Elder Nissinen

Elder Nissinen

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving + new companion

Dear family and friends,
I'm super happy everyone had a great Thanksgiving/Black Friday! It was cool seeing pictures of all the family together and well, you all already know that I'm training, and a few of you know who I'm training. But just to get all the information into a general email:

I'm training an AMERICAN! His name is Elder Madsen from Boise, Idaho. In just the few days we've been together, we're already having a great time and enjoying being with each other.  Yeah he's just two months younger than me. He is a hard worker. He was a landscaper during the summers. He worked at Chuck E Cheese and was actually Chuck E Cheese himself. That's the coolest thing I've heard. I mean, who get's lucky enough to have Chuck E Cheese as their companion?!   So we both did landscaping and both are some type of mascot... who would have guessed? He's came up with some brilliant ideas in the apartment too... I will explain in a minute! Having an American companion is awesome in a lot of ways, but creates challenges with the people too. I lost my voice for 2 days from talking so much in the lessons. This week I'm going to encourage him to speak! He's a fun guy though and is adjusting really well. I love re-living my first few days through him, with all the food and just the cultural things we see daily.

We love the pizza!

Being a trainer is a great responsibility and trust. We are working harder than I've ever worked before in my mission, and the work is putting forth some results. Sunday we were blessed with some super good investigators who just showed up to church because they felt like visiting our church..... one guy especially enjoyed Gospel Principles class. We committed four people to baptism this week. We believe we can reach our goal of 2 baptisms in the month of December, maybe more if things keep going well.

Thanksgiving for us wasn't much. We treated ourselves to pizza again, and because we have been there 3 times now, I barely have any money left! Luckily Grandma sent me some money to draw me out of Affliction two weeks early! Thanks so much Grandma! That was all we did Thanksgiving.
Today we played football against another zone. Boy I'm so burnt right now, it's not even funny!!
Man, it's so hot!

Here's one of Elder Madsen's brilliant ideas: Saturday we were at a friends shop. Elder Madsen looked at a case of glass bottled cokes and asked me if we could buy the cases of coke and refill them at the nearby bottling factory. Anyway, long story short... we were given 24 glass bottles of coke/fanta/sprite to drink! We just pay the cost of refilling the bottles, and whenever we are done using them, we just return it back to the lady that gave us them! The reason we are doing it is because we buy coke for 1.50 GHC. But by buying directly from Coca-Cola, we are saving 0.46 GHC per bottle! That's just one of Elder Madsen's genius ideas.

A funny story:
Yesterday we got back to the apartment, and I was just in a cleaning mood. Our apartment has been a wreck for the past 2 weeks due to transfers and zone activities. Ants have been all over the apartment eating food and nobody had done anything to remove the ants (I always do it). So after killing probably 2000 ants, I decided that we would change our water filters, because they've been neglected for several months too. I changed the filters completely, and after looking inside the old filters, we found that.... there was no filters inside our system! It was just 3 chambers full of water without filters inside the chambers. In other words, we've all been drinking from regular Ghana city water for the past 3 months without even realizing it! There were zero filters in our apartment. I called Elder Sanders, a Senior Couple guy in charge of apartments and stuff, and he was shocked and amazed at how we haven't been sick or anything the past 3 months! We got filters today. So for the first time in my whole mission, I'm going to drink filtered water at my apartment! Thanks for the prayers at home!

Another Funny story, although it wasn't funny in the least bit: 

Monday before the big zone activity I took some Doxy. but we were in a hurry so I just took it dry, without any water. I had food in my stomach though. Anyways, after my shower about 10 minutes later, I burped. Dry powder came out! It was by far the most pain my sinuses, throat, and eyes I've ever felt in my life. The burning sensation was incredible. I think the only thing close is like pepper spray. I was like yelling and screaming in the apartment! It took a good 3 hours for the pain to quit.

That is that. Again, I love being a trainer, and I'm looking forward to some more baptisms in the near future. I hope you received the forwarded email from President Heid about calling on Christmas Day.... only one hour is given and allowed....
Sounds like everyone is enjoying the Christmas Season. Keep having a great time being with the family! Thanks again Grandma for the cashola. And also everyone else for the nice pictures.
Love Elder Nissinen

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm a Father!!!

