Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pace's FOREVER!!!

     I just love you all. Seriously. You have been praying for me this week, haven't you? :) I have felt so many angels round about me...not going to lie, this has been one of the hardest weeks of my mission. I haven't felt so sad and alone in a long time. I know, pretty depressing way to start off this letter, but man...your prayers and love have carried me! Thank you all for your support! I love you more than anything!!!

     First off, I need to give a shoutout to my AWESOME grandpa!! CONGRATS on County Commissioner!! That is so exciting Grandpa and I am so excited for you! You are in my prayers and I know you will make such a great difference! Also a shoutout to Caroline for scoring a goal on Luke's soccer team, and a shoutout to Luke for being a good sport about it! :) I am trying to think of more shoutouts, but that's all I have for now! Oh no, wait, shoutout to my trainer, Sister Egan, and my compy comp, Sister Fronk. The Finland Helsinki Mission lost two of the best. I love you both so much and CANNOT thank you enough!!! You are all wonderful though, shoutouts to you all!!!

    So, the subject of my letter is Pace's forever! Oh wait, this is another shoutout to Elders Love, Obray, Hale, and Stone for all of our days at Pace's! Let it stand forever! :) When are they putting our monument up, by the way? Maybe if we go back next year or something! haha Not going to lie, I want nothing more right now than a country burger with cheese, onion rings, fry sauce, and a lime rickey, but alas, I will just eat ruis leipä and get over it! :) But seriously, the title of my letter is Pace's forever because my baby's name is SISTER PACE!! She is from Highland, UT, she has 8 siblings, she played the viola, she speaks fluent Spanish, and she loves Shania Twain. Thank you and good night! No just kidding, but she is awesome and I can't wait to tell you more about her, but first, the stage needs to be we go...

     So last Monday, Sister Fronk and I had a crazy day...she had to get all packed, but of course, Chau wanted to do something special for Sister Fronk so he made us food...again...he loves making us food...good thing we love eating! :) But we had to leave for Helsinki on Monday morning. Li and Wan Ling came to the train station to see us both off. Li was BAWLING. Seriously, that girl runs like a fountain. It was so sad though...I sent a picture home of our view from the train. I am not going to lie, both Wan Ling and Li are back in China and it about ripped my heart out to say goodbye to them. I am telling you, it's hard being a missionary. You grow to love the people you work with SO much. Like I can't even explain what Li and Wan Ling mean to me. Same with Sister Fronk. Three of my sisters left me this week. I haven't been this sad since I left you all at the MTC. Seriously. It's been way hard, but it's ok...I am done venting...for now...anyways we left Vaasa and headed down to Helsinki. The AP's were there to take Sister Fronk away...I was SO sad. I love Sister Fronk. She is the most wonderful friend I have. I have missed her so much this week. It's been really weird not having her here to make me laugh, but I know we will be friends forever! 

    Good news though, I was able to go on splits with Sister Woods from my MTC group! :) It was WAY too fun as we talked about the good old days. I love those friendships you have where you cannot see each other for 6 months and then you see them again and it's like nothing changed at all. Sister Woods is wonderful and it was great to be with her! Later that night we went back to the Helsinki train station to pick up my wonderful Sister Thayne! I was SO HAPPY to see her. Not going to lie, my eyes got a little sweaty, but we had the most wonderful time on splits. That night, we just talked and talked and talked and talked and talked about all the things that have happened. It's amazing when you know someone so well and then see them after 6 months of "refining", how much they have changed. Sister Thayne always has been the best missionary I know, but I was just amazed at how different she was in the best possible way! I love her so much! Having her train with me is the greatest thing in the world!!

    Anyways, on Wednesday morning, we woke up and headed down to the office for the trainer's meeting. President wasn't there at first because this group of missionaries who just got here, including Sister Pace, had the craziest time getting over. The MTC messed up their flights so they were all sleeping over at the London airport and had no way to get to Helsinki. Anyways, long story short, President was figuring that out so the AP's gave us all our training materials...which means the 12 week program. It is the most inspired thing in the church! President told us that it gives each missionary an extra 6 months of effectiveness as a missionary if they religiously follow the program! Needless to say, it's worth it to follow it, especially for Sisters! 

    So during the trainers meeting, President Rawlings was super emotional and man, I don't blame him. He has been here for 3 years and this was his last trainer's meeting. It was awesome, as always, and he looked at us 9 trainers sitting there and said, "There isn't a better group of missionaries in the whole world. You are it." Now I know he is biased, but still hearing that from him, meant so much. I respect and love President Rawlings so much and am SO GRATEFUL for all he has taught me. Anyways, we went upstairs to eat lunch and I looked down the hall and saw this new missionary I had never seen, in this life, before. She looked at me and smiled this BIG old smile and waved and I waved back and thought, "Yep, that's my trainee." I had totally seen her before. It felt like deja vu. We ate lunch and went downstairs. They always have the trainers sit in the second row and all the trainees sit in the first row. Well my "deja vu" sister walked in and sat down right in front of me. President said, "Well, do you want to meet your companions?" SOOOO many memories flooded into my head of the meeting where I met Sister Egan. I felt like it happened 25 years ago, but I just couldn't believe how long ago it was and how short and all the things that have happened since then. This week has been a reflection week like none other. Man...but anyways, he called my name and then he said, "You will be training Sister Pace." I was right...she was my trainee! I was so excited to get to know her! Later on in the meeting President talked about how the trainees were probably super tired because of jet lag and Sister Pace blurts out, "Sleep? I want to work." And that's the kind of trainee I have! :)

     I know you all know me, so this won't come as a shock, but I can't even explain the pressure I felt, receiving this call to be a trainer. I love my trainer and she taught me so much, even though she wasn't perfect. But, I wanted to be the perfect trainer. I wanted Sister Pace to think I had everything under control, that I wasn't COMPLETELY TERRIFIED to be the one in charge now, and that I knew how to do all the things. I know, stupid to think that, but I did. The first few days, I tried to make as perfect as possible. We had to do weekly planning on Thursday, but Sister Pace was super tired, so she slept for awhile and I just sat there at my desk, staring out the window thinking, "What in the world am I doing here? Did I sign up for this? This isn't fun. I want to go home. I want my mommy." Seriously...ask me if that's exactly what was going through my head. I was feeling so sorry for myself. "I have only been in Finland for 6 months and now I am supposed to teach someone how to do things I still don't know how to do? WHAT? WHY? HOW? WHEN?" Man, needless to say, I had a good chat with Heavenly Father and had a good cry and let it all out and realized that A, I wasn't being myself with my trainee, I was trying to be perfect, B, it's ok that I don't know everything, Heavenly Father knows that and still called me, and C, I know the Lord doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. I realized that I needed to quit feeling sorry for myself and love this new little trainee I have been given. I know this probably sounds way weird, but I was thinking a lot about how I will feel when I have a brand new baby of my own. I am sure the exact same thoughts will just be racing through my head. "What am I doing? I didn't ask for this. How am I supposed to take care of this? I have no idea what I am doing." It's funny how a mission literally prepares you for everything. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for trusting me with this responsibility. I am SOOOO not perfect. I know that better than anyone, but I know that with His help, this is going to be great! I am still trying to convince myself of that at the moment, but I am working on it! It's all about the climb...thank you Miley Cyrus!! 

