Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pull Out All The Stops...Experience All The Miracles
    No Moi!! Miten mene?? How is the world's most wonderful family doing? I hope you are all doing well! I just have to take a second to tell all of you a great big KIITOS for everything! I have the most supportive, amazing family in the world! I love emailing every week and seeing all your letters and pictures! I love that I am still a part of your lives and hopefully you feel like you are a part of mine! I talk about all of you all the people on the street, to members, to investigators, I show your pictures to I just love you all so much! I am so lucky to have you! :)

    Well, where to even begin this week! It has been awesome! On Tuesday I got sick for the first time on my mission!! WAHOO!! It was super fun...just the flu...not even very bad. It was so boring though and I laid in my bed on Tuesday and part of Wednesday and watched The Testaments, The Restoration movie, and Finding Faith in Christ like 147326 times. It was awful, but it made me so grateful for the healthy days! Sister Fronk was so great and brought me a smoothie and some toast. Good thing I have the best companion in the world! She goes home in 4 weeks....not really looking forward to that, but I have learned so much from her and we have so much fun together. It's great!! Anyways...I am feeling a lot better now. I was pretty happy that it took me this long to get sick though...Heavenly Father is always looking out for all of us!!

    So we went to Seinäjoki twice again this week. I am telling you, that place is a gold mine. We had the greatest lessons with our investigators there, and Sister Fronk and I both felt like we should go to church there this week because a lot of our investigators were going for the first time. Anyways,  we did and it was awesome!! We had 4 investigators in church this week in Seinäjoki and 2 in Vaasa without us even being there which is HUGE! It was seriously incredible! President told us last Monday that we all needed to focus on getting as many people to church as we could. Sister Fronk and I really pulled out all the stops. We invited EVERYONE to church. Investigators, Less Actives, random people on the street...everyone! It was so amazing to watch how after literally everything we could do, Heavenly Father made all these miracles happen. I am so grateful for church and that we have a place where we can come and really feel separated from the world! It's the best...insert Nacho Libre accent here! :) 

    I told you about Poe and Soe last week. Actually, I think I said her name was Bo, but that is just "her nickname"...her real name is Soe! Yes...that is all completely the truth! My mistake though :) So Poe and Soe are my best friends. We are still trying to figure out how to work around the language barrier with their parents. We have prayed and prayed and prayed about it, because this whole family is just incredible and needs the church, but we both felt like it would be good if for Poe and Soe's commitment, they could teach the lessons we just taught them to their parents. They only have done it once so far, but their parents let them come to church this week which is a HUGE step!! We are so excited to be teaching them. They really are such a blessing from Heavenly Father!! They even brought their cute little friend, Naomi, to church. She is from Congo and has 6 siblings and her mom and her dad are both extremely religious people in the sense that they love Jesus Christ and the Bible, but they don't belong to any specific religion....yet! :) We have an appointment with them this week so hopefully everything goes well with that!!

    I think I told you that both Poe and Soe LOVE soccer and have been asking and asking when we could come and play with them. They said if we would play, they would read the Book of Mormon everyday and teach their parents the lessons...well I mean, how could we say no to that? :) haha just kidding, but seriously, we took our "hour of recreation" that we are allowed each week and went and played soccer with them. It was so much fun and they just loved that we were actually playing with them. I think they liked to see that we don't always wear skirts too. It made us a little more normal which was good! But anyways, they really are so golden and are progressing so well. They are both loving the gospel and want to be baptized! I love teaching families. It hasn't happened very often on my mission, but man, the spirit is SO strong when you have a complete family together and we can testify of how much this gospel can change and bless their lives. It is such a wonderful thing to be a part of! I love it!! :)

    So Sadie is Poe and Soe's friend and our investigator as well! She is hilarious. She is from Bhutan...I got a few more of the facts figured out this week...and she is married to a finnish man who she met on the internet. He is a devout Christian and in her own words, "I am Buddha". I don't think she understands exactly how that works, but in any case, we are teaching Buddha! :) She came to church on Sunday as well an had on a neon yellow tank top, mickey mouse purple shorts, and orange high tops! I have to tell you, I have never seen anything so great as the sight of Sadie sitting next to Sisar Liuku, singing her heart out to "How Great Thou Art". It was wonderful! Sadie also prayed for the first time on Sunday. She is the biggest jokester and laughs at everything we say, but then she gets all serious and says, "Mä haluan yrittää". I want to try. She does everything. She has no fear and I know she is starting to feel the love of God in her life! Nothing is more rewarding than hearing someone pray for the first time. Before my mission, I remember someone telling me that when you bring others to Christ and God or kind of "introduce them", you not only feel how much God loves you, but you literally can feel God's love for them. Every time an investigator prays, I can just feel how happy Heavenly Father is that they are talking to Him. I have never felt the spirit so strong as in those moments!!

    On Saturday, we had one of the busiest days on my mission. We had tons of good, solid appointments set up, and we had vowed not to use the car all day. We had our sweet new bikes...seriously, I love my bike...and we just set off to get some work done. Well as luck would have it, most things cancelled, but we still worked so hard. I wish I knew how many miles we biked. We basically set out to conquer Vaasa after everything had fallen through! Not going to can all judge me if you want...but I was a SWEATY MESS!! First time sweating outside in Finland. I was super happy to see that I hadn't completely frozen over during the winter. It really was pretty exciting...for the first 5 seconds...and then I remembered why I wanted to go somewhere cold instead of hot on my mission. We had an appointment with a member family and we got there and were just gross...seriously I was so embarrassed. We were trying to help each other out...fix each other's hair, wipe leaves and grass off our faces, and then the dad came to the door before we could really compose ourselves. I wish I had a picture of his face...he looked like two sewer rats were standing on his porch...fairly accurate...but anyways, he went and got us towels and water and basically forced us to wait outside until we cooled off. All I can say is I love Finland and it's freezing temperatures!! :) Heavenly Father knew no one would talk to me if he sent me to Africa or the Philippines! The good news is though, I got some good color on my arms and face so kaikki on kunnossa!!! Everything is good!! That night when we were on our way home, it was a little after 9...the sun was still high in the sky...and there was a little ice cream vendor on the side of the road. We both just kind of looked over at each other, jumped off our bikes, and went and got our first Finnish ice cream of the summer. They love ice cream here and you can find little ice cream joints all over the place. Anyways, we got some ice cream, went and sat on a bench and did daily planning outside under a lilac tree! I seriously just sat there with my bike helmet on, ice cream in one hand, missionary planner in the other and just felt about as happy as I have ever felt in my life. It was one of those moments I wish I could just live in forever! It was wonderful!! I love Finland and I love being a missionary!! 

