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 me...like 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 nerves...man 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 date...life 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 Restoration...it 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, "Uh...no 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 Bitner...it 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 sleeps...like 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!!!
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 years...my skirt got caught in the wheel...it was a disaster and I am pretty sure everyone on the road saw my bum...well my tights, but still...it 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 friends...it's awesome!!