     Sister Pace really is awesome though! She takes everything I tell her and just runs with it! She has no fear...except of speaking finnish. At the beginning of the week, I was thinking, "Man, she is just like Jocelyn, she hates when I ask her penetrating questions!" I love you Joce! :) But it made me smile. The more the week has gone on, I have realized how similar Sister Pace and I are! It's been the greatest tender mercy, because it really is so true. We handle everything the same. We have the same fears. I feel like I am training myself and it's really such a blessing because Sister Pace and I kind of have crazy brains. We aren't normal. :) If I don't know how to tell her something or make some sort of correction, I just do it how I would want to receive it, and it has worked out so far! Sister Pace is supper sassy and really likes to do things on her own. She is a leader and I think it's hard sometimes to lead a leader and for leaders to be lead. It's not natural. But we had our first finnish lesson this week with Tarja in Seinäjoki. Tarja is super argumentative, and our lessons are always crazy, but as I was speaking with Tarja, Sister Pace puts her hand up and stops both of us and just starts testifying her heart out in broken finnish and I have never been so proud of anyone in my life. I was like, "YES." The power of the greenie, its a real thing!!

     So, we have dropped a lot of our investigators this week. Honestly, I love is such a good time to reevaluate our area and our baptism, not teaching, pool! :) We have spent most of our time finding, which has been great practice for both of us, and we have some awesome potentials who want to come to church tours, want to read the Book of Mormon, and who are looking for answers to their prayers. GOLDEN! We really have been praying to find the elect. It's super frustrating because everyone leaves on vacation in the summer, but we are working hard and I know Heavenly Father will bless us with success!!

    I have been thinking a lot about the Atonement this week and the enabling aspect of it. I want to know how to actually USE the atonement more in my life. Sister Pace and I have talked a lot about it this week, but the Atonement is the most wonderful gift we have and I know I don't use it to it's full potential, but honestly, I just don't exactly know what that means to "use it" especially the enabling aspect! I wanted to ask you all to share your experiences or thoughts next week...I would love to hear from you all. But I do know that the Atonement is real. I know that as we follow the spirit, we will never go wrong. That is my goal for this change....I want to follow the spirit in every single thing we do! I know if we do that, we will always be doing exactly what Heavenly Father wants. In spite of everything else, that is where true happiness is to be found! 

     I love you all with all my heart. This week has been rough, not going to lie, but we can only go up from here! I have tried to be as positive as I can for Sister Pace, and she told me last night that this has been the "best week ever." It made me so happy to hear that! :)  Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts on my behalf. I have felt your love and support so strongly this week. I pray for you each day and I know that you are in the Lord's hands. I got a blessing this week and Elder Chapman told me that my family is safe and protected and that the Lord is blessing me with added strength to do what he has asked of me. I know that if we change our prayers from, "Heavenly Father, take this away from me" to "Heavenly Father, give me the strength to overcome this", we will all find answers to our prayers. I hope you all have a fantastic summer week...Oh ya, "Something Finnish"...the cool thing to have in Finland during the summer is a möki...a little summer cottage where you can go and just sit in the sauna all day. When we ask people if they can meet, the answer is always, "Uh, well, we might be at our möki." I think I would love mökis as a civilian, but man, it sure is a dampener to missionary work! :) Just kidding! The finns are great, Vaasa is great, and I can't wait to write more about our adventures this week! President Rawlings always says, "Life is an adventure. It will be good for your character. Rejoice in all things." What a wise man! :) You are all the best and I love you dearly!! Have the greatest week ever!! 

    Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner

    P.S. Netherlands is winning the World Cup...calling it! Any bets?? JK that's against the white handbook!! haha love you!!!
Me and my best friend....Sisar Fronk

Oh and my best friend...Sisar Li

Dinner with my favorite asians...China, the phillippines and Vietnam

My real two favorite asians saying goodbye to us at the train station...Li was BAWLING

Me and my one and only Sisar Thayne!! I LOVE HER!!

My mom and my history!!

Me and my baby, Sisar Pace


Monday, June 23, 2014

It's a Girl!

    Well Huomenta you lovely people you! How are you all doing? Mom and Dad have returned home, Joce is done with soccer, Anne...I don't know how you did but I hope it went well, and Lauren and the twins are just growing up like little weeds...I mean that in the most loving way! :) I love seeing all the pictures you send me! Seriously, it's like my favorite thing in the world! You are all wonderful and I am so blessed to be a part of your family!!

    So...we got change calls this week...guess what....I AM TRAINING! It's a girl!!! I am training. Can you believe that? President called us on Friday...sidenote, this is his last change call as my mission president, and he said, "Well Sister Bitner, you are losing a companion and gaining a brand new companion straight from America. You are training."....long awkward pause as I sat there in shock....then he said, "I know what is going through your head right now and I want you to stop thinking that and throw all your fears aside. This is you and the Lord. This is the chance of a lifetime. You are a wonderful missionary and you will do great things for your trainee. Have a wonderful day"...and the line goes dead. I am not going to lie, I am PUMPED! Seriously, I have wanted to train since day 1. Don't ask me why...couldn't really tell you, but I have really wanted to. It's interesting because when President told me, I had this feeling of terror come into my heart...I had about 50279025 thoughts and doubts and insecurites come rushing into my head. That made it all the more hilarious when he said, "I know what you're thinking, STOP IT!" President knows me too well. But all fears aside, I am training. I get a brand new greenie! I still feel like a brand new greenie sometimes but I feel so grateful to be training in Vaasa. It's a wonderful place with the best ward in the world and I am just super excited! This is insanity!

    Anyways, Sister Fronk and I are leaving to Helsinki tomorrow morning at 7:31. She packed up all her stuff and is ready to go! It's been weird seeing her get ready to leave, but we are both so happy that I get to go all the way to Helsinki with her to pick up my trainee. The new missionaries get here tomorrow night and then we go to the office on Wednesday to pick them up and then we will be on our way back to Vaasa together! I am really excited and can't wait to tell you all about her next week!! One thing that is SUPER cool is that I get to go down and stay in Helsinki with Sister Woods from my MTC group and SISTER THAYNE!!! She is training as well and we get to stay with each other tomorrow!! I am so beyond excited to see her, I can't even tell you! It's kind of nice to know that my sister is training at the same time...and we are training in each other's birth cities...kind of crazy! But anyways, I also get to see Sister Egan, my trainer, before she goes home...she is in Sister Fronk's group, but I am SO excited for that as well!! Talk about tender mercies from the Lord. I really feel like Heavenly Father blesses me with the most wonderful companions. I know everyone probably thinks that, but really, my companions are the best people I know. They are my truest friends and I love each one of them so much!! And yes, this was a shoutout to all of my companions who read this letter each week!! :) #loveyouall #stuartsmom #kiinalaisia #doilikebananasorwhat 

    Man...I just have so much to tell you all from this week...where to begin...well first things first and I am only telling you this because I am on a different continent, but I got a speeding ticket. first ticket in my Finland...for speeding. Dad, I am really sorry. In my defense, the speed goes from 80 km/hr here to 100 and back again like 98895470 times along the road and we were in a 100 zone and it changed to 80 and I didn't notice until we had passed one of their traffic cams so I was going 92 in and 80 zone. Which brings me to "Something Finnish" for today...they don't have police man on the roads. Like never. Haven't seen one. Insteady they have these wonderful little cameras that look like eyeballs and if you are speeding they flash at you and that is how you know you got a ticket. We were driving home from Seinäjoki the other night, and I thought I saw a flash on one...needless to say, I was sick about it and almost cried, but then I thought I might have made it up in my head...Turns out I was dead wrong. But anyways, Sister Locke from the office told me that because I am not working and am a volunteer, it won't be too expensive, so thanks to Heavenly Father for that I really am sorry! I don't know why I felt like I needed to confess to you all, and then explain myself, and then beg for forgiveness...I think it's part of the repentance process! :) But anyways dad, put it on my tab! I will pay you back...or better yet...can I pay half? hahaha man I crack myself up....ok probably not the best time to be joking, but anyways...I really am super sorry!

