Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23, 2015 - WOW - 1 WHOLE YEAR!

Man. I woke up on the 21st and realized that I only had a year left of being out here, serving in Finland. That was a huge wake-up, convenient giving the fact that I was trying to do just that. Wake up. Okay, moving on.

There was a lot of crazy this week. More lessons canceled from sickness, but we got to keep in good contact with them regardless. I also fell sick on the Friday, the day before Juhannus, which was unfortunate for our week. But, I was told to rest and get better, and I've done so. So we're all good now.

President Watson actually came and interviewed us on the day on Juhannus. That was fun to have him in our apartment, so glad that we had taken the time to do a deep-cleaning before he told us he was coming! He was very grateful for the work we are trying to do, and it was a great inspiration to 'keep it up', as the kids say nowadays.

Yeah, that's just about it... I don't have any plans for my year-mark on the 25th, but it'll probably be greeted with not more than a few reminiscings. And maybe us going out to eat. Who knows.

To the Q's!

How was your week?

Overall, I'd say it went okay. Not busy, but okay. We have 3 people that are likely potentials that we are meeting this week, so the work may start to pick up yet again, and the people that are already investigating are hopefully recovering. So, it was good, but I'm looking forward to it getting better this week.

Have you seen the new Mission Home?

Not yet, although they are officially moved into it. So the address is now that. Yippee!

My family is visiting other family right now, so here are a few questions from them!

How long has it been since you ate ice cream? (Wyatt) (He is dishing up everyone ice cream right now!)

Wow. Hold up. I used to get ice cream in Porvoo, but I haven't here, 'cuz they don't have the cheap brands... I guess, yeah, about 2 months ago. Man, I need to buy some ice cream... Finnish Ice Cream is REALLY good, too! Aino is the best brand, in my opinion. Which is why it's 5€ a liter...

What color is your car? (Tina) (She spent a lot of time in her car today!)

It is silver-gray. There is actually the same model usage for all across Finland, perhaps even all across Europe, so now that I've had the basically the same car for ~ a year straight, I'm likely the most qualified in Finland among the missionaries to say how to operate different portions of the car. I even know where the hidden USB ports for music are... Which most people find out because of inheriting it from someone who knows. But I figured it out myself. So I'm gonna pretend like it's rare information.

Have you seen any animals lately? (Grandma Schill) (two zoos in three days may have influenced this question!)

Rabbits. Wild rabbits are abundant in Finland. I shouldn't even really say rabbits - they are the dog-sized hares that could seriously do some damage to you if you tried to catch it. I've never been tempted too, don't worry... Also, lots of ducks. I fed them the other week. Haven't seen the Canadian Geese in a while, maybe they got directions finally.

What is the major industry in Finland? What careers do people have? (Grandpa Schill) (He's retired. Other people's work is interesting now!)

I guess most of the jobs here revolve around engineering of one kind or another... Since Nokia is a Finnish Company, that's a big one. Lots of various plants as well, for mass production, it seems. At least in Lohja. I honestly don't know! A Google search is needed for this one...

What did you learn this week?

Hmm. I have been studying a lot about the attitudes that we can approach the gospel with, heavily influenced by that John Bytheway talk, Get An Attitude! Heroic Examples from the Book of Mormon. I think the main things that I've learned are about how an attitude that asks, "How bad can I be?", cannot really learn what it is that most needs learning. It is really sad when you see people that are in and of the world. But, that is the glorious thing about the gospel - provided you keep at it long enough, hopefully that attitude will change, and rather than going through motions in an attempt to 'get by', you will actually see how things in the gospel actually help you. It's an obvious, trite little thing, but we all overlook it at one point or another when we do something wondering how much of it we don't have to do.

What did you teach someone this week?

