple times in the beginning that she would love to talk to us, but couldn't promise that the discussions would be spiritually centered, since she's not too interested in religion right now. We basically said that it would be great to talk with her, and we'd be happy to hear what she wants to say, but then I came in and (uncharacteristically boldly for my grasp of the Finnish language right now) said that I believe that we are here as God's representatives, and that our purpose in meeting with her would be to teach and invite her to come to know the things we do. She was a bit surprised by that, but invited us to return in the near future. I think that it helps to not let people have a misconception about why we are here. We surely love Finland, but we're not here for the culture or the food. (Although people are more than allowed to give us food. Please. Do so.) We are here because we have something in our lives that has helped us, and we want to share it! It's great to let others immediately know your purpose and what expectations you have for meetings. It keeps things much more centered on the Gospel than on the tourism.

6. What is something you did that was different this week?

Hmm. I can't think of anything specifically different that we did. Other than we got a dinner appointment with a great family! That's kind of a once-in-a-blue-moon thing. I actually accidentally set it up about a month ago, when I started to introduce myself to a family that just had a son return from a mission. I didn't realize that me trying to introduce myself equated to trying to invite myself over for food. But it all was cool!

Yeah, that's all, really. No new events on the board yet, but we have faith that something will come along! We just need to be ready to receive it.

Be safe, everyone!

Vanhin David Milligan

P.S. I never send pics anymore, due to the slowness of computers, but perhaps I can multitask some stuff and try to upload this in the meantime!

 Fantastic sunset from last night! Sky gets so beautiful out here. It's too bad that my camera can't really register starlight, because that also is awesome out here!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 10, 2015 - This Week's Weekly Planning Goal: 1 Baptism!!!

WE ARE HAVING A BAPTISM THIS WEEK! I'm so excited! Our investigator is even more excited than I am, if you can imagine that. He's going around inviting EVERYONE to his baptism, and talks to people about how he's also highly considering a mission. He is surprising me in almost every way, and he is just SO prepared that I feel like I just kinda was there to watch him progress, not so much to teach him.

Other than that, nothing new. Lots of walking, lots of rain, still lots of story-telling as we walk. Although I'm running out of stories now...

Something I forgot to send a while back: A member family gave the last set of companions in Marjar Area a mandolin, and I found out a while back that Pres. Watson is fine with instruments so long as your companion is as well. So, as the only person that could even attempt to tune the mandolin, I inherited it! It's been pretty fun to pluck away on. I of course figured out the 4-chords that everyone knows I'm crazy about, so that's been fun to jam out on. And I'm also just messing around with little jaunty tunes.

Well, that's it. To the Q's!

What did you do for your birthday?

Went to church. Saw our investigator. Was even more blown away. Talked with some members. Went home. Studied. Did missionary work. Ate dinner (just some leftover Homemade Mac&Cheese). Went to bed.

Mission-Field B-Days are potentially the worst. Especially when they are on Sundays, and you can't do anything.

Okay, so the next day was sort of incidentally more fun, but not really birthday-oriented, I'm just pretending like all the events were a late-fate-birthday-gift. We found a famous Chocolate Factory in our area that we knew about, but didn't know existed in Porvoo. Bruneberg is the name, it's Swedish, and when you go in ('cuz of course if there are big red arrows leading to the entrance, you follow them regardless) there are FREE SAMPLES EVERYWHERE. With the express instruction to take enough until you like it so much you want to buy it. Well, since you insist...

It was great. We also had Pizza/Kebab for dinner that day, so it was good to remember why I am trying to avoid it in the future.

Did you have snow for your birthday?

Technically, yes. It was on the ground. But it was just rain. So, I had foggy mist and rain for my birthday. But that's Finland!

What did you share this week?

We talked a bit this week about callings and the ways that we as members grow from teaching and learning. It was pretty good, I felt, and it showed also the whole no-paid-ministry thing that everyone in Finland freaks out about. They ask how much we get paid to do this stuff, and I laugh at their reactions when I say that I'm actually paying to do this myself!

I think it's interesting how it is sort of our responsibility to share our testimonies with everyone, members and nonmembers alike. Just a little reminder to me about how I need to step up my game once I get home and become just a normal "member missionary"!

What did you learn this week?

One of the things I reread this week was Our Search for Happiness, by M. Russel Ballard. I just love how familiar his language is with the reader, and how simply he fleshes out things that seem really complex to people that haven't grown up hearing the Gospel like we have.

How is your friend progressing?

Fantastically well! He is very excited for this Saturday! The 14th is his date, everyone get excited!

He has also assigned himself as well to be our Missionary Technology Tech guy, he fixed the SD card that Sister Seegmiller broke and changed my MP4 music sent from y'all into MP3. He is just really good at everything!

Has he set a date for baptism?

Oh, whoops, I thought that I had sent out his date! It used to be the 21st, but when the Relief Society group scheduled something on top of it, he volunteered to move it up a week! He's so cool. He has invited people from all over, including almost everyone that was at a baptism we visited in Haaga with him to show what it'll be like.

