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

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