Happy Name Day to MeWell 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 it...it 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 work...hahah.....so 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 Vincent...man...they 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 buddy...here'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 know...it 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. Hmm...it 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, worrying...as 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 me...man...I 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!!!
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????|