Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 26, 2016 - Not Much to Share This Week...

Well, this has been a crazy week of working on projects, and there's really not much to talk about besides those things. So here are some of the highlights of my week!

I finished formatting and putting together a set of scripture-flashcards for the purpose of memorization in Finnish and English. There are 50, I believe, and it's divided up into 51 weeks of the year (there was a REALLY long scripture, it's, like, a page and a half long). I'm expected, right now, print out enough for the whole mission and cut them myself... That would mean roughly 50 flashcards for 100 people, plus the fact that they also want me to print out enough for all missionaries that will be coming in during the next year, which is another 70 people or so... 50 times 170 is... far too much for me to individually cut and line up and laminate. So I'm trying to convince them to let us take it to a print shop. That would be really nice.

As a side version of that project, I just finished fine-tuning a list of Finnish-to-English hymn numbers in our hymnals. Elder Karttunen made a list, but he made it exactly like the list they have tucked away in the hymnals of the MTC. That list is quite incorrect on at least 7 different points. So. I remade it all, and formatted the list to work as two different 2-sided bookmarks that can fit inside of the small quad of scriptures that I have. It looks nice - but again, I am expected to now take that and print 170 copies of 2 pages that I will then cut and laminate. I really need this job to be picked up by a printing company...

We had Zone Conference, which was well done. Except for the beginning. That was a little chaotic, because the projector that we were given didn't have an HDMI port (it was very old - the person in charge of allotting technology there is very scrupulous when it comes to helping out missionaries, don't know why...), and President's computer only had HDMI output. After a lot of scrambling on the parts of our Zone Leaders, they pulled us aside and asked for a solution. I quickly called people that might have a key to the projector room (closest person lived 40 minutes away, yikes) and Elder Frey bounced options at the Zone Leaders. After I confirmed that we had 20 minutes until the meeting and the closest person lived a round-trip 80 minutes out, Elder Frey and I resorted to pulling out of the basement a big TV that had HDMI ports. It worked like a charm, but even though the knowledge of its existence was only known by Elder Frey, I was given all of the credit, since I was the one that quickly whipped all of the cords out and got them into the right places in front of the Zone and President. I felt bad, but Elder Frey is a champ and just said that he was happy it all worked out. I am serving with one of the most Christ-like people ever - I think he's awesome!

What else? Oh, yes - I spent a little over 2,700€ these last 3 days. No biggy. More money than I've ever handled in my life. Why and how? The Office Elders, now that I'm back, have been tasked with travel tasks. Meaning that we order train tickets as needed across the mission. Might I say? Missionaries up North are quite poor planners. I say that because they had a Zone Conference that they've known about for several weeks, and all of them called the day before to order tickets. Normally, missionaries can go and order it themselves at a VR office (the train ticket office, essentially), but those have started to all close down and go online, which we can't access on a whim, or into convenience store booths, which don't support our forward-the-cost-to-the-office deal that we have as missionaries. So. The end result of frantic calls from the Vaasa District as a whole to me resulted in about 1,400€ spent on travel when, had they ordered any earlier, could have been reduced to 600€. I'm a little frustrated on that one. Also, the Assistants planned a bunch of teaching appointments and dumped the job of arranging travel to this next week's MLC on our laps after creating a schedule. (By the way - the schedule was incorrect on several points, resulting in whole new parts of a plan on Elder Frey's and my part.) The end result of this was 1,300€ spent. That's all of the leadership of the whole mission, basically, moving around all of Finland, and it was still cheaper in price than 10 emergency tickets to Oulu. Hmm. Wish people would think ahead. Because of this, I have arranged it for Elder Frey and I to take care of travel plans for the next Zone Training. Should make it so that the church pays less than 50% of what they're paying right now for travel. That'll be nice.

