Saturday, January 30, 2016

December 2015 - Pictures From Mission President Watson

These pictures were included in the newsletter in December. I am laughing at myself because I didn't even see them!! I was going through old emails from David and saving pictures from emails that I posted on the blog from other computers...Yeah, this isn't making sense...Enjoy the pictures!! (~Mom)

A sunset in the neighborhood of the mission home in Espoo.

A typical scene in Finland, the country of beautiful forests and 10,000 lakes.

One of the many beautiful church buildings in Finland, this one in Kuopio.  
This building was recently completely remodeled.

A usual fall, early winter scene in the neighborhoods of Finland.  
It is cloudy about 98% of the time during the winter.
(this picture was taken outside the mission home at 2:00 PM)

Candles in the cemetery, during the holidays, especially on Christmas Eve, the Finns bring candles and light them on the graves at the cemeteries.  It is a beautiful scene.

January 26, 2016 - So... Warm... Comparatively...

We had been having that -30 Celsius wave for so long, I adapted to it. And now that wave is gone. It is only, like, -5 Celsius this moment. We all feel SOOO warm. But it's good.

I needed a good title, so I think that situation will have to do. I apologize for the lack of better ideas on my part. I've been at this for a year and a half. Have some understanding.

Well, this week will be another MLC trip. Lots of travel to Helsinki, followed by lots of good instruction! I can't wait, it's always so great to come together on ways that we can enable our missionaries. I like that term, too - enable. I'm not able to force anyone to do anything, nor is it a good idea to just come to their area and "make" their success come. We get together and find ways to help missionaries help themselves to help others. So much service! So good.

I realize that Elder Hyer and I haven't had any pictures together. We still don't have them. Whoops. But I have some individual pictures, hold up...

Yes, yes, he looks like Sith... I get it... I think it looks cool. Accomplished by 2 pieces of colored graphite and a flash camera.

I've got my companion hooked on making cheesecakes, now. He really likes it, and has already made a pretty good one on his "own". Pretty soon he'll be able to make it solo like I do, no recipe needed. Yay for him! His was Strawberry-Mango with a vanilla crust. He used a kind of cookie I hadn't seen before. Turned out great!

Well, now that we've had a picture and a cheesecake... TO THE Q's!

What did you teach this week?

Well, this week, we got to teach a person about what we believe when it comes to life after death. It went well, we feel, and we also got to talk quite a bit about how we can learn in this life to best help us want to be happy. I can't imagine, if we don't want to do good, why we would want to live with a loving Heavenly Father. I think we would just feel eternally guilty around him. It wouldn't be a state of peace, and we wouldn't want to stay at all. He wants us close by, but we would just not have that same desire. We would be prioritizing something else above being with Him. But, of course, if our priorities are in order, we do everything we can to repent, cast imperfect desires behind us, and strive to stay. It's simple, really - we will have the same desires that we have in this life. Simple little concept. Makes a world of a difference when you start to think about why you're doing what you do.

What did you share this week?

We had a fun little origami-related lesson with members about learning and growing in this life. Every choice and decision shaped us in some way. The difference was the end result - doing what God wants us to do shapes us into the best thing possible. It was just a simple crane/swan paper thing, but it was pretty fun for everyone. I have started to become known as the "artsy" missionary... Well, if the shoe fits... and if it has enough trimming on it... and if it matches my suit color...

What did you learn this week?

We have been doing a lot of preparation for MLC this week. We want to be in the best place to help out our Zone here. I've been studying a lot about both leadership and obedience. It's been pretty good. It's a little interesting to see the different attitude that I have about leadership now. Before (and still to some small extent now, I'll admit), I viewed leadership as good, but not for me. Better ways to grow, I felt - why have someone else's learning placed into your stewardship if you can focus on your own, instead? Plus, if a missionary that you taught chooses incorrectly, isn't the blame on the head of the leader for lack of instruction? President corrected me on that one pretty quickly - the purpose of leadership is to instruct and lead by example. I am here because I am capable of being a good example. That's about all. I have a lot less concern about being a leader now than I used to have. And now I get off of my soap-box...

Does the snow ever get above your head?

Not yet! But with how it is blizzarding now... I don't know! We might get some pictures still. Here's a good sight that is from a member's house's window. Yes, those are tire tracks on the lake. It's beautiful to see.

