This e-mail will likely be short. Due to the fact that I feel like I just e-mailed 3 days ago. Oh, wait. That happened. Yeah.
I'm really happy that we will be having more proselyting days - we had a great day yesterday, and it was really only possible because of this schedule. Yay!
Yup, Elder Milligan is now grasping for straws in his conversation. He is also referring to himself in the third person. Sigh. Insanity lingers on the horizon.
TO THE Q'S!
What did you teach in the last three days?
Yesterday, we got to teach to a really cool person. First off, a bit of a story. The first time that I was here, Elder Frey and I were really excited to be going through the Area Book full of names and numbers of people that have said that we can meet with them. These people had met missionaries up to 3 or so years before, so there wasn't a guarantee that they still lived in the area or not. Regardless, we wanted to contact these people and ask them if they were still interested in learning more, or having missionaries come back and teach. One of the people we talked to over the phone was a Brazilian woman getting married soon. She said that she didn't have time to meet then (which, yeah, makes sense), and asked for us to try calling at some later date. The next time around with Elder Frey was the "some later date", since that was when she next answered. She answered the phone at that time quite frantically, since her husband had just been hospitalized. She asked again for us to call back later. This last week, I thought to call her again, even though we had tried since unsuccessfully to get into contact with her. I called. No answer. I thought to send a quick text to her, telling her that we called because the last thing that we had heard from her was that her husband was hospitalized and that she had asked for us to call back later. I said that I hoped all was well now (it had been about a month earlier that we had heard from her), and sent the text. The next morning, I got a phone call from this person, expressing great interest in meeting with us. She said that she hadn't had any sort of free time until now, and she really wanted to get closer to God. We said that we'd be happy to meet, and arranged a meeting at the church with our Ward Mission Leader. That lesson went very well - she speaks fantastic English, and has so many good, honest questions. We covered a good amount, and at the end, she explained why exactly she had reached out again (because before, she had just said that it was to get a closer relationship with God, not anything about why she wanted to meet with us, specifically). She said that she didn't know much about our church (besides what a South Park episode had shown), and she wanted to ask from 'the source'. It was a fun moment to tell her that we weren't the source - her Loving Heavenly Father was that source. We could teach a bit, and bear testimony about what we've learned, and even recommend ways for her to learn these things, but in the end, the way she would gain experience and learn for herself whether these things are true would be through praying to and receiving answers from her Father in Heaven. That was fun. In addition, she also said that the text that I had sent meant a lot to her. During that time when her husband was in the hospital, she felt panicked, sad, and alone. None of her friends really came to help her. Then, that much later, here comes an honest and sincere text from a near-stranger that she talked with once, hoping that all was well, and remembering that she had experienced such a thing. She was blown away by that, which was why she called back the next day. She referred to that as a 'Jesus moment', that she could interact with the missionaries in such a way that she knew God had put them in her path. Wow! It will be fun to talk to her and teach about the gospel!
What did you share in the last three days?
Hmm. We've gotten to meet with quite a few people - last Sunday, for instance, we had to literally run out of church to start attending lessons and visiting potentials at the times that we promised to come by. We were busy the whole day, and the whole day yesterday, too. We had District Meeting yesterday, though, due to Interim being this week and our District having a trainee. I brought gluten-full peanut-butter-brownies that I made the night before and the morning breakfast-time of. (I made the dough quickly the night before, and put it all into the oven the next morning. Thankfully, we don't normally use the oven in the morning, so there was no need to reserve it ahead of time. :)) I got to share those with the District and the Office staff - I will say, they were quite good!
What did you learn in the last three days?
Well, I wanted to share the metaphor-thing that I mentioned last letter. It wasn't in the last three days, though. Oh, well. I'm giving it anyway. :) So, here we go!
The last appointments that we've had, the question "do you believe in Hell" has kept popping up. I don't really know why - it's just kept on coming up at random points of lessons where we are trying to get to know the needs of our new investigators. Super odd. Anyways. Generally, the thing that I've done with my companions is use that to further the lesson appropriately - for example, show them a teaching record, explain that we talk about all of these things, and that we'd like to keep one for our meetings with them (which asking is required by Finnish law), and then say that when we get to the Plan of Salvation lesson, we can talk a bit more about it, since they will understand the foundations of our message - but in the meantime, here is a short answer - and then we take a sentence or two to address that.
