Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, December 30, 2013

   Hey! Sup! So you are all so great! It was so great to see all your beautiful faces on Christmas! It totally made my life. Mom, dad told me you were worried about me...Thank you! :) No I am just kidding, I am doing really well and I am starting to feel comfortable and a lot more adjusted. The language is just a the face, the head, the butt, and everything else but it is teaching me so much patience, I can't even stand it. Well ya I can stand it. It is definitely going to be worth it one day. I have started understanding so much more even in these past few days, and I can't even explain how happy I get when I understand. I just smile and smile and smile even bigger! It's so great! Thank you all for your e mails...ok thanks Lauren, Dad, and Mom and Grandma! :) Mom those recipes were great! Can you send me meatloaf and banana bread next week? Sisar Egan and I have too many bananas to handle! That would be so grand!! Oh on sending you can totally send me as many as you want! hahaha isn't that exciting? The mission office e mails me and lets me know when I have a package and then I can pay to have it delivered or wait until I go to Helsinki or someone from Helsinki comes to Tampere. I go down to Helsinki for Interim Training in about 4 1/2 weeks so if something was there for me, I wouldn't be too upset about it! K I am done being a needy missionary now. Send what you want. When you want. If you don't want to send anything, that is great too! :)

   So since I talked to you all, so many great things have happened. I don't even know where to start so I will just start at the Partunen's. The Partunen's are quite the family. K so the dad is Finnish, 55, and looks like Gru from Despicable Me. The wife is 33, Filipino, and served a mission in the Philippines. The wife has one son from a different relationship and they have 2 kids together. They are all members. But the best part about this family is the grandma. K so she is Filipino too. She is like Tommy's twin. Remember, my soccer trainer Tommy? Ya he is the best :) But anyways, she is so stinking cute. So we went to their house and had dinner on the 26th. We were sitting there and we had just finished up giving them a lesson and I had the thought to ask them what they do to keep Christ the center of Christmas and of life in general. So Gru answered (the dad) and then Sis. Partunen answered and then Grandma comes around and she just starts going off about how she hasn't read the Book of Mormon in a long time (background: she joined the church 2 years ago when she was working in Hong Kong) and how she loves Jesus but is scared to bear her testimony because everything she says is being "written down by da big man in da sky" and she doesn't want to be held accountable for what she says because she doesn't know a lot. 

   After that, she started crying and said how she knows that God loves her because he has watched over her family and has protected them. I looked at her...and I was bawling too at this point, and I just told her that she just barely bore her testimony to all of us and that I know that Heavenly Father is pleased with her and loves her so much. Then her daughter speaks up and says how she wants her family to be so strong in the gospel. She said how she reads the Book of Mormon with her kids every night even though they are little, because she knows that is what will keep them safe. I was just so floored by how strong this family is. They have gone through so much. Like their lives are so incredibly hard. They told me their story and I just sat there in awe thinking about my little sheltered Utah life and how I have never had to do anything as hard as them before. I was just so grateful that I have been blessed as much as I have and that I get to associate with people like the Partunen's and to hear their stories and experiences. It was one of the greatest most humbling experiences of my life. And now Sisar Partunen has given us 10 referrals and her mom wants to come out and teach with us. How bout them apples? We are so excited! 

   So we had zone conference this week which was so great. I love President and Sister Rawlings. So big news...Sister Rawlings was a soccer ref so now we are like besties! haha jk but it's pretty great! She told me to go by a soccer ball to keep my sanity. So I did today. Me and Sisar Egan are going to play tomorrow morning! I'm pumped. Ok back to zone conference. So it was so amazing. We talked about the difference between testimony and conversion. Pres. Rawlings talked about how a testimony is knowing that something is true and conversion is when you live what you know is true and aren't at war with yourself and God. It's like when obeying the commandments becomes our quest instead of just something we do. I loved that. Especially the part about being at war with yourself and God. I have been thinking a lot about it this week. I have been having a lot of "what ifs" going through my head. Like what if I can't learn this language. What if I don't do everything Heavenly Father wants me to do? What if I crack under the pressure? What if my testimony isn't strong enough to do this? I know...bad thoughts. No one let what ifs go through your head! But they were going through mine, and then we had zone conference and I just realized that I have been called to this mission because I can learn this language. I have been called to this mission because it's exactly where I need to be. I have been called to this mission because there are people here who need me. I realized that my testimony wasn't lacking, but my conversion was. Its almost like I have believed in Christ and the enabling power of the atonement, I just haven't believed Christ. I haven't believed that he can do what he says he can do. He can help me do anything...even learn Finnish and he will. BUT only when I exercise faith in Him and completely turn everything over to Him. I have to work hard and do my best, but he will make up for what I lack. No matter what happens here, it is all going to be exactly what God wants to happen. I need to, well we all need to QUIT WORRYING AND BE HAPPY. We need to enjoy the ride and do our best and turn the rest over the Lord. He has already atoned for our sins. The Atonement is there. It's done. Now it's up to us to use it.

   Anyways...I hope that you are all just doing great! Finland is great. Tampere is great. I am doing great. I bought a coat today. It is super nice and warm and it was even on sale so check me out, dad, shopping the sales! :) I have realized that the more I buy here, the more Finnish I feel so be expecting some dips in the funds folks! haha just kidding...sort of. No I'm really just kidding. That's not why I am here, but I really do love that I am starting to feel like I belong here, not just that I am a visitor. I guess I will always be a visitor, but in my mind, I am becoming a Finn! It's pretty dang exciting! :)

   Well I hope to hear from you all next week. I am so sorry I can't respond individually to e mails but I do print them off and read them all so don't think I just glance them over. You are all so important to me. I know that this mission is bringing us all closer together and that is such a blessing. I am so grateful for the gospel. I know that it is a bond we all share that nothing can take away or break. I am so grateful to be a missionary. I am so grateful that we can all be missionaries. Help the missionaries in our home ward out. There is nothing that blesses their lives more than awesome members like you helping them preach the gospel! It's such a great time to be a missionary! I love you all so much and hope you have a fantastic week...Oh and a Happy New Year!!!


Sisar Bitner

Monday, December 23, 2013

HOOOOOOOLLLLLYYYYYYYY Cow family. I do not even know where to start. First things first though, if there are like 1,456,734,857 errors in this e mail, its because the keyboards in Finlandia are nuts and I am used to typing pretty speedily so I apologize in advance. But on the other hand I AM TYPING ON A FINNISH KEYBOARD BECAUSE I AM IN FINLAND!!!! Can you even believe it? Honestly, I can´t. Every day I wake up and have to remember where I am! It is so cool!

So a little info before story time. So my companion is Sisar Egan from Corvallis, Oregon. She is so great. She has been in Finland for 10 months so ya, she is kind of a pomo (boss) haha She has trained 4 missionaries and all of her (2 were at the same time, they were in a threesome) but ya she knows what it takes to be a trainer. She is actually related to the Egans in our ward so there ya go! Not Katrina, but Tim and Laura so let them know we are companions! We get along really well, I think. It is always weird trying to figure each other out those first few weeks, but I know that we will be great friends. She told me to start thinking in the mindset of a trainer because everyone she trains is a trainer as soon as their training is over. hahahaha can you imagine? I do not even want to think about training someone in 4 months so we can just focus on the now!

Oh ya....I am serving in Tampere!!! You say it like tom-pear-eh(like how Canadians say eh) Go Google it. It is the cutest place ever. I love it so much. It is pretty south in Finland which I am SO happy about. It is cold, but definitely bearable. The people up in the North have temps of about -30 Celsius right now. I do not envy them in the least but I am pretty much guaranteed to be here for 4 months and I am way excited about that! There are two wards in Tampere...Tampere 1 and Tampere 2. We are the sisters in Tampere 1. We are in the same ward as the zone leaders which is pretty exciting! Oh my...I have so much to tell you all...I am going to save some for Christmas though. I am so happy I get to see you all!! So we are going to skype around 5 or 6 Finland time! I am not sure what that translates to in Utah time, but be expecting me to skype you around then. I think you should just use my skype account because I will call you from the members. 

