Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29, 2015 - This Week Will Be Crazy...

So, looking at this week, I'm not sure how the sanity is going to fare... We have had all sorts of CRAZY already, and we have more on the way. We just spent a day down in Kouvola, and now we are back here for P-Day, but then we will head down to Helsinki for a few days of meeting, and then we will drive back to Mikkeli with the new car. After that, we have to get splits up in Joensuu set up, and then Elder Smith will pack and change calls will come for the new change. WOW.

So I'm a little scatter-brained. Christmas holiday was great - we spent it with a lot of good members and sung a lot of fun Christmas songs in Finnish! I have a lot of stuff to look up once I get home for next Christmas, the lyrics were pretty funny for a few of them.

Due to the aforementioned-scatter-brained-ness, I will switch over to the questions!

Did your package arrive?

Yup! Got it just barely. I haven't gotten much time to peruse the contents as of yet, but I like how it looks so far! Thanks for all of the thought poured into it! I'm happy that I got one last package to open after the Christmas holiday was over. Kept the spirit of Christmas alive a little longer waiting for it to come.

Did snow arrive?

No snow. None coming, at least this week. We are rather solidly in the negative temperatures, though. So if there is any precipitation, it will snow. Yay!

What did you learn this week?

This week, in order to help me out with a part of my responsibility as a Zone Leader, I did a lot of personal study over "correction" and "reproof/reprove" as found in the Bible and Book of Mormon throughout the prophets talking to the people. This Zone is awesome, and I don't think I'll need to put a lot of it into practice, but it was still a good study. I think the thing that I most got out of it was that it is important to make sure that the audience you are talking to, be it Israelites or missionaries, know why the correction is being made - normally to help them recieve more blessings by obedience to the things the Lord has asked for us to do at this time. It was a little more in depth than just that one thing, but I thought that would be good to share now.

What did you teach this week?

We talked with members a little bit about the different kinds of attitudes there are with studying the gospel and acting upon it, as I've gone over earlier. Kind of a recurring theme in what I like to talk about, I guess. Most of our investigators were out of town for Christmas, so it was a little hard to teach them, but we have stayed in pretty good contact! Hope that this new-year-time will bring the people back to Mikkeli.

What did you share this week?

I gave quite a few little origami Missionary-shirts out this year. We thought it would be a good little thought to the members to remember that we came around and that they really helped us out. They all seem to like it so far! It's been fun to see them get excited over what ties I've drawn on the shirts, and the little notes on the back are normally signed "Lähkäriltä". Which makes them laugh.

Megan wants to know what your favorite shape is. Be creative.

Hmm... I think I'll have to pick a square. Two shapes in one - rectangle and rhombus! How's that for dredging back up those 7th-grade definitions... Plus, I can make a lot of origami with a square. Maybe I should have said rectangle, though, so I could have a square AND a rectangle... grrr, missed out on that opportunity...

Millie wants to know what dog treats are in Finland.

Millie, I don't know yet, but I'll help you find that answer. I will personally execute a search for such treats. If any fit in the mail slot, you can help me out on the how-do-they-taste part. (To make me seem a lot less cruel to whoever is reading this - Millie is our pet dog. Just FYI. I'm not telling a friend and/or relative to eat dog food.)

What is "Tangled" (the Disney movie) in Finnish, again? We forgot already!

"Kaksi karkutiellä". If I remember correctly. "Two on the loose" is a good translation of what it is meaning in English.

What is your favorite Finnish idiom that you learned recently?

I learned a good idiomatic phrase to answer how everything is going! Normally, if someone asks how I'm doing, I say "Leipä on vielä ansaitava", "the bread is still earnable", but I just learned (when I tried to answer "vielä hengessä", "still breathing/alive", yeah, kinda the same word in that case...) the new phrase, "henki kulkee, ja veri kiertää", "the breath goes, and the blood flows", if I can take some liberties with how we in English might say it. Please make that an idiom said in America by the time I get back... "How're you doing?" "The breath goes, and the blood flows." I would die laughing. Breath stops, blood flops. Give me a break, I don't speak English anymore!

