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 guaranteed...hopefully...to 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 pros....now 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 katsotaan...it'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 Li...my 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 lds.org "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 sad...no 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 man...talk 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 Li...my 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