    So now onto the not stressful stuff...this week was crazy! Oh wait first things first, Sister Fronk's homecoming info....Sunday July 13th, 9:00 am, 465 North 300 East Providence, UT. She is SO excited to meet you all, and whatever she says, don't believe her! :) I am just kidding! She is wonderful and really has changed my life! I am so excited for you all to meet her!! Ok but anyways, on Monday this week, we had a lesson with two of our new investigators, Sara and Patrick. Sara is from France and kind of looks like a witch and Patrick is Finnish. Did I already tell you about them? Sister Fronk met Sara on the street when we were on splits and Sara gave them cookies...I mean, anyone who is willing to give the missionaries food is tops on my list! :) #fatty Anyways there are pretty hilarious and just show up to appointments whenever they want. Luckily, we were at the church on Monday finishing up some stuff, cause they just walked in, sat down in the chapel and said, "Ok, we are ready to learn about the Mormons." I was like..."Uh, well then, let's get started." It was a pretty hilarious lesson. Sara is really into witch craft and feelings and kind of girl...hahaha....but I think she has basically the same beliefs as us, but she just calls what she does different things. Anyways, Patrick doesn't really say anything, he just stares lovingly at Sara. Problem is, they live together and are way in's kind of like PDA x 90989. Luckily, there is no such thing as awkward as a missionary, so I had no problem asking them to stop kissing in the chapel. It was gross. Anyways, we are teaching them about the Book of Mormon tonight so hopefully all goes well! 

     After Sara and Patrick on Monday, we had a lesson with Chau and then he was DYING to teach us how to make Vietnamese food. One thing I have noticed about Chau is that he LOVES to feel needed and loves to help people. I think he found the right place! Anyways, he knows I love food...I promise I am not too fat...hahaha....but he made us fresh spring rolls with pork and fresh lettuce from his garden. They are literally the most delicious thing in the world, and I am buying the supplies today to make them at home. Something you all have to look forward to when I get home, fresh spring rolls from a vietnamese recent convert! How wonderful is that? :) Later this week, we were teaching him about the Book of Mormon and he was being really quiet, well, quieter than usual. I was kind of worried and asked, "Chau, what do you think about all of this stuff?" He just sat there for a second, then he looked up at me with the biggest smile on his face and said, "I think it's great. I love how the prophet Joseph Smith wanted to find the truth and he prayed and now we have Christ's original church on the earth again. I am going to read the Book of Mormon whenever I get a chance. I think that would be a good thing for me." Honestly...I about started crying and just about did again writing that. He is wonderful! I have thought a lot this week about the first day we met him on the street. He was all dressed in black and had his head down. It was one of my first days in Vaasa and Sister Foster and I had just been talking to everyone that day. It was super fun! But anyways, We passed Chau and said "Moi!" and he kind of stopped, looked back at us and didn't say anything. We proceeded to get to know him and eventually started talking about religion and he said, "No, I don't believe in God. He isn't there. I don't belong to a religion." And now, he is reading his scriptures everyday and preparing to receive the Aaronic priesthood...seriously...what is this? We are involved in the most wonderful work in the world. Seeing the gospel physically change Chau has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. He is so happy. He smiles all the time. He never used to smile, like ever. He kind of scared me, but Oh my goodness, I just love him! He is keeping me updated on the world cup as well so he is pretty cool! :) No but seriously, I love the gospel. It's true. It works! 

    We have a lot of interesting investigators right now. None are really progressing. It's really been pretty frustrating. We haven't had any investigators in church for 2 weeks. Whenever a transfer comes, it is an interesting time for missionary work. I think having a brand new companion is going to be really good. She is coming from the incubator....all primed and ready to go and I am really excited to get her insight on some of these investigators. I love them all, but I don't know if all of them are ready for the gospel right now. Sister Fronk and I were talking this week a lot about's been cool to see how much she loves Finland and how her heart really is here. We were talking about why there is a temple in Finland. Seriously, there are less than 5,000 members here, In the whole country. Logically, it doesn't make sense to have a temple. President Rawlings told Sister Fronk a while ago that during our lifetimes, we will see thousands and thousands of people join the church in Finland. I am not going to lie, sometimes...most of the time...when I am walking down the street, trying to talk to people and no one is listening, it's really easy to doubt if missionary work will ever go forward here. This is a hard mission. Our numbers are getting better all the time, but in comparison to other places, it's pretty low. President told Sister Fronk, however, that we are laying the foundation for the missionary work boom here in Finland. People come here from all over the world looking for peace and safety. A lot of them are refugees who just barely escaped from their countries. It's pretty humbling to hear all of their stories. I really believe what President said. Sometimes it looks pretty bleak and grim, but the best people I have ever met are the Finns. They are honest. hardworking, loving people. They are a little cold at first, but once you get to know them...they are wonderful! They have changed my life and I know that this country will be full of foreign and finnish members all loving the gospel and serving God together! I can't wait to see what happens!!! 

    Anyways, I was just thinking this week that missionary work here really has changed, even since I have been here. It's only been 7 months, but the members and missionaries are changing. We are all growing together and are part of this "Finnish revolution". Yesterday, Sister Fronk and I taught the english sunday school class at church and we talked about the Restoration. As I was sitting there...Sister Fronk was talking...I just looked around at all the people in the class. We had Chau, our Vietnamese recent convert, Prosper, an recent convert from Tanzania, Li, a recent convert from China, Sister Bassett, an american woman...yep....but she is still cool :), and then a russian family who had been the bishop of one of the missionaries from the Vaasa ward who served in St. Petersburg. Seriously, I just looked around at all of them and the thought came to my mind, "We are living in the Restoration. This is HUGE." I can't believe how many different nationalities I have met on my mission and they are all here in Finland. Most of them think it's for school and work, and that may be true, but they are also here to find the gospel. I am so grateful to be a part of this work!!

    Well, sorry not too many stories to report....we had a pretty slow week as far as finding and teaching was Juhannus päivä here in Finland...Or Midsummer day! A lot of people go out of's a really big holiday, but we really focused on our less actives and recent converts and it was great! We have been listening to conference a lot lately in the morning when we get ready, and I listened to President Monson's talk again. He is so wonderful! I love him! He shared a poem that says:

    I have wept in the night
    For the shortness of sight
    that to somebody's need made me blind.
    But I never have yet, felt a tinge of regret
    For being a little too kind.

