Saturday, August 29, 2015

August 29, 2015 - Aaaaand, the Changes are In!

You know what? I think we should just go straight to the questions. This'll be a lot more straightforward.

Are you being transferred? Where to? Who with?

Just got the call yesterday officially -  I'm serving in the Mission Office with Elder Frey! The Mission Office is in Espoo, but our area is in a place called Myyrmäki. Our ward is in Haaga. Elder Frey is actually from the group right below me - another one of my "baby Finns"! I'm just hopping around to be companions with all of them!

I actually got emergency transferred last week, on Saturday. Right after the baptism we had (spoilers!), we got a call from President informing us that my companion, Elder Greciano Raiskila, would be serving in a tripe "triple companionship) with the Espoo District Leader, and I would be being transferred to the Office. Both of these emergency transfers were only officially extended for 1 week. But mine was kinda obvious that I'd be sticking around. Why train me in everything for the space of one week if I were to leave it the next?

It was really sad, actually, because I'd been planning a bunch of stuff with Elder Greciano to do during the last week of us together. We had gotten it all mapped out, and were very excited. Oh, well. I also had to leave all of my luggage in Lohja. That was kinda heavy-handed, in my opinion. I've spent this whole week bemoaning over the things that I don't have, and now it got resolved by President telling us when we were on a train, "Hey, I'll give you your change calls now, you're staying together, have a good day" as an afterthought to a different conversation we needed to have with him. Sigh...

Well, the Office is a lot of fun, though! It is interesting - the whole place has been being run by the various Senior Missionaries that enter the field, which leads to a lot of different people kinda trying to figure out how to implement these newly-put-in Office Elders. Kinda weird, kinda cool, altogether. I've already accidentally made them think I'm a "master" with the language, because 3 of them are Finnish and I started to joke around with them about the language. After making a few puns and relating a few really good idioms, they determined that the only way I could know those ways to joke would be if I was very, VERY fluent. So, they started to speak in different dialects to me. It got to the point where even they didn't understand how to translate what they were saying. So we're back to them speaking Finnish to me all the time, and them thinking I'm great with the language. Which I don't want to burst their bubble on... Oh, well!

And your companion, is he being transferred? Where to? Who with?

Elder Greciano Raiskila is still serving in Lohja. He will be serving as the Senior Companion with an Elder Kingsolver. I'm excited for him - there's so much good in Lohja! The members are fantastic, and really do deserve a ward of their own. I hope they get it!

What is your favorite memory of your time in Lohja?

This is a hard question! See, I'm going to cheat and give two, and one of them is really cheating to say. That one is, "every moment with Elder Greciano". Yes, it's vague, but seriously, every moment with him was a blast! We talked a lot about literary things and writing strategies, and just about all sorts of things. We loved stories, and it made it great to just experiment as we walked.

The other alternate favorite memory took place this last Saturday, right before the emergency change call. Our investigator got baptized!!! She has changed so much from when we first met her, and she's just so happy all the time, now! The members did a great job fellow-shipping her. She is the first convert-baptism in Lohja for over 6 years, now. And there are a few coming up right on the heels of the new change! Elders Greciano Raiskila and Kingsolver are bound to be busy.

She said I could send a picture to my family and the blog, so, here!

So happy that we could be here to help her!

What is a favorite memory from anytime in your mission?

Wow, that's a difficult question to answer... I think that my favorite memory has been from when I got a text message from our investigator in Tampere. This was my second change or so in Finland, and we had just met with her earlier that week and invited her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. She was eager to know if it was true, so she accepted the challenge. When she sent the text, I had just walked out of a lesson where we'd been dropped pretty rough by another potential investigator. I just had thought, "Am I really supposed to be here, just to keep being dropped by people and told by them that one of the fundamental things in my life is a fraud?" Then the phone buzzed, and as I started to read and translate the text word-by-word, I realized that our investigator had just texted about the truth of the Book of Mormon and her strong desire to go to baptism. I was so happy that the rest of the day was immediately brightened. The Lord was looking out for my attitude, there!

What have you learned this week?

I learned quite a bit about how the Office breaks down into areas where I can help. I was thinking when I got the change call, "How is this going to be missionary work that furthers things beyond logistics?" It didn't help that I found out that both Elder Frey and I are pretty sickly people, and that with our combined symptoms, President was limiting us (understandably) to pretty much 0 finding time. In an area that has 7 people, total, in the Area Book. It's been closed for a while, and then consolidated into another area, and then distributed back to us with barely anyone. So this seems pretty empty. However, I started thinking - if the work that I do for 15 minutes allows all of the missionaries in the field even 1 additional minute per companionship, I've added about an hour to the mission work in general. And that's on such a low return! If I'm specifically helping in the most effective ways, I can do so much more to aid the work than I originally thought. I'm taking comfort in that right now, and hoping that we can find some people regardless of time allowed on the streets.