We taught the Restoration to an investigator that has a baptismal date here. She was passed down by the former missionaries here (sans contact/address info, thank goodness a member remembered where she lives), and although she has been eagerly learning, we found out that despite what the Elders had written (what little they had), she hadn't yet been fully taught the Restoration. Bit of an oversight. But, the lesson went well, and she is very eager to attend church once she finds a way to do so. Because of the long distances. Sigh. One day, there will be a ward here...

What gospel principle has been on your mind lately?

Well, this is a good one... I think the principle of Brotherly Kindness has been bopping around a while. Which is weird, 'cuz that isn't really a big one. It sorta gets absorbed by Charity in general. But, still, I've been thinking about it, so there you go. I guess I've been looking at it from the viewpoint of having a companion, because I've been lucky enough to have had some pretty good ones, and I haven't made outright enemies of any yet, I think... So, I just want to make certain that my good feelings about the people I am going to serve with remains. Thank goodness, the last couple companions have made getting along with them very easy! Having a blast with Elder Greciano, we've started crafting a story together that is getting pretty awesome. Who knows what'll come of that.

Have you played any pranks on your companion?

No, I haven't! I haven't even tried to give him an incorrect Finnish phrase and say that it means something else, although I don't think I could trick him even if I wanted...

Seriously, though, pranks haven't happened this change at all... That's kinda a weird thought.

Has he played any pranks on you?
Also, nay. We might start it up if we serve together again, who knows... No tricks yet, though.

What is something funny that happened recently?

I heard a Finn use, without my knowing him or me prompting it, the phrase, "Palaa poroksi". That. Was. Hilarious. If it 'goes up in smoke' or more literally 'burns into a reindeer', it will 'palaa poroksi'. A Finn that we started talking to on the street began talking about his perception of judgement day (we really need to start watching out who exactly we start talking to...) and said that the common perception point that he has with most religions (according to him, I'm scared if everyone actually thinks this way) is that everyone will... wait for it... 'palaa poroksi'. I had to try so hard not to laugh at him outright. Not really because he was wrong or anything, just that I knew what that idiom meant, and it was just too funny.

Well, that's about all. I can't think of anything else to say, other than I hope that you all are doing well! Be safe, write y'all next week!

Vanhin David Milligan

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 16, 2015 - Slow again...

So. It's slow again. Yes, we still have investigators, but most of them got sick this last week. There was a bug going around all of Lohja, even a lot of the members got sick. So, there wasn't too much success this week. Just lots of texts from people apologizing about sickness. Sigh.

We got to meet some interesting people, though. Finland likes to celebrate local community traditions, so you get a lot of interesting mini-Holidays. Kinda weird to walk outside and realize that everyone is partying on a normal day of the week. For example, we were contacting outside, and then realized that everyone out there was on a bike. We realized that when we had a +200 single-file line of bikes force us off of the sidewalk. That was a loooong wait.

Another one was an official Youth Drinking Day. There was some other name for it, but it essentially equaled out to all of the young adults in Finland walking around drunk in large hordes. We didn't even figure it out, until a few of them asked why we were wearing suits on a party-day. We did find some sober people, though, that were surprised we could be smart enough "at our age" to not go around drinking. Hope that something comes out of talking to them!

Yeah, that's about it for this week. I do have an interesting thing to mention, though - Hintasaarnajat. There is a set of commercials going on right now that a member showed us. They are for a cell-phone-service-providing company, and they star 2 Missionaries from Finland, talking to Americans about the "miracle of Saunalahti". It was quite hilarious, and all in English, so totally understandable to Americans! They can be found on YouTube as the Elisa Saunalahti Hintasaarnajat, but the best place to go is the website itself, with all of the videos there. It is http://elisa.fi/erikoiskokeet/hintasaarnaajat/ from what I wrote down. No promises that it will work, but there should be a search bar for typing Hintasaarnajat on the elisa.fi page, if nothing else.

To the Q's!

How are you sleeping?

It is going alright. I'm always really tired when I go to bed, so the excessive amount of brightness doesn't wake me up. We accidentally had an alarm go off at midnight, and when I got up to turn it off, it was so bright I thought it might actually be day-time still! Crazy.