Dear Family and Friends, 

Yes! The question you all have asked has an answer: I'M TRAINING! I'VE GOT A SON! I just don't know who he is though.....

It still hasn't even soaked in yet. It's hard to believe. I have a lot of responsibility on my plate now. I plan where we go and what we do 7 days a week now. I don't feel ready to take in on (I just finished my own training!), but at the same time I'm super excited for the future. I have the ability to make this new Elder's first 12 weeks super good! (Actually it's 14 weeks because of Christmas time). I want to work really hard and teach him ( and he teach me) so that he's prepared for the rest of his mission. 

Transfers are every 6 weeks on Tuesdays. Whoever is being transferred goes to the mission home in Accra and they just assign you to your companion and go. If you are training, you don't know who you are training until you get there. If you are just a regular missionary being transferred, you'll have known where you are going and who is your next companion 4 or 5 days in advance. More than likely I will get an African. 2 whites is difficult in the field. 

The final pictures of our district.

As for my week, things are just awesome. I so totally love my mission it's not even real. I just love everything out here. It's a complete life-changing blast!

It was a less-productive week because of transfers coming. I had to go to a training council meeting in Accra on Friday. Elder Bergeson and I were lucky to be able to attend a temple session that morning too. President and Sister Heid are super awesome. I love them for all the work they do to make us better missionaries. 

I had cat for the first time the other day! It was great! Next time we go there, they are going to invite us over to help kill one!

Sunday gave me a burst of ambition to go out and teach teach teach. We had 6 investigators come to sacrament! It was nuts! There are tons of children who come to church every Sunday but aren't baptized for one reason or another. Others were coming up to me wanting me to visit their friends who are interested in the Gospel. Sometimes you feel like your area is rubbish, but days like last Sunday really get you pumped to go and teach! I'm going to work my Son so hard! The ball is 100% in my court. 

Today was one of my best P-Days here. Our zone and Tema zone came together to play sports and hangout. We were assigned to make a dish from our home country... I don't know how to make American food, so I just made a fat stack of PBJ's! They were a hit! They were gone in like 5 minutes. I was worried that the ants on the bottom would deter people, but they tasted great still. We have a bit of an ant problem in our apartment. I love fun P-Days. 
Our Party today!

Because Elder Liongitau and Elder Fayeampah are being transferred, that makes Elder Bergeson and I trainers. So basically our apartment is going to be a bunch of really young Elders. We all went to Papa's Pizza as a "last supper" the other night. 

Well, that's about all there is to my week. I will know tomorrow who my Son is. Elder Liongitau was a super good trainer. We got along really well. He taught me a lot. I am really grateful for his love, charity, and good attitude and for treating me so well these past 12 weeks. I want to copy many of the things he did to me to my Son. He's just a great guy! 
I will miss this Tongan boy!

So there is no Thanksgiving here at all or Black Friday. Well, everybody's black here so it's Black Monday Black Tuesday Black Wednesday etc etc.... I don't plan on doing anything special Thursday! Maybe I'll get something really good to eat that night? I hope you all have a wonderful, delicious, fun, finger-lickin', and most importantly a thankful Thanksgiving! 
Enjoy being around each other and the few days off school. 

More exciting news to come next week! 

Love, future father Elder Nissinen

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sangonaa + Missionary = 101% ADVENTURE

Dear Family and Friends, 

What a week! Like the title says, it's just an adventure here that you can't really all take it at once. I'm loving it so much! 

To explain what I mean, everything I am about to say actually happened. 

Tuesday there was a member-family that wanted us to come and visit with them. So we did of course. They live on the beach, an area I hadn't been to yet. Anyways, to get to their house we had to cross parked ships and then get in a little canoe for a boy to take us across a small amount of water. Supposedly that was the only way to get to their house. We told the boy we'd pay him when we come back to get back on shore. I was really sad to see the amount of garbage on the shores. It sounded like Hawaii had a good deal of trashy areas, but don't ever take a clean beach for granted! 
After we got there, we talked and what-not, and then my companion took off his shoes and climbed a coconut tree! Right on a beach! I couldn't believe it! So we enjoyed a few coconuts and walked barefoot around for some time. Then it was time for us to live with Prince, the father, for PEC meeting at the chapel. So we're walking back, and we get to the water where you need a canoe. Well the boy and the canoe were gone. I was seriously contemplating swimming/walking across! But Prince took off his clothes and carried us one-by-one on his back to the nearest ship! I couldn't believe it! Then 20 minutes later we were in PEC meeting. It's just an adventure that is hard to describe! Things that happen to missionaries here don't even come close to happening anywhere else on the planet. I love it. 
You know, just going to PEC meeting... nothing special really. At one point the water was up to Prince's throat... Our shoes and socks got soaked, but the rest was dry! Prince is the man!! 