What have you taught this week?

I have taught one lesson this week. It was to a member family that we got ahold of, and managed to catch them at a good time to meet. They are great, and they right now are the only people that I know in the Haaga ward! I taught them the lesson that I always kinda hold in reserve because it means so much to me - the one about the attitudes that we can have as members of the church. There were enough light moments in it all that I think it really made them enjoy it, yet think about it at the same time. So, even if that's been the extent of teaching so far, it looks like it's at least effective when we find it!

What have you shared this week?

I have been able to share quite a few learning strategies with my current companion, Elder Frey. He's a lot of fun to be around. We seem to have a similar sense of carrying out our jokes, specifically by pretending like the event we are joking about is happening and voicing our reactions to the crazy events. It's been great so far! He is very interested in learning how I've learned the language, and since the Senior Missionaries at the Office keep telling him that he should ask me language questions (Finns seem to be pretty blunt about getting people to correct even small errors in speech...), he's very eager to do his best. I found out that compared to him, my teaching of investigators has been VERY different. He, for example, has only really taught foreigners, and he had 36 investigators at one time! I, however, have only really ever taught Finnish people, and have seen a maximum of about 6 investigators at the same time. So, there are things for both of us to learn!

What do you want to share with us this week?
If I could share one thing real quick, it would be to encourage people to stay in some form of contact with the missionaries in the field that they personally know. I've gotten lucky to have so many people emailing me and sending small little thoughts through the internet, but some people out here have had little to no contact with people from home outside of immediate family. They always kinda grin and say it doesn't matter too much, but it's kinda sad to see their expressions when someone around them has  60-something emails each week. You don't need to send us packages and letters - although those mean a lot - just a small thought is enough to pick them up! Especially if it is so small of a thought. Then they can read it quickly, realize that someone took time to even care about them to send an uplifting thing, and continue on just a little happier. It's great!

Well, that's all! I've got nothing else to say. If you want to send me anything now, the Mission Office is definitely the best place to send it!

Upseerinkatu 3 C
02600 ESPOO

Thanks for all of the thoughts that you all send me. It really means a lot to get so many things that are personalized messages intended to strengthen. Be safe, everyone!

Vanhin David Milligan

August 25, 2015 - So.........

August 25, 2015 - I woke up and there was no email from David. I tried to learn from the other time this happened, and did not allow myself to panic. Around 5pm I got this email from him... It is so typically David, I just laughed and laughed. He gives just enough information that you think you might kind of know what is going on, and leaves out just enough to freak you out!!! Enjoy! ~Mom

The reason I didn't get to e-mail today?

I'm serving in the Office now. Emergency transfer given last Saturday. Only officially for one week. But getting trained in everything. So I can kinda guess my next change call.

Big thing? My P-Days are now Saturday. I've got permission to simply send this e-mail stating the whole "I'm not dead and I still love y'all" side of the transfer.

I'm not dead! I love y'all! 😁

Vanhin David Milligan

August 18, 2015 - Changes Approach the Lohja Homefront

Maybe that subject line is a little exaggerated - change calls are next Friday not this one. But still, it's on our minds! We are 99.99% certain that we are not gonna get to serve together another change (since it'd be crazy to serve in the same area with the same companion for ½ a year!), so we have each made "change-call guesses". We have a whiteboard filled with the companionships of the Espoo District, and also have plotted out the leadership. There's going to be huge changes no matter what, most of the leadership is "dying" (going home after 2 years of being here) this change.

Well, we had a Zone Training meeting this last week. It was pretty good, they were talking a lot about making sure that we are extending commitments to people that are applicable to their spiritual progression. Lots to learn from that!

Yeah, I'm boring... Can't think of much to talk about for this week... So! The questions shall hopefully inspire!

What did you share this week?

So, this week, we have been working hard on helping our investigator prepare for her baptism. It will hopefully take place this Saturday! Because I noticed how much she liked the pictures at the front of the Book of Mormon, I gave her an extra Gospel Art Book that we had in the apartment. It just has art depicting the Biblical stories she knows and the Book of Mormon stories she's learning, so I think it'll help her to find things that she understands while reading, or at least encourage her to look up certain stories because she likes the picture!

