Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Greetings From Vaasa...                                                                                             March 23, 2014

Sup guys? Hey so guess what...the title of my email is greetings from Vaasa. Vaasa is a city on the west coast of Finland. And guess who is the newest missionary in Vaasa? That's right...Sister Bitner. So I am being transferred! Now I know what you are thinking, it's not supposed to be transfers for another 5 weeks, and you are so right, but I want to tell you the story so sit back, relax, grab some popcorn if you want...this is really exciting! Ok, not exciting...but it goes...

So last Sunday was just a great old regular Sunday here in Tampere. Vincent came to church, the sun was shining, birds were singing...literally...and it was just the best day! Church was really good, as always, and afterwards, someone called my name and said "Bitner, get over here". So I turn around to see who it is and my good old friend Petteri is sitting next to the Elders. So I am sure you remember who Petteri is, but he is the investigator we had to give over to the Elders because he was not being appropriate and it was super uncomfortable and everything so ya, that's him. But anyways I kind of just waved and started to walk away and he said "What are you too scared to come talk to me?" And in my head I said "Ya" but we went over and said Hi! We were standing there and he started saying inappropriate things and it was really uncomfortable. I am sure you would just love to know everything he said, just kidding...but needless to say, what he said wasn't appropriate and I was probably the most scared/disgusted/shaky I have ever been in my life. But, Sister Jones and I left and we just kind of proceeded with our day at church, avoiding Petteri at all cost!

After church was over, we were standing in the foyer talking to Sister Oksi...she is legit and has purple hair! She is great! But we were talking, trying to schedule a time to come meet with her, and someone came up behind me and gave me a hug and kissed my head....ya it was Petteri. So I freaked out and jumped about 20 feet and it was just awful. I was so upset and so embarrassed and it was easily one of the worst experiences of my life. Things with Petteri really haven't been very bad until now, and it has just gone from bad to worse. We were in District Meeting on Wednesday and Petteri showed up and he was drunk and he tried to come and sit next to me with all the other missionaries there and then he was just being really weird and so Sister Jones and I left as the Elders tried to keep him in the room. I was really shaken up and Elder Jefferies and Elder Durrant...the zone leaders...came in and apologized for what happened. They hadn't heard the whole story of what had happened with Petteri, so I told them. I asked Elder Jefferies for a blessing, and in the blessing he said that I needed to call President Rawlings. So I did, and I kind of watered down the truth. I know, not the smartest thing to do, but I knew that I would be leaving if I told him exactly how scared I am of Petteri and everything. Anyways, we got off the phone and nothing had happened, but then I felt prompted to say a prayer. Sister Jones and I prayed and I asked Heavenly Father to help me see things clearly and to understand his will. Afterwards I really felt like I needed to call President back. So I did and I explained the situation, and now I am being emergency transferred to Vaasa and Sister Thayne is replacing me here in Tampere!

 I don't have a lot of time to write, and I know it's weird that this is on Sunday, but I wanted to tell you about it. I really could have used the safety and security of home this week. I have never been so scared of someone in my life, but I know that Heavenly Father is watching out for me. I am SO sad to be leaving Tampere. I can't even tell you how many times I have cried this week knowing that I would leave, but all I can do is go to Vaasa with faith. I need to be there. I know I can't stay here. But it is still hard and frustrating. In the blessing Elder Jefferies gave me, he said that all of you were happy and safe which has given me so much comfort this week. I am sorry this email is so lame and short, but I will write from Vaasa next week and fill you in a little bit more! I am so sad to be leaving Sister Jones...we are such great friends! I have grown so close with this ward. I will send all my pictures with them next week. Vincent is getting baptized on April 19th and it is killing me that I won't be here. He is a rockstar and is going to be the first stake president in Tanzania! 

I know the church is true. Life is crazy and changes all the time. It never turns out the way we plan, but the most comforting thing to me is that this gospel, the Book of Mormon, our Savior and Father in Heaven will never change. We always have this constant support and strength in our lives. What a blessing! I am so grateful to be a missionary! I love it so much! Tampere will always have a very special place in my heart and I love the people here so much! All the members told me that my family is always welcome if we come and visit, so everyone plan on a trip to Tampere sometime soon! I love you all so much! I am safe and well, but pray that everything this week will work out! I leave to Vaasa tomorrow morning, but I am way pumped because I get to see Sister Thayne!! It's going to be great I hope!! I believe it will be! A lot of Chinese people live in Vaasa...I love Chinese people! :)  I am turning back into a greenie! :) Oh man...the greenie life! It's the best! i love you so much!! Have a great week!!!

Oh, P.S. Dad and Lauren HYVÄÄ SYNTYMÄPÄIVÄÄ!!!! I love you both so much and hope your birthdays have been just wonderful! Lauren you are a teenager...uh what? Who said you could grow up! Dad you are turning, you look great! :) I love you all with all my heart!!! 

Rakaudella, Sisar Bitner

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Feeling the Prayers Man, Feeling the prayers...

    Holy Cow! I love my family and friends. I am so convinced that you are all the greatest people in the world...I can't even take it! Thank you so much for all the prayers this week! I am now fluent in Finnish...haha ok no. That was a lie, but it has been so much better! I have decided to have fun while learning Finnish...they say it can't be done but I am here to prove them wrong! :) Thanks for all the advice and support though! I really can feel your prayers and strength and I am so happy that I have all of you in my life! How did I get so lucky? I will never know! :)

    So man...this week...this week...where to even begin! Talk about a week of miracles. I will start with the ward! So the ward here in Tampere is bomb awesome! Seriously the chapel is full every week, there are tons of families, tons of youth, tons of old ladies, literally every missionaries dream. But....they are also very private and reserved, not just the ward, but all Finns, and so it has been a real challenge to get to know them and to know who to ask to come on lessons with us and stuff. It's been frustrating but Sister Jones and I have been praying so hard that they would catch the missionary fire and that we could start meeting with some of them. It has been such a struggle for us with the ward that President Rawlings even called Sister Jones and I last week and we talked for about an hour about how we could help these people here because missionary work really has plateaued and it's not good. He told us to really focus on individuals and families. He said to strengthen them one by one and to help them develop missionary plans. We met with the Elders, divided up the ward and tried to set up appointments with the people we are assigned to, but no one wanted to meet. Like literally, no one. 

    Since I have been in Tampere, at least before this week, I have had 1 dinner appointment. 12 weeks...1 DA. That's pretty bad. Tampere apparently has had a history of being pretty sketchy when it comes to dinner appointments and just any appointments with members in general. Sketchy as in you don't get any. Well I am here to tell you that prayer and love work. So last Sunday when Sister Jones and I asked all these different members if we could come to their house just to get to know them...we said we didn't need food...and they all still said no. Still, we tried our best to show them that we loved them and that we wanted to help them and their families. On Sunday night, no lie, 4 members called us and set up dinner appointments for this week. was a miracle. I know this is going to sound bi-polar but we have the best ward here! Missionary work has totally taken off this week and I know it is because the members and missionaries are working together. That's when the real work gets done. I have such a testimony of that!

    Man, I just wish that all of you could be here to meet all this amazing members here! The Finnish privacy laws are preventing me from writing their names, but when we all come back to Finland, I can't wait to introduce you to these people! They are incredible and have the strongest testimonies. Seriously, it's so humbling to be serving with them. I love them so much! One of the members we met with this last week is a single, older sister. She has always kind of scared me...not going to lie...but she really wanted us to come have Sunday dinner with her. I was a little apprehensive about going just because, well, she scares me. We went to her house and at first it was vahan hankala...a little awkward...but after dinner, we shared a message with her about prayer. I felt the spirit so strongly when we testified to her that God loves her and hears her prayers and that he is concerned about her life! You literally could taste the spirit and afterwards she just broke down and told us her whole life story. She has had the hardest life. 3 marriages, none of her kids are members, and now she lives alone. Seriously about broke my heart. But she has the strongest testimony and told us that she knows we are here representing the Savior. She gave us a referral...which is a HUGE thing especially from a member! And it's not just any referral, it's her daughter. Earning the trust of a Finn is no easy task, but the feeling when you do is like nothing I could ever explain. I left her house with the biggest smile on my face. I just kept saying in my head "Thank you Heavenly Father for letting me be here, thank you for this language, thank you for this weather, thank you for these people." My whole perspective had changed. It is still hard, but I know with the members and especially with the Lord on our side, I can learn this language. The Finns can join the church. We can build the church here. Nothing is impossible with his help.

    Our investigators are doing so well! I love them so much! Anna told us this week that she wants to be baptized! I about cried...I actually did cry but it was later in the evening! :) She told us that she needs time, because she doesn't know how to tell her family about the church! I really admire her courage and strength. She wants this so badly, but her family means so much to her. I was thinking about if I were in her place, it would be so hard for me to not have my family supporting me and to wonder if they would like shut me out if I joined this church. Although this is the right path for her, I am just praying that her family will understand and will support her!! And I know if my bomb awesome family prayers for her, miracles will happen! I hope to be sending a baptismal picture home very soon! :)

    Vincent has been kind of sketchy this week. We didn't get to meet with him until yesterday morning, but let me tell you, it was incredible! I woke up yesterday morning and was super nervous about our lesson with Vincent. We had planned to meet with him before church. I didn't know why, but I just felt sick. We wanted to watch the Restoration movie with him so we got the church and watched the movie. The whole time we were watching I was praying harder than I have ever prayed before that Heavenly Father would help Vincent know the truthfulness of this message. As the movie went on, I could literally feel the spirit filling up the room. You could have cut it with a knife. It was amazing! When the movie ended, Sister Jones and I testified that this message is true..and then we invited him to be baptized. I expected him to respond super quick but he just sat there...and sat there...and sat there... and 15 minutes later we were still sitting silence. Just try and picture this. Straight up silence for 15 minutes. Vincent had his Book of Mormon in his hands and was praying so hard. After 15 minutes, he looked up at us and said "I need time" and walked out. Sister Jones and I just looked at each other and ran to the window and watched him walk away. We said a prayer right there that Heavenly Father would not let that be the last time we saw Vincent. We were both pretty skeptical but this morning he called us and he said yesterday changed him forever. He said he wants to learn more and needs to watch the movie again. He said he was so grateful we had given him the chance to be baptized, but he needs time! I know he will be baptized! PRAY FOR VINCENT!!! He needs it!! :)

    I have been thinking a lot about love this week and how if that is the motivation for everything we do, we will never go wrong. I really am trying to love this language. I am trying to love the people here even though it feels like they want nothing to do with us. I am trying to love everything about Finland. I have prayed so much these past few weeks about being filled with the love of Christ because sometimes, I just don't want to get up at 6:30 again and go out and have no one be interested in our message...again. It's hard work being a missionary. But this week I have really had a change of heart. I know that change of heart came and is continuing to come only through the Savior. President Rawlings sent us a story in his letter last week that I wanted to share. It is from the book "The Hiding Place". If you haven't read it, you should. It's about WW2 but anyways this is the story:

     Corrie ten Boom, a devout Dutch Christian woman, found such healing despite having been interned in concentration camps during World War II. She suffered greatly, but unlike her beloved sister Betsie, who perished in one of the camps, Corrie survived. After the war she often spoke publicly of her experiences and of healing and forgiveness. On one occasion, a former Nazi guard who had been part of Corrie’s own grievous confinement in Ravensbrück, Germany, approached her, rejoicing at her message of Christ’s forgiveness and love: “‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’ “His hand was thrust out to shake mine,” Corrie recalled. “And I, who had preached so often … the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. … Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, [and] I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” Corrie ten Boom was made whole.

    I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can all be made whole. Not only did he suffer for our sins, but he felt the pains of all our shortcomings and weaknesses. I can't love this language and these people on my own. But with his love, I can love anybody and can do anything. Nothing brings me more comfort than that. I am reading 3 Nephi right now in my scriptures and today I read in Chapter 11 when the savior visits the people in America. I always get excited for that part because I just keep thinking, "Oh man, Jesus is coming, this is the good stuff". It really is and the best part is, he is coming again! I don't know when but that is why I am here, to prepare the world for his coming. That's why we are all here. It is no coincidence that any of us are members of this church at this time. God needs us to prepare the world for the coming of his Son. That is a big responsibility. I know that with the Savior's help, we can all rise to the challenge and honestly bring the world his truth. It's the best work we could ever do! God doesn't ask us to do more than we can. He just asks us to give everything to him and he will make up for the rest. I love that last line in the story, "When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself." That is so true. ALl we have to do is trust him and it will all work out! I love being a missionary! I love you all so much and am so grateful to be your daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend. Thanks for all you do! You mean the world to me and I hope you all know that! Have a wonderful week and bring the world his truth!! :)

Rakkaudella, Sisar Olivia Bitner 

    Oh PS....I am done with training!!! YIPPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Best day ever! I am now just a normal missionary! :)

This is winter in skies and sunshine! Oh and the sun was red the other day! :) 

My view every morning!

This BOMB AWESOME sweater from Sister Jouttenus! My bestie in the ward! I will tell you more about her in the letter but this is a legit FInnish wool sweater...they don't make them like this anymore :) 

Monday, March 3, 2014


    Wazzup home skillet biscuits? K that was probably the lamest thing I have ever said! I am in a really interesting mood today so I hope this e-mail makes some sort of sense! :) First off, How are all of you doing? I hope you are all just loving life and being missionaries! That's where the good stuff is! I promise! Haha so Mom and Dad are going to Paris and that's the coolest thing I have ever heard! Now when you come pick me up from my mission, we can go to Paris and Portugal and you will know how to get around huh? Vitsi vain...Just kidding! :) I am so excited for you! That will be so great! And you are going to Disneyland! Holy cow that's awesome! Don't worry mom, I don't feel bad...well not too bad. I would love to be there, but we can go when I get back! ROAD TRIP ROAD TRIP!! It will be awesome! Just send me a jawbreaker sucker or something and it will all be fine! :) I am way excited for you and I just know you are all doing awesome!!

    This week has been really good. First off I have to tell you about the weather. It is hot here. Like seriously, Heavenly Father is blessing us so much. Every person I talk to says they can't remember a winter as warm as this winter before in their lives. Isn't that crazy? Someone is looking out for us missionaries here right now and I am so grateful for it. Today is the first day it has snowed in like a month and it isn't even sticking because it is so warm. Apparently February is supposed to be the coldest month of the year! I survived one and almost brought out the short sleeves! Who would have thought! :)

    So yesterday we had 3 of our investigators in church! It was INCREDIBLE! Seriously, another fast sunday miracle! I know the numbers I send home probably sound lame compared to other missionaries you all know, but 3 investigators in church in Finland is like a miracle! Vincent, our Tanzanian friend came. I guess he isn't a Finn, but it still totally counts! He loved it so much and really felt the spirit. He was singing his heart out to all the songs. It was so hilarious though because we obviously sing in Finnish but we gave him an English Hymn Book so he could understand what we were singing, and he started singing in yelling. It was HILARIOUS! I couldn't help but laugh! He is so golden! We are working on setting a baptismal date with him this week so please pray for that! He knows this is true!! I know he will be baptized!

    Anna came to church as well but she only stayed for the sacrament. She is doing really well, but she really misses Sisar Egan. It's hard when people get attached to the missionaries and then they leave, but I know that we can help her and that we are here for a reason! We want to set a baptismal date with her as well! That is the two things we are focusing on as a mission...baptismal dates and church attendance. Those are the two biggest challenges in Finland but we have plans to improve and we are just working at it, day by day... pikku hilja...that means little whispers in Finnish but they use it to mean step by step or day by day...honestly I don't know why! This language boggles my mind...for real! :)

    Our third investigator in church was Sarita. She is the one I met on the bus after I prayed to find someone who was ready to receive the gospel. She has kind of been sketching out on all of our appointments, but on Saturday night, we had the thought to text her and invite her to church and she said "Ya, for sure!" and she came! Like truly, it was a miracle! She really enjoyed it and she also sang very loud. I guess these people just are looking for an excuse to sing their hearts out! What better a place than church? Anyways she set up our next appointment herself and was super excited to learn more about our church! It's so amazing to me how we can literally do everything in our power to get people to come to church. We find them a ride, we have a member invite them, we offer to come and walk with them to church and they don't come. But when we trust in Heavenly Father and just say, "We have done everything we can...we need your help" then three investigators show up. Man, I am so glad someone else is in charge of all of this! We could not do ANY of this alone! did talking to someone about the gospel know? I want to hear all about it from everyone! :)