Love y'all, I hope that the holiday seasons treated everyone well! Thanks for the letters and thoughts, I got quite a few this year! Be safe, be strong!

Vanhin David Milligan

December 22, 2015 - Merry Christmas! ...But not a White Christmas?

Sooo. All the snow? Gone. All of it. And we're not getting any more before Christmas. I'm starting to wonder if I'm still living in Santa-Land or not... There's snow up north in Rovaniemi, but not down here in Mikkeli. Santa still has snow - I do not. Sad face.

Things still keep truckin' along out here. Slow week, as normal. This has been both of our longest changes, and it's not 'cuz we hate each other or something! We're having a fair amount of fun, it's just really, REALLY slow going. But we're still going. So that's good.

I'm lost as to what else to write, so I'm just going for the questions!

What did you learn this week?

I've started recording everything that I study in a bit more depth, partially so that I can remember what in the world I specifically studied and answer this question well! The thing that I really studied today was taking counsel from the Lord. It all kinda stemmed from Jacob 4:10, I think, where it's something like, 'Don't try to counsel the Lord - seek counsel from Him'. From there, it had a lot of footnotes, and those footnotes had a lot of different footnotes about the same concept, so I just made a huge list of scriptures that explain it well and invite us to take and seek counsel and correction. I thought a lot about that Hugh B. Brown devotional, "God is the Gardener", as well as that cool Mormon Message about it... cue the link here? I can actually go get it myself!


I really like this one!

What did you share this week?

Well, we got to have a TON of people in church last Sunday - one of the families here just had a missionary come home, and there's Christmas this week, AND the same family also has a daughter getting married next week. Lots of people in church. It was crazy. We got to share, as a branch the size of a ward, a ton of Glögi and gingerbread cookies, and we got to see the Christmas Devotional for this year. It was interesting, because they were only broadcasting it in Finnish, and they didn't have the English words going through any translation devices, so... I watched them speak in English, heard the Finnish translation, and translated it back to English for a couple non-Finnish-speaking people. Phew, hard work. But I'm better at translating, now!

What did you teach this week?

We had another meeting with our youngest, newest investigator. He's really cool, so many good questions. We were with a return missionary (not the one that just got back this last week, the one that's been back for about a month and ½ now), and that helped a lot. It's still a challenge to fully convey my thoughts in Finnish, although I (almost) completely understand and relate to the complexities of the Finnish language when I hear it. It's nice to have members for whom this is normal... We taught the simple thought that he has a loving Heavenly Father, and that He wants us to be happy here on Earth. The guy had quite a few good questions about how Heavenly Father interacts with His children to tell them what is true, and asked what if mankind is just psyching itself out that there is a God, but he really did want just our thoughts on how we know there is a loving Heavenly Father, he believes in God quite strongly himself. Seems we passed the test? He wasn't able to come to church, since he's with his family in Jyväskylä right now, but we'll see after Christmas!

What are your plans for Christmas?

We are spending Christmas Eve with the family that is having all of the visitors (due to return missionary and upcoming marriage), and then we will spend Christmas itself with the family of our Branch President. They each wanted us to stick around the whole day, like, pick us up after 11 AM and keep us 'til bedtime. Much appreciated - we would not be too effective with that day, though! I think they were impressed that we still wanted to try to do missionary work as best as we could those days with the guidelines that President has set, so I'm hoping that is the thing they remember, not that we turned down 10 hours of fun with them...

Do you get to proselyte during the holiday?

In a sense, yes. We can't go tracting - just like the beginning of my mission - but we can go outside and try to contact people on the streets. Not sure who will be outside during Christmas holidays, the normal holidays leave the streets empty enough, but we'll be out there! With no snow...

Do you get to see lanterns in the cemetery again?

I hope so. If we aren't going with a member family, we are still going to a nice little graveyard by the rest home that we visit to do service at.

