Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, April 28, 2014

Take It Easy :)

    Sup guys? Oh are you all doing? I am only going to say this once....ok maybe not...but I AM SO EXCITED TO TALK TO YOU GUYS IN 13 DAYS OH MY GOODNESS OH MY GOODNESS THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE I AM SO HAPPY I AM SO HAPPY THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST EXCITING THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME!! Whoo, K I am done now...probably! I am just so excited to see you and talk to you all! This is going to be the best day ever! If I ever start to get frustrated or something during the week, I just smile and think, I get to talk to my family though, so it's fine! I am so pumped!! I can't even begin to express my happiness! But it's going to be so good!!! Oh man...Life is good!! :)

    Well it sounds like you all had a great week! I am sorry I don't respond to each individual email, but I read them all and LOVE to hear how you are all doing! Luke and Caroline...I hope you are alive and well! I want to hear from my twins man!! :) I have so much to talk about this week, I don't even know where to start...first things first...I was wondering if it would be at all possible to ship my soccer cleats over here....I know, random, but the ward here LOVES futbol...I am saying it like a European starting today...but we want to organize a game and I want to be prepared...I have to earn their trust somehow! Anyways, we can talk about it later, cause we get to talk to each other in 13 days...ok sorry, no more! :) I am done.... :)

    Ok anyways, let me tell you about Sister Fronk. Oh my goodness. I love Sister Fronk. best friend is my companion. She is honestly the funniest person I have ever met. We have been laughing nonstop for 7 days straight. I have popped one too many blood vessels in my head. Honestly, I have a constant headache from laughing. It is wonderful! :) But let me explain why we are best friends...ok 1, she is from Utah. I love Utah. B, She is from Logan, therefore she is an Aggie, therefore I love her. 2, she loves her family as much as I love mine. She has 12 siblings. They are really cool...or so I've heard, but so are mine so it's great! (By the way, did anyone catch my Home Alone reference?) E. She has literally seen every single movie I have ever seen. Like all of them. Like she loves Slipper and the Rose, Pete's Dragon and Doris Day? Um what? Where has she been all my life? :) No one here in Finland has understood my movie passion until now and it feels pretty dang good to be understood! haha but anyways F. She loves all the same music as me and has an incredible voice. She loves jazz and sings like Ella Fitzgerald so she is pretty cool. Basically, I wish I was Sister Fronk. She only has 2 more months as a missionary...I know, it's way sad! But she has done so much good on her mission. She has been down in Helsinki area the whole time, so this is her first time up north as well, but she is really loving it up here! It's a great place to be!

    It is so easy to teach with her. We really have such a great time just doing anything and it really has helped our missionary work a lot! I think that is something I have learned a lot over my mission....everything, literally EVERYTHING works better when you and your companion are unified. You don't have to be best friends or anything (it's just a bonus if you are) but when you really want what is best for the area, when you both love the Lord, and when you support each other and work to make the other one successful, miracles follow. It's amazing! But She really is so good to me and is so supportive! We have talked a lot this week about the friends you meet on your mission and how great they are. I am so grateful for my mission for so many different reasons, but I think one of the biggest reasons is all the people I have met, particularly my companions. I know I sound like a broken record, but they really are the best people I know! I have been so blessed to serve with each of them and I know that Sister Fronk and I are going to get some serious work done here in the Promised Land! :) 

    So man, this week has been great! I got to ride bikes for my first time on my mission...I don't know why, but in my mind my mission would not have been complete without riding a bike! Just a note, don't wear a pencil skirt and try to ride a bike...I think we can leave the story at that! :) Bad idea...anyways it was way fun! I think one of the challenges about having a car is that you don't walk around on the streets and talk to people. Finding is so much harder, but man if two girls in skirts on bikes don't catch your attention on the street, I don't know what will. We are going to use the bikes more this week, without the pencil skirts, so hopefully we can find some great people!! 

    One crazy thing about Finland is the summer. Now, I have been hearing about Finnish summers for the past six months, and now I am starting to experience it and see what happens. Everyone here leaves in the summer. Like literally, they just ship out. They all go to their "mökki" 's which means "summer home" and they are all up in lapland. Good news for the Finns cause they get to go relax, but bad news for us because the city vacates. All the students go home and basically everything dies. We are kind of worried because a lot of our investigators are getting ready to fly north for the summer, but we just really want to work on finding this week! 

    This week, Sister Fronk and I wanted to focus on inviting all of our investigators to be baptized...even the ones we had already invited. Before my mission, I always thought, "Man, inviting is going to be so hard...I don't want to be pushy." At the beginning of the mission, I kind of felt the same way. But man, my perspective has completely changed. Baptism is the greatest thing that could ever happen to someone. This church is the greatest thing that could ever happen to someone. When they find it and are interested, why not invite them to be baptized and to accept more of the blessings that Heavenly Father has in store for them. Now granted, there is definitely a pushy way to ask and a non-pushy way, but when the spirit is strong and we are just testifying about baptism and the blessings it has brought into our lives and will bring into their lives, man...there is nothing better. We invited all of our investigators to be baptized this week and 2 accepted!! It was a miracle! Riitta, our finnish investigator is one! Her date is May 24th. We are a little worried about her because her best friend who is a member is not exactly on board with the whole thing. Riitta is more on board than she is. But I know if we all pray this week for Riitta's heart and the member's heart to be softened, we will see miracles!!

    Our other investigator who accepted a date is Chau. Chau is from Vietnam and Sister Foster and I met him on the street a few weeks ago. I think I have told you about him, but anyways, on Monday, we had a service project at the church, all thanks to my brilliant father, Justin G. Bitner! :) Sister Hedin wanted the church deep cleaned, and I thought that we could invite our investigators and YSAs to come and help. Now I know, cleaning doesn't sound super duper fun, but it was incredible to see how many people came. Chau was one of our investigators who came and man, he just went to town. He stayed until the bitter end and helped us out so much! I really have realized how much people like to be needed. Everyone wants to feel that someone cares about them; that their presence somewhere actually means something to someone else. I think that is one of the greatest things about the church. We all build each other up. We all strengthen each other, but we all NEED each other. Chau loved helping and we really got to know him a lot better through that experience. It was cool cause it actually helped a lot when we invited him to be baptized. We were able to apply the gospel to his life. To help him feel the revelance this has for him. The spirit was so strong and he accepted so fast. Seriously, it took me off guard. Usually people are like "Well...maybe...I don't know...I need time...blah blah blah" but man, Chau was like "YES. This is a good thing. I want to do this!" The spirit is so crucial in everything we do as members and missionaries, but miracles come when we pray for the spirit to be with us! I know that is true! Chau's baptismal date is May 31st! 