What did you teach this week?

We have a new investigator that we have started to teach, he has a baptismal date in September. So, we did a bit of a get-to-know-each-other lesson, where we just talked about all of our experiences and lives. It was a lot of fun to hear him talk about things that have meant a lot to him, and be able to relate how important that is to us, too. He is excited to keep learning, and we are going to be going over the Restoration with him this week. He already asked a lot of questions about modern-day prophets, so we think it will go well!

What did you learn this week?

I decided to start going through almost everything I've highlighted in the Bible (which is a LOT) and compare it to the Finnish set of scriptures I have. I started in the New Testament so I could make notes in my little portable Finnish New-Testament Bible that a Gideonite gave me. That Bible has been great to reference! It was really cool to see how my favorite verses have been translated into Finnish. Sometimes, the whole verse itself seems to change meaning and context, but it's still insightful! I've been blown away by the translations, both for good and bad. I've noticed that every time that the Bible talks about a "falling away", in English we know that it is referring to the Apostasy, although I've gotten in a few debates about that with English speakers. In the Finnish Bible, there's no room for doubt - it always calls it a Great Apostasy, or an Ending (temporary) of Faith. Way cool! But some verses loose their oomph. Like, John 7:17, encouraging people to act on what Christ has said? Yeah, that ain't the same. It becomes, like, "If you want to follow God's wants, then you'll know if it's from me or God." Which totally throws out the inspire-to-action bit that Christ was talking about there. *Sigh*

What scripture has impacted you this week?

This one might surprise you - it's 1 Timothy 4:12! The one that I got put on a plaque! Yeah, not too much of a surprise. But, I got to teach a lesson about it this week. We got called on to teach the Young Women (that was a weird experience), and we chose to go into depth on this scripture. I had recently listened to the John Bytheway talk, "Be Thou an Example of the Believers", so it was all great timing. We really drilled down into the different ways that we can be an example to people around us, and I even learned the Finnish equivalent of Potempkin Village when someone brought up that we shouldn't be just pretending and hypocritical - we should actually have a testimony and conversion along the lines of the example we are trying to be! Potemkinin kulissit - Potempkin's backdrops/set (theater). Very cool!

What is your favorite Finnish dessert?

Even if everyone is shocked, yes, I really did like Mämmi! But recently, I learned how to make super-cheap cheesecakes (I believe I talked about this last week?), and they are DELICIOUS. It only costs 10€ to make 2! Most of the ingredients need to be bought in bulk, so you've already gotten enough for 2. Super good, I've been experimenting with it. Trying to make caramel cheesecake this week!

How big is your ward?

The Ward Directory seems to have round-about 240 names in it, so I'd say that big! 40 of the active members (there EVERY Sunday) come from Lohja. This place really deserves a ward of its own.

Have you learned any Finnish Birthday traditions?

They have a Finnish version of Happy Birthday! It translates roughly "Much continuous happiness), if I can remember how the song goes... It's to the same tune that we've got. Other than that, no, I don't know any cool traditions! I'll ask some Finns this week.

Well, looks like that's it! I hope y'all are doing well, be safe, thanks for always reaching out and sending little thoughts my way!

Vanhin David Milligan

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 11, 2015 - Crazy Week!

So much crazy stuff happened this week! We had the worst day, like, ever, followed up by one of the most miracle-moment-filled ones the very next day! I'll explain in brief.

We had 3 lessons set up this last Wednesday. We went to District Meeting, which had TONS of missionaries there (there was a thing where Finns got to go on Mini-Missions - they spent a week with missionaries and did missionary work with them) which made, of course, for a giant district picture at the end. All this was good and nice. Then came the lessons. In which the first one had someone drop us pretty hard, the second go pretty badly with a commitment extension, and the third get interrupted by a phone call, leaving the rest of the lesson in tatters. It was pretty bad.

The next day, we met with someone that we had talked to extensively on the street, about a month ago. He wasn't interested in actually meeting then, but liked what we thought and did. This last Tuesday, we bumped into him, and he asked us to come over and teach him! So, the lesson was scheduled for Thursday. Due to a sudden travel-plan change, we ended up meeting at the public bus stop instead, about a block from our place. While there, we got 2 other potentials and 1 new investigator, just from people interested in hearing what we had to talk about with this man! It went great, I was very glad that we saw that success. I definitely needed it at that point.

Siinä on kaikki... (That's everything...)To the Q's!

Where does your ward meet?