Friday night Elder Liongitau and I went to Papa's Pizza! We'd been planning it for the whole week, and I was super excited for it. It's really expensive, but boy was it worth it! It was my first American meal since the MTC, and my first pizza in 3 months. I got a 10-inch pepperoni with cheese and pineapple and ate the whole dang thing! It was sooooo good! I'll be honest though, I felt a little spoiled eating expensive food. Like almost worldly? Hard to explain, but I felt different. The next 2 days my stomach was tore up - maybe it had to do with the 1-liter Coke I chugged that night....! 

 30 cedis is outrageous for a meal. I mean, to them it's 30 dollars for a pizza. They don't exchange currencies. You get 2 balls of banku for 1 cedi, enough to fill you for basically the whole day. 

Saturday was Larbi's baptism... and it was a success! She's a bit larger than I am, so it might have been a bit awkward on the coming-up part... ha!  Later that night I asked her about how she felt, and she told me she "felt like a new creature" and that her sins were gone. I thought that was cool. She has great potential to be a solid member in the church. 
Larbi is great. 2 young kids. She's 35 year old

Sunday I gave my talk on the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ. The Stake President told us after sacrament that our branch has the potential to be a ward by April 2016! It seems as though our efforts are paying off regarding the time spent visiting less-actives and recent converts. Sunday we had 95 people in sacrament, the most I've seen yet. Normally we're around 45-70. 

Anyways, it seems as though this is Elder Liongitau's last week in Sangonaa. He's been here all 7 months of his mission, and I got a feeling he's being transferred next week. I'm the one carrying the phone now and giving the numbers to President, so I'm preparing to be a trainer. We will see what the future unfolds soon. I don't feel ready to take on the area and train without his help, but I've gotta take the steps sometime! 
Elder Liongitau is awesome. I actually really like him. He treats me well and is helping me grow. We laugh and play a lot. He's a lot of fun! I will miss him when he leaves a lot. He gives food to someone every single day. 

Pretty good argument for coolest companion ever..... I tried, and it's really hard! I didn't even get 1/4 the way. They do it all time in Tonga.

Never had a coconut till my mission. They're common here. Only 1 or 2 cedis. They used to not be sweet enough, but they're a nice treat now. 

Sounds like Hawaii wasn't all that you hoped it was, but at least you can say you've been there now! Hope everyone is doing well and having a great week. Sorry about the heat in Hawaii. I don't know what weather app you're all using, but the actual temp. here is much hotter. Mid 90's everyday and the same percentage of humidity at night! 
In case I can't get a better Christmas picture... this one's for Cousin Eddy! 
Elder Liongitau has great stories about school back at home. Only till I came here did I FULLY realize how crappy my education was. You wouldn't believe how their schools are ran here and in other foreign countries. Everything these people do here and in Tonga would be "illegal" or "wrong" in the U.S. Everybody loves school here. Teachers beat students in front of the class for failing tests, being late, chewing gum, stuff like that. They have them bend down and touch their toes and "cane" their bottoms... Also, if you are fighting with students in school, the teachers will have you and the other person fight in front of the classroom, and the loser gets beat by the teacher! They have the strictest policies on dress codes. If you aren't dressed exactly according to the uniform, you're sent home. I love my country. It's the promised land. But it's such a joke! The media messes everything up (and the government). Way too many unneccessary rules and regulations.  People here take their education real serious. And they like it too.... I wish we had uniforms. It created a lot of problems at home. 

Gilbert, a super great convert. Blesses the sacrament and comes proselyting with us when he's not schooling.