How is your health?

It is fine! I'm eating well, and the members care a lot. I felt a bit under the weather this week due to the bug, but it passed. I'm alive!

Have you continued to have lots of people to teach?

In a sense. We don't get many new investigators, but the ones that we have are progressing well. Minus church attendance. That is always a big step for the people we teach. But they are trying to come, at least! It should be fun to continue teaching them, and hopefully we will find more people.

What have you been teaching?

We have been doing a lot of "How to Begin Teaching". That's the name of the process where we kinda establish where we are now, what they expect from us when we meet, and what they should do if they want to achieve their goals. It's a great little exercise, and we find out a lot of things that help us all to grow.

What did you learn this week?

In District Meeting, we covered a section in Preach My Gospel titled "Asking Inspired Questions". There was a lot of good discussion there, and we basically agreed that an 'inspired question' doesn't always have to reveal more information to us - in fact, almost always, it should be the investigator finding out something about their own testimony and belief. That's so cool that the Spirit can teach us as we try to teach!

Did you have any interesting foods recently?
Hmm. There was a Ward Potluck just last Sunday that was REALLY good! We had all sorts of pasta-salads that had interesting combinations of ingredients, but they were all fantastic. I found out that one had just about as close to raw fish as you can buy in Finland - guess which one was accidentally my favorite?! Just a little grossed out by that one...

Is there a chocolate shop in your new town?

No... I'm so sad... But! Because Porvoo is still in my Zone, and because Elder Saunders is still there, I have employed him many-a-time to secure chocolate to bring to Zone Conferences! Yay! (I'm going to have to contact Elder Saunders... ~Mom)

How many Districts are in each Zone?

Oooh, hmm... That's a good question. I'd guess between 4-5 in Tampere and Helsinki Zones, and 3-4 in the North and East Zones. Each, of course - not shared.

Have you given any talks in church? Or taught any Sunday School classes?

I haven't had to give one in church, beyond the standard "I'm new here, thanks for being nice to me" that you give your first Sunday. I have had to teach Gospel Principles more than once when I served in Porvoo, and I got to teach the Primary twice - once here, once in Tampere. It's always fun to try to teach to members, because you have a manual in front of you! That helps with the grammar and vocab remembering a LOT.

Well, that's all, folks! I can't think of anything else, so we'll quit while I'm ahead. Thanks for everyone that is out there, trying to keep up with everything I'm experiencing in the big, wide world! I love you all - stay safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

Pictures sent by his mission president to all the parents:

I have included 3 pictures from Finland.  As we travel, each week, we see the incredible beauty of Finland.  Each of these pictures are typical of Finland, with its forests, farms and lakes.  The lake picture is just about ¼ mile from the mission home where Sister Watson and I live.  The farm picture is a bit west of Helsinki as we drove to a city called Pietarsaari on the west coast.  The temple picture is the temple and sky at 11:00 pm this past week. (Notice he says the picture of the temple is PM! So light so late! ~Mom)


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 9, 2015 - Wow, We Actually Are Teaching?

Yeah, we actually had one of the most successful weeks that this area has ever seen. It was crazy, and we would have actually gotten more had we not planned on attending a baptism on Saturday that we ended up not going to. We canceled lessons to do it, and then the people we were going with couldn't come, so we decided it was best not to attend alone!

Well, other than the fact that we have been teaching a lot, especially to families and couples, there's not much else to say! We are having great interactions with them all, and hope that they will be accepting baptismal invitations soon. They all want to learn a lot before making that big of a committing step, even though we explain it is like a goal that shows you want to know for certain and get His help in finding the truth. They all agree - but want to know more first. So, we'll see what this week brings!

New Mission Home Address for sending letters and packages is listed in the blog title area! It goes into effect on June 22, 2015.

To the questions!

How many missionaries are in your mission?