We meet in Espoo, about 40 minutes (if there's no traffic or construction) (and there's always construction) away from Lohja. It is west-Helsinki, basically. We meet there at 2, and it ends at 5. We have a meeting beforehand with the Ward Mission Leader (it used to be after until we all needed a better-accomadating schedule) at 1, so we head down right after studies and lunch. We get back for dinner, and go out for about 2 hours to do what missionary work we can!

Is your ward building anywhere near the temple?

It is rather close - missionaries in our ward have it officially in their area. It says it's the Helsinki temple, but it is, yes, in Espoo. I've only gotten to visit once so far to do baptisms for the dead, but I can't wait to go back!

What kind of trees are found in Finland/your area?

Oh, wow. I have no idea what they are called. They are almost all trees that have no low-hanging branches - everything is just trunk until a couple of meters up. Plus, it looks orange-ish and stripped bare, minus the straggling-leaves at the top. So, those. Plus, they've got quite a few coniferous ones up north, but there aren't too many here, I think. I don't really know, when I came here it was already really green everywhere!

Is hiking a hobby in Finland? Are there trails to hike on P-day?

It is! Our Mission Leader, for example, normally takes time to go hiking with investigators and less-active people that also enjoy it. I'd say that the hiking trails are mostly used by older people, though - have you heard of Nordic stick-walking? That's what EVERYONE here does. It's huge. That's a really cool thing - you see tons of seniors and elderly folk on bikes, walking with Nordic sticks, or even on walkers that are built like 2 scooters. Man, they go fast!

There are places to hike for P-Day, but it's hard enough to get the stuff I want done without worrying about getting to a cool hiking location, so I guess we always opt out of that. We might actually try that, now that you mention it! Thanks!

What is your favorite P-day activity? (Besides emailing your mother!)

Well, most P-days are spent cleaning, shopping, emailing, and then having a lesson that takes up the rest of the time. We can't help it - there are people that we need to meet with that can only be met then, and we aren't allowed to transplant P-Day time. When we do have a spare moment, normally we plan to let my companion play tennis with some members here. He has a lot of fun, and I can entertain myself somehow with watching them pummel a poor little greenish-yellow ball back-and-forth.

What did you teach this week?

We taught quite a bit about the Plan of Salvation at the bus stop. People were just so interested in hearing our thoughts on those 3 big questions: Where did I come from, Why am I here, and Where am I going? Seriously, so many people asked that same set of questions as we kept talking! Well, we brightened quite a few people's day with our enthusiasm to teach, apparently, 'cuz we saw so much success from it.

What is something you learned this week?

I learned a TON of idioms from members! I've also learned the longest word that they have, it holds a Guiness World Record for something, I just don't if it's the longest in the world or the longest in the English character system. It goes like this:


It doesn't really get an English equivalent, of course. After a bit of my companion and I staring at it, we concurred that if any equivalent could be formed, it would look something like this:

One wonders if it is surely not even possible with his lack of disorganizedness?

Yes, as a question. It is, by literary standards, 100% grammatically correct, although I am a little confused about how they got away with two ä's before the -nsäkäänköhän. I trust them, though, to know their language better than I do!

What is something you shared this week?

Something that got shared with ME (because, you know, I'm bad at addressing the real questions) was a super-cheap recipe for Cheesecake. When I went shopping for all of the ingredients today, I saw how cheap it was - total, the recipe ingredients cost under 5€! That's crazy! Should taste great, I've already had it twice at the members' house (that's where I had Salmiakki cheesecake, surprisingly delicious).

Are there bears in Finland?

Yes. 'Nuff said.

Actually, here's a funny story that was told to me by a Finn (for confidential-security, I will leave them unnamed 😜) about polar bears. Some Finns were guiding around some foreign-exchange students. When they passed one of the crosswalk lights, they mentioned that it wasn't quite that simple - it was a Polar-Bear detector. If the light went red, that meant a polar bear was that direction, and that you needed to get inside quick. The rest of the day went without incident.

A couple months later, the Finns met up again with those same students. To their surprise and great laughter, the students had taken them quite seriously, spending most of their time in Finland indoors whenever such a thing would happen.

Well, there we go! That's it for my week, thanks everyone for caring enough to send words of encouragement so often! May you all be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

P.S. It's been a while since this thing has let me upload pictures. Which means no one has seen me for a while. So. This was the day that my 'Murican umbrella gave up. Finnish rain was just too much for it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August 4, 2105 - The Summer Marches On And On (Hurrah - Hurrah)

Totally stole the subject line of my mother's e-mail... Plus, I just heard the classical piece with my companion, so it's stuck in my head. Thank goodness my companion likes classical music!

