Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016 - Not Yet Sinking In...

Still can't believe that I will be on a plane in three days to go back home. Crazy.

This e-mail will be rather short. Sorry. I'm trying to get all of these things that I'm not quite thinking about prepared. It's hard to prepare for something that you don't really think is going to happen.

We went and did a lot of shopping at IKEA this week, and built a lot of stuff for the new Office Sister's apartment. That was fun, actually - we have done a pretty good job with interior design, I feel!

We had to map out and plan for transfer travels this week. I believe that I am one of the people that has prepared for this the most in our mission, due to the fact that I've been around for 4 transfer times in the Office. (I got emergency-transferred in a week early, so despite only 3 transfers here, I've experienced 4 sets of utter chaos from the Office perspective.)

The craziest thing about trying to plan for transfers was that the Office building itself got electronically shut down - none of the locks would work, and we couldn't get into the main building, let alone the Mission Office itself. I don't know why they chose to do that, but it was poor timing on their part. Since it was Saturday, there were no supervisors around, and no one could get us in anywhere. Everyone that belongs to that building couldn't get in. We went to the Temple Visiting Center instead and used computers there. Only difficult bit was that we didn't have any sort of format for the documents of travel that we wanted to make, and they only had LibreOffice on those computers, not Microsoft Office. Thankfully, though, I am well acquainted with LibreOffice (due to not having Microsoft on my computer for the majority of my first transfer), and I've done a ton of transfer documents before (as explained), so I was able to recreate a working substitute in a matter of minutes. Whew! All is well with transfer travels!

As I am typing this, the Office staff has cornered Elder Hoggard in an attempt to get him and his new companion running all sorts of tasks for them these next few weeks. Glad that I'm not a part of any of that... Oh, hey, I should mention who Elder Hoggard's new companion will be in the Office! It will be... Elder Edwards, the Elder that Elder Frey trained in Vaasa before coming here! I wonder if that had any bearing on his being transferred to here... Anyways. Should be good - the other Elders in Haaga/Vantaa have been temporarily moved out of their area (due to 8 Elders leaving now, 1 Elder coming in to be trained, and 3 Elders leaving mid-transfer for schooling), so the proselyting area is about twice as big as it was before, including the fact that they just got granted an area about 20 minutes north of us that has many members living in it. I'm excited to hear about the missionary work that takes place!

The questions are short this week, so that I can prepare appropriately for departure. Hope that no one feels that I am slighting them an entry!

For the last time, TO THE Q'S!

What did you teach this week?

We got to teach 3 member-present lessons this week, despite the insanity of everything going on in the Office as I prepare to leave! Everyone in the Office has been getting in their farewells and last requests for information/shortcuts/recipes, and there is not a down-moment in the Office. It has been great!

The lesson that I most liked teaching was to a person that has been investigating the church for a while - I interacted with them when I first came to the Office area. This person has gone through a lot of crazy stuff lately, but they are just so cool at being able to be happy regardless! We got to meet them at a dinner appointment with cool members this last week, and they really are eager to learn about the gospel. We confirmed the planned baptismal date with them, and everything is looking great for them to get baptized this next month! Blessings for continual effort on their part! :)

What did you learn this week?

We had my last Zone Training this week. I had a fun part in it - they got me to stand up and deliver a 1-minute, very-complex lesson over the importance of and tactics for Teaching for Understanding. Most people said they got lost after I gave my equivalent for 'understanding' (cognitive, comprehensive cohesion). I had a TON of fun making the speech, and it was great to give the 8-second summary afterwards and see the difference in impact. Really taught (at least to me) that the things that we say need to actually be towards the audience that we are dealing with, not just something we understand or think sounds cool. I guess that's not really a lesson learned so much as a principle re-emphasized, but regardless, I learned!

What did you share this week?

Hmm. I've mostly just been shared with this last week. Specifically in meal appointments. People keep on inviting us over for food, which is AWESOME. I am super-grateful for how much they show appreciation for us doing missionary work. Makes me really want to pay it forward back at home!