Zandi wants to know if you are walking on lakes, yet? Do you have lakes in your area?

There are a lot of lakes here in Mikkeli - even one right outside the church window that I'm sitting in front of right now. There is also a distinct lack of ice on it... So, unless I see the waves pounding, tempest raging, and hear a voice telling me to come out onto the water, I think I'm land-bound for now.

That's all, I guess! I'm hoping to do a bit of Christmas baking to thank all of the members for helping us out and reaching out to us. Christmas Peanut-Butter-Brownies... the Finns won't know what hit 'em! Love y'all, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Vanhin David Milligan

December 15, 2015 - ....Wait, it's almost CHRISTMAS?!?

Ever have that little bit of shock from something that you've known, but not really recognized, hitting you with the reality of its existence all at once? That's what I just felt looking at the day and reading my emails. I was thinking, "What do they mean, 10 more days? It's only the... WUT." But I'm loving it!

Wow, lots of travel! We went up to Oulu, went down to Helsinki via train, and, oh, I forgot to mention, we nearly came back by CAR. Yup. Mikkeli has just been made a car area. The only reason that we don't have it currently is because we didn't yet have a parking place to put it in, and I guess that President doesn't want us just parking it at the church. It appears that its primary purposes for being granted to us are traveling to far-out areas in Mikkeli, emergency situations that might arise, and for going out on splits via car instead of train. But, do y'all know what this means? 100% Car Areas for Elder Milligan. I couldn't escape it. Not that I'm complaining, I feel that I know how to effectively use a car in combination with proselyting very well now.

There's limited time, as always, so I'll hop over to the Q's!

What did you teach this week?

We had a bit of a rough week. At the beginning, we found our new investigator, but after that, it was traveling around and very little time in area. All of the plans of lessons that we made for Sunday and Monday fell through. It was very saddening. But, we ran into a few peoplethat were really cool, and were fine with us coming over soon, so we still have hope!

What did you share this week?

This last Sunday was Mikkeli's Primary Program. There were 6 children singing, and they were pretty good! I made them each a little origami Missionary-styled-shirt-and-tie. They really liked it, and so did all of their parents, mostly because I put a little language joke on there. I think I've mentioned this, but the word for "missionary" in Finnish is "lähetyssaarnaaja", or "sent-preacher". That's too long for most people to want to say in one breath, so the members all call a missionary a "lähkäri". Essentially, they combine the Finnish word for "doctor" ("lääkäri") with the "sent" part of missionary. It's quite funny, but most missionaries don't use it, of course. I signed all of these cards from the "lähkärit", though. They loved it.

What did you learn this week?

With Elder and Sister Dyches visiting, there was a lot to learn from the Mission Tour and the special MLC along with it. No, they didn't announce iPads, in case any of you were wondering. I doubt I'll see them out here, at this rate. Which is completely fine. Anyways. There was quite a bit over how to become better teachers, which I appreciated. The main point of it seemed to be, "Base everything you say off of the fundamentals of reading the Book of Mormon, praying, and attending church. You can't make them feel the Spirit, they have to search for it themselves. Just make sure that you are giving them the opportunity to find it." Pretty good thought!

Is your "new" area full of people that want to speak English? Or do they speak another language?

I have met a surprising amount of people that speak English, with that being the only language that we have in common. With the situations that Europe is having and with the fact that this is the first place I've been in with a professional college and student-housing section so close by, we are meeting a lot of foreigners on the streets. We are still mostly teaching Finns, but it's fun to talk with people about where they are from and what they're doing out here. Not too many people go out of their way to speak with them, so they are down to talk with us for a small chat.

Is Oulu far enough north that you got to try reindeer while you were visiting?