    I LOVE THAT! His talk is incredible. It's all about love and kindness. I thought it was so interesting how of all the different topics he could have shared with us, he chose to talk about love and how that really is the essence of the gospel. It reminds me of my favorite hymn, "I Stand All Amazed" (by the way, I can sing alto for it now...kiitos Sisar Fronk haha) but anyways, I love the chorus that says, "Oh it is wonderful that He should care for me enough to die for me. Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me." It really is wonderful! Jesus Christ is our Savior. I love Him with all my heart! You are all an inspiration to me. I am sorry if these letters are lame most of the time, I just feel like I am talking to each one of you personally and I just want to tell you all my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I remember when I got set apart and President Bernards said that I should include my family in my mission. I hope I have done that because there is nothing I love more than this gospel, my mission, and my family. Nothing else matters. You are all the greatest blessing to me and my commitment to each of you this week is to pray each morning to find one person every day who needs a little extra kindness. I can promise you that Heavenly Father will answer your prayers if you listen and are brave enough to follow the promptings. Sometimes it is hard. I am working right now to become better at following all the promptings I receive, regardless of what it is. Heavenly Father knows everyone's heart. He sees things we can't, but if we are worthy and faithful, we can be an answer to someone's prayers. All of you have been answers to mine and I love and appreciate you all so much! Pray for me this week...It's going to be stressful, but I am so grateful and humbled for this opportunity to train a new missionary! I hope you all have a wonderful week! You are the best...never forget that I love you!!

    Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner
Me, Chau, and spring rolls

Me and Sister Li...she took us to lunch

My's beautiful!! 

PARAS VIKKOA KOSKAAN!!! This was literally the best week ever!

    Well Hello you wonderful family! How are you all doing? Mom and Dad are in Portugal...that's way too legit!! I can't believe how close we are...I hope you two have enjoyed Europe in all it's glory! It's like another world, that's for sure! Finland actually feels pretty normal...pretty home-like to me...maybe that's a good sign! It's so green and beautiful here...that's pretty different from home, but I can't imagine being somewhere like Paris! Man, everyone save your pennies, we have to come to Europe together someday...maybe next April...wink wink...:) Katsotaan!! Let's see!! 

    I hope you kids have had fun with grandma this week! We really are so lucky to have her...she is the greatest! Grandma, we are teaching this lady right now, Sirkka and she is JUST LIKE YOU!!! Needless to say, she is kind of my favorite, but every time we go to her house, I think of you and miss you so much! I think you two would be great friends!! 

    Well, this week in good old Finland has been pretty wonderful! I have a big surprise for you all, but I am saving it for the end of this letter, so you are just going to have to wait and see...and don't go read the end of the letter will spoil all the fun! :) But man, I just love you all and miss you so much! I hope you know that!!

    So on Tuesday this week, we had district meeting up in Kokkola. It is about an hour train ride north of Vaasa, also on the coast. We only have 3 zones in our whole mission...The Helsinki Zone, Tampere Zone, and the north zone! It's super fun to be in the North though because we get to travel a lot more and see a lot of cool little "po-dunk" (don't know how to spell that) towns in Finland. It's great! Kokkola is pretty small, but it was way fun to be there! We have quite a few Swedish missionaries serving here in Finland. We have 2 in our district. Elder Strömberg (stromberry) and Elder Stegeby (stehguboo). They are super hilarious and it's really fun to get a little taste of Swedish culture as well! Elder Strömberg is huge, as in tall, and always has a very disappointed look on his face. He has the lowest voice I have ever heard and rocks a big old thick unibrow. He is hilarious. Anyways, his companion is this little baby-faced kid from Utah, Elder Cummings. He is SOOOO nice and so funny and just the sweetest kid you could ever meet. I LOVE their companionship so much! It is like watching a married couple. 

    This week in district meeting, Elder Cummings got up to share a spiritual thought and ended up totally embarrassing Elder Strömberg with a story of how he forgot his train ticket...again...I think Elder Cummings needed some backup before he could say how frustrated he was...Elder Strömberg is kind of scary, but anyways then Elder Strömberg stands up...because he wanted to and starts laying into Elder Cummings about how weird it is that Elder Cummings is always "invading his personal space" and touching his shoulders in public and making him "extremely uncomfortable". Elder Strömberg then proceeded to tell all of "us American missionaries" that we don't understand the concept of personal space. He said in countries like China, India, and America where there are so many people, we are used to always being packed in tight together so it's not weird for us, but apparently it is weird for the Swedes. I have never laughed so hard in my life! Man...I don't know where he is getting his facts, but we all laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed for like 5 minutes! Elder Strömberg was not amused, but man, it was so great! Sorry, kind of a random story, but hopefully you catch the gist of how funny this was! I just love the characters you meet on a mission. I could seriously write a book about it! :) 

    This week on "Something Finnish" I wanted to write a little bit about the finns and their dogs. I think I have already mentioned this before, but not "officially" so I will do that now. Finns LOVE dogs. Everyone and their dog, has a dog! And the best part is, they all look like their dogs! Mom, remember how we always used to laugh when we would see people like that on the street or is like a multiple-times daily experience here in Finland. I have learned how to say so many different types of dogs in Finnish and my dog vocabulary may rival my gospel vocab in finnish! It is a wonderful contacting tool and yesterday, after attempting to explain to this man on the street what kind of a dog Mack was, he asked me to say it in English so I said, "Golden retriever" and now I know that "Kultainen Noutaja" is how you say it in Finnish. I really need a picture of Mack though...will one of you send me one? This is how I am going to make friends here in Finland! I know it is the key! :) 

    This week, we found 3 new investigators! YIPPEE!!! And the best part is, 2 of them are a mom and dad of the cutest little family ever! This family used to be investigating the church and for some reason, they just stopped. But the Elders gave their names to us, and we went to visit them. We knocked on the door and this little naked kid opens the door and just stands there, staring at us for like 20 minutes. It was hilarious. Sister Fronk and I were just laughing our heads off, but then the dad came to the door and invited us in and we talked with them for awhile. The dad, Tomi, is a doctor and the Mom, Maria is a stay at home mom. They have four little boys, ranging from 1 to 11 and are pretty much the cutest things I have ever seen! Plus, they all LOVE soccer! Why aren't they members yet? Don't ask me, but I know they will be one day! This is my dream family! We have an appointment with them on Wednesday though, so hopefully everything goes well with that!

    Our other new investigator is Li's funny because his name is a combo of my 2 favorite asians...Xiang chinese bff...and Chau Tran...Mr. "Normal". Li Tran is pretty hilarious. He has a wife and 2 little boys as well and is just awesome and we are pretty excited about him...especially now that we can take Chau on lessons with us....want to know why we can take Chau on lessons with us......


    Oh my goodness, everyone, Chau got baptized on Saturday!!!! SURPRISE!!! Isn't that the greatest surprise ever??? It was the greatest day...but I want you to get the full affect, so here we go...

    So Chau's interview was on Thursday. I was a nervous wreck. I have told you a lot about him and how he always just saying that everything is "normal". Well I knew he was ready, but man, that morning I was just pacing around the apartment. I was like, "Is he ready? This is his salvation. Have we taught him enough? Is is testimony strong enough?" It was like a brain malfunction. But we went to the interview and he came out and had THE BIGGEST SMILE on his face ever. It was wonderful! He showed up the next morning for his baptism and was just beaming. I was so happy!