What is your favorite thing you have learned from him?

I think the favorite thing that I've learned so far (because I still have time to be with him and see him grow even more!) is that although sometimes the Gospel in its entirety may seem hard to accept, especially when you consider that a lot of our message is that God speaks to His children still through His servants the prophets, in approximately our investigators own words, "Once you make that initial step - accepting that perhaps, God still talks today through the representatives that He established in the Bible - you start to see how it is that the questions you have are given not only answers, but the ways to figure out if the answers are true for yourself." At this point, when he bore testimony of that (like, our 3rd meeting with him), he then said that he firmly believed that such was possible: that Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon, and was God's representative to restore the Church to the Earth. As we continued in teaching him in the weeks to come, his initial faith turned into testimony, and I believe that he has progressed further into conversion, insomuch that he will not fall away, if we are to define conversion like how it was for those Lamanite converts!

In closing, I invite everyone, member of the church or not, to go watch a cool little video my companion just pulled up in preparation for District meeting tomorrow. It's on LDS.org, and the video is called "Book of Mormon Testimonies", with the first little title of the clip saying "The Book of Mormon: A Divine Gift". It was pretty good!


I love y'all, even if I'm probably getting old enough to forget you all slowly now... Be safe, everyone!

Vanhin David Milligan

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 3, 2015 - Still Stickin' Around!

Porvoo will still have me right inside for at least 2 more months! I'm excited, because that means that I will still get to see the investigator we've been teaching go to baptism. He's super cool. We found out last Sunday that the Relief Society scheduled something over his baptismal date and made that part of the church unavailable, and he said that we could just push it a week earlier. He is so prepared. I'm excited to see it all the way through, and hope that I will stay in good contact with him!

I turn 19 this Sunday. That's SO weird. I'm looking forward to the letters that have been promised! A quick news flash: according to the postal dates versus day received, it appears that it takes roughly a month for things to come from America to Finland. Weird, yes. I don't question it too much. I just try to send stuff Priority from here, since it's free to do, and goes through America that much faster. But, Priority costs enough back home that I don't expect that to be a good option.

Well, that's about it that I am thinking needs to be mentioned beyond all of the questions! Onward!

Are you being transferred? Do/Will you have a new companion?

Nope, and I am still with good ol' Elder Saunders! He has been made District Leader, though! He is a little concerned about it, but I'm laughing, because I've been hoping that I won't get that role! And now I'm in the best not-calling that exists in the mission: District Leader's Companion! Get to go on Splits with lots of people, get to see all of the numbers for the District, and get to watch him prepare the meetings so that I know what to expect. It's awesome.

Quick note: Our district will have the following companionships: The Zone Leaders for Helsinki, the Sisters with a new trainee (Sister Seegmiller from my group is training! So cool, she'll do well), the Elders with one of the old Zone Leaders now training (I hope that the trainee will be Elder Nissen that sent me an email a while back, that would be awesome), and my companionship with Elder Saunders as District Leader. That means that I am the ONLY one in my district without a position that comes with a little title! It's all Leaders, Trainers, and Trainees, and then me. I'm just laughing still. It's all fun.

How is your health doing? Are you eating enough calories to make up for all the ones you are walking off?!

Health is fine, Elder Saunders is helping me keep on track with eating. Sometimes I almost forget, don't know how, but I do! We are going to still be walking around, but it won't be as slick anymore, so probably a bit safer than before.

Besides handwritten letters, what is something you want us to send?

Hmm. I can't really think of anything... American Candy is always appreciated, but seeing as I still haven't opened the bag of DumDums that y'all sent when I was in the MTC 6 months ago, I tend to pack-rat the candy. I still have 2 bags of Skittles left, the bag of Cinnamon Bears, a few Lifesaver Mints, and Airheads. I did finish off the Mike and Ikes, though, just yesterday. I like those.

Yeah, so, candy is good, but it'll be sitting in my closet a LONG time before I jaksaa to partake.

Maybe just more music? Everything soundtrack is approved, so I would appreciate anything! Especially "video-game" orchestrated music. I have hesitated to ask this of y'all, because the last time I asked for music, I got a bunch of MP4 things, which only can be played when we're on the computers or traveling in the car. We can't play it at home. So, if you send MP3s instead or some other file, that'd be cool!

Ooh, and maybe some recording of the family? Maybe recorded with Megan's camera which is identical to mine, and then sent to me without editing the file so that I can figure out how to stick it onto my camera to watch at my leisure! That'd be fun. Even if not, just a few "Hello!"s from people that are recorded would also be fun.

Yeah, so, those are a few ideas. Thanks for making me think!

Are you staying warm?

Yes, yes... Thanks. I appreciate you looking out for me.

Are the sunlight hours getting noticeably longer?