    We had the scariest thing in the world happen this week. Ok, so Chau is our investigator from Vietnam...he has a baptismal date...loves the church...comes every week...and then this week....Chau decided to go A-wall. We called him on Monday to set something answer. We sent him a text and said just to call when he had a answer. Tuesday goes by, Wednesday goes by, Thursday comes...we call him again (trying REALLY hard not to be pushy) answer...Friday, Saturday, Sunday...NOTHING!! Seriously I wanted to call the police and send a search crew out looking for Chau. K kidding...I am not that psycho yet :) But I was so confused. We had no idea what had happened to him. We said a prayer so that we could have some sort of peace about this and we both just had this feeling that everything was going to work out. We didn't count Chau in our numbers last night when we sent them in to our District leader and when we had call-ins, he asked us about our investigators. We told him about Chau, in very sad and depressed way...and said we had no idea where he was. Elder Lee is our district leader and he serves in Vaasa as well and he says, "What do you mean you don't know where he is? Chau was in church today!" Uh, what???? We were so confused!! So I guess Chau put his phone in his pocket after church last Sunday, forgot about it...left it on silent...and he didn't use his coat all week because the weather has been so nice so he had no idea where his phone was.....isn't that a funny thing that happened? hahahahahaha NO. that wasn't funny! But all's well that ends well! :) Chau is still our investigator and he is on his way to baptism!! Oh the joys of being a missionary! Sometimes I feel like a psycho girlfriend or something to all of our investigators. We call them all the time...want to know where they are...wonder why they are mad at us...take things they say over text WAY TOO SERIOUSLY and analyze every little thing...and then when they want to stop investigating or when we have to turn them over to the Lord, it's like this big, awkward, dramatic break up. Sorry...this probably doesn't sound very dignified or missionary like, but it's really a funny thing we do! It is kind of crazy! Good thing that the church is true!! :) 

    So we had interviews with President this week. He is awesome! I love him and respect him so much!! He and Sister Rawlings are leaving on July 1. President Watson and his wife come in. It's so weird to me that I will have 2 mission presidents. It's kind of cool I guess, but anyways they came to Vaasa this week and we were able to chat! The first question he asked me is how I feel about my mission so far. First, I was so grateful to be able to say that I literally love everything about my mission. I am so grateful for it and for what is had done for me in my life. Second, I told him that I have felt really bad these past few weeks about my "lack of success" as a missionary. I told him that I have felt as though my mission is good for me, but that I haven't necessarily been good for my mission. I don't feel like I have built up the Lord's kingdom here in Finland. It really is frustrating because I love this place SO much and I want Finns to join the church. I want the work to explode. Nothing would make me happier. President just looked at me and said, "Stop it." Woah. I was like Uh...sorry....he then proceeded to tell me a story about one of his good friends. This man was a genius! He created some sort of atomic engine for the satellite so that it could function for over 100 years without ever coming down, he was the man who made airbags actually usable in cars, and he was a brilliant public speaker. AND he was an amazing missionary for the church. He had done a lot of work in Detroit, in the inner-city area and had organized 13 branches there. Anyways, this man had lived in Detroit for a while and then he was coming back to live in California again. One day, a couple of weeks after he had come back, he called President Rawlings and told him that he needed a blessing. He had just been diagnosed with terminal, stage 4, pancreatic cancer and had 2 months left to live. 

    President said that over those next two months, this man received SO many letters and cards from people all over the world. His wife had to request that members of the ward come over and help him sort through all his mail. Also, people would take turns reading letters to him, as he lay in his bed. President Rawlings took a lot of turns reading to this man, because they were such good friends, and he told me that of all of the letters this man received, not ONE of them said ANYTHING about all the "things" this man had accomplished. No one commented on his atomic engine, or the 13 branches in Detroit, or about how brilliant of a speaker he was. All of the letters contained little tiny, seemingly "insignificant" things that this man had done for people. People said things like, "One day in church, you told me that I was doing a wonderful job as a mother" or "You helped me through one of the darkest times of my life by just being an example of a happy latter-day saint" or "You always smiled at me in church and it made me feel welcome." As President read these letters to this man, the man couldn't remember doing ANY of those things. He was so confused and just kept saying, "What? I didn't do that? They must be confused." President looked me right in the eye and said, "This is the scale by which we are measured. The "things" we do here don't matter. Numbers don't matter. Success is the Lord's to be given. All that matters is how we make people feel. All that matters is that we love the Lord and we love our fellow-man. That is how we make a difference in the world. Don't ever compare yourself to anyone ever again. You be the best that you can be. Be yourself. Love everyone and trust in the Lord." 

    WOW. Even now writing that, I know that what he said is true. It doesn't matter what we do. I have 0 baptisms on my mission. Numbers wise, I haven't had a lot of success...but I know that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is Love. The Beatles knew what they were talking about, "All you need is Love..." Obviously, they were talking about Christ-like love, right? :) No, but seriously....I am so grateful for love in my life. I am so grateful for all of you and for the love you show me. I am so grateful for our Savior's love. That song, "Our Savior's Love" has been going over and over in my head this past week...."Our Savior's love shines like the sun with perfect light, as from above, it breaks through clouds of strife. Lighting our way, it leads us back into His sight, where we may stay to share eternal life." I want you all to know how much I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love the Book of Mormon. I love this gospel. I love each one of you so much. When everything we do is motivated by love, we can never go wrong. We do missionary work because we love God and love His children. All of us do missionary work because of that. I can testify to the fact that when what we do is motivated by love, we will never fail. "Perfect love casteth out all fear." Excuse my lack of reference...I am working on becoming a sciptorian :) Let's all cast out our fears this week and go love people to death!! Sorry this letter was kind of crazy! But so am I so there ya go!! :) I love you all! Always remember that!! You are wonderful!! Have a great week and aina muistakaa että Sisar Bitner on aina ajatellamassa teistä!! Mä rakastan teitä!!!