Oh, another one - All 3 Tampere companionships ran out of copies of the Book of Mormon to pass out. That's the Zone Leaders, the Sister-Training-Leaders, and a set of normal missionaries. We have a system (which they blatantly ignored) that I set up when I first came to the office. We initially send out 3 boxes of copies of the Book of Mormon. Missionaries have these 3 boxes (which is 60 copies), and start passing out copies. Once they hit 2 boxes left (40 copies), they call us, and we send up a box or two, maybe even 3, depending on how far away they are and how fast they are passing out copies. They get the new box(es), continue onward, and always make sure to call. This is a good system. It works. So long as missionaries call us. And they don't. Tampere is about an hour or so away. Very short distance for a package. Makes it in a day. And 3 sets of missionaries, 2 of which are top leadership out here, don't bother to call in until they have absolutely 0 copies left. Aggravating. As you can tell by my short sentences. Grr. It all worked out, though - President was going there for a conference of some kind, and we loaded up his car with many, many boxes. I wish that I could've reprimanded them a bit. It's really a weakness in our mission right now - many companionships are bad at planning, altogether. All kinds. I feel that I am quite good at planning and following through with the plans I make. But anyways. It's something that the missionaries as a whole are working on right now. So we'll leave it at that. I am glad that I'm in the office to fix this when it happens, but in a perfect environment, you don't need Elders serving in the office. It's supposed to just be a single set of Senior Missionaries manning things down here. Oh, well. I love being here, though!

Yeah, that's about it. I didn't get any questions this week, and beyond dealing with Chaos Control as normal, there wasn't too much else that I could do. This next week is expected to be calmer, since there will be less up-in-the-air chaos. We will also have MLC at the Mission Home in Helsinki/Espoo this week, so I'll get to see Elders Hyer and Greciano-Raiskila and ask them how Mikkeli is doing! Woo-hoo!

I love being a missionary. This is the absolute best thing that I could be doing right now. I just feel like a better, more solid person than I have in my life. I have a lot of time to reflect on what I'm doing, how I can be a better person so that I can help other people better, and I have a companion that can encourage me and enable me to follow through with goals I make in the effort of becoming better. I hope that the changes I am making and seeing don't stop after the mission. My biggest goal right now is to look very objectively at who I am and what I do and make myself better. I don't think that means that I'm losing who I am - rather, it's refining myself, and helping myself to be happy with who and what I am. Love this all!

Well, that's it. I'm done. Nothing more to report. You all are awesome - I'll try to be more clever next week and come up with something worthy of writing to you all! Be safe, be happy - pray about something this week that you can work on to become better. Maybe read the talk "What Lack I Yet", by Larry R. Lawrence, from the October 2015 General Conference. I love this talk!

Vanhin David Milligan

(P.S. From a sheepish mother! I did not get my email out to David in time this week. That's why there were no questions. And the poor boy did not get a letter from his mother! ~Mom)

March 19, 2016 - ..I'm BAAAaaack... :)

Well, last Monday after e-mailing, I had to call Elder Frey to order some materials, and when he answered the phone, I started the call with that subject line... Insert semi-creepy drawn-out voice here... It was good, he laughed, and welcomed me back to the office. That first day? Crazy crazy crazy. But that's the Office for you. It feels like home all over again.

Almost all of the things that I wanted to talk about pop up in the questions, especially since I haven't experienced too much since the last e-mail I sent. Cool. To the Q's!

What did you teach this week?

The only lesson that I've taught this week was to 2 of the people in Mikkeli that we've started to meet with - I met them in between the time that Elder Greciano got into MIkkeli and I left from it. That was fun! They also are receiving my emails from now on - so shout-out to the both of you! 😁 We taught the rest of the message of the Restoration, from Christ's earthly ministry to the message of the Book of Mormon, and how we in our day can know of it's truth through the Holy Ghost. It went well - I also got to share part of my testimony about how I know that God answers prayers. I love these people! They also are champions at praying - they just care so much about those around them, and about finding out if this message is true. I miss them already - but I'm still in touch! Woo-hoo! Hope I did a good job recapping the lesson, guys.

What did you share this week?

This week, I shared with Elder Frey how to make Todistus Pallos - the little origami balls that bust open to be a bunch of pieces of paper with little sentences of a testimony written inside. He really likes the idea of it - and I can't wait to share it with the members in this area! That will likely be my cop-out "share" moment for a while... Oh, well. I'll try to be more creative in the future.

What did you learn this week?