Do they have a good system of snow removal to keep the streets clear and safe?

They do, I feel. The first thing (both good and annoying) is the fact that they place gravel down on the streets and sidewalk. Less ice, less traction. Better than salt. BUT. It kills your shoes, and the small rocks always seem to creep inside even the thickest of boots...

The snow plows go, like, everywhere, too. They make huge piles of snow in the weirdest of corners. But, it works! No need for cars to go there.

The Finns also have great snow crafting abilities. I never had my camera for this, which is why it's not in the email, but the town center has made a giant castle / fort defense from the giant mound of snow. Looks pretty solid and cool, kids are jumping all over it.

If you had a container of bubble mix and blew a bunch of bubbles, would they freeze before they hit the ground?

Umm... I think it could, if this had been done during the -30 Celsius time... Right now, it's just barely below freezing. But it might still happen, if nothing else, once it has hit the ground it might stick and freeze.

Have you seen any frozen bubbles? (On Facebook, there is a video of a bubble freezing in Finland)

Nope, can't say I have. But I can experiment!

If you have time today, would you buy some bubbles and test it out? 

Yes, I will try. That would be pretty cool to see. It is snowing rather hard outside, but on Friday, it will be -4 to -9 degrees, and no snow. So I can try to get results at that time. Would be fun to see!

Well, that's all, family and friends! I think I'll not have an exciting email next week, but I'll try to get pictures to make up for it... And finding out that bubbles freeze would make a good one-subject email. Love y'all, be safe, enjoy whatever kind of winter you are having right now!

Vanhin David Milligan

Thursday, January 21, 2016

January 19, 2016 - Woo-hoo, We're a Great Team!

My new companion is a lot of fun! It's been great serving with Elder Hyer. There's a whole question dedicated to him. It's great.

Lots of snow here, now. It's everywhere. I also have pictures.

I just fixed a computer's internet, and I feel great. I'm back in communication with the world!

Sorry, I'm getting short-winded and boring. It comes with age. (Is short-winded actually a thing? I don't think so...)

I made another cheesecake, this time using some Light Glögi, with a mixture-gingerbread-and-digestive-cookies crust. Probably the best caramel-Christmas cheesecake I've made thus far. Very light and fluffy, hadn't managed that yet with caramel!

Okay, I think I've dragged this on with random thoughts and comments long enough. To the Q's!

What did you teach this week?

This week we got 2 new investigators! The lessons we had on Monday all worked out, and we got to follow-up with them throughout the week as my companion got used to the area. I think this has been a pretty busy week, all in all. Hope that we get to keep on teaching well together!

One of the really good lessons we had this week was about the Plan of Salvation. It just all made sense to our investigator. As we kept teaching, he kept on asking things like, "wait, so, if I can make certain, you believe this?" At which point we would nod, give a point or two of clarification and testimony, and he would just start staring. We thought maybe something was wrong - we were saying too many things, not speaking the language correctly, something - but then he just nodded and said how he personally believed all of the same things - he just hadn't known how to express some things or that they could be backed up by scripture. All good, and really cool to see how someone's testimony of God as a loving Heavenly Father guides them to knowing the truth when they hear it. Great lesson!

What did you share this week?

Other than the secrets of the Milligan Cheesecake recipe with my companion... which will eventually spread through the internet of email, as soon as I think to write down and take a picture of the recipe... I do it all in my head, so I need to put it all down and then send it out.

Well, like I said, other than that, we got to share scriptures with the assistants for what we think would be good for the mission to have and potentially memorize in the future. President is thinking about putting together a list of 50 scriptures for missionaries to work on throughout the year, both in Finnish and English. Wow, that would be cool to come home with!

What did you learn this week?

Okay, I realize that I am breaking from the normal spiritual thought, but I just found out something awesome. Like, really, REALLY awesome. The totally-awesome guy that joined the church when I was in Porvoo, JUST GOT HIS MISSION CALL. Yes, it's in all caps, 'cuz it's that awesome. He is going to the England London South Mission, beginning May 25th! Yay!!! I just know he's gonna be great and help so many people. He's the best - he really is.

What is your new companion like? How long has he been in Finland?