However, I did get to share my voice again with the ward. We got a text this last week asking if I would prefer to give a testimony or sing for my last Sunday. Seeing as that alternative hasn't been offered at all before to my companions homeward-bound, I assumed that they wanted me to sing, so I volunteered myself to do so. It was great - I sung "Niin suuri oot" ("How Great Thou Art") with another missionary going home, and with a great member playing at the piano. It turned out really well!

Well, that's all I've really got to say this week. Glad that I had one last time to write something, I only wish that I could have said something more profound here. I just don't have the processing-power or ability to just say something cool... Thank you, all, though, for the support that you've shown me in one way or another throughout my mission! I am going to miss Finland, but I hope that I'm taking enough of it home to keep it a constant part of my life! I will learn to sing every Disney song in Finnish!!! ;)

For one last time, be safe and happy, all! It's been a great run, and I'm gonna miss doing this! Happy to be moving on, sad to be moving on - it's a very complex set of emotions. Sigh. I'll just have to figure out a way to visit here again. I hope that all of you have some place just as important to you all! Love it to your fullest! Bye, all!

We enjoyed Hot Pot from our recent convert and his roommate!
So spicy, so delicious!

P.S. After these last few transfers, I am now a master of chopsticks. Be forewarned. ;)

Vanhin David Milligan

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12, 2016 - It's Like a Crazy Pre-Funeral Event...

I tried to think of a really interesting subject line for this e-mail. I hope that you all liked it.

To explain.

It's been a crazy week. Right before I don't need to worry about crazy Office things anymore. I don't need to explain the implications of that non-worrying. I'll go through a quick run-down of these events, instead.

We did a LOT of stuff this week. Like, we drove to Joensuu to drop items off that we couldn't mail. Like a couch, a study chair, and kitchen chairs. 10 hour round-trip drive, plus 2 hours for the meals we had. The moment that we got back, we ran over to a lesson. Unfortunately, the person was not home, even though we had talked with them periodically throughout our drive to confirm the appointment. We even made it in time, too! But, alas.

It ended up being a good thing, though, as we were called on by President Watson to help with a number of things a short time later. It was great to be able to help out, although it made us dead-tired after that day of chaos. In addition to that, I got to spend 4 consecutive nights in the Mission Home as we helped out. Crazy how much time we spent there right before this-time-that-I-don't-want-to-mention happening. It'll have been good practice, I assume. :)

Yeah, helping out with the Mission President took the majority of the week. It was great, though. We also enjoyed much of Sister Watson's cooking. I have had a lot of that this last transfer, too.

Well, although the list doesn't look that long, I promise, the events themselves took a lot of energy and created a lot of crazy. Still, I've got nothing else to talk about. TO THE Q'S!

What did you teach this week?

We weren't actually able to teach a lesson this week, but we are teaching one today! We are meeting with an investigator that we've had for a while now, and it should be a good lesson. We are hoping to talk about baptism, what exactly it is, and how they can prepare for it. I guess that sometimes, missionaries going home don't really goal for meeting with people and helping them learn about the gospel, due to the fact that they won't see the fullness of results from it. I heartily disagree with that philosophy. So long as I am set apart as a missionary, it is still my purpose to do these things. By golly, if I can't do it next week, I'm gonna try all the harder this week! :)

What did you share this week?

We have had quite a few dinner appointments (including from the Mission President and his wife) during these my last few days. (Looking at a calendar, I am very aware that I only technically have single-digits left. Yikes.) So, we have shared a few lessons and thoughts with people, but I want to include a rather funny event that we had at the Mission Home.

We were singing hymns with a couple other Elders present there, and Sister Watson was accompanying us with the piano. President Watson came out, announcing that it was time for bed, but that we had 'one more song' to sing. He then conducted us in a 4-part round of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". And filmed it for us. It was great. I better get that video from him eventually. :)

What did you learn this week?

I went a lot through one specific chapter of the Book of Mormon. It was that section where Alma speaks to his son, Shiblon. I think that my mission has mostly been like that - no giant roles to play in the mission, no grand achievements to be lauded about for years to come - just quiet, simple service with all my heart. I'm glad that I have experienced everything that I have, and hope that I helped other people at least as much as I helped myself by being out here. I really do feel like a better person!

What are Rice Krispy treats called in Finland?