104. I just checked and double-checked the numbers. There are a LOT - 36 in the Helsinki Zone alone!

How many missionaries serve in the ward you are in? Is that typical?

In the ward I'm in, we've got the 2-soon-to-be-3 AP's (long story short, one left after a week to temporarily train, but is coming back this Thursday) and the 2 Sister-Training-Leaders plus their 1 trainee. So, there are 7-almost-8 in my ward alone. No, that's not typical. I'd spitball at saying that most areas have 2 sets of missionaries in their ward, so around 4. We've got twice that, with only 3 companionships! Weird.

Are all the mission areas as big as yours? (same long distance to church)

Short answer? Not in Helsinki. Long answer? In the North areas, they sometimes extend even further, and are still only a branch, but the area where the missionaries are stationed is where the branch is. So, no one really has to commit investigators to driving long distances, unless they find an investigator in the flung-out areas of their area.

What mission Zone are you in? There are 5, right?

There were 3 when I first got here - the Tampere, Helsinki, and North Zones. With the switch of P-days that came out, there was a simultaneous creation of another Zone going on - the East Zone, called the Savo Zone then. So, when I moved down to Porvoo, they got Zone Leaders officially called for that Zone. So, there are 4 Zones, and I'm in the Helsinki one, although we are almost in the Turku one. It is actually faster for some of our area parts to travel to Turku for church than Helsinki. Weird. (I just got totally confused. Is Turku a Zone? Mom)

What mission Zones have you been in?

I have served in Tampere Zone and Helsinki Zone only. Don't think I'm gonna get banished to the North, but who knows?

What have you taught this week?

One of the biggest things that we have been teaching this week is the Restoration. Since we have so many first-time investigators and a few gone-through-almost-everything ones too, this has been a common starting point for many of our lessons this week. I love how the lesson of the Restoration starts with very simple, yet key teachings: God is our loving Heavenly Father, and He has given us families to help us learn and grow. That simple phrase establishes so much of what our church believes in, and gives us the central reasoning behind why things happen in this life. Why did Jesus need to come and die? Because God loves us, and wants us and our families to return to Him so we can all be families forever. Why do I go through trials? Because God loves you, and wants you to grow to understand his love more profoundly, and to be able to endure all things with His help. Everything goes into perspective. Prayer is easier - it's not to an unknown God that will smite us should we not pay lip-service once a day - it is a natural, loving conversation with our Heavenly Father, where sometimes we feel the answers, and sometimes we read them in the scriptures. It just all makes sense to people!

What have you learned this week?

Well, I have been going through the scriptures and selecting my favorite ones that strike me - there are a lot - and then putting them all on little Post-It notes, but written in Finnish. It helps with Language Study by giving me interesting ways to phrase familiar things, and it also inspires me to remember why I have liked certain scriptures. It's a good review and lesson rolled into one.

What is something you are grateful for this week?

I'm grateful for a family in which the Gospel has been a central part. Immediately, I was able to start learning from my parents about God's love, not so much by what they told me to believe in, but by the fact that they lived in such a way, always showing love, that gave me the ability to look at a concept and say, "Well, if God has even greater love than my parents do for me, he must really care, huh?" That knowledge has given such hope in times of trials and despair, because I know that there are always at least 2 groups rooting and pulling for me - my earthly family, and my Heavenly Father. It's a great comfort!

That's all, folks. Thanks for all of the support you give - I got a lot of emails from people this week asking about things! It was great to see that people care enough to write to someone halfway-across-the-world (although to one person, right next door - what are you doing in Europe, Landon Hester?!). I love you all - I hope that your weeks go well!

Vanhin David Milligan

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June 2, 2015 - I Love Splits Days!

I'm not writing that because I don't like to be with my current companion! It's just that every single time that I'm on splits, we get miracles. Take this last Thursday, for example. My companion tracted into a family that is SUPER-prepared and eager to learn! We have met them together, and are going to meet them again tomorrow, and who knows how many times after that! It is really cool to talk to them. I hope that we can get missionary work here moving!