Oh my...what else to say. So we got to Finland on Tuesday afternoon and the APs picked us up. We had a little problem at funny...but I will tell you about that on Christmas! haha so we went straight to the temple in Helsinki. It is so beautiful!!! We got out of the vans and I just looked up at it all shiny in the darkness of Finland and got SO emotional. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I felt SO much peace and I just knew that I was supposed to be here! It was like Heavenly Father welcomed me to Finland :) 

After that we went to the Rawlings house and had some delicious dinner and then we were so tired and went to bed. We got up the next day, went to the mission office, had orientation, and met our trainers. I was a little sad to see Sisar Thayne go, but I know we will keep in touch. So Sisar Egan and I hopped on a train which was so legit...I have never been on a train before...and we headed to Tampere! Our apartment is way cute. Its really small but its ok because thats not why we are here, right? haha I love it though. So we went contacting that night. Sisar Egan gave me a Book of Mormon and said, k, go give this away....uh, what?? I about died. But I figured hey, I have nothing to lose and everything to give so here it goes. I sat down on the bus and said "terve, mita kuulu?" to this Finnish man and he rambled something off and I smiled and said "siisti" which means cool and then he said, in English, "Do we know each other" and I said "Ei" and then he spouted off in English about how much he hates Finland and what a crappy place it is to live and how everyone is drunk and no one talks to each other and yadda, yadda, yadda :) We actually had a way good English...and I gave him the Book of Mormon and told him that it would bless his life and help him to make the trials and frustrations of life a little easier to bear. He said "Kiitos" and then off he went. Unfortunately I am a NOOB and did not think to ask "oh hey, would you maybe like to meet with the missionaries sometime?" Its ok though guys, he has a Book of Mormon. I have faith that he is going to contact us somehow! But rest assured, I will not make that mistake again!

So this week has been crazy. Sisar Egan has served in Tampere her whole mission, but since there are two sets of Sisters in Tampere, we had to get a new apartment and phone so we had none of our investigators numbers in our phone. We still have not had a real lesson. I am kind of frustrated about that but its ok. Things are going to pick up. They have to. Sisar Egan said that the last time she was in this area, her companion and her did not do a lot of work because her companion had a lot of problems and they could not do real missionary work. So I think she is kind of going through some weird deja vu and is just trying to figure this place out. So it is kind of hard to be a greenie wanting to run and jump and yell the gospel, but I cant speak Finnish and my comp is going through a hard time, but we are working on it together. I have realized this week especially the importance of prayer and of being in tune with the spirit, especially when we are trying to help someone out. People will not always tell you what is wrong with them, but the spirit will.

One person I want you all to pray for is Juhani. He is an extremely old extremely awesome Finnish grandpa. He has a baptismal date for a week from this Saturday but his back hurts him so he does not like coming to Church and sitting for 3 hours. We have not taught him yet, but I met him at our ward Christmas party which I will tell you more about on Christmas. It was so great to see an investigator there. Anyways pray for Him. I know that you all want to and should be a part of this with me! You have such strong faith! Juhani needs you!!! haha

The people here are so great. Honestly. People says Finns are quiet and reserved. Totally true. people say Finland is dark and cold. Totally true. People say Finland is a hard mission. Totally true. But what they do not say is how amazing these people are and how beautiful it is when it is cold outside and how awesome the members in Finland are. I seriously feel so blessed to be here. It is so extremely hard to not understand and to want to help so much and not be able to. I know that it will come though. I know that with the Spirit and hard work, I can learn this language and we can make some serious changes in FInland. That is what I am so excited about. A lot of changes need to be made here. In Tampere especially. I think so many improvements can be made with how missionary work is done here. I am so excited to be able to work with this ward and with these people to build up the kingdom in Finland and make it as strong as it has ever been. I know that it will happen. I really do! Its such a great time for all of us to be missionaries!

