Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, January 20, 2014

    PIPA - Power in Praying Always...yes I made that up myself!! :)
    Heiiiiiiiii....Moro Perhe? How the heck are you all doing? Man I hope everyone is doing so well! Luke and Caroline and Anne HYVÄÄ SYNTYMÄPÄIVÄ!! That means Happy Birthday! I hope you all have the greatest birthdays on earth! Luke and Caroline you are 10, Anne you are 15...what is going on?? You guys are so dang old! That is awesome! Joce I hope you weren't as fat as me with your wisdom teeth. Lauren, I hope your braces are bringing you joy and happiness...k that's a bit of a stretch but I hope they are good :) Mom cooking is going really well...NOT. I totally ruined your banana bread! In my defense...Finland doesn't measure in cups or teaspoons so I eyeballed just about everything. The bread was edible...I think. I ate it. I'm not dead. was edible! It was way funny though and our house smelled real nice so that was good! Same with the meatloaf...I eyeballed everything...and made my own breadcrumbs, and used real mustard because I don't know the word for dry mustard in Finnish. It was edible too...Man i stink at cooking! Oh well it's part of the experience!! Dad, we have mission debit cards that we use for food and transportation and everything else. I have been using my debit card for all my cold winter gear. I would say I am done buying stuff...but I cannot tell a lie! :) No I am kidding, I have all the big things...a quality coat and boots and some real nice mittens. I am still looking for a nice scarf and hat but the ones I have now are doing just fine! Grandma, you can TOTALLY write Juhani a letter. That would be so wonderful!! I will translate it...and then my companion can fix my translation but we can totally give that to him! Look at you guys...being missionaries with me! This is awesome!! :) I hope that answered all the major concerns!! Man I love you all so much! You are wonderful and i miss you like crazy!!!

    This week was pretty dang incredible! It is so amazing how the longer I am on my mission and the deeper I get into Finnish and the culture of Finland, the more I love it. This really is the greatest place on earth. I was saying my prayers this morning and I just thanked Heavenly Father for Finland and I started bawling. This place will always have my heart. I already love it more than anything and I have been here a month. Man...It's amazing!!

    So I thought I would tell you a little bit about how we do missionary work here in good old Tampere! So...we do SO MUCH bus contacting. We ride the buses everywhere! It's actually way fun and I feel way legit with my bus pass and stuff! haha but I have to tell you, not a huge fan of bus contacting! Street contacting...totally fine. Bus contacting. NO. That is my goal for this week is to try to love bus contacting. It's really stressful cause you start trying to talk to someone and once you start talking about the gospel, Oh look! It's their stop and then they get off and run away. It's really bad but I am working on my "elevator talk" - courtesy of J-bit...Dad I mean! But I hope that will work a little better for me! Anyways, we bus contact in between lessons and just try to talk to EVERYBODY we see. It's kind of funny because people in FInland don't talk to each other. Like EVER. It is unbelievable. Whenever we approach someone or say hi to someone they freak out and jump back like "What the heck, why would you ever say hi to me?" It's really funny! 

    The finns really are so friendly though. They are way quiet and reserved, but once you get them talking, they don't stop. It actually really is a problem for us. We cannot get out of lessons. Our investigators talk FOREVER. It is so great, but it's stressful for us cause then we run to appointments and miss our buses and oh man...the life of a Finnish missionary :) I really think they talk so much because they bottle everything up inside and don't speak all day and then here we come, two american girls who want to sit and listen to their problems and concerns and they just unload EVERYTHING. You learn a lot, that's for sure! :) No but seriously, the people are so great! They are so honest and loyal and I really admire them in so many ways. They are tough too! This Finnish winter is no joke. My hair freezes instantly and you can't even breathe in the air without hurting your lungs. I want to be as cool as the FInns! 

    Send me some questions you all have so I don't ramble on and on about stuff no one wants to hear! haha I am a really good rambler so stop me with questions!! Anyways, I want to tell you about Petteri, Anna, Adam, and Malik. Petteri is the one I told you about last week. He is going to be a bishop one day. There is no doubt in my mind. We taught him this week about prayer. We had the best lesson about always having a prayer in your heart and the role that Heavenly Father plays in our lives. He told us that he believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true...he just doesn't know if it's true for him. COME ON Pettari! No I am just kidding! He seriously already has a testimony, it's insane! He came to church yesterday and we are meeting with him again on Tuesday! There is a lady in our ward named Anni, who is not married and is the same age as Pettari. Sisar Egan and I are convinced that Pettari and Anni are going to get married. It will be great! Pray for Pettari though...he needs to read the Book of Mormon. He says that he doesn't need to read because he already knows what is in it...uh ok :) No but really, your prayers make such a difference! Thank you so much!! :)

    So Anna and Adam are my BFFs. Adam is from Syria. He is a very handsome man, I am not going to lie. All of the girls in our ward love him. It's hilarious. He is muslim which means we argue about Jesus Christ every time we teach him. He has a hard time reading the Book of Mormon but I know when he does, he will be baptized. Anna is so stinking cute. I have told you about her, but she honestly has had the saddest life. I don't want to say too much...Finnish Privacy laws...but just pray that she will feel Heavenly Father's love in her life. We had a great lesson with her this week about prayer. She said she was afraid to pray so we asked her if she would say a prayer after sister egan and I said one as well. We all went around and prayed and her prayer was SO sincere and heartfelt. It honestly made me want to pray like her. She was talking to her Heavenly Father and the spirit was so strong. Aw man, I love them both so much!

    So Malik...oh Malik! Malik is from Pakistan. Malik is hilarious. Malik is my buddy. He talks more than any other person I have ever met in my entire life. On Wednesday we had a lesson with him. I said hey Malik, how has your day been. 1 hour later we were beginning our lesson. He tells us everything about his life. This week we discovered that he wants to get married. He wants a "woman with a kind heart who won't interfere and who understands his heart". I felt like that was a pretty good thing to desire in a wife :) hahaha We talked to him about the plan of salvation and living with our families forever. He seemed very interested in that especially because his dad passed away when he was 17. I have been thinking about having to go through trials like Pettari, Anna, Adam and Malik without the gospel. I want them all to have it SO bad. I just wish I could communicate to them what the gospel and the Atonement can bring to their lives, but I know that the spirit has been in our lessons and they will understand and accept it one day. We just have to love them and give them the best opportunity to receive this gospel. There are so many wonderful people in the world though! I am so grateful to be a missionary!

     Anyways, I hope you all know how much I love you! I have been thinking a lot this week about love, particularly the pure love of Christ. I was really struggling at the beginning of this week because all of our appointments were falling through and we had horrible back up plans and we were just walking down the freezing streets in Finland trying to talk to people who wanted to be in the cold about as much as we did and it wasn't working. Sisar Egan and I had a big old talk about loving the people and loving each other and loving the Lord. The next day as we tried to implement that love and uplift each other, a completely different spirit encompassed our missionary work. We were happy, we were laughing and people wanted to talk to us because they saw that joy that came from us just loving everything. I have made it a goal to acknowledge all the things I love and am grateful for verbally. I think when you do that, something clicks in your mind and you realize how much you really do love a lot about your life. Man...Love really is all you need! Thank you Beatles!! :)

     I am so grateful for my Savior. I am so grateful for his love for me. It blows my mind every day how much he loves each one of us! Never forget that he loves you. Never forget that I love you all so much and pray for you every day! Try to make a difference in someone's life. Just say hi to people. Love them. Tell each other you love each other. You will find more joy in that than anything else. I know this gospel is all about love. It's all about happiness. The Savior really is our perfect example in everything...especially love. He loved us enough to leave his throne in Heaven and rescue us from ourselves. He suffered EVERYTHING any of us will ever go through BECAUSE he loves us! Like that's incredible. He did it because he loves us. I am so grateful for that love and I am so grateful that I have so many wonderful people in my life who I can love! It's so amazing to be a missionary and to be a member of this church! I am grateful for it jokä päiva - each day :) I hope you all have an incredible week! I love you all!!! 


Sisar Bitner 

P.S. Sisar Egan and I are fasting on Tuesday to become more consecrated with the work. You don't have to fast, but we would LOVE your prayers of support for our fast and for this week! Help us become missionaries, not just serve missions! :) I love you all so much!! 

Me and the sun!!!!

The sun!!!

Beautiful Finland!

Finland is beautiful and white!!!