    Funny we don't have a Ward Mission Leader...well we do, but he is less active...and Chinese...don't ask me about's too frustrating...anyways, sister Fronk and I came to the church 2 hours early to fill up the font. We cleaned it all up nice and started the water and then went to get everything else ready. Well, everyone shows up, Chau is all dressed in his beautiful white clothes...he didn't want to wear them, BTW...I felt like his mother. I was like "Come on Chau, you can put the white clothes on for just a second." But he eventually put them on, thank heavens! :) Anyways, we do the first part of the service, walk to the font, and IT WAS ONLY HALFWAY FULL!! Now, I am not a pessimist or anything, but literally, it was half full. Veli Petersson, the one who baptized Chau marches right down into the water and the water WAS ONLY UP TO HIS KNEES!!!! I seriously wanted to cry. I was like Why? Why did this happen?? But anyways, it all worked out...Veli Petersson started telling lots of "interesting" mission stories, bless his heart, and the water filled up just enough for Chau to go all the way under! It was seriously the greatest thing in the world to see him come up! He looked so clean and happy! I thought I would be crying, but man, I was completely full of joy! I couldn't stop smiling the whole day!! The church is true everyone. The Atonement is real!! I love the gospel!!

    Anyways, Chau was confirmed on Sunday and Veli Kronqvist said in the blessing that Chau would be a future leader for the church in Vietnam! How cool is that? I was just so happy for him! I am sure his face in the picture is a bit scary, but he just tries to be cool and doesn't want to admit how happy he is! :) I know being a missionary is not about the numbers, but just being able to watch someone completely go through the conversion process has been pretty amazing. We met Chau about a week after I got to Vaasa and he was baptized on Saturday! I really don't even know what to say! I am so privileged to be here! I love you all so much! Sorry this letter is kind of weird, but I know the Atonement is real. We can change. We can become better. Because of Jesus Christ, we all have second chances. I love Him and know he is our Savior. I hope you all have the most wonderful week! Pray for Tomi, Maria, and Li! 

    I heard the Netherlands beat Spain about sweet revenge!! Chau is updating me on all the results of the World Cup Games. Haha he is awesome!!! I love you all!!!

    Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner
This AWESOME church we drove by the other day...had to stop and take a picture. Too bad it's not the true church, but still beautiful!

This picture was taken at 10:30 at night...the sun doesn't go down. It's beautiful but man, hard to sleep sometimes!! 


Monday, June 9, 2014

Loving Life in Larsmo

    Sup? How is the most wonderful family in the world doing today? I seriously mean that. Do I tell you enough how much I love you? Well I hope so, cause I really do! I tell all the Finns enough...they all know I love my family! Thank you for wanting to be a part of my mission with me! Seriously, I make lists of the things I want to tell you about during the week and promptings I get about what I should say and then Monday comes and I am so excited to put it all together. Hopefully I don't bore you too much but I hope something I say helps or at least makes you laugh a little bit! Laughing is so important...One great truth I have learned on my mission is that you have to laugh at your own jokes...seriously...if you think you are funny...then you are. End of story. I crack myself up sometimes...does that sound prideful? Probably. I don't think other people think I am funny, but I think I works out pretty well most of the time! :) Anyways...let's all make an extra effort this week to laugh. If you want to cry...laugh instead. Laugh at anything. Laugh at everything! Not like hahahahaha evil or making fun of someone laughing, but just laugh! It's really fun! :) 

    I have to tell you thank you for praying for Chau. Man, have we felt the effects of your prayers. Chau has progressed SO much this week. Of all the people I have taught, I have never seen anyone physically change as much as Chau has. His light is different. He is happier. He just looks better. His testimony is growing stronger and he just loves the gospel. Thank you so much for your prayers. Seriously, it means the world! I will talk about Chau a little later, but I just wanted to insert that little blurp first! so ya! on "Something Finnish"...I wanted to write about something that I heard before I came on my mission, but didn't believe until I came here. Now I know it is true. It is very hard for Finns to express love for each other. They only say "I love you" when it's like SERIOUS! They rarely hug...actually I don't think I can remember seeing a Finn go up and hug another Finn in the whole 6.5 months I have been here. The funniest thing about this whole thing is guess who else is super awkward when it comes to hugging and saying goodbye and sometimes expressing how they feel about people? ME. That's right...the secret is out...I am awkward. I can't help it! haha but I feel like I have come to "my people." I understand the finns. I get the awkwardness. I feel for them and every time I watch them say goodbye to someone and see the awkwardness in their eyes I just think, man....My sister...we understand each other. It's wonderful! :) It's funny though, because I think I have gotten a lot more "huggy" on my mission. I never thought I would be this way, but I always give Sisters only, of course :) but it's just a really funny thing. Sorry this fact about Finland is probably kind of lame, but I just love that the finns and I have something in common. Moral of the story...if any of you are awkward like me, come to Finland. You will fit right in! :) 

    This week was a pretty crazy week. I don't think I have told you about Sister Fronk's health problems yet. She has this thing where sometimes, she will randomly pass out. It's actually really weird and is really frustrating for her. It's hard to see her go through something like that because she really doesn't know why it happens, it just does. It hasn't been a huge problem while she has been in Vaasa, but this week, we were in Seinäjoki on Wednesday and had stopped at the church for a second. We were standing there and all of a sudden, she just collapsed on the floor, face first. I was standing behind her and really didn't know what to do. I was way to slow to catch her or to help her fall a little more softly, but man, she fell super hard and has bruises to prove it. I didn't really know what to do, but I started talking to her and turned her on her back and propped her head, I should have payed more attention in health class....oh the regrets! But anyways, she came to again but felt pretty bad for the rest of the day. We went outside because we didn't have a home to go to and she slept all day in Seinäjoki. I really feel so bad for her and feel pretty useless sometimes. I wish there was something I could do to help, but none of the doctors here know what is wrong. President said rest is the best thing for her, so that is what we do. Man, sometimes it is really hard to understand why things happen to people, but we are in the Lord's hands. That I know. He will always take care of us!  

    So let me get back to my dear friend Chau. Oh man...Chau is a hoot. Seriously...we are buds! We have been worried a lot about Chau recently. We have basically taught him everything (Law of Chastity lesson is in about 45 minutes...WHOO). He accepts everything we say. He comes to church, prays 2 times a day, but he really struggles with reading the Book of Mormon. His baptismal date is for this Saturday and Sister Fronk and I have been praying so hard to know whether or not he is ready. We both felt like we needed to go through the baptismal questions with him. We didn't ask him the questions directly, but just kind of went through them and answered any questions he had. Well the answers he gave were so wonderful and I was SO happy to see the light of Christ shining in his eyes. He is so happy! It makes me so happy! :) 