I didn't get to have reindeer in Oulu - right after the meeting, there was lunch provided, which was essentially a nice sloppy-joe, and then I got rushed off to a plane. HOWEVER. There is a place here in Mikkeli that a member gave us a giant coupon for. It's a PancakeHouse (Pannukakkutalo), and we could, for just under 2€, buy 2 large pancakes. Like, LARGE pancakes. 1 for each of us. These pancakes were wonderfully adorned with Bacon, Cheese, and, yes, REINDEER. It was delicious. I will probably be going back soon. Here's a picture for the idea of it all.

Well, that's about all! I feel that there haven't been, like, any pictures of me going out, so I'll attach one more to the end of this. In the meantime, I hope that you all know that I'm loving my time out here. I just know that I'm learning a lot, and learning things that'll help me know how to be a better person to everyone. I just want to learn how to love people. Thanks for everyone that make themselves easy to love! Be safe, all, and have a very Merry Christmas!

Vanhin David Milligan

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 8, 2015 - Coming Soon To An Email Account (or Blog!) Near You

Not too much happened, other than hearing that the new Star Wars movie is coming out in, like, a week. I miss working at the theater - I used to know all of this stuff... So, that information has fueled the subject line for this week.

Got to celebrate Finnish Independence Day! No fireworks. No one on the streets. Can't tract around. It was a little disappointing. But 'yay' for freedom.

There isn't anything else to really share, so... THE QUESTIONS AWAIT.

What did you learn this week?

I went through quite a bit of Preach My Gospel again this week. I was mostly going through the definitions at the end of each of the first three lessons, and it was kind of interesting to read. Mostly just because it made me focus on those things that I need to clearly and simply explain to someone to help them understand not only a concept, but why the concept is personally applicable to them.

What did you share this week?

This week, I got to share my umbrella with some older people. We go and walk with people in the local rest home on Mondays, and this Monday, it was really stormy (just wind and rain and sleet, no outright snow), but everyone still wanted to go outside. So I got to walk around trying to contain the force of the wind and block it with my umbrella. Thank goodness I got gifted a really nice one, any other one would've broken from the sheer wind-speed. Almost as hard as Oklahoma winds, it felt. The seniors are really starting to like us, especially since almost all of the idioms and little phrases that I have were very popular in their youth, and they haven't heard them in a while. It's a fun little 'blast from the past' for them, and I've gotten a few good phrases from them, too!

What did you teach this week?

Yay, we have a new investigator! He's a younger Finn, he is pretty religiously focused and wondering how God answers prayers and concerns. He really liked the Christmas video we showed him, and invited us back. We got to teach him, and now have another appointment, too! We're excited, he's awesome.

What did you eat this week? (anything new?)

We tried making a form of hash browns with sausage, potatoes, carrots, green beans, meatballs, corn, peas, and onions. Needless to say, very filling. Wow. I think even my companion got stuffed from that.

We also went to a Nepalese buffet that a member works at. It was pretty good! We went with another member that just got back from his mission, and found out that today, another missionary will get home to his family in Mikkeli! So many Return-Missionaries... My companion is getting a little on-edge, with his time approaching. I have plenty of time left, so I'm just enjoying these families getting their loved ones back to treat well and spoil.

How did your baking experiment go?

I have now dubbed it "Christmas Cheesecake". It turned out AMAZING. I thought it would be nice, just a good twist, but it went above and beyond. I accidentally used too much brown sugar and Glögi, but my attempts to correct it made it work well! There is a 3-step-flavor-hit. You taste caramel. Then you taste... I can't explain it. It's because of the Glögi and the brown sugar combining in a weird way, so it doesn't taste like either - it's been granted the title "the taste of Christmas" by my companion. Then you get the taste of the gingerbread crust at the end. Oh, my. It's really good.

Are you going to share your recipes? Some of us get hungry when we read your posts!

I can write them up, but I'm not certain if we can make some of these things in America! Example - no Glögi. We could use Apple Cider, but it's not the same. (Personally, I like Apple Cider MUCH more than Glögi, and Hot Chocolate more than those both, but still.) I will work on getting those recipes compiled and sent off, if y'all want... Cheesecake, at least. I'm not givin' up the family Peanut Butter Brownie recipe!!!