I was going through a lot of different scriptures - I finally got ahold of the big list of scriptures that we are going to memorize as a mission! Woo-hoo! Realized that I should start now - because they are planning to do one scripture per week for a year - and I don't have a year left. Gulp. It's okay - I'll work it out! I'll give a few excerpts in the future of my thoughts and contemplations from these things!

How is the Office?

Crazy-hectic-frantically-insane. Isn't it wonderful? 😊 It's a little more crazy this time around, because right now, two people that are normally here working out of the six of us are gone. Those two make a big difference. But we'll keep it up!

Are they excited to have you back?

Yes! Apparently, it's been the buzz around here for a while that I'm coming back - they missed me! Yay! It's good to be back, honestly - I just love being in a place to help so many other people on a daily basis. That's the role of every missionary, yes - but I have it in a little different capacity than most, right now. The people that I'm trying to help are coming to me asking for it!

What are your responsibilities in the Office this time?

So, we are still working a bit on Mission History, Mission Inventory, and School Presentations. At this time, we also have the additional task of ordering train tickets and bus passes. It's fun to see all of this stuff and try to help missionaries get places effectively. Beyond that, we just have the general responsibility of "Chaos Control". 😜 We deal with orders for the mission again, and we also have a ton of housing supplies from previous missionary apartments (now closed) that we are in charge of distributing out as-needed. That's fun, because we get first dibs on new stuff. Yay!

Is the bread maker there? Are you making rolls?

Ah - the bread maker never arrived. I left before it could come, and then no one else really knew how to use it, so it was never brought in here. Now I'm just making cheesecakes, brownies, and the occasional set of cookies. It's okay - they still love me for it. Although I hope to be able to convince the bread-machine owner to have it make an appearance...

Is Elder Frey the gluten-free Elder? I could get some bread machine gluten free recipes from people if you need them.

Yes, yes he is. If there are any recipes that anyone has for gluten-free desserts, please help me out, here! I'm especially having trouble coming up with a good cheesecake crust - I'm just using gluten-free cookies and butter right now. Hard as a rock, in the end. I'd like specific direction on this, rather than blind trial-and-error...

How are you feeling?

I'm feeling fine! I'm not back in the office due to any sort of health-issue - I'm just back because President asked for me to come back! He said in the phone call that he needed me here. 😊 I feel loved!

If all goes well, Zandi will get her Mission Call just after your next Transfer. Where do you think she will go?

Honestly, I'm REALLY hoping that she gets called to Finland. I'd just love to be able to tell members out here, "hey, in a few months, my sister will be doing the same thing. If you ever see a sister missionary with the Milligan name, say hi!" That would be so much fun - I feel that she would be so happy serving out here, and that she'd grow so much. I know that I've gained a lot of growth and development out here that I couldn't have gained through any other action in any other place. She'll grow no matter where she goes, and she'll help people regardless of location, but I'd love for her to be helping the same people that I'm trying to help today. Plus, then we'd both speak Finnish. How awesome would that be? 😁

Well, that's all. I love being here, and I love the contact that you all keep with me. I love you all, be safe, do work!

Vanhin David Milligan

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14, 2016 - ...WAIT! I'm Being Transferred WHERE?!!

Not too much to report on this week, besides transfers - but I'll keep up the suspense by writing a few things before reporting that.

My birthday ended well - we met with some members out here, and they helped me celebrate with cake. Ooh, that reminds me - my sister has been emailing me old pictures of me from when I was a kid, and I noticed a common occurrence from my birthday shots -  here's a sample from my first birthday.

Betty Crocker - Super Moist cake mix. Well. I was walking through a LIDL's out here, found an American-Imported section that they are displaying for a while. Guess what I got for my birthday?

I don't think that this is too likely to find all the way out here, especially since despite a little sticker on the back with the names of the ingredients in Finnish, this box only has American on it. Not English. American. Very different.

We also got to meet with the majority of all of the Mikkeli members this week. Good thing, too, because of transfers. That's coming up soon.

We also set 2 baptismal dates this week with different people! That was great to finally see some people have that be the focus and orientation out of our meeting with them. I hope that this area and its missionaries continue finding people that are prepared and ready to hear the gospel and act upon it!