My new companion, Elder Hyer, is really funny and hard-working! We have so much in common. Let me put it this way. My past companions have only had a passing knowledge of Pokémon, generally who Pikachu is. He loves the franchise to death. We're already best of friends. He knows more about cars than me, which makes his companionship a welcome addition to this city and the new car. I'm looking forward to being home and nerding out with all of these awesome missionaries, but I'm looking even more forward to what these next months of us serving together have in store! Yay!

Elder Hyer started his mission October 29th, and came into Finland January 1st. He's 1 year in - and we have plenty of time left, right? I know I'M not dying any time soon... he-heh... *trying to forget the inevitable*. (I just can't get used to this phrasing of "dying" when their mission is over! I wish they would choose something else!!! ~Mom)

How has the weather been?

Cold. It's been awesome. Lots of snow and ice. We are considering walking across a very large body of water. We have been seeing sports cars and snowmobiles going top-speed across it, so there's relatively 0 danger. But still. We'll have to be very crazy to do that. Good thing I forgot to bring my sanity along today...

What is the strangest thing in your apartment?

Okay, this is a crazy story, and this will never, EVER happen again in this mission, I hope. It's a bit of an old story. It was a seriously bad idea on behalf of the missionaries involved, but they are all dead and gone from the field by this point. The story is fair game.

On the desk of Elder Smith sat a glass bottle of water with specks of orange-ish seaweed inside. When I asked where it came from, he told me this story. Now that he is gone, I have banished the bottle to the top of a shelf, hidden from view. I almost just emptied it out, but then the story would die, and I think that it needs to serve as a point of fear before it goes away. Keep the mission rules, everyone.

Two Elders, both of which I only ever met on one occasion, were serving in the furthest north place in Finland to serve in - Rovaniemi. Take a map. You've still got almost a third of Finland to go before you're in the extreme-north, even if Rovaniemi lies on the line of the Arctic Circle. Santa's Village is there - look it up! The city is in the shape of a reindeer's head and antlers. Pretty cool. Anyways. They decided to take a trek up north via car. Faaaar north. As in, out-of-Finland, into-Norway-north. Yeah. That's not allowed, by the way. And it's a huge waste of time and money, too. Well, they went up there, and they took with them a couple of glass bottles to fill up. With Arctic Sea water. As a souvenier of apostasy. Well, they were this close to being sent home as a result of that, but they finished out their missions anyways. Cue the glass bottle with seaweed... Elder Smith served in Rovaniemi, and inherited this souvenier. He took it to Mikkeli, and there it will stay, until the time when Finland has learned to not do that again. So. That's the strangest thing in our apartment.

Well, that's all! Hope that the pictures gave you a sight of Finland that I'm seeing now - it really is the most beautiful place I've lived in. Love it! I hope that the memories I make here last a long time. Make sure that the life you are living is something that you would like to dwell on in the future. Put yourself in good places. Do good things. Be a better person every day! I love you all, thanks for the ways that you have inspired me to be here doing what I am! Be safe!

Vanhin David Milligan

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 11, 2016 - Quick and Crazy!

Okay, we're running on speed mode here - Elder Smith has been overly-diligent and avoided packing for all of the way up until today. While I do appreciate the concentration, and while it made this last week really feel like a great week of work, it is a little hectic today because of that! There is next-to-no time to email, especially since one of the computers is out-of-order today...

But, still! There is a lot that happened, and I feel that we can talk about it all in the questions, so... Questions!

Who is your new companion? Tell us about him!

My new companion will be - Elder Hyer! He is a great Elder, I've heard. He actually was my replacement in Porvoo - he served with Elder Saunders after I left. He is coming up to Mikkeli to be a Zone Leader alongside me. It should be fun, and it probably means that I will be in a new area my last 2 changes... That's a little scary, we won't think about that.

I haven't got to extensively talk to him, yet. I can't include a picture, either - I meet him tomorrow to pick him up. Should be hard work happening here in Mikkeli!

How many Zones are in your mission? How many missionaries are in your Zone? How many missionaries are in your mission?

We still have 4 Zones, with this East Zone having 8 companionships in it. There are still 98 or so missionaries here - just as many missionaries are leaving as are coming in. This next group has no Sisters in it. Weird. 8 Elders leave, and the 1 Sister from my group leaves too. But I've still got time left before I "die" and go home... right?