    One funny thing that happened this week with Chau...oh my goodness I am still dying...but the District President, Veli Nåsman, invited us and Chau over for dinner on Tuesday. Chau was super excited and was all ready to go. We were so happy that they had invited him over. All was right in the world. Well, Tuesday morning, we realized two things. 1, we didn't have the car that day and 2, we couldn't take Chau with us in the car anyways because that is a vile sin according to the white handbook :) Well, I am brilliant...NOT...and decided that it wouldn't be too far to ride our bikes out to the Nåsman's with Chau. I mean, it didn't seem that far in the car...we can bike pretty fast...1+1=let's bike out to the Nåsmans. So we set off. about 35 minutes into this bike ride...I realized that A, we were going to be late and B, they live REALLY FAR AWAY. Well let's just say it's a good thing I have had coaches and trainers all my life because I know how to yell at people to make them work harder....haha just kidding but man, Chau, Sister Fronk and I pedaled our little hearts out. I am proud to report, we arrived at the Nåsman's on time, glowing with the spirit...maybe a little sweat as well, but man...what an adventure. I think Heavenly Father has forgiven me for not using time very wisely that day, but the most important thing is that Chau felt the spirit, loved the Nåsman's, and still wants to get baptized. Sacrifices for the sake of the work...nothing better! :) 

    So, From Thursday to Saturday, they had the youth conference for all of the youth in Finland here in Vaasa. It was awesome and all the missionaries in the north zone were able to come to Vaasa to participate in a service project with the youth. We went and cleaned up the beach clothed in our bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests. I have always wanted one! It was really cool and way fun to be with all the youth and to talk to them about missionary work and their lives. They really are the coolest kids ever and their testimonies are so strong! There were reporters and they wanted to talk to all the kids about the church and why we do what we do! It was super fun to see some of my Tampere peeps again as was amazing...they actually remembered me! I was shocked because I didn't talk a whole lot in Tampere...#greenieprobs #finnishishard #iloveit but they were so sweet and came and said "Moi" to me! I loved it! But anyways, after the service project, we had the Sisters from Oulu and the Sisters from Kuopio staying with us because the next day was our last zone conference with President and Sister Rawlings. It was super fun to be with all the sisters and a bit crazy because our apartment isn't all that big, but still it was fun!! I was able to go on splits with Sister Knapp who is my "Mama Finn" meaning that she came into Finland one transfer before I did. She is awesome and it was so great to spend time with her. Sister Fronk actually trained her and then she was companions with Sister Egan right after me so it was fun to hear all her stories about my trainer and companion! Oh the people you meet on your about eternal friends! :) Seriously, the people that I have met on my mission are incredible. It's funny because we are all so different, but there is something very similar about all of us. We are all perfectionists. Seriously...each missionary here is the same in that way. It's interesting how Heavenly Father has sent all of us to this place for specific reasons, but Finnish teaches all of us that things are not always perfect. It is ok just to do your best and trust in God to handle everything else. I think that is a common lesson all Finnish missionaries have learned, are learning, and will learn. It's really good for us and I am very grateful for it!

    Anyways, the service project happened on Thursday, and then Friday morning, we all boarded a bus to head to Pietarsaari. We went to the chapel in it is called...and talked about the first members in Finland. It's amazing because all membership in the church in Finland can literally trace their ancestry back to 3 families. I should have written their names down, but it was really cool to see all these pictures and to read experiences of these Finns. 3 of the "finnish pioneers" were little girls, 11, 10, and 9 when they were baptized. It was freezing outside and they went and were baptized in a ditch filled with icy water. Talk about dedication. It was so cool to see a picture of them on their baptismal date and then a picture of them a few years ago right before the oldest passed away. The church in Finland is built on the foundation of Member missionary work. Seriously, it's incredible. I think the reason is because Finns just get finns. The "Finnish characteristic combination" is like no other people in the world. They are honest, hardworking, passionate, loving...although its hard to show, loyal, but also very shy and reserved. They like their privacy, but man, when you make friends with a finn, they aren't going anywhere. You're their friend for life! I love that about them!

    Anyways, after our little orientation in the chapel, we were able to drive to Larsmo which is about 15 minutes away from P-town. President Ezra Taft Benson, then Elder Benson, dedicated Finland for the preaching of the gospel in 1947 in Larsmo. They church has a little monument up there so all the missionaries in our zone hiked up there together in the rain in suits and skirts and said a prayer together around the monument. It was such a cool, sacred experience. Definitely one I will remember forever. These Finnish members have sacrificed so much to build the church here. As we were driving back to P-town for zone conference, I was just sitting there thinking, "Why on earth did I get called here? These people are incredible. I don't feel good enough to be a finnish missionary." I am sure that is how most missionaries feel about the places they serve, but I was truly humbled and was just SO grateful for this opportunity I have to serve in this country. The Finnish anthem is to the tune of "Be still my Soul" and during the song, it talks about Finland being the "land of my birth". I remember when I first came into the country and President Rawlings told us about that song, I thought, "oh that's nice for the Finns, but man, I'm from 'Merica! That's the land of my birth." I think what I failed to realize then, but realize now is that I really have been born again in Finland. This place has become a part of who I am. I love it so much. I love these people. I love this culture. I love this language. I love the church in Finland and the faith of these members. I walked away from Larsmo truly feeling inspired!

    So after we were all on Cloud 9, we came back to Zone Conference and once again had our minds blown by President. He is such an amazing person. I'm calling it...he's going to be an apostle! :) JK I probably shouldn't make predictions like that...but anyways He and Sister Rawlings both bore their "final" testimony to us. Sister Rawlings talked about us young missionaries...the ones affected by the age change. She said when they heard about the age change, they never dreamed in a million years how big of a difference that would make and how many more missionaries would come to Finland. She told us that they faith we had to respond to that call is what is going to build the church. I guess I never really thought about going on a mission as an act of me crazy...but I kind of felt that it was more a calling I had received. I had never wanted to serve a mission. I don't think I even did when I left on October 16, 2013. But as I was sitting there, I had the most incredible spiritual confirmation that I came on a mission because I have faith in my Savior. I didn't even consciously know that at the time, but it's true. All members in the church do what we do because of our faith in the Savior. It's really as simple as that!

    President got up after Sister Rawlings and gave one of the most powerful testimonies I have ever heard. I was bawling, needless to say, but he talked a lot about the Savior and how when we are baptized, we covenant to be a light in the darkness. We carry the gospel flame, whether or not we recognize it. He then stopped and just looked at all of us and said, "Elders and Sisters, I have seen Him. I have seen Him in your eyes. I have seen him in your countenances. He is truly with each and every one of you always." Wow...I just got chills writing that. How incredible is that? We are literally representatives of Christ...not just those of us with a nametag, but each of us who have been baptized as members of this church. We took his name upon us when we made that promise and now, his light shines through us. That is what makes people interested in the church. They recognize that there is something different and want to know what it is. We don't have to be anything more than ourselves. Granted, we should always be improving, but if we love God, love those around us, and follow the Spirit, we will never go wrong. Jesus Christ is with us always. I know that is true with all my heart! 

    Sorry there is not much to report with our investigators this week...Chau is the golden boy and we are working on finding new people. Such is the life of a missionary, but I want you all to know how much I love each one of you! I love this gospel. I love this work! I love that my mom is turning 40 this week!! HOLLA!!! You are beautiful mom and Just 2 months I will be 20. We both made it to very important milestones in our lives! Have fun in Paris and Portugal mom and dad... don't have too much fun though! :) It's weird how close we will be to each other! Oh boy...I am excited for you both!! kids you be good for Grandma...or whoever...Joce good luck with your job, is fun, but don't let all the drama bring you down...just drill Forza into the dirt when you play them...that's always fun :) Lauren, keep being a tennis master and remember...braces are a blessing :) Luke, just be a stud...I know you are, and Caroline, keep being my little sunshine! You are all so wonderful and I miss you like crazy but am so happy we are where we are. It's all part of the plan...of salvation! :) You are the best and know that I love you so much!! 

    Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner 

    P.S. Keep me posted on the World Cup....if you want! I just want to know who is winning...I heard Brazil should be pretty good this year...a Brazilian told me that! :) Love you!!! 

Me and sisar "Frog" that's what I call her in our mormon helping hands vests!! YIPPEE!!

Sleeping on the balcony because we had like 372 sisters at our house!!

The first building is the one where they used to have all the church meetings of Finland Elder Benson came there and conducted meetings after WWII.

Second house was the first chapel in Finland but has since been changed to a home

We hiked up to the spot where President Benson dedicated Finland for the preaching of the gospel...SO COOL...and it was raining so we were all soaked when we got back on the bus!! Super fun and sacred experience though!!

Happy Name Day to Me

    Well how are you all doing, you wonderful people, you!!! I miss you all so much and am so grateful every single day for all of you! This week has been a pretty wonderful week for you all! Joce, congrats on the graduation!! WHOO WHOO!!! It's all uphill from here. I loved high school...hahahaha joskus...but the friends you make in high school are your friends forever! You all looked so cute! I sometimes feel when I look at your pictures like I am dreaming. It's like, "Did I know these people before? They look like angels or something." Seriously, this is what goes through my head. Don't worry though...I am still completely normal...uh...I think! Mission life is just great. Seriously, no one told me it would be this fun! I have never laughed so hard, cried so much, run so fast, pedaled so hard, sweated so much, loved everything so much, felt awkward so much...honestly, it's like every emotion is amplified by like 432479823987. It's strange, but it's WONDERFUL!!

    I have to tell you...the Finns love soccer, therefore, I love the Finns. Just kidding. I do love them. But anyways, everywhere we go, there are soccer practices, soccer games, soccer tournaments, soccer stores, kids riding bikes to soccer and I'm just sitting over here like....dang it. I want to come play. It's really fun to see though. I feel so normal when I see things like that. I never thought that soccer would be a part of my mission, but it is and I love it!  Not going to lie, I miss soccer...A LOT. I miss practices with La Roca. I miss early runs up the mountain with my team in the summer, I miss tournaments and ice baths and my car always smelling like a gym locker. Man, those were the days! All you soccer kids enjoy won't last forever! Man...was that depressing or what? :) I just had to get my little soccer vent out for the day so thank you for indulging me! The ward is organizing soccer games now. Needless to say I am PUMPED! There is this YSA in the ward, Vesa. He always asks me to come play soccer for the Vaasa women's team after my mission. Did I tell you they have a team here apparently. They also have American football teams here in Finland. It's hilarious. They have one in Seinäjoki. Men and women play. One of the less actives in Seinäjoki plays for the American football team. They have a stadium and everything! It's awesome!! Everyone loves America!!! Land of the free, home of the brave!!

    In Finland, they have name days. Have I told you this? They have these calendars and in the corner is a list of usually 2-3 names of Finnish people and then they celebrate their name day. I don't think it's a huge thing, but it's pretty cool. I was looking at my calendar for the 29 of May and what do you know, it was my name. Sister Bitner was right in the corner of that calendar! sorry, bad joke! But no, Olivia was there and it was super cool! My name is Finnish!! YIPPEE!! Sister Fronk made me french toast for my name day and I wore my favorite outfit so that was kind of fun! :) Just thought you'd like to know why the subject of this email is Happy Name Day to Me!

    One more thing I wanted to mention about Finland...hold on...I am having a revelation...I am going to start doing this in my letters. This is good! Each week, I am going to write "something Finnish". A fun fact or something about the culture or weather. I have kind of already been doing that, but I want you all to get to know this land that I know and love. Wow...this is way exciting. Ok so this week on "Something Finnish" is Finnish fashion. They are all SUPER classy here. They enjoy colors like tan, black, and army green. Everything is extremely tailored and neutral and just classy. Classiness all around. I want to buy a finnish outfit before I got home. Thanks dad! :) just kidding...sort of! They love really bold jewelry. They wear really simple clothing and then these hard core spike earrings or big bangles. They love gold jewelry as well. Not a lot of silver. They love high heels. The men, of course are rocking the slim fit pants and European haircuts. There are a lot of hipsters here. The funniest thing about their clothing, is they wear these super classy outfits and then BOOM. Converse. They LOVE converse here. That was one of my biggest surprises on my mission. It's everywhere. Anyways...this is a work and progress. I am sure it will become more refined and understandable but hey...I like this idea and hope you do too! :)

    Man now onto the missionary Bill went home this week. It was super sad. We had a little "going away party" for him with the YSA. He was super sad. I asked him what his favorite part of Vaasa and Finland was and he said, "Definitely this church. You have all helped me so much." Man...I love Bill!! He gave Sister Fronk and I these handpainted maps of some cities in China and told us that we have to visit these places. I am going to learn Chinese one day. Does Rosetta Stone teach Chinese? But Bill really is so solid. He is going to be a leader in China one day. I love being in Finland. President Rawlings said to us that one of the coolest things about Finland is that we get to teach some of the future leaders of the church for different parts of the world! It's so true! Bill and Li and Viet and Chau and are all going to be amazing leaders one day! It's so much fun!!!

    So we had an interesting thing happen this week...Sister Fronk and I had our first fight....YAY! haha We have kind of been struggling over these past few weeks with just teaching with each other. We both like to talk. We both like to lead. We both think we are right. This was bound to happen. We had a lesson with a former investigator and it just went bad. Not the actual lesson, but I was angry, Sister Fronk was angry and it was horrible. Of course though, we didn't make a fuss about it in front of the investigator or member. After that lesson, we had another lesson with a new investigator in the same neighborhood. Little did we know...this man is helluntai. I didn't know what that meant before my mission, but man...I know now. I won't say anything more about them or their religion or beliefs, but man...he started drilling into us about how Joseph Smith was a liar, bringing out all this junk about Jehovah's witnesses and what they say and what the Lutherans say and blah blah blah. He kept going and going and fighting and pushing and finally I just stopped him and said, Hey's the thing. We are not here to force anything on anybody. All we are here to do is invite you to learn more about this and to give this book a chance. When you have read this book and prayed about it, then you can say whatever you want about it, but until that time, don't act like you know what is in this book or what we believe in in this church. You don't know, but you can find out. Man...writing that now, I can feel my "Mama Bear" instinct coming over. I am really trying to work on that. I think I get provoked easily. Dang it. I don't like that about myself, but man when all these people have the nerve to bash about a book THEY HAVE NEVER EVEN READ I am like...dude, please, don't kid yourself. But I am working on becoming better. Whenever I feel like that, all the love leaves the lesson. Needless to say, after that lesson, Sister Fronk and I were both ticked. We got home and had a good talk about everything and came out as friends. I really feel like she is my sister. I felt like I was arguing with one of my siblings... not that we ever argued right? The Angel Bitner children...hahahahaha but seriously It's great because the whole time we were arguing, I knew that we would be friends afterwards! But all is well now. I just wanted to share that so you can all see that everything isn't always roses and sunshine on a mission, but Heavenly Father does help us and I know we grow because of those things! Hopefully I am becoming better! I have a lot to work on, but I am so grateful that through the gospel, I can literally change! It's such a wonderful blessing!!