Umm... Too sugary? :)

I haven't ever had it out here, except in the Mission Home. The Finns in the Office say that 'Rice Krispies' is Riisimuro (Rice cereal). They don't know a Finnish equivalent used by Finns. The Internet search conducted by them yielded 'vaahtis-riisimuropalat' (marshmallow-rice-cereal pieces). We'll go with that. But, even then, most of the Finnish recipe options showed "Rice Krispie Treats" with no Finnish wording. *shrug*

What are your plans for your penultimate P-day?

I should probably explain how this works - I have today to shop, Monday to shop (that will be my last P-Day), and then Wednesday as well. So, I have plenty of time. What are my plans, though? I have just about none. Thankfully, I have gotten a few good suggestions of Finnish things to look for, but even then, I've got no real plans... I'll look for interesting things to buy, now that I can use all of my emergency funds without guilt. :)

I need to find out if computer games bought in Finnish can be played on an American computer. Mostly because I know that there is a fair amount of digital material that is region-locked. I can only imagine that it still is region-locked. I just want something to play in Finnish, though! The Office staff just Googled that, too, and said that it should be fine, but I don't know...

Well, that's all I've got! I love that I've been able to be out here, and I love that this land has changed me so much! I love Finland, and I hope that it will remain to be a big part of my life. Be safe, all - love your country a little bit more! I translated the Star-Spangled-Banner into Finnish. It may not be perfect, but I am proud regardless. I think I mentioned that last week. Oh, well. đŸŽ¶ And I'm proud to be an American...đŸŽ¶ 😊

Hope you all are happy! Do good!

The latest District - as I stare dramatically off towards another camera... ;)

Vanhin David Milligan

P.S. My itinerary arrived...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July 5, 2016 - Happy Birthday, America!

We in the office had fun celebrating in our own small way the 4th of July. We had some food with President and Sister Watson, and then continued about doing our normal day. At the end of the day, though, we were gifted with a great surprise -

ROOT BEER!!! Wow, it has been 2 years since I've had Root Beer. This tasted delicious.

I'm still not quite certain how they got it for us... I think that Verkkokauppa in JÀtkÀsaari might sell it. Not certain. But it is a very rare sight indeed. The can is on my shelf as a trophy.

Besides the 4th of July, not much in the way of topics are coming to my head... Oh, we spent a whole day in casual clothes last Friday. That was odd. We had to help move around a ton of apartment stuff from the Office storages to the new Office Sister's apartment. There was a lot needed, and a lot to be sorted through upon arrival. But. It's mostly done now. Phew.

Yup. That's all I can think of on my own. TO THE Q'S!!!

What did you teach this week?

Unfortunately, almost all of the investigators that we have dropped us this last week. It was all very close together, so it hit the rest of the week hard. However, we do have new people hopefully becoming investigators this week - I think that this time in the Office is actually competing for the time that I've seen the most investigators in my mission, now! We've been teaching and meeting with quite a few! So that's good.

What did you learn this week?

I was studying quite a bit from the New Testament about the ministry of Jesus Christ. It was cool to see that He really cared for the progression and understanding of all that He came across. Even the times in the Bible where He is calling out different groups for disobedience to the commandments of God, He does so with the instruction of how to become better and cast sin away. Quite cool.

What did you share this week?

I was given Root Beer. I am a content Elder. I will be making Christmas-In-July Cheesecake today for District Meeting tomorrow. Because it is July. So. No more perfect of a time than now.

Are there words to Finlandia?

Yes, there are! That's why it's really weird to hear 'Be Still My Soul', now, because there are very different words attached to it. The song is about Finland rising up, and how the day has conquered the night and just begun. Quite beautiful. Means a lot to the Finnish people.

Do pumpkins grow in Finland?

I'm not certain on that one - I don't think so, though. The only time that I have ever seen pumpkins in Finland has been around the different Halloweens I've been here for. Even then, I only saw pumpkins at LIDL's, the German store... Hmm. I have no idea!

What kind of holiday most closely resembles Independence Day in Finland?

Honestly, the closest thing to how we celebrate the 4th of July in America is Finland's Vappu. That's the crazy holiday of Memorial Day/Graduation Celebration/Drink-'Til-You-Can't-Stand-Standing. Finland's Independence Day doesn't feel like ours at all. It seems very solemn, in comparison. People talk about freedom, not fireworks. The only time that I've really seen fireworks in Finland has been during the New Year celebration in Porvoo. So. Very different.

