Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, February 24, 2014

BFFs....for real though :)
    What's going on? How are all of you doing? Man I hope you are all so great! I love and miss you all so much, but man, I love being a missionary!!! :) Mom I loved your chain of service idea! I think that is so great and I know that the spirit changes so quickly when you forget yourself and start serving others. It's amazing how the more we do what the Savior would do, the happier we are and the more fulfilled we feel. I have noticed that so much ever since being on a mission. When I am having a hard day or when I am frustrated with the language...which happens pretty frequently...I really try hard to look for opportunities to serve. I am so glad that you have done this as a family. I have the coolest, most awesome family in the world. I brag about all of you all the time! Keep me posted on everything and send me some pics!! I love hearing all about everyone! I put up everyone's Christmas cards next to my desk. I am still missing pics of a few families like Anna and Rae, but everyone else is always sitting with Sister Bitner when she studies the good old Suomen Kieli...aka Finnish language! I love you so much! You are the best support system any missionary could ever ask for!! I love you!!!

    I just have to give a quick shout out to all my "ladies" up at Weber State. Way to go winning the conference man!! WAHOOO!!! :) What the heck?? You guys are so cool! Jamie, I loved all of the pictures that you sent! Oh and by the way...YOU ARE ALL GETTING MARRIED????? What is going on?? Riss e-mailed me and told me about her, but all the rest of you who haven't e-mailed me are so dead!! I want to hear all about it! I am so happy for all of you!! I miss and love you all so much!! I miss soccer a lot. It's hard not being able to play, but I bought a soccer ball and I do some drills in my apartment in the morning. I want to come up and play with you all when I get home. Hopefully I am not an obese mess...I work out though, don't worry! You all are awesome! Tell Tim and Megan and Mike and Andi Hi from Sister O in Finland! :)

    It is so great to hear about everyone's lives. Honestly, hearing news from home on your mission is like surreal. It is so hard to believe that life is still going on somewhere normally!  Doesn't everybody wake up at 6:30 and walk around in a giant puffy coat talking to people about faith and stuff? Man...the missionary's the best!! :) I am so happy for all of you though! You are just so great...dang it I love you all so much!!

    So man, this week has been awesome! Sister Jones and I literally are BFFs. Honestly, we have been laughing for a week straight. She is like the funniest person I have ever met and we get along SO well!! I am so excited for this transfer and I am already secretly praying that we stay together for next transfer but don't tell! We will cross that bridge when we get there! :) So a little about Sister Jones...she is from South Jordan, she is the youngest of 11 kids...4 are step siblings...she loves to play tennis...brownie points for Mom and Lauren...she has been out in the field for 6 months and she speaks Finnish like a pro. I am so glad she is my companion and she has helped me so much already with the language. Seriously we have had so much fun...the only thing we disagree on is that she hates movies which is kind of a bummer but we are on missions so we don't talk about movies of the time. I am kidding, I keep the rules. That is actually one of my goals this eliminate the worldly. I just love quoting movies and singing Michael Buble. It's hard to always sing hymns, but I am working on memorizing some scriptures so when my mind has time to wander, hopefully it goes to investigators or scriptures.

    I now understand why missionaries are kind of awkward when they come home. We honestly can't help it. You do everything you can to not think about normal things! haha but it's good and the spirit is so much stronger when you are focused on the work and you are happier. Maybe I will just be awkward for the rest of my life. Life is a lot more fun when you are awkward...there is a gospel truth in that somewhere! :) I hope you all know I am kidding...I still have a little bit of my sarcastic self here in Finland. It won't ever completely go away I think! :)

    So other than having a great time being with Sister Jones, we had the craziest week of all time. Last week, Sister Egan left me so I basically set up our entire week with investigators. Also, I had to learn the entire Tampere bus system in about 20 minutes so that was fun. Sister Egan just knew everything so well. I probably should have paid a little more attention than I did, but oh well! :) Live and learn I guess. Sister Jones and I have gotten lost only about 3 times and missed only about 6 of our buses so NBD. Just kidding, that is really bad. The worst part about missing our buses is that we literally only miss them by like 20 seconds. I have ran more this week than probably my whole life combined. Poor Sister Jones has been a champ, running all over Tampere, but we are learning together and it's been super fun! I wish Utah had a sick bus system like this. It's kind of exciting! :)

    So I kind of mentioned how I had this great week planned out, which is totally true. I was so excited and thought that Sister Jones would be impressed. As luck would have it, every single appointment we had fell through. Not like 1 or 2, but like all of them. Even with members. It was awful. But, the good news is, we had a lot of good contacting time and we met some awesome people. One person that I want to tell you about is Vincent. Oh man...Vincent. I love Vincent. I met him last Sunday when we were actually trying to get a hold of Zheng at her apartment. She wasn't letting us in so we went out to the bus stop and there Vincent was, wearing a bright pink beanie. I went over and talked to him and invited him to come and play sähly with our ward. Sähly is floor hockey and the finns LOVE IT!! Speaking of which, I heard Finland beat the USA in hockey. People have pointed that out every time I talk to them on the bus. The Finns love hockey more than they love each other. Just kidding. Bad joke! But seriously, it's a national passion so I was happy they won. But I will always love 'Merica! :)

    Anyways so Vincent came to sähly and seriously had the best time. He loved all the members and he was pretty much a pro at sähly so they all loved him. I am still working on my sähly skills but playing futsal in my past life has actually helped me a lot here so one point for soccer! :) After sähly, we were heading back to the center on a bus, and we had the greatest discussion with Vincent. We basically taught him the whole first lesson on a bus, in our sähly clothes and the spirit was so strong. It was amazing! But afterwards, we invited him to come to the baptism of a person in our ward and he totally accepted. BTW, the baptism was of a kid who had to wait until 18 to get baptized but he has basically been a member his whole life. He is what you call a "dry member". 

