Week 3. Lead, Kindly Light

Sunday September 8, 2013

Today, with the entire MTC Relief Society (all the sister missionaries) I watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast, Music and the Spoken Word.  The Choir first sang the hymn Saints Bound for Glory. Then they sang Lead, Kindly Light, one of my long-time favorite hymns.  It is very dear to my heart.

Lead, Kindly Light

Lead, kindly light, amid th’ encircling gloom.

The night is dark, and I am far from home.  Lead thou me on.

Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see the distant scene.

One step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now, lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears pride ruled my will.
Remember not past years.
So long thy power hath blessed me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, or crag and torrent, ’till the night is gone.
And with the morn, those angel faces smile which I have loved long since,
And lost awhile.
The whole hymn is about coming closer to God and Jesus Christ and aligning our will with theirs; about how trusting in what They know is best is what will ultimately lead to happiness. I believe that with all my heart.

After they sang that beautiful hymn, there was an organ solo: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, another dear favorite. It seemed like the program was planned for me. It was all music that comforted me and was exactly what I needed to hear. A slide show played during Jesu, pictures of cathedrals and temples everywhere, and it made me ache to travel and see all of them!

The Spoken Word message that has stuck with me is this:

Happiness is not something that just comes to you. It is a choice. While pain and heartache are inevitable, misery is optional. Happiness is not bound by our circumstances, it is activated by our choices. I completely believe that.

Friday September 13th, 2013

My time is short, but I have so much to say. So much has happened! My companions and I started Visitors’ Center Training this last Wednesday. It’s been fantastic, challenging, inspiring, and exhausting! On Wednesday morning we traveled to Salt Lake to Temple Square and took a “tour” with some of the sister missionaries there. That was an incredible experience! It made me so excited for what I will get to be doing in just a few days! I am so happy to be able to serve in a Visitors’ Center. And, for those of you who don’t know, I have always wanted to serve on Temple Square, so having the opportunity to be there, even for a few hours, was/is so great! ESPECIALLY since this Saturday, TOMORROW (oh my goodness, where did the time go?), we are going back to Temple Square, going on splits with the sisters there (we’ll each be paired up with a sister that is already serving there and become her temporary companion).  We will actually give tours and teach! I’m simultaneously terrified and excited!

2013.9.14 Temple Square

So, my new class is all Visitors Center sisters. That’s who will be going to Temple Square with me. All 7 of us are going… to St. George!! Let me see if I can remember their names:

Sister Schaefer (mit umlaut!) is from Germany, and she will be speaking German. I try out the phrases I still remember with her and she is very patient with me. She is also an only child! So, we have bonded over that. I already love her so much!

Sister Phagwah is from Guyana, South America. She is so sweet! I haven’t gotten to know her very well, but every time she speaks in class it is something powerful and I am so grateful!

Sister Pene is from Samoa. She is a convert to the church and has the strongest testimony. She has a strong belief in and love for her Savior and is such an inspiration to me. And I love her smile!

Sister Shoemaker is from Pennsylvania!!! She’s in the York Stake and actually knows the Loski family!  Who knew?  We were in the same stake for three years and never met and now we’re serving a mission together! She is my “new companion.” For class, I am temporarily on a “transfer” and so she and I are companions. It’s all a little bit complicated, but it’s so wonderful. I love her. I have already learned so much from her and have grown in the gospel and in my ability to teach. I am so grateful for her!

My new part-time companion, Sister Shoemaker, from York, PA

The other three you already know: me (Sister Hansen), and my two original companions: Sister Liu and Sister Bolander.

Class is so much fun. We are already learning about the on-line missionary work that is happening throughout the world. We are working through mormon.org to answer chats and phone calls and basically, already be doing real missionary work! It’s so stressful but it’s so wonderful! So hey! If you’re ever on mormon.org and click the “chat with us” link, you might be talking to me! Who knows! haha I’ll write more about that next week, but suffice it to say, it is so awesome.

So, the Elders in my district are all assigned to go to Australia. HOWEVER, visas have been so hard to get!  They all had to stay an extra week. A lot of them were bummed, but they have finally received their reassignments. Two of them are going to Tallahassee, Florida, one is heading to the Montana Billings mission, one is headed to the Texas Dallas mission, and one is going to California San Jose. The last two haven’t heard anything yet! I can imagine how stressful that is but I know it’s all the the Lord’s hands.