Sisar Bitner 

Me and Sister Fronk after biking through a DOWNPOUR!! It was super fun!! 

My new I PROMISE it was the cheapest and cutest one there!! Thanks for the money! I really do appreciate it!! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Welcome to Seinäjoki

    Hello! How are you wonderful people all doing? Man I miss you guys like crazy, not going to lie! It was a little bit harder last p-day than normal. All of my "missing my family" feelings came back, but it was so great to see you all and I have adjusted back a lot quicker than last time! It's funny because now...finally...missionary life just feels normal. Honestly I don't think I even did anything before this. What did I do when I didn't have every second of my life planned out. I am a little worried about coming back home and having "free time". I am sure I will get over it quite quickly, but for right now, I am really happy to be in my happy little organized Finnish world! :) 

    First off, I have to tell you about the weather here....OH MY GOODNESS HEAVENLY FATHER LOVES FINLAND!!! Seriously, I have never seen anything so beautiful as the Finnish spring. I feel like I went to sleep one night and everything was gray and gross, and then the next day I woke up to a bright green world where the sun is always shining...literally always...its sunny at 10:30 at night when we go to bed...and people are just lining up outside of the church to meet with us....ok maybe the last one was a stretch, but it is so wonderful! Sister Fronk and I had a very ceremonious "Let's put our boots and coats away" celebration. It was wonderful! This is the first time my legs....from the knees down...have seen the sun in 7 months! I am stark white...I kid you not, but man it is so wonderful to be outside in this beautiful weather!! It's amazing how much the weather will affect your mood. During the winter here, I really never felt depressed or anything, but man now that the sun is out, I realize how much energy I didn't have during the winter! I am so grateful for the sun!! :) 

    So this week was pretty incredible! We have really been struggling with finding new investigators as in over the last 3 weeks up until this week, we had found a big whopping 0. It was super frustrating especially when we felt like we were doing everything we could! There was one day, I think it was Tuesday, when I woke up in the morning, and I grabbed our phone and I called every potential investigator we had in there. And guess the day went on and we contiued to call people back, we found 5 NEW INVESTIGATORS!! The coolest part is 4 of them are people we had talked to previously and either forgotten to call back or just hadn't been able to reach them. We have Matias, a swedish speaking finn, Sergei, a finnish speaking Russian, Sadie, a finnish speaking uh...person from Berma, and Desmond, an english speaking man from Camaroon. OUr last investigator is Carolina...yes, almost like my little shweeda shweeda :) But I will tell you about her later! Anyways, I really gained a testimony this week of following up and keeping good records. It makes all the difference, obviously! :) We have only taught Sadie, Carolina, and Sergei so far, but I will keep you posted on them! They are all great!! :)

    So I told you guys when we talked on Sunday about how the sisters who serve in Vaasa are actually assigned to serve in Seinäjoki as well. Seinäjoki is about an hour from Vaasa, by car or train, and previously in my mind, you say... the armpit of Finland. I have heard so many horror stories about this place from other missionaries and so I was pretty hesitant about going there. Sister Fronk and I both prayed about it and really felt like we needed to spend more time in Seinäjoki, however, so we organized with the Elders that serve there and decided to start going there 2 times a week! 

    We had district meeting there on Wednesday, so we decided to make that our "First day in Seinäjoki". The Elders have a lot of women investigators they are teaching there. The problem is, the Seinäjoki branch has 25 members total...15 of which are active, and one of those members is the only active man who lives in Seinäjoki and can go on teaches with the Elders. According to them, he kind of likes to whip out "the deep doctrine" when they are trying to teach The Restoration or something like that and it really turns people off. Anyways, the Elders set up a few appointments for us with a family they are teaching from Berma and a Finnish woman they have been teaching for awhile. I have to tell you about this family though....OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE THIS FAMILY!!!  So they are from Berma...if someone could look that up and tell me where it is, that would be lovely! :) I have no idea...but they are wonderful! The family consists of 1 grandma who looks like the little woman on the three amigos who sews the costumes at the end....a mom and a dad, an older brother who sleeps all day...and 2 little daughters, Po and Bo! HAHA I love them. Po is 12, Bo is 11. They are rockstars, have read pretty much the whole Book of Mormon, in Finnish, mind you, and the best part is, they both play soccer! Our first lesson with them was a little sketch. The problem is the daughters and son speak finnish, but they parents don't speak finnish or english. It's really sad because they sit there and listen to our lessons, but they can't say or understand anything. We tried to ask Po if she could translate for them, but she is still learning finnish, believe me, I feel her pain, and she says it's really hard to translate for them. It's amazing how when you learn a language, you really understand so much more than you can speak. Like for's crazy! But anyways, we both were just praying so hard that the spirit would be there so that the parents could feel it and want us to continue coming back. The spirit was SO strong...Heavenly Father answers prayers...and we taught about the Book of Mormon and prayer. Po wants to get baptized so bad...Bo is coming along, but the problem is, the mom said (To Po) that the girls aren't ready to be baptized yet. I know they will be baptized soon! The mom asked us, through Po, if we would come and teach her Finnish and her daughters English sometimes. We talked to the Elders and they are going to try to set up a Finnish/English class at the church so hopefully that goes well! This family is awesome and I love them so much! Plus they want me to come play soccer with is the best! I am so glad they appreciate it here! :) of our other new investigators, Sadie, is friends with Po and Bo. She has lived in Finland for five years and she speaks finnish really well. She was there for our lesson on Wednesday and she just kept saying over and over, "Te olette Amerikasta...meillä on Amerikalaisia täällä median kanssamme"...or ,"You are from American...we have actual Americans here with us." It was pretty hilarious and they all want to learn English...what they don't know is that during English class the words they will be learning will be like baptism, eternal life, Book of Mormon or maybe phrases like, "How soon can I be baptized?" Totally just kidding...I promise that was a joke...probably wasn't even funny, but hey, if you think you're funny, then other people do too. It's a fact of life! :) I love Sadie though! She told me she would keep me posted on the World Cup results....I can't believe I am missing that, but it's ok...I've got Sadie! :)