    So Vincent came to the baptism Sister Jones had to translate for him, but as he was listening to the talks and watching Apo get baptized, he had tears in his eyes the whole time. We gave him a Book of Mormon afterwards and gave him a church tour and the whole time he just kept saying "Thank you so much for bringing me here, I feel so good, I love this so much, this is so wonderful" and he had the biggest smile on his face. It made me realize how lucky I am to be a member of this church and how much I take it for granted. We are blessed enough to have the spirit with us always. It really is such a precious gift! Anyways, stay tuned on updates on Vincent. He is getting baptized...I know it!!

   Not too much else to report from our investigators...kind of a crazy week, but it has been so good! Sister Jones and I are really going to focus on meeting with our members and getting them pumped to do missionary work. It is so important that members and missionaries work together. That's when the serious work gets done. Seriously, there are 80,000+ full time missionaries for the church, but there could be 15 million missionaries for the church. Doing missionary work doesn't have to be some big dramatic thing. All it is is talking to people about the church. Bring it up in a natural conversation. It doesn't have to be weird. That is one of the biggest things I have learned on my mission. The gospel is such a big part of our lives, it is weird for us to not talk about it to our friends. You can tie anything back to the gospel and people will be interested in it because you are interested in it. It is a part of YOU and people are interested in people. That's why it is so important that we live our lives in accordance with the gospel. People notice us even when we aren't talking and they want to know what that light in our eyes is.

     I have a challenge for all of you...we are giving this to our members as well so this will be fun!! :). Your mission, should you choose to accept I am kidding...Mission Impossible reference, K I am more worldly...but seriously, I want all of you this week to just talk to one person about the gospel. You don't even have to invite them to anything, just talk to them about it. Bring it up at work, at school, at soccer, at the store, anywhere! Just try it. I promise that if you are willing to try, the Lord will bless you with the strength to do it. I receive a confirmation of that every day when I get on the bus in Finland and try to share the gospel with Finnish people...IN FINNISH. Finnish is so hard. Like honestly, they weren't kidding when they said it's the hardest language for English speakers to learn. I could not be speaking this without the help of the Savior...I know that for a fact. Now, don't get me wrong,  I am not saying I speak well by any means, but I can bear my testimony and testify of Jesus Christ and INVITE them to learn more. Our purpose as missionaries is "to invite others to come unto Christ..." How will they know how wonderful it is to have Christ in their lives if we don't invite them to find out for themselves? I know that you can all do it. I have faith in you. If you get scared, picture me, sitting on a bus, talking to a big old Finnish man with a black beard and a big old belly. At the very least, if you picture that, you will laugh and hopefully your day gets better and then you will want to make someone else's day better by sharing the love of Christ with them. Whenever I feel like I don't want to talk to someone, I just think, "I can make their day better, I am going to tell them I like their coat or their bag or their dog" or whatever and then the Lord takes care of the rest. Trust him and open your mouth. He will fill it and you will be so blessed. I am a walking testimony of that!!! 

    Well, I will hop back off the soapbox for now, but I just want to share as much of my mission with you all as I can. I have so much to learn about life and the gospel, but one thing I do know without a doubt is that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. He loves us so much. He is always there for us and through Him, we can all live together forever as families, with our Father in Heaven and our Savior. What greater blessing is there than that? I can't think of one! I love my Savior. I love my Heavenly Father. They are my greatest strengths and friends and I could not and would not be here without them. This church is true. The gospel is real. It's all real. I know it. I know that Joseph Smith restored this church and this gospel in it's fullness. I am so grateful for him. The Book of Mormon is amazing and is the word of God. I love it so much. It has changed my life and I am here in Finland so that it can change other people's lives! I love you all so much! Never forget how much I love all of you! I think about and pray for you all the time! There are so many things in Finland that remind me of all of you and I just smile and say, "That's so Anne." "Caroline would love that" "That boy kind of looks like Luke" "Jocelyn would totally think that guy is cute" "Mom would love to come shopping in Finland" "Dad would be so proud at how many Audis there are in Finland" Haha but seriously, you are all here with me and that is what makes it so wonderful. I am so grateful for each of one you and I hope you know how much I love you! I could never express it in words, but take my word for it! :) Have a great week...remember, talk to one person about the gospel. I want to hear all of your success stories next week. You are all missionaries too! Be safe and have a great week!! Minä rakastan teitä niin paljon ja olen iloinen että me voimme olla yhdessa ikuisesti!!! Tämä kirkko on totta! Rukoilla aina!!! Hei Hei!!

Rakaudella, Sisar Olivia Bitner 

Saying goodbye to Sisar Egan

Us and Vincent after sähly :) 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

   The Winds are Changing...
    Hey guys!!! Man how are you all doing? I hope that you have all had a fantastic week! You are all so wonderful. I literally can feel your prayers and support lifting me all the time! I love knowing that you are all behind me in this. Every time I say my prayers, I pray for all of you and thank Heavenly Father that he blessed me with the greatest family on earth. Honestly, it's true. I know I say that every week but you're the best so you're just going to have to deal with it! I love you all!! Oh also, I love getting e-mails via text from everyone, but I can't open the messages on my e-mail. I can see all of your pictures but can't read the messages! Just a heads up! :) Thanks so much for sending me stuff and for keeping me posted. You are all so wonderful and amazing!! I love you so much!!

    So this week has been pretty much insanity! Sister Egan and I feel like we have been through the ringer, but it's ok, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Every cloud has a silver lining, even in Finland. It may not seem like it, but we are strong. Just like Grandma Parkinson always says, "We can do hard things!" SO pretty much all of our investigators have gone A-wall. cute Chinese friend has dropped us like we're hot. We have no idea what happened. Last week she wanted to be baptized and this week she won't respond to anything. It's so crazy. I don't even know what to think. But I know that Prayer helps so much, especially when all you pray as well! Pray that we will be able to get in contact with her. She needs and wants this gospel so badly. I know it!

    So Anna is doing really well. She is progressing, slowly but surely. She has taught me so much about patience. Obviously, my wish is that she would be baptized like yesterday, so it's really frustrating when she isn't keeping any of her commitments and we have to keep going back to square 1. I always tell Sister Egan that it wouldn't be so frustrating if I didn't love these people so much! haha Man, the life of a missionary. It's the best! Like for real though! It's awesome! So our other investigator, Kirsi, is also dodging us like a bullet. We have been trying to set things up with her for weeks and she has made every excuse in the excuse book and more. Now she just isn't answering our calls either. Man, it's hard getting dodged all the time...I can tell you that! :) But it's ok, we are trying to keep our spirits up!

    Good news on Petteri. The Elders helped him out this week and he came to church on Sunday. He looked pretty bad, but I was so glad he was doing better. He is going to be a bishop one day. I know it! 

    So this week really has been hard. None of our investigators kept any of the commitments we gave them. We haven't had much finding success and's just been rough. I have to tell you about this amazing experience that happened though. It seriously made everything we went through this week SO worth it. So on Valentine's day...BTW HYVÄÄ YSTÄVANPÄIVÄ! That means friend day in Finnish. They call it friend day here because love is a very sensitive subject for the Finns. They don't say I love you unless they seriously love you! They are a very literal people! Even the language is VERY literal I love it so much! Anyways on Friend Day, we decided that we were going to make cookies and take them to all of the less actives in our ward. We may have bitten off more than we could chew...there are lots of less actives. I know, I know, we're working on it! :) Anyways, so we start visiting all these people with these cute little cookies one is home. Like literally no one. We were so discouraged. It was just like Man, what else could go wrong? That's a dangerous question to ask by the way...don't ask it! haha just kidding! :)

    Anyways, so we went to get on a bus to go home, and I had pretty much had it for the week. I said a prayer right at the bus stop and said Heavenly Father, we need your help. If you will show me who to sit next to on this bus, I will teach them the gospel. Seriously, when the bus pulled up, it looked like there was a spotlight shining on this girl. I knew I had to sit next to her. I got on the bus and asked if I could sit next to her. She said "of course" and we were basically best friends. We started talking all about the church and turns out she has a mormon friend. Like what? That is unheard of in Finland. Mormons are friends with Mormons but yep, here she was. A nonmember who is best friends with a member. It was incredible. I had the thought to invite her to come see our church. We do church tours for people, it is actually a way effective way to contact! Anyways so I asked her about it and she said "Oh my word yes. I have wanted to see your church for such a long time. Can I come on Wednesday at 2:30?" Seriously I about fell out of my seat. I was so excited. I whipped out my good old missionary planner, we penciled her in, and now we have a new investigator and she is coming to a church tour on Wednesday!! It was so incredible! Heavenly Father answers prayers!! I have never had such a direct answer to my prayer and so quickly. It was amazing. 

    I know He is preparing people for all of us...not just us missionaries. We just have to pray for the opportunities and be willing to act on those promptings we receive. It is so key that we pray with real intent. Real intent means that we REALLY INTEND to act on the answer we receive. Heavenly Father knows when we aren't being sincere. He answers every sincere prayer we give. I can promise you that. I can also promise that if you will pray with a willing heart and really listen, Heavenly Father will make you equal to whatever task or situation he will lead you to. I promise!  The spirit speaks so quietly and peacefully. It is hard to recognize Him but We are promised that the spirit will always be with us as we always remember Christ, take His name upon us, and keep His commandments. Pray Always and more specifically Pray to Find the One. That is what we are working on as a Finland Helsinki Mission. The Kingdom is built one by one. If every member in the church shared the gospel with one person, we would have over 15 million new investigators! Can you imagine? 15 million INVESTIGATORS!! Man it would be so amazing!! :) The best part is, that is totally possible. We all know someone who needs the gospel. Focus on The One and this work will skyrocket from there! I just know it!!! 