    I have to tell you about Bill. Oh my goodness. I love Bill! Bill is from China. Bill is the nicest person I know. Bill loves soccer. Bill is so cool. Man he is great! I think I told you about him and how whenever he texts literally, his texts say "Hello. I am Bill..............Thank you and good night." It is the best thing and it has become the greatest inside joke of all time...I guess the joke is out, but you guys can all be included! :) Bill is so sincere and really wants to find truth. It is the most interesting thing teaching someone without a christian background. Sometimes it is really hard because you say one word like "agency" or "eternal" or really anything of that nature and they are like "WOAH WOAH WOAH...what are you talking about?" It's really helped me a lot though to simplify my teaching. Bill is one of those we have to teach incredibly simply, but he is progressing so well and he came to church on Sunday and he brought his friend Jackie. Man, missionary work through investigators...I love it! :) But we gave Bill and Jackie a church tour with Li...I love Li...and it went really well. The spirit was really strong especially in the chapel and when we showed them a picture of the temple. I just love the temple and miss going SO much! I haven't been in Finland yet...but I am dying to go. Anyways, Bill is great. Jackie is great. Li is great. One of my favorite things in the world is seeing someone who professed to be "aethiest", say their first prayer to Heavenly Father. I wish I could explain how wonderful that feeling is and how close heaven feels in those moments. It is so special and I am so grateful I get to be a part of this great work! It's the best thing in the world!! 

    I think I have told you about Francis, our investigator from England. Actually maybe not. Oh well, I will just tell you again. Ok so Francis is about 24. She just moved here to Finland because "she likes it" and has decided to stay here forever. She is the most prepared person I have met for the gospel. She has basically lived the gospel her whole life and she told us that it has "really bugged her that she hasn't been baptized yet". Wow. Talk about prepared. Anyways, she originally lived in Turku, which is another city in Finland, and she moved to Vaasa for only 6 weeks. The sisters in Turku met her and taught her the Restoration, but then they sent her teaching record to us and we have taught her everything else. She is amazing and really has grown to be one of my best friends. The problem is that she wants to get baptized in Turku when all her friends can be there. I guess that's not a problem, but the thing is, I can't just jump down to Turku so we are missing her baptism. Her date is May 10th, she leaves on May 1st and it's really killing me that I can't be there. But oh well...all that matters is that she is getting baptized! :) I am so happy she has finally found the truth she literally has been searching for all her life. But anyways, this week we taught her about family history and showed her It was so much fun!

    We showed her all the tutorials and I showed her my family tree and got to look at picture of Great Grandpa Bitner and Grandma and Grandpa Russell and man, it just made me so grateful for the wonderful family I have. Francis was so excited about family history. We looked back a few generations to our family who came from England and she said that she has distant relations who were from that same part of England. Who knows? We are probably related. Anyways she just got super excited especially when we told her that a lot of church members can trace their heritage back to England. She thought that was pretty cool. Got some British pride in the house :) But it made me so grateful for families and temples and everything that goes along with it. Family HIstory is so important. When I was in the MTC, I remember thinking, "I don't think it is a coincidence that I love families and history so much". I have such a testimony of missionary work on both sides of the veil. Jocelyn wrote me a couple weeks ago and talked about how when she did baptisms in the temple, it almost feels like you can hear a sigh of relief when it is completed. There are people waiting for us to do their work. Our family is waiting for us. Can you believe that? We have family members that lived not too long ago that need us to help them accept the gospel and all the blessings that come with it. They are so much closer to us than we realize. I feel the strength of our ancestors each day as I try to share the gospel with people. This gospel connects us all in a way that really can't be described. It is so incredible and I am so grateful to be a part of it! 

    Anyways, I want you all to know that I know with all my heart that this church is true. It is amazing. It has changed my life forever. The Book of Mormon is a gift from God. It is evidence of everything. If you have a question, concern, doubt, or anything, turn to the Book of Mormon. Read it. Pray about it. Sincerely ask God if it is from Him. I can promise you that you will receive an answer and that answer will bring more peace and happiness and joy and sunshine into your life than anything else. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. He was one of the bravest people to live on the earth, and I am so grateful for him. Families can be together forever. I know that with all my heart and I thank Heavenly Father every second of the day for that blessing. You are all incredible and I am so blessed to be a part of your family! Always remember how much I love each and every one of you. I don't even think I could explain it if I tried, but take my word for it! :) I hope you all have the best week!! Oh and always remember THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!!


    Sisar Bitner 

    P.S. we get to talk in 13 days. thank you and good night :)
Me and my peeps from China...I LOVE CHINESE PEOPLE!!!

The Hedins!! 

we made your cookies Lady!! They were actually good...not as good as you. The only problem is now I know how to make your frosting. I prayed about the recipe and heavenly Father really gave me an answer on how to make it! It is THE BOMB!! 

My New companion!!! She is hilarious. seriously. I haven't laughed this hard in forever.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hyvää Pääsiästä!! Also...I have been a missionary for six months..
    Hyvää Pääsiästä family!! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and that all the little kids got to take as many eggs as they wanted! :) Man...this has been the greatest Easter I have had in my life...definitely because it has been all about Christ and what His resurrection really means to all of us. It's kind of crazy how Christmas is such a big thing and Easter kind of gets the brush off sometimes. Christmas is super important, obviously, but man, Easter is the reason we are here! Easter is the hope we all have! Because of what happened on that first Easter Sunday, we can all live together forever! It was so great to celebrate it as a missionary!! But I did miss all of you so much and the sloppy joes or haystacks or byom parties! haha you are so great and I love you so much!!

    This week has been pretty awesome! We were expecting our change calls on Friday, but President likes to keep you on your toes...he called us on Thursday...drumroll please...I AM STAYING IN VAASA!!! YES! I am so excited! I love it here so much and I am so grateful I get to stay for at least another 4 months...I will explain later! Anyways, Sister Foster is leaving me! She is going to Tampere to be Sister Training Leader with Sister Jones! Crazy huh? I guess they both needed to spend some time with Sister Bitner before they could be Sister Training Leaders...totally kidding! Wow, that was a dumb joke! :) They are both incredible though and have taught me so much! I know they will do great! Sister Thayne is staying in Tampere, but she is in the second ward so now all my BFFs on the mish are in Tampere! It's a lucky place that is for sure! I am so blown away by all the amazing people I have met on my mission, particularly my companions. I have been blessed with the best companions! They are all wonderful!! 

    So my new companion is Sister Fronk. I am actually going to be her last companion. She goes home in 9 weeks, so that is why I am be in Vaasa for 4 months. They would have to shotgun this area if I got moved, but anyways Sister Fronk is coming today! I am super excited to meet her and have heard so many great things about her! I have heard she is also a finnish pro...Now I don't know what Heavenly Father is trying to tell me. All of my companions have been finnish either I REALLY need help, or maybe, just maybe I will be a finnish pro one day. I am pretty sure it is the former, but hey I am really grateful that she will be here! I have decided that this is going to be my "transfer of selflessness". I am going to report on it to you each week, but I really want to work on becoming more like Christ and being selfless! So's going to be great!! Stay tuned on Sister Fronk news! I will have pics next week!!

    So Vaasa is the promised land. We really wanted to work on getting referrals this week. I am so bad at remembering to ask for referrals. We have been counseled to do it ALL THE TIME but honestly there is just a block in my brain for some reason. But, this week was great because Sister Foster is a rockstar and remembered ALL the time. So Chinese BFF...seriously she is my best friend...brought her friend Bill to FHE on Monday. Now we had asked Li for a referral previously, and she told us Bill, but Bill said he wasn't ready. I guess he was ready on Monday, because he came to the church and Li comes running up to me and says "Sister Bitner, Bill is here. He is ready to learn about the God." They always say "The God". It is the best! But anyways, we had a great conversation about "The God". He had a lot of questions about science and religion. I was always worried about questions like that before my mission for some reason, but when he asked, I really felt like I just needed to testify of God's love for him. It was really cool how he had all these questions and arguments before, but no one can refute a testimony. I think there is a lesson to be learned for all of us. If you are scared to talk about the gospel with your friends or family because you don't know if you can answer a question they might ask, be honest about it. Say, "I wish I knew the answers to all the questions you have, I want to study more about your question in the Book of Mormon and Bible and get back to you, but I do know that God is your Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ is His son, and this gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ can help you." Nobody can argue with that. And the best part is, Heavenly Father will fill your mouth when you need it. If you pray for opportunities to share the gospel, they will come and Heavenly Father will help you...I have such a strong testimony of that!

    Anyways, we had our first lesson with Bill. We taught about God and prayer. It is so great to teach Bill and Li and our investigators from Vietnam because we HAVE to teach simply. But it's amazing because the spirit is SO strong. Much stronger than when I ramble off about random things. I save that for my family letters :) But seriously, the gospel is simple. It should be that way. Bill prayed at the end of our lesson and it was so sincere. It was amazing and he said his mind felt "calm and organized" after that. What a good way to describe it! Then afterwards, Sister Foster remembered to ask him for a referral. Li was at the lesson with us and they both looked at each other...mumbled something in Chinese, and then said in unison, "Jackie". So now we are going to teach Jackie! Working with members is the way to do missionary work! I can't say that enough!!!

    We found Michael this week. He isn't dead...thank goodness. We went to his house and his window was open. It was super funny cause I just passed by and didn't notice, but Sister Foster did and she stopped and yelled through the window, "Hey Michael, what are you doing, man?" Michael looked like the cops had just found him or something. It was hilarious. But we talked to him for awhile, showed him the Easter video on "Because of Him". Have you guys watched that? If not, watch it! It is incredible and super super cool! It's only like 3 minutes!! But we asked him what happened with his baptism and he said, "This church is the best thing that has ever happened to me, but I just don't know if the timing is right?" Man...what do you say to that? It was super hard to hear, but he wants to keep learning and we are planning on just starting over and "teaching him right". Not that he was taught wrong before, but doing everything exactly according to Preach My Gospel. He is actually moving to Helsinki in a couple months...good thing the church is true down there as well! :)

    Have I told you all about Riitta yet? Well I am sure from my emails you are all wondering, "Does she even teach the Finns." The answer is yes...I teach 1 finn! haha wow, that is so it's not sad! I just need to find all the other Finns! But anyways, Riitta is a finn. Her best friend is a member. She is 56. She has been an investigator for awhile and loves the church, but hasn't made much progression. She has SO MANY health problems. Honestly, it's so sad, but it's really hard for her to read the Book of Mormon because her eyes are really bad and the font is too small. We really have been praying a lot to know how to help her this week. It's kind of hard for someone to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon when they can't see it. But we want to show her how to read the scriptures online. We are so blessed to have all this technology. Seriously, it is so cool! But anyways, we watched the Joseph Smith movie with her this week...btw we watch it with finnish subtitles and usually I don't understand a whole lot of what is up there, but this time, I pretty much followed the whole thing! It was AWESOME! Finnish isn't as bad as I make it sound...I like Finnish. Ok I love Finnish! :) But anyways, she really enjoyed the movie and she said it all made sense after that. We invited her to be baptized...when the spirit was strong and she said "One day". Dang it...................................We asked her what would be stopping her from being baptized and she said "I just want to learn more". It's all about that transformation teaching. Riitta has been fed lots of information, but it hasn't clicked yet. It's ok though! She will get baptized one day...she said so herself! :) I know that day can be soon with Heavenly Father's help!!

    So we had district conference this week...same thing as stake conference...I only am explaining this because I didn't fully understand until Saturday. But we are in the Pietarsaari district. It includes Vaasa, Pietarsaari, Seinäjoki, and Kokkola! We had a seventy come from Spain. He was super hilarious and gave a great message. Of course the whole theme was about missionary work because missionary work is AWESOME!! But oh my goodness, I have to tell you this story. Ok, so on Thursday, our District Leader called Sister Foster and said that the seventy wanted one missionary to get up in conference and talk about a success story of working with members. So he asked Sister Foster to do it cause she is awesome. She planned this whole thing out and we practiced it a few times. It was really good! So she gets up and says her little thing and sits down. Then the seventy...whose name escapes me...asked her, from the stand, "Do you have a companion?" and so me...being said companion...raised my hand like a noob...I had no idea what to do. But then he said, "would you come bear your testimony?" Now keep in mind, I really don't have stage fright...when I am prepared, but about being blindsided. I am pretty sure angels carried me up there. I was so scared and there were so many people. Including my mission president and his wife, the district president, the president of our branch, all the missionaries in our district, and a member of the seventy. NBD right? Man...the best part was that of course it was in Finnish. But it was amazing, when I walked ALL the way up to the front and stood there, I really had the biggest feeling of peace and I just talked. I have NO IDEA what came out of my mouth. Like no lie. I had no idea what I was saying.

    But then I went to sit down and the seventy stood up and said, "Don't go anywhere" (sidenote: he had the best Nacho Libre accent I have ever heard :) but then he asked chinese BFF if she would come up and bear her testimony. She came up and had someone translate for her...I am not that good to translate yet...and she bore the most powerful, sweetest testimony I have ever heard. It was incredible! Afterwards, he told Li and I to stand next to each other. He then said "This one on the right (me) is serving for 1 1/2 years. This one on the left (Li) is not. If she didn't have a nametag (me) you wouldn't know which one was the missionary. It is the same testimony. It is the same gospel." Then he said " I want all the missionaries to stand up." So all 12 of us from our district stood up. Then he said "No, I want ALL the missionaries to stand up". Everyone caught on and the whole room stood up. It was the coolest thing to see and it is so true! We are all missionaries! 

    I have thought a lot this week about missionary work...6 months as a missionary is a good time to reflect. But man, I am so excited about missionary work! I love it! I never understood how wonderful it is and how easy and natural it is until I came on my mission! We are all missionaries. There is no member church and missionary church. There is one church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the same wherever we go! We have a responsibility to bring our brothers and sisters back. It is Jesus Christ's church and all of us...every single one of us...has been saved for this time. We have been saved to come here NOW. Heavenly Father needs us now. Who is the person he has prepared you for? Pray to know who that person is and ACT on those promptings. You are and can be answers to people's prayers. The culture of the church is changing. We can't sit by and let it change without us! I am recommitting to all of you...well actually probably just committing for the first time, but I am going to be a missionary for the rest of my life. This calling is never going to end. One day I will take off the nametag...not looking forward to that...but I will forever share this gospel with people. There is nothing that can stand in our way when we do it with Christ. He is our Savior. He is our best friend. He is there right alongside us teaching the gospel right this very second! He needs our help! I love you all so much and am so excited to see you in 20 days....WOOOHOOOO!!!!  Let's bring the world his truth together! :) Ok...I am done with the cheesy EFY shpeel....missionary life will do it to you man! It's the best!! You are all wonderful and I am so grateful for you!! Have the greatest week ever!!! You all deserve it!!!

    Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner 
Sister Foster and I at FHE

Our district before transfers

Me and my Chinese ladies! :) They are HILARIOUS!!! 

Sister Foster and I making "banana cake" aka banana bread...all the africans here call it banana cake...en tiedä

Dinner after district burger Finland...nothing beats an American burger

Driving...did you know I LOVE DRIVING!!! I am so glad we have a car here

    You can't win them all....but we can sure try!!

    Well, well, well HOW ARE YOU DOING? Man I am so excited we get to talk in a few weeks! Seriously I am stoked! Don't worry, I am not letting it distract me, but everytime I see pictures of you guys on here, I just get so excited and I can't wait to see you...on the computer!! It's going to be great! Ok though, best news ever I GOT THE PACKAGE!! I was so excited! The Zone leaders brought it to me at district meeting and I saved it til the end of the day to build up the supsense! But oh man, I can't tell you the joy that filled my heart to see Cadberry eggs, sour punch straws and my dear mother's luscious lemon bars! Holy cow...I honestly could have died happy! Finnish chocolate is great, but man, there are few things that rival those Cadberry eggs and it was so great to have a little taste of America!! By the way, I think I should inform all of you that as of this week, I have decided my major for college...I want to major in history...American history...and be a teacher. I know...crazy huh? I have realized a few things on my mission....1 I love teaching. Honestly it is the BEST THING EVER and I want to keep doing it for the rest of my life. 2 I love history....The Book of Mormon is like the best history book in the world and the best part it, it is about America. I love America and I want to study ALL the things about it! So ya...just a heads up! I am sure you all wanted to know that, but it was a big revelation for me!! :) But seriously thank you so much for the package! It was so wonderful! Dad, thanks for the money...I now know it was from you! :) Mom thanks for the recipes and your are the best! Joce, Anne, Lauren, Luke and Caroline...I love you guys! Man you are wonderful! When I read your letters, I can just hear your voices saying all those things and it is so great! It's like I have a little conversation with each of you, so thank you!! :) You guys lift me up and help me push forward more than you will ever know! I can't believe you are all my family! I am so blessed!! 

    So the title of this e-mail is rather sad because bad news bears...Michael didn't get baptized! I wanted to say that first cause I know you are probably all waiting to see my pics and stuff, but alas...I am not racist by any means...take note of that...but sometimes these non-finnish people who live here are really bad at keeping commitments! The worst part is is that he told us he wanted to get baptized, that he was ready and we had everything set up and he just dropped off the face of the earth. Actually way funny we tried to meet with Michael basically every day this week and he would not text back or answer our calls so we just said, "Let's just go drop by". So we go to his house, with a member...keep that in mind...and Michael's roommate let us in. I said "Is Michael here?" and he said "Ya, I will go get him." So he runs up the stairs and we wait...and wait....and wait....and yell for Michael to come down...and wait and ya, Michael's not coming down! I was pretty tempted to run up the stairs and get him, but I decided that Jesus probably wouldn't have done that, so I didn't either...I'm really trying to be like Jesus :) But man...I just really hope Michael isn't dead. I haven't seen or heard from him in 5 days. Pray for Michael. He will get baptized one day! I know it! But hey, sorry to disappoint!! I know we will have someone's baptism picture up here soon!! :) But on the plus side, Sister Thayne said in her family email that Vincent is well on his way to his baptism!! And that makes me just as happy so no worries! Life is good!! kaikki on kunnossa!! :) 

    These week has been really good though! On Monday, my friend Li...the hilarious one I wrote about a few weeks back...she is a recent convert...anyways she has been traveling a lot these past few weeks, but she came back on Monday night and we were able to watch the fourth session of conference with her cause she didn't get to see any of it. I have always loved conference, but many seeing Li's face when the choir sang and when President Monson spoke...I realized I had never really loved conference as much as she did. I would explain to her who all the different people were and what their roles were and then when President Monson got up to speak, I went to explain and she grabbed my arm and said "Sister, Sister, that is the prophet!" She was SO excited to listen to him speak. I want to be like Li! She understands what it really means to each of us that we have a living prophet on the earth today. It was such a great experience for me to be there with her! She is great!!

    On Wednesday, we had district meeting in Pietarsaari which is about an hour north of Vaasa. We were on exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders, Sister Gasser from Bountiful and Sister Raphael from Sacramento. They are both great and Sister Gasser was in the MTC with Sister Egan and Sister Raphael served with Sister Jones so it was great to talk about my bomb awesome old companions with them! Speaking of which...I have had so many companions. Transfer calls are this Friday...again! I could be in a different city next week! So standby! I hope I stay in Vaasa! I love this area and this ward and want to continue to work here, but katsotaan! That means "we'll see". I say it all the time in Finnish! :) Anyways, Sister Gasser and I got to do exchanges and it was so great to be with her. She is really good at relating the gospel to people's lives when she's really the difference between transformation teaching and information teaching. I think that is one of the biggest things I want to focus on in my teaching. Sometimes it is so easy just to give people the facts. What needs to happen is a transformation in their lives. They have to see and understand how this gospel will change their life and what it really could mean to them. She was great though and we had a lot of fun together! She is a talker! I love talking...and listenening. Man I just love people! There are so many great people in the world! It takes all kinds though, that's for sure, but the coolest thing is, Heavenly Father loves every single one! Wow!!

    So Stanley and Prince are our two African investigators other than Michael. They are both from Ghana and honestly are the funniest people I know. We had a lesson with them on Wednesday night...we wanted to go over the Restoration, they've been taught it before, but we just felt like it needed to be taught again. Anyways, we go in there and WE WERE ATTACKED. Not literally, but man they busted out their bibles and we had ourselves a good old bible bash. I am not proud of this. It was awful. But man I just felt like Mama Bear defending her cub when they started ripping into the Book of Mormon and basically calling us blasphemers. At one point, I looked Stanley and Prince right in the face and said " I don't care what you say about the Book of Mormon, but you cannot say anything about it until after you have read it and prayed about it, then if you think it is blasphemous, that's your right. But this book deserves to be given a chance." Man, I just got heated typing that. I am really working on trying to control my heatedness but I just had to defend the Book of Mormon. I know, I need to repent but The Book of Mormon is so good. It is so true. It is so real. Honestly anyone...and I mean anyone who wants to know if it is true just needs to read and ask. It's so simple! But why is it so hard? Man...sellaista elämä on...that's another of my favorite finnish sayings...such is life! :) But don't worry, we smoothed things over, they came to church and we are friends again! Speaking of which, they are going to make us fufu this week. Apparently it is mashed plantanes with spicy soup or something...this should be good! :) Oh another way funny thing about Stanley and Prince and really all africans...they make fun of themselves all the time. This week Prince said "If you want to keep a secret from an African, write it in a book. they will never read it." HAHAHA I was laughing so hard. He makes all sorts of African jokes which are SO RACIST but man, he thinks they are hilarious so whatever floats your boat prince. I think we need to teach them separately though. It is hard to teach them together because they just laugh and make jokes at each other, but they are going to be baptized. We need them in the church and they need this more than they know! :)

    We have two investigators right now from Vietnam. Chau and Viet. Yes, Viet is his real name. I think he might be lying to us about that, but you know what, to each their own! I might change my name to Mary or something because of America. Just kidding. Bad joke. but they are both pretty great! We met Chau contacting on the street. We asked him if he believed in God and he laughed and said..."Uh, who believes in God anymore?" Sister Foster and I looked at each other and were like "Uh, we do!" And then Chau said, "Ok, I want you to teach me everything you know, but not everything you don't know!"....I think I told you about that last week, but man he is true to his word. He is soaking up this gospel like a sponge and LOVES the YSA activities. He is great. It's been really interesting teaching someone with no christian background at all. Most Finns at least believe in God so it's been really cool! I have been so grateful that I was able to teach primary and that I could practice teaching extremly simply because it has come in handy! I actually have started thinking of what I would say in Finnish and then translating it back to has worked a lot better and the spirit is so much stronger when we just teach the simple truths like "God is  your heavenly Father. He loves you. He wants you to be happy." Nothing beats that!

    So good news guys...I scored my first goal in sähly...aka floor hockey this week. It was pretty legit. Upper 90 and all the ward respects me now so that is great! I am organizing a soccer game...I want to play so bad! I bought a ball and have been doing some drills and stuff, but man I want to play a game! They all love soccer here though so I hope we can set something up soon! :)

    I am so grateful for this Easter season. I have never really been a fan of spring before...definitely last on my list, but man this year has been so different. The winter has been so cold and dark here and long and now, the sun doesn't set until 9 at night and it comes up at 5 in the morning and everything is beautiful and green and it really has been an incredible parallel to the resurrection of the Savior. Those days immediately before and after his death were so dark for everyone...the greatest being to ever walk this earth had been killed. But then he rose again. He lives today and because of that, we all will live one day. Just think about that for a second. We will never ever taste of death. Even those who don't accept the gospel will have the gift of immortality and the possibility of eternal life. What a great reason to be happy! 

     We had an easter concert last night at the church and it was so incredible! I had so many thoughts bouncing around in my head. This ward is incredible here in Vaasa, but man, some of them have had the hardest lives. It just breaks my heart to hear all these sad stories about people's lives, but as we were all sitting there, I looked up at the picture of Jesus and man, my heart was just bursting with love for Him. He makes us all whole. He takes anything that is broken and fixes it. Whether you have lost a loved one, been part of a divorce, have a phsyical ailment, or anything else, he makes us whole! That is what the atonement is about. It is about making that which is broken, whole! I was reading in Mormon this week...Mormon 5:11. Mormon is so cool! I have really grown to love him as I have been studying this week. He lived during a hard time. A time when the Nephites and Lamanties were about as wicked as they could be. He was so heartbroken because of their wickedness. I have been thinking a lot about our day and how things are so wicked and Satan is working so hard, just like then. One thing that has really stuck out to me though is how often mormon talks about repentance. I don't know who of you have a Preach My Gospel (You all should get one now...CONFERENCE COMMANDMENT :) but read about repentance in there. Sometimes repentance seems like a really scary thing. The word sounds least to me, but I have grown to love the fact that I can repent every day SO much. I was trying to visualize repentance in my mind and how I could share it with someone, but then I came across Mormon 5:11 and it says, 

    "For I know that such will sorrow for the calamity of the House of Israel, Ye, they will sorrow for the destruction of this people. They will sorrow that this people had not repented that they might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus."

    I don't know about you, but being clasped in the arms of Jesus is a pretty good picture in my head. That's what repentance is. It is the key to the Atonement. Whenever prophets and apostles say, "Apply the Atonement, use the Atonement." That is what they mean. Jesus loved us enough to give us the opportunity to repent. It doesn't mean beating yourself in the ground every day for what you did wrong, but it means working every day to become better. It means admitting that we have weaknesses...we all do...and really just acknowledging to Heavenly Father that we can't do this alone. I have so many things I can't do alone, especially as a missionary. It has been hard for me to accept help in my life. I just like to do things on my own. that is not what the gospel is about. Christ is there, with his arms open. We can rely on him. We should rely on him. Because he rose again, so will we! He is our Savior and Redeemer and this is the message we have to share with the world. What could be better than that? Thank you for all you do! You are all wonderful and I love and miss you with my whole heart, but I am so grateful for my mission. It is the best decision I have ever made in my life and I will forever be grateful to heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for getting me here. It really has changed me forever and I am so excited that we all have the chance to be missionaries for the rest of our lives. It never has to end! Nothing has to end! :) I love you all so much and hope you ahve the greatest week and the greatest Easter ever! Make sure everyone gets their right number of eggs so it's all fair. Honestly that is a LAME RULE!!  I can say that now cause I am halfway across the world. Just have a free for all. Take all the eggs you want! :) Haha you are all great! Have a wonderful week!!


    Sisar Olivia Bitner

    P.S. Read John 20-21 for family night if you can! It's wonderful!!! 

This is us playing sähly with our investigator Viet...from Vietnam...yes that's his name! He is pretty great...and way funny! Sorry the picture is weird...our chinese investigator took's not bad cause he is's just not my fault! :) 

These are our investigators from Ghana Stanley and Prince! They are pretty much the funniest people I know! This pics looks scarier than it is and they aren't as rude as they look either but it's still kind of funny!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

You know you serve in Vaasa when...

    Well Hyvää viikko teille minun perheetta!! How are you all doing? Man I have to admit, I missed you guys pretty much A TON this week during conference. It is like one of the only times on my mission when I know exactly what you all are doing at that moment! I hope you all loved it. Conference was incredible!! Honestly it was so good! On Saturday at 1700 aka 5:00 we watched the women's good...holy cow!! I love how they do that now! then at 1900 we watched the Saturday Morning session live with all of you! Then on Sunday, the men watched priesthood at 1200 and we watched the saturday evening session recorded at 1500 aka 3:00. Then at 1700 we watched the Sunday morning session live and me and Sister Foster are hoping to watch the fourth session sometime this week with a group of our recent converts! Sorry, I know that Dad, you would be interested to know the times and how conference works here so ya...there you go! We watched it in English...actually a lot of Finns watch it in English because most of them can understand a lot better than they can speak! It was pretty great! I will talk about my FAVORITE talk later!! It was all so wonderful and I am so grateful we have a prophet and apostles. Conference as a missionary was a really cool experience. I had a whole different perspective on everything and I really learned so much! I am sure you all did as well! :)

    Oh ya, I LOVED all the pictures from Disneyland. You guys are all models...seriously, who is my family! You are so cute and Anne, I didn't even know who you were. It took me like 5 minutes to realize it was you! STOP GROWING UP!!! Man I feel like I am your mother or something and all my kids are growing up in front  of my eyes...on the computer screen :) I hope you all had the best time and hopefully you had some mint chocolate chip ice cream or a dole whip for me! Who wants to road trip with me to Disneyland next summer? Cause I am going!! :)

    So the title of my letter this week is "You know you serve in Vaasa when..." because this week has been pretty crazy! I don't even know where to start but I made a list of all the funny/crazy/is this really my life? moments that happened this week so hopefully I can share them all with you!!

    First off, you know you serve in Vaasa when your investigator Michael who is GETTING BAPTIZED NEXT WEEK, comes to conference in a snappy suit and takes notes during the whole thing. He loved conference and afterwards I asked him what his favorite part was and he literally said this to me, "My favorite part was the talk that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the quorum of the 12 apostles gave about faith and becoming my true self." Uh...mitä? Ok Michael...he is incredible!! hahaha I was floored, then he asked me what my favorite part was and I forgot the name of the seventy (by the way it was Elder Zwick...what an incredible talk) and Michael said "Oh, you mean Elder Zwick of the seventy who talked about no corrupt communication and viewing life from the other person's eyes." Uh...ok Michael! It was hilarious and I was so happy that he enjoyed it so much! 

    After conference, since Michael was just on fire, we taught him about the Law of Chastity and Word of Wisdom...sometimes it's best to get those in there when the spirit is strong...haha just kidding. But for real. Anyways, we taught it to him and after the lesson, he held up both of the pamphlets, looked Sister Foster and I straight in the eye and said "This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. This is awesome. The only problem I have is with the Word of Wisdom. I am going to have to start eating more fruit." HAHAHA oh my goodness, there can be miracles when you believe folks! Michael is on fire and has 5 brothers and they are all going to be baptized and carry the church in Ghana! Vaasa is the promised land!! Oh and hopefully I have some sweet pictures of his baptism to send to you next week! My first baptism on my mission folks...Needless to say I am pumped, but mostly I am so excited that Michael has found this church. He is so prepared. He is so ready and now he gets to experience the joy of the gospel! There is nothing better than being a missionary!
    Second, you know you serve in Vaasa when it takes 2 hours to drive to district meeting and you eat some really sketchy kebab for lunch afterwards. Have I told you about kebab? Oh man, k so a lot of foreigners live here...did you know that? :) But anyways, the middle eastern/greek foreigners all have these kebab shops all over Finland. It is like the big thing to have a "pizza and kebab" store. Anyways, I have had kebab a few times...basically what it is, well at least what I think it is is lamb and they shave it off of this giant spit's pretty disgusting when you look at it, and then they put it on pizza or french fries or make a wrap out of it and you eat it. It's really's actually not even legal in America. I now know why that is the case! I have always gotten the kind in a wrap cause I figured it was the "healthiest" psh...ya right, but this time everyone got the french fry thing so I wanted to try it. Oh my about stomach bomb. It was disgusting and we had to drive two hours back from Kokkola to Seinäjoki and then to Vaasa and I wanted to throw up the whole way! It was gross, but lesson learned! :) Just thought you would want to know that! haha sorry if it was TMI, but such is my life here in good old Vaasa!

    Third, you know you serve in Vaasa when your Polish, less active member friend invites you and your companion to lunch at your other Vietnamese, less active friend's restaurant. Seriously, Vaasa is the melting pot of the world. I am buying a map and keeping track of all the different people I meet and where they are from. It is so exciting! But anyways, Konrad is the Polish guy and Ha is the Vietnamese girl. Konrad is hilarious and tells you straight up how he is feeling. He told me that I needed to sit closer to the table when I eat...I hadn't even spilled or anything, and he told me that sometimes I say "Um" too much and I really need to stop because it is irritating him...thanks Konrad! :) Haha but I really like him and Ha as well! Ha is super cool and moved here four years ago to open her own restaurant. She is only 27 and she just left her home when she was young and has put herself through school and now she has a restaurant in Finland and she is pretty dang successful! I really admire her a lot, but also I really feel bad for Konrad...he joined the church a few years ago, but he has just lost his testimony and needs to find it soon. We are really trying to get him to activities and get him coming to church. He really just needs friends and support.

    One of the hard things about Finnish culture is that they are EXTREMELY private people. Like they NEVER just drop by their friends or call someone up...they are pretty by the book, very scheduled, and they don't like to waste time...I know I know, it sounds like me, but it's really hard for all of these foreigners here, and especially foreign members because they just don't have a lot of friends. It really is true that when you make friends with a Finn, they are your friend for life, but getting to that point is pretty difficult. It's ok though...we can help them! President Rawlings talks a lot sometimes about teaching people to be each other's friend. I never thought that would be a part of my mission, but I am so grateful for all of the wonderful friends and family I have who have been such an example to me of being someone's friend and of really loving someone! But anyways, we are working on building some friendships is starting to work slowly, but surely! Line upon line, precept upon precept! :) 

    Fourth, you know you serve in Vaasa when you have to do a DTL with your investigator...determine the language....because they don't speak English or Finnish very well...and you have to excuse yourself from the lesson because you are laughing so hard at the situation and thinking "Is this my life?" but anyways here is the story. So we were on our way home one day actually and we saw this cute little Thai lady walking on the street so we went and talked to her, in Finnish, and she started speaking back, in Finnish, pretty simple Finnish which was great, but in Finnish. We told her we were here as church representatives and she said, " I want to see your church" so we walked her over to the church...and gave her a church tour. While we were in the chapel, she just broke down and started crying and kept saying "Kiitos Jumala" or Thanks God! It was so sweet and we were feeling the spirit pretty strong! Her name is Laksana, she is married to a Finn, has one son, and we set up an appointment with her for a couple days later! 

    During our next appointment, the language barrier became a little bit more difficult...we tried to explain the Restoration as simply as we could, and we told her about the Book of Mormon, but when we were done, she said "Oh I have a Bible and a Book of Mormon, the New Testament and the Old Testament"...Er...dang it! Apparently we didn't explain it right. Anyways, after about 30 minutes of acting things out, drawing pictures, holding a Book of Mormon in one hand and a Bible in the other, we realized that we might have a serious problem! There came a point in the lesson where I was so flustered and frustrated that I just burst out laughing. It was the funniest thing and I couldn't believe what was going on. Oh man....the life of a Finnish missionary :) But anyways, we gave her a Finnish Book of Mormon and told her to have her husband help her read the Introduction. As she left, we decided that next time we should try teaching in English and see if we have more success! Man it was definitely one of the funniest experiences of my mission!

    Well I am sure I will have more "you know you serve in Vaasa" moments to share, but I don't want to give all the good stuff just yet! Things are a little different here in Vaasa. Everyone marches to the beat of their own drum, but I love it and am so grateful to be here!

    So my favorite talk from conference...there were so many great ones...but the one that really got me was President Uchtdorf. You can always count on him to give something great but how awesome was his talk? Some of my favorite parts were, "We should see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life...instead of being thankful for things, be thankful IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES...The choice is ours, we can limit our gratitude based on the things we lack...This kind of gratitude overcomes all disappointments...How much of life do we miss waiting for the raindbow instead of thanking God that it is raining...Gratitude doesn't mean that we are happy with our situation, it means that we are looking forward with faith...My testimony of Christ can help me look past the disappointing endings of mortality to the bright hope of the future...Why do we resist endings? because we are made of the stuff of eternity...Endings are not our destiny, only interruptions, pauses...No true endings, only everlasting much we have to be grateful for...gratitude is the catalyst to all Christ-like attributes." 

    Man...he is great! I love that talk and it is my goal these next few weeks to really try and apply this. I love how he talks about being happy in our circumstances. Sometimes in my life it has been really hard for me to understand how I could ever be grateful when something is going wrong or when life is hard. But I love how he also brings up that having an attitude of gratitude doesn't mean that we are always happy go lucky and everything is sunshine and roses and happiness...that's not realistic, but it does mean that we are always looking forward with faith to the future. It means knowing that even though life is incredibly hard sometimes, it will all work out. It really means to me that everything that comes our way is what is supposed to happen and we have the choice to accept it and make the most out of the cards we have been dealt, or to sit and whine and make everything more difficult than it needs to be. The best part about all of this is that we don't have to do it alone. We don't have to be strong alone. I think it was Elder Bednar who said that there is nothing we can go through in life that Christ didn't go through first. One scripture that has come to be my favorite on my mission is D&C 122:7-8...I am sure you have all heard it, but it is when Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail and when he really started doubting God and himself and everything that had happened to him. He really did ask "God, where art thou?" and Heavenly Father in response said:

    "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep, if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?"
That last question really gets me every time. Art thou greater than He?

     Anytime I start feeling bad or getting frustrated when someone makes fun of us, or when really anything hard comes and I sometimes think, "Why?" this question, comes back into my brain, "Art thou greater than He?" The answer will always be no, but because of Christ's love and his mercy, I have a friend to walk with me through all the aspects of life. We all do and he is the most perfect wonderful friend we could ever have. Now, by that fact alone, by the fact that we all have the gift of immortality and the possibility of Eternal life, we have SO much to be grateful for. I love this gospel. I love my Savior. I love my Father in Heaven. I love the Book of Mormon. I love this work. I love being a missionary. Man, I just love my life. Life is good. God is good. My family and friends are good. Even when life isn't always perfect, it is always good! There is always something to be grateful for! Like today, I am grateful that in one month, I get to skype all of you!!! WHAT??? I just realized that as I looked at the date! I am so excited to see you all and I hope you know how much I love you! Have a wonderful week and remember to be grateful!! :) You are the best!!

Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner 
THis is the Hedins..the senior couple here...they are great!!

This is Konrad...oh my word he is crazy! :)

This is all of us making balloon animals on Monday Night! Our investigator Colleen was there so we got to go!!! 

The BEAUTIFUL sunrise in Finland

Me at lunch with the Hedins and Konrad..Konrad bought us lunch

Me by the ocean!! 

Born in the Blessed Place, Raised in the Promise Land

    Voi että!!! Where have you all been? I feel like I haven't talked to you for melkein 6 months! :) No more missing your weekly was too hard, but I am so glad to write to you today! I am in Vaasa. The Promised Land. I have arrived and it is wonderful! Honestly...I am so excited to tell you all about this week, you have no idea!! I hope you are all doing so well and have had such a great week! You were in Disneyland right? If not, I need to go apologize to a woman wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt on the road because I told her my family was in Disneyland to start a conversation! But hey, she is a pretty solid potential investigator so whether or not you were there, you were being missionaries! :)

    Well I have to admit that leaving Tampere was super hard. I was crying. I know...lame but I love that place. It's the "siunattu paikka" aka blessed place and always will be in my eyes! The members are great! Sister Jones is great! Vincent is getting baptized. Man! I think my problem is I get attached to things way too hard and too fast! Tampere was no exception, but I know I will go back one day! I hope you all enjoyed the pictures I sent of some of my besties in the ward! All I can say is thank heavens for Facebook! They said they have all added me already! :)

    Anyways, last Monday, I got on a train and headed up to Seinäjoki to switch trains to Vaasa. I really felt weird leaving Tampere. I felt like I was running away or something and didn't feel like a missionary at all. It was a really weird experience. I knew that I had to leave, but I just kept thinking "How can this be part of Heavenly Father's plan for Petteri to be creeping and me having to leave Tampere." The whole day was just weird...I really don't know how else to describe it. I didn't feel like myself and I didn't feel safe or anything. Not my best day. But on the funny side, you should have seen me trying to get all my suitcases on an off the trains...holy cow. I was sweating up a storm, trying to speak Finnish to this man who was "trying to help me". Really he just kept pushing my suitcases at me and mumbling under his breath! It was super funny! But I got to Vaasa in one piece and Sister Thayne and Sister Foster were there waiting for me. It was so great to see Sister Thayne! She is awesome and I knew she will do so well in Tampere! Sister Foster helped me get all my stuff to the car and we were off. It was kind of a funny experience standing at the train station in Seinäjoki waiting for my other train to come. I was looking at my suitcases and my bag and I just thought, "Man, my entire life is in these bags. I can literally carry my life with me." It was pretty interesting, but such is the missionary life! Nothing better :)

    So let me tell you a little bit about Vaasa. They definitely march to the beat of their own drum here. Not the missionaries, just the people in general. Vaasa is right on the coast and a large majority of the people here speak Swedish. They are "swedish-speaking finns". No one told me I had to learn some Swedish too, but hey I am attempting Finnish, might as well just throw some Swedish on there too! :) They have two major universities here so there are SO MANY FOREIGNERS: Seriously, I walk outside and don't even know where I am. The good news is, they are mostly chinese! I love chinese people! I will talk more about them later! But, things in missionary life are a little different here as well. First off, we have a car! I LOVE DRIVING!! I missed driving so much and am so excited to be in a car city! They don't really have public transportation here...nothing compared to Tampere but we have a car! Kaikki on hyvää! :) All is good! We have a huge apartment! Our apartment in Tampere was tiny but this one is pretty big and nice! I don't have to sleep on the top bunk anymore which is great cause now I can't fall asleep kneeling in bed to say my prayers :) Sister Foster and I also have gym memberships! I know...who the heck am I? It's great! THe gym is 20 euros a month and is like 1 minute from our house. We have been getting up at 6 everyday and working our for an hour and I feel SO much better! Working out is good...everyone should do it! It makes you happier :) We also have a senior missionary couple here in Vaasa, The Hedin's. They are from Albuquerque and are basically the greatest people I know! I love having them here! They are great! Sister Hedin is a fluent spanish speaker and she told me she would teach me some. Have I told you all I want to learn Spanish and German when I come home? Don't ask me why...I just do! I'm going to Rosetta Stone the heck out of those languages! :) ANyways, Sister Hedin gave me a spanish Book of Mormon. I am focusing on Finnish though...don't worry! There is enough there to keep me busy for time and all eternity!! All the missionaries here in Vaasa, Me, Sister Foster, The Hedin's and Elder Lee and Elder Findlay all love Vaasa. Everyone calls it the "Promised Land" and I really believe that. I know good things are going to happen here!!