    So Sergei is pretty cool. He is a mountain man of Finland except they don't have mountains here. He is an artist, wears socks and sandals, and likes to sleep outside. He is pretty legit. The funniest part is, he is actually a really successful artist here in Finland and he has an awesome apartment in this way nice building in the center of town and he has a wife and two kids. When we first met him I thought, "Oh dear...what's his story?" But man, he is so cool and is SUPER interested in the American Indians. hahaha go figure! Anyways, we had a lesson scheduled with him, in Seinäjoki because he lives there, and the night before he texted us and said, "Sorry, I am not interested." I don't know if he had a dream or something, but the next day, he calls us and says, "Just kidding...I want to meet with you." We had an AWESOME lesson with him...half in English, half in Finnish (those are always my favorite) and he basically asked us if he could come to church! He didn't get to come this week...sadly...his wife and kids needed to be picked up from the airport, but he is awesome and now the elders and us are team teaching him. It's pretty exciting!!

    So now to tell about Carolina. Oh my goodness, I don't know if I have the strength...just kidding :) So Carolina is our former member investigator. Let me 'splain. So she fell in love with an elder who served in Seinäjoki about a year ago. She got baptized on account of this love. This elder moved away and Carolina just kind of went downhill. She went less active pretty fast and the missionaries who served there kept trying to get her to come to church...cause that's what we do! :) Long story short, she wrote a letter to the church and requested to have her records removed. It was this big old do you spell that? :) and so she wasn't a member anymore. We talked to President about what to do with the whole situation. He told us to follow the spirit, and I have just been feeling really strongly over these past few weeks that we shouldn't give up on her. She really needs this gospel and I want her to be baptized for the right reasons. Anyways, we met with her on Friday and talked about prayer and she just kept saying how much better she felt when she meets with members of the church and was just really cool! It helped me to realize how important it is to make sure our investigators get baptized for the right reasons, but also how people really do recognize the absence of the spirit in their lives. They yearn for something, and don't know what it is. Fortunately, we do! :) 

    So our investigators in Vaasa are just doing so great! Bill is leaving to China my heart breaking, YES! If he had been here for 1 more month, I know he would have been baptized. But Li and Bill are going to get married one day and convert China. I know it! :) Also yesterday, Bill came to church and after sacrament we were just talking and I asked him what his plans were after his mission. He responded, "I want to do many things. I think I would like to be a missionary." Uh...ok Bill! :) It was the greatest thing I have ever heard and I was so excited and just said, "Bill, that would be WONDERFUL!! You would be such a great missionary." He just smiled and said, "Yes. It would be wonderful." Man, I love Bill!!

    Chau is going strong! He loves the gospel. We taught about repentance and the Atonement and how it all works and it was the most excited I have ever seen him in a lesson. He was just grinning from ear to ear. We committed him to pray and really try to repent and he said, "I think that would be good. I would love to feel normal again." I think his favorite word is normal, but hey, that works for me! :) We are really focusing on The Book of Mormon with him this week and making sure his testimony of that is solid. The Book of Mormon is amazing. I love it with all my heart and know it is true! I think the best part about it is that our entire religion, literally everything hinges on whether the Book of Mormon is true or not. I think sometimes we get caught up in the "Oh ya, this is true, but I'm not so sure about that..." "I believe that families can be together forever, but I really don't want to pay tithing or keep the sabbath day holy." Uh...WRONG. Either it's all true, or it's all a big fat lie. I know that it is true. I have never been so sure of anything in my life. It is true. I love it. That's all there is to it!

    Well, wonderful family, I have been thinking a lot this week about the Atonement, about repentance and change and being better. That is something I have become so grateful for on my mission. I remember before my mission some of my friends said, "Don't change on your mission." I can distinctly remember thinking in my mind..."Psh, me change...I won't change." Now I am literally begging Heavenly Father to help me change. I want to change every day. I never want to get complacent or content with where I am. We can always do better. Not perfect, but better. I was reading my scriptures the other day, actually about Nephi and Lehi...not really anything about the Atonement, but the thought just came to my head that the Atonement really is the ability we have to literally change who we are. We don't have to hope to be better or wish we could be better, we literally can BECOME better. We can become something better than we were before through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Repentance is the key to that. As we we truly say to Heavenly Father, Ok, I messed up...I need your help...I want to stop doing this...He will help us change.

    I read a talk by Neil A. Maxwell this week called "Swallowed up in the will of the Father". It is the greatest thing I have ever read....everyone should read it, but I printed that talk off in the MTC. It's amazing how the meaning was completely different to me back then, but one part I wanted to share was this, 

    So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things.

    This is kind of different from what I said before, but the part that I love is where he talks about how God is only asking us to repent, to give things up, to change, in order to find our new selves. The line "it is not a question of losing one's identity, but of finding one's true identity." true is that? I have this little sticky note posted by my desk that says, "Refuse to be occupied with the things of this world that hold us back from achieving our true potential." I don't remember where I got that, but I love it so much. We have the potential to become like our father again. We can't allow little, trivial nothings in this life get in the way of who we could become. That's why repentance is the second principle of the gospel. First, we have to believe that through Christ, we can rid ourselves of the lame little "sins" we commit, and truly become better, and then, we have to do the actual action. We have to confess. We have to tell Heavenly Father that we are sorry for our shortcomings. It's not easy to do that. Especially when you are stubborn and proud...but as we continually repent each day, we will literally change. We not only come closer to the Savior but we BECOME more like the Savior. How wonderful is that? Sorry if that thought was all over the place but man, I am so grateful for change! I am so grateful for this gospel! I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. Because of Him, they are second chances and clean slates. There are no such things as endings because of Him. In the words of my man main Bill, "I think that Jesus Christ was a very good person." Exactly right Bill! He is the best person and He is with each of us always! I love you all so much! I hope you have the most wonderful week! Summer is coming!! Everyone get excited!!! School's out for summer!! Just imagine me singing that last line and it will be better...promise! :) I love you all!! Have a wonderful week!!!

Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner 

MY BEAUTIFUL Family! I am printing this picture off today and putting it by my desk!! You are wonderful 

Oh ya...and this is Chau at the institute grilli....He has a bapt. date for the 31 of May...He is hilarious and loves Jesus Christ...he said so himself! :) 

 I think Finland is really China and everyone is keeping it a secret from me or something :) 

Our institute grilli! All my finnish friends...oh wait...hahahaha they don't look finnish do they? 

Dinner with the Kronqvist's....they all play soccer! Yiiiipppeee!!!! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

No Moi! Miten mene! :)

    Well my wonderful family!!! I can't even begin to tell you how WONDERFUL it was to talk to you yesterday! I LOVE YOU ALL!!! It was so wonderful to talk to you! YOu are all so beautiful and especially you Mom! I hope you had the most wonderful mother's day! No one deserves it more than you! :) It was so wonderful to see all of your beautiful faces! Honestly...I love you all so much! I got done skyping you yesterday and just couldn't believe how lucky I am to have all of you!! You are the best and I love you all so much!!

    Man I have to tell you, these past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about talking to you guys...not more than necessary, but I just have so much to tell you...I didn't know what I was going to say. I know I am a stress case, but I was stressing pretty hard! I wanted to say something that would help you. I know that you guys have so much faith and belief in me. At the end of the day, when I feel like I am the worst missionary on earth and that everything went wrong and I sit down at my desk all exhausted and ready to cry and I just look at the picture of our family and I know that if nothing else, you are all cheering for me and praying for me and wanting me to be successful. You have no idea what that means to me! It was so wonderful to talk to people who just understand me and love me and Oh man, I could just go on for hours talking about you! Thank you for being who you are and for loving me so much! I wish I could tell you all how much I love you, but when people say I love you in Finnish, they really mean it so 


    That's how much I love you! Just picture me screaming that and you should get the picture! :) 

    I have been thinking a lot this week about expectations. Kind of random, but that's what happens when you learn finnish...random junk comes into your head...i think it's a sign of brain malfunction :) just kidding but expectations really are funny things. We all have them, whether we realize it or not. It's kind of interesting because one problem that comes from this is that we set unrealistic expectations. Whether of ourselves or investigators our members or friends or family or anybody. This kind of hit my brain like a lightning bolt. All my life, I have tried to live up to expectations. Not even from anybody else, just from me. I set expectations for myself, as do we all, and at least when I don't achieve those expectations, I get really down on myself. I think, "Come on Liv...Sister can do better than that" or "Why couldn't you have just done it right?" I have been talking to Sister Fronk about this a lot this week, especially with Frances' baptism falling through. I have wondered and have concluded that I think we set our expectations really high quite often as people. We think we can do and should do more than we do a lot of the time. We rarely feel like we do enough. I think this applies to all situations in life. As a daughter or son, a sibling, a friend, a student, an athlete, a missionary, a mother, a father you name it...the funny thing about this all is that when we feel like we can't do what is being asked of us or when we feel like we can't live up to those "expectations", or when we feel like we have fallen short, it is because we are trying to do too much on our own. 

    One of my favorite scriptures...since being a Mosiah 4:27. It says.

    "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize therefore, all things must be done in order."

    Last night, I was really upset. Not going to lie, I just felt like I wasn't the missionary that you all thought I was. I was feeling pretty bad and sad that I hadn't had more success on my mission and that I didn't have any cute baptismal pictures to send home with my investigators all dressed in white and me smiling like I'd just won the lottery. I kind of felt like I had let you down. Not because of anything you had done or said. You are all so wonderful and have strengthened me and supported me more than you could ever know, but I just want SO BADLY to make you all proud. I want to be this wonderful, successful missionary that you all think I am. I want to be the best oldest sister ever and to do something to help my siblings who I love more than anyone...I just felt like I hadn't done enough as a missionary. 

    Anyways, the most bizarre thing happened. The song came into my head from Brother Bear...yes a Disney movie, yes I am still 5 years old, yes I am going to Disneyland right when I get home :) ....But anyways the song is called "Take a look through my eyes." Kind of a random, weird way to get an answer to a prayer, but God works in mysterious ways, hence I am in Finland learning Finnish. But I knew that I wasn't looking at this situation through the eyes of Heavenly Father who loves me or a Savior who suffered everything I have and loves me unconditionally. I was looking through my eyes and seeing only "the bad things" or "everything I haven't done". Now granted, I haven't done a lot, but what I took from all of that and what I want to share with you all is that Heavenly Father doesn't expect perfection. He doesn't expect us to run faster than we have strength. He expects us to do everything in wisdom and order and be diligent, and He will take care of the rest. I can't be the missionary I am supposed to be on my own. I can't be the daughter or sister or friend I should be on my own. But I know that I can try. I can do my best each day and really work hard at doing all I can. The best part is, that is enough. I know that, especially girls, get down on themselves a lot. We are never what we should be in our eyes. We should be thinner, we should be prettier, we should be funnier...always "should be" something more. Imagine how Heavenly Father feels when we think like that. He made us exactly the way we are. We are his greatest creation. I can't even imagine how his heart breaks when we are so critical to ourselves and to others. Every little imperfection, every little quirk or crazy thing we do is a part of who we are. I guess, in the end I would just say Don't ever feel like you aren't enough. That feeling is real, but it is from Satan. He wants us to get down and to feel like giving up. Heavenly Father loves us all so much. I feel His love so strong each day and that is what keeps me going. I know that if I am trying my best, I am doing what He would have me do. Anytime you feel like that, listen or think or sing the words to "I am a Child of God". You will feel better! Guaranteed! 