    Oh boy, I almost forgot, guess what else this week is....TRANSFER WEEK!!!! We got our change calls on Saturday morning. Sisar Egan and I have been stressing about it all week. She has been in Tampere for 1 year and we both felt that the winds were changing. We were playing out all the different situations in our heads of what could happen, and we were going back and forth and back and forth and man, we were going CRAZY!! By the end of the week, we were both convinced that we were staying together. Then, President Rawlings called us on Saturday morning and said, "Hello Sisters. How are you doing?" and Sister Egan blurted out "President, where are we going?" and he said "Sister Egan, you are going to Espoo and Sister Jones is coming to Tampere to finish Sister Bitner's training." Now a little background, trainers and trainees NEVER get split up in Finland! Ok, that's not true, but it is very rare! Sister Egan kept telling me all week that we would be together because President just doesn't take trainers away from their trainee, but apparently that is not the case this time 'round folks! Espoo (pronounced S-PO not like Poo, like poop, but Po, like on Kung Fu Panda) is right next to Helsinki and Sister Egan is heading down there and I am sticking around in good old T-town! I am writing this, is the last night I am spending with my trainer. It's really weird, but I am super excited that Sister Jones is my new companion. I am sure I will have pictures and tons to write about her next week so be expecting that. We did splits together when I was in Helsinki for Interim and she is awesome. We worked really well together and had so much fun! I know it's going to be great! :)

    I am going to miss Sister Egan a lot though, but I know that she needs to get away from Tampere. She has been here for so long, and I know a change is exactly what she needs! I am going to miss her a lot. She has taught me so much. I have learned so much about loving people unconditionally from her. She really loves everyone regardless of who they are, what they have done, or anything else! She is an incredible person and missionary and I know we will be Sisters for life! I have grown more in these past 9 weeks with Sister Egan, no scratch that, past 4 months with her and Sisar Thayne than I have in the 19 years leading up to my mission. Seriously, the growth you experience on a mission is like insane in the membrane. I honestly have the best companions though. I 100% believe that and will say it til I am dead. They have both been angels! 

    It's funny though, as the days go by, you don't feel like you are changing. Whether it's with the language or your testimony or anything else. Then you look back and don't even recognize the person you were 9 weeks ago. I was really worried about my mission changing my personality and changing all these things that made me who I was. Now I thank Heavenly Father every day for making me into the person that He needs me to be. I realized something this week...we really do sell ourselves short a lot in life by not completely giving our lives over to the Lord. We have no concept of the potential that we each have as individuals. Heavenly Father is our literal Father. He knows us SO well and so personally. He knows exactly what we have the potential to become. That is why He gives us commandments and helps us know where to go in life because He sees the end result even when we can't. 

    I have this metaphor in my head that I want to tell you, so let's see how well it works. Ok, so life is like a maze. We all start out in the same spot when we are born and then from that point on, all of our different choices and situations get us to different places in this maze. Sounds scary right? I kind of envision the maze from Harry Potter 4 in my head, so try that on for size and see how it works for you. :) Sometimes the maze is dark. Sometimes we hear scary noises. Sometimes we are with our friends and family. Other times we are alone. Now Heavenly Father created the maze (well he supervised the creation, but that's beside the point), knows everything about the maze, and in fact is standing on a tower looking above the maze. He can see everything. He knows the fastest way for us to get to where we need to be and He wants to help us get there. In fact, He has a big spotlight (The gospel) that he shines in front of us and directs us exactly where we need to go. 

    Sometimes, however, we feel like we know the best route to take and so we set out on our own. Even though the spot light is going down another path, our "natural man" wants to figure it out for ourselves and wants to do what it wants to do so we go for awhile by ourselves. As time passes, we realize that we have no idea what is going on. But the good news is, even though we may have strayed from the light, Jesus Christ is the turn table that the big old spot light is sitting on. Because of Him, we don't have to be forever punished because we didn't always exactly follow the light. Our mistakes and shortcomings don't take us away from the light forever. Because of Him, we can stop at whatever point we are at in the maze and reevaluate our direction. We can choose to turn around and come back to the light. It will always be there to get us going in the right direction again. 

    There really is so much peace and happiness that comes from giving our lives over to the Lord. He wants us to start from where we are now and move forward. He doesn't expect us to be perfect, He just expects us to try. I got a quote from one of my friends in the MTC that I LOVE and look at every day. It is by Lorenzo Snow and it says, "Do not expect to 'become' at once. If you do, you will be disappointed. Be better today than yesterday and be better tomorrow than you are today. The temptations that partially overcome us today, let them not overcome us so far tomorrow. Thus continue to be a little better, day-by-day: and do not let your life wear away without accomplishing good to others as well as to ourselves. Each last day or each last week should be the best that we have ever experienced, that is, we should advance ourselves a little every day. In knowledge and wisdom, and in the ability to accomplish good. As we grow older, we should live nearer the Lord each following day." Nothing like a quote from the prophets to sum things up! :)

    Anyways, I am sorry this was all over the place. Kind of matches my brain right now! :) haha but I am doing so well and loving being a missionary so much. It has it's ups and downs and rights and lefts, but at the end of the day, I am so happy to be exactly where I am. I know that this is Gods work. It would not go anywhere without him directing it. I know that we are so lucky to be able to participate in this work. It is so wonderful! I know that everything that happens to us in life happens for a reason and that we are strong enough to get through anything with the Atonement. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and My Father in Heaven. This church is true! It's as simple as that! :) I love you all so much! I hope you know how grateful I am for you and for how much I appreciate you! Have a wonderful week and share the gospel with one person! Get a referral for the missionaries! You will make their entire week...actually probably life! Help them out! They need it! Members are the key!!!! I love you all so much!

Rakaudella, Sisar Bitner

Monday, February 10, 2014

I've let go of the need to know why...for He knows better than I :)

    Well hey guys! How are you all doing! Thank you so much for all your e-mails and pictures and everything! It is so fun to see all of you guys! I get so excited to come and see what has been happening in your lives every p day and the pictures are just the icing on the cake! You are all so beautiful and wonderful! I show people our family picture all the time and brag about how amazing you all are! By the time I leave Finland, everyone will know how bomb awesome my Dad is at for real though, how beautiful and kind and loving and amazing and how much of a saint my Mom is, how hilarious and beautiful and smart and athletic and pretty much just legit Jocelyn is, how beautiful and creative and smart and athletic and hilarious Anne is, how my BB is my mini me and is a beast at tennis and everything else and I love her so stinking much, how handsome and hilarious and what a good bum spanker Luke is, and how Beanie Weanie is my little sunshine and how bomb awesome both of the twins are at soccer. Don't worry, I tell people all these things on a regular basis. You are all so important to me, it wouldn't make sense to not have you as part of my missionary work!! Just know that even though you aren't here, you are totally here. All of your influence is being felt by everyone I talk to. Thank you all for being amazing! Thank you for being you and for loving me! Your love and support keeps me going every day!!!

    Man, where to begin with this week. I am not going to lie, this week may take over as "hardest week on my mission so far". It has been a struggle. But don't worry Mom, you have always said I don't like being sad or down and I work myself out of it. It was a struggle this week, but every cloud has a silver lining and I know that I have found mine this week!

    So you all know about Petteri and what happened last week. This week it has just been the biggest headache and stress trying to figure out what to do with him. I was pretty shaken up after last Sunday, not going to lie. I couldn't sleep very well. I kept thinking he was going to find our house, all drunk and scary and stuff and I was pretty much planning how I was going to go all kung-pow chicken on him and protect Sister Egan. Good thing that was totally unnecessary, but still I was pretty jumpy all week. The Elders are teaching him now, but they went over to his house and they said you couldn't even see the floor, it was completely covered in beer cans. They said everything in his apartment was broken and he is really having a hard time. We have been so worried that he is literally going to die from alcohol poisoning. All we can do is pray for him now...the Elders are taking care of him, but please keep him in your prayers. He needs this gospel SO BAD. He is going to be a bishop one day...there is no doubt in my mind. Keep praying for him. I appreciate and can see the effects of all of your prayers every day! Thank you for caring about my investigators. I love them all so much. As much as Petteri scared Sisar Egan and I, it is breaking our hearts to see him like this because we care about him so much and want him to have the gospel more than anything else in the world. I know that Heavenly Father will take care of Him, but I know that he needs all the prayers he can get!

    Sister Egan and I spent 3 days this week inside our apartment because she has been so tired and just doesn't feel well. It was so incredibly hard and frustrating and just awful, to be honest. We had some really good talks while we were inside and we are still trying to figure out how to help her. The doctors said other than her tonsilitis, she is totally fine. No other medical problems whatsoever, but she said she feels like she is going to pass out when we are walking around and she can't think straight and her throat hurts and her knee hurts and all sorts of problems. It is extremely hard because I honestly have no idea how to help her. I think her problems run a little deeper than inability to think and I just feel helpless sitting here, wondering what I can do to fix her problems. I have been praying and thinking a lot about it, and I think the best thing I can do is try to be as upbeat and positive and happy as I can so that hopefully some of my energy rubs off on Sister Egan. It's really hard to see this happening because she doesn't have a lot of time left in Finland and I know she wants to finish her mission strong. I really hope that my plan will work! I know that Heavenly Father has blessed me with incredible patience and love...more than I ever had before my mission. He really does make us equal to whatever task we are willing to do! I know that is true!!

    I have decided that my two sunshines in Finland are Anna and Zheng. I sent a pic of Zheng last week...I still need to get one with Anna but they are both incredible! I get SO excited when we get to go see them! We had a lesson with Anna this week about the Book of Mormon. Not going to lie, I was not feeling the spirit at all. That day had been a really frustrating with Sister Egan's health and all our issues and it just was not there at all. I was praying SO hard that the spirit would come into the lesson even though I knew I wasn't in the right mindset. Heavenly Father blessed us so much. Sisar Egan and I were both frustrated and tired and honestly after I said that silent prayer in my heart, I felt like the Energizer bunny was let loose inside of me. I started talking about the Book of Mormon more excitedly and enthusiastically than I think I ever have in my life. Then some of my energy juice spilled onto Sister Egan and she started doing the same thing. Anna was a little shocked at first at how passionately we were testifying of the Book of Mormon, but at the end when we asked her if she would pray about the Book of Mormon, her eyes just welled up with tears and she said that she was so amazing! I know that she is so ready for this gospel. She is yearning for peace and contentment in her life. She does live with her boyfriend though and she drinks alcohol just like everyone and their dog in I seriously HATE the stuff, but we are working with her on that. We are trying to help her recognize the blessings that have come into her life because of the gospel already and how many more she could have. I know that she knows this is true. She just needs a little more faith! Good thing that is what we are here to help people their faith! What an awesome calling!! I love being a missionary!!