I'd say so, mostly just because the light actually is shining in the morning. No sun, much, though. It's hiding behind the clouds and rain. We actually had it start snowing yesterday when we were by the river, and it started becoming HUGE. Like, I thought that snowballs were falling. I'm not exaggerating at all, weirdly enough. Then it went away. And, I'd left my camera at home. But, my companion got a picture!

What is your favorite thing about Finland?

Good questions this week... I don't quite know what it would be, but if I were to hazard a good guess, I would say that my favorite thing would be the beautiful natural sights that are just everywhere! I'm not even in what's considered a "winter town", but it's still beautiful. I can't wait to see what summer will look like here, because this is considered one of the most beautiful places to be in summer. Not that I'm really looking forward to being around that long here, but I think that the start of spring will give a good indication of what it can look like.

Well, that's about it! I can't think of anything else to talk about! Maybe I'm just getting old... Hope you all do well, and stay safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

February 24, 2015 - One Last Week In Porvoo? Or No?

Porvoo is holding up well, despite my interfering! We are just about as busy as we normally are, which is to say, not much, with one shining exception.

We have been meeting with that investigator that I talked about a bit. He initially referred himself to the church website because he kept encountering the church after he prayed to feel closer to God, and to find him in his life. He says that he hasn't seen any lightning bolts lately, so he's taking that as a good sign.

He is just SO awesome, I think that he will be one of the people that I stay with in contact the most after my mission. He is 19, just about 2 years older than me, and is soaking up the Gospel like a sponge. We have met with him, wait for it, for the last 6 days. All of them. We have had 4 lessons, one Sunday where he came to church again, and then he also showed up to a baptism that was happening in Haaga. (side note: it was actually really cool to go to Haaga for that, because I recognized the person getting baptized! She is a relative to people in Tampere, so quite a few people were there that I knew and got to see again! So cool.) Yeah, so, we've met with him a lot. He is worried that we're gonna get sick of him, and we are worried the other way around, but we all just laugh it off and keep meeting. We are also meeting with him today and tomorrow, so that will be a week and a day straight meeting with him consecutively. He's REALLY cool.

That's about all the happenings in Porvoo right now, so, on to the Qs!

Have you heard if you are being transferred? I am holding your mail... :)

I haven't heard, yet. I will be finding out this Friday/Saturday, so it'll be in my next letter. I hope that I am staying 1 more change, so that I can see our investigator accept the gospel in its fullness through the covenant of baptism. Elder Saunders, however, is predicting (or cursing me) that I will be training someone in Porvoo next change, especially when he heard that I knew someone coming out in the next group due to them sending an email after reading my blog. So, we'll see how it all goes down!

How are you doing?

I'm doing well. The hardest thing I'm facing right now is (since I've overcome all of the walking, I'm just trucking on all the time) retaining weight. I managed to gain weight in the MTC just in case due to the efforts of several concerned missionaries (thanks, guys, for the 3+ rounds of ice cream each day and the exercise routine), but I have kinda just been hovering around 125 lbs thereafter. They got me up to 128, so that's not so much a loss, but I don't want to lose back to what I used to be... So, that's the biggest trial.

I am LOVING being out here, though! It is just so great to be with Elder Saunders, and I am a bit worried as to how I will potentially have to change and adapt to another companion after clicking so well with the one I have.

What did you learn this week?

I have mostly been reading from Jesus the Christ, still, but our investigator asked for us yesterday to talk about Miracles and Faith. The Bible Dictionary definitions for both of those are just really good, so I ended up doing a whole study based off of following those references.

What did you share this week?

When we shared that lesson with him yesterday, he entirely opened up to us about how it is that he is feeling this choice to be the right one in his life. He talked about his past, and certain trials that he's overcome to feel that he has grown to be able to accept God in his life, and a bunch of other things that just made it really cool to hear his testimony. I hope that I can stay in good contact with him.

After he opened up like that, I felt prompted to give him a few of my favorite scriptures that kind of have to do with enduring to the end, a concept that he really likes. I said that from what he's said, it sounds like he already knows how trials are for our good, and that I just wanted to give him a few references that testify of it. He graciously listened to my words, and one particular scripture he interrupted me on and asked if that was in context of a certain situation. I replied yes, and then he bore testimony on how true it all was. It was a great thing for me to hear, that someone can be so prepared to know the truth as soon as it is given unto them.

He also, in the space of less than a week, has managed to finish off from 2nd Nephi to all of Alma. He's a voracious reader, and he says it's easier to read so much since he likes all of what it is saying. He talked about how he thinks that each part must be in there because it is directly important for our day, and that was really cool to hear!

Did you do anything silly this week?

Hmm... I can't really think of anything... There has been no walking-on-(frozen-)water lately, mostly due to the warming temperatures, but who knows? There's still time left to do something crazy if we search for it! ;)

Well, that's about it for today, so I think that'll wrap all of this up! I hope that you all are doing well, and I wish you all a happy upcoming March!

Vanhin David Milligan