Keep up the school work and great grades. Thanksgiving Break will be here before you know it! By the way, this week marks 3 months! Hard to picture seasons and holiday's at home. We don't have anything of the sort yet. Fireworks are coming out, so we've bought a few for kids to blow up for us. By the way, next Monday we're having a dual zone activity where we all bring a dish from our country. Since I can't make anything american, I'm going to make PBJ's! But I haven't told anyone yet. It's going to be SO FUNNY.  Oh I am so happy I'm in Ghana. This place is absolutely for me, not even a doubt. 

Love Elder Nissinen
It's called Cacklow. Wrong spelling of course. Not really sure what it is, but i like it a lot.

If I was home, I'd be surprised by actual homes. Running water and clean water sources, and probably just good old american food. I wouldn't take the things I have for granted anymore, like clothes. It's especially hard for me to see children with rags for clothes. I think when I get home I'm always going to handwash clothes and dishes. I saw a little girl this morning with just underwear on (which is normal) but her underwear was tied together cause it was worn out so bad. I felt pretty bad at that one.
Our Room!!!
I sleep great actually. Most nights I only wake up 1 time. Sometimes I wake up covered head to toe in sweat. It varies though. One of the other elders wakes up every night and takes a shower to cool off. I've had this reoccurring nightmare: I'm home and finished my mission, and everyone is asking me about my experiences, but I can't remember hardly anything that happened. Like I remember just the 3 months I've been out. I think it's a sign that I should take advantage of every moment of my mission. I've also thought about what I'll be like when I get home. If I was home today, I know for sure I'd be so different. Even what I've been through and see just in this short time have changed me and changed the way I see things. I'm enjoying this way of life quite a bit. On a side note, we lose power every day now. It's 24 hours off 12 on.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hello family and friends! 

I didn't know it was a 10 hour time change from Hawaii and Ghana, so that's sweet! Sounds like everyone is doing well and having a good time enjoying Hawaii. Good to hear you all are feeling some Ghanaian heat! 
Foosball is popular here. You pay like 20 pesawas for 5 foosballs, so we hop in sometimes and play with the boys. They are good! 

My week was pretty great as well. We are baptizing Larbi the 14th of November, and hopefully a lady named Pascalene the 28th. Our investigator pool has decreased since the recent baptisms, so we are finding and reaching out to get that number back up. It was nice to see both ladies come to church this Sunday all on their own. That tells us they're committed and want the Gospel. 

This week, I've reflected a bit on my calling. There are so many times throughout my week that during a lesson, I can't believe my companion and I, who are only 19 and 18 years old, are giving advice to full-grown adult men and women. Sometimes I feel like a father talking to my child...weird right?! Let me share a story about Pascalene, who is only 23 or 24 and has two children. Below is a story she either wrote or her friend wrote and gave it to me on a piece of paper. I will write it exactly the way it is written: 

'My mum died when I was 8 years old. After the funeral I was brought back to Akusombo. I thought I will be schooling over there but they didn't send me to school. Later, I was brought to stay with my grandfather at Sakumono estate. Also there, I thought my grandfather will be sending me to school but he didn't. When I was staying in my grandfather's house, his sister started maltreating me. When I saw that it was getting out of hand, I decided to run away from the house. When I left the house. I didn't know anybody to go and stay with. I went to where they have been dumping waste. That was where I want to stay. If I will eat I have to beg before they will give me something to eat but sometimes they don't give me. They tell me I'm mad and they can't give a mad person food to eat. I stayed there for about 3 years. I prayed to God to find me a helper through this prayer God sent me someone who later told me she will be sending me to abroad. Luckily the woman's husband was there so he asked his wife to bring me there but at the Airport I escaped. I didn't know what happened for me to run away from the Airport. I boarded a lorry from the Airport to Sakumono estate at there my grandfather sent me to stay with my uncle but what my grandfather's sister did was small. My uncle maltreated me so I decided to run away from him. When I escaped from his house a white man named Elsin proposed to me and I did accepted it. Later he slept with me and at that time, I was a virgin. After breaking my virginity I started living a life full of mysterys that is taking in alcoholic beverages and also smoking of cigarettes.'  This is the full letter she gave me. I wish the story would continue. Can you believe a life like that? Absolutely nothing was fair in her life - yet she was responsible for the irresponsibility of her caretakers. She has also never asked us for a single cedi. I already felt bad for her like I do the rest of the people we teach, but after hearing a bit of her past I felt real bad. I told myself, ''how can I reach to her? I cannot relate to her life in the least bit. I then realized it has nothing to do with me relating to her: it's my message. The Gospel is literally the only thing on earth that can unite everyone in every situation. And that's exactly how an 18 year old white kid from the comfortable United States can become friends with any black person in 3rd world Ghana. It's all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ! To finish the story, I went to her the next day after reading and apologized for her suffering. I told her basically what I just said, that us missionaries were sent here to help you specifically, and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring you a future of joy and happiness for you and your children. She showed up to Church with 2 little children all by herself last Sunday.
We teach some young adult siblings here.