Well, let's end the suspense and mystery here - to the Q's!

Were you transferred? Where? With who?

Various people have wished me luck with a new companion and/or new area. Technically, that's not the right thing to wish for, when it comes to the "new" side of things.

Am I being moved? Yes.

Do I have a different companion? Yes.

Are either of them new? No.

As much as I would love to report something crazily awesome, like, "I'm going back to Tampere ZL apartment (where I was trained) with Elder Greciano-Raiskila (with whom I've served), round 3 on both sets", there's something just as crazy happening.

I'm going back to the Office. With Elder Frey. WOO-HOO!!! I didn't even know that it was going to be an option! I was hoping for it, but didn't actually have faith that it could happen. But it did. And, in fact, my current companion, Elder Hyer, is getting... Elder Greciano-Raiskila as his new companion! YAY!!! I'm leaving this area in two sets of very capable hands. Love it.

When will you get to your new area? Or when will your new companion arrive? Or maybe nothing is changing, and these are silly questions?!

I will be leaving this Tuesday, and I will get to welcome Elder Greciano-Raiskila to this new area, too! He gets here at basically 13, and then I leave at 15:20. I will arrive in my new area at around 18:11 - 3 hours of travel is expected from Mikkeli to Helsinki.

Have you met Elder Jensen? He is the nephew of one of our ward members. He is serving in Jyväskylä. Someone said that is in your Zone?

I remember talking with his relatives, and someone also sending me a 19th-Birthday card that explained that Elder Jensen was his cousin. I haven't really met the man. Perhaps he is serving in Jyväskylä, but that isn't part of this Zone - we've got Kuopio, Joensuu, Savonlinna, Lappeenranta, Kotka, Kouvola, and, of course, Mikkeli. Jyväskylä is surprisingly close to us, but no. That's part of Tampere Zone.

What did you do for your birthday/P-day last week?

Ah - I already explained that. Harmi. See above. And I'll try to read the questions a little more in depth next time.

What did you teach this week?

We taught the Restoration twice to the same investigator this week - we felt it would be good for him to receive it once for information and beginning to think and pray about it, and again for new questions and teaching additional commandments. It went well - he completely understands our being there and what it is that we want to help him work towards - a testimony of Jesus Christ, and that His church is found in its fullness on the earth in these the latter days. He agreed to working towards a baptismal date after that second lesson! Yay! The Elders here are going to have such a good time teaching him - I hope to also stay in good contact with him as I go back to America.

What did you learn this week?

This week, I was trying to focus a lot on the orange boxes of Preach My Gospel. For those of you who don't have that book handy, the orange boxes generally give you things to work on in Personal Study, Companionship Study, or both. It works well for orienting yourself towards having a variety of study topics that orient you towards being a better missionary, not just getting new information and letting it sit untouched, non-applicable. Sometimes when reading the Old Testament, that happens... I don't really need to know the dimensions of Jerusalem, thank you, nor the amount of precious metal and gems around it. I'd rather learn about how Christ's ministry in that area displayed the different attributes he showed towards others, and how by following His example I can start to develop similar Christlike attributes. That sounds a little more effective than a blueprint for the city.

What did you share this week?

I shared a TON of "Todistus Pallo"s with the families that we got to visit this last week. I'm pretty sure I talked about this earlier, so I'll just give a quick explanation - "Testimony Ball"s. You take 12 different squares, fold them into each other, and it makes a ball. Hit the ball, the ball explodes into those 12 different pieces. I use this lesson to describe how our testimonies aren't just 1 statement, but rather a whole collection of beliefs and lessons learned over time. On each of the 12 pieces, I write different things, like, "I know that I have a Loving Heavenly Father" or "Families can be together forever". Little things like that, that mean a lot to me. Then, I invite the family to make their own Todistus Pallo using blank pieces that I have. After they've all written a few things, I make the ball, and it becomes a little mantle piece for them. Now that I know I'm leaving, I've carefully instructed Elder Hyer on how to form these things. He's got it down now - so if the family breaks the ball, he's still around to fix it! Yay for dexterity!

What is your favorite Finnish candy?

