Monday, March 14, 2016

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

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