Our bus stop in the Tundra.

What I look like everyday.

Me and my companion who refuses to smile for my pictures...

Us...ya..this is what happens when you spend hours and hours and hours and hours with the same person... you get bored and take selfies! I love Sisar Egan!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Sun will come out...TODAY AND HOPEFULLY TOMORROW!!                   1/13/14

      Moro minun perhetta!! Miten menee? That's what I say to every person I sit next to on the bus, except the perhe part! How are you all doing? I hope you have had a great week! Finland is very much alive and well and snowy and freezing and beautiful and man it's great! I am starting to fall in was inevitable! You all need to come visit...not now of course. That would be a sin! :) But one day, we are all coming back! We will get some favorite bakery food EVER...and we will just party in Finland? Who's with me? K cool. So from my subject line I guess you can tell that THE SUN CAME OUT TODAY!!! It was my first exposure to sunlight in 1 month! Ask me if I skipped down the street singing and taking pictures! It was so beautiful! I can't wait for the summer here! It is going to be incredible!! 

      Speaking of incredible...this week takes the cake! So you know how I told you about our 4 new investigators last week? Pretty impressive right? WRONG. This week we found 9 New investigators!! Can you believe that? We found an aethiest boy, a former investigator family, a man who thought all mormons were men, a man who makes the most delicious pizza I have ever eaten, a man who literally walked in off the street (I will tell about him later) and the other two are Sisar Egan's investigators...but I will explain that to! We broke records this week in Tampere for finding and for lessons taught. It is seriously a miracle. We are being so blessed here. Now we just need some BAPTISMS!! I am so excited for this week!!

       Ok so story time. The first part of the week was SO stinking hard. No success and Sisar Egan and I had the 1 month itch pretty bad. On Friday, we had the opportunity to do splits with the Sisaret from Jyväskylä. Sisar Dixon and Sisar Cribbs. Sisar Dixon was in the MTC with me so we were way pumped to see each other. Anyways, split day comes and I am getting all ready to head out with Sisar Cribbs and my dear trainer, Sisar Egan decides to tell me that Sisar Dixon and I are being companions and I am now the senior companion...uh, mitä?? What?? I about died. My brain went into overdrive!! I totally freaked out! We had two lessons set up for that day with investigators. One of the investigators is Malik, the guy from Pakistan who went to church. We had such a great lesson. We stuck to the basics and taught the Restoration and the spirit was so strong! Then we had a lesson with this kid from Thailand who thought that Sisar Egan was flirting with him when she contacted him on a bus. He came to this lesson thinking it was a date. It was so hilarious to see his face when he saw Sisar Dixon and I standing there!! hahaha man good times on the mish! Anyways, he brought his friend with him, Jarno. Jarno is aethiest so that's fun. We taught them the Restoration as well and both of them were listening SO intently it was insane!! Jarno had SO many questions and said he wanted a Book of Mormon!! Can you believe that? We are meeting with them again on Friday. Miracles all over the place folks!!

      So after that lesson, Sisar Dixon and I were feeling pretty good. We decided to go get some food and we walked to the foyer of the church, and there was this guy standing there talking to one of the members in our ward. The member ushered us over and basically, this guy, Petteri, just moved to Tampere, was looking for stuff to do, googled Mormons in Tampere, found the address to our church and decided to drop by. He has such a sad life. He and his wife just got divorced, they have two kids, and she has done everything she can to hurt him. He can't see his kids anymore. Oh man, he just looked so sad, it broke my heart! He told us that he wants a new start and for some reason, he thought our church was the right place to be...dang right Petteri! :) I am so excited to teach him. We have an appointment tomorrow so I will let you know how that goes! Pray for Petteri!!

       After our miracle meeting with Petteri, we went and did service at this "home" for people with disabilities. It is right next to the church. It is actually a way funny story how this all came about. So sisar Egan and I were walking by the church one day and we passed this place and I had the thought to go ask if we could do service. I asked Sisar Egan if they had ever done service there and she said no, so we went and asked. The lady was way sassy and rude and said no, but took our number for some reason anyways. A few days later she called us back and said that they would love for us to come sing for the people that live there. Service changes hearts folks! :) ANyways we went and sang some Finnish primary songs. We sang families can be together forever. I was so emotional for two reasons...A, I have the best family in the world, and B, I remembered that we sang that song at Grandma Russell's funeral and I know that she was here in Finland with me when we were singing that song. It was such a special experience. I am so grateful that we know that we can be with each other forever with our Heavenly Father. Nothing brings me more joy than that!