Has to be the chocolate. Almost nothing else, I feel, is all that enjoyable. Salmiakki is bearable, now, but still not a favorite. Gummies will always be gummies, and I generally don't like those. Chocolate, I normally don't like, but I take exception to Finnish chocolate, especially Bruneberg (Porvoo chocolate!). Yum. I did try a new candy-drink, though, that a Finnish family offered to us. You know how Finns think that Root Beer tastes like their cough syrup? Yeah, I found the reverse of that - they think it's candy-drink, I think it tastes EXACTLY like the red cough syrups in America. Blech.

Well, that's all! Expect my e-mails from here on out to get even shorter, honestly - the thing that I can promise to be coming is lots of chaos in the Office! I love it, though! Yay!

Be safe, all, and do a good deed today! I'll likely be e-mailing again on Saturday - perks of Office P-Days. Saturdays. Feels like it's really a weekend.

Vanhin David Milligan

March 8, 2014 - No Longer A Teenager

Wow. I'm feeling a little weird, now. This has been a long time coming - 20 years, in fact - but you don't really expect it until it's actually happening. I'm 20 years old today. Yoinks. I'm old.

So. I'm getting short on memory, now that I'm aging. Thankfully I've got these little post-it notes here to spark what's happened this week.

I got to go on splits in Kotka, like I mentioned I would be doing shortly last week. It was fun - got to talk with Elder Hackney about things going on in Virginia, got to go to a District Meeting in Kouvola, got stuck in Kouvola due to cancelled trains up until about 2 o'clock, had the rest of exchanges with Elder Wilson, my old MTC companion! Memories... I hear those get more plentiful in later years... yikes.

Change calls are coming this Friday. As such, my e-mail session may instead be conducted on Monday, if either of us are leaving Mikkeli. Which is bound to happen - Zone Leaders don't generally stick around together. But, I would love to stay with Elder Hyer, still! I've got so many stories I still need to tell!

Well, the other things I want to say get encompassed by the questions - surprisingly enough, regarding some of my crazier moments from this last week! Still - to the Q's!

What did you learn this week?

This week, I learned that agency really is a gift and a priviledge. I learned this specifically by it being used against me by nearly all of our potential investigators... This is a little disheartening of a section, but I want to be honest about what I'm experiencing out here, sometimes. The following is an excerpt from my recent letter to President.

I made reference to how this last week was both successful and disappointing, and the reasoning goes something like this. I had worked very hard in following up with people from the Area Book all the beginning of this week, despite being out of area. Through formers and potentials, I managed to bring up those 5 solid lesson times with 6 different potential investigators up to 12 solid lesson times with minimum 10 different potential investigators, if you don't assume that the whole families would begin investigating as the head of the house does so as well. Even though we only had about 2 full days of proselyting, it was great to see all fit together as I made calls on trains and during meals with the Elders we were on exchanges with.
However. Of those 12 solid lessons and 3 semi-solid lessons (with people that couldn't promise they'd be home then, but to come try anyways), only 3 were successfully met. 8 of them cancelled same day, 1 hour maximum before the appointment, despite contact the previous day being in the affirmative still. A few of the people didn't cancel, though - they just out-right didn't show up. What was supposed to be one of our most against-the-odds successful weeks collapsed under other people's agency in a staggering amount.
That's not to say there wasn't success - we did have 2 of the 3 lessons result in new investigators, for a total of 3 new investigators last week that my companion and I are really excited to teach, and they are really excited to learn, too. So there was success! It was just a bit buried. We aren't disheartened, but despite near-perfect planning on our parts to meet the needs of these people, everything fell through.

Yeah. But having seen how eager those 3 people are to learn and act upon the gospel, along with a new investigator that we found yesterday with which we have 2 upcoming lessons planned for this week, I am seeing it more on the side of correctly using one's agency to take the fullness of the blessings of God. If one is truly, without hidden agendas, searching for truth, and asking God to help them find it, not holding back in their honest questioning, they will lay hold upon the fullness of the gospel and blessings from God. As in Malachi, the windows of heaven will open up, and blessings will pour down - if we just act with realness of intention.

What did you teach this week?

Two of the new investigators we got are a young Finnish couple that live very close to us! They are a great group - they are the ones that have church members as some of their best friends, and those members have gone on missions, too! I hope I told that story earlier, it's really cool. Anyways, they are very eager and willing to learn about the gospel, and they are sincerely nice in every action. It's a great thing to meet with them and teach. So. This last week, we taught them in the church with a member, and it went great! We started teaching them that God is a loving Heavenly Father, and that families are an important thing that He has provided for our growth, learning, development, and understanding in life. Then we talked a bit about prophets, since they had a few questions about that. We ended with teaching them how to pray - the only form of prayer that they had offered before was recited. They were intrigued by the concept of a personal prayer, a conversation with God, if you will. They prayed, and it was great. They loved it - and they're excited to keep learning! I love seeing people love the gospel this much. It really makes me proud to say I'm a missionary.

What did you share this week?

Well, I can't think of anything that I shared, but this last District Meeting we are going to have, I am bringing 2 Cheesecakes that I will make today (Christmas Cheesecake, since I potentially found a source of Glögi, and Mango-Strawberry) and my companion is bringing Cookies&Cream-Fudge. It tastes amazing - I'm glad he experimented with the recipe we found!

What board games do people play in Finland?

Afrikan Tähti. And Carcassone, if that's how you spell it... Afrikan Tähti is a fun, simple little game about trying to locate this diamond on a map and bringing it back to "base". Every time I've played it, I've won so far - so I'm probably not gonna play it again! But I might buy it - it's a fun little game. Carcassone was that semi-complex game-of-the-year some time back. Haven't played it all the way through, yet. Too long to try to play as a missionary.

What is a new talent you have gained on your mission?

Hmm, the first thought I have is Mandolin-playing, but it's not a normal mandolin - a normal one is tuned exactly like a violin, and my mandolin has too brittle of strings to re-tune to anything but my own personal tuning.

How about speaking Finnish? :) Kidding, I don't have that talent, either... Sigh. I'll try to get back to this one later... maybe, like, next-week later...

What is something fun that happened this week?

Well, we tried to get to one of those lessons that dropped us, and we'd never been to the place before. It turned out that his house is far-off west-Mikkeli, down some "sketchy-dirt-roads", as I have so coined with Elder Greciano. I promised the both of us back in Lohja that I would avoid, if at all possible, ever embarking down any of them again. I had to break that promise, and we got very lost down these things. Sigh... and then while trying to get directions 15 minutes before the lesson, he cancelled... that was a sad bit. BUT! It was fun to try to navigate the un-navigatable, since the GPS doesn't correctly show any roads there. There was a lot of getting out of the car, walking a bit, scratching our heads, shrugging, and powering through snowdrifts to the other side. I wish I had more pictures of that...

What did you learn from your companion this week?

My companion was sharing a lot of ways that he's progressed in the mission this last week. He kinda posed it as a comparison - who he was before, who he is now. He has come a long way, he says, and I believe it! I started to try to do the same as he shared specific ways of progression - just looking at my thought process and compared to before, looking at my first reactions to things people do that are out of my control, looking at how I myself find happiness, now - and I feel that was very insightful! Before, I used to have to suck myself into another world to find happiness - play a game, read a book, read a whole series of books, stuff like that. I used to have to throw myself into a place where my trials and challenges aren't so apparent, and don't even seem to exist. Now, whenever I'm unhappy, the best thing to do is go out and try to find someone to help. I think that's a lot more porductive of a way to find happiness! Plus, I don't dis-illusion myself by assuming that my reading or playing video games has accomplished anything more than temporary escape. I can approach my problems, fix them (or change my attitude about them), and then fully enjoy whatever I choose to do - which in the future, will still be playing games and reading books. It's a different order to happiness, putting a lasting one first. (How's that for English-wordplay and awesome motto - put a lasting happiness first!) I feel that thinking about this was something that was inspired by my companion, so I'm addressing that realization to him!

Have you been avoiding frostbite?