Our District  2013.9.6 Provo MTC

Our District 2013.9.6 Provo MTC

So, I have to end this now. Time is so precious here and I have running out of time to write. But let me sum it up and say that I know that a mission is hard, but it is the best thing. The scripture verse that helped me figure out whether or not I was even going to serve, and when was Doctrine & Covenants 15:6. I’d try to quote it but I’m afraid to ruin it, so I would encourage you to look it up! But it mentions how crying repentance is the thing of most worth. That’s a big part of what I’m doing. Crying repentance. But please, don’t think that repentance is the scary, pounding on a pulpet, lightning and fire and brimstone chastisement that it always seems to mean to people. Repentance is nothing more than change. Just change. To repent is to change your behavior, and your desires. To desire to come closer to God and to become better. That’s universal. To cry repentance is to love. Missionary work is love. And it’s not about convincing people to believe what we believe. It’s about sharing what means the world to us, more than the world, and saying: This is the most important thing in my life. It means more than anything to me, and I’d invite you to learn about it and see what it could mean to you.

That’s not an easy thing to do. Fear of giving offense or invading someone’s privacy is a huge part. But it can’t be. We, as missionaries, are representatives of Jesus Christ. Our entire purpose is to extend the invitation that He extends to EVERYONE. To come unto Him. To learn of Him, to take His yoke upon us, and be comforted, relieved, etc. It’s the most beautiful message in the world.

So, here’s an invitation for all of you. Check out mormon.org. If you have questions, ask! MISSIONARIES LOVE QUESTIONS! And if you don’t already have a mormon.org profile, make one! Share what you know and love.

Also, don’t forget to do scripture study with your families! There is power in scripture study and who wouldn’t want power in their family. The family that reads/studies/prays/goes to church together stays together. I love you all so much and would love to hear from you!!

Much love,
Sister Hansen

Week 2. I left the MTC. Twice.

Sunday, September 1:

So, an unusual and interesting thing happened today. I left the Missionary Training Center. Twice.

The first time, we walked as a district to the temple, just to enjoy being there,
2013.9.6.ProvoTempleGroup.Mixed.DSCN0370take pictures, and have a change of scenery. That was a lot of fun, although it was pretty hot and our quick pace
encouraged the human
biological reaction of perspiring. Heh. 🙂
The second time… was an adventure. To say the very least. An adventure and a half. My companion, Sister Bolander, got really sick around dinner time. The medical center is closed on Sundays here at the MTC, so we had to go to the front desk for emergency medical treatment. They had her talk to an on-call doctor who ended up recommending that she be sent to InstaCare. Now, folks, comes the exciting part. InstaCare… wait for it… is not located within the boundaries of the MTC. No, sir. It is down the street, past campus, down another street, and farther away from the MTC than I ever thought I’d be so soon.

We took a shuttle from the front entrance to the doctor’s office and tried not to lose our composure. We didn’t know what was wrong with Sister Bolander and we were all worried that it was contagious, although I was trying not to worry/think/talk about that and add more stress to the situation. We got there and she went in and Sister Liu and I waited in the sitting area. All of a sudden everything felt extra real and really overwhelming.

Sister Liu, in that moment, did what I would have probably done in her position.

She asked me how I was doing. All I had to do was say, ” Um…”  and I felt everything bubble up inside and come out as tears. And I told her. Honestly. I was tired. I was hungry (it was Fast Sunday, as well), I was really missing home. And then I told her that I was afraid of something that felt silly but was really important to me: the possibility that my almost 13 year old dog might pass away before I got home. I expressed that I was worried I wouldn’t be a good missionary because I felt inadequate in just about every way possible, especially because I felt like I didn’t know enough or even knew how to learn what I need to know. Just… everything. And the worry that I had about Sister Bolander being ill, and about stress in general. Not a foreign concept for any missionary, or any human being, for that matter.

But she just reassured me that I knew more than I think and that I’ve been an example to her. I felt better, hearing that, but what honestly really pulled me out of worry two missionary experiences waiting to happen right there in the waiting room of that little doctor’s office in Provo, UT.

One was a grandmother waiting while her son-in-law took her two sweet little granddaughters to see the doctor about a swollen ankle-bug bite. Not fun. The oldest daughter had been stung, they thought, and her ankle was swelling up. But she was such a good sport! Really friendly and smiling and you would never think that her ankle was bothering her. I took the opportunity to strike up a conversation and just ask what they’re up to. It turned out the grandmother was in town for the birth of a grandson (brother to the swollen-ankle champion), and it was just really nice to talk to her. I felt a lot like you, Mom. Maybe that’s what I’ll think of always when I’m trying to be an open, opportunity-taking missionary. Just be like Mom.

The other was a young expectant mother. She was really sweet. Her name is Aubrey and she wants to name the baby Aiden. She was really friendly to us and we talked for a little bit about pregnancy and doctors and things like that. Surface stuff. But it was good just to talk to her. Everyone has a story that matters. Everyone has a potential relationship with God, and He loves all of them. That’s why, as missionaries, it’s our job not to make judgements on who needs to hear the gospel or not. EVERYONE needs to hear it. It’s our job to make that possible.

Sister Bolander finally came out and reported that it was just a virus. We had a prescription to pick up and she needed rest. Pretty standard.