    We taught the Law of Chastity way too many times this week. Just kidding. It's awesome, but I had never taught the entire thing in Finnish before. I sounds weird that I have been out this long and it hasn't come up, but man, all I can say is thank heavens for the pamphlets! haha they really save you sometimes!! We also had 2 referrals to send to Tampere this week. I was pumped cause guess who serves there...ALL MY BEST FRIENDS!! I got to call Sister Foster and Sister Jones and it was SO WONDERFUL to talk to them again! They are so great and I just love that we are such good friends. You really meet the best people on your mission! I have no doubts about that!!

    So let me tell you about Chau. Chau is awesome. Chau is still "normal" in his own words. Chau is ready to get baptized and is going to be a wonderful member. We taught him about the Sabbath Day and Fasting on Saturday. We committed him to both and he TOTALLY FASTED AND CAME TO CHURCH AND LOVED IT. He is so funny because whenever I ask him how he is doing or something, he responds with, "Oh I'm normal." Like, what does that mean? I am just going to keep hoping it means good because that's all he ever says. We introduced him to a lot of the members this week and he just loved them. He thinks they are the coolest people ever, which is totally true. This ward is awesome. We have a DA tomorrow with the District President and his family and they invited Chau to come over as well. Chau was so excited and said, "Uh yes, I think that would be good for me." I love asians. Honestly...they are the most wonderful people in the world.! But anyways, Chau is progressing really well. He hasn't lost his phone again so, fingers crossed! Please keep him in your prayers though that he will gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. That is what he needs most right now!!! He knows the church is great and loves how he feels and agrees with all the commandments...but he doesn't read as much as he should. I know he will love it. We are working on reading with him during lessons and really applying it to him but some extra prayer power from my bomb awesome family would be wonderful!! You guys are the best!!

    I really have been focusing this week on finding "the one". I have been praying that I would be able to find one person each day who needs help, who needs to feel God's love, or who just needs a friend. I really feel like Heavenly Father has answered my prayers. It's funny, because my one for yesterday was a member who, in the past, I have thought was SUPER standoffish and really didn't want anything to do with us. I had the strongest feeling that we needed to call and invite her to a lesson with Chau. Well she answered the phone and seemed way shocked that the sisters were calling her. I told her about Chau and asked if she would come. She agreed super quickly and came and was just awesome during the lesson. Afterwards she just wanted to talk to us. I realized pretty quickly that she was just looking for a friend. She was looking for someone to care. I didn't know that, but Heavenly Father did and he made it possible for her prayer to be answered. It's amazing to me how well He knows each of us. All the little thoughts we have like, "oh I wish someone would talk to me at church today" or things like that, he knows. He listens. He answers. It's really as simple as that. Nothing is "lame" or "stupid" or "trivial" to Him. He loves us, but not just that...he loves us completely and perfectly. All things included! How wonderful is that?

    So I have been reading in 1 Nephi this week. I started the Book of Mormon again. First off...Nephi is a boss. It just came to me this morning that he was the one that started the Book of Mormon. Aren't I brilliant? haha no but seriously. I wonder what he thinks of the Book of Mormon now. will be fun to ask him one day! :) I love how he always says how he has no idea why he is writing this record, but God does and so he is going to keep doing it. I think Nephi was a lot more like all of us then we realize. He was just like "Ok Heavenly Father, I have no idea why I am doing this...this is weird...what's the point" but yet, he followed God's commandments and look what we have now because of his faithfulness...the most wonderful book in the world! I have noticed that Nephi always talks about being faithful to the commandments of God. I think that is his motto. It's a good one, for sure. But one morning, during personal study, I wrote down the question in my study journal, "What does it mean to be faithful? How can we always continue to be faithful in spite of opposition and persecution?" I kind of was worried about it for a second. I sat there just thinking about life. Thinking about life before my mission and how hard it was sometimes to remember to read the Book of Mormon. To say morning and evening prayers. To go to mutual or institute. As I was sitting there, we Bitner/Parkinson's do...I had the thought, "Read True to the Faith." I was like Uh...why would I do that? But then it came again. "Read true to the Faith." So I said, Ok, Fine! jk :) But I got out True to the Faith. I looked at it, not really knowing what I was going to read and just had the thought to open to the first few pages. This is what I read:

    "...As you learn gospel truths, you will increase in your understanding of Heavenly Father's eternal plan. With this understanding as a foundation for your life, you will be able to make wise choices, live in harmony with God's will, and find joy in living. Your testimony will grow stronger. You will remain true to the faith...We promise you that through regular personal prayer and study of the scriptures and the doctrines of the gospel you will be prepared to withstand evil influences that would deceive you and harm you."

    Wow! Does God answer prayers, or does God answer prayers? I mean Wow! I was floored. Not going to lie, I got a little emotional. That was such a specific answer to my prayer and question. What does it mean to be faithful? How do we continue to be faithful in spite of opposition and persecution?" The prophets have told us that as we increase in knowledge and understanding of the gospel, our foundation, devotion to, and love of the gospel WILL increase. It is a promise from a prophet of God. God gives us the knowledge we need (Book of Mormon, Bible, church magazines, modern revelation) to withstand the buffetings of Satan. We have to combat his forces by strengthening our defenses. How do we do that? We READ AND STUDY THE SCRIPTURES EVERY DAY! I have noticed in my life that whenever I have any kind of doubt about the church or anything, I can look back now and say that those were the times when I wasn't reading my scriptures. It's so crazy because, as a missionary, when we visit less actives or investigators or anyone really who is struggling with the church, it is always guaranteed that they have not been reading the Book of Mormon. Without fail. Happens every time. It kind of scared me because I know life gets busy. I know you all have busy lives. I understand that but, we can't get too busy in our lives that we don't make time for the scriptures. I know, it is so easy for me to say, being a missionary with 2 hours of planned study each day, but after I read that, I made a commitment to myself that I am not going to go one more day in my life without reading the scriptures. We can't afford to. They really are the Iron Rod and if we hold fast and read and study and apply what we learn, we will without a doubt make it to the Tree of Life, Eternal life with God and our families. It's as simple as that. I love the Book of Mormon. I know more than anything else that The Book of Mormon is true. I am so grateful to you, Mom and Dad, for always making scripture study a part of my life. You introduced it to owe you the world! Thank you so much! I love what Elder Holland said about the Book of Mormon, "No evil man could have written such a book, and no good man would write it, unless he were commanded from God." I know that is true! I love you all so much and hope you have the most wonderful week! The church is true and the book is blue as my dear friend Elder Love would say! :) You all mean the world to me! Mä rakastan teitä!!!

    Hyvää vikkoa teille!!!


    Sisar Bitner

    P.S. Sister Fronk has had 2 bikes stolen in the past month...please pray for my bike! :) What should I name it by the way? Send your suggestions next week...preferably in Finnish! I love you!!

Us with Bill...I look really fat in this pic. I am not that fat...I don't think...dang it...I probably am...I will lose weight....

I love clouds...evidently. Aren't they so beautiful????

More clouds