Yep. I have also been trying to avoid sarcasm, especially in the form of lying in your answer and waiting for the reaction of the other people to generate "humor" (e.i. hurt feelings as you mock their misunderstanding. But I digress). I say that, because the first thought I had was to type in, "I tried for a while, but I am now typing this message using my last 7 toes. Don't ask about my hands at all, and I apologize for the spelling errors." Funny, but really not. I do apologize for spelling errors, though - this is a Finnish-coded computer, and nothing is being spell-checked for me, nor can I get correct spelling to things I know MUST be wrong. So, I apologize without that brand of sarcasm attached.

Do dogs chase missionaries in Finland?

I can't believe this is a question this week of all weeks, seeing as I wrote down that I wanted to mention this event! It's really short, but still. The answer is generally "no". There are people that walk their dogs, and occasionally the dogs are not fond of us, but I haven't been chased down by one yet. There was a run-in, though, this last week. We contacted this person in a building, while they were bringing their dog out for a walk. They expressed little interest, but bade us farwell. My companion had been petting the dog for a bit of the conversation, and nothing seemed wrong about it - didn't get mad or anything. Then we leave the apartment about 5 minutes later, and they are walking back inside. As I hold the door open for them, the dog lunges at me, and bites my knee. I jerk back a little bit, just enough to get my skin out from his bite, but not so much to rip my suit pants (my NICE suit pants, too, since we'd just been at church). After some yelling of "Irti! Irti!" by the owners and a couple jerks on his leash, he released - leaving two or three holes in my pants. Sigh. They walked inside with no apology. Hmph. Such is the missionary life world-wide, I guess.

What is your favorite time of day?

Sunrise or Sunset. Generally during winter we get the two confused. Either way, we get good pictures!

What scripture has come to have a greater meaning in your life this past week (or month)?

I guess that I've really like different parts of 2nd Nephi 31 lately. Typical, I know - but I just really like being able to use that chapter to see why we have the emphasis we do, and why we teach what we teach. I like verse 20, especially, right now.

 20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

Good way to keep myself oriented in doing missionary work.

Well, time to wrap up. I love you all - I hope that this day is a special day for each of you. Have a small little treat on my behalf! Happy Birthday to me! Be safe, blow out all the candles before wax hits the cake, and do some little act of good today, too - that's a good enough present to pass on, I think!

P.S. Not a lot of cold weather, but surely a lot of snow. Pray it doesn't just become slushy.

Vanhin David Milligan

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

March 1, 2016 - Mikkeli Just Went Frozen

Why is that the title? We just got some really awesome ice sculptures here in the Kirkkopuisto, right outside our window. They hired some guys from Russia to come and make them, and it was the 1st Annual Ice Festival of Mikkeli. So cool - we're part of history! They really are amazing statues - as the festival was going on into the night outside our window, they got a brass band to come and play music. They did really well - lots of fun to hear! We got some pictures of the sculptures, I'll attach my 2 favorites.

Kalakello - Fish-Clock. Quite literal. Quite cool. No pun intended on its state of frozen expression... Okay, I meant a pun on that one.

Tuulensielu - Spirit of the Wind. Quite beautiful. I wish you could see it from all angles - it's just so pretty!

We also got to see a rally-car race start here in Mikkeli. My companion was very, VERY excited for that. He pointed out a lot of cool cars as they joined the line-up. I am proud to say that I've learned more about cars from this event. I have no pictures, though, because neither of us thought to bring our cameras outside proselyting at that time. Whoops. Oh, well.

There were a few other cool things, but I'll address them in the questions! ...To the Q's!

What did you teach this week?

I'm cheating a bit on this one, but it was a great teaching opportunity, regardless! I got to give a talk in church this Sunday, and as the week progressed with us using "hey, I'm giving a talk in church, would you like to come watch" to invite potential investigators and less-active members to sacrament meeting, the crowd of people saying "I'll be there" got bigger and bigger, until I was really worrying about my talk! I planned it well, though, and chose to mostly speak about the importance of Heavenly Father sending a Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world, and how we can receive blessings in our lives. It actually went really well - even if only 2 of the invited people ended up showing up. BUT! One of those two was a really awesome potential investigator who has friends that are church members in Kemi. He and his girlfriend are awesome people - they are really excited to have us over to teach about the gospel!

What did you share this week?