Will you have a chance to check your email on your last P-Day? (Not that we are talking about it, just need to know when you will see your messages if we need to give you any important information.)

I will be emailing next Tuesday, and then probably get to e-mail shortly on the following Monday, the week I go home. Weird that those will be the last times that I communicate with this email account...

Well, I'm all done. I've got nothing clever to really say right now - I love being out here in Finland, and I'm still struggling to find bits of the country to take back home with me!

Return Missionaries (and invested family and friends as well) - I NEED IDEAS. I need to figure out what I should take home as souvenirs/memories/miscellaneous from Finland. And I have limited time to search for things. Thanks for the ideas!

I hope that all of you will be safe and happy! Enjoy a Root Beer on my behalf. I'll toast to you with a good ol' glass of Finnish water. I'm gonna miss this stuff.

Here's a scenery picture to close us out! Bye, all!
Vanhin David Milligan

Sunday, July 3, 2016

June 28, 2016 - Hmmm...I Think I Saw The Sun This Week...

I'm trying to think what to write about. It is very odd that I once again have this Tuesday Preparation Day, mostly because I realize that I'm no longer writing about the same week that I am still in, but rather am writing about last week. I know that seems odd - I'm still covering the same quantity of days as before - but it is just harder to go and write about stuff that happened before last Sunday. Sigh.

Ah, that's right, I just remembered! Last week was Juhannus and the Summer Solstice! Otherwise none as 'that day that the sun is out for so long in Finland that it is the perfect time to party and make it so that the missionaries aren't allowed to go and proselyte'! Okay, I have a few things to write about, now. Here we go.

So. This last week started out with me reviewing a lot of train schedules. The VR Train System in Finland has changed all of the schedules. Again. So I was tasked to make sure that things are basically alright. I started thinking in my head about all of the places that could experience problems with this. Helsinki Zone got thrown out of my head almost immediately. East Zone came into mind, but it was only necessary to check on three trains for different companionships, as the Zone is quite small. The North Zone was crazy as ever, I'm still working on moving around a good schedule for that. Tampere had this innocent-feel to it, since most of the District companionships either use buses, or are in the same city as one another. As I thought a bit harder in the apartment, though, I realized that HĂ€meenlinna and Lahti might perhaps experience problems, although to my recollection, they had often-enough trains moving around, and probably wouldn't be stuck at any location for longer than an hour. I made a mental note to check later when I was in front of a computer, and went about the rest of the tasks I had. A bit later I actually got a call from Elder Hastings (MTC buddy!) in HĂ€meenlinna for supplies, and quickly asked them what the current situation is like. They confirmed what I thought, but brought up that right now, they got up surprisingly early to go to District Meeting in Lahti, due to the fact that train-time-changes had gotten their travel to occur earlier and earlier (which wasn't really the case, just because they could have gone later, but it was always either 'leave 40 minutes earlier or 50 minutes later', and they had taken matters into their own hands a couple of times. I told them that I would look at the times and try to secure better travel for them, and also reminded them that they are only to change the time that District Meeting is held if it is under the direction of the Mission President, at least in this mission. We ended the phone call on a good note, and I made a note (written, this time) to check on the times later.

When I went in to check the times, I got a bit of a surprise. At least for the next week, there were a few trains that left HÀmeenlinna in good time to arrive and walk to the church with study-time to spare. The surprising thing was this - I found out that the travel doesn't occur along the same lines that it used to. Getting to was virtually the same, with a layover in RiihimÀki in between HÀmeenlinna and Lahti. Getting back, though, required either travel to Kerava, then travel to RiihimÀki, then travel to HÀmeenlinna, or a train to Tikkurila, then over to HÀmeenlinna. To give that some perspective, they are going entirely out of their Zone on either option, the later option taking them to the other Elders in our ward. Hmm. Well, I called and informed them that they would need to watch out for that in the future. I told them I would text the schedule to them, and they said that would be fine - they were just in the middle of traveling away from District Meeting, so they could review the travel plans and call President with a proposal later. I started to create a text for them after we hung up.