Other than that, nothing that I can immediately think of. So, to questions!

Anything exciting happen to you this week? No dog attacks on your side of the world, right?

Other than meeting the family, no, nothing really outlandish happened. Dogs are constantly outside, but always leashed. The weirdest thing is that some people here have actually trained WOLVES. And walk them around like it's nothing. I've seen it at least 3 times on my mission so far, and it always kinda freaks me out...

Oh, oh! I just remembered something funny! My companion and I were walking and talking, mostly over the fact that he knows next-to-nothing about American Superheroes. Except Batman. Because of the movies. And I started to do a Batman impression, which he was very impressed by. But, that's not the funny part. I was going to use the impression to tell him a joke. The "Knock-knock - Who's there - Beak - Beak who - BECAUSE I'M BATMAN" one. I must have repeated "Knock-Knock" at least 6 times, with him just laughing, before I realized my companion doesn't know what a Knock-Knock joke is!!! So, I threw him an explanation, but now I need more knock-knock jokes to throw at him. My arsenal is depleted, since they are so cheap...

Oh, and he's been talking about how movies get interestingly-dubbed in Spain. For instance, the Toy Story 3 movie? When Buzz starts speaking Spanish? They got a deep-south Spaniard dialect to do that part. Half-understandable, half-gibberish to the un-informed Spanish speaker. Lots of fun!

What is happening in your new area?

Well, we have recently re-discovered a few investigators that have been lost by previous missionaries. As in, when they all left, they wrote NOTHING about these people other than that they exist. No phone number, no address, nothing. Oh, well. We managed to re-find them with the help of members. So nice to have people that are really invested in missionary work! I always have loved having members with us in each of my areas.

Are you enjoying your new area?

I am loving Lohja! It is just beautiful, and with the lessons that we are now able to teach to people, it makes it so the missionary work FEELS like missionary work. That's a lot of fun to not just have a pretty area, but a prepared one!

Are you enjoying being fed?

It is GREAT. We don't even ask to come over at all - sometimes, we go over to Less-Active members houses, and the first thing they say is, "Oh, the new Elders! When can you come over to eat?" Crazy. We've got a lunch appointment tomorrow with a LA, a lunch appointment on Thursday with a LA, and a dinner appointment on Thursday with a member family. And more is coming. CRAZY. It's fun!

Brother Bassett wants to know how you could like mammi (sp?), (the rye stuff you told us about) Or, as he put it, "this nasty solid rye that they boil down and then turn into some strange nasty pudding?" I think I got that right...

Oh, yeah, Mämmi! The Easter-food. I talked about that. Yeah, he got the description pretty down-pat. I don't know why I liked it, everyone else thought it was disgusting. Probably the same way I liked Salmiakki all of a sudden, and why when the Kool-Aid equivalent is served here, I water it down like the Finns do. I'm becoming Finnish - watch out!

What is your favorite thing about the sun coming back?

Okay, short answer? I don't like it that the sun has come back. It's too bright all of the time. However, I LOVE how it makes the clouds pop! The sun is good for that, but it is always in my eyes when driving, and it makes the streets VERY bright, and it's just overall-aggravating. Bring back the darkness... Wow, that sounded really morbid. I'm the Morbid Mormon!

Have you learned any hymns on the instrument you have?
Yes, it is quite easy to play hymns on the mandolin. Mostly because everything is a four-chord song. I kid you not. But, it is really fun to tinker around on that, and my companion likes it when I do! He likes the sound of it.

Are you going to be able to get a violin? I forget...

Theoretically? Yes. In reality? Only if I can find one that is suitably cheap enough, and that I don't mind leaving behind when I go off to America again. So, fingers crossed! I would really like to try to keep that skill up. I also found a harmonica here with 3 octaves, it just takes far too much air to play!

Well, that's all. I guess I'll talk to y'all sometime later! Thanks for your prayers. Be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan