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 life...it'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 anyways...er...most of the time. I am kidding, I keep the rules. That is actually one of my goals this week...to 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 it...no I am kidding...Mission Impossible reference, K I am done...no 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 :)