What did you learn this week?

So, I did a lot of studying for the Zone Training that I will have to conduct this next change, on the 20th. Wow, I didn't consider that last change - that since we only had one Zone Training during November and no other ones, I am technically not as prepared as I should be for this next Training, especially since we didn't get the topics of discussion until last Wednesday or so. That was a bit of a run-on sentence, but I was getting a little stressed about it! I'm pretty okay with it, now - although I don't feel like an experienced Senior Zone Leader like I am called to be, I've put in a lot of prep for this and think it'll all turn out alright. Pray for me!

What did you teach this week?

It was great - we finally got to meet someone who referred themselves some time ago. He was just too busy too often, and we didn't have a car to get to him. Plus his building is always locked. But we managed to call him at the perfect time, and we set up an appointment! He already has learned a lot about the church from having online discussions with some Sister missionaries (apparently, searching "Christian Chat" on Google, yes, in English on a Finnish browser, yields the Church's "Talk to Missionaries" as the number one not-paid-advertisement option) and that's why he got interested in meeting people here. He is a Finn, but he understands English pretty well - his Bible was in English (KJV), although we didn't know that, and we asked him to read a section out loud for us, and he just translated it on the spot - that was a little confusing for me to sit there with my English KJV and the Finnish Bible and realize that he's making a more familiar translation... It was good! Glad I could recognize it! He became a new investigator, and he's already down to meet multiple times a week. Awesome!

What did you share this week?

This week, we got to share Elder Smith's final testimony with the ward. He gave a talk in church, and a lot of people were surprised that he was going home - he didn't act like it, or talk about it, except mentioning it to the return-missionaries in the bishopric. So, there were some last-minute dinner appointments scheduled by the ward - we had Moose-Burgers yesterday. As in, home-made, self-hunted Moose burgers. Awesome... We are having an American Hot-Chocolate good-bye party using the remainders of Elder Smith's Christmas Package. Lots of CAPS, because 'Murica.

What do Finns do for New Year's?

They also light off fireworks, and spend time with family. Not too different at all.

What is your apartment like in Mikkeli?

It's a good size - not too big, not too small. Okay, maybe the bathroom is too small - I would be shocked if it was larger than a 4x4 foot bathroom. The shower will hit the toilet and washing machine if the curtain isn't pulled. So small...

Has your suitcase claimed another sauna?

Nope. No sauna here, either.

What advice do you have for the youth who are preparing for their missions right now?

Woah, this is a huge question... I guess the number one thing would be - don't go out on a mission without gaining a testimony. I know that some missionaries come back and say, "I gained my testimony on my mission" or "my first convert was myself". I get a little bit of a twinge when I here that, because this work is SO important. There is no time to wait for the mission field to start applying the faith that you have into your thoughts and your actions. Gain a testimony and start your conversion before you have other people's interest in the gospel on the line. Of course you won't become perfect - you won't even become perfect out here. Shock. I don't think ANYONE becomes perfectly-converted in 100% of their thoughts, actions, and desires. But you don't have to come out on square 1 and start there. Do everything you can to learn about and be changed by what you believe in! That's my little soap-box speech... I'll step down now...

Well, this time has come to a close. I think you all are awesome -  thanks for everything! (For those of you wondering, by the way, why this came in on Monday, the P-Day date was changes temporarily due to changes. The Tuesday-P-Days will resume next week. Love you all!

Vanhin David Milligan

P.S. A portion of a message we (Mom and Dad) received from the mission president today, January 12, 2016.

It is a pretty morning in Finland.  It has snowed about 12 inches today and still snowing.  It is around -9 degrees C (16 degrees F.), a warm day for this time of year.  In Rovaniemi it is -21 (-6 F) (temperatures stay about the same night and day…the sun does not make too much of a difference in heating us up this time of year).