Anyways this email is all over the place but I want you all to know how much I love and am grateful for each of you. You are the reason I am here today. You have all been so supportive and so wonderful. I could not do this without you! Pray for Tampere. Pray that these members will catch the missionary fever! Help the missionaries in our ward as much as you can! Seriously being on a mission has changed forever what kind of a member I am going to be. Teach with the missionaries when you can! Feed them when you can! It makes all the difference in the world, I promise!! You are all so wonderful. How did I get so lucky to have a family like you? Merry Christmas and I will talk to you all on Wednesday!!! I love you so much!!


Sisar Bitner 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Peace Out 'Merica!!!

Terve minun I don't know if you have heard but I AM LEAVING TO HELSINKI, FINLAND IN 4 DAYS!!!! I have been pinching myself for the past week. This is real life. I am leaving :) Holy cow. What is going on? Is this serious? My brain is running at like 79,756 miles per hour. I am so excited to be in Finland! :)

Ok, now that that's out of the are you all doing? We get to talk on the phone on Monday!! Talk about BDE...Best Day Ever! I am so excited to talk to you! Let's get some of the logistics out of the way. Ok so we are leaving the MTC at 4:30 on Monday morning. Our plane leaves at 8:30 and we fly to Dallas. We have a four hour layover so I will probably call you around 12-1ish or something. Pretty vague, I know! But plan on that! Joce, Anne, Lauren, Luke, and Caroline, you guys will probably be at school, but maybe if you ask really nice, mom will let you come home. If not, I get to skype you all next week so that's AWESOME too! :) I am planning on calling our home phone so if that's not ok, send me a dear.elder within the next few days and let me know if that doesn't work. But Anyways after Dallas, we fly to London and then onto Helsinki! This is so nuts. I honestly can't believe this day is finally here! AHHHH!! It's gonna be great!

So this last week in the MTC has been an even bigger emotional roller coaster than the week before I left on my mission. I am so excited, but also SOOO nervous. Anxious is definitely the best way to describe how I'm feeling. I feel so prepared, but I know that setting foot in Finland and trying to understand a Finn speaking Finnish is going to be a nice little wake up call! haha I am really excited though because our teachers have said that it's so much easier to pick up all the crazy Finnish grammar rules just by listening to how they talk. I can honestly say I never thought this day would come. The MTC still kind of feels like limbo life but now I am going to be in Finland, speaking Finnish and serving the Finns. Seriously, it's kind of hilarious when you think about it! Definitely an out of body, amazing experience! I have changed so much. Honestly, the MTC has changed my life. I am so grateful for it! :)

DAD!!! I met President and Sister Snow this week. I gave the prayer in the new sisters meeting on Sunday and afterwards, Sister Snow came up to me and said, "Sister Bitner, I am your mission grandma. I was your dad's mission mom" I was SO excited to see her and I got to talk to both of them for about 15 minutes. They told me that you were such an amazing missionary and the koreans loved you so much! I was so proud to be able to stand there, knowing that someone else knows how amazing both of my parents are. They love you both so much and I hope to be half as good of a missionary as both of you are! :) Definitely a tender mercy to meet them!!

This week we had a great Tuesday night devo. Our last tuesday night sad? NOT! JK they really are so great. But Elder Cook from the Quorum of the Twelve was the speaker. It was so great. I am in the choir, you hilarious is that? haha but anyways we sang my favorite Christmas hymn, "The First Noel". It was so beautiful. I have grown to love that song just by being on my mission. That first Christmas is the most important day in the history of everything! Christmas is just such a happy time! I love it so much! But Elder Cook's talk was really good but the thing that stuck out to me the most was what his wife said. She told this story about a little girl who had a Christmas program at school. She was so excited for her mom to come see her because she had the most important part in the play. Her mom thought that her part would be like Mary or the Angel, but when her daughter came out on the stage, she was holding a big tin foil star and smiling just as big as she could! I thought that was so cute and so true! All of us that are fortunate enough to have the gospel in our lives can be that star and light that brings people closer to Christ. I read this quote that says something to the effect of, "When you introduce someone to Jesus Christ, you come to find out how much he loves you and how much he loves them!" What a great opportunity and responsibility for us. It is the most wonderful blessing to already have the gospel in our lives, and now we get to share it with other people. Even the smallest things make the biggest difference! I love Christmas and more than anything, I hope that all of us will strive to be that light and to bring as many people as we can unto Christ! Let's make every day Christmas this year! :)