Not much to report on this week either. We won't have a baptism this week, but that's because our Bishop, baptizer, and Ward Mission Leader are out of town. She wants them all to be present, so we have moved it back 2 Saturdays. We're looking forward to then! She is doing great, very excited to go to baptism. Hope that we can report on that to y'all later on this month!

But, yeah, the week moves onward. My companion and I have just begun coming up with story ideas for us to start batting around as we walk. They always stem from something crazy we see or say, and it has been a blast to just come up with stories that actually are half-baked goodness from something funny. My favorites have been the zombie story we came up with after seeing the giant chasm in our area and trying to put it into a setting where it is the only safe place, and the story in which science and magic are two different, accesible systems and how the fallout between using them would go down. Lots of fun with Elder Greciano!

Let's go to the Q's, then!

What have you learned this week?

I've been sort-of re-learning how to follow promptings. So many times these last few weeks, we have been going along, felt we needed to turn somewhere, done so, and ran into a person that we've needed to talk to that's been unavailable. It's been great, and really cool to just see keep happening when we most need it. There was one time when we were walking, mentioned the fact that we hadn't seen someone yet that we really needed to give something that we were carrying around, and then almost ran into him at the next corner! When you need to be somewhere, you get put in the right places. It's great.

What have you taught this week?

We have been going through the things like Family History and Temples with our investigator. Like I was hoping, she really likes it! It was cool to see how excited she got about the whole thing. We are trying to set up a chance for her to go see around the temple grounds, so that she can get a little tour of the place and know more about it. Fingers crossed that that goes well!

What have you studied this week?

I was going a lot through the smaller books in the Bible that we tend to gloss over. I found myself reading bits of the one (Nememiah? Something like that?) where they are trying to rebuild Jerusalem, and the rulers nearby don't want that to happen, so they keep petitioning for the head guy to stop and "talk" (insert ominous tone here) with them. It reminded me of the Pres. Bednar talk about the same subject, the one where he encouraged us to adopt that same attitude that the head guy answered back - "We are doing a great work, and cannot come down." Pretty good encouragement even for yourself when you think about it - you're doing something that is "building the kingdom", and you can't let worldly distractions call you down in that responsibility. (Took forever to find the talk because it was actually President Uchtdorf... Here's the link! ~Mom)

What has your weather been like? Ours has been all over the place.

Alternating rain and sunshine. Normally at the same time, actually. And when it rains, it really does pour. Quite a bit of wind, too. Reminds me of home.

Are there any weird traffic laws in Finland?

It only really gets weird when you factor in the fact that, like, a million people ride bikes everywhere here. The car rules interacting with the multitude of bikes gets a little crazy. Thankfully, they don't often go on the highways. But yeah. Not much weird other than that. They also have TONS of roundabouts here, and I've never actually gone through one driving myself in America. You learn quick.

Have you noticed any strange driving habits? (In Argentina you never knew the driving laws because the boldest person had the right-of-way! ~Dad)

Here's the thing with most Finnish drivers on the road (and those Finns reading this, understand that I have seen you all drive, and you do not fall under this category of driving) - Finns are fantastic at driving and knowing the rules, all the way up until there is another car on the road. Whenever one car in coming up the on ramp, and trying to merge, they get the same thought as the person who sees them coming, and both try to accommodate the entrance of that on-ramper. This generally results in two cars driving side by side, matching each others' speeds, down two lanes that are know becoming one. This has happened almost any time I see a car coming onto the highways, so. I feel justified in saying this! (Sounds like very POLITE drivers to me! What a dream! ~Mom)

Have you heard of any weird laws in general?

Actually, no! I was asking around earlier in my mission, hoping to get some ammunition for the Balderdash games when I return home, and no one knew any crazy ones! If any of the Finns that read this can think of one, I'd much appreciate it. Or, if y'all in America can Google it, have at. I wanna know what crazy rules there are in this country.

( 1. All people in Finland must pay a TV tax whether or not they own a TV. 
2. Taxi drivers must pay royalties if they play music in their cars for paying customers. 
3. The amount you get fined for speeding on the roads in Finland depends on the amount you earn. ~Mom)

That's all! I hope y'all stay safe, and thanks to everyone that writes me!

Vanhin David Milligan
Vanhin Greciano and Vanhin Milligan
Sent by a visitor to Finland from Utah! Sweet!