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 letter....you 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 story...so 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 teaches...it'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 English...it 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 scary...at 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!!!