Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November 24, 2015 - GUESS WHAT?!?

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

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

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

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

How are you?

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

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

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

What is your best advice for walking on ice?

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

What have you taught this week?

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

What have you shared this week?

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

What have you learned this week?

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

What is your new companion like?

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

Do you still go out when there is a blizzard?

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

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

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

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

Vanhin David Milligan

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 17, 2015 - Snow Snow Snow Snow SNOW

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

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

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

Are you enjoying your return to Tuesday P-days?

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

How goes life as the Zone leader?

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

What is your new area like?

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

What did you learn this week?

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

What did you teach this week?

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

What did you share this week?

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

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

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

What is the strangest thing you have seen in Finland?

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

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

Vanhin David Milligan

Saturday, November 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

To the questions! Let the suspense commence...

What did you teach this week?

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

What did you share this week?

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

What did you learn this week?

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

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

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? 

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

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

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

Have you seen any Finnish traditions that you love?

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

How is the weather?

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

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

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

How much snow do you have?

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

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

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

The man and his money.

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

Vanhin David Milligan

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

October 31, 2015 - Happy Halloween!

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

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

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

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

To the questions!

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

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

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

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

Can you get Peanut Butter in Finland?

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

What did you learn this week?

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

What did you share this week?

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

What did you teach this week? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanhin David Milligan

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

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

October 24, 2015 - This Week - Zone Conferences!

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

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

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

To the questions!

What did you learn this week?

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

What did you share this week?

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

What did you teach this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanhin David Milligan

October 17, 2015 - LOOOOONG WEEK!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanhin David Milligan

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

What did you learn this week?

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

What did you teach this week?

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

What did you share this week?

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

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

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