Hmm, what did I share... Okay, cheating again - switching the question a bit! This last week was Zone Training, MLC, and a day of exchanges yesterday, followed by a day of exchanges tomorrow. Am I fretting out about time a bit? Yes. But that's why what's gonna be talked about in the next section is so awesome, seeing as we have only something like 2 full days in our area this current week. But enough foreshadowing - I shared and partook in a great spiritual message yesterday with a member family in Joensuu, at the Senior Missionaries' place during Family Home Evening. That was a lot of fun, especially because it was the same family that I got to have Family Home Evening with the last time I came! We had smoked salmon, then - possibly the best Dinner Appointment of my life. Yum. Well, this FHE was about agency, the freedom of choice (but not consequence). I got to share a cool little thought about how if we didn't have choice, we wouldn't be responsible for, nor grow from, our actions in life. That was a fun little lesson to share.

What did you learn this week?

This week, I was thinking back on something that President said in an interview with me about how missionaries could best utilize their time. He said that often, we really do have more time to do things for our area than we think we do - for example, while traveling to Helsinki for conferences of one kind or another, or while enjoying one of the breaks in a meeting, we could take the opportunity to try to arrange a meeting with a potential or former investigator. We decided to try really hard at using our time a little bit better, and this week, we have what looks like 5 new investigators planned, so long as the lessons go through and they want to keep on meeting! That's a big leap from what we've been getting lately, and I accredit it to a wiser use of time, and most definitely following the Spirit on a few calls to formers. I won't go into details, but we called a former investigator at exactly the right time for him. I'm so glad that blessings like that happen - it's not only for our testimony, it's for their comfort and happiness, too.

What is a stereotypical trait of Finns? (they are all really happy, energetic, healthy?)

QUIET. They are all quiet. Americans are very, VERY loud, especially when compared to Finns. I think if you ever hear a Finn talking from across the street, they're drunk. That's the loudest a Finn will ever get, though, and only in that situation. But, they are almost all also healthier and more able to engage in physical activity. Something about riding bikes everywhere as a priority to cars. They're an awesome people - I really love them!

How many snowballs have you thrown while on your mission?

... None that haven't been directed back at someone who struck first... 😜 I've thrown a few, but always in post-self-defense. Is that even a viable argument - "post-self-defense"? I'm taking it and running with it, at least...

Have you made any snow angels lately?

Nope, I don't want to have my pants wet for the rest of the day. I've got too much walking around to do to worry about hypothermia and pneumonia kicking in, too! But, if I have a good chance, I'll try it right before we go inside. I'll do it in the backyard, so I can then take a picture from the 4th-floor kitchen looking down at it.

Does the tread on the bottom of your boots make interesting patterns in the snow?

I guess they do, yeah - it's very jigsaw-puzzle looking. When I wear my shoes, though, there's no tread on those - I'm waiting until the slush isn't a viable concern before I break out my last and new shoes.

Do you still like snow?

YES. And I will continue to like it throughout the rest of my life. So long as no one puts it down my coat. Not funny.

Are there any hymns you prefer in Finnish? Any that seem to convey gospel truths more powerfully to the soul, or that have a slightly different connotation that means more to you?

"Lead Kindly Light", or "Sä Johdat Mua". I really like that one. Maybe it's just that before, I've always looked at the English version very abstractly - okay, there's a light leading me, cool. But in Finnish, there are two big things I really like about it - first, that the translation is essentially, "You Lead Me". Second, the verses always end with, "Vain Askel Kerrallan" (Which I most undoubtedly spelled wrong in some way). "Just One Step at a Time". It makes it seem like I am taking constant, directed steps. Never am I quite finished with the journey, and never do I hit a point where I am "done" traveling. Even if I feel the journey is at an end - through stubbornness, pride, lack of faith, whatever - there's always Jesus Christ, encouraging me to take it, surely, just one step at a time. Wow. I love that. And "I Need Thee Every Hour", "Sua Tarvitsen Mä Aina", is just as good in Finnish as English.

Well, that's all! I love you all, I hope all is well and everyone is safe. Thanks for all you all do!

Oh - and my birthday is next Tuesday. Having a P-Day Birthday - couldn't ask for much better. 😁🎉🎆

Vanhin David Milligan