What are your plans for Christmas?

Members have already invited us to celebrate Christmas and Christmas Eve! It's great! We have a place to Skype and everything. Right now, it looks like we are going over to the home with the today-returned-missionary on Christmas Eve, and then we are at the Branch President's home on Christmas. Yay!

Do people ice-skate on the frozen lakes?

They do - they also ice-skate on the frozen soccer (sorry, football) fields. Very fun to see a place where people played soccer when I was first here a place where they now play ice hockey.

Are there any bikes frozen in your area like last year?

If there would be frozen lakes, there would be frozen-in bikes. Such things always work in tandem. (That was a pun on tandem bikes, in case anyone missed that...)

Describe someone interesting that you have met in Finland.

I guess that I'll talk about our Branch President's wife, since she was the one who kindly extended the invitation to us to go there on Christmas! She is a very voice-oriented person in her occupation. She has done quite a few CD's with her singing Finnish, and apparently (I haven't yet confirmed this with a ton of people, but it seems to be true) she voiced Belle in the Finnish Beauty and the Beast. I need to get that one, now. I've heard that she'll gift missionaries with her CD's, so it sounds like that's a good place to go for Christmas! Even if in Finland, they receive and open all their gifts of Christmas Eve...

Well, that's all! I will be getting to go to Oulu on Thursday, fly down to Helsinki on Friday, and get back up here Saturday night. Yoi. Busy week. Happy to be serving, though! Be safe, everyone. Christmas approaches - smile a little!

Vanhin David Milligan

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 1, 2015 - It's gone... It's all gone...

Aaaand the snow was short-lived. It's back to being wet and dark without any snow to bring cheer and happiness. But we keep a-walkin'.

This week has been the longest week ever. This whole change has been the longest one ever. All of the other e-mails where I've said that it's been long? This tops them all. Not in a bad way - just an exhausting one. Very busy week.

There's a lot I want to say, and a lot that will go in the questions, so let's get to it - personal thoughts!

Meeting old Friends - That's fun!
When I walked into the Mikkeli Branch on the first Sunday, there was one older couple that just really stuck out to me. I was certain that I'd met them before, but I couldn't pin down exactly where... They had the same thoughts, apparently, and invited us over to eat. When we got to talking, they asked where I've served. When I started the list with "Tampere", all of us remembered where we'd seen each other - last Boxing Day, they were at their children's place in Tampere, and I was there, too. Fun to meet them again, around Christmas time, too!

Also, I got to see a Lohja-lainen again (member of Lohja). That was great, too. They gave a talk last Sunday. It was nice, especially since he was a American return-missionary that had served in Mikkeli as a part of his Finnish Mission time. That was cool to hear him talk about all of the different people that he got to reconnect to.

Going on Splits
Haven't done this where I am the one conducting Splits, yet... We will be visiting Savonlinna today and tomorrow, takes so long to get there by bus that we have to stay for 2 nights and one day. Should be fun.

Snapshot of my Schedule...
Not a picture, just an inside look as to how busy we will be. This week, we have splits. Next week, we have the Mission Tour, where on the 11th we will be in Oulu, and on the 12th we will be in Helsinki. Crazy train-trips and even getting on a plane. Woo-hoo!

A Savior Is Born
There's a new Christmas video that we are sharing. I personally like "He is the Gift" a little more, but that's just 'cuz I liked the whole captions thing. This is good, too!

Okay, the questions await us. Here we go -

Do you have a picture of you with your new companion? Can you send one soon?

Sorry, this is the best one I've got right now! I'll make sure to get ones with us together later.

What did you learn this week?

