Oh my word I LOVE MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!! How did I get so lucky to have all of you in my life? I can't even tell you how happy I am to be writing you this letter. Seriously this last week has felt like the longest week of my life! The MTC is a time warp. You feel like you have been here for an eternity but at the end of the day you're like, "Wait, what just happened? I just barely woke up." I can't believe how strong the Spirit is here and how much I have grown already and it's only been one week! Who knows what 18 months will bring!
I am going to try to respond to as many individual letters as I can but if I don't get to you, I am extremely sorry and I will try next week. Just know that I am so grateful to all of you for you letters. They really are such a strength to missionaries. Whenever someone gets a dearelder everyone just stares at them like, "Wow, I wish I was you" so please keep it up! I love hearing from all of you!
There are SO many things I want to tell all of you! I had to make a list! First off I want to say thank you Mom for the cookies! Everyone LOVED them and ate all of them in like 10 minutes. Don't worry, I stole a couple for myself. I was having a particularly hard day that day and that package strengthened me so much! Ok, so let's get started:
Day 1 = blur. I seriously felt no emotion all day. After I said goodbye to you guys...which was the hardest thing I've ever done, they just shoved us in the MTC, gave us our nametags, gave me my HUGE stack of Finnish grammar books and loaded us on a bus to head to west campus. I am sitting here writing this and my mind is blown because that day feels like it was 5 years ago. Anyways so I don't want to give you a play by play of Day 1 but we got to west campus, got settled and then headed to class where our teachers only spoke Finnish to us so that was good. We were lucky enough to overlap with another Branch of Finnish missionaries (which apparently doesn't happen very often) and they were speaking very good Finnish so that made me feel less scared. They are awesome though. They just barely left on Monday and saying goodbye to them was SO hard. Seriously, it's amazing how much you come to love people in like 4 days. haha Mom, Sisar Farnworth is the one Chelsea was probably talking about. She was SO nice to me and kind of took me under her wing and helped me out those first few days. I love her so much!!
So our district has 4 Vanhimmat (Elders) and 2 Sisaret (Sisters). The elders are Vanhin McKnight (District Leader), Vanhin Stimson (The next MoTab choir director or the person who will discover the cure for cancer) Vanhin Coffey (The tease) and Vanhin Hunter (the funniest person I have ever met). Our district is awesome! Oh which reminds me I haven't said anything about Sisar Thayne. Sooo...Sisar Thayne is my companion and she is the greatest! She is the only reason I have not lost my sanity. We get along so well and she has been such a strength to me whenever I have felt homesick or discouraged. I know that I needed her as my companion. She is from Provo and is a very positive and upbeat person. We just get along really well and we are already super close which is great cause we have 2 months left together! I lover her! Anyways, more about our district. I am so grateful to be in the district I am in. I always tell Sisar Thayne that surviving Finnish class would be impossible if I didn't have such great people with me! Vanhin Hunter always makes me laugh. He reminds me of all my siblings put together in one person. Oh, and get this, he is Sisar Thayne's cousin. Crazy huh?
So I am sure you are all just dying to hear about Finnish...I made it a goal not to talk about it today, but I guess I have to :) No I am just kidding. Let's just say they weren't kidding when they said Finnish is one of the hardest languages to learn. It is SO easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged but I am kind of trying to figure out which studying techniques work best for me! It's a process...but that's what this whole mission is. A process and a transition. I figured out that the real difficulty in Finnish is that you have to memorize everything. It's kind of like English. There are all these grammar rules but there are almost more exceptions to those rules than there are actual rules if that makes sense. Verb conjugation is a JOKE but we are coming along slowly, but surely. It's crazy to see where we are now as opposed to where we were a week ago. We have the most amazing teachers though. Sisar Shaw, Veli (brother) Stewart, and Veli Arnissan. They all served missions in Finland and have great stories and are such a strength to all of us!
So let's see, what else can I tell you about this week. Oh ya...so my Zone is down at the West Campus right now (Wyview for those of you familiar with BYU) but we are moving to main campus next Tuesday. I am way excited to go to Main campus. It's kind of like a missionary college while west campus just feels like regular college except you can't go anywhere. We're trapped :) But ya, we move there next Tuesday so I will send you my new address as soon as I get it!
So the Thursday after we got here, last Thursday I guess, we met with our Branch Presidency which is kind of like the bishopric. President Anderson, Brother Taylor, and Brother Leifson. Brother and SIster Taylor remind me of you Mom and Dad. They are you in 30 years. Needless to say I love them. Sister Taylor is very stylish and So sweet to everyone and Brother Taylor is just a spiritual rock, just like you guys!! They are the sweetest people in the world and are so willing to help us with anything we need. Anyways, on Sunday, President Anderson called Sisar Thayne and I into his office and asked us if we would be Sister Training Leaders for our Zone. Sister Training Leader is "a zone leader for the Sisters only". So of course we said yes. Right now there are only 3 sisters in our zone, but we are getting 18 new Albanian missionaries in our zone next Wednesday so hopefully some of them are sisters. I am so excited to have this calling!!
Anyways, I just wanted to leave you with a little spiritual thought, that's what missionaries are supposed to do right? :) So you all know about the devotionals we get on Sunday and Tuesday nights at the MTC. They are so great, but in this last one, Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy spoke and talked about instead of "contacting" people we need to "connect" with people. I thought that was so profound and it applies to everyone that is trying to share the gospel, not just missionaries. We need to look for ways to connect to others and to apply the gospel to their lives. He told us to look for clues when we talk to people that may enable a gospel discussion to come up. I know it isn't the deepest spiritual thought, but I think we can all look for things in the people we know that will help us bring them closer to Christ. After all, that is why I am here at the MTC and it's why we are all on the earth at this time, to bring the world His truth.
Anyways, I am so sorry this e-mail is all over, I will write more next week when I have kind of settled down. It is quite the transition to be a missionary but I am so grateful for the prayers and strength I get from all of you. Really, I think about you guys whenever I get discouraged and I know you are all cheering me on. Thanks so much for everything!! I love you SO much!! Talk to you soon!!
Minä tiedään etta kirkko on totta.
I know the church is true! :)
Mina Rakastan Sinua!
Love, Sisar Bitner