    Anyways, sorry to ramble....actually I shouldn't say sorry about that because I know I will do it again :) Sister Fronk taught me a new word this english actually :) Pontificate: it means to speak, talk, or preach A LOT. Not the most accurate definition, but I think pontificating is therapeutic! :) Hopefully you all get some sort of laugh or joy out of my letters, but what I really hope is that you can all feel how much I love you through my letters. I want you all to be a part of my mission with me. Not only because you're my family and you should be, but because I love you. I know that you all work so hard. I know Dad that you work so hard to be the best dad you can be. I know, Mom that you want more than anything to be a good mother and to help your children. Joce, Anne, Lauren, Luke and Caroline, I know you all want to do what is right. I just want you to be able to feel, through my letters, how I am feeling. I want you to know that it is frustrating to be a missionary. It is frustrating and hard to just be a person. Life is hard. Satan is running rampant. But...the most important thing I want you to know is that I can testify to you that when we make the Gospel of Jesus Christ the center of our lives, we will be happy and we will be successful. I know that is true because I have experienced it. In spite of everything else, we can have peace, love, joy and happiness in this life. We have a loving Heavenly Father. He wants us to talk to Him each day through prayer. We can talk to Him and receive answers. This Gospel is the most wonderful thing in the world. I know that if we help each other and build each other up, we will be able to make it through whatever comes our way. Not only endure to the end, but enjoy to the end. That's what the gospel is about. So, Be Happy! Smile! Love everyone around you! Remember what is says in "Les Mis"..."To love another person is to see the face of God." I am so grateful for all of you. Really, you are incredible and I love you so much! Thank you for your support! It means the world to me! Well I've got to run...people need to be baptized here in Finland :) I hope you all have a wonderful week! Just think...Joku Suomessa rakasta teitä! Someone in Finland loves you! :) You are the best!! I love you!! 


Sisar Bitner 

P.S. "Follow Me Mr. Moon" Happy Mother's Day again Mom! I love you, lady! :) 
I am a Child of God

    Miten mene peeps! Hyvää Cinco de mayo!! Man How are all of you doing? I am just so excited that I get to talk to you in 6 days I almost can't even type this e-mail...ok that's a bit aggressive but I am seriously so excited! By the way, here is how it is going to go! So we get to skype at the Hedin's house...the senior couple here. Sometime during the week, if one of you could get on skype and look up vance.hedin1 and request to be friends or whatever you do with that, that would be wonderful and would make things a lot smoother and easier! Sidenote: I don't remember how to use technology...someone on the street gave me their iPhone and told me to type in our number and it took me like 20 minutes to figure it out...what is happening to me? :) But anyways so that is the account we will be calling from. Sister Fronk and I are going to be calling at 4:00 our time here in Finland which should be about 7:00 am your time...I am sorry it is so early and I couldn't remember what time you have church, but that is the time we have been given so hopefully it works well for you guys! I can't even tell you how excited I am to talk to you! This is seriously going to be the best week of my life! :)

    Ok, I have SO much to write about this week so hopefully I can get it all out and hopefully it all makes sense! First off, this week started out pretty dang rough. It was so crazy cause really for the past few months I have been super happy and just pretty upbeat about everything. Not homesick, focused on the work, just doing really well. But oh boy, not this week. I have no idea what happened, but I woke up one day and seriously felt like it was the first week of my mission all over again. I was SUPER homesick, first of all. I wanted nothing more than to give my dad and mom and siblings a hug. I wanted to be home in my bed, I wanted to eat Cafe Rio, I wanted to listen to Billy Joel and go for a drive down I-15, I just missed everything. I was upset, I felt like I couldn't do anything, I was frustrated with Finnish, I was angry at Sister Fronk, she was angry at honestly, I can't even explain what happened. It was like a dark cloud came over our apartment and Vaasa and Finland and it was kind of a little scary to be honest. We had no motivation to do anything, we were getting on each other's this might be TMI, but I just want to paint this picture for you. It was pretty bad and super weird. We were kind of both in shock honestly because we were on cloud 9 the week before, loving each other, doing great work, pulling in 30 lessons and 3 investigators in church, 3 with a baptismal was good!

    We decided to try and figure out what was wrong. You all know me...I like to bottom line things. Everything should have an explanation and I am pretty determined to figure out why I am feeling the way I am feeling. I don't like being sad. I don't like being discouraged. I don't like feeling tense. Not that other people do like feeling like that, but I have kind of always fought against these kinds of emotions in my life, but man, I could not figure it out this week. Unexplained sadness is what is was and it was rough. Sister Fronk and I prayed for days. Seriously, this weird feeling lasted from Monday to Friday. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you are with one person 24/7 for five days straight and you are both super depressed and bugged, it's not the best situation. Anyways, on Friday morning, we were saying a prayer to begin comp study. It was my turn to pray so I started and was just kind of bugged and irritated and sad and the thought came into my mind, "Nobody cares. What are we doing here? We aren't doing enough. We can't be the missionaries we are supposed to be. This is pointless." 