      I am sorry this e mail is kind of crazy and all over the place but I hope you all know how much I love you! YOu are so important and special to me! I am so grateful for each and every one of you. One little thought before I sign off, in church on Sunday, a member shared this quote with English hahaha he said, "For every worry under the sun, there is a remedy, or there is none. If there's one, hurry and find it. If there's none, nevermind it." That is my new mission motto!! I hope you all have a wonderful week! Remember to really talk to Heavenly Father when you say your prayers. He is there listening and wants to hear how you really feel and what you really need! I love you all so much! The church is true and the book is blue...just like my nose in Finland!! Rakastan teitä!!!

Rakaudella, Sisar Bitner 
Our District...I love them with all my heart!

The first snowfall!! It's so much better here with snow!!

This way funny text I found on our phone from like 6 months ago!

The last part of the text...investigators hold nothing back...obviously!

I tried making banana bread..they don't have shortening in Finland,

but the bread slipped out of my hands,

and fell on the floor....

it was the funniest thing of my whole life!!!!

The first clear day in a month! It was the most beautiful day today!

Monday, January 6, 2014

   There Can Be MIRACLES...When You Believe!

    I hope everyone understands my Mariah Carey, Prince of Egypt reference for the subject of this email. If not, then this is awkward! Just kidding!! Hei perhe!! Miten menee? Thank you all so much for your e mails! We are emailing a little bit early today because the grocery store was closed until 12 because it's a holiday in Finland. It's called "Three Kings Day" so that's exciting! haha they have so many holidays here, it's insane! 

    This week I was able to meet a lot of our investigators. I met Anna on Tuesday and she is SO STINKING CUTE!!! Seriously I love her so much! She is 20 years old, has an aethiest twin and lives with her boyfriend. How great is that? Just kidding, that is totally not great. But she is great and we are going to help her. So we went to Anna's house and had a great lesson about prayer and our personal relationship with Heavenly Father. We told her that anything that is important to her is important to Heavenly Father and that she can pray for help with little tiny things in her life. She was so receptive and it was just awesome! It was a little strange teaching her when her boyfriend whom she lives with was sitting right there playing some weird Finnish video game, but it was pretty hilarious. She and I are already such great friends! She loves Jane Austen and Star Wars and everything else that any normal person loves! :) 

    So anyways we invited her to church and she didn't come, but we are meeting with her again tonight and I am way excited! I will keep you posted on her, but she talked about her plans to marry her boyfriend. She really wants to get married and so does he, but for some reason they won't. Sisar Egan told me that Anna loves everything about the gospel, except obviously the Law of Chastity. She says that she can't and won't live it. President Bernards said that I should have you guys pray for my investigators so investigator number 1...pray that Anna and Jonas will want to get married and that she will come to church! I know with our combined faith, we will see miracles happen! :) Anna actually paid me a way nice compliment...well I thought it was nice...she told me that I look like I'm Finnish. How cool is that? I think she meant it as a compliment, I mean Finnish people aren't disgusting or fat or anything so at least I have that going for least for right now! haha but it really meant a lot to me for some reason! She said I have a Finnish face....I feel pretty accomplished right now! :)

    Our next investigator I met this week is Malik. Malik is a bible basher...hardcore. He is from Pakistan and has lived in Helsinki for 7 years and just moved to Tampere. The sisters in Helsinki sent us his teaching record and told us we had to meet with him, but to be ready...we had no idea what that meant but we figured, what the heck? So We went and met with him with a sister in our ward and all he was trying to do was to disprove the Book of Mormon. It was actually really exhausting cause we just sat there for 30 minutes while he attempted to convince us that the Book of Mormon wasn't true. We really didn't say much during the lesson and towards the end, we both just testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It was really simple but his whole attitude changed. Sisar Egan and I both had the prompting to invite him to church. So we did, and he totally came!! It was incredible. My first investigator at church is a Book of Mormon hater! I love it! haha but he really enjoyed it and we are meeting with him again on Friday. The church is true, that's all I'm going to say! But investigator 2, pray that Malik's heart will be softened and he will pray about the Book of Mormon!! Miracles are on their way folks, I can feel it!! :)