At Pascalene's house - I thought it was cute. 

Right around the corner from our apartment is the lady that sells banku that we eat for lunch most days.

Cool 16 year old kid we are teaching. We see plenty skin out here - I'll just put it that way! 
A few days ago (I think it was Wednesday) we were walking in the normal blistering heat, singing gospel songs and what-not, and I just felt a rush of happiness. I said outloud - ''man I love my mission!''. It's amazing what can happen when you devote yourself to service and feeding His lost sheep. I then thought of the scripture in Matthew: ''For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save find it''. I am so grateful that I can be out here serving. It's the best opportunity I know of to truly find myself as the Saviour taught. 
This is pascalene and her friends. For some reason, just about all our investigators are women.... 

Anyways, that's the spiritual side of things. I learned to catch a chicken yesterday. We stoned a rat to death near the church building. It's so fun living like this! 

I tried taking a few shots of food this week. I forgot to take them most the time, so sorry bout that. This is kelewele (I have no idea how to spell it) but it's fried plantain with spices and pepe in it (really good!)

My tie collection. 

Have a good time on vacation while you can! Joe you're looking pretty tall in those family pictures. Maybe you're as tall as me now....? Jacob, sorry about the breakup. Don't worry though, there's plenty of fish out in that Stormy sea. 😁 Tell Mama and Papa and Grandma hi for me. I LOL'd at the shot of Papa in shorts and Romeos in Hawaii! 

Love Elder Nissinen
Try this Pano shot out.... Love getting near the ocean. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Elder Bednar Throws It Down!!!!

Hello Family and Friends! 

First off, I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween. There is no Halloween here of course, so nobody else around me understood what the heck I was saying when I yelled "Happy Halloween!" in the streets. It sounds like everyone was able to dress up in some fun costumes and most importantly eat a lot of junk food! 
Fast Sunday tie in full-color! I got some shirts tailored, which was a genius move. I don't look or feel like I'm drowning in my clothes anymore! I also got a hair cut. Sunday is the day you have to look A+. I was called to give a talk on the Second Coming next Sunday. 

There wasn't anything super cool or special that happened to Elder Liongitau and I this week, other than Elder and Sister Bednar, some Area of the Seventy, and all 14 mission presidents in the Africa West Area! One thing I thought was funny was that as soon as Elder Bednar walked in, we all stood up, and by the time we sat back down, his (and everybody else with him) removed their suit coats! Just like that! There was tons and tons of missionaries and their investigators there among everyone else. We brought Gilbert, the guy I baptized last week. Elder Bednar used a different approach than what we thought for his talk: he simply had people in the congregation stand up and ask questions to him, and he would respond! But boy did he lay it down! We are not suppose to chastise people, but rather "strongly encourage". I actually think he was chastising! He was wonderful. He really told people the truth, regardless of anything else. He had everyone laughing the whole night. It was great to be within sight of one of the 15 men who hold all the keys of the Priesthood on the earth... I was able to take a few pictures, even though I was far back. It rained really hard though right towards the end of it, so we all stayed inside 'till it stopped. Elder Bednar left immediately, so nobody was able to personally meet him or anything that I know of. 
Elder Bednar! Good luck finding another picture of him without a suit coat on! 
He was sweating!!!!!

Sister Bednar. She's really nice.