So I can't believe that I will get to hear your voices before I send my next e-mail and my next e-mail will be sent on a Finnish computer. Holy cow! I am so excited to share this amazing experience with all of you. Thank you all so much for your support and love. I am so grateful that we know that we can be together forever because of Jesus Christ. I want the people in Finland to have that same blessing! I hope I covered everything in this letter "logistics" wise. I had Hannah bring home a Christmas present for you's nothing great but I wanted to give you a little something something! I am working on writing you all personal letters before I leave and Mom, I am sending my testimony home for Monica. I think that is such a great idea! She would be such a great member :) I am so thankful for all of you! The church is true. Christ lives. He loves us so much. I love you all so much! Hyvää Joulua!! Merry Christmas!!


Sisar Bitner 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Terve minun mahtava perhe!! I can't believe another week has gone by at the MTC! It really goes by so fast. I hope everyone is doing well and is getting excited for Christmas. It's going to be so weird and hard not to be home, but I can't wait to hopefully get to skype! It will be the best thing in the world! I hope school and work and tennis and callings and soccer and friends and everything are just going great! I love hearing from all of you. I wish more than anything that I had more time to write you individual letters, but just know that I appreciate everything you guys do for me. I appreciate all the prayers and faith on my behalf. I honestly can feel your faith and prayers so much. You all mean the world to me and I am so grateful I have been blessed with a family as wonderful as you. We may not be together now, but just think, we get to be with each other forever. Maintaining an eternal perspective is a great way to avoid homesickness...I have come to find! Plus I know that we are all doing what we are supposed to be doing! I couldn't do this if I didn't know for sure that Heavenly Father has a work for me to do. He has a work for all of us to do. We just need to figure out what His will is and then get to work and do our best. I know that He will help us when we do this!

 This week I have really started to feel comfortable at the MTC...too bad I'm leaving in 10 days! Isn't that so great, just when we get comfortable we have to pick up and move again! Only this time, I am really excited for my transfer cause it will be in FINLANDIA!!! All of the feelings I have right now are the same ones I had before I came on my mission. I feel a little better equipped this time and I think this change will be harder, but easier at the same time. I am so excited to get to Finland. I can't believe I have been in a 1/2 mile radius for 9 weeks, but now we can start counting down the days to Finland because it's so close! It's going to be great! :) 

So we are starting to wind down here at the MTC. Sisar Thayne and I got released as Sister Training Leaders. It was kind of sad. I have grown to love all of the sisters in our zone so much, but I am glad that someone else will have the opportunity to serve. I really have been thinking a lot this week about forgetting ourselves and serving others. The MTC has its ups and downs, just like life, but I know that when we really forget ourselves completely and serve others and try to make their days better, that's when we are truly happy. There was one day this week when I decided that I wasn't going to think about myself at all that day. I had kind of been frustrated with Finnish and everything else so I decided I needed to do everything I could to be happy.

I was reading on and I found a quote by President Hinckley that said something to the effect of if you want to be happy, forget yourself and get lost in this great work. Lift up the heads that hang down and serve other people. I tried this out on Wednesday and it was honestly the best day I have had at the MTC. The days before, I had been so nervous about Finnish and about leaving 'Merica for 16 months and about everything, but yesterday when I forgot about my problems and tried to help others, I was so happy. It's a hard thing to do to forget about yourself and to focus on the positive things in life, but I know without a doubt that selfless service is the recipe for happiness. I know because I've tried it. I have always thought that I was pretty good at serving and I tried to do it with good intentions, but completely serving selflessly is a whole different story. Try and make other people happy. Try and make their lives better. Build them up. Inevitably you will be blessed when you do this. It's funny how that works. The more we give, the more we get back! Heavenly Father wants to bless us so badly and He will as we faithfully strive to follow Him. He asks so little of us and promises so much in return. We will never catch up with him! :)