    I wish I had more happy stories to tell about investigators and this week, but overall this week was SOOOOO emotionally draining and hard and other than Malik coming to church, we really had no success. Our spirits were both pretty low. I know that I have never felt so depressed, alone, scared, hopeless, abandoned, and awful in my whole life. I have never struggled with self worth issues or self esteem issues, but I have never felt so crappy about myself as I did this week. I felt like I couldn't do anything right. I was never going to be a good missionary. It was useless for me to try to learn this language. No one here needs or wants me. I wasn't the companion that Sisar Egan needed. I wasn't and couldn't live up to Heavenly Father's expectations of me. It was like every insecurity, doubt, fear, and anything else I have ever had all came at me at once.

    On top of all of that, we were dropped by one of our investigators who the sisters have been teaching for months. He had a baptismal date and everything and then as soon as I show up, he drops us. It was awful. I sat there looking at him (Juhani, the cute old man I told you about on Christmas) and my heart was just breaking. He told us that he wasn't going to become Mormon and he didn't want us to call him anymore. We walked out of that lesson and it about killed me. Plus all of our other lessons we had planned this week totally fell through and nothing was working out and we weren't finding anyone new to teach and no one wanted to talk to us...anywhere and it was cold and dark and was just awful. 

    Sorry to go all "bi polar email" on all of you, but I just have to share this experience with you...Yesterday as you know, was fast sunday so Sisar Egan and I decided to "Fast to Find". We seriously had found NO ONE this week so spirits were pretty low on both sides of our companionship but we knew and had learned that we could not do this alone. We needed the Lord to help us. So we went to church (with Malik...YAY) and afterwards, we planned a route to take to visit some former investigators we found in the area book. We decided that we were going to talk to every single person possible. I had determined that I was going to speak Finnish if it killed me.

    So we set out and the first people we talked to were a couple from Iraq. They didn't speak Finnish or English so we resorted to English/sign language. It was very effective...Not! But it was way funny. They eventually communicated to us that they had two daughters that were our age that spoke Finnish. The husband said "Come" and started walking away. So we figured we had better come. We got to their apartment and their older son actually came to the door and talked to us for a little while. We told him that we were "kirkon edustaja" which means church representatives...apparently they don't like the word missionary here...and that we wanted to talk with them about finding more joy and happiness in life and in our families. He translated to his parents and they both just lit up and said "Oh yes, please come tomorrow". So long story short, we are teaching them tonight. Talk about miracles. Honestly I wish I could just communicate to you how hard this week was and then to be taken to someone's home and practically begged to come over about killed me. I couldn't believe what was going on. I am so excited to write to you next week about how their lesson goes!! Pray for the Ruskum Merza family!!! 

    Day goes on...everybody WANTS to talk to us!!! It seriously was unbelievable. We got on a bus and this guy from Australia comes up and just starts telling us his life story. He is a "motivator" for youth and he travels all over the world helping youth groups. He is married to a Finn and has a 7 month old daughter and we are meeting with him on Wednesday. We get off the bus and are just saying Hi to everyone on the street. Another guys stops us and says he wants to talk to us about our beliefs and that he is looking for direction in his life. Like what the heck? Where have these people been? It was seriously so unbelievable. We had a goal set for 3 new investigators this week and we found 4 one day! Fasting is real! The church is true!! Miracles are real!! I love this gospel!! Heavenly Father is so aware of each of us. He is always there to bless us! I know that he is preparing people for us to bless! We just have to open our mouths and be excited about this gospel we are so blessed to have. Share it with as many people as you can! I love you all so much and am so grateful for you in my life!! Have a wonderful week and remember, there can be MIRACLES when you believe!!! Minä rakastan teitä!!! I love you all so much!!!


Sisar Bitner 

Our awesome New Year's Eve party..we went to a single lady member's house, Anni Lehdi and had salad, lit fireworks, and played a trivia game and were in bed by 10:30p.m. It was awesome!!

My newest investigator.. Batman! Not progressing very well!

This cool path we had to walk through to get to an investigators house. This is what I thought Finland would look like!