A few minutes later, though, my phone rang. Upon answering it, I heard the familiar voice of Elder Hastings shout an "apua, apua!" into the phone. "Help, help!" I asked what was wrong.

"Our train home has vanished from the board!"

Jahaa. That is a problem.

Turns out that the changes that I had been viewing for the next week had actually already taken place. They were stuck in RiihimĂ€ki waiting for the next train that would leave to HĂ€meenlinna - about 2 hours or so after they arrived into it. Yeah. They had just moved the RiihimĂ€ki → HĂ€meenlinna train to depart some seven minutes earlier, right before the Lahti → RiihimĂ€ki train arrived. Sigh. All is well, though, it's figured out for the future. I just wish that I'd realized the full implications of it the moment that I first looked at the next week on the computer.

Well, I've just got questions left, here we go! TO THE Q'S!

What did you teach this week?

This last week, we had a really good lesson with a foreign person. He speaks very good Finnish, but we just found out that he doesn't really understand much. He's like a missionary that first enters into Finland - capable of speaking, no clue where to begin understanding. However, we got to meet him this last week with his son present, who speaks FANTASTIC Finnish and English, as well as the father's language, of course. We got to have a pretty good lesson where we had full understanding on his part and our part over why we were there, why he was there, what we were expecting from him, and what he should expect from us. We found him to have the purest, brightest reasons for investigating, and it was really cool to all get completely onto the same page over how we will interact while teaching him. It really was a cool experience!

What did you learn this week?

I don't have as cool of a thing to share this week as I did last week. Still, though, I have been just going through Preach My Gospel over and over, trying to get all of the scriptures in it marked up in my little set while still giving the material that it covers ample study time as well. I don't want to blindly mark things - I want to give each scripture the justice it deserves in being read in context of the lesson and surrounding questions. Kind of harder to study and mark versus just mark, but I think that it is going better that way.

What did you share this week?

This last week, as I mentioned, was Juhannus. We finally got to eat at the Roger's home! We had good-old, Oklahoma-style grilled hamburgers and sausages. Wow, it was good. We also got to meet the majority of the family, including the kids that have lived in Oklahoma for some time of their lives! That was cool. It was fun to hear Brother Rogers talk about all of the things he did in Oklahoma, and all of the tricks that he pulled while attending my High School. Maybe that's not the perfect thing to write under 'what did I share', but the other option is that I mention how I've gone and shared more paper-folding activities with the members!

Is most of Finland at sea-level? Or are you at high-altitudes?

I think that most of it is at sea-level, but I honestly don't know. I just know that Finland doesn't really have mountains. It does, but doesn't. Skiing here is mostly just cross-country, not down-hill. You all could probably find the answer to this a little more easily!

Zandi wants to know how it feels to be the same age as her, because you are 19 again, remember? (Zandi is having a quarter-life crisis over your age and her own.)

Ah - for those that haven't heard this yet, my sister stole a year of my life, thus rendering me to 19 years of age, rather than a surprisingly double-decade number. She, too, is 19 now. I feel refreshingly young, at least as long as you take into consideration that I just went through a Princess-Bride-esque time-sucking machine.

Honestly, though, it is weird that I am the age that I am (year-stolen or not), because I keep on hearing of all of these people that I knew as missionaries seriously dating, being engaged, or getting married. That's just weird to me. Good thing that I'm still a missionary, and don't have to deal with that at all.

Did you witness any musical events this week?

Hmmm... I did have a whistling-concert with the district this last week! It wasn't planned or anything, someone was just whistling a hymn and I joined in on a harmony line, followed by the rest of district coming in for the last few lines. It was a fun little ditty, I'm pretty sure it's not in the English hymnal. "Kiitos sulle, Jumalani". That was really it, though.

Well, that's really all that I've got! Hope that everyone is doing well, and that you are all finding ways to be happier each day! I recommend helping people - but then again, I'm always recommending helping people, so don't feel that you have to take my advice. In any case, be safe, all! Here's a picture to close us out.

Here is us with the Rogers in the woods - we went on a hike with them, and we got to go in casual clothes. Such a weird feeling, being in jeans again!

Vanhin David Milligan