The day before (Wednesday), our zone helped out at the eye clinic they were putting on at the stake center. I was amazed to find out that the 4 or  doctors there were 100% volunteer eye doctors from Utah, donating their time and materials to put this clinic on. As soon as we got there, the zone leaders told us to go sing in front of all the people who were in the chapel waiting for their examination! We had no idea! The 4 of us actually sounded really good, not gonna lie . I was able to also help out one of the doctors personally and see what he had to say about all the patients. It was really sad how many people needed eye glasses and had cataracts that could only be fixed through surgery, meaning that they would never be fixed. Even blind people came.

 Sunscreen melts right off! Honest truth you are sweating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's not even funny. The doctors inside the stake center had a thermometer going, and they were complaining because it was 86 degrees inside with many fans running. I was surprised, none of us Elders were hot at all! 
I stare at the moon every night. The sky is awesomely lit up here, especially during lights off! This was at like 5 pm.

Ghana is officially an English country, but it's such a joke. Nobody speaks english! If they do, its most likely broken or hard to understand, so you have to speak reaaaally basic english back. I get really frustated in some lessons because they have no idea what you are saying. Imagine teaching the Restoration (or any other lesson) to a 5 year old. That's about what we do every day. I'm trying to come up with ways or flash cards with pictures to visually teach the lessons.   Nobody carries a conversation with another Ghanaian in english. I'm barely in an english speaking mission.
Richard, a boy who we are going to be teaching soon. He's been to church twice now. We'll see how it goes. Hard to teach many people because of their lack of english. Really challenging.

We did have a baptism this weekend! I baptized Maybell, and it was a success. I learned that Maybell was actually only 8 months older than me, meaning that all those events that happened to her was around the age of 14-15. Tough life. Our other investigator is still not as prepared as we would like her to be, so we hope by next weekend she will be ready. We also have a few other women (all our investigators are women, odd..?) that are really good investigators, so some solid baptisms should be on their way! 
Maybell! 8 months older than me and 2 months younger than Liongitau! She forgot her birth date and how to spell her name... 
it's rather sad. 

The 3 shades of a human being: Brown, black, and white! Got the full racial combo here Mom.

That's about it for my week. Nothing super special besides Wednesday and Thursday. Elder Liongitau and I get along really well. We laugh and tease each other and enjoy our missions a lot. I did receive the package from Ninny today, so thank you for that! After I email you all we are leaving for some banku. I eat 2 balls now! Banku is better than fufu. It's the best. I eat 2 balls every day for lunch typically.  No bucket baths this week. We've had a bit of rain actually, so stuff is all muddy and what-not. I think it's 24 hours off, 12 hours on. Pepe is the spice, and its hot, but not to where you need water. I like it too. They use pepe in a rice dish and it is good. You eat what is given to you, regardless if you are full or don't like it. 
Fufu party! One of the rare "free meals" I've had here. Usually we are the ones giving away our money and food, so we feel really blessed to get free food every once and a while by members. I was sooooo full!!! 

Fufu, chicken, fish, and cow meat in ground-nut soup. Super good! 

To let everyone understand a little bit logistically about things here: 
1) We are to be in the apartment by 9:30 pm each night. We usually get home around 8 or 9 ish, depending on who we are visiting. 
2) It is dark by 5:30 every night. The sun rises very early here! 
3) Baptisms are 100% led by the missionaries. Everything that goes into a baptism is done by us! We don't really have a Branch Mission Leader...?

Crazy young women.... I still teach Sunday School, and one young woman told me after class "You look shiny Elder Nissinen". I didn't understand what that meant, and she smiled and blew me as kiss.... good grief!

I hope everyone is doing well. Keep up the hard work in school and extra-curricular activities. ! 
Hope everyone has a great week and a blast in Hawaii.  Soak up some sun!!!  That is an opportunity nobody gets here. I mean, to be able to go to a different place than your own city. Take plenty pictures. Join a luau . 
 If Joe or Rosie want an awesome song to listen to, listen to Mansa by Bisa Kdei or something. It's my favorite song right now. We hear music allllll the time, so you know all the songs. If you send me money big bills are better. I get a better exchange rate with bigger bills. 10's and 20's are fine. Make sure any money you send is good looking, like no rips or fades. They think that it is fake or something. I think they're nuts. 

Love, Elder Nissinen