Tuesday, September 3:
Long story short, Sister Bolander was fine and got the prescription from RiteAid. We also got the tour of that tiny portion of Provo. But honestly, after being ONLY on the small campus of the MTC, for what has felt like weeks instead of just days, it was like we were seeing the world!  We missed more of the evening’s activities, but we were able to come back and have a productive planning session and companionship inventory.

So much has happened since then. It is so much that I can hardly remember any of it. But one main thing is that I’ve sort of noticed a theme here at the MTC. You know how in Boise there’s the joke that, “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait a few hours, and maybe you will?” Especially in the winter? Well, in the MTC, if you don’t like your emotional status (or even if you do), just wait a few hours – it’ll turn right around. Almost guaranteed. Whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable, prepare for table-turning in the near future.

That’s something that has been specifically hard. I feel like I experience some kind of artificial bi-polar reaction to every day. One moment I’m at what feels like the lowest point possible, and the next I’m lifted and encouraged by the Spirit. Then I’m straight back to a “rock-bottom.” It’s become clear that that’s something I’ll need to learn to manage or I’ll be in trouble. The only question is how. We had a stress-management class a few days ago and talked about meditation, as well as prayer, and just working hard at making the Spirit one of your BEST FRIENDS. It’s called the comforter for a reason. It’s with you the most when you need the most comfort and guidance, and it’s a little quieter when you’re comfortable and on the right track. That’s a really beautiful thing. I know that I’ve needed comfort on a daily if not hourly basis while here at the MTC, so I am so grateful for that truth. And I do know it is true.

Provo MTC Companions, 9/2013

Friday, September 6:
 Another thing that has been a struggle is my companionship. With three Sisters, we have the challenge of coordinating three mind-sets, agendas, and backgrounds. At times, that’s been really difficult. We all have a sincere desire to do what is right and preach the gospel, but sometimes people’s differences create challenges. Challenges, however, are opportunities to grow, disguised as work. With these two amazing Sisters that I have the privilege to work with, live with, teach with, and grow with, I have learned so much. I have gained a strong testimony of companionship inventory. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s when you have the opportunity to just basically work things out. Just sit down and talk with your companion about what is going well in teaching, in your relationship, in your study together, etc., and what needs to improve. It can be so positive. Just last night, we had a beautiful conversation and grew to love each other so much, just by being honest with each other about everything and expressing a sincere desire to be supportive and have the same goals… growing and preparing to teach and help others.

We’ve had some really great experiences. Just the other day, we had the most wonderful opportunity to meet and teach a man named Junichi Maeda. He’s from… JAPAN! The people we teach are just volunteers that come to the MTC to allow the missionaries to practice meeting and teaching. Some are members who are playing the role of someone who is investigating the gospel, or just interested.  Some are converts to the church who are just re-living, essentially, their conversion story, and some are legitimately investigators. That was both exciting and scary. It was so cool to be meeting him. The MTC is placing a lot of faith in our ability to teach by and with the Spirit by allowing us to teach when we are so new to all of this.

But he’s from Japan and we talked about a lot of things, but specifically, we talked about temples and family traditions. I mentioned to him that my mother had served a mission in Japan and he was so interested to hear about that. We talked about music and families, and so many things and he invited us to come visit him when we get off our missions so he could make us traditional Japanese food. He then asked us to sing a hymn. I can’t describe the feeling that experience gave us. The feeling in that room was unbelievable. The Spirit was so strong and it was confirmed to me, again, how powerful music is. We sang “I Need Thee Every Hour” and harmonized and just basked in the beautiful feeling that filled the room: the beautiful peace that only comes from the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. We left and he gave us drops of peppermint essential oils that helped us be able to breathe easier.

Anyway, I have to go now, but I wanted to report that everything is wonderful. Everything is going well.  I’m great, and I am loving this work.

The other night, we walked to and from a devotional in the Marriot Center and seeing the MASSES of missionaries was so inspiring.
2013.6.13.DeseretNews.MTCtoMC MTC Devotional at Marriott Center, BYU

MTC Devotional at Marriott Center, BYU
There were SO MANY of us and that was just the missionaries at the two Provo Training Centers.  Then there are those at the training centers around the world and THEN there are those already out in the mission areas. That’s so many people. Just about 76,000 missionaries right now. Or maybe that’s how many there are supposed to be by the end of the year. Either way, that’s so many people! So many young people deciding that sharing this message of truth and love is the thing of most worth, after all (Doctrine & Covenants 15:6).
I know that I’m a part of something so much bigger than me, and yet it is so personal. I love my Savior, and my Heavenly Father, and I know I’m who I am because of their love for me and because of the gospel of Jesus Christ and this Church. I’m so grateful for it.

I look forward to hearing from you all, if you have time to write!  I leave the MTC on September 18th, and love mail!  Don’t forget about DearElder.com. It’s one of the best things ever.

Sister Hansen