Welcome to Seinäjoki
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 what...as 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, was...how 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 real...it'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 them...soccer is the best! I am so glad they appreciate it here! :)
Anyways...one 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 kafoffle....how 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 ahhh...it 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 soon...is 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 repent...as 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." Man...how 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!!!!