So this past Tuesday we were told that we were going to have one of the 12 apostles come speak to us. We were all so excited. It's better to see a member of the 12 than to see a for real though. They are rockstars! Anyways so we get to devotional on Tuesday night and as we are all staring at the screen waiting to see who is going to speak, the name Bruce C. Hafen pops up and you could literally feel everyone's faces drop. Elder Hafen got up and said that Elder Ballard was supposed to speak to us, but the snow kept him in Salt Lake. We were all a little disappointed. Then Elder Hafen started talking and honestly I believe that Heavenly Father sent the snow so that He would have to talk to us. His message was EXACTLY what everyone needed to hear. We have devotional reviews as Finnish districts after all of our devotionals and we were all bawling and saying how amazing his talk was. I wanted to share some of my "notes" with you from his talk. Honestly it changed my whole mindset:

"The temple endowment is an endowment of power. Because of the gifts that the Savior has given me, He will help me step up and turn my days of trouble to days of joy. All of the sufferings, sorrows, and afflictions we go through will be compensated for by incomprehensible joy. You can never know the good if you never know the bad. Stay positive. Be patient with people. Be patient with the language. Be patient with ourselves. We never know what will come of our efforts. Allow ourselves to stay open to the Spirit. We can come to know God on our missions (in our lives). We have no concept of the growth we will experience when we do what the Lord asks of us. We are all God's sons and daughters. He has a work for us to do. Heavenly Father doesn't just need workers to get His work done. He has called each of us and blessed us with unique and individual talents that will bless others lives. He loves us and He needs us. My mission does not end in 16 months. I have my family world, my mission world, and my world between me and God. This mission is life-altering. We come to know God in our extremities. It's an honor to pay that price."

Sorry that those are all over the place but I HAD to share that with you. It was honestly one of the greatest talks I have ever heard and if we can all take one thing from that and work on it or apply it to our lives, I know that it will make a huge difference. After he talked, we sang Away in a Manger. The last verse says, "Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the Dear Children in Thy tender care, and fit us for Heaven to live with thee there." That is my prayer for each of us this Christmas season. I want each of us to develop a stronger relationship with our Savior this Christmas than we ever have before. We do that by learning about Him and trying to become like Him. We do that by living His commandments and loving His commandments. We do that by forgetting ourselves. Like really, just don't think about yourself for one day and see what happens. I promise you will be happy :)

I guess one more thing I would say is that we all need to remember, especially me, that every hard thing we go through is for our good. I love that analogy about the stones and how the smoothest stones are the ones who have gone through the most. Every trial we go through is refining us. It is "fitting us for Heaven". I want so badly to be fit for heaven so that when the day comes and I get to see my Savior, that He will look at me and say, "Well done." Nothing could be better than that! :)

Anyways I love you all so much! I am so sorry this letter is like up and down and in and out, but that is how my brain is working right now! :) It's probably going to be a quiet week...BTW consecration week means that we can only speak Finnish. It's already been extremely hard and frustrating, but I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will help me. They have already helped me so much. I love them so much and want to do whatever they require of me with a happy heart. He will help us reach our righteous goals. I know that without a doubt!!

I love you all so much and am so beyond grateful that you are my family. Honestly, I have been so blessed. Everyday I say my prayers and thank Heavenly Father for allowing each of you to be in my life. I miss you with all my heart, but I am so grateful I get to serve this mission. It's going to be extremely hard. It is extremely hard, but He never said it would be easy. He only said it would be worth it! Yep, I totally made that quote up! :) Just kidding! Vitsi Vitsi! Anyways I hope you all have the best week ever and remember that Sisar Bitner loves you so much! You are the greatest and I can't wait to talk to you all! I love you!!

Love, Sisar Bitner