Many of your missionaries have been sending you pictures and comments about the cold weather that we have been having throughout Finland  over the past few weeks.  The temperatures have been around -30 C (around -16 F.) for some.  In those pictures you have seen them with frost on their eyelashes, eyebrows and other places.  It is a new experience for many of them to have this type of thing happen.  They send you these pictures because of the novelty of their experience.   I would like you to know that we monitor the weather closely each day and send updates to the missionaries as needed.  We regularly check to assure they are fine, warm and safe.  May I assure you that they are safe.  They are warm.  One of the reasons that they have that frost on their faces is because of the humidity in the air here, which collects as frost on their hair, etc.  We regularly caution them about frostbite and follow up with anyone that has concerns about this.  I understand that this all may be foreign to some of you,  but I assure you all is well. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January 5, 2016 - One Last Week

My companion is doing fantastically. Can I just say how proud I am that this mission has missionaries that die well and on their feet? He is striving his hardest to do the best he can - not for his own pride, but for the final chance he has at really cementing the changes he's experienced, and desiring for other people to learn about and experience a similar conversion in Christ. Wow. He's great. Good job, Elder Smith!

This next Friday, we will be receiving change calls. President has already informed me in an interview that I will be the Senior Zone Leader here in Mikkeli, but he hasn't told me who my new companion will be. While I am holding out for Elder Hastings from my group, I know that whoever comes will be a hard-working, diligent missionary. I'm eager to serve with and learn from them!

We had the Extended MLC this last New Year's Eve - but that's a whole Question in and of itself. With a picture, too. Other than that, we found a new investigator the day that we went traveling down to Helsinki. He's really cool, and we have another appointment with him today!

Okay, brain is exhausted from thinking too much about additional stuff to say. To the Q's!

What have you taught this week?

We got to teach this new guy, that was pretty cool. He is going through quite a few trials right now, including a surgery that may or may not take his leg along with it. Yet, he has a very strong faith in the fact that God is a loving Heavenly Father. He said that so often, he's been completely out of energy, with nothing going for him, and God will reach down and help him up a bit - never lifting him all the way up without any effort on his part, but always guiding him upwards in order to make it past the current trial. Man, this guy is cool! He really likes the things that we are teaching so far, so I hope that we can continue to see him progress as Elder Smith prepares to go home.

What have you shared this week?

I got to make some Peanut Butter Brownies for sharing, so I'm listing that. Mostly because after making them, I got called by our District Leader with an assignment to give the language thought at District Meeting over the Past Active Participle. Missionaries affectionately refer to this as the "NUT case" (on account of it making most verbs end with NUT). It's pretty funny that I had just decided to share these Peanut Butter Brownies during the District Meeting, and then got a call about sharing other kinds of NUTs!

What have you learned this week?

I learned quite a bit from the Fundamentals of Preach My Gospel. I found out that I am quite lacking on the concepts put forward in the 12 Week Training Program - so I'm studying it again, despite being out of training for some time! It's been pretty good, and I think I got some good ideas on how to instruct missionaries in the East Zone on a few of these PmG concepts that we might be having trouble with.

How was your MLC?

MLC was great! There was a lot of learning, a lot of preparing, and a lot of eating good food. I love Sister Watson's and the Office Sisters' cooking...

Another cool thing - I got reunited with 100% of my companions of 2015! They are all leaders, and we were together for the New Year! So many memories. Here's a picture of us all.

Left to right, since not all of them have name-tags visible - Elders Frey (Office/Myyrmäki), Karttunen (Office/Myyrmäki), Greciano-Raiskila (Lohja), Milligan (Me!), Smith (Mikkeli), and Saunders (Porvoo).

Did you pick up your car? What is the standard European Mission car?

Yup. We got the car. Around a 3-4 hour drive. Wow. Lots of great views of the countryside, though! The standard car is a Toyota Yaris - but the one I've got here is a new model of it, at least new comparative to what I've had my whole mission. A return missionary in Mikkeli said it might be a Hybrid - it's completely quiet while running. My companion is driving it this week, and from then on, it's my responsibility again. Woo-hoo, I know we'll get to be a lot more effective with this!

What is/are your New Year's Resolution(s)?

I have been trying to write down and be accountable for the things that I study every Personal Study. Hasn't been going so well - I've already botched a few days... and we're only at Day 5...

So, that's all! I love you all, and know that you each are helping people as you can, in whatever capacity possible! Stay safe, be cool, this is the temperature right now here in Mikkeli -

High   8°F   -13°C
Low   -4°F   -20°C

Although right now, according to the digital thermometer, it is -20 C at this moment. Not too bright out, even though it's 12:20 (noon-ish), so I can see why. Hmm. Anyways! You are all amazing.

Vanhin David Milligan