    Oh another sidenote...all my siblings will appreciate you know the YouTube video with Stuart on it...the one that dad doesn't like, well Sisar Jones does almost as good of a Stuart's mom voice as Anne. Seriously, she always talks in it and it is hilarious. I laugh every time! All the time! Sisar Jones and I have way too much fun together! We get along so well and pretty much laugh all day every day! It's a blast! :) 

    So the title of this e-mail is keskityä which is the verb for "to focus". I have been struggling real hard this week with Finnish. All the weeks have been a frustration, but this week has been especially rough. It's really my fault. I have been putting off dealing with my lack of Finnish know-how because there is just so much I don't know, I couldn't even go there. But I really received a prompting from the spirit the other day that if I don't start focusing on improving, it's never going to come. I think in my mind I have just been thinking, "Oh, one day it will come. It will be fine. Heavenly Father will help me." Now all of that is true, but I have not been doing my part. I know this kind of sounds like a confession, and it is. I know you guys won't hate me for saying this and if you do...then dang it! :) Haha but I really could use some prayers from my faithful family and friends for help with this language. Just pray that I will be able to focus and have strength to keep trying even when I make mistakes...which happens all the time. One funny story from this week...I wanted to ask a lady in our ward if she could come and do a church tour with us this week so I say "Saatko tulla meidän kanssamme täällä vikolla? Meilla on kirkon kirros meidän tutkijan kanssa." So the word for tour is "kierros" but I said "kirros" which means curse! So I asked the member if she could come give a church curse with us this week and she laughed for about 20 minutes and told the whole relief society about it so that was fun! haha I am really working on being humble and accepting that I am going to make about 9 million more mistakes, but its really rough, especially when I really am trying so hard. I think what is so hard for me about not being able to communicate with these people is I love to talk. That is one of the biggest ways I show people I love them is by talking and listening so when I can't do that, it's frustrating! I know I need to learn other ways to show all the things you learn on a mission. What would I do without this in my life?

    Sorry to be a debby downer, but I need your help. I need your prayers! This isn't easy. It is so worth it, but it's so hard! My spiritual thought for the week is about the Book of Mormon. I have been thinking a lot this week about why we needed the Book of Mormon. Most people in Finland believe in the Bible. THey haven't read it, but they believe in it. SO when we tell them there is another book of scripture like the bible, they basically think we are blasphemers and will be thrust down to the pit. Ok, that's an exaggeration. :) But I was seriously thinking about it. Then, I had the thought to read the title page of the Book of Mormon. I don't have time to quote the whole thing, but it basically breaks it down to three reasons why we have the Book of Mormon. One, to show us how merciful the Lord has been to his children regardless of who they are or where they live and how much he has blessed them, Two, so that we can know the specific covenants that we have to make with God in order to return to live with Him, and Three, so that everyone can know that Jesus is the Christ. Those three reasons are so simple, but SO important. In 3 Nephi chapter 5, Mormon makes a little insert into the plates of Nephi and he says in verse 20, " I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi. I have reason to bless my God and my Savior, Jesus Christ....he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls." That is what the Book of Mormon is. It is knowledge unto the salvation of our souls. Without this book, we wouldn't know how to return to live with God again. To know that the Book of Mormon is true is to know that God and Jesus Christ love us. It is to know that life is beautiful and eternal. It is to know the true meaning of family. It is to know that each time we sin, we can repent and try again and we will always be forgiven. It is to know that the Holy Ghost can be our constant companion. I really think that to know the Book of Mormon is true is to know love. It is evidence of God's love for us. I know He loves us. At the end of the day, I may know nothing else...but I know that He loves us and wants us to come back to Him. That's why we have this book. That's why I am in Finland. I love the gospel. I love The Book of Mormon. It is true. I know it is! I love you all so much and hope you have a grand week!!!!

Rakaudella, Sisar Bitner 

My favorite building 

This way creepy church we pass by a lot

Me and Sisar Jones in this super sketch elevator that squeaks SO bad when we ride in it 

Me shining my boots...I love the boots I bought so much! I take way good care of them...aren't you proud dad? :) 

This is the new planner that I made! The three most important things in my life, Jesus, the scriptures and my family! I love it so much!!