    So Zheng...oh my good golly goodness you all NEED to meet Zheng!! She is honestly the cutest, funniest, most sincere person I have ever met in my life. She is an exchange student from China, but she invited us over to her little apartment to have a lesson this week. When I say little, I mean little. It was like the size of our pantry. But she had cleaned it up all nice and cute and had peeled kiwis for me and sister Egan. Like isn't that the cutest thing you have ever heard? She stinking peeled kiwis and had them set on little plates. I was was so cute! :) Anyways, after the kiwis, we got to know her a little bit more. We gave her a Book of Mormon last Monday because she came to Perhe Ilta (Family Night) for the Young Single Adults. She had so much fun and they all loved her. We played this game at Perhe Ilta where we had to act out stories from the Book of Mormon and guess what they were. She was just eating it right up and then after we left Perhe Ilta, we were walking her to the bus stop and she said, "I think I need to know more about this book so I know what stories they are talking about next time." I wanted to jump up and down and scream I was so happy. We gave her a Book of Mormon, right at the bus stop and testified about it and then sent her on the bus, book in hand with a smile on her face! :) Anyways at our lesson, her two questions about the Book of Mormon...BTW, she had totally read like 10 pages in the Book of was like a miracle...but anyways, her questions were "Who is Mormon?" and "What does it mean in the Book of Mormon when they say 'preserve the records'". Now I don't know about you, but those were some incredibly valid questions :) It was way cute! We answered her questions and then got to know her more, and then launched right into lesson 1.

    We taught her all about Heavenly Father and dispensations and prophets and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and from the look on her face, you would have thought she had just seen the sun in Finland for the first time in months (all jokes aside, that is a serious grateful for the sun) anyways she just loved and believed everything we were saying. She was so excited to be able to read the Book of Mormon more and when we had finished talking about Joseph Smith, she said, "this book is a gift from God." It really is Zheng, it really is! :) So long story short...probably too late now, but anyways we invited her to be baptized on March 1 and she said the baptism, no to March 1. She said she wants to learn more but she thinks it is "no good idea to set date, no good idea" :) She said that she would tell us this week if she feels good about March 1, so pray that she will receive an answer to her prayers. She has never been religious in her life so the concept of God is still a little foreign but we taught her how to pray and she said the most sincere prayer ever! She is totes getting baptized. It's going to be great!!

    One thing I love about Finland...apart from other things, is how many different kinds of people you meet here. It really is a melting pot. You see people from the Congo and China and all sorts of Europeans and gypsies and middle eastern people and of course the Finns but sometimes I don't even remember where I am! It's so cool to meet people from all over the world! We actually teach quite a bit in English, which is sometimes way frustrating because my Finnish is uh, how you say, POOP...but I am working on it. I try to speak as much as I can and it is getting better daily! I know that the gift of tongues is real. I am trying to gain a testimony of the understanding of tongues, but I know that will come with time! 

    I am learning so much patience on my mission, it is not even funny. Mostly patience with myself. I had a revelation this week that Heavenly Father loves us so much. I know, I know, like how long did it take me to figure that out? But I have been thinking a lot lately about how hard it is to believe that Heavenly Father loves us so much when we have such hard things happen in our lives. That is a question a lot of nonmembers and I think members have. If God loves us so much, why do we have to go through such hard, crappy times in life? I can't tell you how many investigators ask that question. Anyways, as I have been thinking about it, I just realized today that Heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves. Like, think about that, he knows what we need more than we do. We may think we have all the answers. I thought I did. I thought I knew exactly what I needed in my life to be happy. Boy was I WRONG. 

    My mission...all 4 months of it...has taught me so much about humility and trust in God. He is never EVER going to take us somewhere we shouldn't be. He will NEVER give us anything we can't handle. He knows the strength that is within us, even though we don't or can't recognize it in ourselves. Whenever I feel like I can't continue, I think about how someone who loves me SO much sent me here to Finland to serve a mission because he knows I can do it. He knows that I need to do it. He knows there are people here that need me. He knows everything. There is a song Sister Egan and I listen to all the time in the mornings. It is way cheesy but something about cheesy church music and being a missionary just work, but anyways it is called "Better than I". One of the lines says "You know better than I, you know the way. I've let go the need to know why, for you know better than I." 

    This was and is something I have struggled with my whole life. Truly believing that God knows what is right for me. Now I know that sounds so awful and prideful and it is. That is one of the reasons I am so grateful for my mission. But I think there is a valuable lesson for all of us to learn. Quit trying to figure out why your life is the way it is. Quit thinking "what did I do wrong?" "what did I do to deserve this?" If we are trying to live good lives and trying our best each day to be the best person we can be, we are always ALWAYS going to be exactly where we are supposed to be. There is such a relief and happiness and joy that comes from letting go of the need to know why (Helaman 3:35) Cause honestly, he really does know better than all of us. I know, some of you are really smart and clever and witty and...yadda yadda yadda (Seinfeld joke) but I hate to break it to you, God is smarter. He knows what is best!

    The best part about all of this is that he loves us. More than anything else, he loves US. Imperfect and prideful and "natural-manny" as we our, he loves us all perfectly and unconditional. Ehdotomasti in Finnish :) He really is our loving Heavenly Father. His whole work and his glory is for us to return to live with Him again. He was willing to do anything, even send his most beloved Son to save us from our sins so that this could be accomplished. He won't stop trying to bring us all back until each and every one of us is back in his presence forever. We can all be together forever someday. Have you ever really thought about what that means? Like not just for a long time, but we can live together as families with god FOREVER. That knowledge is the most incredible gift we have. Don't ever take it for granted! I will never take it for granted again. We are so blessed to have this gospel. Share it with whoever you can. It is too great to keep it all to ourselves! Everyone needs this. Heavenly Father wants everyone to have this and he has allowed us the opportunity to share it with others! What a blessing!!