I've started to think about how it is that we are going to explain it more in depth with these people. I mean, it is a question and concern of theirs, and it is part of what we teach, so I need to figure out a way to present it to specifically answer their questions. Most of these people are well-acquainted with the Bible, so a concept of it already exists in their head.
The thing that I started to think about was this - yes, we do believe in Hell. Might I say, though, that it isn't in quite the same way that other religions address it. The "hell" that everyone refers to, generally, is 'the place where bad people go', to give the simplest definition. We generally refer to that as 'Spirit Prison' in this church. Before, when I've started to explain about the main purpose of Spirit Prison to be a place for people that never got the chance to hear the gospel before to learn about it in its entirety, and that even the people that rejected the gospel in their lives would be learning about it (although maybe not accepting it still), that understandably raised red flags for some people. They would start to pull out various scriptures in the Bible, talking about how this place is "everlasting torment", with "bitter depths" and "firey pits". They would claim that this means that the only concept of Hell that can be drawn from this is a place of just that - torment, pain, and suffering. I've tried to explain how our concepts really are in harmony, and I finally got a half-usable metaphor figured out. Keep in mind, there are, of course, imperfections in the way that I'm delivering this metaphor, but I'm trying, alright? ;)
Okay. You've gone through life, sinning. Every time that you've sinned, you've put a dollop of toothpaste into your mouth. Yes, toothpaste is a cleansing agent, I get it - but let's look at it for what it does besides clean your teeth, alright? The toothpaste in your mouth numbs and dulls your tongue's ability to taste sugary, sweet things. It leaves really only the sour and bitter taste-buds intact. Now. You are given a tall, cool glass of orange juice, and told to drink it. You wouldn't want to - you just had toothpaste in your mouth. But, it's nutritious, good for you, while still being sugary and sweet, I say. No, not after I've had all of this toothpaste in my mouth, you say. To me, that nice orange juice is nothing more than a bitter, unpleasant memory that I've had toothpaste in my mouth. I would suffer through partaking of that, regardless of how good it is supposed to be.
Sounds kinda familiar, eh?
The gospel is the orange juice. We are meant to drink it and partake of it for a very long time. It's going to be a great experience for eternity. Unless we have a lot of toothpaste in our mouth that we don't want to get rid of. If we want the toothpaste of sin out, it's easy - get it out of the mouth, wash the mouth clean with the cleansing effect of the Atonement, which I might compare to clean, pure water here, and keep the process of cleansing up until the mouth is no longer numbed by the stings of the toothpaste of sin. All it takes is an honest desire to partake of something better than toothpaste. If we insist that the toothpaste was the main thing we wanted in life, and that even though we know about the orange juice now, we'd much rather stick with the imitation pleasure of toothpaste, we will remain in that state forever - not able to handle orange juice without torment, pain, and suffering on our parts.
I know that this metaphor isn't perfect, but it makes a good point. If something is spiritually numbing you, you generally won't want to experience spiritual things. If you do want to experience spiritual things, the answer isn't "power through the spiritual numbing to partake of the spiritual things anyway" - the answer is, get the sins out of your life, and become clean through the cleansing power of the Atonement. Yes, it's a process - but the gospel and the orange juice will taste so much sweeter in the end.
Have you gotten any taller in the last three days? Or since leaving on your mission?
Nope. And I don't think that I've gotten taller. That's just my opinion, though. Sticking me next to a wall is the only real way to tell.
Is geocaching a big thing in Finland?
I've heard that it is! The young men's group in a previous city went out geocaching, if I remember correctly. Sounds like it's big out here, at least. No promises, I don't really have the availability or equipment to try it out myself...
I hope that my little metaphor embedded in the e-mail was something that helped you all understand what I'm trying to teach people out here. I love this gospel, and I love the role that I have in it right now, to try to spread it to the people here in Finland. It's great to bring a message of such happiness!
I'm glad, also, that so many people have sent me little thoughts, lately. I try to answer them with at least a smiley-face - sorry if there isn't much more than that, but I really do care about the things that you all say!
Thanks, everyone, everywhere, for the good that you are doing. I know that it will help and bless you, either further down the road or right now, with increased happiness. Be safe, all!
Here are some pictures from the crazy up-to-Seinäjoki drive that I took with Elder Hoggard. He just got his camera back, which means that these pictures are long over-due!
Vanhin David Milligan