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 good...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 am...it 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!
Well...today 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 brother...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 hugs...to 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 up...man, 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 well...it 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 mission...talk 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 p-town...as 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 faith...call 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 think...in 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, Anne...soccer 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!!|