This week, we had an MLC at the Mission Home in Helsinki. All of the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders were there, and it was a great time for us all to coordinate on things that we think can help the people in our mission areas. We had a great talk over Agency, and that was pretty good. I think that it got summed up rather well from this - in order for their to be agency, there must be a distinct choice to make, there have to be opposing and alternate options, and you have to be in a position of freedom of one sort or another in order to make that choice. The more freedom you give up in your actions, the less of a choice you will have. That sounds a little weird, but it's not like we have a set amount of "spiritual freedom" that peeters out down to "0". It's just like saying if you choose to be stupid on a motorcycle and you lose your permit, there's less freedom. If you get in an accident and break your legs, you now have less freedom of movement. Freedom to make choices is affected by the results of the choices you make. Pretty interesting discussion, I liked it a lot!

What did you share this week?

Let me tell you what we did this last week for our Thanksgiving Party in Mikkeli. At MLC, on Thursday, we had a fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner, and I took the chance to take some pointers and recipes from Sister Watson and the Office Staff (it was great to see them all again!). With that knowledge, I strode confidently to the first time that my companion and I have ever tried to make a Thanksgiving Feast for Finns. For anyone, actually. But still. We were roasting a turkey the branch provided us, making stuffing, and helping a member make American Sweet Potatoes. Despite all of the forces in the world of common sense working against us (specifically, the fact that we had never done any of this before), we pulled it off. 16 YSA people came, as well as a handful of non-members and potentials that we had invited. The American food went great! Afterwards, we started singing a bunch of Disney songs in Finnish. They told me they'd get lyrics for me. Very excited. If you all want to send e-mails with your favorite Disney song translated into Finnish, I would like that, too.

What did you teach this week?

We got to teach about the importance of planning a baptismal date to the Zone. There's been a low amount of baptismal dates being set, and when we asked missionaries, it was mostly because the missionaries felt that the investigator had to achieve certain milestones (i.e. reading scriptures, saying prayers, attending church, etc.) before being given a goal like that. Very odd. We got to talk with a lot of missionaries about the importance of getting that out there as soon as possible. Really encouraged me to make sure that I'm following my own advice!

What is your favorite thing to see covered in snow?

To be fair to the "All gone" bit of us not having snow, it just started to snow again. But I don't think any of it will stick - the ground got too warm. My favorite thing is either giant church buildings, trees, or lakes. If I have my camera, it is giant church buildings, if I don't, then trees, and if my companion is down for walking across frozen bodies of water, it's lakes.

How cold does it have to be before you think it is cold?

I'm in agreeance with my companion on this one - it isn't truly cold until around -30 Celcius. That's what I felt last year, the day that I had to move tons of luggage for around 6 companionships in the cold and snow and ice in Tampere. The cold that I'd felt before then was nothing. That's what I feel now, too. Praying that it wont get that cold soon, until I scout out a few good lakes, first.

What is your favorite meal in Finland, now? 

I think as a whole meal, the favorite would be what we get in the Christmas season - ham, fish, berries, and all sorts of little casseroles. Especially the ham, though. Wild boar is surprisingly tasty.

What baking challenges have you set for yourself this week?

I want to experiment with a Finnish-Christmas Cheesecake! Gingerbread base, Glögi filling, caramel topping. Man, I hope I didn't talk about this last week, I was very bummed that I didn't have time to do it this week with all of the Thanksgiving baking.

Are you singing in any Christmas programs this year?

Not that I know of now - there is bound to be a Christmas Branch Party, but who knows if they'll need me there. My companion has started to really want to become a better singer for when he goes home, so we've been working together on making his vocal prowess progress.

What is something that made you smile this week?

In a talk about Heavenly Father answering prayers, I heard a funny little joke. The point was made that the answer might be "No", or that you might not get one, since you're not ready to hear the answer yet, but keep doing what you're doing right, and you'll become what you need to be in order to hear His answer for you. That's all good and nice. The funny thing was when the person compared it to his prayers of searching for a wife. After much time of prayer and repeatedly feeling frustrated, he kinda mentally pleaded, "Where am I supposed to find my wife - did she die in the war in heaven, or what?" There was a fair amount of trying to hold in laughter from me.

Well, that's all, really. Thanks for the work y'all do in the parts of your life. Be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan