Called to Serve in the Finland Helsinki Mission, October 2013 - April 2015
Thursday, April 10, 2014
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 e-mails...it 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 Finland...one 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 crazy...like 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 man...my 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 gospel...it 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
Oh...one 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!
Man...now 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! :)