    Anyways, I am doing so great! I have really hard days, discouraging days, but the good days and the knowledge and experiences I am having are the most precious things to me in this world! I wouldn't trade it for anything! I love and miss you all so much and pray for you daily! I am so blessed to have you all forever! It is so wonderful and it is all because of Jesus Christ. Man, I love having his name so close to mine everyday! Nothing is greater than being a missionary!! Have a wonderful week guys!! Remember that I love you all so much, but more importantly, don't ever forget who you are as a child of God and that you have a loving Heavenly Father who wants you to be happy! Let go of the need to know why and I promise you will find peace and happiness! I love you so much!! Thanks for everything! Oh and HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!! Spread some gospel love!! Haha


Sisar Bitner 

These pics pretty much sum up this week...a lot of sitting inside and being bored and getting creative by doing homemade facials....I know...I am hideous! Hahaha oh well! Jumala rakasta minua!! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

 Reunited and it felt SOOOOOO good!!!!
    HEYYYYYY guys! What's up! Man I hope you are all doing so great! Sorry about not writing last week! We had Interim training, which I will explain later, and no one told us that we wouldn't have a p-day so that was a major bummer but it's all good in the Finnish hood! There is no hood in Finland! I promise! So Dad, thank you so much for Pres. Uchtdorf's talk. I love him so much and that talk is SO good. Thanks for all your notes from the talk too. It really helps so much to get advice from you! Mom, I have been CRAVING your delicious chocolate cake for weeks. Honestly, we eat more chocolate here than any other time in my life. It is incredible! Don't worry though, I am not too fat yet. Once the clothes stop fitting, we have a serious problem. Psych...I work out every morning! haha I do some interpretive jump roping to MoTab. Nothing like "I Feel My Savior's Love" to get the blood flowing in the morning! :) I am so glad everyone's birthdays went so well! January is always party time at the Bitner house! I am so proud of you all for being missionaries! Especially you mom. During Interim, President Rawlings talked about Zion and how it is built "one by one". Don't ever feel like what you are doing is something small. If you are helping one person, you are building the kingdom! Man I am smiling just writing this! I am so proud of all of you! Keep up the good work!! 

    Grandma, I will have to look for coconut oil! I love grocery shopping so much and particularly in Finland. I don't know what anything says but I will look up coconut oil in advance and see if it is on the baking aisle! Good work with the goals as well! We as missionaries set goals ALL THE TIME. Sometimes it feels like that is all we do, but I have such a strong testimony of goal setting by the Spirit. We do that so much as missionaries, but that principle can be applied to every day life. Involve Heavenly Father in every aspect of your life. Goal setting really is an act of faith and he wants to help us in everything we do...not just the spiritual stuff! Doce, ANne, Lauren, Luke and Caroline...thank you SO much for your Valentine's letters. I am working on writing you all back! Keep sending pics though! Mom and Dad, get in some pics too! I love to see you all! YOu are all so beautiful! Speaking of which, I showed BFF a picture of you and she could not get over how beautiful and handsome all of you are! I was just beaming with pride showing her your picture! I am so lucky and blessed to have you all FOREVER!!! Man, the church is true!! 

    So...let me first start off with last week...the week before Interim. So we had a pretty fantastic week. Miracles were flying at us from all over the place and our missionary work and the overall spirit of our companionship was just AWESOME! We were definitely on cloud 9. Then, on Wednesday night, Sisar Egan was brushing her teeth and she called me into the bathroom and told me to bring a flashlight. Long story short, I looked in her throat and one of her tonsils was like the size of a golf ball. It was HUGE! And it had white and purple spots on it. Like no lie, I felt like I was looking at an illustration from a Dr. Suess book. It was so gross! So ya...I am sure you wanted to know that! :) Anyways we were on the phone with Sisar Rawlings for like an hour and at the end of the conversation, we had an appointment to go to the hospital on Thursday!

    So longer story short, we were in the hospital for about 4.5 hours on Thursday. It was awful for so many reasons...Sisar Egan felt like crap and she was dizzy and laying all over my shoulder and was rough. Plus the song "What does the fox say?" Was on the tv the whole time...actually that part was way funny! I thought of all my little cousins singing that song and it made me smile :) Anyways they did some tests on her throat and told us we would have the result Monday. On Monday, we were in Helsinki for Interim and the doctors wouldn't release her info because they said the numbers weren't high enough or something psycho like that. So President Rawlings went HAM on the Finnish doctors and basically chewed them out. Longer Longer story short, Sisar Egan got some serious antibiotics, she has slept basically this whole past week and she is doing a lot better now! Thanks for all the prayers on her behalf. I was SO worried about her for so long but she is doing so well! Prayer works people! :)

    Ok now onto the happy stuff...Interim was so great! You probably don't know what Interim is but it is this 4 week training that Finnish missionaries go to after we have been in the country for 6 weeks! We got to stay with some Sisars in Helsinki and we were able to go on splits with them in the evenings which was super fun!! But anyways at Interim we learn about skin care, laundry, shoe shining techniques, finnish culture, oh ya and the gospel too! :) Plus the best part is that I got to see all my MTC friends again...particularly Sisar Thayne! Oh my goodness, we cried for like 5 minutes when we saw each other! It was the best day of my life! We talked and laughed and cried and laughed and talked about all our success and frustrations and oh man, it was awesome! I am praying with all my strength that we are companions again! My life would be complete! It was so great to see all my other friends from the MTC! It seriously felt like seeing my family! We are always going to be so close and I was blessed with such a great group! It was so fun to hear about all their crazy experiences with the language and the people. I really do love them all so much!!