    Then I just stopped mid sentence. I couldn't think of anything to say - no surprise considering the attitude I had, but anyways, we just sat there in silence, kneeling down, as a companionship for about 2 minutes. Then, out of nowhere, I just broke down bawling...definitely wins as the hardest I have cried on my mission, and there have been some pretty hard cries. I was just sobbing uncontrollably and Sister Fronk was too. It was so weird. But then, as we were sitting there, crying, doubting ourselves, and just feeling bad, I had the most overwhelming feeling of love, peace, warmth, and joy that I have ever felt in my life. I felt like someone was giving me a hug, high five, pat on the back, everything good all at once. The feeling seriously felt like my heart caught on fire. The thought that came into my mind was the lyrics to , "I am a Child of God". I am a child of God, and he has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday. I knew without a doubt, probably stronger than I ever have in my life that we really are children of God. He loves all of us so much and although we are asked to do a lot in life, he is always there with us. Always. We will have weird days. We will have weird, sad weeks. It is all part of his plan. But we don't have to have everything figured out to keep moving forward. He will give us the strength to go on when we can't. This is all real. The gospel, the love of God, Christ's Atonement, The all happened. The lyrics to that song aren't just something we sing as kids...that is about as true as it gets. That is the whole gospel summed up in one verse. God is our loving Heavenly Father. The gospel blesses families and we have families to bring us happiness. God calls prophets to teach us how to return to Him. His son made it possible for us to return. We will all live with God again. How simple and perfect and wonderful! THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!

    Well, sorry to go off on a random spiritual tangent at first. I just felt like I needed to share that! Needless to say, that prayer really changed a lot. My prayers have changed so much on my mission. We literally talk to God when we pray. Just think about that for a second. "Do you understand?" (Goob's quote from Meet the Robinson's) :) This is like the coolest thing ever. We can talk to God and he listens. Wow. How lucky are we? I just love being a missionary! I will never be the same!!

    Ok well, let me tell you about our week now...when the storm had passed! :) Well first off, they have a holiday here in good old Suomi called Vappu. Now Vappu is just dumb. I don't like Vappu. So it happens when everyone graduates college. They put on their graduation caps and all get drunk and fall asleep in the streets. Yep. That's basically it! I know right...sounds super duper fun! :) But anyways, it was a "red day" which means that missionaries aren't supposed to be outside with all the crazy things going on. So, we had a ping pong tournament with the Elders and all of our investigators and some members! It was awesome! I knew all those hours of ping pong would come in handy. I took third place! I was pretty pumped because the only people that beat me were a chinese man...I had no chance...and Elder Findlay. He is pretty skilled and had his parents ship him his paddle from home. I thought my competitive spirit was driven out of me once I put on my nametag but I guess not. It felt real good to beat the Elders man. Need to put them in their place sometime :) Just kidding. I like Elders! I just like beating them at ping pong too! haha wow sorry, that probably didn't sound very sister missionary-y. But "I cannot tell a lie :)" Needless to say, it was pretty legit and so much fun!! Then afterwards, we watched the Joseph Smith Movie with everyone...the long hour one they show in Salt Lake. It was super inspiring as always! It's funny, we went and saw that as a family right before I left on my mission and it was so good then, but this time I watched it, my perspective had totally changed. It kind of reminded me of reading the Book of Mormon. The words don't change, but we do and we learn new things from it each time we read. Read every day!! It's the greatest thing in the world!! But anyways, our Vappu turned out to be really good. We had almost all of our investigators there and I think they really enjoyed it!! Definitely made them more interested to read the Book of Mormon :) 

    I sent you a picture of Sister Bassett. She is a member here in Vaasa who is American. Ya...crazy huh? Anyways, we went and met with her this week and we were talking about the Book of Mormon and out of the blue she says, "Sorry to go off subject, but have you two seen my legs?" hahaha, the only thought that went through my mind was, " Sister Bassett, I can't say I have seen your legs..." uh mitä? It was pretty hilarious and I was taken off guard a bit, to say the least. But then, she just whips her skirt up...and BOOM! She has two prosthetic legs. I just wish I could have seen my face, because it was one of the funniest experiences I have had in my life and I know my eyes were the size of saucers. First off this member is asking us about her legs, then she is pulling up her skirt and man...the life of a missionary :) But anyways, sister bassett was in the navy and she was parachuting and she fell into some power lines and suffered really severe burns on her legs. It is super sad and she had to have them both amputated at the knee. You really could never tell though. She walks super well and really has some serious pride in her "new and improved legs". She has had the coolest life. Her brother served here in Finland as a missionary, told her how great it was, and she just decided to pick up her life and move here. Talk about guts! She is pretty great and loves the Sisters! Anyways, kind of random, but I thought it was pretty hilarious and wanted to share it with you! :) The people you meet on your mission...there is nothing better!

    So I don't think I have talked a lot about our investigator Viet. VIet is from Vietnam...haha ya! It's true. And he is SUPER sassy! I really like him though and we get along really well. Whenever we teach him, I will say things like "Viet, what would it mean to you if the Book of Mormon were true?" And he will look right back at me and say, "Uh...I don't know Sister might prove to me that you aren't as crazy as I think you are." Wow...thanks Viet! haha but he seriously is super funny and cool! He is a student here in Finland and we have been teaching him for about 6 weeks. He has been progressing really well. He comes to church every week, comes to all the YSA activities, comes and plays sähly with the members and is just awesome. This week, out of the blue, he just decides to tell us that he is leaving on Monday, as in today. We were pretty bummed to hear that because we both had been feeling that he really was going to get baptized. The good news is though that he comes back in August. Considering that Sister Fronk is leaving soon, I might still be here in Vaasa so hopefully we can meet up again!

     But anyways, Viet had always asked me about my CTR ring and what it means. I told him that it helps us remember to Choose the Right. I told him that it is in the shape of a shield because when we choose the right, we will always be protected. He ALWAYS made fun of me about it and would say, "Oh Sister Bitner has her righteousness shield on...good thing you're safe now." He just cracks me up. But right before he left, he came up to us and said, kind of under his breath, "Hey, do you know where I could get a CTR ring?" I wanted to burst out laughing, but I told him that I had one in Finnish and that I would give it to him. He was so excited to get it and promised he would wear it every day! Anyways, we said goodbye to him last night and challenged him to read The Book of Mormon this summer. He said he would and then we can talk about it in August so katsotaan!! We'll see!! But he sent us a text this morning that said, "I am probably up earlier than you guys this morning (He always always...he thinks 11 o clock church is too early, but anyways) I just wanted to say thank you to you guys for everything. Don't forget me. You are awesome :)" It really meant so much to us to hear that from him. Here he is, some punky little Vietnamese kid and his heart was touched by the gospel. He loves praying, he wants to read The Book of Mormon and I know he will get baptized one day! This gospel can change anyone. Nothing is too hard for the Lord! :) 