    We have 12 investigators right now. Best news though...we have 4 baptismal dates!! We set them all this week! It has been incredible! My first day here, Sister Foster(who I will talk about later) said "I am so sorry, we have no baptismal dates so this might be tough". Now after our first week together we have 4. Sister Foster and I teach really well together. Good give and take. I give, she takes :) No but really, I have really enjoyed teaching with her and at this rate, we're going to have some baptisms in good old Vaasa! Our investigators are quite the international bunch. We have 2 from has a baptismal date, 3 from Ghana, 1 from England (yes her accent is the greatest thing ever) 1 from Gabon, 1 from Vietnam, 1 from China, 1 from Thailand, and 1 from Nigeria. Ya...I don't even know where I am serving anymore! It's such a cool experience to see all these different nationalities coming together. Growing up in Utah, seeing a foreigner is like a fly in the milk, but here I am like a marshmallow in the chocolate! Bad comparison...but you get the idea! I love it here though and it's so exciting to meet people from all over the world. We had a lesson with our investigator Michael. He is from Ghana and has a baptismal date, but we brought one of our recent convert Chinese members, Li. She was actually just baptized last Saturday and she was testifying to Michael about her baptism. I was sitting there watching her and I just felt so much love for both of them. Looking at them, they couldn't be more different, but as they were talking about the gospel, I really received a confirmation and testimony that we are all God's children. It doesn't matter what we look like or where we are from and the best part is, this gospel is here for everyone! How amazing!!

    Let's see...let me tell you about Sister Foster. She is incredible! Seriously, best sister missionary in Finland, hands down. She speaks Finnish like a PRO and she and I have set a goal to SYL every time we are outside of our apartment. It has been super hard and frustrating, but I know that Heavenly Father has blessed me with the desire and strength to keep trying and keep working at it. She really has helped me so much with the language. Answer to my prayer...number 1! She is from Atlanta, Georgia and is the oldest of 6 kid as well. Guess what else, her younger brother and sister are twins too...way cool! :) I really love her already though and we get along great, in Finnish and in English! haha

    I have to share this way cool experience that happened at church yesterday. Well first things first, they have a branch here in Vaasa, about 100 members so pretty small! The chapel is tiny but really nice and their church is only 2 hours long. It was fast sunday yesterday and I had fasted that I would just feel at peace with everything as well as other things. Like I said before, this week was kind of weird "feelings wise" and I just didn't feel like me. But during testimony meeting, 2 of the recent convert Chinese members got up and bore their testimonies...with a Finn translating and then an african man bore his testimony and a russian member was translating and I was just sitting there next to our british investigator and another chinese recent convert and I felt like I had come home. There are a couple people in this ward that I know I have seen before. It is I am not saying I have had visions, but in all of my dreams about Finland before my mission, the people in my dreams were all from Vaasa. It was super humbling and amazing and heart just felt like it was going to burst!! I was super emotional and then my heart started pounding in my chest. I can't remember a time when I felt the spirit prompt me that strongly to bear my testimony. But, I got up and bore my testimony to "my family" and man it was the greatest experience of my life. Honestly, my prayer was answered and my fast was answered as I was standing up there. I was so grateful to be in Vaasa and I was so grateful for everything that had happened that had made it so I was here! I love this ward, I love these people, and I am so excited to do some serious missionary work here!!

    Sister Foster shared a quote with me this week and I wanted to share it with all ya'll cause it's pretty great! So it says "What we hear is what we think, what we think is what we say, what we say is what we do, what we do is who we are!" I have been thinking a lot about how powerful words are and how powerful the things we watch and listen to are. General Conference is coming up...SUPER PUMPED...and I really think that if we all focus on listening to good, uplifting things this week, we will be so much more receptive to the spirit during conference. That quote really is so true. Our thoughts shape our realities and our thoughts come from what we hear and listen to. Let's all work this week to keep our lives pure, clean and uplifting. It may not seem like a big thing to listen to a song that swears or to watch a movie that isn't the best, but those things add up over time and then pretty soon, the spirit isn't with us anymore. We can't afford to let that happen. We have to be on our A-game. Satan is working hard, we have to work harder! But the good news is we are going to win, but it will require a lot of effort. I am so excited for conference! We get to listen to a prophet of God. We get to receive counsel from someone who receives it straight from the source. How great is that?! I am so excited!!

    Well I hope you all know that I know this church is true! I love it with all my heart! Jesus Christ is our Savior. I read Matt 11:28-30 this week and really researched and studied it. I realized that one thing I want to work on is getting to know my Savior more. I want to become like Him. That is the purpose of the is here to take imperfect people and make them perfect one day! Thank you all for your prayers and support! I love you so much and hope you have the greatest week and greatest conference weekend ever!! No falling asleep! :) I love you!!

    Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner more thing...I had a huge love burst for you all when I was writing in my journal the other night, and I wanted to share what I wrote with you.

    From my journal:

    My dad is so strong. He is so honest. He is so passionate. He does everything whole-heartedly. My mom is an angel. She is so loving. She is as close to Christ like love as you can get in this life. She loves everyone unconditionally and is the most unselfish person I know. Jocelyn is so incredible. She knows who she is and what she wants in this life. She is so accepting and makes everyone around her want to be a better person. Anne is a saint. She is so compassionate and looks for the good in everything. She has the sweetest heart and always looks for those who need a friend. Lauren is a leader. Lauren is the best friend you could ever have. Lauren brings out the best in everyone she meets. She is so passionate about what she does. She wants everyone to be happy. Luke is a stud. He has the most genuine, sincere heart. He loves people so much and he knows that everyone is important to Heavenly Father. He is an example and leads with love. Caroline is my little sunshine. She is a little sparkle who can make anyone's day better. She loves making people happy and has such a gift to love and bring out the best in others. She is a wonderful friend! I am crying! You are all the best people I know! Never forget how much I love you!! :) Happy Conference Week!!! 

These two little ladies are my FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD!! This is the Partanen mom and grandma and they told me we have to come stay with them! They are Filipino! Can you tell? hahah

This is me and Sami. Sami is a rockstar and came on lessons with us all the time. He took us out to lunch and ice cream before I left. He is getting ready to go on a mission...but he is 25. what an example to me! BTW, he is the funniest person I have ever met and is HUGE and has a bright blue winter coat!! He is legit!

Me and My best friend Annastina! She was a less active when I came and we have been working with her and really trying to bring her back. The day I left Tampere, she got her temple reccommend and is planning on going to the temple! She has been reactivated!!! BEST DAY EVER!!! I love her!!

This is Matti. Another rockstar who came on lessons with us all the time. We are really good friends and he also is preparing to serve a mission! Look at these Finns go!!

This is Me and my BFF Anni Lehti. She is 35 and has never been married but she LOVES the sisters and had us over for dinner my last night in Tampere! THis is at her house!! 

My last pic with the sisters in Tampere I love them all so much! SIster Jones, Sister Pack and Sister Hubner

And this is me and my new toveri Sister Foster! She is legit! I love her!

This is me and my new best friend Li. She was just baptized on Saturday and I love her SOOOO much. HOnestly the funniest, most awesome, most sincere person I know. Her testimony is SO strong!

Li wanted to wear our nametags and teach us about the Plan of Salvation. It was the greatest thing of my life so I had to take a picture! :)