     I want to tell you all I learned from Interim, but you're just going to have to wait until next April for that...sorry, bad joke :) But the one thing I loved more than anything was what President Rawlings said about being a missionary in Finland and for the rest of our lives. He said that being a missionary is all about making friends, sharing love, relaxing, and being yourself. I loved that so much! When he taught that he said, "Think about how big a role the gospel plays in our lives. It encompasses everything we do. It is not normal for us to not talk about the gospel. Most people talk about their religion all the time, but for some reason, LDS members feel like we can't share what we believe. Share the gospel. Bring it up all the time. Make friends, share the Savior's love, relax, and be yourself. That's how you become a lifetime missionary." Truer words have never been spoken. We can all be missionaries starting now and for the rest of our lives and the best part is, it doesn't have to be hard. It's the most natural thing we could ever do and Heavenly Father will always strengthen us! That's another thing I loved from Interim, President said, "As we try our best, He changes us so we become equal to the task that we are willing to do!" I love that he didn't say, the task that we are called to do, but the task that we are willing to do. He isn't going to do everything for us but we can do anything we are WILLING to do with his help! I love Him with all my heart!

    So a little shpeel about our investigators real quick...ok so Anna is doing so great!  We had a great lesson with her this week about the Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the HOly Ghost. We talked about how the gospel is like the ladder we need to climb to get to heaven, but we have to take all of the steps. She was so involved and had so many great questions and insights, but at the end she said, do you think that if I drink alcohol occassionally and have tea in the morning that I won't get to heaven. Uhhhh...that was a really awkward moment but thankfully the spirit saved our lesson and she came to church on Sunday and we had another great lesson! Man she is progressing so great! We are trying to set a baptismal date with her this week so pray for that! She is so awesome and I love her so much!!

    So Virpi has been investigating the church for five years. Anna, Nawhnee....she is JUST LIKE YOU!! I love her so much and i want you two to be friends! You would love her! ANyways, she has quite the story, but I don't have time to tell it all. SHort version. She married a member, they had a son together, they got divorced, she is still investigating the church and basically has the strongest testimony I know, but she just won't get baptized. It's really been killing me cause I'm like Virpi, here's the basically are already a member of the church....she just isn't receiving the blessings of the Holy Ghost and of just being a member. I asked her in our last lesson "What if this really is all true? How would that change your life?" THen she responded by saying, "I am really scared that it is all true because then I have to change my life?" OH MY GOODNESS SOMETIMES FINNS ARE SO FRUSTRATING BUT I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!! We just have to help her realize what this gospel will do for her. She's going to be baptized...I know it!!

    I have to tell you about yesterday at church and I really don't want to because my heart breaks every time I think about it, but I want you to know so you can pray for him. So yesterday morning, I called Petteri and made sure that he was still planning on coming to church. He seemed kind of weird, but he said he would be there. Me and Sisar Egan had to go get Anna before church, so we told the Elders to watch for Petteri when he came and to talk with him until we got there. So we come strolling into church with Anna and Petteri was sitting in a chair, surrounded by four elders. I kind of looked over and thought that was kind of weird, but didn't really think anything of it. Then, I walked over and said Hi to him and it was pretty apparent that he was completely drunk. Now I know everyone will make fun of me, but I lived a pretty sheltered life and I have never seen someone I know, drunk. It was the scariest thing of my life. He tried to give me a hug and I had to like dodge behind the door in the church. The Elders were so great and kind of kept him under control but he was swearing so English... and was just a mess. I have kind of been getting the feeling recently when we taught him that he liked me more than he should and it has made me way uncomfortable, and yesterday he asked me to marry him and said a lot of other things that don't need to be repeated. Honestly, I can't even explain to you how I felt. My heart was broken. He is such a great guy! He has had such a hard life and he is so depressed now. He thinks the only place he has to turn is to alcohol and it is ruining his life. I hate it so much!

    We aren't teaching Petteri anymore. The Elders are going to take him as their investigator, but I just want you all to know how grateful I am for the commandments and for this gospel. Everything we are asked to do is to keep us safe. All the commandments have been given to us by a loving Heavenly Father because He KNOWS what we need to do to be truly happy in this life. Satan is so real and the world is so evil. We have to stand up for what we believe in because the world is getting worse and worse every day. Up to this point in my mission, I never realized how important this gospel is for the entire world. People are looking for something. They are looking for relief and peace, but they don't know where to find it. That is why I am here freezing in Finland. That is why missionaries leave their families and go to random parts of the world. We go because we can't stay. We can't sit by and watch while Satan ruins our brother's and sister's lives. Honestly, this gospel is so true! I love it so much and I can't even express in words how grateful I am for it. Please pray for Petteri. I know that he will join the church one day and that he will raise a righteous family! There is hope for everyone! I know that is true!!

    I love you all so much! Don't worry about me...I am doing really well and loving being a missionary! Please do all you can to help the missionaries in our ward or stake! Be missionaries wherever you go! We all need to help and if we try our best, Heavenly Father will give us the courage and strength we need to share this truth! I love you all so much and hope you have a fantastic week! The church is true and the Book is blue!!!

Sisar Bitner 

Me and SISAR THAYNE reunited at Interim training!! It was SOOOOO good to see her!!

My attempt at a semi-artistic photo...its kind of cool I guess

Me and minun toveri in Helsinki!

Our first whiteout day...this is what we looked like after

This is our new investigator Zheng!! She is my BEST FRIEND!!! I love her so much!!!