    So I have to tell you all about Frances! OH MY GOODNESS!!! If I didn't have gray hairs before, Frances gave me a few this week! So we had an appointment with Frances on Wednesday. She came into the church and she just looked awful. She looked like she hadn't slept in days, her hair was all over the place and she was just not feeling it. Sister Fronk and I both looked at each other and were like, "What happened to her?" Anyways, we came to find out that all of her plans, her house in Turku, getting baptized there and everything had fallen through. Her landlord had to sell her room and she had no way to get down there. But the problem is that she can't stay in Vaasa for too much longer, because her friend who she has been living with is getting another roommate soon. So she told us that she would have to go back to England. THEN, we came to find out that she had talked to her mom about being baptized and her mom forbid her to join the church. Frances was just devastated. This is something she has wanted her whole life and her whole world literally fell down around her 1 week before her baptismal date. Honestly, if that isn't evidence of how hard satan is trying to destroy this work, I don't know what is. Sister Fronk and I were just mortified. Seriously I had no idea what to say. I was praying so hard that the spirit would help us. We talked to her about fasting and how we thought it would be a good idea for all of us to fast to see if this date, May 10th, was still the right date for her to be baptized. She agreed to it and then we sent her on her way really not knowing what was going to happen.

    We both felt prompted that we needed to meet with her again before Sunday so we called her on Saturday morning and asked if she could meet with us. She said yes, but before we went to our appointment, Sister Fronk and I prayed about whether or not the 10th was right. Frances said she wanted to still get baptized, but maybe in June or July when things had calmed down. As we prayed, we both felt that if she pushed the date back, it would never happen. The coolest thing was is that neither of us felt that the 10th was right, but we both received a confirmation that she should have been baptized like a month ago. During our lesson, Sister Fronk just started talking about when Christ called his disciples while they were fishing and how immediately they left their nets and followed him. It was funny, because that exact same thought came into my mind right as Sister Fronk said, "This reminds me of when Christ called his disciples..." WOW. Talk about cool. But anyways, we both just testified to her as lovingly and honestly as we could. We told her that Satan opposes everything good in this world and that he would work really hard to keep her from getting baptized. I was a little hesitant to say that, but I felt really strongly that I should, so I did and she kind of got this look in her eye like "Oh ya Satan, come at me bro." I love seeing that look :) But she looked me right in the eye and she said "I know that I need to do this. I want to be baptized, regardless of what my parents think. I want to be baptized here in Vaasa next Saturday." WOAH! I was fighting tears pretty hard. I have been so blessed to be able to teach Frances from the beginning and it has been amazing to see her faith and testimony and understanding grow to the point where she is willing to follow Jesus Christ above anything else! But she is getting baptized this Saturday here in Vaasa! I am so excited that I get to be here for her baptism. It was killing me pretty hard that I wouldn't get to see it, but Heavenly Father answers prayers. He gave me a few gray hairs in the process, but he always answers!! ANyways, The ward is so excited and have been so helpful and Sister Fronk and I are so beyond happy!! I can't wait to tell you all about it over skype!! YIPPEE!!!

    Anyways, sorry this letter is insane and is all over the place. That's kind of how my brain is right now, but above everything else, I am so grateful for this opportunity I have to represent the Lord, Jesus Christ. In our mission, we have a mission statement that we all memorize and repeat every morning after companionship prayer, along with D&C 4 in Finnish. But the mission statement says, "We can stand in the place and stead of the Lord Jesus Christ in administering salvation to the children of men. He preached the gospel, so can we. He spoke by the power of the Holy Ghost, so can we. He served as a missionary, so can we. He went about doing good, so can we. He performed the ordinances of salvation, so can we. He kept the commandments, so can we. He wrought miracles, such also is our privilege if we are true and faithful in all things. We are his agents. We represent Him. We are expected to do and say what he would do and say if he personally were ministering among men at this time." Elder Bruce R. McConkie. We repeat that everyday so the message kind of gets lost sometimes, but the other day as I was repeating it, I realized for the first time what those words really mean. We are representatives of Christ. He has called us, me, Olivia Bitner, from Kaysville, UT, to come to Finland and represent him here. He has called all of us as members of this church to represent him. We covenant to do that when we are baptized and each week as we partake of the sacrament. How great is our calling! :) I hope you all know how much I love you and how excited I am to talk to you this week! I am so grateful for all of the mothers in my life, but especially my mother! Mom, you are and have always been my best friend! I am so blessed to be your daughter. You are everything I hope to be and, to quote my good pal Abe Lincoln, "All that I am and hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." I couldn't agree more! I hope all the mothers in the world have the best week ever!!! You all deserve it!!! I love you so much and will see you next week on Sunday...7 am sharp!!! Don't be late! :) I love you with all my heart!!! Have a great week!!! 


Sisar Bitner

P.S. Did I mention how much I love rye bread? I am turning into a Finn!! FINALLY!! :) K bye

Sister Fronk and I after biking for 345285720348 skirt got caught in the was a disaster and I am pretty sure everyone on the road saw my bum...well my tights, but was sad! :) But we had fun!!

And Sister Bassett and I...and her prosthetic legs...story to come :) 

The beautiful sunset over the ocean...I am serving in  fairy tale land! I love it!!

We found the statue of liberty so naturally we pulled over and took pictures...I LOVE AMERICA!!!

Me and Viet...our investigator from Vietnam...yes that's his name...and sister Fronk with our Book of Mormons! I love this picture so much!!

I gave Viet a CTR ring...he thought it was pretty cool! :)

This is Li...she is incredible and she has a raccoon hat...hahahahahaha I can't wait for you to meet her!!! 

Sister Fronk and i laughed for about 20 minutes because guess which desk is mine and guess which is hers...we are so different, but we are best's awesome!!